Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Last Races for 2015

So I'm a little late to the party with this one considering I finished my 2015 over 3 weeks ago now but things have been changing and preparations for 2016 are starting to take shape. 

After Challenge Weymouth which now seems like a lifetime ago I headed to Hever Castle to tackle the Gauntlet race there, in hindsight not a great move and although I had got back into some training in the 2 weeks between the races ultimately the body didn't want to know and the mind wasn't to keen either. Unfortunately i posted a DNF after freezing in the swim and just never getting going. Lesson learned and 2 weeks after an Iron distance race just didn't give my body time to recover for another hard effort, along with some less than perfect training decisions in that time period as well.

This only left me 3 weeks from my last race of the year at Challenge Paguera-Mallorca. A trip we were making as a family for the kids to have a holiday as well. We arrived a few days before the race and settled into our hotel. Registration was easy and I did a couple of short runs, easy spins on the bike and a beautiful sea swim in the days leading up to the race whilst relaxing as much as possible. 

I was excited to race, the temperature was hovering mid 20's and I knew this was my last event of the year. My kit sponsor Raceskin had shipped me out a new speed-suit to try and I was excited to test it out, training hadn't been perfect since Weymouth but there was hope something was left in the tank. 

A leisurely alarm for a 9 am race start was very nice and breakfast went down well. We took a taxi to the race start and I sorted my bike and checked my bags before meeting back yup with Lisa and the kids on the beach. It was a beautiful morning and with water temps just over 20 degrees it was just about wetsuit legal. I zipped up the Zone 3 Vanquish and got in a short swim warm up before watching the pros go off and getting my position for the start. 

Our countdown came and the gun went and we were off. A shallow beach meant a bit of running and dolphin diving but we were soon swimming. After a couple of minutes a few splits started to form but I just didn't have the speed to hang on with them. As some others came passed I sat on some feet and help there to the turn, it was getting pretty warm in the wetsuit and as we headed back to the beach 3 of us were swimming close together but had lost a bit of time to the front. 

Exiting the swim it was a long run to T1 and I could feel my heart rate going through the roof, i got to the change tent and swapped wetsuit for helmet and number belt and ran off to grab my bike. Cleanly out of transition and with my feet into my bike shoes we headed down the main cobbled Street and out onto the 2 lap bike course. I felt pretty good quite quickly and held my power target well, I closed on a couple of people and was getting into a rhythm. On the out and back section about 30 minutes in I saw a bit of a pace line forming behind me when we made the turn, i rode strongly on the slight decent back but not knowing the course carried way to much speed into a corner and ended up going off the side of the road missing the gravel but planting myself and my bike nicely into a Spanish bush before hitting the ground. 

A quick once over of body and bike and all was good, a pretty dead left but cheek bot nothing major except a few minutes lost to where I was. Back pedalling again and thankfully I still felt alright, probably working a little harder than I should but I now had nothing to lose and time to make up. The first lap ended well and I aimed to ride the second one the same. Knowing the course a bit better now was helping and I was overtaking people again for the second time! I felt strong for the whole second lap and by the end of it had managed to ride myself back towards the front of the Age Group race as we hit T2. 

I had a good transition and lead it out onto the run course, my legs weren't feeling great but weren't feeling bad either and I just tried to get into my pace and run my own half marathon. It was hot but not unbearable and lap 1 went by ok, I was surprised at how hilly the run loop was but was feeling ok and headed out for lap 2 out of 4. Halfway into lap 2 I had been passed by a couple of athletes and was starting to slow, I realised I hadn't taken any fuel yet on the run and took a gel but was starting to falter a little, my pace felt like I was jogging but I couldn't physically or mentally get going again, at the start of lap 3 I saw lisa and she gave me a massive cheer and loads of encouragement but inside I was starting to give up, I got through it and was overtaken by a few more people but it was hard to now know what lap they were on, I took my next gel and drank some coke and new that with only one lap to go after this one I was nearly done. 

Heading out onto lap 4 and I was starting to feel alright again, Lisa again gave me loads of encouragement and said that I was still 3rd in my Age group. I tried to push harder and it worked, my running was feeling better with every stride and I was catching people again. Coming down the long hill I managed to catch someone who had gone by me earlier on and was just focussing on getting to the line, with about 1km to go I noticed someone behind me catching me up as I turned a corner and just new he was in my age group. I pushed for the line and got into the finish loop when he came flying by me with 15 metres left. I couldn't respond and was pipped by 2 seconds and slipped to 4th! 

Although not my greatest performance i am proud I hung on to the end and learned some lessons in the process. I definitely need to develop some speed in the pool and also work out a nutrition strategy to fuel the effort better as well. These are things that I will take into the winter along with everything else i learned so far this year to come out the other side a smarter, fitter athlete. 

