Tag Archives: Ironman 70.3 Lanzarote

The Road to Bolton

I thought it was a reasonable expectation that having run a half marathon PB at the ripe young age of 54, I would get some time to rest and reflect on my achievement – but no. Just two days after clocking 1.41hrs at the Reading Half on 2 March, my five-month training program for Ironman UK started. No rest for the wicked!

IMUK2012_newI am tempted to say that it marked my first step on the road to Bolton, but in truth I have been on that road for some time. Mentally I have been heading that way since June 2011 when a friend of mine described his race at Ironman Lanzarote to me. I didn’t realise it then but the seed was sown.

The mental process has been a long one. It has taken almost three years to move from complete disbelief that such a thing is possible, to a gradual realisation that it can be done, to taking the plunge and entering one.

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Ironman 70.3 Lanzarote finish line.

Physically I have been on the road to Bolton for at least a year. My 2013 season included two half iron distance races which were a deliberate toe in the water of long-distance triathlon. One was the Monster Middle, a completely flat 70.3 race in Cambridgeshire; the other was Ironman 70.3 Lanzarote which was anything but flat. If I needed confirmation that a full Ironman is what I want to do, Lanzarote provided it in bucket loads. I absolutely loved it.

I took my first proper step on the road to Bolton on 1 January of this year when I started a two-month base training program. It sounds almost alluring when you express it like that but the reality was less glamorous. It was really a progression of increasingly long runs and rides wearing virtually every item of kit I owned to ward off the cold. It was also great training for the unlikely event that Ironman UK is raced during a flood!

My base training ended with a treat, which was running the Reading Half. Believe me, when that shape on the horizon is a 140.6 mile endurance race with a 17-hour deadline, a spring half marathon is a treat!

But during all of this, Ironman UK seemed a long way off. Now it is 18 short weeks away and hurtling towards me at an alarming speed. Thankfully my training is now in full swing. Straight away I have noticed how quickly the volume has increased  – last weekend was a 10-mile run and a 60-mile cycle sandwiched between  2k swim sessions and it only goes one way from here. So far I am keeping up with the demands of training and my long-suffering wife Cate is keeping up with the laundry burden of daily swim, bike, run sessions, but I think there are harder tests ahead for both of us.

I am very lucky to belong to Andover Triathlon Club where there is a group us of doing various Ironman races this year, so company on long rides, encouragement and words of advice from previous Ironman finishers are never far away. If David Cameron wants a proper example of “we are all in this together” he should come on our Saturday bike ride.

From total disbelief two and a half years ago, I am now genuinely excited about Bolton in July (a sentence I never expected to write!). But already I have found out what I suspected to be true; that the first challenge of the would be Ironman isn’t getting to the finish line; it’s summoning up the bottle to go to the start line. I hope I crossed that bridge a while ago and I can move full steam ahead preparing myself to get to the finish line.

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Ironman 70.3 Lanzarote – 5 October 2013

Lanzarote may just be the perfect place for a long distance triathlon. Year-round sunshine, warm sea and challenging terrain for cycling, the spectacular logovolcanic island off the coast of Africa has it all. No surprise then that the second running of Ironman 70.3 Lanzarote attracted a field of 650 from all over the world. For me it was the climax of the triathlon year, the race that I had geared my entire season around.

I flew out to Lanzarote on the Tuesday before the race. Although the event is run by Club La Santa – basically a holiday resort for fit people – I chose to stay about half an hour away in a much quieter part of the island where I could retreat and relax. I was nervous enough as it was and I don’t think it would have helped to be surrounded 24/7 by over-excited triathletes!!

There was plenty to do to keep me busy in the three days leading up to the race. I spent time doing a recce of the swim course in Le Santa’s Lagoon and I drove round the bike course as well as doing a few light training sessions to stop my body from going to sleep. I was joined on Wednesday by my friends Keith and Laine who were also competing.

