Category Archives: swimming

Race Report: Ironman UK 2016

IMUK Race Report

Race day came around so quickly. I try to spread out the little jobs of race week across the final few days just to fill the time and keep myself occupied. My to-do-list on Thursday was ‘Steady Run. Sort kit. Massage. Hair Cut.’ I considered that a busy day! It’s a nice time to chill and embrace the feelings that surround race week. Checking the weather and boiling up more pasta all begin to fade into one.

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Ironman UK is a well oiled machine, with the Macron Stadium being a perfect venue to host registration, an ever improving expo (if a bit pricey) and location of T2. Nothing mega going on in the goody bag, but if you want to add to your shot of free shower gel, simply do a few passes of the Innocent Coconut Water girl.

The overnight rain had left T1 as a bit of a muddy one. I always leave my bike racked in T1 fairly bare, adding my nutrition, water bottle and spares on race morning. My bike was very damp and needed a wipe down before I could begin the finishing touches. I add my shoes to the pedals, check the correct gearing is good to go. At least I know nothing can get lost or rain damaged overnight if I keep hold of it all.

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Ready to rock, time to head to the seeding pens for the rolling start. Time is approaching. Nervous chat fills the air, crossed with the exhaling track pumps and requests for help with wetsuit zips.

Swim: 1:13:12 / AG Rank: 78 / Overall Rank: 518

My first experience of the rolling start, something IMUK introduced last year. The self seeding pens were paying lip service to the idea of everyone being of similar speed but it was pretty tight in there so just finding a space was a bonus. As soon as you cross the matt, your chip starts so get in the water and crack on sharpo. I’m never going to set the world on fire with my swimming. I found in training that my speed and times of reps had plateaued. I wasn’t getting any faster. But I was getting fitter. I could perform a good swim set or steady state swim much more efficiently. I could hold my splits rather than see them drop off. So I adopted this philosophy for my Ironman swim – OK, it doesn’t matter the time isn’t any quicker, but I’m much fresher for hitting the bike – fitter not faster.

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The rolling start gave us all plenty more room on the straight length of the swim course, with the usual bottle neck appearing at each buoy. Obviously the course tightening comes with the flying elbows and nonsensical kicking as standard. I lost my hat and goggle as a result, but was lucky to save the goggles and only lose the white swim cap. The swim caps at IMUK are decent quality, Arena ones. I opened mine out the packet and straight on my head the morning of the race, but when swim caps are brand new they are a bit chalky and too new. It came off my head fairly easily, next time I’ll give the hat a good rinse and make sure the first time it goes on is not on the walk to the start line.

Pennington Flash is a purposeful venue for the race start. It’s tough to see further than a foot in front of you so there isn’t much to talk about when it comes to the swim. Just focus on technique, try and find some feet and sight enough to stay on track.

Bike: 5:33:40 / AG Rank: 5 / Overall Rank 65

I started the ride with a single water bottle. The first aid station appears after around 15 miles and is a gentle climb up towards this point. I didn’t want to be carrying the extra weight. I still had the bottle cage fixed on my downtube, as well as the torpedo mount between the areobars. The reasons were two-fold; Running out of T1, pushing the bike holding the saddle makes it very unstable with all the weight at the front of the bike and I also prefer not to climb with all that weight on the front of the bike. Secondly I wanted the option to have two bottles. I took two bottles at each aid station regardless. One for hydration, the other to throw over me but discard. The aid stations on the bike were regular enough for me to not have to carry more than one water bottle if I didn’t need to.

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The bike went so quickly. I was overtaking all day. I must’ve overtaken a couple of hundred people. My bike division rank was 5th in comparison to my swim of 78th. Defiantly need to limit the damage of the swim and use the strength of my cycling to move forward rather than catch up.

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The two-lap bike course takes in 4 climbs in total, 2 times up Sheep House Lane and twice also up Hunters Hill. The atmosphere was fantastic at both of these locations. The course is also very technical. The descents aren’t straight and gradual, but twisty and fast. I am a confident descender and enjoy using this to marry out that average speed.

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My bike was great, I felt fast and comfortable and was able to grind out a solid ride that I was hoping would come together from the training I had been putting in and seeing the gains slowly coming in time for a peak on race day. I experience some cramps in my quads on the final climb up Hunters Hill. I got through it, knowing the roll into T2 was not far away. I took everything I had left in my nutrition. I threw the remaining salt sticks down and as much water as possible, in preparation for a marathon that was beginning to warm up.

