Monthly Archives: November 2015

Croatia and ‘The Ironman Blues’

Once Challenge Weymouth was out of the way, there was very little reason to do any training. I took  a fortnights holiday travelling Croatia with my girlfriend Lynsey and we did plenty of walking and sea swimming but nothing that constituted any kind of real exercise like Ironman training would.

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It was great. 3 large meals a day, a few beers most nights -I didn’t say no to anything and it was amazing. I put on nearly 2 stone in 3 weeks having absolutely buried myself up until crossing the line at Challenge Weymouth I was owed some down time.

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Lynsey was great. She’d suffered a long summer of my training regime and this was a late summer holiday for us both. When we got back it was tough to find any reason to put myself through the 5am turbo sessions and long swim sessions before work. It’s amazingly disappointing to see how quickly the fitness can vanish and how long it takes to build back up. The ‘Ironman Blues’ mindset that gets banded about following a big race was fully getting a hold of me. The routine was all gone. I had my weekends back but nothing really to do with them. It was a slow return to training but it needed to happen and snap out of it. I was in freefall where anything but swim, bike and run could fill my time. I met with my coach Paul Savage for a few beers and we decided it was time for me to crack back on with some kind of base fitness work to get me into a position to start 2016 not totally from scratch. Paul was recently back from Kona and hearing his stories of this epic race reignited my fire and I literally started the next day and haven’t looked back.

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I did the 10k Leeds Abbey Dash in November as a little project to work towards, just to give me an excuse to get the trainers on. I stripped and rebuilt the mountain bike so I can still have some fun on the bike this winter now those wintery weekend roads aren’t so forgiving on the road bike. The pool is always there and with the long steady sessions to keep me moving its a good time to focus on technique and get some easy mileage in on a regular basis. Along with an extra focus on off-season stretching and core work (which I’ve never really taken any notice of!) I’m enjoying starting to feel fit again and doing it on a much more social basis. I have been riding with friends rather than to a specific time or distance or effort. There is no underestimating the time investment training for an Ironman takes but thats because you have to respect the distance. I was in the best shape of my life going into Challenge Weymouth and now my energy turns to maintaining some nice winter fitness and trying to enjoy the process at the same time. I don’t really know what 2016 has in store just yet. I’d like to race more and do races that I’ve not done before. Tick off a few classics and cast the net a bit further afield. This year has been great, but having my A race so late in the year felt like a long time to wait.

 

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Challenge Weymouth Race Report

Thats my ‘A’ race done and I’m back from a three week holiday travelling Croatia and eating – lots! But how did Challenge Weymouth go? Firstly it was great to once again represent GB Age Groupers at the European Long Distance Triathlon Championship and our team manager Tim Whitmarsh was great and bringing all the other GB athletes together in Weymouth. 4th in my Age Group

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Swim:

Starting on the stoney beach of Weymouth Bay, it was a 2 lap swim course in the sea. As it turned out, 2 very different laps. I had my goggles knocked off in the first 200m or so, but thankfully I kept hold of them and surprised myself at how quickly I got them back on.

The first lap felt ok, I held a reasonable effort and felt I was moving quite comfortably through the water. Out for the Australian exit and it was totally different swim – the water had become choppy and I swallowed a lot of it – I didn’t feel too great coming out of the water, a bit sickly and a touch off the pace.

Bike:

Transition 1 went smoothly and I was off out into the Dorest Jurassic Coast on the bike. I soon began to feel good and respected the early climb that comes after 5 miles. This a two lap race and thankfully I had overcompensated in my training for hills so I knew the 5, 500ft of climbing over the course was going to be manageable. The course was undulating but it was possible to spend the majority of of time on the aero bars. I had a very solid bike ride, registering one of the fastest bike splits in my Age Group and moving myself up the field to level out the time lost in the swim. My nutrition plan worked well on the bike and the time passed relatively quickly. It got a bit lonely out there and I had to keep my mind busy. It took away from the fatigue and passed a few miles. I tried to name every motocross I’ve ever raced on. Then I even tried to name every girl I’ve ever kissed – but that only took about 5 minutes! The bike course was scenic enough, but the country roads made for a very solitary time and with nobody in front or behind I had to be confident I was even on the right course. Luckily I did a recce drive around the course the day before so I had a vague idea where I was headed! Finally back into T2 and I got my first glimpse of my friends and family which was a big boost that I needed.