Saturday morning came round very quickly. I had tried to get an early night on Friday, but not before  I had swapped texts with Cate to tell her that she could track my progress via the live coverage on the Ironman website. She texted back: “Then we’ll be with you”. I banked that lovely thought – I knew I would need it before Saturday was over.

swim pre start

Nervous before the swim start

As is normal for me on race day I was awake before my alarm went off. I forced down a pre-race breakfast of oats and bananas before gathering my belongings and driving to Club La Santa in the dark. Ninety minutes later I was standing on the beach of the Lagoon with over 600 other nervous competitors watching the sun rise over the horizon, minutes away from the start.

The swim

The swim was a beach start – a nice term for a mad dash to the water followed by a free for all of whirling arms. Kenneth Gasque the flamboyant Race Director was on hand to sound the hooter and Ironman 70.3 Lanzarote 2013 was under way.

swim chaos

The crowded swim!

The 1.9km (1.2 mile) swim was a single lap of the Lagoon and was very crowded from start to finish, which meant there was lots of physical contact. My priority for most of the swim was keeping an eye on what was immediately in front of me to avoid getting a stray foot in the head. The best tactic was to try to stay out of trouble but be ready to defend your space if necessary. I wasn’t completely successful at either and at least once had to barge my way through a gap that wasn’t really there.

Despite the crowd and the constant bumping and bashing I didn’t feel uncomfortable at any point on the swim and was pleased with how I handled it. I got out of the water after about 37 minutes, glad it was behind me but feeling OK.

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Swim exit

After a quick dash through the resort to transition I was in the changing tent with all thoughts on the bike leg. By now it was about 8.45am and already the temperature was in the high 70s. I spent a few minutes slapping on the free factor 50 sun cream before heading off on the bike. In my haste to get the lotion on I managed to get it all over my cycling sun glasses – a mistake that was to plague me for the most of the bike leg.

The Bike

The 90km (56 mile) cycle was a big loop around the north of the island. In only a few minutes the built up area of La Santa was replaced by barren countryside and as a taster of what was to come, we were straight into a long hill which took us to the village of Soo. Here we turned north to Caleta de Famara and then across the island via the small towns of Teguise and Tahiche.

Once on the south coast of the island we ground our way through a ten-mile drag from Tahiche on a busy coastal road, cycling into a building 17mph headwind. This was the low-point of the race for me. Progress was slow and my mind wandered. Eventually I had to give myself a bit of a pep talk. I didn’t need reminding that things were just about to get an awful lot harder.

By now the small problem of sun tan lotion on my sunglasses had become a big problem. The addition of a bit of sweat meant I could barely see through them. At the next aid station I stopped to mix an energy drink and ask if they had a cloth. They didn’t but a quick thinking lady volunteer offered me the front of her shirt. I have to confess that I may have spent slightly longer than was strictly necessary cleaning my glasses as we both laughed at the situation!

Glasses clean and drinks replenished I steeled myself for what was likely to be the toughest part of the day and the part which, for many, would define success or failure.

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Halfway up the Tabayesco climb

The signature feature of Ironman 70.3 Lanzarote is the Tabayesco Climb – a 6-mile unbroken ascent which took us from sea level to a little under 2,000 feet at the Mirador del Haria. From the bottom it is a daunting sight. You can see the road wind its way up the mountain and somewhere in the distance you can just make out the tourist restaurant which sits at the top. My strategy was simple – no heroics, arse on saddle, low gear, high cadence and take it easy. That approach served me well and I passed lots of people on the way up, pausing to exchange words of encouragement each time. The ascent up Tabayesco, which had worried me more than anything, turned out to be one of the highlights of my race.

The view from the top was breathtaking and gave way to a well earned descent. In contrast to the overcrowded swim, I found myself cycling with just one other person – Piggy (her name was on her race number). I kept about 20 yards behind Piggy and followed her line all the way down. It was an exhilarating 15 minutes as we flew down the mountain at speeds between 30-40 mph back into Teguise.

With the worst of bike leg done, we retraced out steps back to Le Santa finishing off with a couple of miles of downhill where it seemed that for the first time all day, the wind was behind us. I rode back into Club Le Santa and transition after 56 miles of cycling and over 5,000 feet of climbing with 3.56hrs on my bike computer.