Off the bike in bare feet and a painful tip-toe across the car park at The Macron Stadium. I’m ready to run the marathon. I knew I’d had a good ride as it was quiet in T2, not many bikes on the racks. I felt good.

Run: 3:44:13 / AG Rank: 6 / Overall Rank: 74

Off the bike, I was in a confident mood. I felt strong. The first mile out of T2 was a brutal rise through a housing estate before a further 5 miles from Horwich into Bolton Town Centre to begin the laps. It was soon I realised I have lured myself into false pretences about how good I felt.

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I headed out of T2 far too excited, far too fast. It was early into the marathon when I started to make deals with myself. The projected marathon time went straight out of the window and I was holding on. Yes, from 6 miles into a marathon, I was in survival mode. I couldn’t face looking too far ahead. There was too much road in front of me. I concentrated on the next 3 yards. I turned my gaze to the floor, sunglasses down and tried to disassociate the pain I was in and let my mind only worry about the next 3 yards. My back was locked, perhaps a result of a slightly over aggressive aero position on the bike or not sitting up early enough on the final roll into T2.

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My stomach began to churn and I needed to have a toilet break to relieve myself in the most literal sense of the word. I thought things were going from bad to worse. I ran passed my coach Paul Savage who was well position for my current state of mind! I grabbed a gel at the next aid station, threw down coke and had a feast at most aid stations. I was craving calories and sugar hits wherever possible.

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I saw my Mum, Dad, sister, brother-in-law and my new nephew Abel soon after, on the brutal little climb out of Botllon town centre. This was a huge moment for me. I had to keep going. This race had to end on my terms. I slowly began to feel ok and decided to push on until the very end. My feet were in agony, I was hot, depleted and so close to home. I was still unable to ignore the aid stations and had to consider every ounce of energy right up until the final few meters. Any piece of extra effort was coming at a huge cost.

Result: 10:39:52 / AG Rank: 6 / Overall: 74

I’m so proud of myself for not quitting. It was the hardest and most mental battle I’ve had with myself in any race. Perhaps I pushed too hard on the bike? I set off too quickly on the run. I didn’t respect the hilly run course in my training so I was surprised at what came on that 26.2 miles.

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It seemed a lot of other guys struggled through the day as well. I ended up 6th in my Age Group which has concequently qualified me for a slot at Kona and a chance to take on the best at the Ironman World Championships on October 8th.

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For now, I’m eating and chilling!

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16 Weeks – Time To Get Real

The weekend just gone marked 16 weeks until Ironman UK and the countdown begins!
We had the finance’s two sisters and their fellas visiting from Northern Ireland over Easter without their kids, so they were ready to let loose in Manchester. The girls went off looking at wedding dresses so I was left to entertain 2 Irish guys. To the pub, easy win.
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Took the Irish guys clay pigeon shooting

This drags me down with them I’m afraid. Although I could not keep up so was no point in trying, I did have a few more drinks than I usually can cope with and we ate out a lot over the 3 days they were here. Heavy on the wallet and liver. I pencilled in some shooting to break up the drinking – it kinda worked!
I was happy to have a big blow out to be honest. I’d been a bit under the weather twice in close proximity and was fairly fed up of feeling crap. I had an interrupted block of training, having to eventually give in to the cold and take nearly a full week off training. Even when I eased back into it I didn’t feel 100%.
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Lynsey & I Eating our way through the Easter weekend

The Easter weekend marked a turning point in my thinking and approach to IMUK from here on in. No more messing about with late nights out drinking and eating whatever is put in front of me and then everyone else’s leftovers! I can cope with that much in-take when I am slogging the training, but without it to balance things out, I was slipping into a motivational choke hold.
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Always going to be frosty up in The Peaks!