 

Run:

I came out of T2 feeling woeful. Perhaps I had gone too hard on the bike. I’d stuck diligently to my nutrition plan that was tried and tested in weeks of long ride training, but this short stint to the first aid station had all the wrong signs. I perhaps went off a touch quick, but I knew pretty early on that this marathon was going to be a long day of survival. I walked through this first aid station, had a quick word with myself and took on some more nutrition. Within moments I felt better, but by no means ‘good’. My game plan amended slightly, I was holding a steady pace but walking every aid station and constantly cooling myself down. It was getting a bit warmer in the afternoon and running through the crowds of ice cream eating, pint drinking and bbq-ing family and friends was agony! 4 and 1/2 laps up and down the promenade, thats just broken down into 4 x 10k’s which is ok isn’t it? The last one was fairly brutal and probably my undoing. I just wanted it to be over with. I began ignoring aid stations and just focusing on getting to the line as quick as I could and in whatever state that would be. My last 3 miles were the quickest of my run and not out of the coaching manual. I crossed the line 5th in my Age Group and spent the following 2 hours in the medical tent. I had put everything into that and I can’t have any complaints that I didn’t give it absolutely everything I had. It was a tough day and I am proud to have battled through it. I’ve not been to that sort of place before and I had to dig deep in that final 5 or 6 miles to pull through it.

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I had an amazing support crew from all my family, especially Mum and Dad and girlfriend Lynsey as well as my coach Paul Savage (physio-coach.co.uk). The days leading up to an Ironman can be odd. Probably different for everyone, but I go very quiet and want to do anything but talk about the race or the weather etc, I drag out little jobs to fill time. I get a bit short and sharp with folks and the littlest things not being triple checked can keep you up at night. They are great to have around and do everything to help me and that is so important even if thats leaving me alone! It’s an individual sport, but the folks in the background make it all possible and on every single lap of that run just seeing them was the highlight of my day and massively kept me going.

Triathlon England Blog – July 2015

Here is the race report I did for a rather disappointing day at Liverpool Triathlon, the Standard Disatnce British Championship

July 2015:

Tri Liverpool Standard Distance was a mixed bag. It’s only the second standard distance triathlon I’ve done with last year’s London Pru Health being the other. I feel I have unfinished business with this race format!

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At Liverpool I swam 25:26 which is about right for me. I’m never going to set the world on fire with my swimming, but if I can come out without having lost too much time and not too tired, then I’m satisfied.

The bike is where I try to make my biggest gains. I’ve always felt confident in my riding and my current training has been backing this up better than ever. However, this is where the ‘mixed bag’ element comes in! It was a comedy of errors really, but it didn’t feel that funny at the time.

I hit the mount line, threw my leg over and my spare tube fell out of my pocket on the other side. Stop #1 to pick that up. My wet feet slipped off my already fastened on shoes and dragged a bare foot along the docks asphalt. That stung in the shower later on.

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I eventually got going and it felt so hard. I started thinking it was one of those days my legs just didn’t want to turn. I was going nowhere fast and it was costing a lot of effort. I glanced down and my rear brake caliber had jammed on. Stop #2. I prised the pads off the rim and got going again, the unforgiving clock always ticking.

I got to the final turning point on lap 1 and when I applied the brakes, the rear brake stayed locked on again! Coming out of the turn, I pulled to the inside, off the racing line and released the brake once more – Stop #3 was my breaking point in a different sense of the word. I unclipped the rear brake, wound the adjustment right off and never touched the rear brake again.

I rode in anger, affectively a 30k Time Trial with nothing to lose. I came off the bike with a 1:06:35 next to my name, my trump card had not come to fruition, I felt a 60min ride was possible. With my folks making the early trip up from Nottingham I was duty bound to enjoy the day and still give it my all.

