Monday, 21 April 2014

Michael 2 - Demons 1

After the success at track last Tuesday where I managed to silence my demons it was time to see if this new strategy could lead to a new PB for 5km.

So on Saturday I went to the Blizard Physiotherapy 5km breakfast run. No pressure but out of 2 visits I have set 2 new PB's. My last visits resulting in my first sub 25 minute 5km

So I drove over to Bircotes to the clinic and met up with the rest of the runners.

We jogged to the start line a little over a mile away. The weather was a little on the chilly side but with no wind. Nearly perfect conditions to set a new PB.

I had decided not to ask someone to pace around the course to see what I was capable of solo. After all I race solo.

The course of the breakfast run is a 3 loop course and at the start of each lap there is an incline to contend with. The difference in height is 40 foot but this incline occurs over 0.4 miles. It's a slog of an incline, not hard but just goes on and on.

Before we started I asked #runboss what to do. His words. "Stick it in zone 3 and suffer". We set off and I worked up the first incline to  elevate my HR to zone 3. I was zipping along. I even overtook a runner from track who is normally a lot quicker than me. I was flying. After my HR was in the right zone I backed off a little to stabilise it.

The first lap flew by and my first mile was completed in 7:02. Where did that come from? My previous one mile PB was 7:35. Wow. I really was flying.

My second mile was tough mentally as some people overtook me. I didn't fell like I slowed drastically but I must've done. Second mile completed in 7:29.

I was on for a PB by a considerable margin. Time to suffer for one last lap.

So I dug in and kicked on. Time to silence those demons. After I rounded the final corner I saw everyone who had finished and they started cheering me on. Time to dig in. There were 150m to go, I was not in a good place but I was doing it. I was beating those demons in my head.

I crossed the line in 23:12. I had set a new PB. I was elated.

The hard work I have been putting in recently was starting to pay off. My time for 5km was 22:53. I am now a member of the #sub23 club.

The congratulations I received on Facebook for this was humbling especially given the calibre of athlete who were congratulating me.

I was so relieved to beat 23 minutes. This was what I wanted from the attempt.

So after Tuesday the score was

Michael 1 - Demons 0

With saturdays PB

Michael 2 - Demons 0

However now we arrive at today. I had a 13 mile threshold run planned but was feeling tired, had a niggle in my right foot and my calves felt really tight. I went for my run but bailed after 3 miles. I just wasn't feeling it, so listened to my body and came home.

So here I sit writing and feeling sorry for myself as I didn't have the mental strength to complete my planned run. I was averaging 8:30/mile pace which I was pleased with but my calves felt extremely tight. I didn't want to risk injury so stopped but in truth I think the heat and my demons got to me.

Never mind. I'll chalk that one up to experience.

Onwards and upwards.

Lets do this,


Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Learning to suffer

Last night saw me attend my first track session, post lactate retest.

My orders from #runboss Dave Tune of Blizard Physio were quite simple. Get my heartrate (HR) up to Z3 and keep it there.

That meant at the start of each rep increasing my effort until my HR hit the magic number of 166 BPM.

My zone 3 HR is between 166 and 185 BPM which gives me quite a wide range to suffer in.

Last night I decided to just stay in Z3, I wasn't bothered if my HR was 167 BPM or 184 BPM. The zone was what was important.

As soon as my HR passed 166 BPM I backed off ever so slightly and didn't keep pushing the pace so as to stabilise my HR.

The session last night was 3 sets of 1200m with 1 min recovery followed by 800m with 1 min recovery followed by 400m with a recovery lap of the track at super slow pace to finish.

In the first set I felt strong and surprised the people I usually run with by how quick I was going. My first rep of 1200 was at 6:42/mile pace. Whoa where did that come from?

I completed the first set without incident (apart from being in pain and breathing like a 90 year old with emphysema) and kept my HR in the right zone.

On the second set I was starting to struggle mentally. I wanted the pain and suffering to be over but had a word with myself during my second 800m. I knew my body was capable of enduring the suffering as I had proved that in the first set. So after a mental asskicking of my bad thoughts, I persevered onwards. Afterall I had completed over half the main set at this point.

The quote from Chrissie Wellington and accompanying picture were shamelessly stolen from @TriMotivation's Twitter feed but seem fitting to how I felt last night.
So onwards we went with each rep my HR being above 166 BPM after the first 200/250m had been completed.

I felt such a sense of pride in what I was achieving, I was literally learning to suffer. Last night was important as I proved to myself that I have the mental strength to suffer. Before this I didn't know if I did. The previous sessions at track have hurt physically but I always backed off when my head got involved. Last night was different, I silenced my demons and showed them who’s boss.