16 weeks pinged up in my calendar as a reminder that now shit needs to get serious. Although my swimming was looking good, my bike training was struggling. Motivation to throw a leg over the Turbo was creeping further down the list and my running was ticking along with the odd niggle beginning to creep in. My calves have pained me for a few weeks now and then my ITB’s have began to flare up after most long runs. Although they calm down reasonably quickly it’s just another problem to manage. Nobody said Ironman training was going to be simple, so you accept it and work around it.
I love getting out on my bike and savour the long rides now the weather is beginning to take an upward turn. I need to get back on the Turbo and hit those sessions as hard as I was before I contracted the dreaded cold. I took a ride over to Leeds to meet my new nephew. Felt good out on the road, didn’t feel my bike fitness had suffered as bad I’d anticipated. Aside, everybody meet Able Riding, healthy and happy. He’s awesome.
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My new nephew Abel, born 16/03/16

Up next is Wilmslow Half Marathon (see how the legs hold up in that one) and then a countdown to Monster Mojo (a half Iron distance race) will see me bring in the odd brick session to get that lovely feeling of running off the bike back in the muscle memory.
Onwards and upwards…

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.

2015 on the way

The cliché look back at the year just gone in January is more of a look ahead this time.
2014 was great. I trained hard and got my rewards on a personal level. I set targets at the start of the year and thankfully these all became reality.
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I captained the Great Britain Age Group team for the European Long Distance Championship in The Netherlands and took nearly an hour of my Iron distance time at the same event. My other goal that was sitting in the background would come later in the year in November at Leeds Abbey Dash where I wanted to get my first sub-40min 10k, which I did with 20 seconds to spare. Happy days.
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I wrote in my race report from Challenge Almere that I felt I had more in the tank at the end and was slightly regretful of my conservative race plan in the end. All hindsight obviously, but it means my target have become greater and more challenging than ever for 2015. I want to further extend that Iron distance PB at Challenge Weymouth European Long Distance Championship, despite being on a tougher course than I’ve raced involving a sea swim. I want to build on that 10k pace and put that sort of time in a standard distance triathlon. I want to race more and at big races. I am doing the British Middle Championship at Bala in June and also doing Greater Manchester Marathon in April to see what I can do fresh in a marathon.

I’m continuing to work with Paul Savage as my coach, one of the best in the business and incredibly knowledgeable and inspiring every time we meet. My plans really work for me and have proven to show results every time. I’ve made a slight tweak to my riding position on the TT bike, which I am adjusting to well. Slightly more aggressive, without being too uncomfortable over long periods on the bars. Although the above video is not actually what I ended up with, it shows the original position I started with and began working with.
At the minute, it’s all about the base. Getting fit and trying to stay healthy for the big January block of training where the hard work really begins.
Christmas and the festive break inevitably saw me add a few extra pounds, while I kept up some running as a tick over.
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Ireland was again a lovely change and good to see the girlfriends family, taking in a change of scenery and a few Guiness’ and large Bushmills. Still with reminders of the Giro from earlier in the year. there is a Gran Fondo on the same roads in June. December was a chance for me to let go a bit, work parties and I was injured for a most of it after my bike accident so it’s doubly important I have a solid start to the year and work hard to get back into the routine of loving training again and kick starting the year properly.
Roll on 2015, confirmed races as of January 2015:
March 1st – MTB Winter Classic at Cannock Chase
March 22nd – Wimslow Half Marathon
April 19th – Greater Manchester Marathon
June 7th – British Middle Distance Championship – Bala
September 13th – European Long Distance Championship – Challenge Weymouth

First Bike Crash

I had my first bike crash of note recently and it’s really put a downer on things. I’ve had some tumbles on the mountain bike over the years, but this was my first road bike accident and it’s been pretty rubbish ever since. I suppose I can count myself lucky it wasn’t any worse but it’s had a massive affect on my training both physically and mentally.
It’s never nice to be injured and I’m not very good at it. I was out in the peak district on my training bike and all was going good. Some nice climbing on a familiar route and I was passed the 3/4 mark of the ride on the descent down the Cat & Fiddle Road which connect Buxton to Macclesfield, very popular amongst local riders. I rolled back to Alderly Edge where I got a train back home. Always worth taking out that emergency £10 note.
In an instant, my front wheel tucked and down I went. I bounced to other side of the road. Like I say, lucky it wasn’t any worse as an oncoming car would have been the end of me. A deep gash on my elbow and forearm led me to Manchester Royal Infirmary A&E to get it cleaned up. On first inspection, I could see some white in there and went into a little shock when I believed it was down to the bone. We had to miss the Badly Drawn Boy gig we were meant to be going to that evening.
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Nice Gash

Overall the bike survived with some badly bent bars, which I’ve replaced along with new tape for less than £20. Fitting bar tape wasn’t actually as difficult as people made out it would be! I was also lucky I didn’t take out the TT bike because I had played around with the position recently and it was a dry day to begin with so I did think about it! Carbon doesn’t bend, it would’ve just snapped!

