Thursday, 18 November 2010

Dorset, Somerset & the Gower Peninsula 16th October - 13th November 2010

So yet again, I’ve let the blogging slip, with uni work, attempting to earn some money and generally asking people for money for Polar Challenge everywhere I go, its not surprising, but still inexcusable.  I look forward to settling the polar payments (however it needs to be done) and getting down to some serious Polar specific training.

In a way, having fallen behind on the blogging will spare you my usual verbosity as I try to spin out an entire blog for a single event when I could do it in a fraction of that.
Three events to catch up and those are:
  • Dorset Coastal Trail Series Marathon - 16th October
  • Exmoor Beast Sportive - 31st October
  • Gower Coastal Trail Series Marathon - 13th November


After the disappointment of a DNF at the Isle of Wight, I was looking forward to being fit and ready to do justice to an Endurance Life event.  The usual routine of dinner at home, then rolling out late on a Friday night missing rush hour is such a familiar feeling now- to me it now works as a trigger the start of my preparation for these races.  Lotte and I headed down to her mum’s house in Taunton as a night-time stop over – to be joined by Jay and Oli a little later.  With the excitement building and the usual store of mum’s homemade flapjacks slowly digesting I’d been told this was one of the tougher races in the series. 
Once again we were greeted with a fresh clear morning and generally stunning conditions for running – I enjoyed catching up with some of the familiar faces at these events and it was time to get going.

It was a tough start along the beach with uneven rocks interspersed between the sand. I focussed on efficient running and keeping my HR down in the earlier stages of the race, walking the hills and making up my time on the descents.
After about 13 miles a competitor behind me fell and cut his eyebrow. With no first aid kit of his own, I offered him some antibacterial wipes which helped him to clean the wounds out, it had stopped bleeding and after running with him and asking some questions about whether he felt concussed (I’m certainly no doctor)  I pushed on. Unfortunately we had lost contact with a group of people I’d been running with at the time.

After the second checkpoint, I made a move to pick up the pace, well let’s say increase RPE. Despite doing so I was passed by a couple of runners a few miles further down the road. Hmm. It was starting to get warm and I rolled my long sleeved thermal up as I hit the second beach section, dangerously reminiscent of  Portland, the delights of which I look forward to reliving in 3 weeks time!
After the final checkpoint with about 4 or 5 miles to go I started to run the uphill’s and really push the pace on the descents and caught 5 more competitors. I finished in about 4.40 in 19th place and had a great run. – just a shame I had to stop for the injured runner, although I hope someone would do the same for me!

The Exmoor Beast

This nice ‘little’ sportive followed the same usual routine except it was a Sunday event, and once again Lotte and I , having watched Saracens put on a poor display at home to Exeter drove down Saturday evening to her mum’s house in Taunton for the night before.

The weather forecast was atrocious and I was ‘looking forward’ to rolling out of Butlins, Minehead for 3000m of ascent across the 100 mile course.  Having wrapped up warm, it was surprisingly hot, and about 2 miles down the road, I was roasting, yet at least it wasn’t raining.  After stopping to undress somewhat, first up was Porlock hill.  For some reason there were already people walking, and although it certainly was slippery with the leaves, and the cattle grid on a particularly steep section I ground it out in my bottom gear, trying to remain seated and keeping my weight over the back wheel to stop it slipping.
From a brief glance at the map I thought we were going all the way over Dunkery Beacon, a hill that almost was the end of me 250 or so miles into the Tour of Wessex.  I held back, but the route suddenly dropped away from the misty summit of the Beacon. What a relief! Although I was quite looking forward to the destruction it would have caused!

I kept holding back and kept eating at the feed stops, knowing that the course finished with a loop of the 70.3 course. Having not ridden properly for many months, I knew I wouldn’t have the cycling endurance, but with my legs still strong from hours of running at the Transalpine, I hoped I’d maintain some sort of strength to the end.

I got a puncture as we passed through Dulverton, dangerously close to a coffee shop that served an awesome carrot cake & ice-cream that I had stopped off at with Lordy on a ride out here at the end of August. Unfortunately it was far from open, or as sunny as back then.  For many hours now it had been misty, foggy, and windy and rainy all in one. Truly miserable weather. Fortunately it wasn’t cold.
We got going again and stopped for a final feed stop at the start of the loop of the 70.3 course. After another munch, we pushed on and just at the end of the difficult section of the loop I looked around and Lotte had her head on her handlebars, bit of a weave going on there too. After she stopped and had some more flapjack, we pushed on and I towed her and a few other passengers along the faster flat section at the top of the loop. As we turned right, with about 9 miles to go, began a HUUUUUGE descent that had my hands aching and my breaks wearing!

Not long after we were back in after 8.15 hours cumulative time, which with feed stops and punctures was probably closer to 7.15.   A very tough route, but great fun. I’d certainly like to give it a go on a nicer day!


Same as usual, after a feed on Friday night, Lotte and I embarked from casa del Bruce loaded up with flapjacks and this time an Irish companion in the form of Naomi.   Unfortunately Jay was kept back by work over the weekend since they had a bit of a rush on, which was a real shame.  We arrived at the cottage in Gower at about 10.30pm and after a quick hello to the fellow Tri-London and other lodgers of the cottage it was straight to bed.

I was down to run the ultra and after registration collected my new skins a400 compression top and tights from Oli kindly supplied to us by Skins (@skinsiders).  The weather had reportedly been atrocious all week even described as ‘biblical’ by some of the race organisers.   Yet it seemed to have cleared up on the day. Not having seen a forecast and not trusting the weather to hold out, I thought I would take the opportunity to test out some new kit, and chucked on the long sleeve top – very snug and comfy!!

Anyway, the race kicked off and almost immediately my legs felt tired.  I had gone for a couple of runs earlier in the week with my Vibrams and my calves had been aching for a few days after.   I’m not sure if this was contributing to that at all – they didn’t feel good though.

Maintaining a reasonable pace, my new inov8 mudrocs were however doing the trick in boggy conditions - a must have for the muddier races!

After the second beach section (a bit of a theme with the CTS races) my mind really wasn’t in the race at all. I think it was at some point around here I decided not to run the full ultra. A decision largely based on enjoyment more than anything else.  I like to think I run for enjoyment, I had run the day thus far and had a great time and I didn’t think I would enjoy the extra 10/12km so I called it a day. Simples.  I came in on 5.04 for a 46km marathon – slightly disappointed not to go sub 5, but it was still good for an effective 19th place in the marathon, and I believe I easily had 15 mins in me having been pacing for an ultra.

I was also feeling particularly tight across my hips towards the end, and so I think it was a right decision. Avoiding injury in the run up to Polar Challenge is now also a real priority and with Oli unfortunately picking up a nasty strain in his foot I’m glad I didn’t run on (not that I could possibly say I would or wouldn’t have got injured had I continued) – but hopefully you get the point – y’know…wouldn’t want to overdo it!  Just in case later that evening I whipped on the compression tights, which in comparison to my 2XUs are just as good compression wise, and certainly more comfortable.

That said, the next day, having only run the marathon I was keen to get out and go for a short run to help build some endurance but to me what I felt was without the same injury risk, having had the chance to recover. I went for a damp yet ultimately enjoyable 10km jog around the moorland surrounding the cottage and delightful ‘Swansea Airport’.  I felt strong, no sign of tightness, and very much enjoyed that run too – I don’t know if the same could have been said for the 10km loop for the ultra add on!  Another great race – thanks @endurancelife!!

Friday, 15 October 2010

Isle of Wight Coastal Trail Series Marathon 25th September 2010

So last Friday I found myself driving down to the IOW through evening rush-hour traffic (don’t ask why) for what turned out to be a bit of a mammoth journey (I think I got to South Devon faster).

Situated in a nice house in West Cowes, it was only a 25-minute drive to the race start the following morning.  My approach in hindsight was more than a little blasé.

The weather was bright, clear and fresh – perfect conditions.  I hadn’t run more than 10 yards over the past two weeks, and was hoping that my groin would hold up.  There was a small (in comparison to other CTS events) marathon field, but considering what was essentially a trail running boot camp in the form of Transalpine under my belt, I was confident of a top 10 and with any luck top 5 finish.

I set off at what I thought to be a reasonable pace down the first hill – all that practice running downhill made this feel very easy, and I was surprisingly straight into the lead (bar the 3 early starters).  At no point did I feel I was running at a pace faster than I would normally go in a marathon but after about half a mile, my HR was unusually high. High 180s which is WAY above my anaerobic threshold of 168.