It was now about midday and the sun was high in the sky and the temperature into the mid-80s. Not the conditions the average Englishman would choose in which to run a half marathon. Once again I invested a few minutes in transition covering myself in high factor sun cream.

The Run

The 20.1km (13.1 mile) run course was a 4.4 mile lap from the stadium at Club Santa to the nearby village of La Santa and back which we ran three times. It was not an imaginative course, but because everyone was somewhere on a 2.2 mile stretch of road, it made it easy for spectators and so there was lots of fantastic support. Another plus of the layout was that by placing just three aid stations on the run we were able to pass an aid station 18 times in 13 miles, or as my one-track mind saw it, we were able to drink and douse ourselves in cold water about once every three-quarters of a mile.

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Starting my final lap on the run

The first lap was fine. I was pleased to be off the bike and into the final stage and my running legs felt good. My strategy was to set a steady pace of about 9-minutes a mile and walk through the aid stations – not to rest but to be certain that I got as much water down me as I could. I had already drunk about 5 litres of fluid on the bike without a single pee stop, so I knew that dehydrating was a real threat.

By the time I started the second lap I had seen Keith and Laine, both still smiling. The first lap through La Santa village had been a bit of a blur, but the second time round I noticed that all the restaurants and bars were full and people were barbecuing at the side of the road – everyone cheering. The atmosphere was fantastic.

The brilliantly organised aid stations became my focal point. The marshals, mainly Spanish, were very animated leaving you in no doubt what they were offering you. I now know the Spanish for water, energy drink, fruit, Red Bull, flat coke and banana!

As I left the stadium in Club La Santa to start my final 4-mile lap I had been on the go for over 6 hours and I was starting to suffer. I knew the next 40 minutes were going to be tough. My hamstrings were getting tighter, my feet hurt and in my haste to cover my head in water over the previous 90-minutes I had ended up with wet feet – running with wet feet is one of my pet hates.

The race course now resembled a battle ground as the day’s efforts and the baking sun took their toll. Only age-groupers were left on the course and everyone was stuck in their own world trying to get through it. Many were walking, some were sitting on the kerb trying to regroup and sadly some were being taken off the course by the medical team.

So here it was – my Ironman 70.3 had boiled down to a few very tough miles of running. I tried to think positive thoughts to help me through it. I started by unbanking Cate’s lovely text message. I thought about Matilda – my beautiful 11-year old daughter who had spent one too many Sunday breakfasts without her Dad there because he was out on his bike training for this. If there was no other reason to finish I owed it to her.  Between the three of us, slowly but surely, we covered the ground.

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The finish line!!!

And suddenly I was running back into the stadium at Club La Santa – just 200 metres between me and a hard earned Ironman 70.3 medal. As I ran round the stadium I tried to enjoy the moment but all I really wanted to do was finish and get off my feet! The finishing chute was a welcome sight. I crossed the line, my arms in the air, with the clock at 6.59 hrs – job done!

I was immediately scooped up by the post race system. First a medal, then a handshake and photo with Race Director Kenneth Gasque who stayed on the finish line for four and a half hours and shook every finisher’s hand. Then I was free. I grabbed a drink, sat down by the side of the race track and took my running shoes and socks off – bliss!

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Race Director Kenneth Gasgue…and my medal!!

If you ever want a dose of inspiration, spend an hour or so on the finish line of an Ironman event. I did exactly that and watched a procession of people achieve their ambition. Most impressively I watched Hilary Walker from Serpentine Tri in the 60-64 age group finish (she had kicked my arse on the bike!) and I had the privilege of seeing Peter Norman from the 75-79 age group finish. Both were inspirational.

And finally, in what I discovered is an Ironman event tradition, everyone gathered at the finish to welcome in the final competitor. A minute before the cut off time of 8.30 hours, Joanne Dodd appeared in the stadium to a rapturous reception. As she crossed the line bang on 8.30hrs the noise was deafening – looking around, there were definitely a few wobbly bottom lips going on. I can’t imagine the guts it must take to stick at it in these conditions for eight and a half hours. Take a bow Joanne. Whilst some of the elite performances were impressive, these guys are naturally gifted athletes who are paid to train full time, people like Joanne are the real heroes of this race.