I had to take a full week off training, letting my wounds heal over and avoid any infection. All I could then start doing was turbo sessions and runs on alternative days. I’m out of the pool until well into the new year until the elbow completely heals. It gets a bit funny in the shower still, so there is no chance it can survive an hours swim session. Its frustrating as I was going to go into December with a swim focus and try to really beat myself into good swim shape to start the new year. I avidly follow a plan set by my coach Paul Savage and when I have to deviate from this it sends me out of kilter. With my injury history I know I cannot run too hard too often. I have been long turbo sessions and steady runs to try and build some base fitness, but I feel I’m on hold until I can fully get back into training in all 3. Another note worth making is Paul was the first one on the phone to me that evening to see what had happened, a testament to a great coach. I uploaded the ride before going to A&E so I had something to look at in the waiting room!
I now can’t wait for this year to be over and the Christmas party season is over and I can draw a line in the sand and almost begin again. My routine has been shaken and my head has not been in it while I recover. I’ve let myself off and admittedly blamed the injury for me doing so.
January will kick off in style with a really clear focus for 2015. My race calendar is slowly coming together and I have some clear dates to work back from which will hopefully not seem too far once the year starts. I’m sure not having anything to train for in the immediate future has also prompted some laziness but it’s high time I got myself together and make up for some lost time. I need to swim – a lot!

Race Report: Challenge Almere 2014

Race Date: 13/09/14
Race Type: Iron Distance
Result: 10:38:35 / 12th AG
Performance: Played the percentages 9/10

My 2014 ‘A’ Race is done! In windy and warm conditions at Challenge Almere, I went around The ETU Long Distance Triathlon Championship course in 10:38:35 – a 51 minute PB.

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Flat and windy was the forecast for the event and it lived up that. For a Brit, there was literally no hills to talk about on both the bike and run course, just a savaging headwind on the 60km Coastal road.
The whole week was fantastic, from getting the ferry, to meeting up with the other Great Britain Age Group athletes and sharing the trip with my parents and girlfriend Lynsey.

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Swim 1hr 11mins:
This was not my best swim, but also an improvement on what I had recently been going through in training so I can’t be too dismissive of the performance. The water was murky, weedy (not even the Amsterdam type of weed) and busy. The Age Groupers set off 10 minutes after the Elite start cannon and it was brutal swim for the entire fist lap, it never seemed to settle down. I was in the main group, taking a few elbows and whacks here and there, but I never let it get to me and just cracked on. There was nothing to write home about the swim, just focus on technique and get it done.

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I was deliberate through T1, finding my bag and putting my helmet on. It felt very empty inside my Bike Bag, as I had attached the shoes to the bike and all my nutrition. Wetsuit in and away we went. Transition was based in an underground area for both T1 & T2 and I was familiar with where I needed to head in and out from. I had walked through this area the day before and memorised my bike rack position. I did a full race mount and got straight into my pedalling.

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Bike 5hr 32mins:
The course was flat and windy, much like the non-alcoholic pint & subsequent side affects thereof that was being handed out at the finish.
99% of the course was on the aero bars. The coast road being the main punishing factor, I’d almost of preferred a hill. The wind was relentless and nowhere to hide. We had to do this road twice and watch my speed drop to 17mph for the duration of the road. The second lap was actually a bit easier as I knew what to expect and how to cope with it. Just head down and once this is out of the way, you’ve broken the back of the bike course. There were a few cattle grids that can’t help but make you a touch nervous, but I managed to avoid any punctures or serious mishaps, trying to pick the speed back up to 24mph for the return to Almere.
It was a lonely ride, not littered with support, but the turning point made for a brief encounter with some spectators before heading back out – alone.