I ignored it temporarily and tried to relax, and was happy to let a group of 3 come past me and disappear into the distance.  As I made my way along the coastline, it was pretty flat.  FLAT?!!? I wanted hills to show of my new legs of steel.

My HR remained unusually high, and so I then resorted to walking up the steeper portions (although all completely runnable) in a bid to get it under control. Nothing.

I approached the first checkpoint and then took my time to eat a little thinking that if my HR is going to stay this high I’m probably going to need more food than normal.   I scoffed a cliff bar and some cola bottles (only 4.8 miles in at this point) and leisurely made my way to the top of the first climb.  I knew I’d have enough endurance to stay strong to the end, and so wasn’t worried about the few that overtook on this section.  At that moment my priority was trying to relax.  Even so, I probably should have just followed the signs instead of the people ahead and went about 2 minutes across and down a field the wrong way.
Oli who had started late, had caught up by this point and seen the correct sign, and shouted ‘Andy!!!! What are you doing?!?!’

Having realised the mistake, I and the other runners who had ventured off course turned around to see a steady stream of runners overtake as we made our way back across the field, up the hill, into the wind. (great!)

After a small flat section there was a downhill stretch, shallow enough to be easy to negotiate and steep enough to really fly down. Perfect, a chance to really test out my new descending ability.  I bombed it and flew past everyone who had just overtaken, it was a great feeling.  I then had Oli fifty or so yards up the road in my targets, he was casually running with another Tri-Londoner (sorry Dan).

Anyway, just as I spotted them we reached another slight incline.  The descent had distracted me from my HR and it was speeding up to well over threshold again, time to reign it back in.

By this point, (about an hour in) I was beginning to get frustrated – it should have settled down by now – this definitely wasn’t normal.  I slowed again allowing some to re-overtake, but then got stuck behind them on a single path descent.

Having completed the first, smaller loop of the marathon course, we then began to make our way along the coastline out towards the needles.  The sun glinted off the calm channel – it really was perfect weather for running a coastal marathon.
It was truly a shame that by then, at only the second checkpoint I had more or less decided to call it a day.  I had started to jog slowly, then walk, but nothing was bringing my hr below 165, which is more or less my threshold. Something really wasn’t right and I was worried of making myself unwell in the days to come by carrying on.

I stopped at the checkpoint and sat down for a while, and when it took more than 10 minutes to get my HR below 120 (resting HR usually 42) I knew it was time to call it a day.

With Jay unwell also, it was a bad start to the day for the Team Arktix boys, but thankfully, as predicted, Oli flew the flag and came home second by a couple of minutes or so – if only he’d turned up on time.

Hopefully this weekend, and our first Polar Challenge training event as a team, we can put on a better show than I mustered last Saturday!
Thanks to Christophe DeMoulin (winner of the half) for the pics!

Results here.

Bring on Dorset!

The Gore-tex Transalpine Run 4th September - 11th September 2011 Part II - Team Arktix

Stage 5: Prettau im Ahrntal – Sand in Taufers
Distance: 33.4km
Ascent: 1803m
Descent: 2398m
Time: 6:19:08
SP: 53/74
MR: 48/74
Overall: 124/233

The forecast for the remainder of the race was rain for the next couple of days but clearing up after that.   Although the course had been extended for the day somewhat, I was still optimistic of a quick(ish) finish and the opportunity to rest up a little.  I knew stage 7 was supposed to be a toughie so it was still all about holding on – damage limitation was the name of the game.

This stage was tougher than expected, and looking back the toughest of them all for me.  By this point in the race, I had lost the ability to descend with any speed, and any descent was becoming pretty painful.  I hadn’t paid much attention to the actual details of the stage in terms of figures, but stage 5 offered up the largest cumulative descent of the race.

The first climb was straight up to 2500m odd and fairly exposed. Colder than the day before but less miserable weather. Followed by shortish descent, another climb then a tricky traverse followed by a long continuous descent to the finish.

I was fine until the second traverse and final descent.  I kept stopping.  Couldn’t find a rhythm, and although I could see Sand in Taufers in the valley below, it wasn’t getting any closer.  I felt trapped in the run, and even though I was slowly moving forward, I wasn’t going anywhere.

Despite doubts that it ever would, the stage came to an end eventually, and we head straight to the camp by shuttle bus to shower, change and rest up.  Despite the usual excellent organisation, they had somehow sent our bags to a hotel where there were some other competitors staying.   Bagless and in damp clothes from the days run with only a hard mat to rest on, we gave in and head to the bar to salvage what we could of our recovery time. Mistakingly ordering only 2 dl of beer each at first, we soon realised there were larger glasses available. We sampled these and after further research, it turned out that they actually had pint glasses too - it would have been rude not to….

Stage 6: Sand in Taufers – St. Vigil
Distance: 39.7km
Ascent: 1512m
Descent: 1193m
Time: 5:20:08
SP: 36/66
MR: 44/66
Overall: 112/216

After another terrible nights sleep – I did NOT want to get up.  I awoke to the relentless hammering of rain on the sports hall roof.  Usually this would be reason enough to dodge a Cally session, but with almost another marathon to cover I was not in the mood.  Breakfast was hard to force down, and the race was beginning to take its toll.

The stage profile was more or less a half marathon along a valley (on tarmac) followed by a huge 1500m ascent in one go and a vicious descent down the other side.  I didn’t know it at the time, but I was about to start what described by the race organisers as the hardest stage of the gore-tex transalpine run they had ever put together.

I managed the first 10km in 57 minutes, but the second took a little longer.   I had started to slow after about 15km and after rounding a corner I saw Oli walking up ahead  (he usually ran just ahead of me at a constant speed then walks waiting for me to catch up – just as I do, he starts to run again.  Endless torment basically – like some twisted nightmare, but it kept me moving.)  Just for good measure as I caught up with him this time, he didn’t start running straight away but said ‘What happened? you were right behind me?!’. ‘I don’t know Oli – I’m probably just dying very slowly?’

Oli has a way of communicating that is very direct – not to be misinterpreted, but sometimes as frustrating as it is consistent.  If I took it to heart, it would break me, so I found some of it best to deflect with sarcasm or ignore entirely.    My other favourite Oli quote from the race was  ‘Andy, I’m sorry but, I just can’t walk that slowly’ on the ascent of the Kitzbuhelhorn on the second day - this was whilst I was bonking massively and slow expiring from thirst!  On reflection – quite amuing.   Whilst both Oli and I disagreed from time to time, I took heart in our dynamic for Polar Challenge since we always seemed to be able to put it behind us with ease and move on.

Despite tightening up through my hips – the climb was soon upon us and offered respite from the painful jogging.  After nearly 2 hours of solid climbing – soon began an excruciating descent.  It was so seriously steep that by the final checkpoint merely 1km over the summit when Oli offered painkillers I dosed up on pro plus and ibruprofen in an attempt to make the remainder more manageable.   This was the first ibruprofen I had taken during the race and it was the last.  No matter how painful things are I am now under the firm belief  – your body and your mind is better at coping with it than non-prescription pain relief.   Other than the wired effect of the caffeine I got causing me to sprint the final 100m in probably a pb  the ibruprofen did little to ease the discomfort.   There is a bit of a culture of popping some ibruprofen before a race in triathlon even for ‘precautionary’ purposes- my advice – save your liver the hassle.

Finishing the stage was a big relief and it finished in great weather, and despite getting stung by a wasp in the neck (which even left its sting in there pulsating and repeatedly stinging me through some dismembered reflex mechanism for good measure)– after a coffee and a sit in the local stream to chill my now club-like feet – my mood had noticeably improved from the morning’s huge lows.

I didn’t know it at the time, but we the stage was a LOT tougher for others than it was for me – we finished in our highest position yet and climbed 17 positions in the overall standings.   It just goes to show how tough running on the flat tarmac is on your body.

As a testament to that my legs felt very, very sore.

Stage 7: St. Vigil – Niderdorf im Pustertal
Distance: 42.2km
Ascent: 1963m
Descent: 1990m
Time: 6:45:20
MR: 41/59
Overall: 100/192

In my mind – this was the last hurdle – if I could make it through the day, nothing would stop me from reaching the finish.  The entire second half of the race had been much harder psychologically than I had anticipated.  Originally I thought that once I was past half way, it would only get easier, but it was quite the opposite, still having so far to go, time had slowed down and the finish somehow seemed further and further away.