I have seen some people perform in a different plane during my time watching triathlon and last night I think I know how they get there, by learning to suffer. One example which springs to mind is Jane Hansom at the World Championship in London last year. She was in different place to other people mentally and was not aware of people (me) cheering her on. If I can harness this ability like I started to last night then who knows what I can achieve.

Each rep last night was completed at sub 7:17/mi pace with the best pace achieved being 6:24/mi. Given my reps previously have been between 7:20/mi and 8:00/mi, this is a huge leap forward but shows that previously my head has been in control as my body is capable of a lot more. No longer, my body will dictate the pace at track and in races in the future.

As Dave Tune says the worst that will happen is I will pass out. Bring on the pain and suffering.
Thanks to Dave and everyone at Blizard for their help in learning to suffer and improve me as an athlete.

Despite being knackered, I then followed this up with nearly 2km of speedwork and technique drills with Doncaster Triathlon Club at the pool. These hurt a lot after my efforts at track but are miles banked and I was pleased to complete most of the set despite cramp taking a hold on some reps.

Thanks for reading,


Sunday, 13 April 2014

A race for jackoatbar - Desford Trathlon

I saw on a tweet from @jackoatbar the other week asking for a brand ambassador to race the Desford Triathlon. Luckily I was the first to respond and promptly secured my place in the race which was being held by RaceTime Events (who jackoatbar sponsor).

The race is a 400m swim, followed by a 18km bike and a 5km run across fields.

My Dad came over to support me for the race and kindly offered to drive me to the event.

I packed for the event with my new trisuit which I have had printed with the logos of companies who have supported me so far.

My new trisuit
I also decided that today would be the first time I would unleash #Rinnie. I didn't want to use her last weekend as I thought the course to hilly for my TT bike.  Before the event I asked the organiser if the course was suitable for a TT bike. he said yes so it was #Rinnietime.

I also decided to use my new Giro Air Attack Shield helmet.

Me and Dad arrived in Desford and I promptly registered and racked my bike. I then applied some jackoatbar temporary tattoos to take part in some guerrilla advertising.

Guerilla advertising
Then it was go time.

I familiarised myself with the ins and outs of transition and made my way to the pool.


I got in the water and prepared myself for the next hour os so of racing while I waited for the off. I set off on the swim and was slowly gaining on the other swimmers in my lane. I didn't catch anyone this week though but managed to exit the water in 6:23. Although this was 11 seconds down on last week, I have to take the positives. I cut short Tuesday's swim due to a injury in my shoulder buy my physio seems to have fixed me. I exited the water as the first swimmer from my wave and jogged to transition.
Swim done now onto T1

I need to work on my transition as I was caught by the other swimmers from my lane while I was putting on my shoes. I've been speaking to Matt Fisher (another jackoatbar brand ambassador) about this and plan on practising it this weekend.  Matt's advice on this can be seen here

So after being caught in T1 and losing all the hard work I had done in the pool I jogged to the mount line in my cleats. Clip clop, clip clop.


I mounted #Rinnie and could not clip my shoes in. AAAAARRRRGGGGGGHHHHHH, the swimmers who I had dropped in the pool had now overtaken me. Like I said I must work on my "semi flying mounts" 

Now let's see what I could do on the bike leg. I hadn't driven the course but had heard some of the other athletes saying there were a few surprises in store. Oh great that meant hills. So I started putting the power down as soon as I was clipped in and after about half a mile noticed a slight incline in the road. This carried on for most of the next 4.5 miles. Great I had done about half the course and had only spent under one mile going downhill or flat which meant I had been climbing for nearly four miles. Surely the must mean the second half was mostly downhill. You'd think so but it felt more flat than downhill.

Bike course profile
I made my way back into Desford and had unfastened my shoes too early. I must have been pedalling with my feet out of the shoes for over half a mile.

I dismounted and jogged to T2.

Coming into T2

I had racked my bike and thrown on my trainers. T2 flew by which is a good thing and proves I am getting quicker.


Now it was time to see if I had the mental strength to bury my demons as discussed in my last blogpost. I decided to trust in my #runboss and keep my HR in zone 3. The run course was a 3 lap course across fields and to prevent a recurrence of the injury sustained during last weeks off road run I had purchased some more aggressive off-road trainers. Running off the bike never usually bothers me but today I didn't feel that comfortable. I flew (for me) through the first mile in 7:59 but hadn't settled.

