So, what comes next?!

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It has been a long time since I wrote that last post.

I was not sure whether to actually put the following onto this blog. I’ve only told a handful of people about it and even that was terrifying. However, re-reading my post following the Triathlon back in September the decision was not a difficult one. The unwavering support I got from every single person who read the blog and the unreal feedback I got too (a lot of people appear to like my ‘chatting shite’ style of writing) was enough to spur me to write again?

So, just what is next then? In short, utter ridiculousness. In long, carry on reading and you shall see.

After the Triathlon, my training didn’t carry on as  it had prior to that weekend. Rest week led to rest weeks, which led to Christmas and New Years, which lead to my 30th birthday which led to eating and drinking all the goodies in New York at the end of January. I had trained sporadically during that time but never got into a routine. Which isn’t too bad, but I had signed up to do Reading Half Marathon on the 19th March. Oooops.

Once back from New York in early February, the running started in earnest. Man alive had those few months taken their toll. First 5km out after coming back was tough. It was a slow slog where I got terrible back ache, which I completely blame on belly having got me (youtube if you’ve no idea) and was putting strain on my lower back.

Carried on with running 2 or 3 times a week and then it came to a week before the race. Did 18km at just a bit slower than I’d need to hit my target time. It felt really great and the pace was not a problem. God bless muscle memory, as otherwise the 5 weeks wouldn’t have been enough to get into a place where I felt comfortable.

Race day arrived. Paul and I said that we would run the entire thing together as our pace was pretty much identical in training and be good to have the company. Where I was meant to be running in the 1:45-1:55 contingent, Paul hadn’t put down a target time so was placed in the 2:10-2:20 group and wasn’t allowed to start up with me. I didn’t want to run this without him, so I went back to his group and we started at the back.

IMG-20170319-WA0000Due to this though, the first half was spent overtaking via weaving in and out of competitors or going long ways around turns. over the first half of the race our pace was much higher than I had planned for to the extent that we did the first half about 3 minutes quicker than I’d planned for. Even after slowing the pace a bit and taking on a gel, I felt the legs starting to get heavy and with 3km to go, I hit the wall and hit it hard. I checked my split times after the race and was averaging just under 5min/km pace. Those final 3 were, 5:19, 5:35 and 5:59. I entered Madejski Stadium and the atmosphere was incredible (which it was every single part of the route I must say). Despite being close to being sick and wanting to pass out I managed to do a sprint finish. Then I collapsed into a heap by the barrier. Paul helped me back up and the finishers bag with mars bar etc in helped bring me back to a less than zombie state.

Strava said I hit my target time of 1:45 but official chip time was 1:46. I am really proud of it and I know if I fuel better and can pace a bit better from the start, a bunch of time can be taken off. I will be back next year.

Now I have told that tale, I will go ahead and reveal the future target. It is…………..going to take 3+ years to get there by my reckoning, but I am now aiming to qualify to become a GBR Age group athlete in Duathlon.

Mad, yes. Tough, hell yes. Achievable, we’ll find out.

You might be wondering at this point why Duathlon and not Triathlon, given this is a blog that focussed on the later. Well, the answer is simple, I am still utterly terrified of deep water.

Following the Reading Half, my training was still geared toward the Triathlons, getting some more strength work into my training as knew my endurance was at a pretty decent level. In mid-April I then went out to do my first open water swim of the season and despite the water only being 10 degrees, I started off feeling strong in the water. This was to be short lived, with me having a full on panic attack about 120m from the shore. Not going to go into more details but it has knocked me for 6. The decision to move away from Triathlon was tough, really tough. Despite never really enjoying swimming and always having to force myself into the pool, I felt really defeated initially. Being the stubborn sod I am, I didn’t want it to not end on my terms.