Stage 7 was a BEAST! 10km gentle incline, then 2 pretty serious climbs with descents just as savage.  We were now firmly in the dolomites and this stage produced the most outstanding scenery of the race – it was truly incredible.  Every view I felt like I had really earned it,  and that made it all the more sweet to take in.

The second climb really took it out of me and the final run into the finish from the final checkpoint (about 8km) all gentle downhill – well the less said about that the better.   The final two km were all dead flat, and on an exposed (what seemed to be) baking hot road.   This wasn’t the longest 5km of my life – this was the longest 2km of my life.  I’ve never had to concentrate on running so much and on finishing I felt nearly as broken as I did after Ironman CH.  This was complete exhaustion – if there had been any more than 1 day to go – I would have quit there and then.  Beneath the elation of only having 1 day to go, I was completely demoralised.  To make matters worse, as I slowly shuffled over to get a massage, I could feel my groin was very tight and weak, dangerously reminiscent of when I injured myself back in February. Too tired to care – shamefully, I ignored it.

Stage 8: Niederdorf im Pustertal – Sexten
Distance: 33.4km
Ascent: 1269m
Descent: 1123m
Time: 4:48:52
SP: 44/58
MR: 39/58
Overall: 95/182

So I’d done it! The last stage – 33.4km between Team Pure Sports Medicine and the finish. Course profile? Who cares!, it was the last stage.  I just had to get through and nothing was going to stop me.

It was a cold clear start, with only one ascent and descent to tackle, and the prospect of a sun-soaked finish in Sexten was enough to spur even my weary legs into action and initially distract me from the twinge I had felt the day before.

During the flat 12km run out to the first checkpoint, sure enough my legs began to tighten and with it my groin.  A casual rest at the penultimate checkpoint before the last climb up past the spectacular Drei Zinnen – three huge spires of rock standing next to one another - an incredible structure and if you are ever near there - a must see!

As the climb began my groin almost immediately became painful, and not the usual ‘I’ve just run 185 miles’ painful, the ‘you’re about to get injured’ painful – trust me, there is a difference.   I voiced my concerns to Oli and he asked me if I wanted to stop.  My memory of this sequence of events is not that clear, and this may not have been the exact question he asked, but it seemed to be what he was getting at.  I couldn’t really believe that was the case, because who could stop now? We had just run 300 of 310km, 8 of the remaining 10km were downhill – stop now?!

I suggested that it might seem a bit strange to quit having come so far (at the time I was thinking ‘he can’t be f***ing serious!!’),  and as he made example of another british pair (2nd in the overall mixed category who had to sadly pull out on the final stage through injury), I retorted with ‘but they’ve finished it before, they have nothing to prove’.  All he said was ‘that’s not really the point’.  In silence, I carried on trudging up the hill as people walked past, slowing, and wincing with each ascending step of my left leg.  As we approached a bench I just sat down as Oli stood there staring off into the mountains, patiently waiting.  It was decision time.

I knew my brother and his girlfriend were waiting in Sexten to greet us at the finish – but even their potential disappointment seemed to pale into insignificance whilst I weighed up my options.  It was either...

...finish and potentially do some serious damage, followed by many more months of frustrating rehab with no running...

...OR stop there, walk back down to the checkpoint whilst Oli finished, still potentially be injured and also miss out on the feeling of succeeding in one the hardest physical challenges I am likely to ever undertake.

Decision made – I’d have to get off the mountain somehow, it was going to be down the other side!  It doesn’t seem like a tough decision, but with the responsiblity of my medium and long term fitness - I owe it to the team and all our sponsors to keep myself in good working order, it wasn’t quite that simple.  Not to mention  I couldn’t honestly bare the thought of doing soley physio exercises for the next 4-6 months (even though they are awesome Kate - totally awesome ;-) )

Damage limitation was yet again on my mind as I asked to borrow Oli’s sticks for the remainder of the ascent – pathetic I know, but they did help.  And as I gingerly jogged the first few paces of the descent I was pleased to feel the pain in my groin largely dissipate.   I pushed a little harder and still good – rock and roll - ‘lets finish this’ I thought.  I gave myself the target of overtaking at least 12 teams (the number that had overtaken us on the climb) since I didn’t want to lose our overall position if I could help it.  Oli had arbitrarily put the target of ‘top 40’ out there on day 5 which we achieved by day 6 – I didn’t want to let him down and lose it!

I bombed it, and sure enough, by the final checkpoint 12 teams were overtaken.  The final 5km from the checkpoint in was yet again ‘the longest…..etc’ only memorable for two things – 1) Oli almost standing on a snake on the service road as we left the checkpoint (a very close call – that snake was NOT happy) and 2) the most awesome feeling as I ran down the finish chute – I went mental – and must have looked it too jumping up and down shouting my head off.  I ran over to Philbo  (my brother) and Charlie (his gf) –  Oli and I stole their beers.  We crossed the finish line – man-hugged, and soaked up the moment – we were offered glasses of champagne as we crossed – which I promptly poured into the remainder of my beer and downed (to the looks of disgust from the girls pouring it) – it tasted so very good.

Job done – big thanks to Oli for sticking with me - again he’s helped me to achieve what I thought out of reach, to Everydaytraining for their sound advice and training plans, and Pure Sports Medicine for fixing both Oli and myself in times of disrepair, both before and after the race!!

What an amazing experience.  Would I go back?


The Gore-tex Transalpine Run 4th September - 11th September 2010 - Part I

Where do I begin? I suppose where I left off, and that was with me pulling out of the Outlaw 11 miles into the marathon. A difficult thing for me to do, but during that run, in honesty it was one of the few moments I had actually given thought to the Transalpine, what it entailed and how prepared I was – what I saw I didn’t like…

3 weeks before, I had hobbled my way round the final lap of Ironman Switzerland to a disappointing marathon time of 4.22 on a flat course and all I had to show for it was two IV drips. I was massively lacking in run endurance, with only 5 weeks before one of the toughest multi stage endurance events on the calendar.

In the brief weeks before Outlaw, if Switzerland hadn’t wrecked me enough I was clearly set on finishing myself off.   I wouldn’t say I did too much in terms of volume, but went WAY too hard in terms of intensity - hilly but short rides to Luzern 2 days after IMCH and short club rides of 50 miles or so (but on my fixie) were not what I needed – all very valuable lessons for anyone who wants to attempt two Ironman events in short succession though! You can’t go too easy! It’s supposed to be active recovery not self-annihilation.

My complete state of metabolic disrepair was confirmed by Metabolic Solutions during a steady state testing the week of Outlaw – my ability to source energy efficiently in terms of endurance racing was more or less non existent, I was on a knife edge.

We all know what happened at Outlaw – and so I was then left to back up my decision to pull out for the sake of training.  In the following 3 weeks I ran as consistently as possible - twice a day when I could, and as much as I could manage whilst at the same time trying to climb out of a black hole of fatigue.
Mileage wise I managed 18, 25 and 30 miles respectively in the 3 weeks before Transalpine.   I was aiming to up my run efficiency as possible but so daunted was I by the task ahead when I gave brief consideration to Transalpine, I could only laugh at the mediocrity of my efforts.  Laughter would be my new plan.  Mountain ahead! A mountain you say??    Mwahahahahahah - done.

At least Oli was going to be knackered from his exploits at UTMB the week before Transalpine, right? RIGHT?! Wrong. Even after cancellations Oli still managed to cram in in excess of 120km of running that weekend, (most of which hungover) – For most this would warrant either a stay in hospital or retirement– but for a robot – the perfect taper!!
As hideously unprepared as I was, I knew I had to put it out of my mind. Negative thoughts wouldn’t help me. I joked about using laughter, but a positive outlook goes a very long way, that and never ever giving up. Ever.

Stage 1: Ruhpolding – St. Ulrich am Pillersee
Distance: 36.3km
Ascent: 1223m
Descent: 1034m
Time: 4:24:13
Stage Position Men’s (SP): 51/86
Men’s Ranking (MR): 51/86
Overall: 118/273

So the scene was set – even the steady rain on race morning wasn’t enough to dampen the atmosphere.  I was already enjoying myself, more food than you could shake a stick at, great camaraderie, and even some people less experienced (although perhaps more prepared) than myself.   It all served as a perfect distraction from the goliath task ahead. With a helicopter flying overhead, highway to hell and the Transalpine theme song ‘Keep on running’ pumping from the speakers I was apprehensive yet gee-ed up, safe in the knowledge that as tough and tiring as these first days are, they often pass quickly as the mind is distracted by the feast of new experiences available.

