IM Lanzarote: Monkey Business

In 2013 I decided that I would like to have a crack at Long distance racing and that year I travelled to Lanzarote for a long distance training camp. Over the last five years I have been back most years to train and holiday on the island with the Ironman listed as one of the toughest on the Ironman circuit. Sea swim with a traditional beach mass start,

 bike ride taking in nearly all climbs on the island from North to South and a promenade run past the airport and back into Puerto del Carmen. It became the A race for 2018 and with three others Mark Kilner, Eddie Howarth and Chris Wray we had decided to complete the challenge and raise funds for Macmillan Cancer Research.

IM Lanzarote is a difficult race to get prepared for with its early start for triathlon around the end of May. The swim sessions are all pool with little chance to practice in open water, bike sessions are long garage sets or cold rides dodging rain and snow or both! Running this year has been particularly tough after starting back in October still with a pain around the groin and hip and the winter being so long with heavy snow/ice always seeming to be an issue. I was lucky enough to be working with Chris Creaghan at Clinic 360 to resolve the tightness and functional issue I was having. Filming and reviewing my run style showed a number of issues that using strength and stretching exercises I am starting to resolve the issues that have built up over a number of years.

The training needed a kickstart and as in 2013 I was booked to go to Lanzarote for a training camp to get some bike miles in and this time on my TT bike that I would ride the IM course on. All previous camps have been based out of Puerto Del Carmen on the South of the island but Sands Beach

Resort in Costa Teguise is a hotel that specialises in active holidays, with a daily Ironman finisher t-shirt competition at breakfast and a 25m heated pool its a perfect base to ride the island. Each day on this camp was testing as the group was strong across all the disciplines. On the third day we set out after a birthday 35×50 swim set to complete the IM course with a short brick run off, a really solid day of training and I learned a lot about riding the island for that amount of time and how relentless the wind can be. The camp was a key block in training and I would recommend anyone to get out in February or March for a winter camp.

The shift pattern I work dictates my training pattern because of the blocks of nights and 12hr shift length so training is loaded in a ten day break I get every cycle. These are great for long distance triathlon when completing big weeks but it does mean that my recovery weeks are often when I’m on a set of four nights. Staying healthy while overloading is a balancing act and this seemed harder with cold weather that hung around for an eternity this year. At the start of March I picked up a chesty cough that held on for some time having to manage this without thinking your losing fitness every minute your not out there training is always hard! I missed a full week of training which amounted to around 4-5 sessions. In a 20 week training block for an Ironman missing a few sessions isn’t going to affect things a great deal but its really important to recover before starting training again.

The other long distance events I have completed have been no earlier than July so its always been possible to get some practice races in to fine tune the race day for the big one. Other than a visit to a rainy Saddleworth Sprint at the end of April I wasn’t able to fit a race in. This led to me getting a little anxious about the swim at Lanzarote. I made the mistake of reading some blogs from previous years and then as the race came closer the event videos started filtering onto Facebook from the previous year.

The Lanzarote swim is well known to be a washing machine with the event using the mass start from the beach for the 2000 participants with a funneled start line around 25-50m wide. I arrived in Lanzarote on the Tuesday with plan to swim the course with Swim Lanzarote and Paul Hounam on the Wednesday to get rid of the raceday nerves. Paul provided some great instruction before entering the water, from position before the start, currents and course sight points. We were split into groups of like ability and given a guide. The swim with this group on Wednesday and Thursday was invaluable on raceday and I’d recommended anyone to joining Paul’s group if your racing Lanzarote or on a camp.

The build up to the race had been quite relaxed, mainly because of the banter with the rest of The Macmillan group. There wasn’t much time for race day nerves as most of my

time was spent cropping and photo shopping various heads onto the groups bodies and responding to the next line of banter.

#Teamwilson had arrived on the Thursday evening so all was set for the 4.45am wake up call for Ironman Lanzarote 2018!!

We had stayed in Los Mojones which is around a 25 minute walk to the start but was perfect to walk off those pre race nerves and let the breakfast coffee settle. At the race start I felt controlled and relaxed getting to the swim start early helped as I entered the pen and was able to have a little warm up swim then back into the pen before it all got serious. I seeded myself around the 60 minute marker on the right hand side of the pen aiming for around a 1.02 swim if all went to plan. 7am and it was off!!

The swim started really relaxed with everyone giving each other lots of room…..BOLL*$KS!! From the start it was carnage I sighted the first turn bouy early and made a move to aim in its direction, not possible. The swim pack for the first part moved like a shoal of fish there was so much traffic. I’ve done quite a fair few open water swims in the past but never lost goggles during the swim, four times I had the goggles knocked down my face pushing them back up into place mid fight. The first lap took me 32 minutes second lap with a much tighter line around the buoys 32 minutes  so outside the target time but having experinced the swim I’d find it hard to shave anymore time off without going to alligator wrestling instead of strength sessions.

The bike course for Lanzarote had always been a single lap of the Island until this year when Spanish law has changed and bike races need closed roads. This meant that the course included another 300m of climbing a total of 2500m over the course and an out and back section to Famara. The wind can make riding on the Island really difficult as I’ve experience in previous trips but raceday seemed to be kind and I was happy to top out halfway through the course in around 3hrs as planned. Dropping down the steepest of the climbs from Haria and towards Mirador I moved the bike into the small chainring. Nothing happened. The front derailer had sheared. I stopped at a mechanic and he gave me the thumbs down for any spares, so I decided to change gear with my fingers! The chain jumped across but I forgot to stop pedaling and caught my fingers in the chainrings… ouch. I was happy that I didn’t have to climb Mirador in the big ring as this would have changed any plans on running well off the bike. The breaking of the front IMG_6377derailer kept my mind occupied and I was able to shift using my foot for the remaining part of the bike leg and didn’t lose any time. The two additions to the bike section a climb up the LZ404 and the out and back are not welcome. The climb up the LZ404 into a headwind at 140k was awful and I was glad to get this over with, but then stright after your dropping down towards Famara beach and it felt as though we were nearly on the beach before being told to turn around. I made my way across the lava field before dropping down the donkey trail and back to Carmen for the start of the run. I felt I had got my nutrition right up to this point feeling strong enough to still push home. I had run two bottles with Mountain Fuel Raw Energy and picked a further bottle up at the special needs at the top of Haria. The Mountain fuel raw worked perfectly and is ideal for use in longer event and warm climates worth checking out.

