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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!

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.

Pre Season Bike Fit

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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Bike Fitting at Paul’s

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 at Paul Savage’s (www.Physio-Coach.co.uk), 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.

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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!

Same Old Race Prep

My name is James and I am a nerd. It’s a good admission, one I’m not scared to say out loud.
I always take my race prep very seriously and for Challenge Almere this was no different. Literally, I did nothing different in my race prep and made sure that this was going to be the case. Although this time I was travelling abroad, living out of a hotel for 3 days before the race.

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Self Catering
I took my own pasta, bread, peanut butter, jam, honey, orange juice and even the toaster just to make sure I could have what I wanted when I wanted it and not rely on any outside factors disrupting that.
I ate plain white pasta and some chicken I grilled in garlic and turmeric that was batched up in Tupperware and put in the cool box for Thursday and Friday meals (race day was Saturday). I had the toaster just in case the hotel kitchens were not open at 5:30am on race day. I did attend the pasta party on Friday early evening, mainly for the social aspect, and I had some of their plain pasta and bread – I didn’t take the sauces, so true to this philosophy, I wasn’t going to risk it.

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If It Ain’t Broke…
I had my last long ride the week before Almere and the bike was superb, running like a dream, so I didn’t need to strip it down and rebuild it – why? I’d be risking it not going back the same way. I did tighten everything, check it over several times and took it for a spin on Friday to triple check the gears were clicking, the brakes were ok and nothing had worked its way loose in the car journey.
It was a warm day on Friday (24C) when I racked the bike, so I deliberately let some air of the tires, thinking the afternoon heat could expand the tires and cause an overnight puncture. I would be checking the air pressure on race morning anyway, so I’ll just do it then.

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I spent a lot of time in the transition area until I got bored of it. I eyed up a flag that was directly in front of my bike and I was 3 rows back from there. I walked up and down, until I was really familiar with the place.
I had thought about another way of securing my spare tubes on the seat post, getting rid of my obscure hanging saddle bag that every rider politely reminds me looks like is hanging off, but again – why? I’d hit my training times with this saddle bag on, so why try and switch it up now? So it stayed. A little to the right, but it stayed.
I saw the press release from Challenge Almere that the race would be sponsored by High 5 gels on the run, so I bought a box of 20 of these to train with. I wanted to make sure I didn’t have a bad reaction to them and I knew what they looked like, what they tasted like come race day.

Easy Research…
My bike nutrition had been tried and tested several times in training which I mentioned in the race report.
A few guys had problems out on the bike. A frayed gear cable eventually gave way for one, a pedal arm worked its way loose for another, a bad reaction to the caffeinated sports drink caused a DNF and one fella had to run 8 miles back to his hotel after bike racking. All massively avoidable problems.
I checked with the race organisers via e-mail that it would be ok to wear my race number belt underneath my wetsuit from the start (not allowed in Ironman races) and familiarised myself with the rules for a different branded event. Another chap was DQ’d for removing his helmet while he fixed a puncture.

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Control The Controllables…
I was actually quite calm in the few days leading up to the race, because I was never on the hunt for anything I needed. I knew it was all under my control and I can’t wast energy worrying about the things that aren’t.
I carried 3 spare tubes, but didn’t need any of them. I had two spare chain links, but didn’t use them. I had 2 too many salt sticks taped to the bike and carried 1 more Go Bar than I needed. I’d rather be bringing them home than coming up short. I threw away the sports drink I had accidentally been given at a bike aid station as I’ve never had it before.
I trained in my GB Age Group Tri-suit as this was new to me. I did my long Ride and Run Brick sessions at 6am every weekend, because it was the same time I would be racing at.

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Pour Preparation…
I even knew how difficult it would be to find Guinness in The Netherlands and I was dammed if I was not going to have that after 3 months of sobriety, so into the cool box that went. Along with a bottle of champagne we had saved from our trip to Epernay, France. Even my post race (drink) problems are fixed!
Basically, I try and leave nothing to chance. The only thing I did leave was the toaster and said bottle of champagne, which has pissed a lot of people off.
Russell Hobbs & Dom Perignon probably don’t go into too many sentences together, which is ironic as they are the only two things we needed to make any kind of a toast.

