Monthly Archives: February 2016

Race Report: Stockport Trail Half

Another well ran event by Crazy Legs Events. It was the same events company I raced with recently at the Macclesfield Off-Road Duathlon at the beginning of February.
I spotted the Stockport Trail Half on their website at the same time as signing up for the Duathlon so thought I’d put my name down.
I’ve been steady running 90 minutes (12-13miles) each week, so I knew I could handle the distance and worth giving it a go at a slightly higher tempo.
I had to take Friday off work after feeling a bit peaky all week so I knew I wasn’t in tip top shape going into this race but happy to toe the line and enjoy a crisp and cold morning in Marple, Stockport.

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The route was as good as an out and back with the back 6 miles being into a chilly headwind. Following The Middlewood Way, starting out at Marple Rugby Club, the route was reasonably flat and bearable, with a few undulations in the final two miles.
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I had an elevated heart rate from early in the race, touching 170bpm as I stuck to 6:40-6:42 min/miles. I was curious to see how long I could hold a heart rate this high as I usually stay between 160 & 170bpm in my long interval Turbo sessions when I am working with FTP. I was happy to see my body able to continue working (running at a decent pace) with a heart rate that can better cope with the demands of increased lactate. A sign of improving fitness.
It was becoming harder work in the final 3 miles of the run, but this is when the field actually began coming back to me and I must have made up a good 5 places in that final quarter of the race. A good sign that my pacing is good and I have a good understanding of my own fitness.

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My calves were shot at the finish line. They just locked up. At the time I could barely walk back to the car, without any  prior warning during the race. It was instant as soon as I stopped running. Kinda love to hate that tight calf feeling! A good indication I worked hard. The same can be said for my left ITB, which tightened and caused a lot of pain as the afternoon went on – and then went on into the night and still hanging around the following morning! What a frustrating injury.
I did do around 15 minutes on the foam roller before I left the house for the race, but alas, I have not been plagued with the dreaded ITBS for a while. A concerning familiar feeling. Perhaps being a touch ill in the week and missing a long mid-week run just gave everything a chance to tighten up. I’ll defiantly be back on the foam roller for this week as I try to manage the ITB & recover ahead of Oulton Park Standard Distance Duathlon on March 6th.
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Race Report: Macclesfield Off-Road Duathlon

My first race of the season is in the bag – Macclesfield Off Road Duathlon, making up part of the North West Club League Series so there were plenty of decent athletes to contend with – not just the weather!
I knew it would be a cold one. Macclesfield Forest is just on the edge of the Peak District and the course was very exposed. I’ve not got too much experience of fell running or cross country.
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It was a tough first run (7.5km) up to the top of Shuttlingsloe, one of the highest summits in Macclesfield Forest. Coming down was as much torture as going up! I worked my way slowly past the guys who had bombed off (as is natural in any duathlon), so I was descending by myself and somewhat wildly. I thought I was never going to be able to stop. I considered bailing out and throwing myself on the deck. I couldn’t see this descent ending and my legs couldn’t keep up with my body. This was telling in the quads the following days. Constantly braking using the legs is tempting injury but I held on despite some choice words as I lost control.
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The bike leg (17.5km) went ok. I’ve always been a confident mountain bike rider and the 3 lap course gave me chance to take stock of my position and make up some ground on the better fell runners/lesser MTB riders. It was just so cold! The rain and wind, sideways, relentless.
There was only one technical descent that separated the men from the boys. The rest of the course was long steady climbing which didn’t work to my advantage as I like to hang it out a bit on the faster sections and use my experience from years of motocross racing to be comfortable with the bike dancing around and having it on the edge of breaking away from me.

I’ve always been happy to hang it out on the MTB

That said, my trusty old Specialized Camber got me round, still wearing every stock part it came with back in 2010. She’s been a goodun! I did make a couple of silly errors with wrong turns. Looking at the timed results at the end, I don’t think my mistakes would’ve impacted the final result so I’m not going to beat myself up about that. Just make sure I don’t make those mistakes in a  race that is more important.
Into T2 and my fingers had stopped working, I couldn’t get my helmet buckle undone, and my calves began to cramp while I was stood still trying to force my mountain bike shoes free in similar numbness.
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Heart Rate analysis of Full Race (1:51:00)