Wrong again.  After a perfectly manageable 10km run along a towpath to the first moderate, but entirely manageable climb, there was a short descent along forest service road to a second, larger climb. This ascent began with a run up a series of planks laid over a couple of killometres of boggy fields.   Forcing the competitors into single file it gave pause for breath, then it started to get (a little) more serious.  I’m not a skier, and my experience of the slopes entails sliding slowly down long but very steep escarpments on my backside, except there was a lift to carry me back to the top – I’ve never walked, uh, I mean run up one of them.  It turns out they are steep! Anyway, as we summitted I had a quick cup of soup, and then began the steep descent down the other side. This really is something you need to know how to do. Slow yourself too much, you’ll toast your quads, too fast and you lose control.  After the earlier downpour the descent was slippery, and seemingly never-ending (never-ending descents a prevalent feature of this race).

I was relieved to reach the end of the descent and get through the last checkpoint.  With only 8km ‘flat’ to the finish, I made the rookie error of allowing myself to think it was over.  It took an age to cover those last 5km. Not because I was running THAT slowly, but because it must have been a country mile between the sign for 3km and 2km to go.  This was the first of many ‘longest 5kms of my life’.  The entire stretch I was having to work much harder than I wanted and my initial estimates were that my endurance seemed to last only about 30km, and this was an easy stage. I wanted and felt I needed much, much more in the tank.

Instant amnesia is a great technique for these multi-day events.  Once something is done, put it out of mind.  We got in just before another downpour, got some food, organised our camping position (away from the door) of the dormitory (we were sleeping in school classrooms), got showered and went for a beer.

Stage2: St Ulrich am Pillersee – Kitzbuhel
Distance: 33.2km
Ascent: 1810m
Descent: 1907m
Time: 4:59:47
SP: 47/86
MR: 46/86
Overall: 117/270

Having eaten an obscene amount of food the night before, I felt as though I had some energy and was surprisingly supple.   Short-term recovery and damage limitation had gone well, no blisters, no sign of injury, bring on day two.
This was another double ascent/descent day.  The second ascent being a nasty slog up to the Kitzbuhelhorn.  The field started in pens A, B and C , and with us being below 40th position in our category, we were in pen C.   Each pen started 5 minutes apart in order to ease congestion on the first hill.  As Oli and I had discussed, to minimise delay, I ran hard (Oli followed) for the first 2km uphill and we were second from our pen to the first climb.  However because the pens are organised by position in category, we were actually still behind many of those below us in the overall standings, and as we hit the first climb the moment the course went to single track, it was at a standstill.  This apparently left us with the only solution of making up time on the downhill.

Regardless, the congested climb offered stunning views and actually served as a great warm up for the stage ahead.  Over the summit there was a shallow (in transalpine terms) descent down soft grassy fields and forest service road. I bombed it as hard as I could, and despite losing Oli ahead of me all the time, we overtook many teams.

N.B. At this point in the race I still had a moderate ability to descend with a reasonable speed, every decent however (due to their sheer extent) had a slowly accumulating fatiguing effect.

The day then started to get hot as the second climb begun, and I misjudged the length of the climb and used up my water before it had really begun.  What ensued was not enjoyable.  Cruelly taunted by water troughs brimming over with crystal clear water trickling down the mountain from above, I knew the water was not fit to drink with fields of grazing cows milling around.  I slowed and slowed.  Reluctant to eat the gels or nuts I had with nothing to quench the insatiable thirst.  I was left with little option but to tough it out as a steady stream of slow moving competitors moved past.   There is a somewhat comedic photo of me at the summit of this climb, before the final descent into Kitzbuhel. I don’t look happy, but I can’t even remember if I was putting that face on!
The lack of attention to hydration and nutrition on that climb also began to rear its ugly head on the descent. Whilst we still managed to overtake a few teams, the majority came back past us on the final flat 2km into Kitzbuhel.  I was absolutely hanging, and even Oli’s attempts at cajoling me to run hard for the final metres were quickly snubbed - I was totally wiped.  So that’s it then, I’ve managed 2 days I thought.  Getting food in was tough immediately after that stage and to me a sure sign I’ve overcooked it.   With no camp accommodation we at least had the comfort of a hotel for the night, and I still managed two full 3 course meals that evening at the pasta party.   I hadn’t quite realised the importance of how much good this would do for me, but the importance of eating more than you think you could possibly ever eat cannot be understated in multi-stage races such as this.

That night we were treated to a live performance by Marty from ‘Tumble Weed’ as he sang live (and quite well) the Transalpine theme song ‘keep on running’, twice.

Stage 3: Kitzbuhel – Neukirchen am Grossvenediger
Distance: 46.9km
Ascent: 2252m
Descent: 2130m
Time: 7:26:50
SP: 50/80
MR: 49/80
Overall: 122/260

With day two having gone absolutely excellently, I was thoroughly looking forward to the longest stage of the race this year. A steep climb out the other side of Kitzbuhel up a world cup downhill ski slope (pretty steep) followed by prolonged descent along forest service road.  Then its does get serious with a semi-exposed climb up above the snowline to about 2100m and a 10km technical traverse on icy, rocky terrain at altitude, finishing with a beastly 10km descent of about 1200m into Neukirchen!  I tried not to think about it.
At the first checkpoint, at the top of the first climb, we picked up a 3rd team member. As is often the case in this race, people succumb to injury and are forced to pull out.  This leaves the remaining team partner with the option of withdrawing also, or pairing up with another team.  The competitor called Jonas or as we decided to call him ‘J’ asked if he could run with us for the remainder of the stage.  He was from Sweden, yet spoke excellent English.  He said he’d go at our (read my) pace and Oli and I were happy to have him along.  We got to a chatting and asking about his previous experience - a few weeks previously he had won the unsupported category of a 246km non-stop foot race. Great – another robot for company.

Anyway, distracted by the new teammate, as we chatted away and got to know him the time seemed to pass quickly up until the traverse.  It was difficult running, one moment muddy, then snow, then slush, then ice, then rocky trail and everything in between. It was difficult to find a rhythm and having been on our feet for nearly 6 hours by the time we reached the final checkpoint before the last descent I was exhausted.

The descent took over an hour, and I had to stop several times to recouperate such was the toll that the ‘never-ending’ descent was taking on my legs.  With the concentration that descending requires, I found it hard to stay focussed, and every time I stumbled on a branch or rocks, mostly out of fatigue and the effort required to lift my legs, I became frustrated and angry.   The kind of anger you get when you stubb a toe. Grrrr!   The temperature also started to rise as we descended further and it became quite hot towards the end. I was incredibly relieved to finish the stage.  We got some food on board – personally I had 3 fruit smoothies supplied by the Buff stand, two cheese and ham rolls and a local ice cream.  Topped off with a beer as we soaked our legs in a cold fountain by the finish, we then dried off in deck chairs lounging in the sun – although knackered, it was the first time it felt like a ‘holiday’.

For the pasta party that evening we got the cable car up the mountain we had just descended, and worryingly for the first time – I couldn’t finish my meal. Which isn’t as bad as it sounds, I did have a salad bowl bigger than my head and a large desert, just left some of my rice ;-)

Stage 4: Neukirchen am Grossvenediger – Prettau im Ahrntal
Distance: 43.9km
Ascent: 1967m
Descent: 1377m
Time: 7:25:21
SP: 53/80
MR: 51/80
Overall: 128/252

I got a shocking nights sleep – laying in one position for more than a few minutes had led to an accumulatory burning sensation in my legs, coupled with my feet in general feeling like they were in an oven, didn’t help.

The previous afternoon, Jonas had asked whether it was ok if he could run with us again for this stage and since he had been great company we were happy to accept.   The dynamic in a team of 3 is very different to that of just 2 members and offers a nice variety in terms of conversation.   It would certainly be needed – with another marathon distance to tackle, the highest altitude of the race and a double climb before the ‘rest’ day on day 5.

The stage didn’t start well, and after about half an hour of running along the road and trail even before the very steep climb up alongside a huge waterfall, I was slowing up.  A good way to ruin tired legs is running on a flat road surface.  I could feel both ITBs beginning to tighten.   After reaching the top of the waterfall there was then a very long stretch of flat/rolling road, which again wound its way up a valley before the day’s major climb.