Racing the London Olympic Course

It’s just over a week until the PruHealth London World Triathlon. I’m really excited about this event. It’ll be my first ever Olympic distance race and the course will be a replica of the 2012 London Olympic Games Triathlon course and the pro’s will be battling it out the day before.

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I hope it’ll have all the feel of a huge event & should be  stark difference to Wilmslow Sprint triathlon I did at the beginning of May. There are a few palaces in the backdrop of Wilmslow, but for all their money they cannot drive or show courtesy to anything happening in their community. That open road bike route was scary and annoying. London will be closed roads, and from what I gather also nice and flat! I thought Newby Hall Duathlon got a bad rap for being dangerous, but was far safer and a far better experience than the well established Wilmslow Sprint Traithlon.

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I entered a ballot to race in London and it has cost me £99. As I haven’t raced that much before I wanted to have a great experience. I hear a lot about this and how high it ranks on peoples choice of races. In my old motocross days it was all about getting a result and the race experience came from the battles you drew yourself into on the track itself. It could’ve been a muddy circular field but if you were in a battle it would have made for a great race or “experience”. Triathlon seems to generate most of its enjoyment and pay off by the course selection, the route, the elevation, the crowds etc.

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Ironman UK was a great experience because of the race. I had ridden the course many times in training and was accustomed to the hard bits, the nice bits and what to expect, but it was the crowd and it was the race element that made for a great experience. I have heard great things about Challenge and their focus on the experience.

A recent podcast on IM Talk interviewed Felix Walchschofer gave a nice insight into how much he referred to the Age-Groupers being the centre of attention at their races. When I go to Challenge Almere I am looking forward to being part of this experience. This should also be a great event, a great experience, as it will be part of the European Long Distance Championship so will stand out as an event in itself.

Do you have any ‘must-do’ events? Or any you swear you would never do again?

Race Report: Wilmslow Triathlon 2014

Race Date: 11/05/14

Race Type: Sprint Triathlon

Result: 6th AG / 20th Overall

Performance: Mixed day 7/10

My swim time meant I started in a wave later in the day at 13:20, so it was a late start for a race. A couple of benefits meant it gave me chance to chill in the morning and have a big breakfast without rushing. I could watch the weather slowly brighten up. And thirdly I had my steak & Guinness pie in the slow cooker for when I got back.

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Swim – 400m – 7:33

The time is inclusive of the run out of the pool up to T1, as I was surprised at my time and thought I’d had a decent go. I set off at the front of my wave, everyone with predicted times of 7:10. I overtook 3 people in the 16 lengths, which meant there may have been a few ego times in there, which were far from accurate. I had to sit my final length behind a much slower swimmer, but overall I was happy with how I swam and kept up a good pace without tiring, which has been apparent in my threshold training sets.

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Bike – 24.2k – 40::59

It never felt the wind was behind us on the bike! I had another solid ride, backing up my performance from Newby Hall Duathlon. I feel really good on the bike at the minute. This time I held an average pace of 22mph in not ideal conditions this was a good effort for me. I learned one lesson – not to have Lucozade in my Torpedo Mount cage between the aero bars. The first sip I took resulted in spillage and sticky levers, handlebars and hands.

I came into T1 at the same time as my racked neighbour, who in turn knocked my helmet off my bars and sent all my neatly set race belt, watch and sunglasses sprawling across the floor. I lost a few seconds in T1, but I had been practising my mount which worked well, using the elastic bands with the shoes ready clipped in. Something I am gaining a lot of confidence in now is my approach to transition and being far less daunted by the list of things to do in such a short space of time.

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Run – 6.3k – 27:33

Mud! The course had been fairly chewed up across the day and I went down a couple of times while negotiating the slippery field out of transition and into the tree covered paths out and back. The run course is actually quite tricky, a few hills and two foot bridges to cross. Very slippery and not very welcome on a tri run route, but you have to play whats in front of you. I felt I was in a race for the first time in a while. I had been overtaken and then kept in touch with a guy on the bike and began to reel him on the run. I was setting up for a late spurt until I slipped up for the second time and the final footbridge broke me.

