Tag Archives: triathlon

Does my bum look fast in this?

At about this time of year I am normally packing my season away in a box and thinking about what I am going to do over the winter. But this year I have extended my season, or to be more accurate, I have re-opened my season.

After I ran Race to The Stones in July I didn’t have any other events in the diary. Three ultras felt like enough, beside which my feet were in shreds. A rest was on the cards.

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Race to The Stones BBQ – missing a couple of team members

August was taken up with a variety of things. First we had to get Matilda and her friend to Pony Club Camp. Just two-girls, two ponies and a tent for a week, but it felt like a full military deployment. Then we had the all-important Race to The Stones barbecue. And of course we had our family summer holiday. This year we went to the south of Spain.

Although I kept exercising throughout, my mind was focused on other things and there was no structure or purpose to my training. The result was that my weight and my fitness went in opposite direction, both heading the wrong way.

If you allow yourself to put on weight and let your fitness ebb away slowly enough, you don’t notice the change. The realisation starts when you can’t find a T-shirt to run in that doesn’t show your spare tyre.

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One of the positives of running on holiday – I persuaded Matilda to run with me!!

But my “Road to Damasacus” moment came on a run while we were on holiday in Spain. It was hot and I was working quite hard, I would have guessed my pace was about 8.15 minute per mile, but my watch was showing my pace as 9 minutes a mile. In my state of denial I convinced myself that it was because I had an English watch and the GPS didn’t work properly in Spain. But I knew.

The evidence that sealed the case, if any were needed, came when I got on the scales after returning from holiday. If they could talk the scales would have said: “One at a time please” before showing me a number I haven’t seen for a few years. That was it. Enough! Time to take myself in hand.

So on the day after the August Bank Holiday, I declared my season open again and entered The Clarendon Half Marathon in early October. I got my bike out, dusted off my swimming gear and I went to it.

I started training six days a week with the priority being running and in particular speed training and tempo running. I swam and cycled as cross training. I find that my run fitness rockets if I swim and bike on non-running days. At the same time I seriously cleaned up my diet.

It only took a week before I noticed the early signs of improvement. As the end of September got nearer my numbers were improving and I had shed about 10 lbs. I am sure my training was paying dividends, but I am convinced that it was the weight loss that made the real difference.

I have been doing parkrun for about a year but during that time I have never been at peak running fitness. Recently I have been trying to go to parkrun every Saturday as it provides a good benchmark of progress as well as a really enjoyable social run with friends.

Going into September I had a best time of 23.26 mins. One Saturday near the end of September I forgot my watch (which was working again by now!) so just ran to feel. I didn’t think I was hammering it, but nor was I holding back. I took 20 seconds off my best time.

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The Andover Lake Run – a 10k in support of the local Foodbank

The following week I went back with my watch on with the aim of seeing what I could do if I gave it some beans. The answer, I took more than another minute of my parkrun PB which now stands at 22.05 mins. The previous week I had run a fantastic 10k in Andover in aid of the local food bank and come home in 46.30mins. (confession: I think the course was a bit short). Things were on the up.

Last weekend I ran the Clarendon Half – a hilly and muddy 13.1 miles from Broughton to Winchester. I had no real plans to chase a time until my Race to The Stones partner-in-crime, Neville, asked me on the start line what my target was. From nowhere I said:

“Two hours”.

That was based on nothing. No science, no course recce and certainly no thought. Top of the head stuff! The look on Nev’s face told me that I was being a bit ambitious given the profile of the course, but he was polite enough not to say so. And anyway, it was too late, I had said it.

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Enjoying The Clarendon Half

It actually turned out to be the best thing that happened. My pace and progress during the race was always tantalisingly close to a 2 hour run, so when I was tempted to walk the hills I thought better of it. I had to answer to Nev at the finish line!!

The most satisfying part was that moment when I thought I was dropping off the pace and I touched the accelerator and for the first time in eighteen months something actually happened! My training and weight loss had made a real difference.

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The Run-in

Always one to leave things to the last-minute, I sneaked over the finish line with 26 seconds to spare for a 1.59.34mins finish. On that course and given were I was five weeks earlier, I was thrilled.

So that, in a rather large nutshell, is why I am continuing my season. I am enjoying my training and I am especially enjoying being a slightly faster runner again and I am not ready to go into winter hibernation.