Although breathtaking to observe the valley walls rising higher and higher each side of us as we made our way towards an enormous snow covered wall at the end of the valley, it went on for an age. With all of this section ‘runnable’ it made it that much harder to keep going.   I couldn’t wait for the ascent and an excuse to walk.   I had no strategy such as ‘run 10, walk 1’, which probably made it tougher, but it was hard enough to concentrate on keeping moving. I ran when I could, and any effort to do so felt like I had to give everything to manage it.  I was closing in on that ‘dark place’.

Now I say I couldn’t wait for that ascent, I probably could have done.  It was about 800m up steep single track up to 2669m.  For the first time I had started to notice the altitude, and I was just so tired I found it hard to work hard enough to stay warm.  I stopped to put a jacket on ¾ of the way up to the top since I was getting cold and took the chance to eat 2 mini-tubs of honey from the hotel from breakfast and a power bar.   The weather closed in and as we approached the summit, visibility noticeably decreased and the entire rocky trail was slow going, covered in snow and slippery.  From behind there was some shouting and the partner of team member 122 was called for, apparently his team mate had hypothermia and they were calling for the other team partner to go back.    About 5 minutes later 3 mountain guides came running down the mountain path ahead of me with blankets.  That girl was apparently air lifted off the mountain.

The usual relief of summitting was not long lived, as the first portion of the descent the other side was bordering on treacherous and even more exposed that the final steps of the ascent.  This still got me moving a little more and soon the honey kicked in.  After only 10 minutes or so my enthusiasm for descending began to wane and I was reduced to a hobbling shuffle down the steps.  This was until I realised we had 45 minutes to the final cut off at the last checkpoint of the day and about 5km still to travel.  45 minutes and 5km may not seem like much of a task, but having run over 150km in the past 4 days and after another 6 hours on my feet, getting a shift on presented a problem.  Especially with a 1km of technical descent on shot legs to tend to.  I told myself that 45 minutes of pain (more than I was already in) was worth it after having come so far and we picked up the pace.  We made the checkpoint with 15 minutes to spare, and after that had time to finish the stage at our leisure.   I was relieved we were still in the competition but as the last 5km ticked by, they again took forever.  We finished another mammoth 7.5 hour effort in the pouring rain, and after only a luke warm shower to freshen up, I treated myself to my first massage of the race. I partly fell asleep during the 20 minute massage but it was good to loosen off the legs a bit.   I could relax though – one of the major efforts of the race was over, back to back marathons tackled without injury, we were past half way and there was only 29km and 1500m of ascent to do the next day. I hadn’t checked the course info, but it was probably all downhill from there on in too? Almost Laughable.

Almost. The race briefing that evening didn’t share such an optimistic outlook.  Due to a mudslide across part of the course, they had to extend the route by 5km, oh AND add in another 300m of ascent.  This announcement was met with a massive groan and the ‘rest’ day was all of a sudden looking not so restful after all.

Outlaw Race Report (ish) 8th August 2010


(ok so its not what they shouted as I DNF’d my way outta this one, but it would be amusing at Ironman races if they had the facility to do so)

I approached this race, not really fussed, and hadnt given it much preparation.  The week after switzerland I managed a couple of rides, and very gentle swims.  On Monday I had has a steady state fuel analysis done with Metabolic Solutions that had shown I was severely fatigued. As opposed to in february when fit i was sourcing 40% of my energy from fat (at lactate threshold), I was only sourcing 5% energy from fat at the same intensity. NOT good for long distance racing.  On the Wednesday night swim, my arms felt dead in the water, but i still had some semblance of speed. In honesty, i doubted whether this was an entirely good idea??!

Anyway, race day was upon me and just thought I’d see how it went. I wanted a 1 hour swim, especially after my split in Switzerland but didnt have any other specific goals for the race. By now, deep down, I didn’t  really wanted to race. Anyway, a cold start, I got myself into the fast pen, (sub 1 hour swimmers) and off we went. I found myself powering off ahead of people my side of the pen, and I merged across to find some feet. All going well. The first 1.9km up the lake was a REAL struggle, there were so many weeds in the water, I kept getting huge clumps in my hands, and face, and kept losing the feet in front of me. I was getting seriously pissed off with the weed, and thought id be WAY off the hour. I took a peak at my watch as I rounded the end buoys and had what looked like 27 mins on the watch. I thought to myself at least its definitely only the same distance back down the lake - lets see what I can do. Whilst I didnt feel great, I wasnt deteriorating, as the people in front of me seemed to slow I bridged to the next swimmers ahead of me with relative ease. Out of the water and 54 something on the watch, MUST have been a short swim, but even so thats way under the hour. only goal of the day accomplished. Out onto the bike....

So again whilst I didnt feel exactly nippy (and wasn’t) my legs weren’t totally dead, but I didn’t seem to be able to lay down much speed at all, I just decided to see how it would go. I felt I was pushing a little hard on the first lap and reigned it back. 1.37 for the first loop, 1.40 for the second with loo stop and 1.38 for the third lap with loo stop. So pretty consistent riding. I pushed it all the way home from 95 miles. Felt good actually at parts, although I did get a sharp pain in my right knee that dissapated quickly after an adjustment of my pedal stroke (just a usual random ache I think)

Anyway, onto the run and I didnt seem to get my heart rate down. I wasnt having fun, I was very short of breath and generally felt exhausted. As usual I tried to ignore the aches and just get into the meditation of one foot in front of another and watch the miles ebb away.  This time I was really going to hold back, no pushing for times. After the first lap of the lake and the first out and back, i had started to feel a little better, walking some aid stations, I seemed to get my hr down, but then something strange happened - I suddenly decided/realised I didnt WANT to finish. Completely weird, normally I’m stubborn to the point of grinding things out for the sake of it. This is how it came about.

The inner dialogue re-appeared and the question was asked, why are you doing this? (pretty normal, im sure weve all asked ourselves during training or racing)

I however struggled to find an answer. Usually I look to within the confines of a race and try to remain focussed.  The answer usually is for the feeling of accomplishment you get from finishing etc etc.   That didnt cut it this time, I started to look outside the race and started to look at my past injury, and what I was doing. Was I out of my depth? I was 10 ish miles into the marathon and starting to feel good, but I know how quickly things can turn. I knew i wasnt injured at the time, but with the proven exhaustion id been suffering from, I knew i was on the edge of maintaining form.  I had felt terrible earlier, and knew and had been experiencing especially for the past 9 hours just how much a full ironman took out of me last time.

I began to look to my races and training comittments (namely transalpine at the start of september, the training weekend planned in switzerland next weekend) I knew if I ran the rest of this race then, other than being able to brag that I’d done two Ironman in 3 weeks, that i wouldnt be able to train effectively next week - and completion at transalpine would become even less of a likelihood than it already is.

I suppose ultimately I chose to fight another day. It was a solid training session, and a swim pb, one i should be proud of (even if it clearly must have been short!) Im sure it looks like I quit, but this race never meant enough for me to fight for.  Perhaps im getting smarter, or just lost my nerve....

Lets just hope I can convert the decision into results and get my untrained legs round Transalpine - which I’m glad to say they’ve now decreased the elevation (to 13,500) but increased the distance (to 305km!!!)

A steady block of running for 3 weeks now for me, then rest....then???

Below I’ve added some images from last years race - a taste of things to come! I can’t wait!

Ironman Switzerland Race Report 25th July 2010

Swim: 1:01.08
T1: 4:13
Bike 5:50.56
T2: 3:27
Run: 4:22.10
Overall - 11:21.55,8
place overall: 899
age group: 82

So all things considered preparation had gone well. No mishaps, and after a successful 15 hour drive leaving early morning Wednesday, we (myself, James and Chris - two first time ironmen) arrived Wednesday evening at my brothers house about 25km from Zurich. Sorted the bikes out and went for a 2 hour spin on Thursday, had to change cassette on the wheels i borrowed from Kev, and after a swim in the lake on Friday, nothing Saturday it was time to race.

During the previous 2 weeks i had regualrly been getting 10 hours sleep and felt like I was very rested.   This time I had no nerves in the run up to the race, I spent most of my time making sure James and Chris werent panicking, and felt at home (having spent lots of time in Switzerland at my brothers I guess it kind of is).   As such I hadn’t given much thought to my actual race. I knew my strategy, but I suppose I just hadnt had time to actually sit quietly and think about it. As a result I got almost no sleep the night before since it was all I could then think about. Perhaps a 3 hour doze.  Up at 3am for breakfast. Ive not slept much before other races, and it doesnt seem to make a difference. Adrenaline seems to carry you through.