Massive thank you as always to Lisa, Jayne and the kids. The support is always amazing and makes things so much easier. Also to the great companies that have helped me out this year.

Zone 3 Wetsuits
OTE Sports 
Ricol Cycles 
Bodhi Massage 

Challenge Weymouth 2015 - It Wasnt Pretty But It Worked

Challenge Weymouth was for me this years big race, the only full distance event on my calendar for the year, being local and it having European Championship status meant it was always a big target for me. Way back in the depths of winter training I wrote down my goals for it. Sub 9.15 total time including a 3.15 or better marathon and a place on my age group podium.
The lead into the race had been good, a great result at Ironman 70.3 Dublin in August followed by some great local training races left me confident that i was fitter than last year but having not already raced long this year there were still doubts over the distance. Race week soon came and i was a little more nervous than normal but excited to race. Registration and pasta party on Friday was fun and relaxed then briefing and bike racking on Saturday went smoothly as well. We had Karl Alexander and his wife Helen stay with us for the weekend as well which was nice, meant I didn’t bore Lisa my wife to tears with my pre-race rubbish and us boys could talk bikes whilst the girls could talk more girly stuff!
Race morning came and the weather was looking good, virtually no wind and not too cold. I sorted my stuff in transition and just as it started to rain put my wetsuit on and headed over to the beach for the start. After a quick chat with some of my family that were there already to support and a hug from my wife it was time to get into the pen ready for our start.
I lined up on the front expecting a bit of a rough start and as the horn went we ran into the water. It was relatively calm and a few of us swam together for a couple of minutes before it started to spread out. One guy shot off the front and I could feel someone on my feet but with no one to follow I focused on settling into my pace and swimming straight. The first lap went by well and although hard to see the buoys I came to the Australian exit feeling good. The run on the beach was horrible and the moment I dived back into the sea I felt instantly sick and wondering how I would get going again! Thankfully a few easy strokes and the arms came back and it was very much a repeat of the first lap this time just trying to avoid the back markers from the second and third waves we were catching up to and making sure I didn’t lose concentration and slow down. I exited the water 2nd from my wave and ran through the wall off crowds and noise off into transition.
T1, although long, went well. My Zone 3 vanquish flew off in its usual style and I put my socks on and headed for my bike. Out onto the roads and it was time to see what the legs could do. I got into my shoes and settled into my power target trying to focus on keeping it steady and not blowing myself to pieces early on. About an hour into the bike as my Garmin beeped to remind me to fuel I reached back to my rear bottle cage expecting to find the bottle which I had emptied 12 OTE lemon and lime gels the day before and my main source of fuel for the bike to find it gone. I hadn’t heard or felt anything and it hadn’t happened it training but with 1000 calories to find it was now time to execute plan B once I had worked out what that actually was.
Thankfully I had put 4 caffeine gels into my tri suit pocket for late into the ride or emergencies so straight away I took one of those and just focused on getting to the next aid station for supplies. Picking up some fresh bottles and more gels I finished my first lap feeling good. The support from the crowd as we rode towards Transition and made the turn away again was great and my spirits were high starting lap 2. I could see that it was only the pros and still the one age group athlete ahead of me but I had been slowly caught by another British age grouper who I knew was my age group and a French athlete. I hit the climb out of Weymouth a little harder than on lap 1 but felt strong and was still holding target power.
I had slightly lost track of fuelling and how many gels I had taken but still had a couple in my pocket. Just as we started climbing towards the first out and back the French athlete flew past me powering up the climbs. I let him go knowing we had a long way to go still and as we turned was happy to see that I had started to put time into the other chasing GB age grouper. Onto the faster roads and I got aero and held my power numbers and soon reeled my French friend back in. At the next roundabout turn I had got about a minute on him and but was starting to feel low and getting negative. I took a gel but was sick of them and the on course energy drink wasn’t much better. The last part of that lap was all about self management and getting to T2. Disappointed iIcouldnt capatalise on the tail wind home but my power had dropped and the lights were going out.
Into T2 and I got a shout that i was 10th. I wasn’t feeling good and was wondering how I was ever going to run a marathon but put my shoes on and picked up 4 more caffeine gels I had in there. Straight away on the run and my wife and family were there cheering, a definite lift but I focused on not going out too hard and again keeping things under control. Onto the prom and I was straight away hit by the wind! I knew it had picked up on the second bike lap but it was blowing hard onto the exposed sea front and the sea was looking very different to when I had left it earlier. After only 4km i was feeling terrible, very low and not at all interested in racing or running another 500 metres let alone 38km. Thoughts of pulling out crossed my mind and I was coming up with excuse after excuse in my head. At the next aid station I walked, drank 2 cups of coke and took a gel and jogged on a bit. Then something happened, i felt better, i had a word with myself, I was leading my age group and in the top 10 overall how could I pull out? Next aid station and 2 more cups of coke and a short walk and I was going again, my pace was improving and the support on the run course was amazing.
10km in and I was somehow still on target pace and feeling good considering I had been exercising for 6 and a half hours! I then focused on ticking it off 5km at a time each aid station the same, a short walk, 1 or 2 cups of coke and some water taking a caffeine gel at the end of each lap. At the top turn on each lap I could see I was catching the age grouper in front and had put another minute or 2 into the guys behind. Out of nowhere a pain developed in my knee and again I thought I was done but thankfully it didn’t get any worse. 15km to go then became 10, things were hurting and I was just trying to hold on to some kind of run form and pace but then it was time to make the turn and head onto my final lap. I got my final lap band and set off, 1 lap, 9km of running and a little under 45 mins at worst!
I saw Lisa and she shouted she would see me at the finish line, then i saw my dad and the rest of my family eating ice cream but knew I had to run a bit more before I could join them. At the top turn iIwas looking for the leading age grouper coming towards me but didn’t see him. I started wondering if I had passed him without realising or if he had pulled away and I had missed him? I made the turn and lapped my watch aiming to hammer home to the line. My pace for the 1st km was amazing then it faded again, I was playing games in my head just telling myself to run to the next aid station, athlete infront or anything that seemed manageable. I didnt know my total race time but started looking at the time of day on my garmin knowing that with a 7.05 start if we had set off on time i had to be done by 4.20 but I kept working it out differently, either way it would be close!
As I rounded the turn on the pier the head wind became a tail wind and that was it. 200m to go and iIturned into the finish chute threw my arms in the air and crossed the line.
I was called over as age group winner and first age grouper overall. Felix Walchsoffer the head of challenge had even allowed Lisa into the finish area so she could hand me my medal and we had a big hug. Somehow I had hung on, finished the race in 9.13.43 and ran a 3.14.53 marathon. Both goals ticked, 8th place finish overall and 25-29 European champion. Overall an amazing day and experience. Crowd support throughout was amazing and helped alot of athletes through a testing run. Huge thank you to everyone who has helped and supported me this year and to everyone who shouted and cheered on course. Will definitely be back next year to see what I can do.
- See more at:
Challenge Weymouth - 1 Week and Counting
September 5, 2015
Kit Walker
So we are now 1 week away from Challenge Weymouth, My one and only Iron Distance race for the year!  After saying at all my other races this year that they werent important and that i was really focussing on challenge i'm now sitting here thinking that i have had a pretty good season already and the result at Challenge isnt so important anyway!