Ironman 70.3 Lanzarote was a great way to end to my season – a real high point. Right now I don’t want to think beyond a few weeks of rest. There is plenty of time to plan what happens next season. For now I am going to afford myself a little time to enjoy what I have done!

The road to Lanzarote

What happened? One moment it was summer and now suddenly it’s Autumn. The Monster Middle and our Club Championships are just specs in my rear view mirror and that dot on the horizon that was Ironman 70.3 Lanzarote, is now dominating the landscape. It is approaching fast – in fact it is a week tomorrow. Yikes!

Once again I am in the horrible two-week no man’s land between training and competing. I finished my volume training almost a week ago and I am now winding down and training lightly in preparation for Saturday week. Some people call it tapering. I could think of another name for it. I hate it!

This time it is slightly different and my anxieties are not the same as usual. Apart from the normal concerns about phantom aches and pains, weight gain and dwindling fitness, this race brings with it a new set of things to fret about.
First it is in another country. I have to pack up my bike into a box and ship it overseas and get all of the rest of my tri kit into a suitcase. Then I just pray that some muscle-bound baggage handler doesn’t bend my bike or send my luggage to Morocco.

Added to that is the worry of forgetting something important. The option of popping home or borrowing something from a club mate doesn’t exist. My only safety net is my flexible friend and the hope that I can find what I have forgotten on the small remote island off the coast of Africa.

Then there is the weather. Lanzarote is on roughly the same line of latitude as the Bahamas with a climate to match. The race is run in October so that the worst of the summer heat has subsided; except this year it hasn’t! Temperatures which should be in the 70s are stuck stubbornly in the 80s and forecast to stay there next week. I am an Englishman – very at home running under 100% cloud cover and a past master at running in the rain. I am less comfortable running in the heat of the blazing midday sun – which if all goes to plan is exactly when I will be cycling towards transition and preparing to set off on a half marathon run on Saturday.

Just to compound my nerves, the list of competitors was published online yesterday. Everyone has a country after their name! Usually I wouldn’t give an athlete in my age group call Julian Hall a second glance. But Julian Hall (South Africa) is altogether a different proposition. This guy has flown half way round the world to kick my arse. I suspect Julian Hall is another age-grouper like me having his day in the sun, but put a country after his name and, in my mind, he is six feet tall wearing a tri suit covered in sponsors’ logo as he strides his way to a sub 1.20hrs half marathon. Then I chuckle to myself when I wonder if he thinks the same when he sees Peter Whent (Great Britain). If only he knew!

Deep down I am really excited. The second week of the taper (which is next week) is always the worst. This time I have lots to do to keep my mind occupied. I fly out on Tuesday. Then I have a bike to build and get serviced, I want to recce the swim course in the lagoon at La Santa, drive round the (horribly hilly) bike course, register, attend briefings, go to a pasta party and do a little bit of training.

I am hopeful it will all fly by and that everything will go to plan so that I can enjoy what should be the highlight of my season. Fingers crossed.

The Monster Middle – 18 August 2013

I drove the three hours to Ely on Saturday afternoon in time to register at Race HQ and attend the first event of the weekend, the pre race pasta party. It was less a party and more an exercise in staying dry on the restaurant terrace where it was held.

I was in Ely for the weekend with ten fellow members of Andover Triathlon Club to take part in the Monster Middle Triathlon. As the wind and rain threatened to spoil our dinner we should have spotted the clue to the next day’s race conditions. I went to bed early that night in my hotel grateful that I wasn’t camping like many other competitors.

My alarm went on Sunday morning at 4.15am but I was already wide awake. As I pushed some porridge around a pot trying to eat as much as I could, the realisation of what I was about to try and do dawned on me. Before today my short triathlon career consisted of three sprint triathlons. This half iron distance race consisting of a 1.2 mile swim, a 52 mile bike and a 13.1 mile run, was about four times the distance. That’s when the nerves really kicked in.

I arrived at Race HQ at about 5.30am as dawn was breaking. There was a quiet buzz around transition as competitors went about their preparation, but not much conversation. I quickly racked my bike, laid out my equipment and then headed off for a short warm up.