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There was plenty of drafting going on, which will always be there I guess. Once they were busted and had to break up, I picked them off and went by. I passed nearly 100 people on the bike leg, putting in the 79th best ride time of the day, averaging 20.3mph so in relative terms, I had a great ride.
I also took the decision to pee on the move! This was almost forced upon because of the GB Age Grouper full Tri suit and going to the toilet wasn’t going to be easy all day. I prefer the two piece. I remembered to whip off the nutrition from my seat post and put this in the tri suit so I didn’t piss all over my lunch. Something Paul had wrote about in his IM Austria race report! 
Although as soon as I stood up to pee and roll, I was coming to a stand still on the flat roads. So I had to pedal again and try and pee again. I was consuming 1 bottle of water between each aid station, but began to take on 2 bottles for a little shower. I had not taken two bottles to avoid the extra weight. I pee’d once more on the bike, this time when I had the wind behind me to try and maintain some rolling speed. This only meant my pee overtook me in some kind of Urine Whackey Races.

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I was talking to myself a lot on the bike, especially on that coast road. Just telling myself we’ve done this once and it’s all good from this corner, all the way home. I never really went into the red zone and felt happy to maintain the effortt for the distance, with still some running left in the legs.
Nutrition wise, I took on half a SiS Go Bar every half an hour after the first hour. I had 1 bottle of Lucozade Sport at the beginning of the ride and then sipped water throughout. I chewed on a pack of Jelly Babies as and when I fancied. This was all rehearsed several times in training so I knew it worked for me. I was accidentally handed a bottle of energy drink at an aid station, and when I had sip, I threw it away immediately. I wasn’t willing to try anything new today.

The dismount line into T2 wasn’t very well thought out, immediately after a sharp bend with no signage, which caught a few people out. Again, I had the feet on top of the shoes and right leg leading for my race style dismount. I was on with the socks and run shoes and straight out in what was now turning into the hottest part of the day.

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I had very gratefully borrowed Paul’s Garmin for the bike, keeping my Forerunner 110 full and ready to rock for the run. I turned the watch on and searched for satellites with 5 minutes to go on the bike.

Run 3hr 47mins:
It was getting warm and I was conscious I hadn’t ran in this heat for a while in training. My longest run had been 17 miles at 8min/mile. I felt great. It took 3 miles to get my back stretched out and loosened up after being aero for so long on the bike. It was 6 laps of a 7k course around the Weerwater we had swam in that morning. 6 laps had its pro’s and con’s. I was able to see my family and have that to look forward to, but on lap 4 when I realised there was still 2 more to go it began to play mentally. I do have a little mantra to turn to at times which always works. I took a gel every 6 miles, as per training, and cola every 3rd aid station (aid station were 1.5k apart) and water at every one, just little sips as the aid stations were so frequent. I began to to walk through the aid stations in the second half the run, which took my average pace down, but I was more concerned with making sure I had fuelled correctly in this heat. The wind had disappeared by now!

That's my Mum with the flag!

That’s my Mum with the flag!

I ended strongly with my fasted mile coming at mile 25. It’s an odd feeling to know you had something potentially left in the tank, but if I had have pushed it earlier I may have blown up. I was perhaps too conservative with my pacing or at least my effort and over compensated for the unknown. My hamstrings were feeling tight but manageable at my pace, so to have gone even a touch fast may have flared these up.

Myself, Lynsey, Dad & Mum

Myself, Lynsey, Dad & Mum

A massive thank you to my coach Paul Savage, for all the sessions, plans and massages and encouragement. My girlfriend Lynsey for putting up with my sobriety, early nights and long rides. Mum and Dad for following me and supporting me at anything I decide to take on. Rob, Rachel & Nige from the Capital Breakfast Show for their well wishing and patience. And also Dawn and Emma at British Triathlon for making me Team GB Captain, which I enjoyed being part of.

I can’t be too disappointed and I’m not! I made up over 100 positions from getting out the water, put in another strong bike split and claimed a marathon PB. I finished 12th in my Age Group, 9th in the European Long Distance Champs, and qualified for the 2015 ETU Long Distance Champs at Challenge Weymouth – but what if…

Cutting Out The Booze

Ironman UK is a bit earlier this year – 20th July (4th August last year) – and the ETU Long Distance Champs that I am competing in is on 13th September, so about 6 weeks later in the year.

For IMUK I gave up drinking 12 weeks out from the event and I have done this again. Coming up to 4 weeks without a drink. Not that I’m struggling to get clean in the stereotypical sense, but I find it a very mental approach and a test of my discipline more than anything too beneficial health and fitness wise. Obviously there are a few extra calories take on board when we have a cheeky bevvy, but as long as you can continue to train and not let it get in the way it’s not a problem. Personally, I see it as a switch in mindset to recognise that there is 12 weeks to go and its time to go to work. This is an official start date of my race build up I suppose.