I came out of t2 feeling good, my Garmin watch struggling to find any signal for my entire run, I had to work totally off feel. I didn’t know what pace I was running or how far I had to go, so I just kept the legs turning over at constant rate. Perhaps I have been a slave to the watch too often so to judge this pace so well was reassuring. Then I ran passed the finish line chute, having to double back on myself at the end of lap 2! Schoolboy. I ran 38:33.

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At the end of the day, things didn’t work out perfectly and there is only myself I can be annoyed at. Saying that, what positives can I take? My swim was solid, my run was better than hoped having not specifically trained for a 10k for a long time. I need a new way of securing my spares. I need to really concentrate at the short moments of a triathlon that require concentration. It’s odd how irrational and illogical your brain starts working – running passed the finish chute is unforgivable.

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All these little errors are part of the constant learning process and can be easily remedied before Challenge Weymouth in little over 6 weeks time. Finally, a massive shout to my ever supportive Mum and Dad. They’ve racked up some miles over the years watching me do various things like motocross, mountain biking and rugby and take it all in their stride. Even if they’re still getting used the shaven legs look, it adds 10% knowing they’ve got my back every time. Nice one guys.

Triathlon England Blog – June 2015

This blog went up in June when I had started running again and really hammering the hills on the TT bike. The booze had been cut too!

June 2015:

Finally I’m back running and even tentatively competing! After an extended time away from running I’ve worked really hard to become a better swimmer and rider which has paid dividends – lots of climbing on the TT bike to try and over-compensate for the hills that I’ll face at Challenge Weymouth in around 10 weeks time. Killer turbo sessions mixed with some long 100-mile tests and threshold 10-mile TT’s have all shown vast improvement on two wheels. I’m just trying to transfer the progress I’m making in the pool to the open water – practising sighting, constantly thinking about technique and just using my time in the water to get the best bang for my buck.

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It’s great to see the fitness has stayed in the lungs without the running – it’s just the running legs that need to catch up. I’m taming the urge to run too hard while I’m gradually building the mileage back up. I did Warrington 10k, a nice local midweek event and also the Salford Aqauthlon, organised by Manchester Triathlon Club; really good local events that push me a touch harder that I would on my own in a training day.

Always conscious that I am not out of the woods yet with my history of running injuries, it’s key to not risk any silly flare ups. There is a bigger picture that needs to stay at the front of my training thoughts. There is no need to be hero on a Tuesday or Thursday night, instead listening to my body and its capabilities.

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I am the only one accountable for all my sessions, there is nobody making me get up at 5am to train and there is nobody who really cares if I don’t. Ok, my coach Paul Savage will set me the sessions, targets and training zones and follow my progress accordingly, but only I know when I’m tired, or forcing the issue as well as when I’m letting myself off. There isn’t anyone who even has to know if I had that slice of cake or that mid-week pint, everything is on my terms and it’s ultimately an individual sport that makes me responsible for how hard I want to work that day.

Before each Iron Distance race, I’ve abstained from the booze for 3 months preceding the race and Challenge Weymouth is no different. I’m pretty hard on myself if I do miss a meter or a minute of training, but it’s tailoring my best plan of attack and giving myself the very best opportunity with the time and energy I have available.

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Why run so hard in training if I know it might affect the next two sessions or screw me up even beyond that? How can I best plan this week to make sure I hit everything without being a recluse, being dumped (!) or just too smoked to get off the sofa? Only I can take satisfaction in that days training so I just shut up and do it – and then buy her something nice on the way home!

Triathlon England Blog – May 2015

This blog went up in May, after I’d pulled out of Bala Middle Distance Triathlon that was to be the British Championship event for this year

May 2015:

After 7 years of waking up at 4:30am for my job as a Breakfast Radio Producer, my working hours have recently changed to the bog standard 9 to 5:30. I used to think it impossible for people to do Iron Distance training that didn’t work in Breakfast Radio! I’m learning the hard way of how to fit in all that volume around a normal day shift having had it so good for so long.

