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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…
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Race Report: Oulton Park Duathlon

Oulton Park Duathlon was a great day out. I did the sprint distance at this event a couple of years ago when I first started out in triathlon and multisport and didn’t have a great day. I look back and see how far I’ve come since then.

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This time I did the standard distance. Run 2 laps of Oulton Park motor racing circuit, then 9 laps on the bike and finishing off with a single lap run.
Nice smooth, closed roads which was steadily undulating but manageable for a chap who rides in the Peak District!
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My fiancé Lynsey came along with me to the race. It was nice to have her there. I’m admittedly unsociable around these events, I struggle to talk to folks in general before a race. Lynsey was fun to have around, she is very sporty and competitive herself (I was over at Wakefield watching her play hockey the day before so she owed me a cold day on the sidelines!).
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Everyone bombed off at the start of the race. Seriously, went off out of a cannon. It’s laughable at how poorly paced and excited some folks can be when the gun goes. I stuck to a pace that my training was indicating I was capable of and by the end of lap 1 I was reeling people back in and by lap 2 everyone had come back to me and they were breathing rather heavily.
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I was fairly conservative on that first run, knowing I would unleash on the bike. I made up 15 places alone on the bike leg. Felt great, holding a solid effort, consistent lap times all within a second of each other averaging 23mph. Bike felt great and I was unsure how my cycling was at the minute. There is only so much you can tell from a turbo trainer, especially as I turbo train to heart rate so I’m always working hard on the bike. Long rides have been pretty inconsistent with the variable weather so I was happy to see a really competitive bike split. I did add a few bolt-on parts to the bike over winter which I’ll come on to in another post.
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Transitions were on point, even topping the charts on T2. I only add this footnote because I hadn’t practised them at all!
Run 2 I felt fairly beat. It was the longest lap of the day. I went toe to toe with another chap who broke me on the final incline. I had a comfortable lead from the next guy so I consolidated my position and despite how slow it felt, it was on par with most of the other guys.
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14th overall and 3rd in my age group. Not a bad return and a huge confidence booster to see that riding my bike in anger is still roughly where it was. Speedwise anyway, I will be wanting to hold a similar average speed for IMUK so I will need to look at some endurance to hold that.
A good race, well ran event at a venue that lends itself to a simple and well executed race. On to the next one.

Shaven Legs – Her Reaction!

With just over 2 weeks until my ‘A’ race of 2014, the European Long distance Championships at Challenge Almere, I have acquired my first injury of the year. It’s depressing as hell, a real blow mentally and obviously physically. My right foot is struggling after a long 16 mile run on the Northern Irish coast, which was undulating and windy. I am due to rest and recover and see my physio and coach Paul Savage for treatment this Friday in the hope to turn this around quickly. I can take comfort from a great block of run training in the bag, so as long as I can avoid aggravating it further I will hopefully carry my base fitness over this next fortnight.

The moodiness I’ve felt since has brought me on to another point, which I am guilty of neglecting and selfishly putting to the back of my mind. The affect on my girlfriend Lynsey around this recent set back and how I then act and behave.
I think having my ‘A’ race so late in the year this time around has just dragged on a little too long. Training has been high volume and hard on my body. I have set a self imposed drinking ban 3 months out from the race and most of my weekends have revolved around long rides and brick session that take up a lot of time. It hit home when Lyns said in conversation that she is looking forward to going out for dinner and sharing a bottle of wine again. Something we take for granted and the fact that she has noticed that this fundamental part of our relationship has not happened for a while made me feel like I have let her down a bit and not given her the attention she deserves.

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The other girl in my life

She is so good at letting me get on with things and understands how important training and this race is to me. She recently turned 30 and we hired a big cottage for 25 of her friends to party over two nights – I didn’t drink but I still had a good time. Then in Northern Ireland we went back to see her family and friends where again I can’t drink but still had a good time. It gets on me too, constantly answering questions as to why and how I can cope without drinking from her pissed up friends. It’s a like being pregnant – moody, sober and craving cake.

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Lynsey’s 30th Birthday (sober) Toga Party

I’ve taken annual leave days to fit in training, something I should be using with Lyns. I go to bed early, leave her up on her own and I get moody when I don’t. It’s difficult to talk about training with anyone apart from my coach Paul as Lyns doesn’t really understand the regime and how I’m feeling about sessions and although she tries to answer my anxieties and worries as best she can, it’s difficult to turn our dinner time conversations into training as well. I’d hate to think that my boring lifestyle has held her back from doing things and going places or seeing people and having nights out. It’s important to make time for her.

I think the tipping point will have been when I shaved my legs, something Lyns was dead against. I still did it and she wasn’t happy! Listen to her reaction above when I recorded it and played it out on my radio show the following day!

I’m just ready to race now and feel training has gone on 4 weeks too long this year. I’m ready to get it out of the way and enjoy that dinner and drink with my girl. Spend some time, money and attention on her now rather than swim, bike, run which it has been for the majority of the year.

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.

Conquering Snowdon

It was wet. It was windy. It was uphill all the way. What were to expect from climbing a mountain in the UK?

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The missus and I attempted a trip to Snowdon exactly a year ago, but the tourist information told us a recent fatality had closed the mountain route so were unable to go up. That and a bout of food poisoning to the poor dear made for a damp squib of a weekend in Wales. Saying that, I still managed to get some mountain biking in so it wasn’t all bad!

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This year however we conquered it. A total ascent of 1, 007m after we had to park 3 miles away from the start of the official walk. I forgot my waterproof trouser so went up in jeans, my second best pair. The chafe was gut wrenching. My climbing shoes hadn’t been worn for a year so the blisters were excruciating. But it was beautiful. The mist and sheet rain added an extra element to overcome which made it even more satisfying to power on through.

I was surprised how busy the walk was. Pletny of people out, some with dogs and even one chap running up which made me ponder the thought of one day returning to do the same thing. Would the old knees take it? Maybe we’ll find out one day.

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We stayed in a beautiful little cottage in Ysbyty Ifan, about 30 minutes drive from the base of Snowdon. A handful of cottages in a tiny village that has as much mobile phone reception as it did vowels. This turned out to be a good thing as we pulled out the Cranium board game, ample red wine and a boat load of cheese.

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I cycled over to Wales from Warrington. I had originally planned to do Manchester to Wales, but I got hung up at work and delayed my start time so I thought I could buy myself 20 miles and still make it for the arranged time. The afternoon cycle is one huge advantage of working early morning breakfast radio hours.

A gorgeous and hilly route via Chester and into some lovely Welsh landscape, somewhere I defiantly plan on revisiting for a day trip and some tough hill work. A train from Manchester to Betws Y Coed is about £35 and 3 hours, well worth a jaunt out.

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Chuffed to bits to make it up Snowdon, great weekend with the girl and her friends and I didn’t miss a yard of training because of it.