The course had a nasty little sting in the tail about half way round with a short sharp hill.  On each of the there laps this hill seemed to sap my energy. 

My Dad was there to cheer me on through each of the laps but I was in another place mentally and knew he was there but didn't acknowledge him as I was concentrating on the task at hand. After about 1.5 miles I noticed a burning on my right foot. Note to self "I should've put my socks on in T2", I stopped to quickly retie my laces. Damn it the burning was still there. Onwards we go. At the end of the second lap I finally found my running legs and settled into my running. I still kept my HR in zone 3 but I just started to feel strong. I even started to reel in some runners. 

On the run
What was that about? I overtook three runners within 50m of one another. Wow this was a new feeling. I don't think I have ever overtaken a runner in a triathlon.

I ensured my HR stayed in Z3 for the rest of the run.

I crossed the line in a time of 1:08:12 and was thrilled to bits. I was honoured to have completed this race as an ambassador of jackoatbar but was elated with my times.

My times were as follows.

Swim - 6:23
T1 - 1:17
Bike - 34:08
T2 - 0:59
Run - 25:23 (a new off-road 5km PB)
Total - 1:08:12

This put me in 68th position and I was over the moon with this. As there were 178 finishers, this was also my first top half finish in a triathlon.

What a wonderful day.

Thanks to jackoatbar and RaceTime Events for the opportunity to race the Desford Triathlon.

That's all from me,


Friday, 11 April 2014

Ignore the demons

Now seems as poignant a time as any to write this post.

I know I come across as being confident in my abilities and reassuring to a lot of people  but in truth I'm not.

What really brought this home today was my run lactate test at Blizard Physio with Dave Tune.

I suspected I had got fitter since my last test but wanted to know how much fitter.

In truth the numbers are amazing.

In my previous lactate the paces which triggered the different responses in my body are compared against the same levels from todays test in the table below.

Running Speed
Running Pace (Old)
Running Pace (New)
Blood Lactate (mmols)
 Recovery run (zone 1)
Threshold pace (zone 2)
Tempo pace (zone 3)
Interval pace (zone 4)

My heart rate zones have only changed very marginally. So much so that it really isn't worth dwelling on.

What is worth dwelling on is the demons in my head. It transpires that it is these demons which are holding me back.

Why you ask? Well fundamentally I don't know how to put myself in the hurt locker to train effectively. But surely it's just a case of working harder. Well yes it is but if you lack confidence in your ability like I do then when it starts hurting you back off. 

There are many reasons for this state of mind but I firmly believe that the reason is that I was never encouraged to run at school as I was always near the back of my year group. This occurred throughout school so I assume that this is why I lack confidence in what I am capable of.

Between this lack of encouragement and my the bullying I suffered during childhood, it is hardly surprising that I lack confidence in my running ability and this is the reason I believe I don't truly know what I am capable of.

So it's a case of #HTFU and learn to suffer over the coming weeks before I pull on my GB trisuit. This is as much a mental battle as it is physical. Take Tuesday at track for instance I felt like I was going to vomit in one rep but my HR was only 177bpm which is only just in the right zone. But something in my head said that the pain I was feeling in my legs and lungs was worse than it actually was. 

Today I ran constantly for 3 minutes at 186bpm, now that hurt but once I had recovered there were no nasty after effects. I just need to knuckle down and learn to ignore the physical pain ad the mental demons.

Dave has given me a plan for the next four weeks which concentrates more on running so that I can give a true representation of myself in Cologne. This will be challenging but equally exciting. I really do not know what I am capable of when it comes to running but I am looking forward to finding out over the coming months.

I cannot recommend enough getting a lactate test done if you really want to improve, as it gives you the right heart rates to train at effectively. As usual Dave made me feel really relaxed and his consummate professionalism was second to none. He really cares about the people he tests and wants them to improve. This isn't just about making cashola for him its about changing peoples lives and making them be the "best they can be". I would thoroughly recommend people using the services of Blizard Physio as I have always found them knowledgable, helpful but most importantly friendly.

Thanks for reading,


Clitheroe Triathlon 2014 – time to make amends for last year

The time for me to go home again to race my hometown triathlon is here again. When I left home at 18 I didn’t appreciate or understand the awesomeness of multisport or even know about the existence of triathlon but I find it important to race in my hometown as Clitheroe still holds some fond memories for me.
Being able to run past the tree where my Mum’s ashes are scattered ahead of the race is poignant and makes me truly appreciate how far I have come on this journey. And yes it still makes me feel like I have a brussel sprout stuck in my throat. But enough of that. Let’s get down to the nitty gritty of the race.