Next up is a step back in time to when I was at school. I have joined the local Athletics Club so that I can race in the Hampshire Cross Country League over the winter. For some people cross-country brings on flashbacks of cold wet torture from their schooldays. I have all kinds of great memories of running cross-country at school. It’s where I discovered my love of running, so I am quite excited to get out there.

Sods Law, the first race is at Farley Mount in Winchester which is the site of the biggest hill in the Clarendon Half. At least I should know the course!

 

 

Winter Training by Numbers

The low point of the triathlon calendar occurs at about this time in February. Last season is a distant memory and my first race is still a long way off, yet I am still having to get out of bed at ungodly times to train. Add to that the fact that any training before 7.00am or after 4.30pm has to be done in the dark and probably in freezing temperatures and you get the picture – it is a slog.

But winter training doesn’t have to be a chore. 2015 will be my third season in triathlon, so this is my third time round the winter training routine. My first winter was just about training and staying fit – what I lacked in structure I made up for in enthusiasm. My second winter was all about the bike. It identified itself very quickly as my weak spot and so I set about changing that. My chosen training regime was all volume and no science. If there was a club ride I was on it. If there wasn’t I was out on my own or with a friend come hell or high water – well we didn’t have hell that winter but I learned to cycle on flooded roads.

The only drawback with this approach was that I didn’t measure anything, so I had no accurate way of knowing if I had improved apart from how it felt. It certainly felt better, but it wasn’t until my first race in early June that I was able to prove it – a bit late if it turned out I hadn’t improved.

So this winter I am taking a completely different approach. Less volume and more science.

The less volume is a deliberate effort to rid myself of the junk miles I did last winter. The science is all about measuring myself on the basis that what you can measure you can improve. It’s the introduction of the numbers that has made winter training such fun this year and it’s the reason I can say with confidence, even at this early stage, that I am improving.

On the bike my measure of choice is power. How many Watts am I producing? images (5)And the way I am measuring that is through a cheap, but brilliant, system called TrainerRoad which works with any popular turbo trainer. I blogged about it a month or so ago. The structured workouts have already produced an increase in my power of 15% since November and there is definitely more to come. I have added a vital ingredient to my training, a virtual training buddy in the form of Chris Glover. We have been through exactly the same program together, mostly working out on the same day and the moaning, celebrating and general banter over Facebook Messenger has become an integral part of the process.

In the pool is where I need most help to train. My approach to date has been to pound up and down the pool hoping things get better – they haven’t. This year I am using a geeky sounding measure called “Critical Swim Speed”. It is what a runner would refer to as “Threshold”. It is measured using a simple swimming test that requires no specialist equipment, except obviously a swimming pool. Once you have established it then you train by doing intervals of varying lengths at your CSS and then retest every 4-6 weeks. I am hoping that a combination of CSS training and the technique lessons I had in the Autumn will see my swim times budge from the place where they have been stubbornly stuck for two years.

Which just leaves running. This is the area where I feel most confident and yet where I am making the biggest change to my training. In the past I have relied on speed work combined with a weekly long slow run to get me run fit for long-distance triathlon. My approach probably looks unchanged to any observer but on the long run I am trying a training technique pioneered by a guy called Phil Maffetone and introduced to me by Chris Glover.

Maffetone uses a formula to calculate your ideal endurance training heart rate which will be different depending on your age and current fitness. The magic number for me is 130. On my long runs I am not allowed to let my heart rate go over 130. At first it seemed impossible. I had to keep to about a 10-minute mile which is at least a minute a mile slower than I would normally train on a long slow run.

But that is the crux of Maffetone’s theory. Bashing out lots of modestly brisk miles is neither speed training nor endurance training. It’s training in that no-man’s-land that we know as “junk miles”.

By training at a heart rate of 130 bpm, Maffetone believes that I am conditioning my body to fuel itself with the oxygen I breathe and not eat into my glycogen energy stores that are scarce and quickly burned. As it becomes more efficient it can do more for less which in practical terms means I can run faster for longer. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. Just a few weeks in and I have seen my pace improve by 15 seconds per mile at the same heart rate. It seems Mr Maffetone might be onto something.

Whether all the science and numbers produces a better triathlete come next Spring we will have to wait and see. But what they have produced is a really interesting back drop to my training. I feel as motivated as I have at any point in any of the last few winters and that has to be worth something

Hello, my name is Peter and I am a KFC addict

Today is New Year’s Eve – the last day of excess before the slate is wiped clean. It’s the day when everyone leaves the past behind and tries to change their lives for good, or at least until they try again next New Year’s Eve!!

