Tri 122 - 22nd March 2014
This was my first ‘test’ of the year. And ‘test’ it was. I knew Lanzarote could be windy (I was living there after all). But this was quite severe, and I am sure, had the race been in the UK it would have been cancelled. The lead up to the race went OK, although on race week I probably trained more than I should, having picked up some work touring Irish Cyclists around the island. Well, I couldn’t turn down 80Euro to ride my bike in the sun, could I? The race was 2km – 100km – 20km. It was a mass start so a bit of a fist fight to get off safe and sound. The sea was choppy, I say choppy, it was like been shipwrecked in the Atlantic. The first loop I struggled to see the buoys but slowly got the jist of it. I exited the water in the top 8 which I was quite surprised with. I jumped on the bike and the legs felt pretty flat, lack of power was evident as I maintained a rhythm up the 8km hill to the main road. Joel Jameson passed me on the road to Orzola and I tried to keep positive and not get carried away. I took it nice and steady till Tabayesco where I had ridden a 25min TT split earlier in the year – I figured, 30min would be a good pace. I picked up a couple competitors before hammering the decent (one I knew well). Coming into the bike-run transition I was angry and couldn’t wait to start running. I was in no mans land, with a gap in front and behind. I took it steady and finished strong with a 1.16 run split. I finished 6th but was promoted to 1st place after finding out the lead group had (unbeknownst to the lead biker) cut the run a little short. I took the winners speech gracefully giving full respect to the guys who should have been on the podium! Not a bad start I thought.
Challenge Fuerteventura - April 26th 2014
For those who haven’t been. It’s like the Wild West with a goats cheese twist.
Like many post races, I come down very hard on myself. And after the Tri122, I was not happy with my bike legs. We had checked the bike course for this race well in advance. Living in Lanzarote at the time it was just a short ferry away. One very steep climb and one long drag were the long and short of it. I was super fit for this race especially on the bike so I felt confident. Trev and Lucy checked us into the swanky ‘Playitas’ resort two days before the race so we were nice and settled. My girlfriend Emily was there supporting which gave me added motivation. Race day came and I was ready to go. The race director saw me smiling on the start line; little did I know the pain that was waiting. After my first race of the season ‘Tri 122’ I decided my tactics would be ‘full gas’ on the bike (thanks Bert…) and see what happens on the run. I decided to wear my split running shorts on the bike (less for aerodynamic reasons) more for comfort.
The swim started well and I led the age group pack for the first of two laps. However, on the second lap I decided to go around an extra buoy (serves me right for going to the Spanish briefing!). So, instead of exiting the swim in the front group, I was at the back of the second. I got out the water confused – and frustrated. I sprinted up the beach to the transition and just before getting on my bike my chip came off. It couldn’t be a worse start I thought!
As soon as I got on the bike, I knew I had good legs. You know, I could feel the whole pedal stroke all the way to the toe. None of that fatigued / clouded feeling was there! I raced off with the bit between my teeth. Passing 30 odd bikers in the first 10km. The first climb came, a 2km sharp climb of around 15-20%, only riding an 11/23 on the back, in hindsight I was pushing way too bigger gear up the climb. I powered on down the long decent and up the second climb, getting some funny looks in my running shorts. The last 25km was fairly flat and I stuck the gear in the 53/11 and rode as hard as I could.
As I jumped off the bike, I could feel straight away the effort I had made riding. In fact, it worried me! The run course was brutal. An out and back route which started with a horrendous climb. The sun was dead hot and there was no wind on the way out. Having got a little carried away on the bike, I had forgot to take on added water and enough gels to get me a good start in the run. This was going to be a long, long 21km! Trev could instantly see I was in trouble, and rode ahead to get me some more water. I suffered badly but managed to keep it going. So much so that I missed the turnaround point and ran another half kilometre. Emily and Lucy screamed at me as I came rolling down the hill to the finish. I crossed the line and my legs killed. The best part was just around the corner – a paddling pool filled with ice, I jumped in very relieved it was over!
I didn’t know the result but I knew I was disappointed with the run and Swim. Although my bike split was in the top 10 overall so that was pleasing. I couldn’t walk for a couple days after this one – it knocked me for 6.
