Month: May 2014

The Enemy Within

I make no apologies for the moany nature of this blog post. I also make no apologies about the frequent references to Elton John.

Covers all basis I think you will agree. 

You see I think I owe myself an apology and what the sequined maestro penned years ago rings true – sorry, does indeed, seem to be the hardest word. An apology based on my sabotage like nature, routed in the way I seem to manufacture issues for myself prior to races, to give myself an excuse if things don’t go according to plan come stupid o’clock when I am in rubber by a lake with random people. I give myself some Hard times.

I don’t have a proper plan for the year, I have a vague plan for the year and so you would think hitting and sticking to said vagueness would be easy. Generally, aside from the falling out of lofts / bike breakages I have this year; where I could stuck to my plans. Volumes have risen nicely, I have created my own little sky line as per the below, with May being on track to be the biggest training month so far ever for me – I know for many 400 miles isn’t a lot but for me it’s akin to climbing Ben Nevis without any shoes (and I have done that and it hurt a lot (although it was pretty cool)) I have also swam 3000 metres in one hit twice now – something I wasn’t entirely sure I would ever be able to do.

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However I am still unlike a rocket man on the swim, bike or run legs due to my massive shortcomings in the one part of my body I don’t seem to be able to train consistency. I fear my biggest limiting factor, aside from the Santa like belly,  is my own childlike, daydreaming, self-inflicting nugget. The nerve centre of it all, seems to be acting like a member of the Vietcong and a ninja rolled into one, systematically attempting to sabotage my bid by mentally self-harming myself, leaving my confidence and self-esteem blowing like a candle in the wind. You see if I eat a tray of yogurts or half a loaf of bread in one sitting it gives me a reason to blame, something tangible to cling to – it’s not my fault I couldn’t do a sub 2hr HM on Sunday at the backend of the 70.3 – it’s because I wasn’t fuelled correctly in the week leading up to the event.

As this is about honesty – I will be frank with you all. Winning the Ironman Wales entry and coaching plan is probably the worst thing that could have happened to me this year. The plan is written – excluding the races and other things I have committed to in-between and all I have to do is follow the yellow brick road to ensure that I get to the sandy beach in wales in one healthy piece, a prime specimen of manliness.  

Exactly. It’s never going to happen. It’s about as unrealistic as expecting me to do run a mile with a 5 at start or swim the channel towing the Qe2 or bike 100 miles without screaming abuse at wildlife. Not in my lifetime.

It’s crazy the volumes that’s included in the plan – crazy to think I can hit those intensities week after week before now and September. I can barely cope now on the bumbling plan I have. It’s like opening Pandora’s box to just how far away I am from being ready for any sort of long distance event / challenge. Removing the blinkers allows all sorts of issues to come across my field of vision – what if I let the sponsors down, what if I don’t finish, what if I do finish but I finish last, what if I can’t get my wetsuit off in T1 and have to keep it on for the rest of the day like some sort of overindulgent gimp suit, what if I can’t find my bike, what if I forget my shorts etc.

I was always hoping that I could get through outlaw in July due to its relatively flat nature and the fact that the run is loops and the notorious crowd would get me through it. I hadn’t thought as far ahead as imagine a goal time – purely finishing it would honestly be enough. But now it’s all about maximising training time to hit target finish times which are unattainable and ultimately terrifying. Also clearly the coach doesn’t seem to understand that I break something at least every two weeks – be it myself, my wetsuit or my bike every time I go near it.

So much so, that I have taken a step back and effectively binned off the plan, saying goodbye to the yellow brick road, already and gone back to my own deluded thoughts. I don’t have aspirations to win events (although I guess deep down, we all just can’t wait to be king)– I just have aspirations to not be the fat lad I was at school, who couldn’t run 100 metres or do the high jump. I want to be able to play with my daughter and get her doing regular exercise, find it fun and have events built into her upbringing. Fun happy times, not constant pressure to hit targets – I get enough of that at work what with the cows and all.

Thing is that despite this and although I will never win an event I haven’t ever really done ‘badly’ and have only once been disappointed with a result. I have always come top half in all the events, usually top 3rd overall and then a satisfactory place within the AG which consistently surprises me – it does however make me think what I could do if I didn’t beat myself up mentally and physically on such a regular basis. What would it have been like if I had found the sport when I was my daughters age and then never got fatter than a fat thing.