Then I read the blog post from last year (oooooh, foreshadowing earlier in this post) and realised I had not been defeated. I managed to do things last year I would never have imagined I could. I challenged myself and I came out victorious on the other side. Nothing can ever take that away from me and I will never not be proud of what I achieved. Would I have liked to have gone up the distances and eventually done a full iron distance race? Absolutely. But things change and so I can’t dwell on it. I have set myself a challenge which is totally different from what I have done before. It is not half as terrifying but the work and commitment needed far surpass that of last year. Plus I partook in a Super Sprint Duathlon at Dorney that I’d planned to get some race speed and sharpness and I absolutely loved it, finishing 4th in my race. It was what led me to my decision and immediately felt less burdened somehow.

Where do you guys, those reading this, figure? Quite simple, please just keep those kind words flowing. I read it all and every comment means a great deal.
If you know people who would like to help me on this journey, through advice, expertise, coaching etc.  Any and everything will be massively appreciated (I’m sure my Nike deal will happen any day now).

I shall leave it there for now, thank you all for reading this.

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The day is done but the journey continues

img-20160925-wa0002The 25th September 2016 will stay with me until my memories as a whole begin to leave me. I’m not sure I’ve ever had such a big build up to an event. There have been huge events, but they often come to pass much quicker, so less time to dwell on what will be.

It’s fair to say that (spoiler alert) as I crossed the line, the sense of pride hit me hard. Was very strange. I was so proud of what I’d done but I think I was disappointed that the fanfare in my head was all there was. It left me a bit flat but not. Maybe I’m just an odd chap. It doesn’t take away the overall feeling of the day and by extension, this whole year.

Moving on from my being a tad dramatic and let’s start a few days before the race, with an email from VoTwo (the organisers) bringing a bit of a crap surprise. It stated that due to Dorney lake containing high levels of Blue-green algae the swim would have to be moved to Bray. No bad thing I thought as it’s where I’ve been practicing, but continued to read and it put me in a bad mood.

The event would go as such:

1 – Head to registration and transition as per normal.

2 – From there, cycle 2.5km to the top of the lake and park up your bike. Take your wetsuit etc with you.

3 – Walk the 1.5km to Bray Lake and when you reach there, get suited and swim straight away.

4 – Upon finishing the swim the time stops. Walk back the 1.5km to your bike.

5 – Cycle back to transition, get ready and continue the race from there. T1 would not be timed.

When I had finished this I started looking towards doing a different tri the following weekend. For all the build up over the course of those 9 months I would not be getting the full triathlon experience. I had a sprint distance lined up for the following weekend, but thankfully, the day prior to the race, another mail came through stating it was now well below safe levels and plan A was back on.

It was at this point I could not wait to get started.

The morning of the race and I was pretty relaxed, so got my stuff ready in plenty of time (although I forgot my race belt) and headed over to Dorney 2 hours before our wave was due to go.

Just after registering, I saw a friend from school who it turned out was doing the same race as Paul and I, which just helped to make the whole thing that bit better.

With the bike racked and everything in place, it was time to get the wetsuit on and head to the start to receive our race briefing. I’ll be completely honest, I have no real clue what the guy said in hindsight, which isn’t great, but I’m here to tell the tale, so I didn’t do anything too untoward. I’ll pay attention next time. Possibly.

After that it was into the water to get ready for the start. I stayed toward the back of the pack just so I wouldn’t be getting passed left and right at the start which I knew could cause me to panic a bit, so thought it best to avoid that. Then we were off.

I kept the pace very steady, probably erring on the side of sluggish but I wasn’t bothered by this. Had gone into the race with the plan of just being as relaxed on the swim as I could to get it done and then go hunting on the bike and run. I did find sighting in the early part quite difficult as Dorney lake has a lot of buoys due to the rowing lanes and with all the chop ahead of me. Fortunately on the first half of the swim I stayed relatively straight and took the turn at the buoy quite wide so as to avoid anyone swimming over me.

Despite the wind now being behind me a bit, I was starting to struggle and my rhythm fell away, which meant that I was not swimming quite as straight as I was in the first half. I kept going, just keeping my arms turning over (was half front crawl, half doggy paddle at this point) and I eventually found myself at the ramp.