It’s fair to say that I completely underestimated the amount of climbing involved in last year's rendition of the Clitheroe Triathlon. Yes I’d seen the course profile but I didn’t know how steep a 16% climb was. Between the steepness of the climb, having a herd of sheep stampeding towards me and torrential rain. I was relived to limp home in 2 hours and 17 minutes.

This year I knew what to expect. On checking the weather it again looked problematic but thankfully come race morning the skies looked to be fine. No torrential rain like last year however there had been overnight.
Given I haven’t been swimming much I was a little worried that my estimated swim time of 6:20 may prove difficult to achieve. I waited to be set off on my 400m swim and set myself a target of bridging the 40 second gap to the swimmer ahead. I felt really good in the water and on my 14th length had caught the swimmer ahead. This gave me two lengths to go with clear water and I exited the water and made the 80m jog to transition. It was during this jog that I first appreciated how boggy the ground was. The chip time for my swim and jog to T1 was 6:12 which I was really pleased with. Was it swimming in front of my family, swimming in my old pool or just mental prep that had resulted in this fast swim for me? Who knows but I was elated.

Now for my nemesis on this course, the bike. It isn’t easy lugging nigh on 15 stone up hills. The profile for Clitheroe is something not to be underestimated like I did last year. There is 1400ft of climbing in 30km with a 16% climb. Now if like me you live in the flatlands of Doncaster then these numbers are frankly frightening. At the start of the ride I felt like I had no power at all. This could have something to do with there being a steady climb for the first 5 miles. I was being overtaken by a couple of people on this climb but was steadily gaining ground on the competitor in front of me. When I reached the bottom of Jeffrey Hill, last year came flooding back to me.

My failure of having to walk up this hill as I couldn’t settle on the bike and find traction was in the back of my mind. I vowed I would not fail this year. So I started to climb and I was feeling really strong. I was ignoring my ever increasing heart rate and was soon gaining on the rider in front of me. This would surely be the slowest overtake known to man. I mean who overtakes up a 16% climb. Well it turns out I do. My HR peaked at 188bpm as I made it to the top of the steepest section. I was smashed but I had done it.
There was a shallower climb to the top of Jeffrey Hill still to come and when I crested this I knew I would come into my element. As much as I struggle with climbing due to my weight, I excel at going downhill, gravity is my worst enemy and best friend. On the descent I flew past three riders and maxed out at 38mph. I love going downhill.

There were a few short climbs left on the remainder of the course but I arrived in transition in 1:09:38 which was a more than 15 minute improvement on last year. Who knew all those hours on my turbo trainer would make me this much slower. Oh wait..........

Now onto the run. I hoped the boggyness of the transition area was not a sign of things to come but given I had seen people caked in mud, I suspect the run would be extremely muddy. It turns out I was right. It was the toughest conditions I have ever run in as far as underfoot conditions go.

In the first lap I slipped over twice with no damage done apart form to my pride and getting a bit muddy. I saw my family at the end of lap one and they laughed at how muddy I was.

My new shiny trisuit complete with logos of the companies who've helped me and now holes.
Thanks Blizard Physio, HUUB Design, TrainerRoad and Jackoatbar
About 0.5 miles into lap two however it all went a bit wrong. My shoes were caked in mud and had no traction and on a gravelly bit of the course everything went a bit well er....... sideways as I hit the ground with the force of a small elephant. 

On getting up three local kids asked “Are you alright Mister?” What could I say to that? “I’m fine” was my response but I was anything but fine. I had grazed my leg, knee, hip and arm, stung my back and side on nettles and I still had 1.5 miles to run through. It turns out I also ripped my shiny new printed trisuit. So run on we did ignoring the pain in my ankle where I turned it in the fall. It was not pretty or comfortable but I got the job done.

I’d left T2 after 1:20:00 and thought I had a 36 minute run in me which would mean a sub 2 hour time for this triathlon, which was what I had targeted. But after my fall my pace slowed considerably. I ended up posting a 42 minute run for the 4.2 miles which meant my finish time was 2:01:48. I was a little disheartened but that is still a 16 minute improvement on last year and given the horrendous conditions on the run I can’t really complain.  I am fitter, faster and stronger than I was a year ago and that is what counts.

When I got to the finish they had to check if my knee needed first aid as it resembled something from a horror movie. The blood had flowed from my knee and covered my calf guard. Apart form the cut to my knee I was injury free. Next stop Desford Triathlon where #Rinnie gets her first outing.

Thanks for reading,