I always knew it wasn’t (aint) going to be easy to devote enough time to training and enough time to family based fun – I don’t want to go breaking hearts but its massively tough the strain that is placed on a relationship when one of you wants to do an ironman. Over the bank holiday weekend we had numerous things on – mainly involving being in a pub or a situation where it didn’t allow for anything healthy to occur. So much so that I was making a massive effort to not eat too much or more importantly drink too much. 

So Friday night, no drinking whilst all around were finishing bottle after bottle of wine, Sunday at a christening I had one drink then stuck to water, using the excuse of driving to not indulge and then bank holiday Monday we attended a family fun day in a pub. I had 4 pints of Guinness over a 6 hour period to be sociable, with each mouthful being less enjoyable as in my head it distanced myself from the prospect of doing ok at outlaw, then I flat out stopped drinking – despite others around me continuing. In my head I had flipped, I wanted to get up and walk home by myself – I wanted to add some distance between me and the crisps and burgers and chocolate puddings. My tolerance was broken and I just sat there like a miserable sod whilst all around me enjoyed themselves.

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But I stayed and because I had beaten myself up about the alcohol intake I, despite being starving hungry, refused to eat. As a point of principle I wasn’t going to eat, so that balanced everything out in my head, ok I had 4 pints but I didn’t eat the chips. So I sat there whilst my wife and some friends and the accumulated offspring ate a two course meal. By the time we got home I was that tired and hungry that I had a bowl of porridge to eat (as everyone knows porridge is healthy) and then promptly fell asleep with my head on the kitchen table at 8.30 in broad daylight. Clearly something is up with me at the moment, a constant weeklong headache does require further investigation but I think this will magically disappear on Sunday afternoon when I hopefully have an outlaw medal round my neck.

So yes I was labelled boring effectively three nights out of four. But I don’t think outside of the little twitter triathlon community anyone I know understands the commitment it takes to get up at 4.30 and go for a 10 mile run before the rest of the house is up, before breakfast, in the rain. Sure friends like discussing it, saying wow that’s impressive but then when I fall asleep in a bowl of porridge everyone thinks I am strange. My parents are prime examples of this – despite no sporting history themselves – whenever I speak to them they seem to find it madness that I have had a rest day or ‘only’ run 4/5 miles, completely forgetting that 28 months ago I was 22 stone and I couldn’t run down the road to catch the ice cream van, despite the probable burning desire to do so.

Everyone likes the glory days – the days of the events – turning up for a few hours to watch and shout support as you cross the finish line, it gives good bragging rights to social networks but like John Terry and a trophy lifting ceremony don’t you think its plain wrong to bask in someone else’s glory unless you have gone through, at least some of, the pain yourself?

Dont get me wrong – my wife has been super supportive to me, throughout the journey to where I am now.

This is turning into somewhat of a bumbling ramble against the world, so I will end it now – however if you see a man wandering round the Holiday Inn on Saturday night in Nottingham eating a McDonalds then it will be me, committing a fast food sacrifice to the demons in my head, giving myself a good reason why potentially I will be useless come race day.

I guess – I’m still standing….

Just

(For reference the rubbish Elton John songs in the above, in no particular order are; Hard times, Sorry seems to be the hardest word, Rocket man, Breaking hearts, Candle in the wind, I just can’t wait to be king, Holiday inn, Aint going to be easy, Sacrifice, Goodbye yellow brick road, I’m still standing)

 

Next week – Genesis

 

 

 

 

 

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Slateman

Since I stumbled upon the murky and lyrca glad world of triathlon one event has captured my attention more than most – due to its stunning location, the natural challenges that Snowdonia provides, the early open water session swimming leg and the fact that it’s generally considered a very tough day out.

I finally got the opportunity to find out what the hype is about.

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I descended upon registration at an ungodly hour on Sunday morning to find the usual calm, collective and happy bunch of souls that run Always Aim High Events (having previously done a couple of the sportives with the company) offering up last minute advice and tips such as ‘swim quickly and you won’t get as cold’. The transitional area had all the usual bits and pieces you expect to find in close proximity with clear directional signage and the such. I had my sights firmly set on the essential after race refuelling (ice cream van) and racked my bike for the first time since Hyde park last September, struggling to remember how to actually do it.