I managed to prise the helmet off and around my chin without undoing the buckle and I was on my way for there second run (3.5km). This second run was much more of a known entity as it was the lower level final section wee had ran in the first leg. I was too far behind to make a real impact on the position ahead and I had a commanding lead over my next in line so there was little to push for and tempt those injuries. Looking at my heart rate after the race, it’s easy to see how I let my foot off the gas as the race went on.
I brought it home in one piece, to land 6th overall and 1st in my age group. Happy with that and some great training, I’ll definitely be doing more off-road running. Crazy Legs Events put on a great race as it was their inaugural running of the event and the wine and chocolate for AG win came in handy that night. I whacked the heating up in the car, cradled an awfully weak cup of tea and spent the next few days wishing I’d have done that warm down jog!

2016 Return to ‘Brand’ Ironman

After Challenge Weymouth in September 2015, I decided I could squeeze one more big effort at the full Iron distance in 2016. I’d raced Challenge Almere in 2014 and Challenge Weymouth in 2015, the latter really coming up short on the experiential aspect of achieving something HUGE. I signed up for Ironman France, an epic, famous race on the Cote d’Azur, but I’ve since transferred to Ironman UK for 2016 – this is a long story I’ll talk about another time!

The ‘razzmatazz’ – for want of a better word- that Ironman as a brand has when it rolls into town is arguably worth the premium that comes with it. Yes, I am saying Ironman races are worth paying more for, but not necessarily agreeing with that cost – a lesson in diplomacy there! When I did Ironman UK in Bolton in 2013, my first Iron distance race, it didn’t disappoint in making me feel like ‘Anything Was Possible’ to coin the tag line. Challenge Weymouth notably lacked this. Yes it was a cheaper entry point, but the Pavilion where registration was held was a touch shabby, the finisher chute was extremely anti-climatic and as the event was ran as a franchise the organisers struggled to deliver that grandeur Ironman can seemingly replicate week in week out.

It’s similar to the current commercial radio model of ‘National Brands, Delivered Locally’ whereby Capital Radio and/or Heart are well established London born brands that have been rolled out across the country. A clear single minded vision, that filters down from the top under a brand guided umbrella, the experience of listening should be the same in London, South Wales, Manchester, Liverpool etc while maintaing a local touch. Ironman clearly governs centrally and retains its brand values and delivers that experience in the same way, whether that event be in Brazil, Bolton, Texas or Zurich. The success of this models is built on network communication and a defined image that cannot be compromised at ground level.  The stand outs like Kona (and for this analogy Capital Radio London!) are the flagships, they rule the roost, they are a different entity setting the standard. Attracting the biggest stars to their events, blazing the trail of what they do and leading by example. They are the aspirations of every athlete – or listener – that is coming into contact with the brand and these brand expectations need to go above and beyond – at every moment. Clients and commercial partners they align themselves with for example. These established brands have earned the right to be ‘picky’ of who they want next to their logos (you might not hear an ad for The Sun Newspaper on Capital Liverpool nor see Kona take Malboro as a title sponsor!) – protect the brand at all costs!

It will be interesting to see how Ironman re-brand the Weymouth event now they have bought it. Will the juggernaut of WTC demand their brand be protected with a course alteration or venue change (the locals in Weymouth did not like the event being ran on their roads last year!). Much like Capital FM landing in Liverpool, replacing Juice FM, the all new Capital FM Liverpool brand needs to have an impact. It certainly has, with Justin Bieber and Fluer East being part of the launch campaign, so will we will see some big names racking their bikes at the inaugural Ironman Weymouth?

For a moment, whilst I was soaking in the finishing chute at Ironman UK in 2013 I was the star. The 25 meter long finisher chute at Challenge Weymouth was over before I could enjoy the moment. Just look the difference above. Hearing Justin Bieber say your city’s name or being put on-air as a caller to win some VIP gig tickets is also making you the star. Aspirational, they are off to sit in the posh seats with a slap up meal and see their heroes perform on stage. The Ironman just wants to hear his/her name being called and then told ‘You. Are. An. Ironman’. Those few words carry a certain commercial weight that is fully in use from a savvy brand like Ironman.

These two brands are closely related in corporate values, brand awareness and the monopoly presence within their respective industry, but what they fundamentally share is the desire to deliver a better experience on the ground for their audience. It is an uphill struggle for their competitors to replicate. These hugely successful brands capture your mind and for me, it is very difficult to resist the association with the mainstream in both of these cases.