Saturday, 31 May 2014

Countdown to Germany - Race day

So race day arrived finally and with it's arrival, my clumsiness seemed to disappear. After nearly falling down some stairs yesterday I was relived to return to normal. 

Me and the rest of the team
After forgetting my number belt I dithered around in the morning. Couldn't settle so went to buy a number belt at 11. Thankfully I did because by the time of the race they'd sold out. In a zen like calm I prepared for my race and packed my bag for the race. After checking everything was in place. Me and the Mrs made out way to the race area. She left me to set up my transition. 

Wow setting up transition for an aquathlon is easy.

Setting up my transition zone
Trainers check
Number belt check
Sunnies check
Hat check

No faffing about with bikes. Such a breeze. 

After watching the elites set off I went for a warm up jog. To help get me in the zone I listened to my pre race playlist during my jog. It contains two songs. 

Happy by Pharell Williams and the audio from this video.

These songs put me in a happy place and helped calm my nerves which by this time were really taking over my thoughts. I had such severe butterflies. But after my jog the butterflies had disappeared. Now it was game face time. 

The heat in Cologne was not great. I function better in cooler climes it's just fact for me. But it was what it was. I couldn't change anything. 

Time to do my thing. 

I made my way to the start line. I decided to put myself at the back of the swim as I didn't want kicking in the ribs. They were already hurting after #turbogate. This probably cost me about 3 seconds so no biggie. I settled into my stroke and found clear water. On the last 500 I was in a pack of 5 or 6 swimmers and we worked together. When I tried to accelerate from the pack I couldn't so I stuck with them. I exited the water in a time of 16:39 in 27th place which I was pleased with. I made my way up the 40 steps to transition and stripped off my wetsuit. Threw on my trainers and glasses. And was off on the run. I noticed that the other Brit in my AG was behind me at this point. 

For some reason there was very little representation at these championships across all nations. The Brits easily sent the most athletes. I don't really get this at all. There were only 4/5 athletes in most AGs and a total of 34 men in the field. There were four athletes in my AG so if my run went well there was a chance I would end up with a bronze medal. I'd done my research on the others in my field and noticed that the French dude was the current World Champ and the German dude was a far quicker runner than me. 

Which left me and the other Brit. Now I knew I was a quicker swimmer off the times on the internet and he was a quicker runner. I thought my swim time would be 2 minutes up on him and that his run time would be about two mins quicker than mins so it would be a really close race between us for 3rd place. 

The run consisted of two loops with two dead turns on each lap. These turns would serve as a place for me to monitor how far ahead I was on the other Brit. At the first turn 750m into the 2.5k loop, I had a lead of about 45 seconds on him. By the second turn after 2.1k that lead was reduced to 20 seconds. I went through the 3k mark still ahead but shortly after he breezed past me. I tried to kick and stay with him but I was really struggling by this point. I then tried to keep him within distance of a sprint finish but he was just running quicker than me. After the 4th dead turn he had put a minute into me. 
On the run looking tired
So now I was last in my AG. I pushed on for the line a little disappointed but then I remembered how far I have come on this journey. And this journey is nowhere near it's completion. With the support of those that believe in me such as Blizard Physio, TrainerRoad, Huub Design, JackOatBar and TFN as well as my family and friends, I will be the best I can be.

Here's a brief recap of my journey so far if you're new to this blog. 19 months ago I was still smoking 20 cigarettes a day. 29 months ago I didn't know what exercise was and lived a sedentary lifestyle. Here I was representing my country.

That's some transformation. Do I honestly think I am good enough to represent my country? In a word no.

I know there are people a lot quicker than me across all three disciplines but there was a way for me to do it and I took it with both hands. At the end of the race I was only 62 seconds away from medalling at a European Championship. 

To quote Theodore Roosevelt

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

I put myself in the arena of this race and was 62 seconds from getting a European bronze medal. When I started this journey I never imagined this would be possible. I gave my all today but the better man won. 