I think I have a better claim than most people that New Year’s Eve changed my life. It was on this day 18 years ago that I met Cate in an Italian restaurant in London. Although I didn’t know it at the time, we would be engaged less than a year later and married within 18 months. Events don’t get much more life-changing than that!

Then four years ago, on New Year’s Eve 2010, I made a resolution to get off the sofa, shed the increasing amount of weight I was carrying and get myself fit. I had no idea as I made that New Year’s resolution, of the incredible journey I was about to embark on.

I had reached New Year’s Eve 2010 with my weight at an all-time high of 14st 10lbs. That doesn’t sound much if you are six feet tall, but I am not, I’m five feet seven. According to the NHS height weight chart I had strayed in obese territory. I had never thought of myself as obese, porky yes, but obese, really? But let’s not worry about the terminology – it was in danger of becoming a health issue.

Before

14st 10lbs – during the KFC years!

It was especially frustrating for me because for a large part of my life I had been very fit. I ran county level cross country and was in the county rugby squad at school. I spent five years in the Army where being fit was kind of what you did!After the Army I continued playing rugby and running into my early thirties.

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12 stone – KFC a distant memory

It is easy to fall back on convenient excuses for why I let myself get fat and unfit. I could blame a business career, I could blame being married to an excellent cook or even fatherhood. They would all be untrue. The fact is that I just got complacent and stopped bothering. Alongside that, I had a bad relationship with food and the two made for a toxic combination.

As a bachelor living in London, takeaways were my downfall. If I tell you that I lived near an Indian Restaurant that would bring a takeaway to your house and I was on first name terms with the delivery boy, then you get some idea of the scale of the problem.

I also like fast food. For some reason I particularly liked KFC. I liked it so much I would go out of my way to find it – I even had a KFC map in the car which untitled (8)showed every outlet in the UK, so I was never far from the Colonel’s Recipe. Where I worked, it was a Friday lunchtime ritual to send the junior person in the office off to the KFC Drive Thru to bring us back a bucket of the stuff.

In my mind, KFC is still a symbol of all that was wrong with the way I ate in the bad old days.

Then on 31 December 2010 that all changed. I threw the take away menus in the bin and took hold. My aim was to drop two stones by Easter. At the same time I tried to get myself fit. I still remember the first two-mile run. Slow and painful with several walk breaks – I found it hard to believe how far away I was from being the cross-country runner and rugby player of my younger days.

Gradually the weight came off and the runs got less painful and the walk breaks less frequent. Then the distances became longer and the rest, if not exactly history, is documented in the pages of this blog. In 2014 I even managed to race at a weight that started with the words “eleven stone”!

I haven’t been back into a KFC since that day – four years clean! I don’t think I am in quite the same position as a reformed alcoholic or smoker who doesn’t dare have one drink or cigarette for fear of opening the floodgates again. KFC feels like something I used to do then and that I don’t do now and so for the time being at least, it will stay that way. More symbolic than anything.

So on New Year’s Eve I will raise a glass to many things; a happy New Year to everyone, eighteen years with my lovely wife and four years since I took control and unknowingly started the most extraordinary journey. A journey that has taken me to places I never imagined I would go and one on which I have met, actually and virtually, lots of fantastic people many of whom I now think of as friends. That’s worth more than any medal or personal best I have gained along the way. But the best part is that it is a journey that continues with lots of new challenges and it will continue without KFC!

I wish all of you a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year. I hope 2015 brings you everything you wish for.

 

The 2014 Season – My five favourite photographs

I don’t need to look at the calendar to work out that my 2014 triathlon season is over – a quick look in the fridge is enough. Just four weeks ago I was in that two week “purdah” that I subject myself to before a big race; eating clean, no alcohol and lots of water. Now the fridge has a very “post-season” feel to it. Beer, ice cream, chocolate cake and more.

As I drink my beer and reflect on the season, I do so with a real sense of satisfaction. More important than anything I achieved, I have a lot of really great memories from 2014. I think most of those memories are captured somewhere in photographs. So rather than add another season’s review to the dozens you will see on the Blogoshpere, I have chosen my five favourite photographs from the season. With them comes all of my best memories of the year.