Unfortunately this is me pretty much lying to myself and trying to take any pressure that i put on myself away from having a good performance at.  It would have been a year since my last Ironman come next sunday morning, the longest i have ever gone between long course events since completing my first in August 2012.  I am nervous but excited to see what happens, after all this is Ironman racing and anything can happen when racing for such a long period of time!

The build up has not exactly been that of a typical ironman build with only 1 run over the half marathon distance and not a single ride over 100 miles yet this year!  Some of the signs are good though, With 2 short course races in the last 3 weeks and a 25 mile Time Trial all done with no taper and rest days i have managed to hit times much faster than this point last year and feel that as long as i get this final week right there is a chance i could go well next weekend.

I will be competing in the GBR kit as this race also doubles as this years ETU Long Distance European Championships. The winners of the age group here getting to call themselves european champions but also with that comes the potential of stiffer competition and closer racing.  I have goals and times that all being well and with the right weather conditions i can achieve, some of these genuinely make me nervous but i think thats a good thing and keeps me very much on my toes and motivated in training and if i think about them properly i get goose bumps.  Hopefully having not ran a marthon or rode 180km this year will be more of a blessing as the mind and body soon forgets the pain of ironman and i will be going into it much more like an unaware first timer than someone racing his 6th long distance event.

The race also has extra interest for me this year as with the coaching business i have guys that i am coaching racing the half distance event on the same course the same day!  These guys also have goals and dreams and have all been trusting enough to put the process of achieving them in my hands.  This i am hoping is going to create a great atmosphere and excitement around the race and will help everyone to push through the hard times and get the most out of themselves enjoying the experience and making themselves very proud of what they have achieved. 

Either way im sure next weekend is going to be a special day for many and if the support is anything like last year then it will be a great experience all round, now we just have to hope the winds are a little kinder this year and give us the chance of a full distance swim.  To everyone out there get yourselves down to weymouth sea front next weekend and shout and screem and cheer all the athletes running up and down the sea front.  If you see anyone in a GBR kit or the Orange Bustinskin kit then cheer even louder and im sure evryone will be very grateful for your efforts.

Heres to a great race for everyone and ill see you at the finish line!