Overall – 1:17:44 – 6th in Age Group / 20th Overall

I was originally a bit disheartened at the end of the race. There could be a list of excuses – slower swim traffic, shocking drivers out on the bike course on very busy roads, and a few slip ups on the run. A poor T1 didn’t help, but in hindsight when I looked back at the result it was the best I could have hoped for. I was 37 seconds off 5th which may have been attainable on a perfect day, but much further back from the lead group which no added training could have bridged. So overall, I can take away a decent day out and some confidence going into London Pru Health Triathlon on June 1st, my first Olympic Distance Tri.

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Full Results

Race Photography

Race Organiser – Xtra Mile Events

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Note Worthy improvement from when I did this event back in 2011 (the run was 5.6k in 2011). This was my first ever Triathlon and ironically my now coach Paul Savage features on the podium!

Swim – 9:12 / Bike – 48:48 / Run – 26:26.

AG position – 16th / Overall position – 161st

 

Race Report: Newby Hall Duathlon 2014

Race Date: 13/04/14

Race Type: Standard Distance Duathlon

Result: 11th AG

Performance: Satisfied 7/10

My first standard distance duathlon – Run 10k / Bike 40k / Run 5k – and as art of the England National Championship, organised by Function Fitness Events. This was telling with a very strong field and some big performances across the age groups.

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A flat and fast course around the beautiful Newby Hall near Ripon in North Yorkshire, with the run route taking on a small stint on the trails and gravel path around the grounds. A tight, narrow but nearly fully closed bike route was windy and exposed but made for a fast pace.

Run 1 – 43:17

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I set off with the pace of around 7:10 minute miles in mind. I held this and stuck to the plan to bring home a solid 10k, actually my second best ever time over the distance in all competitions. I was warm and had thought I’d over-dressed slightly, but this was to be levelled out come the bike leg!

I felt I still had something in the tank at the end of the run, and had watched the field run ahead, ending the leg in 111th.

Bike – 1:13:47

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I used elastic bands on my clipped in bike shoes for the first time, something I practised on the park the day before. this worked a treat and I was out on the bike in a good time. I just got my head down and worked my ass off on the bike, not holding back at all. My recent riding and hard turbo sessions had got me psychologically ready to be riding hard for 25 miles. I made up a lot of places on the bike and posted the 42nd best time of the day, holding around 20.5mph average.

It was the first time I’d used my Cole T50 wheels and also my Giro Air Attack in competition. I was very happy with these and they certainly made a step up in performance.

Run 2 – 22:19

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Again, I went through transition in a good time and was out on the final lap of the run. I just tried to hang on and see what I had left. It was beginning to hurt and I just had to bring it home. It was good to give myself a good beasting and get some sharpness back  that you can only really achieve in a race situation. You will work harder under race conditions regardless. I pushed to the end, and took 72nd overall and 11th in my Age Group.

Finish time: 2:20:38

Overall not a bad result considering the strength and depth of the national Age Group field and also pleasing to see my tempo runs paying off alongside a very solid bike leg, which I take most pleasure from.

A nice course, well ran event and perhaps a good early start to my 2014 season.

Triathlon England Race Report – REPORT

Free Photography – PHOTOS

Full Results – RESULTS

Controversial Referee’s Report – REPORT

 

Referee’s Race Report: Newby Hall Duathlon 2014

Before I begin my personal account of my own day, it is worth noting that the following day of the duathlon the competitors received an e-mail from the event organiser (Functional Fitness) in regard to the referee’s report of the race. I first saw this posted on facebook and was later contacted in the day via e-mail. Bit of an odd one this, as I have never been contacted by the organiser so quickly and in such a bad mood! It did smell a bit of anger and desperation that their hard work had been scrutinised beyond their ideal outcome. A bit needy to ask for us to back him up & bring us into his war with Triathlon England!

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To be 100% honest I didn’t really think about the course being ‘dangerous’ at the time of competing, I just took it for what it was, you have to beat what’s in front of you. There were plenty of potholes on the course. The half road closure was narrow and tight, but I was more concerned about being accidentally caught drafting because it was so tight. I did have to ride outside of the cones on several occasions to over take, but I did this calmly and judged in plenty of time. I checked over my shoulder each time that it was safe for me to go on to the open road. The wind made it trickier in the tight lines.