I can’t apologise for them having a very Ironman theme – it was the dominant theme of the year. However I have tried not to make them all pictures of me 🙂

Here they are in reverse order:

5. Ironman UK swim start

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 The date was 20th July. After a year of thinking about it, six months of training for it and a few weeks of proper nerves worrying about it, Ironman UK was here. As I got into the water at 5.45 in the morning all the nerves turned to excitement. Fifteen minutes later the hooter went and we were racing. It was incredible – noisy, frenetic, physical but most of all exhilarating. I love this picture of the start taken from a drone. It brings all those memories flooding back.

4. The Ironman finish line

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No not my Ironman finish line! Completing an Ironman is an incredible feeling. Of all the pictures I have seen, none of them captures the joy of crossing that line more than these. My friend Nick Wall is crossing the line in Nice at Ironman France and the look on his face is one of relief and unbridled joy at getting there. Carrie Power’s picture is a great piece of photography that captures a moment of jubilant celebration – Carrie describes it as: “…getting some air at the finish of IM Mallorca”!

3. Volunteers

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I am glad this photo is one of my favourites because it enables me to give a shout out to all the volunteers who have helped make racing such fun this year. At every event I have been to they have been brilliant. This one was taken at The European Middle Distance Championships in Majorca where the temperature soared into the mid-30s on the run. This picture captures it all. Instructed to hand out sponges to runners, the volunteers took it upon themselves to offer a makeshift shower to cool us down using anything they could lay their hands on. The girl on the right is so intent on keeping athletes cool that she is soaked to the skin herself. She probably didn’t mind as it was so hot, but like all the volunteers I saw this year, she was prepared to go the extra mile to give competitors a great race.

2. WAGS and HABS

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I don’t subject Cate and Matilda to spectating at triathlon events too often, but they were there in a big way in Bolton. They gave up three days to come with me and on race morning they got up at 3.30am to take me to the shuttle bus to the start. They then found their own way to the swim start for 5.30am and spent the next 14 or so hours standing on the side of various roads around Lancashire supporting me. Passing them was a 15-minute boost every time. Here they are at Pennington Flash at 6.00am smiling, like they smiled all day.

1. The Hardest Race

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My favourite photograph of the season was taken at my last race which, because of the extreme heat on the bike and the run, was also the hardest race I have done – not just this season, any season!  It was taken with my friend Judit Leszkovich in the athletes area behind the finish straight after the race. Photographically there are better shots of this moment, but none of them captures the emotions like this one. It shows a combination of the shellshock we were feeling after a brutal race, the relief and joy of reaching the finish (many didn’t) as well as the pride of doing it in GB tri suit. A great end to a great season.

 

The ETU European Middle Distance Triathlon Championships – 18 October 2014

The Build Up

At the start of this season, GB honours hadn’t even entered my thinking. My single goal for the season was to finish Ironman UK. But then in June at the Outlaw Half I had one of those races where everything clicked and I ended up on the podium and I qualified in my age group to race for GB at the European Middle Distance Triathlon Championships in Paguera-Majorca in October.

My friend and club mate Judit Leszkovich also qualified and we travelled to Majorca together on Wednesday in preparation for Saturday’s race, neither of us sure what to expect but very excited.

Things kicked off on Thursday with a GB team bike ride to recce the course. The ride was done at a very gentle pace, so lots of conversation and the general consensus was that this was a rolling course with the potential for fast times. Spoiler alert – in my case it wasn’t!

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The swim course on Thursday

The afternoon was a team swim practice. This was less inviting. On Thursday there was a big swell which was driving breaking waves onto the beach. It is never a good sign to see people surfing on the swim course two days before an event! What I thought would be a gentle team swim practice turned out to be a crash course in how to swim in rough water. The only crumb of comfort was the forecast, which said that the sea state would be calm on Saturday, but worryingly it also predicted that the temperature was going to rise sharply.

Friday was a logistics day, but first Judit and I ran one loop of the run course. It seemed pretty straight forward with just one longish hill, but even at 10.00am it was baking hot!!

The rest of the day was taken up with team photos, bike racking, a pasta party and a race briefing. Our excellent team manager, Brent Perkins, kept the GB team behind afterwards the race briefing for a pep talk which finished with: “You are all Team GB triathletes now, you are here because you have earned it, race proud”. I don’t mind admitting that I left the room with a lump in my throat.