I’ve read a lot about people feeling dizzy when getting out of the swim, but I’d kicked more in the last 50 metres to try and avoid this. It had worked quite well and wasn’t out of sorts at all, managing to jog over to my bike whilst getting the wetsuit undone and half down. I struggled a bit to get it totally off but this didn’t bother me. Got my helmet and my bike shoes on and trotted over to the mount line. I felt a bit off at this point and it took me what seemed like an age to get on the bike and clip in, but eventually I did. It was time to go hunting.20160829_1325501

I have to admit at this point that I feel a bit guilty not doing the tri on the trusty Dolan, but the new (well, 2nd hand from ebay), bargain of a race bike came into it’s own and I was flying in next to no time and feeling super comfortable.

The hunting down of people wasn’t quite as dramatic I had made out it would be prior. It turned out I wasn’t that far behind a lot of people after the swim and most people were just doing the tri as a challenge. I can appreciate that 100%, but I still bloody loved overtaking what must have been the better part of 25 people over the 10km course. The BMC was just immense and although only getting it a few weeks before the event, I was able to stay on the aero bars the whole time, minus the sharp turns.

Votwo Eton Dorney Tri – 25.9.16 – www.votwo.co.uk
Aero position could do with tweaking

Although there was a fair wind on the day, the training as well as the more aero bike really helped me to barely notice it and maintained a pace that, in hindsight, I could have upped a bit. It wasn’t too big a problem as I felt felt as though I didn’t want to get to the run and be totally blowing up. As with Ardingly though, I did start to feel cramp in my calves when I came to dismount.

I jumped off the bike on the mount line, but struggled to unclip from one of the pedals and almost stacked. Managed to avoid that and trotted over to my racking position. Racked the bike, whipped off the shoes and helmet, took on some liquid to try and help stave off the impending cramp in both legs. Then struggled to get one of my shoes on, so lost a couple of places. Finally managed to get sorted and set off on the run, both calves feeling terrible.

This really annoyed me because my running has been so good recently that I felt I could have smashed the run. I passed 3 people in the first 250 metres, but took until about 500 metres in for my legs to feel a bit better. I passed another 2 people before the turn and saw that the next person was a good 200+ metres ahead of me when I did the switch back.

Votwo Eton Dorney Tri – 25.9.16 – www.votwo.co.uk

I kept my pace fairly steady, thinking they were a bit too far in front for me to get, but things finally started clicking with just under 1km to go and I began reeling them in. I passed her (yes, this was mixed age and gender wave), but with about 100 metres to go, I heard people yelling at her to take the place back before the line and before I knew it, she was on my shoulder and running hard. Thankfully, with my legs having come back to me, I managed to put the hammer down and sprinted away from her. It killed me but was totally worth it. Looking at the results later, it turned out she had the fastest swim of the entire wave, so was certainly no slouch.

And so, the results, which you can see below. Finishing 15th out of 52 finishers was better than I ever thought was possible in the first race. Paul utterly smashed it, coming in 5th. So happy for him.

results

My swim bought me out in 46th of the 54 that completed the swim, which I was oddly proud of, I genuinely thought I would be dead last.

Even better though is having the 2nd fastest 10km bike split (although I really wanted to get into the 16 minute zone for the bike) and also the 4th quickest 2.5km run, hitting my target of sub 10 minutes and that is with bad legs. Needless to say, it’s obvious where I need to focus a lot of effort over the winter, especially given my sprint finish chum was done with her swim in less than half the time I was.

As mentioned right at the start, I am so proud of myself for this and I’ve definitely caught the bug to do more. So I shall be boring those around me with this for the foreseeable future.

What’s next? A solid winter of training. I’ve had a couple of easy weeks since the race and now looking to get back into the swing of things, focusing more on speed for each of the disciplines, which will likely mean getting back to Crossfit to get some more strength and conditioning work.