On the Lanzarote training camp in the March we had talked about running off the bike and what we all targetted. We had decided that a 3.0something run was a great standard to aim for. My plan was runimg_9254 the first half marathon in 1.35 and try and hold this into the second part of the run. Running 4.35k’s off the bike after seeing family and friends is hard to control and the first few k’s were a little too quick but I soon settled as I went out to Playa Honda past the airport. The weather wasn’t too warm and I felt comfortable. I was running the aid stations but picking up water and ice as I past and gels stuffed into my Raceskin trisuit for later. The hard part of the run for me is when you arrive back into Puerta Del Carmen after the first lap and it feels to get quite lumpy. I was happy to hit the first half in 1.35 but the little inclines

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were taking there toll slowing my pace in town. #Teamwilson were there at the end of each lap for high 5’s
and they always provide me with such a lift when racing. The two shorter loops left were good psychologically a massive bonus but coming back into Carmen and the lumps made
me suffer. I ran on slowing through aid stations now but still getting back up to pace, I knew I was into the last kilometer and really started to enjoy the run in! I finished in 10hrs 30 running a 3hr16 marathon, a PB off the bike for me! Qualifying for Kona wasn’t really on my agenda for now and its a bloody good job as the last slot was taken in 9hrs35 a staggering time and well out of reach for me at this time.

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Lanzarote labels itself as the toughest and I can vouch for it definitely being the hardest I have taken part in. The experience though is right up there. Completing the race along with Mark Kilner, Eddie Howarth and Chris Wray was fantastic. Chris a first time Ironman finishing in 14hrs and waiting for him to cross the finish line was a highlight, although he says he hates everything about Lanzarote now! Its definitely a race for the bucket list but I think people are mad that keep coming back.

Massive thanks to Raceskin for designing the Macmillan racesuit and tech t-shirts we got loads of support along the course and lots of admiring looks at how good we looked in it.

Thanks to Mountain Fuel for the nutrition advise prior to race and the fantastic products you produce.

Thanks to all Syngenta colleagues who have helped through swapping and changing shifts or through sponsorship for this great cause. Thanks Syngenta my employer for the continued support and the charity donation towards the Macmillan cause much appreciated.

A 3.16 off the bike when in October I was struggling to run 5k without having a reaction is a great performance by Chris at Clinic 360 and Simon Ward my coach. Chris gave me the movement patterns and strength work I needed and Simon adapted the training runs so not to aggravate the injury but keep me running throughout winter.

Thanks to Simon again for getting me through 3 Ironmans to date, Wales, Hawaii and Lanzarote. Not a bad list and some fantastic experiences. Thanks for all the advice and coaching its been a fantastic journey up till now.

Thanks to Mark Kilner for getting me involved with the Macmillan team for Lanzarote. We all had a blast completing this challenge together. All the family support from Chris and Mark really helped and we all had a fantastic time.

Always last but definitely the most important thanks goes to #Teamwilson. Tired, grumpy and moody Ironmen don’t make the best company all the time but I’ve got all Summer now to make amends for a lost Spring, love you all x

Roll on Portugal 70.3 ;-))

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Long Course Weekend Tenby #LCW17

By this time in 2016 I had raced 4 times over various triathlon distances and was feeling confident as I edged closer to Hawaii. This year has started a lot slower with only one sprint triathlon race ticked off so far. I decided after Hawaii I wouldn’t enter lots of races and would do events I really wanted to enter. One of those races was Long Course Weekend in Tenby Wales. I have already completed the swim and bike legs of this weekend before but didn’t do the marathon as I was preparing for IM Wales later in the year. I loved Tenby as a town and course but the main reason was for the medal. The medal for this event has to be one of the best in triathlon, made up from four medals one for each of the individual entries and another for completing the weekend. This then all fits together to make one super medal!

beachWe arrived in Tenby on Friday morning and the weather was looking great for the weekend of racing. The town of Tenby is really beautiful and the beaches are stunning. This calm place really gets into the mood for triathlon and the town centre and beach quickly filled up as the swim start approached that evening. Of thebeach1 three disciplines that weekend I was hoping for a good improvement in the swim section from my 2015 time. I had swam 1.12 last time at this event although the conditions where less favorable that evening. I still hadn’t got under 60 minutes for an IM swim anywhere, so this would be a great start but anything under 1.05 would be good.   flares.png

The spectacular visual swim start makes for an interesting first 200 metres as visibility is minimal through the flare smoke but I was able to get into a rhythm quite quickly and the first section went by very quickly in fact the first lap felt very quick and for me it was, 28.30. I was very focused after seeing that time knowing if I could hold together a good second lap the sub hour was achievable. The second lap was even calmer as the 1900m swimmers had got out. I seemed to go quite wide up towards the boats I think this may have been to avoid the huge jellyfish I saw after rounding the turn buoy! I turned back for the beach and could see the clock as I was approaching the beach just hitting 58 minutes. I swam hard and ran the short section up the beach recording a pb swim of 59.15.

podWe stayed out of town at the YHA Manorbier where they have 3 camping pods with use of the hostels facilities. This was a lovely place to stay was really quiet and overlooked the sea a great base for the weekend and still very close to Tenby. I had a 9am start time for the bike section although I would have preferred an earlier one to get going but these couldn’t be changed. Ady Stott and I had planned to ride together and had both chosen to ride our TT bikes for the hilly Welsh course. I had riden the course before and there are large sections that suit a TT bike as long as your comfortable descending and climbing on it as well! Ady lead us out of town and it soon became a team of people rolling through the first 40 miles quite quickly. This first 40 miles is relatively flat whilst much of the next 72 miles rolls with sharper climbs at wise mans bridge and Saundersfoot.  The pace was fast and out of the three disciplines I have done less cycling than I would have liked to coming into an event like this. This would be the first time over 100 miles this year and I was concerned pre-event how I would cope on the later sections of hills. I made sure I kept drinking and taking on my mountain fuel energy and after negotiating the first loop was feeling bikegood and strong. I took some confidence from this and continued to work with a smaller group now knocking off the last of the flat sections. The group was working well but I was out of fluid and decided the best option would be to stop. Sometimes its easy to get carried away and I probably could have stayed in the group but with a marathon to run on the Sunday I couldn’t afford to go that far into the red. The stop did me good and being on the TT bike was now a great benefit and I felt really good moving probably at a more comfortable pace. The second loop seemed to pass by really quickly although I had a couple of mishaps with my gearing, throwing the chain a couple of times getting all excited with new electronic shifting! In 2015 I had posted 6hrs in similar conditions so posting 5hrs 40 was a surprise, maybe I was in better shape than anticipated!