Fast forward 24 hours and about a thousand competitors are standing on Playa Tora, the main beach in Paguera, staring out at a flat calm sea waiting for the race to start. The sea state forecast was never in doubt!! The race referee had declared a non-wetsuit swim because of the water temperature. For reasons best known to the organisers, the race start had been set for midday and already the temperature was into the high 20s – Thursday’s wind had died, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and it was breathless so we were all bracing ourselves for a long and very hot day at the office.

The swim

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Our swim start – we’re in there somewhere!

Everything started spot on time so at 12.15pm exactly the hooter sounded and about 100 of us in my wave (all male age groups over 40) made a 20 yard dash to the sea followed by a free for all. I positioned myself to one side to avoid the inevitable ruck.

Conditions couldn’t have been better for the 1.2 mile (1.9km) swim.  The water was flat and beautifully clear and I could see all of the marine life below me – what’s not to like! I found space early on and quickly settled into a rhythm. Once round the turning buoy at about 950m I had a good second half of the swim getting towed along for a while by a Danish guy.

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One 1.9km swim done – not looking my best

At the swim exit a red carpet led us uphill for the 300m run from the beach to T1, so I arrived at my bike with my heart pounding out of my chest.

The Bike

The 56 mile (90km) bike leg was two laps which started with a ride straight through the middle of Pageura which I used to try and sort myself out with a quick drink and a gel.

Like my swimming, I always take a while to settle into a rhythm on the bike. Unfortunately the first and only hill of note on the bike course arrived before the rhythm did. This hill had seemed easy on the recce ride but my attempt to attack it today only partially succeeded.

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Trying to attack a hill!

Next came a 10k “out and back” section on a narrow road. The outward 5km was pretty much all uphill. Add to that cyclists on the return leg coming back down the hill at speeds of over 40mph passing less than a metre from us (one of which was Judit!) and things got a bit hairy.

Most of the rest of the course was quite fast with plenty of opportunity to settle onto the aero bars and establish some rhythm.

We passed through the holiday resort of Palmanova where, as you would expect, wearing a GB tri suit got you got some passionate patriotic support from spectators who probably hadn’t been up long. Guys you were great and put a smile on my face for the next 10 minutes!

One last hill and a descent took us back to Paguera and the end of lap one. At this point and I was on for a sub-3 hour bike split which would have done fine. But things are never that simple. The hills and the heat took it out of me on the second lap and eventually I pulled into T2 after 3.09hrs.

The run

I headed out on to the run in an optimistic mood. The run is my favourite discipline and it’s the one I usually do best in.

It normally takes me five minutes to shake off the effects of the bike and to see what state my running legs are in. Today I knew almost immediately that I was in trouble. My legs weren’t the problem, I just had nothing in the tank. Holding a modest 9 minute mile pace was already proving a struggle. As I ran along the beach front I genuinely wondered how I was going to complete a half-marathon.

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The run – hard yards!!

Then the rational side of my brain kicked in. What had gone wrong? I hadn’t hammered it on the bike and my legs felt OK. It had to be a hydration or nutrition problem. I mentally retraced my steps on the bike leg and I couldn’t remember drinking a lot. I needed a plan.

By the first feed station I was labouring. I walked through it and took a salt tablet, a gel and drank as much water as I dared. I did the same at the next two feed stations. By midway through the second lap a little energy returned and things looked up.

The hill that we had thought little of on the recce run proved to be a huge obstacle under race conditions. By the second lap there was a long queue of people walking up it – even pros. It wasn’t just the gradient that was providing such a challenge, it was the heat. The thermometer outside the pharmacy on the run course in the centre of town said 36 degrees C (97 degree F) – the heat was just sucking the energy out of the race.

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The thermometer on the run course – sweltering!

By the third lap things had deteriorated further. I saw several people who had just stepped off the race course and quit. I also saw a girl racing for GB sitting on the kerb by a feed station, she was completely spent. Her race was over. When I saw the results later there were a lot of DNFs and several GB team mates spent the night in hospital with dehydration. By any standards conditions were brutal.

The race for me became a war of attrition. I don’t know if it was the tri suit I was wearing or just a stubborn streak, but I stuck to the task. As I approached the hill on each lap I promised myself that I would not walk, but as a reward I allowed myself ten seconds of walking at the top. Apart from that I only walked through the feed stations but admit I sometimes lingered!

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Still moving forward!