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I didn’t tell anyone about my first Ironman until I was 6 weeks away from it, when there was no turning back. I just felt I didn’t want anyone asking me about it all the time, putting doubt in my mind that it was as big as and epic as it sounded and whether I could do it. I didn’t want to have to tell people I was no longer going to do it should I have got injured or not made the grade. I could’ve pulled out and nobody would have known. My silence was my insurance policy. This time around however, everyone seems to know, asking how training is going. Its nice, they care and they are interested but I enjoyed the anonymity of IMUK and my down time not talking about training or making me nervous about the pending race date. Cutting out the booze last year was like what pregnant women have to do when they lie about why they aren’t drinking to avoid the questions! I was a pregnant lady – sober, moody and tired.

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I love a drink, Guinness mainly and a few rum and cokes or I’ll happily nail a bottle of red with the girlfriend. I’ll smash a jagerbomb, line up another and see off a 4 pack of lager at a bbq. It’s all good. I’ll dress up, do a pub crawl, dance like nobody is watching and wake up vowing never to do it again. It’s a good laugh and a social part of life that I enjoy. The World Cup, the summer evenings and walking past a pub beer garden has heightened my observation of booze and a Corona with a lime and condensation of the bottle looks incredible. A velvet guest ale, with a perfect head has never been so appreciated in its grandeur, clinging to the glass all the way down. I had my face in the girlfriends wine glass the other night, just sniffing a lung full of Rioja that was simply sublime.

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Soda and lime for me. Or a coffee. It’s fine. I’m going to be all over the gaff in Amsterdam once I cross that finish line. After IMUK I had the most underwhelming first drink ever! 12 weeks off the booze, soaking wet and exhausted from 11 hours of suffering and I could finally have that drink. I’d ran past people on the street cheering on the athletes with a pint in their hand. I was ready, I’d earned this. There was one old man pub near the car park and they only had Fosters. Gutted. Still drank it!

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Basically it’s a chance for me to focus the mind solely on the task in hand. It worked for IMUK too so I’m sticking to what is tried and tested for me. I enjoy drawing a line in the sand and saying to myself that we are entering the business end of training now and the countdown to Go Time has begun.

There is some further discussion on booze and training on this forum at Runners World

And here at Triathlete Europe

Bottoms up…

3 Races In 1 Week

I have done the Chelford 10 mile TT course twice now, having decided to get a bit more use out of my TT bike, and also as nice shot of intensity work on the bike. I’m doing bi-weekly and not as a fixed term event in the calendar just if I can make it and feel good I’ll turn up. It’s only £3 and seems like a good bunch over at Stockport Clarion who organise it.

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Both attempts I have recorded 24:04. The second attempt yielding a higher position finish as the conditions were a touch windier but I held the same time which I am happy with. I can defiantly feel it coming back on the 5 mile out and back and really enjoy the pain of it. I think this is a good time too, not too shabby as a TT débutante.

Then on Thursday night, myself and girlfriend Lynsey went down to Woolston Park in Warrington for the Warrington Road Runners annual 10k race. It’s been going for 35 years and is a nice little course around the park. Not too hilly, but a few twists and turns in there. I set a PB here two years ago so was keen to beat that course PB, despite not specifically training for a 10k at the minute. I did and managed a 41:51 which again I can be happy with as a consistent 10k time now. Lynsey went around in 52:12 which she must be happy with having not done a 10k for nearly 4 years and working off her base hockey training fitness. Proud of the gal!

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Then on Saturday morning I ended the week of racing with what scheduled as 3.8k open water swim at USwim Dock 9 in Media City. I have been swimming 3k regularly in training and feeling good so I wanted to lay down a little marker for the Iron distance swim to see where I was at. The course was highly inaccurate, with people in the changing room post race reporting their GPS to have measured 4.6k. They decided to throw in an extra bit of course in which to shout your number each lap passed by, so 5 times around there added the extra 800m. I’m glad it was over measured when I saw my time – 1hr 19min. I hope be going around 1:05 to 1:110 at Challenge Almere – for 3.8k!