The leaderboard was updated that evening ready for the Sunday mornings run. I was currently in 8th position, if i needed any motivation after two days of racing this was enough!

The marathon is tough and hilly and set on a different course than IM Wales out towards Pembroke and back via Manorbier to Tenby. I had already ran a marathon earlier in the year at Manchester and got a time of 2.48 so was hoping to get somewhere near 3-3.15 for this one. I wasn’t too sure how the legs would hold up after the bike leg the day before but as soon as the gun went I felt relaxed and decided to give it a go.dab

Richard Gardiner, a Welsh champion marathon runner and marathon best of 2.18, was quickly leading through town up front with the camera motorbike in front, I felt comfortable at the pace the group were running so pushed on and found myself in second. I was able to maintain this and even got my own stint in front of the camera, surreal! The tone for the day was set within 3 miles as we were sent up a steep climb looking back over Tenby and then the course just continued to roll throughout. The course is quiet on country lanes with short visits in town centres. By the half way point I had dropped a place to 3rd but was still on for a sub 3 hour marathon which would be ideal. The sun was out and after around 18 miles the course gets to the coast before climbing back to overlook Tenby. This was a testing section and coming back into town I lost another couple of places.

Onto the last climb into town and I was looking at 5th place in the marathon and a finish of 3 hours. I really enjoyed the finishing chute and found I was in 2nd  for the long course weekend waiting for the return of the other runners! run1  The leaderboard was updated very slowly it seemed as we listened to runners coming in thick and fast. After what seemed like an age the results were in and I had managed to claim 3rd place overall with a total time of 9.42, what a result! The presentation was something else. All competitors that complete the full weekend are called through and provide a guard of honour before being presented to Tenby with streamers,  champers and ABBA! The podium made up of the Swedish Pro IM athlete Marcus Hultgreen, Richard Gardiner Welsh Marathon Champion and Phil Wilson!!

So not only did I collect the coolest medal in triathlon but picked up a fantastic cup as well! I had an amazing experience at this race and all weekend with family and friends definitely recommended.

Massive thanks to #teamwilson for traveling all the way to Tenby over 10hours of travel time just so I could race, always in the right place at the right time for the cheer and quality race photography ;-)) Thanks to Ady Stott, John Swallow and John Paul Bednerak for the company and crack over the weekend and build up top lads.

Massive thanks to Raceskin for the continued support providing the best custom triathlon kit there is and Mountain Fuel for providing the fuel to get me through these events. Lastly thanks to Simon Ward for providing the coaching for me since 2013 always on hand to stop the wobbles and give the confidence to compete.

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IM World Championships #Hawaii#kona

In September 2015 I completed IM Wales my second full distance triathlon and my first Ironman event. The result at that event qualified me to travel to Hawaii to race against the best triathletes, professionals and age groupers in the world. I have had to remind and be reminded of how much of a privileged opportunity in our sport this is. In 2009 I started this triathlon journey at Scissett sprint and then read a book ‘The Iron War’ apparently about some ridiculous triathlon event, and two amazing athletes Dave Scott and Mark Allen in Hawaii. I had a dream to take part one day. I didn’t realise it would happen but with focussed training and the all important luck, I was there. The decision was made very early that this was going to be a family outing and that we would be packing up for two weeks on the Big Island.

In 2016 I had followed the same sort of build up as I had before IM Wales racing a mixture of Olympic and middle distance triathlons and everything seemed to be going really well. I travelled to the Lakes at the end of June to take part in the A Day in the LakesIMG_3728.JPG triathlon. I had a very good race and came away with a win! A great confidence builder and a really good run off the bike. I then followed this up with a 9th place at Ripon in a strong field. It was not going to be all good news though and at the end of July I started to struggle with a hip problem which was affecting my running. I made the decision to see a physio and not risk this getting any worse. After seeing Jonny McLean at Holme Valley sports injury clinic it seemed I would need to try and take some time off running to let a bursa settle and try to loosen off my glutes, piriformis and hip flexors. This meant that I would not be able to race at Wensleydale as planned. This started probably the most IMG_4077.JPGdisrupted period of run training I have had since I started triathlon. I missed my last long run and progress seemed slow to recover from a chronic issue of tightness. The injury coincided with an absence in strength and conditioning which I had neglected after a skateboarding injury (long story!) and the races I had completed in the last few months. I was starting to worry about whether I would be ready for Hawaii. As usual though I have friends and a wife that reminded me what a fantastic opportunity I was undertaking and that most triathletes would give their right arm to be even going. In the words of the wife ‘You are going to Hawaii!If you can’t enjoy this why are you doing it!’. So true I thought it is most of our hobbies so if we don’t enjoy the best times we need to evaluate why we train so hard to participate.  This mentally got me ready and incredibly motivated to hit that start line. After only 6 sessions with Jonny ‘magic’ Mclean I was back to running targeted paces for Ironman and felt confident that once the taper started I would be more than prepared to complete a marathon.

On the 27th September we set out on our journey to what is the other side of the world for UK participants. We flew from Manchester-Amsterdam-LA-Kona and after nearly 23hrs arrived in resort. The small airport sets the relaxed atmosphere straight away in Hawaii. We arrived in the evening and the heat hit us instantly. Straight away you are driving the Queen K and seeing signs for the Natural Energy lab and Palani which just made me smile. The plans for the first week were to acclimatise to the conditions  and take in some key points about the course. I had already ridden lots of the course on the real course video on the computrainer so I felt prepared about what gradients to expect and a game plan for race day. I wanted to swim on the course and completed the Ho’Ola swim on the Saturday. I would recommend this swim. It simulates race day conditions and made me feel a lot more confident going into the race, clocking a 1.06 first time outside a wetsuit probably helped as well. This was probably the last time I got to swim with any purpose. Race week in Kona is incredibly busy as you would expect, but the swim course became so congested you had to sight every stroke at some points to avoid collisions with other athletes. I travelled one day to Hapuna Beach about 20 miles from the turnaround of Hawi. I rode the course at the time of day I expected to visit the section. Travelling through the lava fields up to Hapuna we witnessed the power of the legendary Kona winds which were blowing the car from side to side! The recce to Hawi was really useful. Not really a climb of any note the wind is the deal breaker and I seemed to have a good conditions and obviously fresher legs than I would have on the Saturday. The heat was incredible and could feel the scorching temperatures even when descending from Hawi.