Monster group

Andover Triathlon Club before The Monster Middle

The swim was in the River Ouse and the start was about a kilometre from transition / Race HQ. So half an hour before  the start I put my wet suit on and joined my Andover Tri colleagues and together we made our way down river to the race briefing. Walking down the tow path with a dozen familiar faces, some of whom were old hands at this, helped calm me down a bit.

The Swim

mayor

The Mayor of Ely on starting duty

It was an in-water start and as we bobbed around waiting we were treated to a bizarre spectacle. A boat that looked like a canal barge was heading towards us. Standing on the rear deck was the Lady Mayor of Ely in her scarlet robes of office together with her mayoral chains. It was like something out of a Tom Sharp novel. It turned out she was the official starter. Without too much delay we received a countdown and then the hooter. We were off!

The swim course was back up the river past Race HQ to a buoy at about the 1500m mark where we turned back on ourselves and swam the 400m or so to the exit.

swim action

The swim underway

Despite some argy-bargy early on I pretty quickly found my rhythm. The narrow river meant the swim was crowded throughout so swimming in a straight line was important. The Lady Mayor came in handy here! As the royal barge led the swimmers up river, her scarlet robes were easy to spot and perfect for sighting. Soon things settled down as everyone found some space.

At about half way the swim course came into the built up area of the Ely riverside district. Here people lined the banks and looked down on us from the overhead bridges cheering us on which made for a great atmosphere. The noise grew louder as we swam past the exit and Race HQ.

Monster river swim

Swimming into Ely

As we approached the turning buoy about half a dozen of us converged on it at the same time – cue some more push and shove. Once round the buoy we were funnelled into a narrow channel that took us to the exit and everything got crowded again. I spent most of last couple of hundred metres trying to avoid flying feet and arms. As I stood up unsteadily on the exit ramp a marshal reached out and pulled me until my feet were on solid ground. One 1.9km swim done!

As I ran towards transition I heard Sam Pratt, one of the founders of our club, cheering me on. Sam had driven three hours to Ely to be at the start for 7.00am to support us. I saw Sam later out on the bike course and again on every lap of the run. Monster effort Sam!

swim exit MM

Swim exit

My main aim of the day was to get round successfully, but I would be lying if I said I hadn’t thought about the time. If finishing was my main goal, a sub 6.30 hrs time would be nice and a sub 6-hour finish would be the cherry on the icing on the cake. A 40-minute swim, a 3-hour bike and a sub 2-hour run would do it and were all within my reach but being a first-timer I had no idea what the cumulative effect of all three would be. I didn’t know it at the time, but I had finished the swim in 33.53 mins so I was off to a good start.

I didn’t rush through transition choosing to take time to get some nutrition on board before setting off on the bike. In retrospect maybe four and a quarter minutes was a bit too leisurely – more of a picnic!

The Bike

The bike course was a short “out” leg and then twice round a 25 mile circuit. The loop started on the Ely ring road which was fast. Determined to pace myself, I watched quite a lot bikes pass me at this stage. It was hard seeing them all head off up the road but I knew the important thing right now was to concentrate on my own race.

I was just settling down into a nice rhythm when I heard a cry of  “Oy Oy!” behind me. There was only one person that voice belonged to. My team mate Jason Briley came zipping past me on his new tri bike. Cycling is his strong suit and with his new bike he was a man on a mission. He was here today to break his PB and he was en route to taking an astonishing 1:30 hrs off his previous best time for a half iron distance triathlon.

Once we left the ring road, the quality of roads deteriorated. In fact the further we got from Ely the worse the roads became. The wind was also picking up and it seemed that we hit the worst of the head winds when we were on the worst of the roads. The wind was even stronger and more uncomfortable on the second lap. Despite that I felt good for nearly all of the bike leg and in the last ten miles even started overtaking some of those people who had overtaken me 40 miles earlier. The tortoise and the hare and all that!