Where the accident occurred in the race, which is referred to in the report, was in hindsight was probably not very safe on paper. Turning left into narrow on coming traffic was exaggerated by the cross winds, so there was added potential for something to go wrong.

Like I say, at the time of riding, I didn’t feel unsafe or in any danger because of the course. However, this is probably where my own controversy appears. There were some poor riders out there. Before I saw this referee report I was back at my sisters house talking to her about how surprised I was at the poor riding skills on show. I also felt this when I did Ironman UK 2013. I sound like a massive billy big balls here, but perhaps the event organiser underestimated the range of abilities to deem what was safe for some, might not be for others.

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Last minute swerving from a pothole was just down to not looking far enough ahead. Give yourself time to adjust and spot obstacles in advance. Your wheels will thank you and the gradual movement around them carries your speed in a straighter line.

There was a lot of changing line, hopping from one side of the road to the other. Perhaps in search of some shelter from the wind, but very unpredictable for riders coming from behind.

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What I was surprised by is people’s lack of riding knowledge in terms of carrying speed and momentum through a corner. This is basic stuff, ‘The Racing Line’, carrying momentum through a corner. Dad would always say it’s all about how fast you can come out of a corner that will carry you down the next straight. People don’t use apexes. Riding into a corner and taking it as a 90 degree corner rather than as a bend, that flows through, hit the line and get on the gas when you straighten up. This also makes the corner a lot wider and increases the margin for error.

Cattle grids weren’t an issue. There was enough warning in the race briefing to be aware of the inevitable runners/riders on the course at similar times to take into account that this will happen. I felt the course was signposted adequately enough, but when on a stretch on the bike on my own, I did have to have a look round to make sure there was someone else going my way, I wasn’t lost was I?

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I think the referee had a rather large chip on their shoulder to write such a damming report, but I also feel there will be things that the event organiser will amend for future races. It was great event, very beautiful grounds and setting and a flat, fast course that I believe was enjoyed by the majority of participants. It’s a shame this has been the first thing to comment on before my actual personal race report.

At the end of the day, racing of any type will have it’s dangers. There should never be a need to feel you can’t race because you feel the course is too dangerous, you take on what is in front of you. I’ve always viewed my fairly short triathlon experience as a test of myself against a course, a distance or a time. This was no different. You just get your head down and take on the challenges that are arise that day.

I would defiantly do this event again, it is only with hindsight that the safety has been brought into question and taken away from what was actually a fantastic event. Nor do I want to shift the blame on my fellow competitors for the unfortunate accident that happened. I do feel races will bring out that extra animal, that extra 1% that will make you take a corner a bit quicker than you’d usually feel comfortable with, but it also important to ride within your abilities. It’s not just sit on and pedal and the fittest guys wins. A tri bike, on narrow lanes, in a cross wind will be a difficult beast to tame, heightened by the circumstances of a race day red mist.

Play safe kids.

Race Report: Cannock Chase Winter Classic 2014

Race Date: 23/02/14

Race Type: XC MTB

Result: 3rd

Performance: Very happy 8/10

I had done the Cannock Chase Winter Classic (organised by Go Run & Ride) the year before and when I saw it advertised again for 2014 I put my name down as I was itching to be entered for some races of some sort.

I hadn’t ridden the mountain bike for a while, so I went for a quick gentle spin around Clayton Vale just to blow the cobwebs out.

I got to Cannock an hour before the race time and managed to get a little section of the course in for a practice. I just wanted to warm up and check the gears, brakes and everything was all good.

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I positioned myself near the front of the start line so I could avoid the bottle neck traffic in the first corner. From previous racing experience, everyone goes mental at the start, enough to just hold you up when it turns single track and then it can become something of a queue.