Mallorca 70.3 - 10th May 2014
I had heard great things about this race and Trevor and I were keen to test it out. I arrived in Mallorca just 2 weeks after Fuerteventura. So I was not quite sure where my legs were at! We checked in to an ‘England on sea’ hotel and marvelled at the Ironman corporation takeover of the town. It was a headline European race and the transition was nigh on a kilometre long! The swim start was stunning and the water crystal. A friend of mine, Jaysen (an Everest summiteer!) and his family hired a car and checked out the bike course (always deceiving in a car!). It was a beautiful race. Race day arrived at its usual 4:30am wake up call. Our plan was to have our porridge in the room, until when plugging our ‘hired’ kettle it tripped the fuse and we were left in the dark with dry porridge. Not an ideal start. Trev and I fashioned together some pigeon Spanish and managed to half heat some porridge in the canteen. It looked and tasted like poly filler.
The scale of the race was vast, with umpteen waves. Trev was first off (yes I got up extra early for him) and I was an hour later. I forced my way to the front of the wave and had a great swim coming out of the water a shade over 24min. As soon as I got on the bike, my legs were like jelly. Like the first time you have ever ridden a bike. I pushed harder and harder thinking they would come good – they didn’t. I spun up the climb and back to transition and immediately I knew my run legs were good. After about 500m I struggled to breath, thinking it was a bad stitch I carried on, till the point where I really couldn’t breathe and had to step aside. Stopping is not in my mantra and is the hardest thing to do, especially given my Dad & Sue came to support from Spain! Trev and my good mate Richard Shepherd had a great race and I was really happy for them both. We all grabbed a pizza and I did my best to be courteous when people asked ‘what happened??’
After arriving back in La Santa, I did finally understand what had happened. Jamie, the Osteopath had a good look at my back, put me in the foetal position, asked me to exhale and out came an almighty crunch, and almost immediately I could breath properly again. I had been somewhat winded until that point and the cause was the clamping together of the thoracic muscles at the top of my back. Phew, I can breathe now. That was an eventful trip to Mallorca!! Carrying a back pack over one shoulder for a day could have been the cause. If only someone could carry my baggage for me…any takers!?
Aarhus 70.3 - 22nd June 2014
For those who have yet to visit Club La Santa in Lanzarote, you will soon find out that it’s swamped by Danes. Little did I know that my neighbour Oliver was from Denmark – Aarhus in fact. That’s a touch. Oliver and I soon became good mates, so visiting Aarhus was going to be that much cheaper, and fun! After a short break after Mallorca I had a good lead up to Aarhus and I was especially exited to race there, given that Trev was too and Emily was coming out to support. Lucy had also given me some great mental preparation, helping me visualise feeling good in the race, training the mind is just as important as the body! Flying to Aarhus from Lanzarote is a bit of a faff. We had to take a flight to Gran Canaria then another to Aarhus. Well, it turned out to be a bit of a nightmare after our first flight was delayed so we missed the connection. Not ideal given the next direct flight was at 2am!! I decided to fly to London, have a quick dip in the sea in Brighton then off to Copenhagen the next day – farewell to a cheap trip I thought! Trevor no longer kept his title of ‘head of logistics’.
Instead of turning up fresh, I turned up knackered. The sun rises early in the Danish summer so I found myself up at 4:30am for the next two days. Here we go. Race morning was smoother than in Mallorca (Olly’s mums fridge was well stacked!). The race start was just a ten minute walk from the house so things couldn’t have been easier! It was a glorious day and the temperature was perfect. The water however was bloody freezing!! I got off to a strong start, and led out the pack for the swim, there were plenty of jelly fish, but I was more worried about the water temperature! Out of the swim I was quickly (for once) onto my bike. I knew the first 20km pretty well having cycled it the day before. I started fairly hard and ended up playing tit for tat with another competitor for the last 40km. Off the bike I was in 11th place overall and running strong at around 3.40/km pace. The run was undulating and after around 8km I started to feel pretty terrible again – I was really not happy and fading badly. I pulled through and crossed the line – thinking; could have done better! Oh well, there is always a Danish pastry to look forward too…
British Champs - 17th August 2014
I was seriously determined to nail this one. I owed it to myself and the people who had been helping me – namely Trevor Simmons, Lucy Herbert and Mike Trees. The idea was to get me to the start line super fresh. I travelled up to Sterling in Scotland early to stay with Fraser Cartmell (multiple British and Ironman Champion). He was most accommodating and a great chap. My Mum and Terry had hired a campervan and picked me up en route up to Aberfeldy, this was my humble abode for the next few nights. I was more concerned in not falling out with my mum rather than the race itself! My good friend Richard Shepherd had also driven up to Scotland and I was feeling fresh – so fresh in fact that I found it hard to sleep.