It transpires I was only a minute up on him on the swim so like I thought it was a close race. I will be back next year to try again providing the ETU run the event as I had a really good time and learnt a lot about myself. I can suffer when I need to. 

Thanks for reading


Friday, 30 May 2014

Countdown to Germany days 5 and 6

Germany here we come. I travelled to Germany on Thursday. Thankfully it was a scheduled rest day and it's a good job. Flight delays and getting a bit lost in Cologne meant that despite leaving home at 11:30. I didn't arrive at my hotel until 10pm (German time).

I was knackered when I arrived but thankfully there were no real dramas about the journey. I didn't realise how dehydrated I had gotten on the flight but on landing I devoured a litre if water. I literally couldn't get enough down my gullet. Not the best prep for racing but another lesson learnt. 

Cologne is a beautiful city. The cathedral is awe inspiring. When we arrived last night I was blown away by the scale of the building. This morning after paying €19.50 each for breakfast after I misheard the receptionist during check in. Me and the Mrs went for walk around the race site which is only 10 minutes from our hotel. 

After finding where to register and scoping out the swim and run courses including some more amazing architecture, it was time to go for my warm up jog. 

After #turbogate when I fell off my turbo trainer on Wednesday and tweaked a muscle in my ribs. I was dreading this run. I'll admit to being soft as sh*t when it comes to pain I think this is half the reason I struggle to really push myself with running unless I am being paced. 

The plan called for a 15 minute jog. After relaxing into my run and learning to ignore the pain in my ribs, I settled into my rhythm and felt okay. There was a constant pain but nothing that wasn't bearable. My run was well within my recovery zone and in the 15 minutes I stormed through 2.5km. 

I had been dreading the run because the pain in my ribs at times has caused me to question whether I could compete on Saturday. But thankfully this run served as a massive confidence boost ahead of the race. I know that I can bear the pain for the 5k run. 

Now I just needed to make sure I could swim with the pain. Thankfully my hotel has a pool. So after a few tentative lengths I realised that swimming is achievable tomorrow. This means I can banish all thoughts of not making the start line tomorrow as these have been at the back of my mind since #turbogate. I need to #MTFU and get the job done. It's not everyday you get to represent your country. Bring it on. 

My race starts at 2pm tomorrow UK time and is being streamed at if you're interested. 

The rest of the day will be spent chilling out and relaxing ahead of tomorrow. I also have to go and register this afternoon. 

Thanks for reading


Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Countdown to Germany - days 3 and 4 aka #tapermadness

So unfortunately I had to go to work on days three and four and with my return to work came the fact that my precisely planned taper was being interrupted.

Day 3 passed without incident and I made it to my prescribed track session I’m not going to lie the fact I was on taper was a godsend.

The session for all those athletes not tapering was

2 x 2000m, 2 x 1200m, 2 x 800m, 2 x 400m and 2 x 200m

Thats totals 9.2km at pace.

Thankfully my session of 10 x 400m was a relief.

However as I pushed hard for every rep it wasn’t an easy session by any stretch.

My reps were fairly consistent apart from my 8th rep which I really struggled with.

Aside from my 8th rep my reps were all around 95s per lap. Thats about 6:20/mi. Now given I started going to track in October and my reps were all at 8:00/mi pace or 120s per lap, that is quite an improvement in 8 months.

After track I went swim coaching and noticed a familiar ache in my achilles tendon. Something which I haven’t felt in over a year. To be frank I absolutely papped my pants thinking my achilles tendinitis had returned.

I went to bed trying not to stress and fell asleep eventually, before someone shot me with a cramp sniper at 00:50. I leapt out of bed as quietly as I could to stretch it out.

This morning I texted #runboss about my achilles tenderness and he said it was normal to feel every little ache as my body is on a heightened sense of alert due to nerves.

My first sign of #tapermadness

Today I went to work and unfortunately work got in the way of my plans.

I missed my functional movement class as I had to pull an 11and a half hour shift to clear my desk for my break in Germany.