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I had kept the running low key on the first few days and only ran at comfortable paces. As race day came around I kept going a little faster and felt great on my last 40minute run a couple of days out. I was feeling no affects of the injury although I had started with all the other phantom taper injury’s that we all get as race day beckons!

MEWK7797.JPGOn the Thursday evening it was time for the welcome party and the race brief. One of the legends of Ironman Mark Allen gave a very inspirational talk that really made me sit up and listen, quoting his own journey on the island from numerous attempts to win the event before finally overcoming the challenges the island presented and winning his first of 6 ironman world titles. I think it was this that sparked the catalyst of nerves the morning after. eosi7255Racking day always seems to make me feel the pressure of raceday. Transition bags to rack, bike to rack last preparations and the knowing that in less than 24 hours it was going to be here all get me wound up. We decided on a trip to the beach to snorkel with the sea turtles to try and relax. This is how cool Hawaii is!

#TeamWilson had been growing through the week and reached its maximum on the eve of raceday,  Paul and Leila arriving from Muai on the Wednesday and then a total surprise addition of Chris and Nicki arriving that Friday  morning on the beach. I wasn’t best prepared for Chris and Nicki arriving as they had decided to keep it as a secret and carefully planned their entrance with the help of Rebecca. I had a really great feeling about race day now.

Ironman events are expensive to race but generally you know once you have paid this inflated price you generally get what you have paid for. Kona is something else. The volunteers there take it up a level. I arrived in transition with the usual thoughts, where do I put this, wheres that, entry exits. At Kona you have a meet and greet volunteer that helps you carry your transition bags rack your bike and answer all those last minute questions, like a concierge at a hotel! The process was seamless and I had racked in 10minutes and going back to relax before the big dance.

Race morning was as most Ironman events incredibly early. I had slept well but once I first woke at 330 that what pretty much it. I had my usual breakfast of porridge with the added addition thanks to Rupert @Mountain Fuel  of their morning fuel sachet and energy drink and went on down to body marking. The atmosphere once through body marking was of nervous excitement. The worlds best pros are going about the same checks as yourself, putting nutrition on the bike and then sitting and relaxing as the sun comes up. The male and female pros are told they can enter the water and I decided to go and stand behind the start cannon to watch them set off. Standing behind the cannon  looking across the swim start at the thousands of people as the NBC helicopter hovered just over 100ft about the water is something I will never forget. What a buzz. This is real this is what its all about.

As I entered the swim start I wasn’t really concerned about the hundreds of male age groupers that were starting to gather on every side as I don’t think I had stopped smiling! The Hawaiian prayer focussed my mind and I moved across to the left of the start buoys to try and get some room. I had just found what seemed a good place and the start cannon went. I found no real need to sight for the first 500m as the volume of swimmers meant I couldn’t really move around that much anyway. I felt settled at most points during the swim but you are always swimming in groups or around people and I thought the swim was slower on the return maybe because of the current or swell, but as I exited the water I checked my time at 1.07. At Wales I had swam a 1.05 but with the long transition had got onto the bike in 1.13, today I exited in 1.10 so an excellent result.

The bike course starts with a 7mile ride around the Kona town centre and given the tightIMG_4244.JPG grouping of the swimmers it is very crowded. I had decided that I wouldn’t get excited around this section and stay in control and enjoy the crowds whilst you had them. I was descending Palani Road into Kona and was sat up as its a no pass zone when I noticed Dave Scott 6x Iron world champion casually stood at the road side in an Hawaiian shirt. I made a you rock sign at him as I passed and he responded with the same. Another moment I won’t forget. In fact I was still smiling to myself as I passed my family and friends on Kuakini a few moments later.

The work starts from here though and every stream I had watched over the last couple of years showed Sebastian Keinle smashing his way past over pros up to the front of the race. This only proved to me what an exceptional biker he is. The Queen K is not flat as I had thought many times! It rolls with winds coming and going and changing direction. As I got to Waikola I was joined by Joe Duckworth another British qualifier who had raced here before in 2014. We had met a few days earlier and raced against each other back in the UK. He had filled me in on some race day tips after his previous experience so thanks for that Joe. He had a great swim and was now riding well. It seemed we kept swapping positions up the Queen K us and hundreds of others. The head wind as we turned into the main climb and the turnaround point at Hawi seemed to have picked up as the average speed had dropped and the power was increasing. As I climbed Hawi I could see the news helicopter in the distance and realised even though I had around 7miles of the climb left they were on there way back! They smashed past all in formation, then shortly after the pro women, then the procession of age groupers. If I was in any illusion that I was here to race then the sight of hundreds of cyclists already on the way back sobers you. I was on target power of 220watts and was still pushing nearer to 250 to get up the climb. In Ironman you have to stick to the plan and race to your ability, walking a marathon would be no fun.

After finally getting to Hawi in 2.50 I had high hopes of hitting my 5.10-5.20 bike split I had hoped for. My thinking was that if I could get into town in 6.30 then a sub 10hr finish could be possible. These thoughts started to drift as the winds were making it very difficult and the heat on the lava fields was incredibly intense. I kept to power on the efforts but struggled to not relax and move positions as the wind let up or a small downhill came along. I was slowing at every water station to pick up water to pour over myself to keep the temperature down but it never seemed to last long. I was so excited to see the airport sign, then moments later the energy lab and soon I was nearly in town. Jan Frodeno having set off just 30mins before me was just starting his run out on the Queen K and 10 miles into his run, outstanding! My trusty supporters all gathered in front of the King Kamarhae Hotel they jumped,  cheered and screamed as I went into T2 with a bike split of 5.30.

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I had thoughts about my dream goal of a sub 10 finish here and with a 5.30 bike split this would be a tough ask, although I could still get a pb if I could run a 3.30 marathon. As I came off the bike I felt tight and took my time through transition to try sort the legs for the run section. Back out past teamwilson and I was on my way into the town and back out onto Alii drive, the first out and back section of the marathon. The heat on the run was obviously expected but this doesn’t make it any easier. I seemed to be running ok though and able to take on fluids at the aid stations and keeping cool by stuffing sponges and ice in my trisuit. This did give a dynasty power shoulders look but it was doing the trick. I was approaching town and could see Charles Hickman another fellow British qualifier who trins at the Leeds pool. Charles qualified at Bolton earlier that year after five years of preparation. We had ran together earlier in the week and I knew he was a strong athlete so it gave me a lift to be catching up with him. I was able to complete the pass just before I completed my high fives with teamwilson and continued onto Palani.