As I rode back through town and into T2 I wasn’t sorry to see the end of the bike leg and being buffeted by the wind. My bike computer showed my average speed was over 17mph so I figured I must be roughly on track for sub-6 hours. That of course was dependant on whether my running legs turned up. My time for the bike leg was 2:56:34 hrs

The Run

I got through T2 in just over 2 minutes. As I was going through my routine I heard a voice behind shout: “Come on slacker!”

It was Dan Mason and Jase Lewis standing watching me. Jase, another club member, is injured but had driven from Portsmouth with his wife to support us and to marshal for the day. Triathlon needs more people like Jase! Dan has a qualifying race for the European Champs coming up in about three-weeks and so he had taken the cautious option and pulled out of the race when an old  ankle injury starting hurting on the run.

The run course was a 2.5 mile out leg and then four circuits of a little over 2.5 miles each which took us through the middle of Ely and round the cathedral. It was very scenic and very atmospheric but also had two pretty noticeable hills in it – so much for a flat course! My legs were soon over the bike but it took me a good twenty minutes to get into a steady rhythm. But once I did I felt pretty good and just focused on keeping a steady comfortable pace.

The City Centre part of the course was great fun. The population of Ely seem to have really taken this event their hearts and a lot of them had turned out to cheer. Having spent almost four hours alone it was good to see some Andover Club tri suits as I ran. I saw Pete Dennet, Pete Holt and John Simmonds all heading for good finishes. Shaun Green, our eventual club champion, passed me as he started his fourth lap having already finished once! Even with a pause at Race HQ between his third and fourth laps he was still our fastest finisher by nearly ten minutes.

Each lap got a little harder. No sooner were you boosted by the support as you ran past race HQ and collected another of the four wristbands required to finish, than you were straight into one of the long hills at the start of the next lap. As I started the last lap there were lots of signs of the race taking its toll. Queues of people were walking up the hills or stopping altogether. I am pleased to say that with the exception of a couple of drinks stations were I walked as I drank, I ran the whole thing.

The marshals were working overtime encouraging everyone. One marshal in particular on the High Street was continuously cajoling and motivating people. On my last lap I stopped to thank him – he was one of the highlights of the run. The other highlight was running past the finish area each time where the ubiquitous Sam Pratt was standing and encouraging us. I needed all of that encouragement for the last few miles where I had to dig in a bit to keep my pace up. I had been on the go for somewhere around 5-6 hours and I could feel it. As I reached the top of the last hill I finally started to celebrate – less than a mile left part of which was downhill.

As the last lap drew to a close I turned off the road and past transition and headed for the finish line. The first person I saw was Jason Briley with a big grin on his face. Jason and his powers of persuasion are single-handedly responsible for me doing this race. As I approached he yelled at me:

“I told you you could do it!” He seemed genuinely pleased for me.

MOnster finish

After 5.35 hours – the finish at last!

He was the first person I high fived as I ran down the finishing chute. As I crossed the line the race’s sound system was booming out: “What’s that coming over the hill, it is monster, is it a monster?”

The Aftermath.

Once I had my medal and some water, I wandered over to the timing tent to get a print out of times and splits. I felt as though I may have crept in under 6 hours so could hardly believe my eyes when I read it. I had finished in 5:35:32 hrs, twenty five minutes inside my most ambitious target – helped by A 1.58 hr half-marathon. That’s either an advert for not wearing a watch or for a flat course.

When I rejoined the rest of the Andover Tri crew everyone was very excited as we waited and cheered all of our club members over the finish line. There were lots of PBs and an age group podium place. Andover Tri had given a very good account of itself. What a club!

Congratulations to Shaun Green who was first from our club to finish in 4.44 hrs but would have finished a lot faster but for some confusion over the lap count. Congratulations also to Louisa Vere who was our Ladies Champion and who finished third overall in her age group.

So that is The Monster Middle behind me. It was a really enjoyable race and a great day out for Andover Triathlon Club. I think a middle distance club championship may become an annual fixture.

Next up for me is a light week of rest and recovery exercise and then six weeks of training before Ironman 70.3 Lanzarote where the bike leg, like Ely will be windy, but unlike Ely will most definitely not be flat! I think some hill training is on the menu for me.