The day before Rich and I thought it would be a good idea to have a dip in Loch Tay, GEEEE it was cold. It was August!! It wasn’t going to be easy and because of the wind and rain the organisers were seriously considering cutting the swim short.
Race morning came. As did the standard bowl of 5am porridge and the thoughts ‘what the hell am I doing this for again?’ It was raining and very windy but I did feel secretly confident. The start was devoid of enough toilet facilities and 5min before the start I need the inevitable – good job the wetsuit wasn’t completely zipped. The start – like always was quite hectic. I quickly found myself alone – too slow for the front and too fast for the chase pack – ahh not again! I exited the swim in 7th 3min down. I jumped on the bike and quickly got into a good rhythm. I passed 3 people quite quickly including Scott Nedeli (previous IM Wales winner) so I knew I was going well. Richard caught me half way through the bike and stayed within visible distance until the run. The run started well, maybe a little too fast with the first 2km in 7min. I slowed and got into a good pace. The run was undulating and Rich and I ran side by side for 16km before I found a good moment to break and see what I had left. I shot off thinking once I was out of sight I would be out of mind and get away. I felt strong and managed to hold on. I finished in 3rd overall and for the first time all season felt enough went right to be happy with my performance! I actually felt quite emotional crossing the line. My mum however was quite upset to see me in pain as usual!
Lanzarote – 20th September2014 (1st PRO Start)
A piece of advice - never race when you are just pleased to be there. Trevor my coach says, ‘when you race, you go to war’. I like that saying. Some people’s faces, which in everyday life are calm and collected, turn into animals when they race. I’m no exception. The British Champs took so much out of me. It was the first time I had really tapered and I got to the race so fresh, and pushed so hard, that it left me in a hole for the week after. Quite literally, a hole. I couldn’t peel a skin off a rice pudding as Shane Sutton says. Id originally planned to do Helvellyn 2 weeks after, and, that’s a race you can’t do half hearted – Ali Brownlee was reported finishing that race running sideways. I skipped that race and decided to solely focus on Lanzarote, an island and a race I knew pretty well!
After my week of misery I started training again – steadily. The more I did the tighter I got. My good friend and great masseur Sam Wattie did his best to iron me out – quite literally. I flew out to Lanzarote and I was now racing my first race as a Professional Triathlete. I knew this was just a title and by no means a right of passage. Racking the bike next to athletes who had been to the Olympics did give me a rye smile. Race day came, and I was unusually nervous. Mainly I think, because my preparation had not been ideal. After a full start, I positioned myself at the back of the pack, again, a first. The first pack went off like a rocket and I couldn’t hold on. I fell back and swam the entire course next to last year’s winner Victor Del Corral (not known for being the best swimmer). I was in no mans land and came out the water in 26min. Very average but not a game changer. After a slow transition I was out on the course. The legs took a while to get going but when they did I got good feelings. I was at the bottom of the main climb ‘Tabayesco’ in an hour 15, just 5min behind the leaders. I climbed steadily, knowing that 30min to the top would not put me in the red too much. Once Id got over the climb I started to feel very tight in the lower back and my energy was low. Thinking it was just a bad patch I carried on but felt continually worse. With 20km left on the bike I had to sit up and couldn’t maintain an aero position. I came into transition a little angry and as soon as I jumped off the bike felt cramps in the stomach. A run turned into a jog quite quickly, Trev’s words of ‘never underestimate how slow you can run were ringing in my ear, and the ‘competing’ was turning into a ‘completion’. I trotted round, and several times wanted to just call it a day. Seeing a lot of familiar faces out on course just made it worse. I was relieved to say the least to finish the damn thing!!
Lesson learnt, time to party and forget about Triathlon for a while!