I had not had any caffeine for 2 weeks previously and made a pot of literally nuclear coffee as I woke up.  A bowl of fruit salad, and apple, a banana, peanut butter and honey wholemeal bagel and 3 pots of rice pudding with honey. Can of red bull in the car over, and half a lucozade, the rest watered down, and taken to sip during prepping for transition.

After I had pumped the tyres and set everything out, (its an open tranistion at CH) I got a(nother) coffee and wandered down to the swim start to have a look around, listening to my ipod in my own little world. I felt very calm and felt the race was going to go well. Got the wetsuit on and wandered down to the swim start.

I had planned on wearing compression socks during the bike and run, but at the expo had bought some compression calf guards instead to save a little more time. I was wearing these all morning, and when i started to jog and jump around as I made my way down to the swim my calves did feel tight.   As I got into the water to splash around and warm up a little, I felt like both my feet were starting to cramp (oh shit!).  I’ve NEVER had this before, and only cramping at swimming if I’ve run earlier in the day. Wanting the swim to go well, this was NOT good. Realising there was little I could do about it with only a few minutes before the start, I just ignored it (it must have been just lactic from jumping up and down)

Swim start, as we all lined up on the beach i felt some nerves come over me. Here it was, the public goal of a 1 hour swim, I knew I was capable of it, just time to execute now. I’ve done the training, no problem. I decided to position myself much more central this time, but towards the left of the middle (next to the ’women only’ start area).  This was with the thinking that I would probably be swimming faster than the ladies who werent wanting to go in with the main field and if it got ugly, and even if wasnt swimming faster than some of them,  i could head out in their direction where it wouldnt be so aggressive.

Right to the front of the start and off we went. I swam hard, and didnt come across any rough and tumble for the first straight, couldnt find many feet, but knew there would be some soon. Pushed again and got a thwack round the head as I rounded the buoy (it didnt knock my goggles off and was the only physical contact I encountered).  I found some reasonable feet and settled down.  Along the straight into the island turnaround on the first lap a gap of about 10m had opened up infront of the person i was drafting. Do i? dont I? I felt good and wanted to be in that pack for the second lap, its now or never - so i went for it. 30s of pushing, im about half way across, ugh this is hard work im thinking. Pushed again and just as i was thinking this would be too much, someone swam alongside me and was trying to bridge the gap also. I latched onto their feet as they came past, and although they didnt quite make the gap, they got me close enough. Onto the island 28.30 (ish by my watch - not what my splits actually were)......hmm I knew the second lap was 200 m longer - the hour isnt on the cards at the moment.

Shit, I thought - but ive been pushing the pace, and swimming fairly aggressively, is it just a long course or am I just not up to it. my perceived effort was that of IM UK 70.3 easily.  Anyway, I ran and dived in, and the pack had thinned across the island. Found some more feet but I could tell he wasnt moving fast enough, hmm.  I looked around, noone close - I didnt want to do any work so sat with him and thought about what to do. If I push any more I could ruin the race, its a long day. Then (luckily) this guy came mowing past. He was definitely on the go and it only took him a few metres to move past.  Not to look a gift horse in the mouth I latched onto his feet but I had to work to stay with him. But he was chewing up the other swimmers. These were some good feet. I stayed with him all  the second lap. Amusingly, the times i got to close and brushed his feet, he kicked hard, to lose me. It only made him go faster. It was like whipping a horse, except i was tickling someones feet. It made me chuckle.

Coming out of the water, on my watch was 1 hour and 58 seconds. Hmmm again.  My watch didnt tally with either of my times so dont relly know what was going on there. I am however not disappointed (well i am that i didnt get the time), but I honestly dont know how I could have safely gone much quicker, maybe if I’d found a draft earlier on the first lap - who knows. Ill try again at Outlaw.

Out onto the bike, and kevs 808s felt smooth, light and gooooood. 22mph feeling easy all the way along the first 30km. then into the rolling section. I was just holding back and concentrating on eating. Felt comfortable and no aches or pains. Decided to time getting up the beast (13 mins 37 seconds) and then back onto the lake out round to hearbreak hill where lotte and my family and friends were waiting. What a buzz, the atmosphere is awesome.  Purely because it was so much fun, and just about short enough, i kicked up a couple of gears and powered up the hill absolutley loving it. Pushed the HR up a bit though!!

Second lap I tried to concentrate and just maintain my effort, pushing in the last 1/3rd if I felt good. A quick loo stop at one station and up the beast again, (13 min and 30 seconds).  There is a misleading climb after the beast that isnt named, having cycled the course before I knew it was there, and paced myself on the first lap. The second time however, in passing over some nuun to an RAF chap who had been suffering with cramps, I dropped my last gel, and so didnt have any to take after the beast for about 40 mins, and only water in my bottles.  I eased back and took 2 bananas, 2 powerbars, 2 gels, and some cola at the next stop and had a good feed. There is an awesome downhill section on each lap and both times i hit 75kph.   I felt much better and down along the lake and round to Heartbreak hill for the last time i dug in.  (N.B. there was in general an HORRENDOUS amount of drafting on this course, lots were getting penalised which is good, but lots were BLATANTLY drafting, quite shocking really. I dont really understand it)

Came off the bike and as i left t2 there was 7 hours cumulative time on the clock (or thereabouts). Ok so here is where it all begins to get serious. I had run consistenly since 70.3, about 3 x a week, and my longest run since then was just over 1 hour (once), everything else had been 30-45 mins easy. Anyone with sense would tell me to expect nothing from the run.

I held it back fairly steady on the first lap, getting used to the rather complex looping switchbacky run course. Lotte was telling me everything i wanted to hear, ’keep it steady, stay focused, you know how to do this’. My rather excited, but equally well meaning family werent quite as constructive, with my grinning mother sitting there with a sign saying PUSH! with Andy written underneath. Maybe later. Unfortunately, lotte and my family do all know what I’m like though, and knew that I knew that 11 hours was on the cards.  On the cards, but Ive never run 4 hours before, let alone in an IM marathon. However, id taken 1 hour 10 off my bike time, 15 mins off my swim time, and about 20 minutes off my tranistions so far, so why not take 15 mins off my 4.15 run from bolton, that was undulating after all, and I’m a much better athlete than I was then!!

I had said to myself and Steven (coach) before the race, that I’d enjoy myself if I went for it, so I suppose I had already made the decision then (to go for a time). Its arguably the WORST thing you can do to yourself in an Ironman, especially when i have little or no training to back up the attempt.

Anyway, I felt ok on the first lap, and started to push a little, but only a little on the second lap. I wanted to get every lap faster than the last. I probably should have just tried to negative split from half way, or more sensibly still just see where i was with 10k to go and see what I had left, but I didnt want to lose touch with the 11 hour target. The first lap was shorter, so although the  second lap was slightly slower, the laps were all the same from there on in, and i had in fact run it at a slightly quicker pace. Ok I knew it was going to start to hurt from there on, but its only pain, thats all it can do, hurt.  I know how to dig deep if nothing else. As I started the 3rd lap, Lotte, my brother and everyone had been closely monitoring my times, they knew i was close and Lotte said ’you can still get 11 hours but you are going to have to push’  (where was my mum with her sign now!?) I started to kick on, but about half way round the 3rd lap, I couldnt take anything on, even water made me sick. I tried some soup, that made me feel better (real food). But I didnt feel well at all, not a sickness in the sense of bloatedness, but just very weak, and extremely sick, I felt like i was slowing up and by the end of the 3rd lap, I knew that my legs didnt have what it took to keep going at that pace.

I switched off the moaning, and remained rational. Jsut as you can always feel worse, you can also start to feel better.  I just carried on running even though I knew I was slowing and wanted to see how it played out. I didnt even know that finishing the 3rd lap i had actually gone a little faster again was still on for it. It just didnt feel like it was there. The run walk strategy became hard, and despite essentially running completely on ’empty’, I promised myself I wouldn’t walk except the aid stations.  I mean why WOULD you walk? it is a race after all ;-) (plus oli would probably take the piss)

What made it worse, was during the turnaround, about 3 or 4km into the last lap I had by now completely dropped out of contention with the 11 hour target. Although I knew it, and although they didnt want to show it, it was obvious on the faces of everyone. It was a dark place and my brother tried to sing a line from the transalpine song ’keep on ruuuuunnniing!!!!!’ I ashamadely snapped at him and told him where to shove it. saying ’not now’ after a bit of swearing. He was only trying to help, and I immdeiately felt awful. This sort of race strips away every layer and leaves you with your raw emotions. Its hard to not become irritated by everything when things aren’t going well. He was only trying to help, but he couldnt. I felt like I’d let everyone down at this point, myself included. I had pushed too hard too early and was now acting like a dick to top it off. I guess you have to keep pushing  though when you are aiming for a time. Even though it wasnt a time I should have been aiming for. But I had made a decision to try and this was the result. 1 bloody painful lap and me losing my temper.  I carried on running, (pretty slowly) but carried on.  I just wanted it to end.

