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.
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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!