I got home and prepared for an easy spin on my turbo. I really wasn’t feeling it. I felt lethargic but decided to stick to the plan. After getting on my bike I immediately fell off. My back wheel wasn’t secured properly.

My next bout of #tapermadness.

I tweaked something in my ribs during my fall onto the couch, who knows how? Fingers crossed it eases by the morning. At least it has taken my mind off my achilles tendon.

This #tapermadness is really starting to annoy me. There are only 3 days left until my race in Cologne and I still can’t wait to line up on the startline. At least when I do the #tapermadness will end.

If you are interested in watching the race I believe coverage will be available here. or at least thats what it says. My race starts at 14:00 UK time.

Monday, 26 May 2014

Countdown to Germany - day 2

Wow I had forgotten how hard tapering is. When you go from working hard to ticking along it is easy to get carried away with your training.

After all its been nearly a year since my last taper as that was pre Outlaw in July 2013.

Now before anybody comments about tapering for such a short race. This isn't just any race. This is me representing my country and I want reach that start line in the best state possible. So that I can race the best race that I possibly can.

#runboss set me an easy run or easy bike today. I used my initiative and decided on an easy bike followed by an easy run so I could practice my transition ahead of my races next month.

So my easy bike. I went out for about an hour and averaged 18.3mph. My average HR was 131 which was in my recovery zone as planned. My HR only peaked at 145bpm so my effort was relatively consistent. I struggled to hold myself back on the bike as I was feeling really strong but today was not about training hard.

I quickly changed into my trainers and set off on my run.  The plan was for me to run a 20 minute out and back course in my recovery zone.

With the speed of my transition I forgot about zone one and set off a bit too hard. My HR peaked at 160bpm before I remembered about zone one. This was 5bpm over what it should have been. After slowing but trying to keep a cadence of around 90 my HR stabilised.

I had to run within myself today as my legs felt good. If I didn't concentrate my HR drifted above 155bpm as my speed increased. I found this really hard. Over the 20 minutes my HR drifted above 155bpm on four occasions before I remembered to dial it back.

I turned after 10 minutes having completed 1.2 miles. My return leg was 1.1 miles and I stopped after the prescribed 20 minute duration had passed. My average HR was 155bpm which is at the top end of zone one but still within zone one (just) and my average pace was 8:41/mile which is quick for a run in my recovery zone.

All in all a good days training. Bring on Germany in 5 days.


Sunday, 25 May 2014

Countdown to Germany - part 1

Forget the countdown to the pending World Cup in Brazil. There is something far more pressing in my mind at the moment. The countdown until my first appearance as an Age Grouper representing British Triathlon Federation in Germany at an aquathlon.

As I sit here writing this I have 6 sleeps left until I get to wear this.

With the help of my #runboss David Tune we have formulated a plan to get me to Germany in the best shape possible.

That plan started some weeks ago when I went for my last Lactate Threshold test at Blizard Physiotherapy and my training plan was changed accordingly.

But now with one week to go we have finalised the preparations

Yesterday a mini aquathlon was scheduled. This was so I could practice my transition.

Since I have started open water swimming this year I have been suffering with being unsteady on my feet getting out of the water.

However yesterday I had a breakthrough. I wore earplugs in the swim and this stopped my unsteadiness and allowed me to transition form swimming to running in under 30 seconds and that included taking off my wetsuit. The design of the Huub Archimedes really does enable a swift transition with its breakaway zipper.

After that I went for a 3k run with the aim of my HR being at a minimum of 172 bpm for as much of the run as possible. The run was in a word uncomfortable. I couldn’t find my run legs for the first 1km or so. Going from swimming to running is a really weird feeling, I can’t really describe it.

The plan for the rest of the week goes something like this.