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Ironman 70.3 Dublin - That was Grand

This past weekend was the first race of the second half of my racing season. I was coming into it of a pretty solid 4 week block of training and was excited to see what I could do and if I had made any progress. A whole group of awesome guys and girls from Bustinskin where heading out with 10 of us racing and even more supporters. All staying in the same hotel it made for a fantastic weekend of social and racing fun.
Check-in Queue Selfie

We arrived in Dublin early Friday morning and got to our hotel quickly. Not being able to check in yet we grabbed some food and walked into the park for registration and to collect bags etc. A quick browse through the expo and back to he hotel to check in, build my bike and chill out.
With pretty much everyone arrived by Saturday it was a day of getting organised.  Quick spin on the bike and short run was followed by breakfast and sorting transition bags. Then the joyous process of racking bikes and bags with the split transition.  It did give us the opportunity to see some of the bike course and where the swim was being held. With bikes sorted it was lunch and back to he hotel to meet up with the support crew before dinner. After probably the poshest pre race dinner I have ever had to celebrate Mark 'the Boss' birthday it was time to see what sleep I could get before race day!
A somewhat leisurely 4.30 alarm woke me and after a quick coffee we met the rest of the guys downstairs and got Taxis to the swim start. I ate my breakfast in the taxi as being last wave off I had a few more minutes than everyone else.  Arriving at T1 things went smoothly, bike checked and tyres pumped I still had nearly 2 hours to my wave start so I sat and the rocks and listened to some music watching everyone else get ready.
The narrow slip of the swim start into the cold irish sea

With about half an hour to go I started to get my wetsuit on, said good luck to the last of our guys going off for their start and made my way to the start line.  I managed to get to the front of our wave as we queued to get down the narrow slip way and started to ready myself for the off.  the countdown was on and the horn went, the sea was freezing and really salty compared to home but it quickly spread out and a few of us were swimming together at the front of the wave. About 1km in we caught the back of the previous wave and spent the rest of the time trying to avoid others and picking the best route through the swimmers in front. Into the last few hundred meters and I was getting pretty cool but feeling pretty good, I turned towards the pontoon and exited the swim with the help from the volunteers and started making my way into T1.
The P5 waiting patiently for me ready to go. 

The Zone 3 Vanquish flew off as usual into transition and I got my bag and put my socks on, running round the big transition gave me time to put on helmet and race belt and I managed to find my bike quite quickly and hit the road.  With the wave starts I knew that this race was going to be more of a solo time trial than a head to head battle, I wasn't sure where I was in my age group but focused on putting my head down and riding my race.
We were soon into the city and riding next to the river towards phoenix park, we passed straight by our hotel where all our support crew were out in force and making plenty of noise already! There were a few speed bumps through the park and the course was pretty busy but no one had come past me and I was feeling pretty good. Out of the city and into he countryside a bit and the roads were pretty similar to home. I was grateful that they were fully closed to cars as I was just passing other riders one after another and spent a lot of time in the middle of the road. After around 30km I went passed an athlete with a similar race number to me and went through half way feeling good. I was on top of nutrition and hydration and was working well but not hammering too hard. I knew the roads back towards town should be slightly faster as well with a few more flatter and downhill sections.
I hit the road with the speed bumps and got through them without any major dramas and enjoyed the short sharp club to get back into the park. The last couple of km were pretty steady through the park with a few uphills and a good chance to stretch out and prepare for the run. Feet out of shoes and running into T2 I was pleased with my ride and knew that no one had overtaken me throughout all of it so a good run would give me a good result. No issues through the change tent and I ran out onto the run course ready to male up for the disappointment of my run at Grafman.
Swim and bike done running into T2

I tried something new with my Garmin and only had the screen showing lap time with it set to auto lap every 5km. I was keen to run this one by feel and trust my judgement more than the watch and focus on just running a strong race. Our supporters had set up camp on the roundabout we passed a few times and I saw Lisa early on, heading round my first lap and another athlete on his second lap ran up to me. This worked well and we ran side by side for the remainder of the lap a what felt like a good pace. I ticked off my first 5km in a little over 20 min 30 seconds and felt good heading out onto lap 2. I was drinking at all aid stations a took a gel at the end of my first and second laps and was pleased with a 2nd 5km split of 20m20s. I knew once at the 15km point it would be time to start to really squeeze out what I had left and with a 3rd 5km split of 20m10s new a new run P.B was on the cards. I upped the work rate as best I could, and was still feeling fairly good but the pain in the legs was setting in now, a 4th 5km split of 20m10s took me to 1km to go and i gave it a final squeeze.  passing the turn around with 3 lap bands and this time heading straight to the finish was amazing. Punching the air as i crossed the line and i looked back at the clock to see 4hours18 next to my name and feeling very satisfied.  Lisa was waiting for me as we collected our medals and T-shirts and we headed to see some of the other supporters and cheer in some of our athletes as they crossed the line.
Running down towards the Finish Line