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So I still have to get up at 5am, but now I am training before work, therefore the only real thing that has been taken away is my afternoon nap and ‘Deal or No Deal’ fix! I can do a productive 90 minute Turbo session or 3000m swims and still make it to the office for 9am. The only absence from my current training program is any running. Since my last blog when I wrote of being hit by a car on a training ride, I’ve not ran at all. I decided to take 4 weeks off to let my legs recover from an ongoing niggle around my shins which flares up between sessions with far too much regularity. It did mean however, that unfortunately I had to – for the first time ever – withdraw from a race. The British Middle Distance Championships (who do a very generous withdrawal policy I may add) as I just wasn’t in any kind of triathlon race shape.

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It was with a heavy heart and I left right up until the last minute as I had singled out this event as a high priority on my 2015 race schedule. A good marker to lay down before the final 3 month build up to the European Long Distance Championship at Challenge Weymouth in September which has now taken on even more significance.

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Despite my recent woes and being a triathlete that just trains like one but never races, there are always positives to take out of the sport. No running has equalled much more focus on swimming and biking, which have come on incredibly well. With no training bike (written off in the car accident) I’ve been forced on to the TT bike prematurely, which has been beneficial training. I think its good to track progress and I often to a series of tests every 5 or 6 weeks to see where I’m at, inclusive of a 100m target paced TT on the flat which I did this weekend. Both in swimming and cycling I’m clocking PB’s at the minute, I just need to start running again – then racing of course!

Triathlong England Blog – April 2015

This blog was published in April, having just been knocked off my bike by a car and also ran the Greater Manchester Marathon in 3:13:15

April 2015:

Blame it on the law of averages, fate… or just a stereotypical BMW driver not looking at a roundabout. Either way I soon found myself flying across a shiny green bonnet & in a heap on the Cheshire asphalt. Wilmslow is the Mecca of footballer’s mansions and here I am rolling across the floor like one of their own.

The latter reason is why I’m currently nursing a very sore hip and back after returning from a training ride and being taken out. The bike hasn’t fared too well from the whole ordeal, which combined with my forced break from training has meant for a very somber week. I’ll be ok – but entering a very important period of training in the lead up to British Middle Distance Championship at Bala it’s far from ideal and I need to get back to it soon.

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Moving on, I was looking forward to the Open Water swimming season firing up. USwim Dock 9 at Salford Quays is right next to the Capital FM studios where I work and it’s a really good atmosphere down there – music, coffee and post swim flapjacks. Wednesday nights and Saturdays morning will become a permanent fixture in the training program this spring/summer, with Saturdays being followed a run session in a group organised by my coach, Paul Savage.

It’ll be the first time I’ve really trained in a group – big or small – so I’m hoping that being surrounded by better swimmers and runners will drag me along. I enjoy getting out into the open water – it makes a nice change – but can be a touch chilly, so this will only serve to toughen me up away from the relative coziness of the pool.

I have recovered well from the ASICS Greater Manchester Marathon, where I ran above my expectations in what is a great confidence builder for my Iron Distance marathon. It proves the run training was soaking in nicely. Having 3 sports to train does keep it interesting and helps stave off that single sport injury potential, which I was beginning to feel with my upped running mileage. Pre-car accident, Paul and I were lining up some good swim and bike focused training to bring that up to scratch alongside the running, but I’m dragging a week behind already now.

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Base fitness was the main buzzword of winter and this has paid of nicely leading into the 2015 season so it’s seems. Training indoors on the turbo is arguably where my hardest efforts are done. Revisiting specific sessions are easily measurable, a good chance to catch up with all the on-demand sport from the weekend(!) and not at all distracting when the girlfriend walks in and starts taking photos at probably not your most attractive moment!

Triathlon England Blog – March 2015

Here is my 2nd Triathlon England Blog from back in March. The oringal blog lived on the Triathlon England website:

March 2015:

It’s been good to finally get outside and even throw in the odd spring event recently. It’s been difficult to chase those cycling miles over the winter, so I’ve taken the opportunity to mix up the riding and also get the all important bike fit done before the race season rolls around.