One of the things that I am sure kept a lot of people going was the fantastic support for GB. Holidaymakers, friends, family and all the GB support team lined the streets all afternoon cheering us on. The atmosphere in Paguera was incredible. I have to mention Nick and Simon from Tri Camp who for just two people made a lot of noise. Simon parked himself at the top of the big hill and encouraged tired triathletes up the last 20 metres all afternoon.

By the fourth lap I was feeling all right (everything is relative!!) – I think the psychological effect of knowing I was on the home stretch helped. My last lap turned out to be my fastest and I gained two places in my age group in the final 5k.

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Never been so pleased to see a finish line! (Subtract 15 mins from clock for my wave time!!)

Finally after what seemed like the longest afternoon of my life, I ran into the finish area. Finishing involved a lap around the main square with a grandstand on two sides, both of which were full. The atmosphere was great. I think the crowd understood the ordeal we had been through. I have never been so pleased to cross a finish line. And who was the first face I saw when I finished? The ever present Brent Perkins.

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Judit and me – just pleased to have finished!

My finish time was 6.13hrs and gave me 12th place out of 23 in my age group. I was the 5th Brit home out of 13 in my age group. It wasn’t my fastest 70.3 by some way, but it is one I am proud of. Proud that I was representing my country and I don’t think I let the side down – that was very important to me. But also proud of the way I came back from adversity on the run to finish well. I feel as though I thought clearly under pressure even if the pressure had been caused by my own lack of concentration on the bike. I am also pleased just to have finished. It was without question the hardest 70.3 race I have done.

The Aftermath

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A well earned beer

I caught up with Judit in the athletes area. She had finished in 5.41hrs and had placed well in her age group. We chatted to other GB athletes and the story was the same everywhere – this was the hardest race they had done.

A few hours later, after a shower and a change we returned to the square for the awards ceremony and closing fireworks display. Then the highlight of the evening, the Team GB after party. Brent had arranged that we take over a bar on the beach front.

Take a group of excited triathletes, a large dollop of adrenalin and feel good endorphins, a warm evening, add a plentiful supply of cold beer and you have the recipe for a great party. About 75 of us spent several hours telling each other how brutal the race had been. Doesn’t sound much of a conversation does it – but we enjoyed it!!

After what seemed like 10 minutes I looked at my watch and it was nearly 2.00am. A quick bite to eat and it was time to bring an incredible day and a fantastic triathlon season to a close. Strangely I had no problem getting to sleep!

Thank you Brent Perkins and your support team as well as all my team mates on Team GB. You were all awesome, the camaraderie was incredible and I had the time of my life – an experience I will never forget!!

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Team GB – ETU European Middle Distance Triathlon Championships 2014 – Paguera – Majorca

My body is eating itself

Two weeks and three days to go and the nerves are beginning to jangle.

Everything became a bit more real this week as three of my friends completed 10491098_10152549189272288_4681211261765486426_nIronman France in Nice. Up until now I have to confess that I have been hiding behind my friends. In my mind Ironman UK was after France and so if Ironman France hadn’t happened then Ironman UK wasn’t here yet. Well it just did and it is. On Sunday evening on La Promenade des Anglais, Nick Wall, Liz Mayon-White and Pete Holt became Ironmen. Heroes!

Meanwhile back in the UK my training was reaching a crescendo with one last push. The last two weeks have been full on – 32 hours of training, two one hundred-mile bike rides, long runs, full Iron distance open water swims and more. I have emptied the tank and now it is time to let it recharge.

I hesitate to use the word taper because to me that word has connotations of putting your feet up and declaring training over. Nothing could be further from the truth. My training continues but the really long sessions are done. I plan to keep some volume and intensity for the next week and then ease off for the last ten days to allow my body to fully recover before race day. But I will continue to train lightly even during race week.

One of the side effects of the huge volume of training has been on my body weight. I reckon that in each of the last two weeks I have burned about 12,000 calories over and above the 2,500 a normal man burns just by existing. Surprisingly that amount of calories is quite hard to replace, especially if you try and do it sensibly. It is equivalent to 140 slices of granary bread (20 a day!!) or 80 cream eggs!! Without a stream of cream eggs to keep the calorie count up, my body has turned to its own fat stores for help. It is literally feasting on itself.

Even though I am constantly hungry and eating ad lib, my weight has gone down. For the first time in maybe 20 years my weight recently started with the words “11 stone”. Maybe I have stumbled upon an effective fool proof weight loss regime – on second thoughts it probably has a limited appeal!