Today - Rest day
Monday - Recovery run or ride
Tuesday - Track session with reduced reps
Wednesday - Functional movement with a 60 minute recovery spin on my turbo
Thursday - Rest day including travelling to Germany
Friday - 15 minute easy jog and easy swim and registration
Saturday - Race day

So with six days to go. It is a relief to know there is a plan in place but I still can’t believe I am writing about going to Germany to represent my country. After all it is only 569 days ago that I gave up smoking and decided to turn my life around.

Check back later in the week for the next instalment in my “countdown to Germany”


Friday, 23 May 2014

My turn to support

After two years of competing in triathlons and being superbly supported by #MrsSmoker2Ironman at each and every event, I thought it was about time the roles were reversed.

I had heard of a new women only triathlon event being held in various places across the country.

Triathlon Pink was first launched in Australia and has raised over AUD$1M for breast cancer research since its inception. But it is now making its debut in the UK with events in the following places.

  • Crystal Palace
  • Bath
  • Sunderland
  • Leeds
  • Basildon

What I really liked about Triathlon Pink was that it was non competitive and as such would be a perfect way for #MrsSmoker2Ironman to be introduced to this crazy sport which has hanged my life.

Here is a quote from the Triathlon Pink website which is what sold the event to me. "Triathlon Pink is inclusive, challenging, non-competitive, open to women of all ages and abilities, and most of all good fun! The races are held in swimming pools and on closed park roads. They are safe and provide full support to the participants taking on this life-enhancing journey."

The distances involved also seemed really achievable for #MrsSmoker2Ironman.

They consist of three different distances.

Short Course:        100m swim, 3km cycle, 1km run
Medium Course:    200m swim, 6km cycle, 2km run
Long Course:         300m swim, 9km cycle, 3km run

All really friendly for those new to the sport. And what a superb introduction to the wonderful world of multisport. I hope the events are well received and they lead to a lot more people taking up multisport.

To date I have dragged my Mrs on some small runs and she has joined me on some of my longer runs by being on her bike so that's two out of the three disciplines nailed with a bit of help from me.

There is just the slight issue of #MrsSmoker2Ironman not being able to swim.

So over the next 40 odd days we have to teach #MrsSmoker2Ironman how to swim. If she was already a swimmer I would have opted to enter her in a longer distance but given she doesn't swim I decided to play it safe and enter her in the Short Course event.

The bonus is she didn't completely flip when I told her I had entered her in the race.

She has joined me at my triathlon club swim session on Tuesday and she made some real progress in one session.

If you would like to know more about Triathlon Pink, please check out the website ( for more details.

I can't wait to cheer her on when she starts her first triathlon in 40 odd days and it will fill me with such a sense of pride when she crosses that finishing line and I know she will.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Getting destroyed by a legend

So today Blizard Physiotherapy put on a turbo session with Kev Dawson for the members of Doncaster Triathlon Club.

With a slight sense of trepidation I signed up for the session. I mean this was Kev Dawson the World Record holding RAAM rider, the 11 time Best British All Rounder, fastest rider at Outlaw for 2012 and 2013. The man is a living legend. When it comes to cycling there are few who know more about the sport in my opinion.

I had no idea how much Kev would hurt us.

I can however safely say I have never sweated so much in my life.

The session was held at Hatfield Marina and started at 10:30.

Everyone was nicely warmed up on their turbos by then. Kev then explained the session to us.

The first portion would be a warm up consisting of four minutes of pedalling at around 100rpm.

Then we would start the spin ups to ensure an adequate warm up before commencing on the lactate threshold work and then rounding out the hour with some spin ups to act as a cool down and clear out our legs.

The spin ups consisted of 10 reps of 10 seconds of high cadence pedalling with 20 second of easy pedalling. After the 10th rep, I thought to myself. "And this is still the warm up" as I had sweat leaking from every pore on my body.

But Kev wasn't finished with us just yet. We then proceeded with 5 reps of 20 secs high cadence pedalling with 40 seconds of normal pedalling.

Well and truly warmed up. Well truth be known I was actually blowing out my a*se at this point. We were to start the main session.  Oh the joys.