Lotte came across over to another bit of the course where there were few supporters and gave me some more encouragement, she knew I was broken, but said all the right things. I cant even remember what she said.  Outlaw was another thought that came into my head at this point. The thought of running another race two weeks later actually made me feel physically ill (in an amusing way).

Im glad that I never stopped. I didnt need to keep running, but I’m glad that I did. Its important for me to know that I had no excuses ’if id carried on running i might have been close’.  I wouldnt have been, and I wasnt.  Its great to know exactly how short I fell from my target (regardless of how silly a target it was to impose) I couldnt have run that last lap faster. I gave everything.  In a strange way its completely liberating to know that youve given everything even if its not enough. It makes everything more simple. Next time Ill simply have to try harder.   When I finished my last Ironman I felt emotional and wanted to cry (i didnt obviously, because im tough etc etc) but running down the chute this time, I didnt even feel anything. If i can describe it, I was emotionally completely exhausted. The catcher asked me if i felt ok, I said no. I felt so sick.

I went out thorugh the food tent, tried to drink some water, and didnt want to put it in my mouth. Tried the same with coke, the same result.  I wasnt responding to people talking to me properly. Bumped into Nick Mills who has finished strong, and asked him about his race, he seemed happy which was great. I wasnt very responsive. I apologised, and collected my bag, and took it out to my parents, and decided i needed some sort of help. I  stumbled back round to the finish line to a helper and said ’where is the medics tent’ he turned to see me and said ’oh shit’ and carried me to the medical tent.  All I remember them then saying as i walked in was ’Rot, Rot, Rot!’  Which means Red. Hmm, slightly concerning. My blood pressure was low, and they put me on a drip. Didnt feel much better, but after another i started to do so. Somehow, I managed  get up from the bed an discharge myself and get a shower and a massage. I still hadnt eaten anything, but eventually forced down a protein shake and some chips and a plate of pasta, and some more chips, and a bratwurst (I dont need to feel THAT well to eat apparently).  I apologised to my brother.

So yeah, looking at my time (which isnt the important thing) I finished with a 92 ish minute personal best, which i suppose is good. (It IS after all a faster course) Perhaps Ill be able to get sub 11 next year if i do another Ironman then. I wasnt THAT far off taking into account run endurance. I know how to pace myself, my nutrition may have gone slightly wrong. but im improving still.

I am now 100% keen for Outlaw, 1 hour swim!!!!!! 1 hour SWIM!!!! ahhhhhh!!!!

I love how the body forgets pain.

IMUK 70.3 20th June 2010

Overall: 194/1081
AG: 27/137

Swim: 28.38
T1: 05.21
Bike: 03:19.27
T2: 02.08
Run: 01:48.33

Total: 5:44.06

So the build up to this race - not ideal. I managed a cumulative total of 9 miles running since the end of february, all of which was the week preceeding the race. I only really decided to bring shoes to even attempt the run a couple of weeks before, not expecting ANYTHING from the run other than to try to run/walk to the finish.  Cycling had been better getting in a big block of hilly riding over the previous weeks. Coming into the race my swimming had also been going well and I felt very rested.

Myself Stephen T and Rob McL and Gordon all went to a nearby pub the night before for dinner - I had a steak and despite generally feeling like i had been eating ALL day - managed to cram it in. Definite calorie surplus going on! In fact that trend I think would appear to be true for the entire week. Oh well nothing wrong with racing heavy on an uber hilly course!?

We got to bed early, like 8.30 early. I struggled to sleep considering there was still bright sunshine outside, and I am no longer 7 years old not really needing to get to bed that early.  In fact the 7 year old children with the family in the tent nearby were actually still wide awake making loads of noise. As i laid there my mind began to wander - e.g. whether I was going to catch the vomiting bug that Stephen had been carrying all week as he lay passed out generally exhausted next to me.

I awoke at about 4.30ish and had a peanut butter and banana wholemeal bagel and 3 pots of rice pudding for breakfast. a can of red bull and half a bottle of lucozade, topped up with water to sip as i went over to transition to give the tyres a pump and get suited up. It was also FREEEEZING. the clear night had left a frost on the car and the shivering breakfast brought back memories of the shivering breakfast at IMUK in August.

Swim - Aim - go under 30 mins feeling comfortable. Strategy - Start wide, get my head down for 200m or so and go hard, then look for swimmers inside me to draft.

I got into the water early and headed to the right hand buoy of the deep water swim start. got right to the front a quick check of the predicted and past times of the swimmers around  me(correcting for bullsh1t) gave me a reasonable indicator i was in the right spot. This was my 5th tri and depite having raced both bigger and smaller tris I am yet to encounter ANY sort of problem of ANY kind on a swim with regard to a pile up, flailing arms legs, anything. I was actaully a little nervous on this one though as plenty of swimmers then began to line up the otherside of the buoy i thought was the outside of the swim start. I was now in the middle at the front. Hmmm.

The claxon went and we were off. I let the guy who had moved in ahead of me swim off and just followed him out for about 300m or so. I sighted to the first buoy turn and saw a gap of maybe 5 or 6m had opened up infront of him to another pack of swimmers. Feeling strong, and generally quite cocky about my recent swim form, I decided to try to bridge the gap. Which happened with a surprising lack of effort - queue head inflation adding extra valuable buoyancy. After the first turn, we then swam straight into the sunrise, I couldnt see anything (i dont think tinted goggles would have helped - maybe welders goggles??), so just follwoed some toes of the pack i was in .It was a GREAT feeling to be sitting happily on peoples toes and breezing past the odd couple. Some were a bit wayward in the pack and as people do they  were constantly adjusting their own courses ahead of me (probably to maintain the draft of those ahead of them who were manouevering likewise), so even if i was swimming in a straight line I often lost the draft. The best way to manage this is to adjust the stroke power and glide.  I definitely swim with a higher turnover/less effort in a draft than i do on my own.  So whenever i lost the draft  i just put down a little more power and lowered my stroke rate so i could resight and find some more toes. Whether its boring or not - the decreasing stroke count drills Paul regualrly works into Mon and Fri morning swim sets are great for building this sort of control.  I didnt really push on any of the swim except the very start and the end after the last buoy to the finish. I came out of the water in 28.38 and know i had more to give. dead chuffed.

Anyway, the last little push in had left me feeling a little dizzy exiting the water as I jogged up the steep exit ramp - at which point the Lordy foghorn caught me a bit by surprise...great support though. I wonder if he would have felt bad if id fallen over?

uneventful and leisurley transition I came out onto the bike ready to settle down for a bit of the old hills.

Bike - Aim - Hold back as much as possible for the run, whilst not grinding to a halt on the hills completely - spin the hills on the first lap - push a little more on the second.

Pretty much exactly what i did. I think i probably went a little too slow - but wouldnt have changed it since i have no idea how it would/could have affected my run. The Tour of Wessex and cycling in Switzerland def helped though, spent most of all the notable hills overtaking people. Still a lot of room for improvement though. Cycling is my focus for the next year at least!!

Only one event to mention - being on a long stretch of downhill a group of cheating drafting loooosers came from behind as I approached a small hill, i changed down to spin up it as opposed to hammering it in the big chainring to grind out over the top, which is what this group attempted. i was more or less over to the left of the road, yet of the group 1 moron came up the inside and didnt even announce he was doing so and gave me a firm barge as he sped past almost taking me off. complete twit.  It felt good to spin past him seated on the major climb of the lap as he was out of the saddle sweating and grunting making it look like an ascent on everest. what a loser.

Run - Aim - dont die. Strategy - run really slowly, walk the aid stations, and try to maintain as consistent and steady effort as i can. and generally pray that i dont undo 4 months of rehab in one fail swoop. If i do, hide in the foresst until i work out a good enough excuse/story to tell Kate as to how it happened.