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Getting there early also allowed me to ensure that I had two 9bars 90 mins before the start and this fuelling seemed to pay off as at no point did my energy levels dip.

As I was going in the last wave I had plenty of time to mull around and watch the other waves get going especially the elite males and females. Great to see them blast round and massively impressed with Lee Oliver, from Worcester tri club, coming out first in 13:24 and then looking as fresh as a daisy running back to transition through the impressive supporting crowds and marshals.

When my wait was over and I got to finally wade into the water, after the shock of the 12 degree temperature the first thing that hit me was how crystal clear it was. Without doubt the cleanest lake I have swam in – probably also the coldest but it was impossible to not be impressed with the stunning setting.

My swim was fairly uneventful, after a false start where we all got a bit excited and over eager, the usual carnage begin up to the first buoy and then it settled down for the reminder of the 1000 metres and before long I was back into T1 myself. Happy to see a few bikes around the racking but less so the fact that my left leg refused to come out of the wetsuit. Cue much wriggling and annoyance and finally the wetsuit decided to come off, splitting in the progress but coming off non the less.

The ride out was tough, mainly due to the llanberis pass and the headwind – however the scenery matched the climbs difficulty and I was grateful to not see to many people overtake me as I crested the climb and settled onto the aerobars as I came back along the Ogwen Valley, the rest of the 31 miles was rolling with a few short sharp climbs and well marshalled turns and within a blink of an eye I was back into Llanberis and the supportive crowds again. The area surrounding transition was now buzzing with music and the crowds had swelled considerably. Clearly enjoying the Live local bands, climbing wall, trampolines and bouncy castles – they all looked more appealing that the 11km run I was about to embark on.

Quick change and I was off and running out to the quarries, along the lake and through the Dinorwig Power Station before the first of the zig zags was upon me. Not sure if it was due to fatigue or not but with each and every switchback they seemed to get worse and worse.

Within the run leg was a separate race the Kinetica Quarryman challenge – timing all runners along the infamous and brutal zig zagged climb. Mark Palmer walked away with the glory by winning this in a staggering 9:20. Once at the top the view, if you had any breath left was breathing taking – especially on such an warm and clear day. After exiting the quarry the scenery actually got better as we descended through the forests on single track trail paths surrounded by bluebells, wildlife and streams. The lure of the PA system meant that I knew the end was in sight and everyone seemed to up the pace as again we came along the edge of the lake.

The crowds were in full voice and the clever layout meant each and every triathlete got at least 300 metres of finishing cute acclaim. Something that this year’s winners Ewan Brown in 2:21:48 (storming home ahead of last year’s winner Stephen Skates by 3 minutes with Rory Atkins completing the podium) and Suzie Richards in 2:44:23 (coming through 57 seconds ahead of Natalie Seymour and Jane Hansom rounding out the top 3) would have been sure to lap up.

The Slateman is the first of the triple format Always Aim High Series with the Sandman and Snowman still to come later in the year. One thing for sure, is that both will be on my radar to do in the coming months. Brutally tough challenges with a stunning backdrop, organised by a brilliant company who seem to understand exactly what an age grouper wants from a day’s racing, including an ice cream.

Without doubt I will be back.

Personally I did better than my expectations as I figured at the current level of fitness and my constant inability to climb hills on a bike or under foot that I would come in around the 3:30 total time. In the end I was back in 3:14 and actually felt good at that point, after a drink to quell the gel based gum sucking, I could have carried on running at the same pace. This is something I need to look at on the bike – the consumption of a bottle of high 5 extreme and then some gels on the bike, meant that although I had plenty of energy I also struggled to avoid the sticky mess that became of my mouth. Maybe a bottle of high 5, a half bottle of water and then the small bottle of gels (which worked really well and saved me messing around with attempting to open them on the fly) – however I only have two bottle holders at present.  

A point born out by the fact that i managed a 3 mile run yesterday and a 10k this morning at reaonable pace – so at least my recovery is better than it used to be. Same cant be said for my shoulders, as due to the heat I have been left with some tasty looking sunburn;

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Lesson learnt and a bottle of waterproof suncream has been added to the tri event bag for outlaw half.