The main session was 40 seconds pedalling at 7/10 effort or just above lactate threshold HR (LTHR) which meant just above 159BPM for me. Then 80 seconds pedalling at just under lactate threshold HR repeated 4 times.

Then 2 minutes of easy pedalling.

Then another 3 reps of the above 40 above LTHR 80 below LTHR but this time working at 8/10 effort.

Another 2 minutes of easy pedalling.

The towel I had taken to mop up the sweat was dripping by this point. I don't know if it was drying me off or spreading the sweat around my body.

Kev finished the main set with another 2 reps of 40 above LTHR and 80 below LTHR but with an effort of 9/10.

By this point I was feeling absolutely horrific. Maybe I shouldn't have run that 5km after my open water swim.

Finally the main set finished. All that was left was the cool down. This consisted of 2 reps of 10sec fast 20 seconds normal, 2 reps of 20 seconds high cadence 20 seconds normal and one rep of 30 seconds high cadence pedalling 30 secs normal pedalling.

I peeled myself from my sweat drenched saddle to stand on incredibly wobbly legs a dripping, shaking mess.

I have never worked as hard on a turbo before and I felt bloody fantastic when my legs started working again.

After rehydrating I listened to Kev who was sharing some of his vast knowledge with the rest of my triathlon club.

Many thanks to Kev Dawson and Blizard Physiotherpay for putting on the session which is the hardest I have ever worked in under one hour.

And who said that cycling on a turbo wasn't hard work.

Thats all from me,


Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Functional movement has its benefits

About 10 weeks ago I started going to a functional movement class at Blizard Physiotherapy after being convinced that it would lead to benefits with my running by my #runboss Dave Tune.

For the past 10 weeks I have been going along and mocked weekly for having no stability in my ankles. It was hard for this not to become a laughing matter when you wobble more than a plate of jelly as you balance on one leg and attempt to perform a single leg squat.

It has been a struggle and has seen me sweating profusely on a weekly basis but I have slowly been improving. What benefits this would have to my running I didn’t know until yesterday....

Yesterday I went for a 10 mile run along the Transpennine Way below my lactate threshold to blow off the cobwebs from my disappointing race on Sunday.

At three points during my run I hit a root or stone and felt my ankle start to give way but.....

then my new found stability and ankle strength kicked in and I righted my ankle without turning it.

Now for someone who used to turn his ankle regularly when he was growing up, this was a shock to the system. I know in my "heart of hearts" that I would have turned my ankle had it not been for these classes because as soon as I felt it start to turn I managed to correct it. Previously this would not have happened and I would have been in pain if not injured (one broken ankle and numerous sprains in my life to date).

Thanks to Blizard Physiotherapy for running these classes. They have had an effect and if that keeps me injury free running off road then it’s fine by me. And to think that I was starting to question whether they were having an effect?

Thanks for reading,


Sunday, 4 May 2014

My first DNF

Well it had to happen one day.

And it turns out today was that day.

My first DNF.

Gutted doesn't come close to describing how upset and annoyed I am right now. But after some junk food (because I was in an incredibly bad mood) I do not plan on dwelling on what could have been.

I was feeling really strong going into the race.

Given I didn't think I'd be racing after track on Tuesday I was relieved to make the start line.

Yesterday was spent doing a mini aquathlon and some transition training and I learnt a lot.

I got up today feeling good and made my way to Epworth with my Mrs.

After I had registered and racked, it was time to cheer on some of the athletes who I have coached before making my way to the swim start.


The 400m swim took place in a 20m pool. I was flying in the swim. I overtook two people but unfortunately one of these swimmers didn't let me past as soon as I touched his feet to pass.

Swimmers were meant to stop at the end of the next length to let the faster swimmer pass. This annoyed me a lot and because of my annoyance I lost count of my lengths.

After what seemed like an age, I decided to stop for a few seconds to check I hadn't swum further than needed.  I hadn't I still 3 lengths to go.