Palani Rd is a steep short hill onto the Queen k and having read a few blogs I decided to walk this hill to avoid going too far into the red before the long drag to the energy lab. This worked quite well as I was able to cool down a bit and take on some fluids before continuing along the Queen K for the second time. A lot of people talk about the energy lab being the toughest section of the Kona run course but for me the two out and back sections along the  Queen K made me feel the most isolated. Long straight sections between aid stations which although very frequent seem an age apart. I was still running but at a much reduced pace compared to on Alii drive as I entered the energy lab and I was boosted as the sun was covered by cloud and the temperature seemed to instantly drop. It didn’t seem long before I was back on the long isolated stretch of Queen K and this was the first time I had allowed myself to look at my total time. 9.25ish with 10k remaining. I knew now I wouldn’t get near the sub 10 but the pb was on. I kept running at a constant pace and felt I had no extra to give only to plod along at the same pace. Mile markers were now every mile and this made the journey back torture. The last marker at twenty four miles just before the hill at Palani meant I had made it. I was more or less home, I could really start to enjoy it.

As I completed the descent of palani I was greeted by Chris as he had done for the finish at Wales. It seemed a long way from scissett where we had both started this journey to Kona and it was really special to have him and Nicki there. Next I saw Simon waving the Yorkshire flag at me a really nice touch to bring the flag and great to see him cheering me into the finish.


The last part of the run is incredible you turn into Alli drive and run towards where it all started all those hours ago. The tall banyan trees and packed supported streets are amazing. Rebecca Belle and Leila were cheering from the side, Paul and Tom jumped out to have a run with me as well, epic. Now all that was left was the finish line and the medal ! WHAT AN AMAZING RACE!!!

I finished in a pb of 10.18 in 632nd position and 119th in my division. I would have loved to get under the 10hour marker but to compete and finish kona was my ultimate target and I had achieved that. If I had the opportunity would I go back? You bet!  Hawaii is the most amazing place I have visited and to do this as a family was incredible. I thought maybe doing the race would quench any desire to go back but I’m sure we would all go every year! So one day hopefully we can all return.

Thanks to my friends and work colleagues who have supported me offering help. Special thanks to my colleagues on B shift  who collected and bought some fantastic race specific kit that I used in Hawaii.

Thanks to Colin at Raceskin who started supporting me at the beginning of 2015 the kit I use is exceptional and I would recommend to anyone looking for racing or training apparel. Look forward to being part of Raceskin in the future as the brand gets stronger and stronger.

Looking forward to working with Rupert at Mountain fuel in the future after joining him at the end of September. I started using the products for racing already and look forward to seeing this develop over the winter and into the new race season.

Most post race analysis was carried out on a white sandy beach with some bottles of Big Wave, and this is how they should all be carried out! Thanks coach for an incredible journey all the way to the world championships. Guided with missile like precision. The benefit of a top coach has really shown since joining TTC in 2013.

Radar, Laa laa, Chris and Nicki how amazing that you could join us in Hawaii and what an amazing time we all had together. We had a dream holiday with you guys and won’t forget the effort you all made to join us.

Finally thanks to my lovely wife Rebecca and my children Tom and Belle. All the early mornings disappearing to swimming, late nights when I’ve ran home from work, missing weekends, the moods and everything else I hope the trip to Hawaii was worth it!! We had a trip of a lifetime and made memories forever

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ITU came to Leeds

Back in August 2015 I received an email inviting me to take part in ITU Leeds. I like the other 1000’s of people thought what a opportunity, this is not to be missed and entered. There was no course detail just a date. My original thinking was how good it would  be to race around the same course as the pros, compare times and be part of the biggest triathlon to come to Leeds. As time went on it started to prove a headache with split transitions and different courses for age groupers and pros. I stopped reading the posts and emails after a while as things seemed to change monthly. When it did come a round though what an experience it was!

The racking at Leeds was to fit around 5000 bikes on the day so was pretty impressive when all set up and bustling come race morning. First wave off at 7.00 with no seeding for the waves would mean that the lake was going to get pretty busy. I was off at 8.15 with a few friends and the event felt more like a training session as it was so relaxed in Roundhay park. The pontoon was in position for the pro race and we started against this, thankfully no dive starts for the age groupers otherwise I would have had to glue my goggles on!

IMG_3825[1]At my last race the water temperature was quite low and I had struggled to get into a rhythm at the start, a couple of weeks on and this had improved. This was also the first time I had swam a 1500m distance race for a couple of years. Last time out I had swam 24:40 at Ripon so was looking for some improvement.

The swim started and as expected the water was very busy and I quickly caught other waves and was having pick my line to avoid big groups of swimmers. After 500m I picked up another swimmers feet from my wave and was able to sit on for the rest of the swim.23.15 finish time and it really comfortable and enjoyed the swim. Picked up a pb for the distance and feeling so fresh as I exited the water was a real positive for me, especially as I now had to negotiate the hill into transition!

The bike course at Leeds left Roundhay park via a short climb before descending into Leeds centre completing two loops. The course was packed with age groupers now and I remained very vocal as I passed people as the course had a few pinch points around Headingley and some tight corners to negotiate. The course was very fast with the two descents into Leeds centre and just a case of keeping the effort up as I climbed back to Roundhay after the first lap. Another quick descent into Leeds and the bike leg was over. A very quick leg and one of my fastest for the olympic distance, but mainly for the way the course was set up. Racked the bike with a 59.42.

IMG_3627[1]As I got to transition the dismount line had been moved quite far back from the transition entrance and I had decided to dismount in my shoes as the car park used for transition was very rough. This meant I was clip clopping for some distance and it seemed to aggravate something and I was very uncomfortable trying to get changed into my running shoes. This made for a steadier start to the run section, as I hit the tarmac and now in running shoes I started to loosen off just in time for a photo opportunity!

The course was completely stacked with spectators and this made for such a great event. Lots of friends and family dotted around the course made the final section fly by. Running past the grandstand was great and the loops from the town hall to the bottom of Leeds made for a difficult course and a real test. I completed the run in 37.27 which I was really pleased with and seemed to show my run form was going really well of the bike.