I felt I swam well actually, having started on the backfoot I had to bridge a gap to the lead group, which I picked away a gradually across the distance, never going into the red zone to make it happen. It was good to be surrounded by swimmers and get back a sense of a mass start. I was recommended by my coach Paul Savage to research the previous years of Challenge Almere and how they start – deep water or run in? It is a deep water start. Check out this video from 2012 Almere Triathlon, it does show some bits of the whole course for a little insight – Almere Lokaal!

I stupidly got involved in a sprint finish! I say stupidly because I got sidetracked with my competitor that we went off course slightly on the finish shoot, deviating from the course and by the time we had picked our way back to the pontoon we had given up two positions. Something I will take great care never to repeat and I was frustrated with myself for this. Although I did out-sprint the guy so a morale victory for me!

With these manageable distances it has been a good week to build in some intensity and sharpen up the speed on all three swim, bike and run.

Race Report: PruHealth London Triathlon

Race Date: 01/06/14

Race Type: Olympic Distance Triathlon

Result: 2:13:05 / 28th AG / 110th OA

Performance: Great Day 10/10

My first Olympic distance Triathlon and I loved it. Great course, perfect conditions and a race where pretty much everything went to plan. For Breakfast I had 2 slices of jam on toast, a strong coffee and then a banana an hour before my start. I had to ride 6 miles from where I was staying in East London so I was up just before 5am.

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Swim: 26:40

My wave set off at 7:30 on the dot so the sun was just rising which made one length of the Hyde Park Serpentine a bit tricky to spot the buoys. I had to pop up a couple of times just to check I was still on track. I did pack both clear lens goggles and my mirrored lenses and glad I went with the mirrors. Calm water, just got my head down and swam at a constant pace which felt fine and was pleasantly surprised by the time I heard the commentator call.

I never really know what to say about the swim! It’s dark murky water, all I can hear is my breathing and I just concentrate on technique.

T1: 04:02

My helmet, race belt and Garmin were off the bike and laid across the floor. I’m not sure who or why my equipment had been moved about. It was a long 500m run up from the swim exit to T1. I found my bike easily enough and followed the steps in a video (above) I helped produce with Paul Savage recently on transition technique. Elastic bands on the shoes, running holding the seat, leaping mount at the line. Worked fantastically well!

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Bike: 58:45

I’m delighted with my recent bike performance, backing up my Newby Hall Duathlon and Wilmslow Triathlon outings on the Cannondale with the Cole wheels. Averaging 23mph around Hyde Park and feeling really strong. It was the 47th fastest bike time of the entire day, which is something to build great confidence from. I took a Powerbar gel 5 minutes into the ride and also 5 minutes from the end. I had 1 x 500ml water bottle on my torpedo aero bar mount. A nice 5 lap course, with a touch of traffic, but nothing significant. Flat with a few speed humps and two tight turns. Fully closed roads so just get the legs pumping and work hard for as long as possible.

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T2: 02:01

Again, a textbook dismount and entry into transition. It was tight on the racks and someone had racked their bike in my place, so I had to shift a few things around to get near my shoes. No problem. I was on the with shoes and out on the run and feeling really fit. I had my run legs from the off and felt my bike had set me up for a good day if I didn’t blow up on the run.

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Run: 41:40 (PB)

This 10k time is my out and out PB, which is fantastic to achieve in a triathlon. I had been feeling good about my running recently, seeing some vast improvements. I got a couple of fast miles in and then began to tail off, but all in good time. It was a 4 lap run around the Serpentine with a long-ish drag but by no means a hilly course. It was beginning to get hot in the day now, I just held on and tried not to let up although my calves were screaming at me. I paced it perfectly, crossed the line in a time I am delighted with and rounded off a great performance in terms of sticking to and over-delivering a race plan.

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Finish: 2:13:05

Really happy with the result. I finished high up in my Age Group and also did well in the overall classification. My bike time being the stand out performance on paper, although it has to be my run that I personally take most gratification from. This was my final race outing until I head to the European Championship in September. It’s all sneaking up quickly but London was a great event to see where I am currently at. I didn’t mention this, but I was at a midweek wedding in Ireland which involved a few Guinness’ and a couple of servings of cake only a few days before!

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Selfie with The Brownlees

Happy days. It was good to make a weekend of it too. I went down on Saturday morning from Manchester and got registered and also watched the Elite Men Sprint Race, which Mola took out in fine fashion. It was cool to see these guys close up and burying themselves for the win.

Take a look at all my pics from the ITU World Series Weekend below: