Virgin London Marathon Part 1

So here I am on the eve of the VLM, and I am probably the most excited I have been in a long long time before a race. I have felt a bit flat mentally the past few years with racing, almost as if it is just business as usual. I have known pretty much to the minute what sort of time I would get, and as such, race day had no excitement. It had no what if and maybe this. There is always the possibility of a muscle pull or missing a train or a mechanical issue on the bike of course, but assuming no issues, I have known what sort of time I would get.

This is different. I genuinely feel a buzz going into this as I have trained hard, am injury free, and feel like a coiled up spring waiting for action. Tomorrow could be anywhere from the great (3:10) to the ugly (Sub 4). My benchmark training sessions and key races point towards me running strongly towards the upper end of that estimate, but it is a dive into the unknown.

Following on from my last post, I am determined not to let my mind get the better of me from the off. I feel that I could quite easily run a conservative, well paced 3:30 tomorrow. However, in the pursuit of greatness (for me anyway), I am going to throw caution to the wind and just go for it.

My half marathon last weekend of 1:33 when put into pace calculators gives me an estimated time of 3:15. I ran a 20 miler last month in 2:37 which is around 3:20 – 25 pace. I have put in a good block of training, and ontop of this, I am now rested and my legs aren’t running on empty.

I’m not afraid to fail tomorrow. I’m going to go out on the heels of the 3:15 pacer, and I am going to hold onto that flag for as long as possible. Traditional views of trying to negative split don’t work for me as far as I am concerned with this particular race. Yes, I could negative split off a 1:45 half marathon, but there is no way I would do a 1:30 second half!

I think for all of us, elite or not, there comes a time when you have to just accept that failing is part of success. If the worst comes tomorrow and I fade to an undignified walk home in the rain, then so be it, but what if.

What if…

Carb loading at its finest.

Carb loading at its finest.

Do we defeat ourselves?

A recent blog entry from an athlete of mine got me thinking. The general gist of the message was that my man felt he was just a bucket list athlete, and didn’t stack up against others such as myself. He felt despondent at having not found a love within multi-sport racing, and that it had not fulfilled him as he thought it would.

I had a similar discussion with some training buddies not long ago, and we concluded that due to the circles we frequent, it is all too easy to get lost in a world of pb’s and wattage figures. For everyone out there, certainly everyone who does this sport as an amateur, there will always be those we look up to. My pb’s will be amazing to some, a bad training day to others, but the point is they are mine.

I thought about the negativity that I sometimes use around my running ability. I frequently lament my poor running, but actually, it isn’t that I am a bad runner, far from it, it is just that I don’t stack up against those running 31 – 35 mins for a 10k, or a 3:10 marathon split in the Ironman. Very few of us do!

I wouldn’t say that I ‘race’ triathlons any more than the next person on that start line – as age groupers we are all going to get smashed by the pros. Do we take all the fun out of the sport by ourselves? Do we get too carried away with what is considered ‘good’, and forget about why we are doing this in the first place? I don’t really see myself as any different from those I coach. I am a decent triathlete, but again, this goes back to a definition of what is decent? This will differ from person to person.

This is particularly at the forefront as I build up to the London marathon in under two weeks time. I am hoping to finally have that breakthrough run and go around the 3h15 mark, but will I still think that’s pretty average? I personally know people who would do that off an Ironman bike and some, but does that belittle what I may achieve? To my mind no, and this is the point. I won’t be in the press the next day beside Mo Farah, but I will be damn happy should I hit my target. Do we put the pressure on ourselves, and in doing so, ruin the enjoyment that we may gain from pursuing the impossible? Do we label ourselves bad runner, bucket-list athlete, poor swimmer, fat plodder as a means of protecting ourselves from criticism, and in doing so, are we ourselves the biggest barrier to enjoyment and success?

In recognising that we have the discipline to train daily, and to even ask the question how good can I be, do we need to change our mindset to that of an ‘athlete’? Ultimately, very few will have their names pressed into the record books for eternity, but the one consistent theme of those who do make it is a long list of failures.

A love for what you do is important to success in all walks of life as without this we will not suffer to be the best we can be. If triathlon, duathlon, fencing, bowling, teaching, physio, whatever is not your passion then by all means stop, but take time to recognise what you have achieved, and maybe in doing this, you will recognise that you achieved more than you give yourself credit for.

My new bike

It has been a long time in the making, a lot of umming and ahhhing and a lot of people telling me I could get a nice car instead, but today I picked up my new P5. To me, this is the perfect bike. I could not, even if I won Euromillions, have chosen a better machine to power me round the races this year. As soon as there is a change in the weather, I will be out for a test ride, and hopefully many effortless miles. For now, I have been sat in the kitchen staring at her for the past hour, and I am probably not moving for at least another hour.


The new Virb

So, I brought a Garmin Virb a few weeks back, and last weekend finally got the opportunity to get out there and test it out. All I can say is, wow. It is pretty awesome to be able to get great footage from the front of your bike, and the editing software is something pretty special too. Looking forward to some training days with my groups in the new year and getting some cool footage!

In the meantime, a couple of videos demonstrating what it can do. In essence, a bunch of blokes riding their bikes, but I am quite impressed with my video editing skills for a novice!

Getting Dropped but having a ball!

Now that off season is well and truly underway, it is time for many to go back to realising why they do the sport they do. Whether it is running, cycling, swimming or a mix of the three that we like to call triathlon, now is the time of year to forget about targets and just go out and enjoy being fit.

A couple of months ago I signed up with my local masters swim squad and have enjoyed being back in a squad environment, and strangely enough, have enjoyed getting obliterated by some incredibly fast national swimmers. I have also started back with the Dynamos, and again, have enjoyed going out in a pack and getting destroyed by some incredibly fast cyclists. I even ran a marathon a couple of weekends ago because I could, and it was fun. Needless to say, I didn’t see the Kenyans that day who were in the shower by the time I hit halfway!

The point is that we get so focused on hitting this wattage and running at that speed that we quite often forget the reasons we got into all this in the first place. Training becomes a chore and not an enjoyable pastime. For those that I coach, I encourage a bit of a looser structure at this time of the year before we start back into it all shortly, and I think that this is as important as that big key session a few weeks out from an A race.

Get out and get dropped on that ride. It’ll give you the hunger to come back stronger next season!


Another season comes to an end

It’s a rainy October afternoon, and I am sat on my couch thinking about the highs and lows of this year. For both myself and those I coach, I believe we have had some great results, but also of course there is room for improvement.

For myself, I think with my big races of the year I didn’t back my fitness enough. I think I could have gone quicker – not much, but quicker none the less. I think there is a lesson to be learned in terms of pushing boundaries that sometimes we have to just let it all go, and if it goes wrong, well you gave it a shot. I think looking to my own performance, and where I want to get to next year (still chasing that elusive sub 10), I need to work on the mental aspects of long distance racing a bit more. I think I had the fitness to go 10:15 – 10:30 this year, but left it too late to open up and push. Still, I’ll take 11 hours on the dot and move on.

For my squad, I think that it has been an incredibly positive year. 3 new Ironmen have been born, all with cracking times. We had a new GB representative at duathlon, and others have steadily improved across the board. I will ask them to get some race reviews up as and when they get a minute in-between bar crawls, but well done to all!

Speaking of downtime, I think this is perhaps the most important aspect of this time of year. The temptation is to get carried away with what might be next year, and look to get back on the road too soon. Have a few weeks down, enjoy being able to get drunk on 2 pints of beer, and mentally recharge.

To 2015!


Ironman Germany 2014

It’s Monday lunchtime and I am sitting in the airport awaiting my flight back to the UK and normality. This really is my favourite Ironman of all the venues I have raced in, and maybe next year it’ll be lucky number 13 for getting that sub 10. Nowhere near the fitness to achieve that this year, and I was fine with that, but it’ll come.

For those who haven’t raced here before, it really is second to none. Staying in the Intercontinental we were bumping into pros everywhere and the place was alive with Ironman. It is the perfect venue to base yourself for race day, and I wouldn’t be anywhere else.

My alarm went off at 4:30am, but I was already pretty much awake anyway as is the norm for the night before the race. Got up, did the usual and headed on down to breakfast. Jumped on the bus and got to transition for about 5:45am. Mistake number 1 – I had left all my gels in the hotel room. Not a major mishap as I just thought I’d pick some up as I went along, and this worked pretty well.

The swim start the day before.


I had a strange sort of can’t be bothered feeling at the start. I don’t know what it was, but I just felt a bit sick and tired and like it was all very long way. The pros and supposed fast age groupers went off at 6:45 and then I got myself front and centre for the 7am start with the masses. As per usual with about 2 minutes to go before the start gun, people started to push their way to the front. In previous years I have just let them do it, but this year I was determined the first 500m wouldn’t be consumed with climbing over ‘superstar’ swimmers who had put themselves at the front, only to blow 5 minutes into the race. So, off we all went. My plan worked well and I just had lovely clear water to swim in all the way to the first buoy at 900m or so. Then, the usual fight around that as 3000 people came together and then pretty easy back to the beach. Got out and ran along the small stretch to get back into the water, waving to the girlfriend en route.

Looking around I guess I was somewhere in the top 100 coming back into the water, but there was a bit of a commotion going on as people tried to work out why we were heading back out onto lap 1 as opposed to heading for the orange lap two buoys as promised in the briefing. Having a quick discussion with a couple of guys around me, we just decided to follow the crowd. Funnily enough, it was lap 2 where the beef started with me receiving what can only be described as a thinly veiled punch off someone – danke. Getting out of the water I looked at my watch to see an hour had passed. Bollox. How did that happen? I was swimming as well as previous years in training, but was 5 minutes down. Whether the swim was long, choppy, I don’t know.

Cue mistake 2…

Whether I was angry, not switched on, whatever, I just couldn’t find my bike in T1. I ran down the correct lane I thought, but got to the end of that (some 200m down) and no bike. Got in a flap, ran around shouting 1819 at everyone I could find and eventually found it. I’ve only wasted a few minutes, just calm down I thought. It won’t matter. More on that later…

Out on the bike and I just felt flat. I really don’t know what it was. I kept saying to myself come on, this is your big race, get switched on, but I felt a bit sick and I just couldn’t get my mind focused on the job at hand. Looking at the SRM, I was putting out good watts, so there was nothing wrong with the legs, but I just wanted to get off the bike and sit in the sun. The first 20km passed in a blur as it is a quick slightly downhill section into and through Frankfurt. Up the first hill I sat on my wattage targets and just let everyone come past. It has been a revelation racing with wattage – you can sit back and tell with pretty reliable results who is going too hard and who you’ll be seeing at a snails pace in a few hours time. Sure enough, the smell of burning matches was strong, and sure enough come the end of the bike split I had caught a number of people I predicted I’d see again! It takes your mind off of things anyway.

By 96km and the start of lap 2, my mind had decided that it did want to do the Ironman after all, and things started to look a bit brighter. Still sitting pretty on an IF of 0.70 (Target of 0.67 – 0.72 for the race) I felt like I could push on, and my legs felt fresh. The second lap went in a bit of a blur, and before I knew it I was heading up heartbreak hill for a second time and coming back down the other side. Sat up and coasted the last 5k back into Frankfurt thinking that I had a long hot run ahead and I’d save what I could for that.

Into T2 with a 5:17 bike split and feeling pretty good. IF had come down to 0.68, so on the more conservative side of things, probably due to the lazy roll into town more than anything else.

I had decided on a top change this year, and had brought a bright white 2XU technical vest and hat in the hope of keeping as much of the 30 degree heat off me as possible. This is a strategy that I think worked well. It was hot, really hot, and I needed to stay as cool as possible.

I set out on the run and the legs felt good. Ticking along at about 5:40/km pace for the first 10k, things were going well. I kept telling myself slow down, slow down, but the HR was 140 – 150 and holding and I felt good. Lap 2 I had slowed a bit to 6:00 ish/km pace, but was again feeling ok. Lap 3 was where it started to hit. I decided to walk all the aid stations and then run in-between. My new head gear also came into good use as I was putting ice cubes under it and letting them melt over me which definitely helped keep my temperature down somewhat. I was slowing, but I was holding around 4:20 – 4:30 marathon pace.

Finally onto lap 4, and my sub 11 goal was still in sight. This is where the mental games always start, and it doesn’t matter how many Ironmans you have done, how fit you are, it always hurts. I was in a dark place, but kept focusing on running in-between the aid stations and then walking through them taking as much liquid on board as I could, along with my friends the ice cubes. Running up to the forest and I had 20 minutes to get home for a sub 11. The sign for 38.5 km loomed into sight and something just went within me. I had planned to walk the penultimate aid station and the little ramp up to the bridge, but a huge sense of urgency overwhelmed me. I said to myself sub 11 or bust and took off. 24 hours later, I still don’t know where that surge came from. I went from 6:45 – 7:15/km pace to 5:00/km, then 4:45/km and a few stints at 4:30/km even, though things had got blurry. My heart rate was through the roof, 155, 165, 175, 180 bpm. I was quite literally crying with pain, but my legs were keen. No cramps, no heaviness. I was running past people who had overtaken me a few minutes previously as if I were doing a 5km race. 41.5km flashed up and I had 2 minutes to get home. 700m in that time wouldn’t have been possible even fresh, but that didn’t matter anymore. I started just screaming random words, swearing, grunting, anything to take my mind off the pain.

And then the finish of Ironman number 12 came into sight. I had tears running down my face. I collapsed over the line. A helper tried talking to me but I was just crying uncontrollably. I wasn’t upset at my time – 11:02 (Yes, damn those few minutes from T1 earlier), but something had just taken over. My mind was blank. Do you need medical? Do you need water? Do you need a towel? I don’t know what to say. I’m fine, I just want to sit down.

I don’t know where that final push came from, but it is the best Ironman run I have ever had, albeit not my fastest. I didn’t want to hang around in the athletes village, I just wanted to be away from the race. I got my medal (a beast of a thing!) and finishers t-shirt and exited to find Tamsin who had supported her heart out all day long. After crying for about 10 minutes, I sat in the shade for half an hour and went through my day.

I don’t know where all the emotions came from this year, but something just hit me. I think that for me, coming back from 4 years away from the sport with a disappointing time last year this race was really about discovering whether I still wanted this or not. I have been chasing the sub 10 for as long as I can remember now, and again this year just didn’t hit the consistency in training, or get the weigh off enough to have a serious crack at it. I think the emotions were partly to do with finishing the race (it’s a pretty awesome thing to achieve however many you have done), but also a large part to do with rediscovering why I do the sport. All those long lonely bike rides and runs over the last few months are suddenly put into perspective. With a pb of 10:42 10kgs lighter than I was yesterday, I feel that I am back to where I was when I broke off for 4 years to study physiotherapy.


The biggest medal I have ever received!

Ironman Mallorca 70.3

Having just returned from my first race of the year in Mallorca, I have discovered two things!

1) You can always make mistakes regardless of how many triathlons you have done.
2) I do still burn like crazy in the sun!

The flight out and the pre-race stuff was simple enough. I did Mallorca last year as a warm up race for the upcoming Ironman and fell in love with the race. It is just fantastic, and with 3500 people on the startline, you are guaranteed to bump into at least one person you know. Flew in on the Thursday and headed for the fantastic villa that a relative of a friend owns. It really is the perfect pre-race base just a short ride out of town, but away from the noise and buzz of things, which allows you to relax and get yourself ready.

Les Cyclistes

Registration was a simple affair, and after a bit of a test ride on the course with the bike to make sure nothing fell off, it was racked and Friday night was upon us. A big spaghetti bolognese and an early night saw everyone up at 6am and ready to get it on!

Having shepherded a nervous girlfriend into the 8am women’s start (she would some six and a bit hours later be a half Ironman!), I set about getting ready for my swim in the 35 – 39 age group.

I was stood by the start banner waiting to be invited in, but no sooner had my age group been called in, I found myself 10 rows back and unable to get any further forward. I found myself getting worked up looking around, but I couldn’t get anywhere due to the volume of bodies, so gave up pushing and settled for my fate.

The gun went, and predictably the champion swimmers in front of me were not as champion as they thought. With a bit of a strop on, I started the arduous task of climbing, pushing and kicking my way over the people in front. The first 800m was probably one of the most violent swims I have ever done. Why people can’t be more sensible in seeding themselves is beyond me. It does nobody any favours. Finally in clear water after the second turn I got into a rhythm and started to pick off more of the silver hats, mixed with a number of gold ones from the wave ahead, and even some pink ones from the women’s wave.  Coming out in 27 minutes I had undoubtedly worked harder than I wanted to, but I was up the front where it mattered.

Onto the bike and I had my wattage targets dialled in. Problem was that 240 – 260w on the flat first 15k just felt too easy. I decided in the end to just go for it and put the hammer down. There was drafting aplenty, but when you cram that many riders into that small a space it is going to happen. Some of it was blatant, but others it was just a case of you overtake one person and you immediately are behind someone else. I got in a good pace line and we were all working together to the hill where things blew up a bit. It was like the M25 in rush hour going up the 20km climb, but I sat in and tapped out a 300 – 330w tempo.

Up and over the top and then the fun started. The downhill is absolutely awesome fun, with fast switchbacks and long sweeping corners. Some overcooked things, and one guy went over the edge, but I got down safe and sound and put the hammer down for the return home. All the watt bike sessions over the winter months were paying off and I felt strong from the start to the finish. Dismounted in 2h37, and felt good to go.

Then the run happened. I knew I had not been drinking well on the bike as I had not felt the need for the toilet. This, coupled with some new gels I was taking gave me a bit of an upset stomach that turned into a bit of a vomit session by 10km of the run. By this point the soaring temperature and the lack of hydration had got to me, and I was reduced to walking the aid stations and trying to run the rest.

Targetting a sub 5 hours finish, I got to the 18km mark with a race time of 4h45. Ordinarily 3km in 15 mins would have been childs play, but this was the end of a half marathon, dehydrated with temperatures up into the mid 30’s.

I tried to get my legs moving, but although I held a decent pace for the end, came in in 5:03. Never mind, I won’t lose any sleep over it, and I will be back next year to correct things. 

Despite all my experience, I didn’t hydrate properly, and I tried new gels on race day. This is what did for me. On the positiveside of things, I know that going into the build for IM Germany my basic fitness is there, and I just need to add some volume. 

Another race, another lesson, another medal. Onwards.


And I’m back…

Hi all. Some may have noticed that the triperformance page has been down for a little while. Life has been hectic one way and another, but we are back and will be building the new site over the coming weeks. Check back regularly for musings and training advice. If you need a coach, I am as ever contactable at:

Happy Training – Spring has arrived!