After a few minutes we checked the results online and i couldn't believe when i saw i had won my Age Group and finished 9th overall! Top 10 in a big race like this was something i thought i would only be dreaming of this year and i was so happy about it.  All of the Bustinskin guys had great days with P.B's smashed and expectations exceeded all round.  We collected our bags and got some food and sat around for a bit before heading back to the hotel for a quick shower.  Prize giving was that evening and we headed back to the park to watch it and collect my trophy. We were all super tired by the time we got back to the hotel and after a couple of pints of Guinness and some ice cream it was time for bed and the end of an amazing day!
Prize giving and 1st place Age Group Trophy

A phenomenal weekend and a performance i am very happy with, a massive breakthrough with my running with around a 5 min P.B on the half marathon. Massive thank you to Lisa and Maecee for coming out to support and put up with me leading into a race and the whole group of guys and girls who were easily the noisiest people in Pheonix Park making the day so much better and providing everyone who raced with a little lift every time we passed them. Now its head down working towards Challenge Weymouth seeing if i can do the same over double the distance!

Some of the finishers Back in sunny Weymouth

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Grafman - National Middle Distance Champs

The Triathlon England National Middle Distance Champs where the last race for me in this little block of racing and the first race that I had a real goal for this year. Earlier in the year I said I was targeting an Age Group podium at this event and coming into the race I was feeling pretty good. A bit of a foot injury had put a halt to some of my final run sessions but I was feeling good and set myself the time goal of 4 hour 10 minutes for the race.  Having had a quick look on the start list there were a few names I recognised as guys who would be fast but that was the reason I was at this race, to see how I stack up against some of the best guys in the country.

Driving the 200 miles to Cambridge Saturday morning was pretty relaxed, Lisa's mum had a last minute weekend off and jumped in the car with us and we arrived late afternoon and checked into our hotel before heading off to the race venue for registration and to have a look around.  I got my numbers, checked the maps of the course, drove the small first loop of the bike course then headed back for dinner and an attempt at an early night. 

After a restless night in a hot hotel room the alarm sounded at 5 am and it was time to get prepared. Breakfast went down well and I got dressed, woke the kids and packed the car. Car parking at the race site was easy and I got racked and transition sorted in plenty of time.   I was a little nervous about how the day would pan out as I sat in the cafe waiting to head to the start but just as it was starting to rain I got my wetsuit on and headed down to the swim start for the briefing and race time.

With a quick safety and course briefing done and a short warm up we lined up on the beach ready for the swim. The horn went and everyone piled into the water. Up to the first buoy there was quite a big group of guys with a few pulling away at the front. Round the buoy and it started to spread out, I found some feet to swim on but soon found myself wanting to swim harder and went past. For a few minutes I thought I was closing on the back of the front group but as we made our way to the Australian exit at the end of the first lap it wasn't much and I was left in no man's land, not fast enough to hang onto the leaders but swimming quicker than the second group. The second lap passed by and soon enough I was exiting the water and heading to my bike with a swim time of 25.40 which is a new P.B over the distance.

Into and out of T1 fairly smoothly, it was still raining and I headed off onto the small first loop of the bike course. Initially I did not feel comfortable on my bike and coming back towards transition only 15 or so minutes in I was feeling pretty bad and even thought about just riding back to the car and sacking it all off but knowing that Lisa would kill me if I did that I had a word with myself and convinced myself that I should at least give it a go.  

Heading out onto the main course I had been caught by a couple of guys but we stayed together in a pace line and started to catch a few of the faster swimmers.
Just after the first roundabout turn the fast riding Chris Goodfelow came past us all and split things up a bit. A few of us followed on with him and it stayed pretty much like that through the whole first lap. It was raining pretty hard at times and onto the second of the two laps back at the roundabout turn despite putting in a few efforts to get away there was still a large group of us rounding the turn.  After being passed pretty quickly after this turn so that I was sitting in the pace line it just felt all a bit too easy and seeing a rider about 200 or so metres ahead I made the decision to ride fairly hard for 5 minutes or so to see what happened. I rode to the front of the group and just focused on keeping it rubber side down in the rain and working well.

As we passed the main spectator point halfway through the lap someone shouted that it was only 40 seconds to the lead. I assumed this was Chris and shortly after a cyclist with a very high race number came through. I assumed he was part of a relay team and figured if I could sit legally behind him he may just drag me towards the front. We rounded the last of the out and back turns and the group behind seemed to have split up a bit but were still fairly close. I continued to ride and a few minutes later we caught Chris and that's how it stayed. We rode back to transition at a solid pace, we had a gap but I wasn't sure how big it was. As we rode back up the last stretch I looked at my Garmin ride time and knew we were at the front of the race and I was on for a decent Half distance bike P.B. I had a little rush of adrenaline then it was time to drop feet from shoes and prepare for transition and the run. Race data and Bike power/gps file HERE

We arrived into a damp transition but I ran straight to my racking and dropped bike gear, put on my trainers and watch and picked up a couple of gels. I was quickest of the three of us through hear and ran out onto the run course leading the race.  I knew chris was not far behind and had a much better run pedigree than me so I held a decent pace but ultimately waited for him to come past and sat in behind.  The first 2 kms to the turn point were done at under 4m/km pace. I knew it was suicide pace for me and I wouldn't be able to sustain it but I knew I had to hang in as long as I could. Around 3km in Tom Vickery came past and Chris picked up the pace to sit with him and as he did I knew I was burning matches and thought this was the point to run my race. Unfortunately around 10 minutes later that's where the good times ended. 

The last 16km of that run were one big mental battle. I was desperate to walk and my legs just felt like they had no spring left in them. Past the 10km point and I felt like I was slowing big time my left foot had pins and needles and I was starting to really suffer. Lisa was so positive in support but I knew I just had to get to the finish. I was negative in my mindset and although not many others had passed me and I was still on for the Age Group podium it was getting seriously tough, I just couldn't up the work rate and I was back to steady long run effort. Rounding the final aid station turn with about 3km it was mainly uphill to the finish but I knew I would make it and just had to push on a bit to hold onto my position.  I was very pleased to make the turn to the finish and go down the chute and across the line. A new half distance P.B but not the 4.10 i was shooting for.

Lisa, Jayne and the kids were there and I got my finishers medal and a few cups of coke before getting into some warm dry clothes and starting to pack my stuff.  Checking the results I had held onto 3rd in my Age Group but slipped to 11th overall. Every minute lost to the winner done so on the run! Talking to Chris after the race he said it was a hard course for strong cyclist and the fact we had to work so hard for only a 40 second gap definitely damaged the legs instead of sitting in the line at 30 watts less and saving energy. This race was a great learning curve for me and I learned a lot about racing at this level and the performance it takes to be successful.  It also proved how far I had come since starting this sport, at least being in the mix with athletes on this level is a real positive but also proves how far I still have to go.

The rain cleared for presentation and it was great to get onto the Tri England podium to get my medal. Ultimately it would have taken a run that I am not yet capable of to get higher in my age group but the result sugar coats the performance a bit. I have come away motivated for Challenge Weymouth though and with a plan of attack to hopefully see me strong and fit come September.

Thanks as always to those who support me on this journey.
Zone 3 wetsuits
Bustinskin Triathlon Club
Amphibia Sports Gear
And of course my family.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Racing, Racing then racing again!

Since my last post after Immortal in May things have been a bit up and down. Straight after the race I was taken out for 2 weeks with illness and a chest infection. This lead to a slight rethink of plans of where to go next to build to the races I was aiming for.

With entries already in for an Olympic distance event at Eton Dorney and the opportunity to race the local Bustinskin Race to the Bill event the weekend after I came up with a plan that involved racing 2 weeks in a row then tapering it down for a third which would be the Grafman Half Iron event and Triathlon England Middle Distance Champs.

2 weeks of training led into the Eton event and despite a rubbish couple of days leading into it we travelled up to race.  Race day greeted us with cool drizzle and a slight breeze but nothing too bad.  A 1500m swim in the rowing lake to start the day was good. Fresh water swimming is always a novelty considering I live by the sea and there were some people keen to line up at the front and race.

I had no goals for this race going in, i was there to sharpen my race drills and get a good hit out in a competitive  environment. The swim started fast and I found myself unable to hang on to the initial pace. Blowing hard by the first turn buoy I settled into a rythm and slowly started to gain on someone in front. By the end of the first lap of 2 I had just about managed to swim onto his feet and that's where I stayed until swim exit coming out in 5th in a little over 20 mins.
Transition and the rowing lake

Fairly smoothly through transition and onto the flat 8 lap bike course. Straight up the lake on a winding track before turning and heading back down with the tail wind.  The plan was to ride fairly hard but it took me a couple of laps to settle in. By about half way through I was feeling good though and had passed a couple of people but the course was getting busier and it was hard to know who was on what number lap.  I pushed it all the way back to T2 and despite a rookie mistake of riding passed the transition entrance and making a hash of running back i entered transition in the lead with a 58 minute bike time.

  Run shoes on and off into the 2 lap run course this time pretty much a straight out and back up the other side of the lake.  I felt ok but was working fairly hard and having not raced over a shorter distance for a long time was unsure of pacing or effort.  Lap 1 was fairly uneventful and I finished still in the lead but aware the guy in second was running well and gaining on me. Lap 2 was getting pretty uncomfortable and by the top turn I was still in the lead but only by a matter of metres.  I was passed pretty soon after and tried to hang on but couldn't up the pace enough. With about 500m to go another athlete passed me at a speed I was never going to match but I hung on to the finish for 3rd with a total race time of 2.00.15 and a 39.40 run. In the end the top 5 were only separated by 50 seconds and it was a close race but I was pleased with how I went and took a lot away from it.

Straight back into training the next day with a couple of easy days then building from Wednesday onward I finished the week with a long hard brick session on Friday totalling 4 hours and some more hard running. Saturday was backed off with only a 45 min easy spin the Sunday was race day again. This time 2 miles from home at the National Sailing Academy Portland and a Bustinskin Event.

My legs were feeling a bit tired but my plan was to go hard from the start and see when I blow up! The water was cool for the swim start and I swam head up the first 150 metres or so before comiting to swim properly. I was leading straight away and kept the pace up for the whole swim with no one else around me. By the end of the second lap running into transition I had built just over a minute lead and again swam just over 20 minutes.
Race to the Bill Swim start

Transition done and onto the bike and straight up Portland hill. Thankfully only the once up here before three times round the top of the island before descending again back to transition. I felt pretty strong on the bike straight away and kept the effort up on throughout the whole ride.  With a decent out and back section at the turn around I could see my lead growing on every lap but continued to hold the effort.  Descending the hill back to transition I was looking forward to see what my legs had for the run.

They were instantly heavy and after the first few kms I was just waiting for them to cramp. I was working fairly hard and doubting what i had left but a cheer from Lisa and the kids running the drink station was great and I headed off to the turn around. There was still no one too close heading back so all I had to do was hang on and not completely kill myself for the win and another good session in the bank.
Finishing the race was great fun crossing the line in first with a 7 min winning margin and a new course record. I was very happy with my performance again and although there was probably more on the run if I needed it there was no need to cause more fatigue than I already had with a race again in a week.

Overall a very solid few weeks completed with some good racing and hopefully sharpening my race drills and also mentality. The back end of any race is mental and the intensity of this especially on the run is something I feel.i struggle to replicate in training. This makes racing the best preperation for racing if managed correctly. Hopefully I got this right and with a week to freshen up will be good to go again for a longer one this weekend.

There's only one way to find out!

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Immortal Triathlon - Keeping it Together

The Immortal half iron triathlon is a race I avoided from writing about last year, Although it was likely the race that shaped my season the most. It was a race that saw me leading all the way until 19km into the run then having a total melt down in the final kilometres to eventually finish 4th. Although extremely disappointed at the time it gave me the opportunity to look at my training and make the changes that ultimately lead to what was otherwise a very successful race year.

For 2015 things were a bit different. Going into the race and I was talking things down, having not been very consistent in training until the final month before the race I was unsure whether I had the fitness to race a hard half iron distance event well and with last year's race in the back of my mind I had no clue what to expect.

The Lake At Stourhead

Race week wasn't a full in taper with some solid sessions going in but was backed off a bit to give me half a chance of racing well and by Saturday morning I was feeling pretty good and relaxed. Saturday was spent with the family in the day doing a bit of shopping and enjoying lunch together followed by heading to Stourhead to register and watch the sprint race on the saturday evening. A fellow Bustinskin athlete Andy, who I have been coaching for this year was competing and had a great race storming to a solid 6th place overall and it was great to watch him and everyone else race before heading off to try and get some sleep.

Sunday mornings alarm went off at 4.30 and it was straight down to business with breakfast and a coffee before waking the kids and getting us all into the car. A few songs from the Jungle Book on the drive to the race and we arrived in good time and good spirits! I set up transition and put on my new Zone 3 Vanquish wetsuit before heading down to the lake for the briefing and start. Just as Lisa was zipping my wetsuit up she pointed out I had forgotten my timing chip, drama number 1! It was too close to the start to run back to find it now but I notified the timing guys and there was nothing left to do but get in the water and hope things sorted themselves out.

A quick swim warm up in the cool lake to flush the wetsuit through and we were called back to the start line to get going, I was feeling fairly relaxed at this point and even managed to wish some friends good luck before the count down was on.  Straight off the start and starting from the front row it was clear water and a straight drag to the first buoy. I didn't seem to have much pop off the line but hit a solid pace and soon noticed there were 2 or 3 swimmers starting to move away off the front. Round the first buoy and I was sitting just behind the front 2 who were about 20 metres ahead. I felt good and was working hard but was comfortable with it and by the end of the first lap had managed to latch onto the feet of the swimmer in second who slowly dragged me back towards the guy who was leading.  By the end of the second lap the three of us had pretty much come together and exited one after each other.  Dragged out the lake by the awesome volunteers and the only flat part of the race was now done! The run to T1 is long and uphill all the way, I had opted to go bare foot and set off up the hill towards my bike. I Unzipped my wetsuit and got my arms out very smoothly and as I rounded the corner there was lisa holding out my timing chip. Into T1 and the bottom half of my Zone 3 suit flew off in Impressive style. Timing chip on slowly followed by socks and race belt and finally helmet I had not been smooth through transition and after entering 2nd was exiting 5th.