Leeds was a great event that I was glad I took part in. It seems the event will be back next year and that’s great news for Leeds. There are areas for improvement after the fiasco with bags not arriving back to Leeds and how to organize a split transition better, but the feedback the organizers have asked for will surely rectify these problems.IMG_3631[1]

 

 

 

Wet and Wild in Wales

The triathlon open water season finally arrived at the start of May and after some personnel reflection as to my own progress over the winter I was stood on the start line at a very wet, cold and windy welsh lakeside. Everybody I talk to about triathlon has the same worry’s about finally getting to race day after training for so long to get there. Will I complete, will I go faster. Sometimes it seems it would be nicer to take all that apprehension and just carry on through training hard and enjoying the different aspects of the sport, but that’s not how I’m wired up!

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The beautiful Lake Padarn the evening before Slateman

After writing the wobble and even during writing it I wondered why I even felt the way I did. I had just had a good result at Ulverston, had been training consistently and just because for maybe 2 weeks in the last 12 months I didn’t feel the training was going well I thought my season was falling apart. Now stood on the lakeside in Wales it felt good, this was what I had trained for and I was happy to be there fit to take part. Now all I had to do was swim 1000m in the freezing Lake Padarn, cycle 51 km including Pen y pass and run through a slate quarry on a 11 km trail run, easy.

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Happy supporters!! 

                                                                                            I had raced Slateman in 2012 so had an idea of what to expect from the course and knew it would be a tough day out. As the race started the heavens opened and my loyal band of supporters stood firm and watched as I splashed about. The water was warmer than previous years but still damn cold! It took me until the first buoy to get into the swim but I settled down and was happy to be out in around 17mins. Now onto the bike.

Slateman was the first time I had got to wear my new speedsuit supplied by Raceskin. Sleeved design with a great fit and design the guys have done a fantastic job with this suit, it really is awesome! The bike section goes straight out and up pen y pass before a descent and a more gradual climb back to transition. I moved my way up a few places and the rain continued to pour for most of the bike ride. The fast descent and final flat section and I was back coming into transition in 11th place overall.

IMG_3757[1]The run starts with around 5km of ascent to the top of a slate quarry with steep switchbacks. These were a test but I was running strongly and picked off another few places through the first section. As I topped out it became clear the next group were around 4mins in front so I just concentrated on my form and pushed on. There was no catching any more places, but a 7th overall finish was great and my support team were happy I was back!

Slateman is a unforgiving race but one set in beautiful surroundings and well worth a visit.

To Infinity and beyond…

After starting back on nights a few weeks ago now I received an email from a friend of mine. Late availability for cycling in the Dales with Infinity Cycling Tours. Infinity’s owner Steve had previously been a work colleague for a number of years before last year leaving the 9-5 life and setting up a cycling tour company. How could I refuse!

Over the years I have been on a number of cycling trips that Steve has organised and his experience in cycling trips is fantastic. I have been lucky enough to do a coast to coast challenge with him and the Tour of Gruyere in Switzerland. On these trips I’ve just turned up with my bike and kit and Steve has led the way!

IMG_3539[1]I was able to cycle Wednesday/Thursday of the Yorkshire week that was planned because of family and work commitments. Steve was very accommodating and prepared rooms for myself and another couple of friends.  I had looked at the accommodation based in Middleham and it looked really impressive even more so when I arrived. The building is an old school house that has been converted and can sleep up to 22. The location and quality made me really consider booking again for a family get together or other cycling weekends in the future.

IMG_3581[1]The rides were planned by Infinity and suited all levels on the ride. The first day was very windy so the route back to the school house was testing. Infinity managed the group of riders really well. The team bus followed or past and waited offering assistance in carrying clothing or food, it was like having our own team car. We travelled over Lofthouse and down into Pately bridge before the climb of Greenhow, used fairly recently in the Tour de Yorkshire. The reward for getting over Greenhow was a stop for coffee and cake! The day was finished off with another climb used this time in the Tour de France, Kidstones or Cote de Cray. The wind was now howling down the valley making the last climb pretty tough.

We arrived back and Lisa, another member of the Infinity team  was on hand already preparing our meal for the evening, all we had to worry about was how much we were going to eat! The bread and butter pudding was an especially nice touch.

IMG_3580[1]Day 2 was slightly longer and as some of the guys had been riding all week and legs were getting tired one group would take a shorter flatter route with Lisa and we would be led by Steve. I thought this was a good option to give everyone and another example of Infinity’s attention to the needs of the group.

The Dales is a stunning place to visit and when the weather is good it takes some beating with epic views and tea rooms everywhere. The second days ride had everything, steep climbs and fast descents, chain ganging along fast roads and working together into the wind. The only downside was only being there for two days!

I’d like to thank the guys riding that week and especially Steve and his wife Lisa from Infinity. If you are looking for a cycling tour in Europe or a bespoke tour these are the guys to talk to. “Cycling tours and holidays that make you feel like a pro.”

 

 

The wobble…

A few months ago I was like most triathletes coming out of the winter months ready to go and I had a fantastic start to the year with pbs in a 10k race, a 400m swim and a successful big bike week in Lanzarote. I remember reading a blog post from a fellow TTC coached athlete Matt Lawrence  about a coach being like a satellite navigation system. It was an interesting read and from a view I’d not really appreciated before. I have seemed to just get on with the training moving the odd session as work commitments or family life changed and rolling along.

I had a family holiday planned in the early Easter break so wanted to have a decent training month before travelling out to Portugal for a week of no biking. The weather was still cold and miserable and biking outside was still a chore so I opted for sessions on the computrainer to keep the quality and bike miles up. I decided I would like to fit a sprint tri in before travelling, so found Ulverston still had entry’s available.

IMG_3169[1]Ulverston is in the south of the Lake District along the coast from Morecombe. The wind and rain were howling in as we travelled for a dinnertime start. On arrival the bike route had been cut on safety grounds. It was really cold and my number 1 supporter Rebecca decided to stay in the car until the very last moment, I couldn’t blame her! First swim this year and I recorded a 6.25 which with a short run between pool and bike included I was happy with. Onto the bike and it was a tough 10k into the wind then a fast 10k with it on your back. Returned with the 4th fastest split and onto the run. I had a good run although the wind comes to bite you as your getting back to the finish. A 3rd overall finish and a very nice goody bag made for a successful day.