In other news I had the most pleasant surprise this week. On the strength of my result at the Outlaw Half, I received an email from British Triathlon telling me that I have been given a place to race for Great Britain in my age group at the European Middle Distance Championship in Majorca in October.

It is impossible to put into words what that means to me. At first I just felt Zerod-Tri-Suit-500x500excited as I rushed around booking flights and hotels. It wasn’t until a little later when I went online to order my GBR triathlon suit that it suddenly sank in. I am going to race for Great Britain! I am going to race in a GB tri suit with my name on it and everything! What an honour.

My 82 year old Mother came to dinner on Monday to celebrate her birthday. She was naturally thrilled by my news – a proud Mum. But the spice went out of it for her when she learned that we weren’t going to Majorca on a chartered British Airways Team GB plane. Well she has a point!

But having done what I need to do to get organised for October, I now have to put all that to the back of my mind. Ironman is not something you can go into preoccupied, it needs to have my full attention for the next 18 days. My GB selection will be a lovely distraction to return to after that and will hopefully go some way to relieving the post Ironman blues that everyone talks about.

To everyone doing Ironman UK, happy tapering. We are almost there!!

The Chiltern Challenge 100

I wouldn’t usually blog about a cycle sportive but the Chiltern Challenge 100 was different for several reasons. It was to be the first time I have ridden 100 miles (lots of 75-85 milers recently but no century) and it was also one of my final dress rehearsals for the bike leg of Ironman UK.

I chose the Chiltern Challenge 100 because of the timing. It took place exactly four weeks to the day before Ironman which would give me time to fit another one in if I wanted to and it was also quite a challenging ride with over 4,000 feet of ascent. I also chose to do a sportive rather than a ride at home because it imposed a “race day” discipline on me. I had to be at registration by 7.30am which meant I had to get up early which all added to the sense of dress rehearsal.

Fast forward to 8.00am and there I was waiting under the starting arch with about ten others listening to a safety briefing and then we were off. I should point out that there were more than ten of us doing this ride, it is just that they set us off in small groups for safety reasons.

The first ten miles were pretty straight forward, a few introductions and a bit of chat but any ideas that this was going to be a six-hour social were dispelled as we hit the first big hill at about 15 miles. It may have been the first hill but it was the biggest hill of the day reaching 12% at it most spiteful about half way up. I was grateful for my compact crank set which meant I never struggled with my cadence while others around me almost ground to a halt – literally.

The climb gave way to a long and satisfying descent which got the average speed back up and was only interrupted by the first feed station at about 20-miles.

Part of my dress rehearsal plan was not to use or do anything that I couldn’t do on race day. I had a slight challenge here as Ironman only gives out Powerbar products on race day and The Chiltern Challenge 100 was sponsored by High Five and so only dished out their goods. I was very keen to see how my stomach reacted to 100-miles of Powerbar and so I had to carry it all with me, including energy drink mix. I lingered at the feed station just long enough to fill up with water and mix a fresh bottle of energy drink.

The next 30 miles or so were unremarkable apart from a long hot climb out of Henley, the appalling condition of the roads, one or two impatient local drivers and a small navigation error which cost me a few miles. Once back on track I was soon at feed station two which was more like a banquet with a full on buffet! I momentarily ignored my dress rehearsal rules and had a spot of lunch.

The second half of the ride was hot but not quite as hilly as the first half and what hills there were came right at the end – thank you organisers. Other than that it was all pretty routine and almost exactly 6.30hrs of riding time after I started, I crossed under the finish arch at race HQ. My Garmin was showing an average moving speed of 16.2mph (26.0kph). I don’t know who measured the route, but my Garmin, which is pretty reliably accurate was showing 106 miles (170km).

The others riders finishing just after me all quickly discarded their bikes and headed for the free massage or the bar, so I got some strange looks as I swapped my bike shoes for running shoes and set off on a 1-mile run around the playing fields in front of the finish area. I was pleased with how easily I knocked off a mile – just the other 25.2 to worry about now!

All in all a good day. My nutrition strategy for the Ironman bike is now decided and I was pleased with how I felt at the end 106 miles on a course that has more climbing than Bolton. I plan to repeat the exercise on another 100-mile sportive this coming weekend, this time in The New Forest. This one has a bit less ascent and I plan to use it as a full dress rehearsal which means I am on my TT bike this time. It also looks as though the weather man, having given me hot last weekend, may give me rain this weekend – so all bases will have been covered – deep joy!!