Exiting the swim and starting the long run to transition
The run to the mount line was over some bumpy grass and within only a few metres my rear bottle ejected itself from my cage, drama number 2 and not a good start.  I stopped to gather it and mounted my bike. Only seconds down the road and my front bottle this time thought it would get in on the action and had a go at escaping. After stopping to collect that one I was hoping this wasn't going to be the theme of the day.  Settling into my aero position and power I felt alright and quickly rode my way back into second place before the first time down the fast descent at the begging of the lap. As the speed increased both bottle simultaneously made a bid for freedom. Screeching to a halt i parked my bike on the verge and ran back up the hill to get them back again only to see the two guys I just passed flying the other way. I got one bottle back but the lid had blown off the other one and the contents gone.

I kept as calm as I could and decided that I just needed to settle back into my planned power and ride my race managing the situation as best as possible. The time was flying by and I got myself back into second but with no sight of the lead.  On the longer climb around the back of the lap I caught my first glimpse of the lead but wasn't making much ground on him. I stopped for a bottle at the aid station and by the end of the first lap had just about closed in on the lead.  Just before the descent again on lap 2 I took first place and aimed to keep holding my power target. Towards the bottom of the descent doing a descent speed I had a quick look over my shoulder to see of second was still close only for the wind to catch under the visor of my new helmet and send it flying off behind me drama number 3. I let it go and just put my head down and just focused on staying calm and riding my race.  The rest of the ride was fairly uneventful I stuck to my power plan, took my gels and was heading back to T2 feeling much better than 12 months previously although missing a visor and promising myself I would buy the best bottle cages out there.

Running into T2 first is great fun and a good crowd was starting to gather on the hill with the atmosphere building. A much smoother transition this time round and it was run time. My feet were freezing from the bike and felt like I was running on planks of wood but I settled in quickly, stuffed some more gels in my pocket and put my garmin on. The three lap run course consists of initially running 3 or so km gradually uphill before descending steeply down through the woods and onto some nice paths before coming out on the road again by the lake and climbing the steep hill back to transition/next lap/finish line.

Completing one of the run Laps
Lap 1 passed uneventfully, I felt pretty good and was surprised at my running pace, going up the hill at the end of the lap and passing the family going onto lap 2 I was feeling strong and my feet had just about defrosted. Quick drink at the aid station and onto lap 2, up the long hill a few seconds a km slower than lap 1 but still holding a solid pace for me and I was able to let loose on the descent a bit better, arms flying everywhere down the steep path but enjoying the trail running greatly and with people now out on lap 1 there was always someone to chase down. Out by the lake again and up the hill at the end of the lap and that time it definitely stung a little more but I knew there was only 1 lap left to run or a little over 30 mins and I would be done. 

I was slower again by a few seconds a km up the long hill but took my final gel at the top and set off down through the woods. The gel didn't sit well though and was causing some serious stitch type pain in my side, for a short while I thought it was going to get the better of me but I knew I just had to get down to the lake and onto the hill where the crowds were and I would be home.  Once at the bottom I tried to have a look behind me to see if anyone was there but it was hard to work out which lap runners behind me were on.  The final time up the hill from the lake and this time heading to the finish was pretty painful but it soon faded as I hit the finish chute and crossed the line having held everyone off for the whole run and held onto 1st with a much improved performance from 12 months prior.
Crossing the Line
I saw lisa and the kids and watched the other Bustinskin guys finish their races and then enjoyed prize giving and presentation. Some awesome prizes on offer including one for fastest bike split, something that more events should do but I'm certainly a bit biased about this! Putting on the helmet was good fun and soon enough it was time to pack up and head for home. Leaving the beautiful Stourhead estate very satisfied with my performance and excited about the year to come.  A good few lessons learnt this race and proving that although things didn't go smoothly I can keep my head together,  not do anything stupid and focus on executing the best race possible in the circumstances I'm in.

Rocking the Helmet
Thank you to everyone who cheered and supported me on the day and to the race organisers and volunteers for a great event, a massive thank you to Lisa and the kids who after 8 months since my last race were up and going far to early in the morning and supported the loudest all day and finally to the people who are backing me this year Zone 3 wetsuits, Amphibia sports gear and Bustinskin Events you guys all rock, I can confidently say that I will be back in 2016.