After the event I seemed to fall foul of a chesty cough that ran into the start of my holiday and led to me missing the biggest chunk of swimming since I can remember. I think this may have been the catalyst for the wobble that was to come as I couldn’t train anywhere near to the levels I had been and seemed low on motivation.

BYVB8534[1] After returning from holiday I travelled to the Yorkshire Dales for a weekend of cycling with a good group of friends. The cycling was brilliant the weather not so. Even though we where entering the start of April the forecast was for snow! The snow fell on the Saturday, but we had managed to avoid the worst of it and the scenery and riding was well worth being out in the cold. The Saturday route took us up some good climbs including Buttertubs, Fleet moss and Lofthouse. Great climbs and for me Lofthouse seemed the toughest on the day. I had been a little apprehensive as I had not really done any long rides outside but trained on the computrainer. Its testament to the computrainer that I rode strong for the weekend and the climbs seemed to tick by controlling the effort and getting up in decent times.

Next on the agenda was the Fred Whitton an event that’s been on the bucket list for a while since starting out cycling wondering if I would ever be able to get to a standard were a sportive like this would be enjoyable. The magic 20 weeks before Kona was looming as well so that had started to play on my mind. I started having thoughts that I wasn’t doing enough or could I be doing more? I asked in a telephone call to Simon what I was averaging hours wise in my plan. Around 10-12hrs. Surely this isn’t enough I thought. I had taken to reading blogs were athletes training for Kona were regularly hitting 18+ hours. These thoughts went on for a couple of weeks. Now this is when having a coach is really important. As we approach our training and ‘A races’ we put extra pressure on what we think we should be doing. As Matt suggested in his blog post a coach is  like having a sat nav. On my next meeting I asked Simon if I was doing enough and told him of my concerns. His answer? ‘Do you trust me?’ My reply? ‘Yes.’

We chatted about the fact that I could probably do more training but I was fit and healthy at this time would more training push me over the edge and maybe create injury? I’m still making progress in swimming, cycling and running and race specific Kona work is only just kicking in. Minimum effective dose is a phrase he also used and for all of us that are doing this sport for fun and enjoyment I think this is what we need to be mindful of. I probably could train more but it could impact on so many other things. As I was writing this I wondered were the wobble had come from. I had a good result at Ulverston and a great cycling weekend in the bag. It shows we add undue pressure and lose sight of positives when left to work things out on our own. So with a little reasoning from Simon, wobble averted!!

To finish off I went to the Fred Whitton just as the Uk was experience a mini heat wave. The Lakes is absolutely stunning even when the weather is bad but a clear day it takes some beating. The Fred is a tough sportive which is loaded with hills both well known and otherwise. Without doubt the toughest of climbs is Hardknott. Starting at around 93miles with gradients hitting around 30% and over it really is a sting in the tail. I finished with a chiptime of 7.15 which I was really pleased with. The idea was to ride the Fred so that the week after my tri training wouldn’t be affected. I managed a green week hitting the sessions, a good effort after such a tough sportive.

The triathlon season is just about getting started now with my first open water event at Slateman at the end of May. Hopefully start the season as I ended last year in Wales and on a high.

Again I would like to thank Simon for the coaching and support, Colin at Raceskin for making and supplying the best tri and cycling gear, work colleagues and friends for thier continued support and Rebecca for following me around the country shouting encouragement hopefully Hawaii will be a reward for her too.

 

Megachoc,Megacamp

White or milk chocolate filling sandwiched between two plain biscuits these exceptional creations are the ideal training food for a long distance training camp in February. They must contain all nutritional requirements for triathletes. They certainly became a staple food for my recent trip to Lanzarote.

I have tried to go to Lanzarote annually for a camp since 2013. It just seems to get you really engaged in the new season and provides a chance to ride outside without the need to apply lots of layers. The camp is structured to be a big bike week but also provides the opportunity to swim open water at Playa Grande and Los Pocillos.

Currently I average around 13hrs training a week over a five week cycle, and the focus of the camp is to provide an overload of training rather than going to smash ourselves to bits. The plan for the camp was to get to between 25-28hrs of training. Simon had planned the week to accommodate all the people on the camp and he coaches Matt, Dan, Sue, James and I so knows we were all well matched to ride together.

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I love Lanzarote as a holiday and training location. The weather in February is great for cycling generally, although we did get caught in a particular bad downpour which I was suitably under dressed for! The riding is varied with hills and strong winds to test the best cyclists. In Matts blog, well worth a read, he’s said that he has not rode outside since we both did Wales. I have only rode 5hrs outside in January and February. I felt really strong on the rides and proves the computrainer is excellent if you’re wanting targeted sessions and to improve. We rode as a group for the majority of the rides, but had efforts on most of the major climbs Timanfaya, Haria and Tabayesco. Great banter in the group kept the mood upbeat and the long rides went by really easily.

Simon had organised a session with a local swim training group down at Playa Grande. This was a really good session with a former commonwealth swimmer to lead us out. After the session  we were talked through tide patterns and riptides, a really informative and worthwhile session and one I would recommend you to look out for Paul at SwimLanzarote.

On the last day we went out to attack Tabayesco a climb I had rode twice before and really enjoyed. We set off at intervals with myself and Matt going off together. Matt is a really strong cyclist and I had been trying to keep up with him all week so I knew this would be a good test. Matt soon moved away but I was able to keep him at around 30 metres away. Dan accused me of sandbagging as I told him to ‘keep his powder dry’ as I past by but I was just looking out for him, honest. The gap was closing as we got onto the switchbacks and I was able to claw back on to work with Matt to the very top, so very satisfied  after a long training camp. The best bit though and probable what typifies the camp was Matt as soon as we hit the carpark at the top producing Megachocs like medals for our achievements!

Since coming back from Lanzarote the fatigue has kicked in and I needed a good week before I felt like I could start training again. I think this proves the point of not having to smash every session to produce a good benefit. I use training peaks to record my data. This gives me a training stress score (TSS) for my activities. The week in Lanzarote worked out at 1100TSS. Last years Ironman was 750TSS, maybe the reason I felt like a old dog!!