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I’ve had the mountain bike out quite a lot over winter and used this as a good alternative to the turbo trainer.  The Mountain bike works you hard and has transferable skills for bike handling and is much more accessible in all weathers. Now it’s a bit more bearable to get out on the road bike and clock up some miles in the Peak District hills, it means I’ve not had to sacrifice too many weekends to the indoor turbo sessions. It’s great having North Wales and The Peak District on the relative doorstep of South Manchester.

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The time spent not racing was a good chance to get the TT bike dialed in and set up for the season ahead. I had a great bike fit session recently, tweaking my position to get the best possible fit. With my main races being the British Middle Distance Championship at Bala and the European Long Distance Championship in Weymouth, we reached a set up that isn’t too aggressive and means I can comfortably stay on the aero bars for long periods. It’s a thorough process and an important one to get right.

Getting the bike fit done before the season kicks in means I have plenty of time to get used to it and familiar with the set up, as each Mountain bike, road bike and TT bike are all slightly different. I won’t have to touch this again now so everything is on point and ready to go racing.

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My road bike is an old Specialized Allez Sport that I don’t mind running into the ground and is heavy. Once I switch to the TT bike (Cannondale Slice) it feels so slick and light and easy to go quick on. The training effect of the old tank-like Spesh is actually a great benefit when I swing a leg over the Slice. I don’t think I’d be allowed another bike even if I did want to upgrade, as when she reads this, I’ll have to admit that I never did actually sell the mountain bike!

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I’ve had a good running focus recently, with the Greater Manchester Marathon approaching in April which I’ll use as a potential Iron Distance dress rehearsal. I ran Wilmslow Half Marathon this weekend, which backed up a good block of that run training and leads nicely into the marathon. It put a lot of confidence back in my running and proved I was over a few of those wintery niggles that plague the off season.

So now the bike is fully fitted and waiting in the livery, my running legs seem to have finally arrived and my swimming is ticking along nicely –  I’m excited to get out and start actually racing!

Triathlon England Blog – February 2015

At the beginning of 2015 I was asked by British Triathlon and Triathlon England to blog about my year in Triathlon. I send in a short blurb each month and they are published on the British Triathlon website.

Therefore I’ve not been as active on my own blog for a while! Well, I’ll add re-publish my blogs on here and look after this site too!

This blog was written in February as an introduction:

February 2015:

I’m James Wilson and I work as a Breakfast Show Radio Producer at Capital FM in Manchester. I start work at 4:30am each day so I’m usually finished at work by lunchtime… and that’s part of the reason I got into triathlon – all that spare time in the afternoon needed to be used up somehow!

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I’ve been doing triathlon since 2011 with not a great deal of a swimming or running background. I’d always cycled, but I grew up racing motocross as my main sport.

Triathlon got a bit addictive and it quickly became an obsession since motocross. I went to watch my now coach Paul Savage (www.physio-coach.co.uk) at Ironman UK in 2012 and then signed up for the 2013 event shortly afterwards. I’d only done 2 sprint triathlons at the time, but I wanted to get involved with something totally out of my comfort zone and spent the next 11 months working towards that goal. I didn’t tell anyone I was doing the race until a month before the cannon went off. I just wanted to go about my training and it wasn’t until I knew I was in shape that I mentioned it to anyone.

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I did ok for my first go and managed to qualify for the Great Britain Age Group Team for the European Long Distance Championship in 2014, which were held at Challenge Almere. Results are here.

I’ll again be targeting the European Long Distance Championship this coming year, this time held at Challenge Weymouth, UK. I’ll also be working towards the British Middle Distance Championship at Bala in June and filling my race calendar along the way with some standard distance races and the North West Triathlon Championships.

I’m not a member of a club and I do all my training on my own in Manchester, but I do work with my coach Paul who helps me out massively with plans and physio since I started taking this triathlon business a bit more seriously.

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I’ve had a bit of a false start to the year so far, coming off a nasty bike crash in November which has hampered the winter training a little bit. I’ve been confined to the indoor turbo sessions until recently, but finally back in the pool now and working on that illusive winter base fitness before the hard graft really kicks in.

Watch this space for what 2015 has in store!