I exited the pool and ran to transition.


Now it was time to put yesterdays transition training to good use.

I was in and out of T1 and on my bike in 41 seconds. Thats a huge improvement on my last T1 time of 1:17 and a far cry from my first T1 time of 4:19.


Oh balls. In my haste of attaching my shoes to #Rinnie with elastic bands to save time I forgot to undo them.

So now instead of having to get my shoes on and fastened, I now had to unfasten them put them on and fasten them up again.

After I got my bike up to speed I set about completing the task at hand. After I had got my shoes on, which seemed to take forever. I was about to do my thing and throw down some power on the flats.

I was passed by some other athletes but was averaging around 20mph and was feeling good.

However after about 10km I started to feel a thump, thump, thump, thump from under my rear wheel.

OH CRAP!!!!!

I checked my wheel and realised it was flat.

After I had made my way to the next marshal who arranged for me to be collected my race was over.

Now I have a million questions running through my head on the whole clinchers vs tub thing.

I have completed all my triathlons to date on clinchers and never had a puncture until today when I switched to tubs.

But now what do I do?

So far there are three thoughts running through my head and I don't know which way to turn. Any thoughts or advice will be considered.
  1. Switch back to my clinchers as I know that if I get a flat I can repair it.
  2. Persevere with tubs but change to a harder wearing tyre. and ensure I carry repair fluid on my next races.
  3. Sell both my tubs and clinchers and purchase some deeper section clinchers as I can repair those.
I can't really afford any disasters in my next triathlon as it is an ETU qualifier and I want to see how far off the pace I am. Today was meant to be a confidence booster ahead of this race. But it was not meant to be.

I have 6 weeks to decide how to proceed.

Thanks to all at Race Hard Events for coming to my rescue.


Thanks for reading,


Thursday, 1 May 2014

Sniper, voodoo doll or poor preparation

So on Tuesday I went to track.

I was planning on hurting myself in the pursuit of being faster at the ETU Aquathlon Championships.

The set was 4 reps of 1600m with a 2 minute rest between reps and 4 reps of 400m with a 30 second rest between reps.

I drove to track after work but unfortunately traffic seemed denser than usual.

I left at my normal time and the usual 30 minute journey took 40 minutes. This made me late for the 6pm start.

By the time I had clothed properly and tied my laces, I had enough time for a 600m rep before 4 100m reps of strides.

Usually I run about 1600m or 2000m before completing 4 reps of 100m strides.

Tonight however I only did 600m and moved straight into strides.

By the 3rd stride something didn't quite feel right with my vastus medialis muscle. For those querying where this is, See the diagram below.

I persevered through the 4th stride and made my way to the start line for the main set.

I was making good pace at the start of the main set but then disaster..........................

I suddenly felt like I'd been stabbed in my quad with a knife. Red hot pain was searing behind my vastus medialis. Needless to say I immediately stopped running. I was gutted about this as I had been looking forward to the session.

At this point all sorts of panic (and a lot of expletives) flew through my head.

  • "Would I be fit for my race on Sunday?"

  • "Would I be fit for the ETU's?"

I eventually put on my jogging bottoms and hobbled to my car to go home and lick my wounds.

I managed to go swimming later that night albeit in mild pain and followed that up with functional movement and 30 minutes on the turbo on Wednesday night.

I've been in constant contact with #runboss Dave Tune over this injury and kept him up to date with any developments.

After two nights having a hot water bottle fixed to my leg, this morning my leg felt ok.

Tonight with a great sense of relief I can confirm that I managed to run 5 miles pain free.

Thanks to Dave for the support (including answering texts for the last two days)

There are three possible reasons for the pain.

  1. There is a sniper in existence near Doncaster Athletics Track (unlikely)
  2. Someone has made a voodoo doll of me. (improbable)
  3. I didn't warm up enough (highly likely)
So another lesson has been learnt on my journey. I am glad this one had no lasting effects.

Thats all from me and thanks for reading,