So a successful camp in Lanzarote a trip to Parbold duathlon next on the agenda. A 5k run, 27k bike and 5k run it’s a fast race and great to really push the limits early season. It ended up being a real lung buster of a day out and as the pictures show I was working hard. If I did the race again I would take the TT bike. Although the bike course is three times up Parbold hill there are some really fast sections where a TT bike would suit. 6th place overall and behind some guys I have raced before, it was a positive outcome.

Up next will be the Fred Whitton cycle sportive so some more bike miles to tick off to make sure it is an enjoyable experience.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Man or mouse? #nevermissaride

As a shift worker I get my time off chosen for me by the rota system. I am fully rostered into a pattern that schedules all my time off. This is fantastic for the most part as I can fit most training in whilst my family are at school or work. This gets away from the usual problems of time to fit training in around a busy family life. I feel very lucky that this is the case and with the extra shuffling all my family do to accommodate my obsession I have very little distractions to keeping a consistent approach to training.

However in these dark, cold, wet and windy months it’s very easy for that consistency be dealt a hammer blow. I love riding outdoors and don’t generally mind the weather being bad while I’m out, but high winds, snow our ice can just make riding dangerous rather than enjoyable.

I invested in a computrainer at the end of 2013, I had looked at a number of trainers but lumped in for the computrainer pro. The main benefit I see between the computrainer and the wattbike is you can ride your own bike. I have my TT set up on it. This gives me the opportunity to tweak position if required and hold the TT position regularly throughout the year.IMG_2953[1]

So after all the Christmas floods we started January with more storms made more recognisable since the naming of the weather systems started. Storm Henry was the latest to hit but he didn’t manage to stop me. Did I venture out in it?
Taking my chances with the winds gusting up to 50 mph where I live? No. I sat in my garage last week for a total of nearly 5 hours. This is the benefit of the Computrainer. I sat and pedalled through a VO2 development set and rode hilly courses holding average watts. Targeted sessions that are perfect for the base building training I’m doing. A session outside would have probably ended up with me in threshold for parts of the ride into the wind and coasting for others.

Another feature that I find really useful is the spinscan function. This displays power split and helps to refine the pedal stroke. It’s helped me to get a smoother split over both legs. When first got the computrainer I was pushing with my right and letting my left leg just coasted through. I have a much more balanced pedal stroke now, but still require lots more work!

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As the season rolls to a start I’ll still be using the computrainer for quality sets. A staple before Wales last year was a 2hr set that included 4 x 20min efforts at 70.3 watts with varying cadences. These were so effective and so tough! Also some interval sets and max power efforts to build that power threshold. I’m also really looking forward to riding the Kona course on the real course videos. This is a really good feature and uses real video so good for somewhere a recce just isn’t possible.

So as the weather drops will I be riding out in the sun? Probably, but I’ll still be putting in the hours in the garage as well.

Targets…

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2016 is here! Happy New year to everyone family, friends and colleagues. Having safely negotiated the last few months of 2015 since my last post, I have decided to set targets to hopefully achieve my goal of a finish on the Big Island that I can be proud of. Having structured last year around a late season long distance race it seems sensible to follow the same path and hopefully similar success. The hard work starts now by being consistent in the cold dreary months of January-March.

A staple for me has been the Lanzarote training camp run by TTC. I have been every year since 2013 and it is the kickstart that every season needs. The first phase for me this year is to back off on the running and try to make some good gains in bike and swim performance. The week in Lanzarote will be tailored to this with sea swims most mornings and long bike sessions around the stunning but unforgiving landscape. There will be a few runs but mostly off road. If you haven’t ever tried a training camp it’s a must. Training without all the usual time constraints is fantastic and really gives that push for the new season.

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Chlorine fix @John Charles

Right targets!! As I have previously said I’m not a swimmer and find this the most difficult of the disciplines to improve. A long term goal of mine was to swim under 6 minutes for 400m. Just before christmas I attended TTC swim workshop at John Charles centre for sport. I have been filmed before and found it really helpful in seeing what I was doing wrong with cast iron evidence to watch after! The videos links are below:

 

 

http://bit.ly/1mNPD2q  Video footage from the front

http://bit.ly/1IXt44Z  Video footage from the side

Great quality videos supplied after the course with excellent feedback from two coaches. Loads of opportunities to practice the drills given as well with some extra pool time at the end of the day. The footage showed me I needed to work on my flexibility and rotation as key points over the winter to improve my speed and efficiency.

At one of the last sessions before Christmas at the pool the session detail showed it was CSS(critical swim speed) test set day. This is a flat out 400m and in this case a flat out 50m. My PB before this was 6.20. I was pretty fresh coming into the session and felt this was a good opportunity to see what sort of shape I was in. 200m into the 400m TT I looked at the pace clock as I turned, 2.55 for the first 200m! I just had to hold and I could get the long term goal before the season had really started. 5.56 finish for the 400m was a breakthrough! The 50m time was 34s and so a new CSS of 1.32/100m. As a target before Kona I would hope to get that CSS time under 1.30/100m and at a real stretch down towards the 1.26/100m.

Last year I worked off a FTP(functional threshold power) of 310 on theIMG_2910[1] computrainer and already I’m using 300 as my benchmark this year. I have just started some interval sessions again so would aim to test before Lanza and hopefully improve this. Having started back on interval work recently I suspect the FTP test is not going to be pretty.

In this kind of weather it’s ideal having the computrainer set up full time with the race bike. Targeted sessions that can be fitted easily into life means I can stay consistent. I would love to ride for hours but its all a balance and with the computrainer sessions it works best for me. To go to kona with a FTP of 330w would be amazing and a real test so that’s the aim for 2016.

IMG_2911[1]Dewsbury 10k beckons at the start of Febuary. This is the course my PB was set at 36.20. I feel like I’m running ok although I’m not doing any intervals as yet and feel a 36 minute run could be possible. To aid this attempt at a PB I’ve invested in the new Adidas Ultra Boost shoes. There are really light and fit very well. They seem to be a little different to the boosts I had previously but feel a fast shoe, we will see! Target for this season would be to get anything starting with a 35.

All these targets will mean nothing if I don’t stay fit and healthy. I need to improve my stretching routine. This must be on every triathletes to do list. I regularly use forums set up on facebook like the SWAT group or Morning Tea with Simon Ward and nutrition, strength & conditioning and stretching pop up all the time. I aim to add one stretching session in a week and have it in training peaks to monitor it. If I keep getting the dreaded reds for it I may start keeping up to it!

2015 was amazing lets hope that a targetted approach to the start of 2016 makes this year incredible.