I managed to consolidate 3rd position from the first few turns and didn’t lose touch with the leading pair until I hit the deck in the wet rooted wooded section. I took a hit to the ribs at low speed and didn’t really think much of it. I got up and had to rip out some rogue long grass that had been caught around my rear gear cassette. This cost me a few seconds and a couple of positions that I managed to claw back on one of the longer climbs. I was happy about that as it’s usually my climbing that can let me down in these races. I have the ability to go quickly down hill and do better at the more technical parts of the course.

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The 2014 route wasn’t that technical so there was less chance of me to make my usual gains. I think my riding skill comes mainly from the years spent motocross riding and being familiar with the bike being loose and comfortable with being uncomfortable. I tried to initiate a gap to 4th which pulled out enough for me relax and not have to take too many chances.

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I held on for a solid 3rd position, despite me losing some ground towards the end of the race. I had accounted for that which is where the big middle effort came from. I timed it well and was really happy to get a podium and a few pints afterwards.

The only bad news about this race possible came 2 days after. I ran 12 miles on Monday, the day after the race and woke up Tuesday with a severely tight and sore right ITB. Looking back on my history and discussing it with my coach Paul Savage, it can be traced back to running after mountain bike causes ITB issues.

The position of a road bike, TT bike and mountain bike differ quite a lot. I was riding the MTB hard and really pushing it. Then to do a long run the day after may have initiated the problem.

I’ve since, ran and ridden the road bike as usual without any problems to further point the finger at the guilty MTB!

2014 – Representing GB at Challenge Almere

2013 was a massive year for me and I only did one race – Ironman UK. A lot of people talk about their ‘A’ race but this was my only race. I trained 10 months solid for it, aiming to complete the challenge and end the year an Ironman before I turned 30.

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Before then, I’d done a sprint triathlon in Wilmslow & Erewash. Not much of a triathlon CV, and actually quite rich of me to refer to myself as a ‘triathlete’. I trained as a triathlete but my lack of competition made me a full time wannabe. I’ve done 3 tri’s in 3 years of taking up the sport in 2011 – 2 sprint & 1 Ironman.

I put so much emphasis on the project of Ironman 2013 I couldn’t focus on anything else, I was besotted with the idea, it consumed me and my entire year. I am by no means saying I didn’t enjoy last year, I loved it. I was racing against myself every session, competing with my last performance, comparing myself to myself on a weekly basis.

The first of my three Triathlons so far

The first of my three Triathlons so far

2014 is going to be slightly different. I’ve already entered some races and I want to do well in them. This year is much more about competing than just completing. I want to be a ‘triathlete’. When people at work ask ‘when is your next race?’ I don’t want to say an event that is 9, 8, 7 months away. I think racing keeps you sharp, it’s social, you see how you stack up against other people. I was just a novice and scared of doing anything that deviated from my IMUK plan.

Proud to be representing!

Proud to be representing!

So my big news is that my time at Ironman UK fell at 119% of the winner of my age group. This meant that I had a qualifying time for the ETU Long Distance European Championship 2014. I’ll be representing Great Britain at Age Group level at Challenge Almere on September 13th 2014. A complete accident if I’m honest.

If I had slowed down to high five my family on the finishing shoot I probably wouldn’t be going to this event. I didn’t have this goal in mind at any single moment of the build up or the event itself. I blew away my predicted finishing time at IMUK which was enough for me, so be selected in the first qualifying stage for the ETU Champs is a proud moment. It also an outstanding testament to my coach Paul Savage who took me from that Sprint Triathlon in 2012 to GB Age Grouper in less than a year.

Caoch Paul Savage & Myslef at IMUK Awards

Coach Paul Savage & myself at IMUK 2013 Awards

So Challenge Almere is my ‘A’ race and I wanted to try and pencil in a race at least once a month this year, so my 2014 calendar currently stacks up like this:

February – MTB Winter Classic Race at Cannock Chase (Bit of fun in the mud)
March – Wilmslow Half Marathon (Spring running focus)
April – Newby Hall Duathlon (English National Champs)
May – Wilmslow Trithlon (Returning to where it began)
June – A few ideas but nothing booked in – Nottingham Triathlon, Bala, Grafam, Pentrith
July – Holidaying in France following the Tour De France
August – Liverpool Triathlon (British Champs)
September – Challenge Almere (European Long Distance Champs)