Those Andover Tri Club results in full:

Name Age Group Swim Bike Run Total
Shaun Green 45 – 49

00:27:07

02:15:44

01:59:08

04:44:09

Jason Briley 40 – 44

00:40:42

02:20:41

01:47:48

04:51:59

Peter Dennett 45 – 49

00:32:36

02:31:11

01:49:03

04:56:28

David Hall 35 – 39

00:31:24

02:35:01

01:54:05

05:02:56

Matthew Streets 30 – 34

00:33:07

02:39:00

01:59:15

05:16:29

Chris Thompson 40 – 44

00:28:59

02:27:21

02:22:52

05:21:44

Louisa Vere 25 – 29

00:35:09

02:51:03

02:02:04

05:32:15

Peter Whent 50 – 54

00:33:53

02:56:34

01:58:25

05:35:32

Peter Holt 40 – 44

00:42:02

03:00:27

02:22:57

06:09:46

Jon Simmonds 40 – 44

00:41:40

03:24:56

02:34:42

06:47:08

Dan Mason 35 – 39       DNF

Getting specific in 2013

I have to very honest and say that I am sad to see the end of 2012. As an English sports fan I have to rate it as a vintage year. Amongst the many highlights were a home Olympics and a Tour de France champion. It is also the year in which I ran my first marathon, at the age of 52, and equalled my half marathon personal best (PB) of 1.52 hrs. And if that wasn’t enough I also did my first triathlon and fell head over heels in love with the sport this year.

But I am not a great one for looking backwards and dwelling on the past – I prefer to look optimistically to the future. The fact that I couldn’t tell you exactly where my London Marathon medal is, but suspect it is buried underneath a pile of socks in a dresser drawer with various other finisher’s medals, illustrates how un-nostalgic I am about the past! So what about 2013?

I try to be very specific about my New Year’s resolutions, especially where they concern my running and triathlon. Last night I listened to several people resolve that in 2013 they were going to “get fit” or they were going to “eat better”. How do you know if you have been successful? How do you assess these? I think if you are to stand a chance of staying motivated and achieving what you set out to achieve then you have to set yourself very specific goals that you can measure.

As an example the very first objective I gave myself when I decided to get off my sofa and get myself fit and healthy (I can scarcely believe that it is over two years ago now) was: To lose 30 lbs by Easter. Then it was: to run 10k in under an hour by the end of June. No grey areas, these were “pass or fail” objectives.

Here are the goals I set myself this time last year (and the results):

  1. Complete the London Marathon in April (success)
  2. Complete my first sprint distance triathlon in the summer (success)
  3. Beat my 1/2 Marathon PB (almost – I equalled it!)
  4. Complete an Olympic distance triathlon (fail – I got injured a week before)
  5. Beat my 10k PB (fail – I didn’t attempt it for several reasons)

There is no hiding from these and I can’t pretend that I succeeded where I failed. I like it that way.

This is want I want to achieve, on the sporting front, in 2013

  1. Beat my 1/2 Marathon PB in March at the Bath Half
  2. Run a sub 50 minute 10k before 1 October
  3. Complete an Olympic distance tri in the summer
  4. Complete a 1/2 Ironman Tri before the end of the year (I am entered for Ironman 70.3 Lanzarote on 5 October)

I have one other sports related goal and here I am going to break my own rule about being specific. I want to get a better understanding of the extent to which what I eat day-to-day has an effect on my performance and then try it out. I am going to start with an obvious one and cut out alcohol until after the Bath Half on 3 March. I am not a big drinker anyway but I think that even small amounts of alcohol effect my recovery between runs. If you are in a training program that involves four runs a week it is important that you recover quickly after each one. Maybe once I understand the relationship between food and performance I will make a more specific resolution.

As sorry as I am to see the end of 2012, I am really excited about what 2013 has in store. As well as sporting challenge I am hopeful that 2013 will bring me some really exciting challenges professionally and personally. But above all else I hope we all remain healthy and happy.

Whatever you are planning or hoping for this year I hope that 2013 is everything it can be and more for all of you. But remember when you set your goals – get specific!!