Hopefully by then I will also have my new gear finally finished and race ready.

The full report can be found here;

Read more at http://triathlete-europe.competitor.com/2014/05/20/brown-richards-dominate-4th-slateman-triathlon#ZBibBswzHQwwIwPX.99

White Water

On Thursday I took a day off work to stand in a large and mainly empty room to get semi naked in front of a group of youngish students and assessors.

What has become of me?

Well if you believe the case study I was given, I am now a professional multi-stage cyclist who is preparing for competition, intending to compete for the red jersey in the Giro d’Italia.

Boom! All the training is paying off 

In the races that build up to the Giro d’Italia (2014) I found that I am not often in the lead group during the last few kilometres of the race so I am not in a position to compete for the stage win, or when I am in a position to compete I am outpaced by the sprinters.

Stupid sprinters. 

It was hard for my tiny brain to comprehend this and so when the assessment started and they asked what I did I said triathlon. Whoops. In my defence I think potentially they would have seen through my cover when the test actually started and I weighed in at 16st and 23% body fat. Not many pros are quite as chubby.

The above is not completely made of lies though. I was giving something back to the community by playing guinea pig to some students undertaking degrees in the world of sports science and the such.

I agree this is a very noble and decent thing to do and as you all know me so well you will also realise that I love a freebie. In return for me playing a pig for a couple of hours of testing and feedback sessions I managed to get my lactate tested by death by watt bike session. Something I have wanted to have completed for a while but unwilling to pay the £90 ish price tag as I am yet to be convinced of its benefits.

It was much fun, with the wattage required to hold for each 3 minute interval increasing by 25 as I went along. At the end of each three minute interval my ear was pricked and a blood sample taken to determine the lactate.

The results are interesting if not surprising.

I should lose some more chub to go quicker, hit the hills some more to practice climbing and generally just don’t be quite so pants. Because at the moment my nipples only produce sweat and it would be nice if a could get some milk out of them.

Already taken the advice on board by doing a pre-dawn starting 28 miles on my bike in a thunderstorm ( I could wring out my socks at the end and not feel my toes) and not once getting out of the saddle on any of the climbs, which for me is unheard of. I strangely enjoyed getting soaked – first ride in a while in the rain, although next time I think I will wear a coat.

Also the other news, which is perhaps more of a surprise is that I decided to choose Ironman Wales as the competition prize. Despite the route really not being to my liking it works best in terms of original plans and the fact that the prize includes a tailored plan to race day should at least (hopefully) make the sandy start line in reasonable nick and confidence.

Completed the market drayton 10k on Sunday – 90 seconds don on last yr which was disappointing, the only crumb of comfort was that I found a rhythm about half way through and seemed to improve after that and finished quite strongly, although in a sweaty mess.

My daughter completed her first ever race as well and I couldn’t have been more proud to see her cross the line with a beaming smile to collect her first race goodie bag and medal. Hopefully the first of many for her.

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner

Well then folks.

Imagine the scene – high powered reports being generated about the cows and the such, waxing lyrical about Liverpool’s demise in the football, day dreaming about OW swimming tonight, when up pops an email.

Not only an email from an actual person (I assume) but the title of it said – Congratulations.

I thought i had won the Nigerian lottery or I had been carefully selected to receive a wonderful gift in exchange for a modest postage and packaging cost.

However on closer inspection the email address was @ironman.com

Hold the cows!

You see it turns out that I have somehow managed to win something again in the world or triathlon.

Something which made me smile then shudder at the potential pain involved.

You see I like to enter the competitions in 220 Triathlon magazine as the stuff is always worth winning and usually well out of my budget in terms of gear or events.

I tend to enter them, then completely forget about them till I see the names of the winners in the following months magazine.

However folks, you will be reading my name next month because;

 

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This leaves me with a massive dilemma – Ironman UK is the weekend before outlaw and Ironman Wales is the weekend before equinox and also involves hills, hills and more hills. We all know I don’t like hills, let alone hills, hills and more hills.

Surely two ironman distance races on back to back weekends is stupid even for me but I dont think I could honestly finish Ironman Wales with the er hills involved. Plus the temptation of sheep might prove too much

So folks of twitter world – help me with my problem.

What the devil do I do?