The plans for next season are to start with a sprint tri, get the half marathon done, do a couple of Time Trials and then hopefully finish the season doing a standard distance race. No definite races booked yet. Plus, already got a race planned for 2017 that is Half Iron distance in another country. Really excited about the prospect of that but a long way to go.

I shall keep the blog updated from time to time, but I have to say thank you all for reading this and for the support. All the comments have been great and the advice given, very much appreciated.

Will sign off, for now, with a picture of this guy, who does always push me to improve.img-20160928-wa0008

It’s getting close now

So, it is now a mere 6 weeks until the day this has all been building to, and I can’t believe how quickly it has come around. Seriously though, where the heck has this year disappeared to?
It has been a very long time since I last posted following the Ardingly Duathlon, due to the last couple of months being chaotic and all change as mentioned before.

For a few weeks, following the switch of job and the move back to Reading, the training was not going brilliantly. My swimming definitely suffered the most, but felt like I was just maintaining my fitness rather than improving upon it.

Over the past month though I’ve really felt the progress and even the swimming has come along nicely.

As it is very fresh in my mind, I’ll discuss the swimming first up. I’ve not been able to get into the pool as often as I did back when I was in Bristol due to how busy I am with work. I’ve gotten back into going at least a couple of times a week though and have finally had my first open water swims. The first of those was at the Triathlon Centre in Bristol, which is a man made lake that is as deep as a pool, so perfect place to start for me. I managed 600m in total but it did include a few stops as I was really fatiguing.

A week later and my first real test, a proper open water swim at Bray Lake near Windsor. No touching the bottom during the swim lay ahead of me, and knowing this terrified me. To the extent that I managed to swim only 200m but struggled through every single metre of it. I was panicked so much that my heart rate was just through the roof, even before I started to swim. I came away very disheartened and knowing the Tri was only 7 weeks away, was questioning the whole thing. I don’t like to shy away from a challenge, especially one I’ve been building up to for so long and have been vocal about on here and to everyone I know.

Fast forward another week and it was the day of me doing the London Rat Race. This is an obstacle course run, with a lot of items ending up with you in the water by the Excel. The first obstacle was a pretty high up water slide which had a kicker at the end, then about an 8foot drop into the water. As expected, I was a bit scared when sat up top ready to go but I didn’t hesitate and away I went. Fortunately, because of the mandatory buoyancy vests for each water obstacle, it meant I was only submerged for a second. Once I popped up and realised I had nothing to worry about, I relaxed and actually looked forward to the other ones that ended up in the drink. The final one that involved being in the water was a 20foot jump off a plank into the water below. Before the event, this was, again, terrifying but in the run toward it, I realised I was actually quite excited about it. I did the jump and at no moment did I panic. I loved the whole thing.

You’re probably thinking ‘that’s all well and good, but get to the point idiot’. Fine.

Paul and I went to Bray the day after Rat Race and the fear I had the week prior was all but gone. I had moments of slight panic when I breathed in some water, but each time was only for a second before I calmed myself down and tried to get back into my rhythm. I managed just over 400m in total over 2 stints, with no pauses. It could not have been a bigger contrast to 7 days prior. I genuinely enjoyed it.

I now know, I can do the Tri next month. It’s a great feeling. I just need to become even stronger, and hopefully faster on that swim leg.

Running and cycling are now progressing nicely. I’ve signed up to do Reading Half Marathon next year and last weekend I managed over that distance on a morning run from Sonning to Marlow. Which was a PB in terms of distance by around 10km. Gives me a fairly large amount of confidence. Just need to do more speed work so that 2.5km next month in the Tri will be a swift one.

Now to the cycling. Which, again, has come along quite a lot this year now I look back. The speed at which I think I can maintain without burning out has gone up quite a bit, as has my overall fitness. This is helped by the setup I now have on the trusty old Dolan, but also making sure I am on a bike in some form at least twice a week.

Really excited now for the final 6 weeks of prep and hope I can once again surprise myself on race day and look back on the 9 months prior with pride and look forward to taking on the next challenges.