Basically I just set out and tried to run steady and if i could manage it run a negative split.  I felt pretty good - I lie, i was loving it..Ive missed running SO much.  I went on RPE and HR and tried to maintain a hr of 155 (MAF) - but not higher than 160-165 on the hills.   However I seemed to have lost the cockiness of the swim. Despite everything going well I was honestly pretty anxious  the whole way round that this was a bad idea. It was a bit of a rollercoaster - emotional highs as i felt great about the run, then reality checks as i tried to maintain focus and keep it on the straight and narrow and not get injured!!  The course suited me down to the ground though. The ultras and trail marathons of the winter seemi like a distant memory but it would appear they have taught me something useful - how to run downhill and to an extent uphill - i cant honestly tell you how many people i overtook on the descents in particualr  but it was a lot. With constant encouragement on the run course from a well positioned lordy ( he was essentially standing in the middle of the field which the course runs around and across at various turnarounds just shouting his head off) I even heard him through the trees shouting encouragement to Gordon when i was still running alongside the lake.

It was glorious weather, and good to see others out on the run - there are several turnarounds on the 3 lap run and thats great for picking people off. I managed to pick it up slightly on the last lap but was definitely approaching fatigue by the end, feeling my form go slightly (which is what got me injured in the first place) I just about held it togehter for a sprint finish.

Great atmosphere, great course, and dont feel I could have raced any better considering my prep if I tried. Maybe could have gone harder on the bike, but I dont know how that would have affected my run, so wouldnt change that. Even left with a 38 second middle distance PB compared with Beaver (my first tri) from last year. So its good to see that I’m improving despite injury. But only just! ;-)

Well done again to Brett ’i’m clearly a bit of a legend at triathlon but you wouldnt know it’ Hedges for your AG win. inspiring.

General Update - Team Arktix

Hello everyone. It’s been a long time since any of us last updated the website in any way. And for that we apologise – It’s been pretty manic at for us three of late and whether its been cycling running or swimming around at various locations across the UK, Europe and Africa we’ve still had to contend with raising our race entry fees.

Luckily we’ve managed to get to our half way point in terms of business sponsorship more or less, but if ANY of you have any ideas or leads, please get in contact with us, we’d love to hear from you, there is still a long way to go.  (But seriously, actually think about it, take some time now if you like)

So what exactly have we been up to?  Well first of all Jay has been in Uganda for several weeks. All three of us are yet to catch up – but I assume he was out there running through jungles, wrestling gorillas and building max power and endurance for our Polar trip.  Myself and Oli less glamorously have been to Switzerland (x2) Exmoor (x2) and down to deepest darkest Kent!

I can only speak for the more boring events of my own whereabouts, but I’m sure the other guys will be on here to give you their own viewpoint soon.

So since I last blogged its been a frustrating time for me personally – having been off running for about 3 months and cycling for over a month, I’ve spent most of the time working hard in the gym on my glute activation, general core strength and just swimming lots (lots and lots).

Constrained by injury,  until recently my swimming has been with no legs (just a pull buoy between my legs and a band around my ankles to make doubly sure I couldn’t kick) I’ve got to admit was pretty boring at times – but ‘buoy’ did it pay off (sorry, that was bad) . For three weeks I swam 4x a week averaging nearly 20km and 6 hours a week in the water. Despite feeling like my arms were going to fall off most of the time, which was only exacerbated by taking on the push up challenge alongside this heavy swimming phase – my swimming has come on leaps and bounds.  Being forced to keep up with everyone else using only my arms has built some pretty decent endurance and more importantly not having to worry about my legs – its forced me to eek out every bit of efficiency I can from my stroke.   Now that I’m allowed to kick again – I’m flying. Compared to last year when in an all out sprint distance tri I managed to maintain 1:41 per 100m over a total of 400m, I recently managed to hold 1:32 per 100m over 2.6km during the Marshman Plus (a ¾ distance Ironman triathlon).  This is a pretty encouraging improvement. I only hope to be able to mirror that improvement with my cycling and running when I can really get back to training. And of course I hope to apply every ounce of that improvement to the Polar Challenge, I’m sure I’ll need it and more!

So chronologically speaking the first of the  weekends away was a visit to Switzerland (first weekend of May). Oli and myself head out there and I managed my first cycle back – a gentle 40km spin around the lake on the Sat  and then went for a walk up the Zugerberg on the Sunday.  Oli did some pretty serious running and walking up the mountain both days (having run the Cornwall CTS marathon the weekend before), and it was nice to be able to scope out some routes and ideas for some more serious training a month later when we were to return.

A week later came Marshman Plus, held on Romney Marshes  – Since I still wasn’t allowed to run, the race organiser had agreed to let  Lotte to do the run leg for me. After a good 39 min swim exiting the water in 7th, I was dead chuffed and just got round the 80 mile bike course practicing my IM nutrition and getting used to being back on the bike.   Having not cycled consistently for over a month and a half I had no expectations, so wasn’t fussed either way. Lotte had a solid run and we finished 9th overall– unfortunately it doesn’t really count since we were a relay, but what the hey, not too shabby. I’ve uploaded my race report for this and you can find Oli’s here. (shhhh he didn’t have such a good day)

The next weekend – Oli and I set off late Friday evening down to Exmoor.  On the Saturday Oli was running the final Coastal Trail Series Marathon, which he breezed round in his usual robot-esque fashion, and I decided to get out and practice the IM UK 70.3 bike course.  It was a day of glorious sunshine and after our efforts we both spent the afternoon enjoying some well deserved fine ales, cider and steak whilst basking in the beer garden at the Blue Ball Inn – Awesome day and awesome pub! To cap off the perfect weekend, on the Sunday we both cycled the UK 70.3 bike course  (myself for the 2nd time) and headed back to London for some more well deserved food at Ray’s post Crystal Palace Tri London social.  Still bathing in the warm glow of another day’s sun there we were able to share some Gower cottage brownie love with all (Kate at Gower Cottage Brownies coming up with the goods). Despite most people being full to the brim by the time we got there – it didn’t stop many a Tri Londoner getting in on the action, so overwhelmed were they by the dark lure of these chocolatey cubes of delight.

So how might we top that weekend you might ask – with another weekend down in the south-west of course! This time the challenge was the Tour of Wessex. 331 miles of cycling and a hell of a lot of hills in three days. The first day was atrocious weather, of which I spent most of it cycling the 106 miles alone, the second (120 miles) and third (105 miles) days I spent with some fellow Tri Londoners. Ascending the 2.9 mile and 597m of Dunkery Beacon about 50 miles into the last day was a toughy, that’s for sure, but again it was great training.  I probably could have done without my gears failing, not allowing me to change more than halfway down my rear cassette in the last 25 miles, but it was an excellent weekend and I can thoroughly recommend it.  Completely randomly I was even spotted by Jay somewhere down near Poole on the second day. What are the chances?!

Taking a weekend off after all that would have clearly been out of the question, so after Charlie at Puresports made her best attempt at ‘fixing my legs’,  Oli and I flew back to Switzerland once again. However, because Sleazy Jet decided to cancel our original flight last month we flew on Thursday evening and got in an extra days training.  Once again the weather was on our side and we had 3 days of fantastic swimming, hiking and yet more cycling. On the Friday, we cycled for about 3 hours which included ascending the Wildspitz (approx 1100m elevation in 70km of cycling).  In the afternoon we went for a hike up the Zugerberg and back.

Saturday morning we hit the lake early for an hours swim. Swimming in perfectly still lake on a warm and crystal clear morning with only the impressive mountain scenery for a view was quite an experience.  Its got to be up there as one of my most enjoyable swims and I didn’t want to get out, but we had cycling to do!

We hopped on the train to Zurich to cycle the Ironman course with my brother and his friend Dave (who will be attempting the Etape later this year). Having tired out Dave and my brother, Oli and myself then cycled back to Zug over the Albis.  The ride totalled 120km with about 1400m of elevation across the day.  Saturday was a scorcher and we topped off another great day with a BBQ by the lake in Zug consuming a  LOT of food. Personally I wolfed down a burger, 3 steaks, 2 bacon steaks, 3 sausages, some Boerewors, and a couple of chicken drumsticks. I may or may not have topped off with some melted marshmallows watching a famous Zug sunset (famous apparently because its one of the only places with a ‘clear’ (i.e. not massively mountainous) view to the west across a lake) I wasn’t convinced by the claim, but it sure was a nice sunset.

Sunday morning, we could hardly believe our luck as the weather was on our side once again and we decided it was too good an opportunity to miss to get in some more riding. We cycled out around Aegerisee to Rapperswil at the southern end of Zurich Lake to watch Ironman Switzerland 70.3.  After catching Raelert bossing the show we then TT-d back along the lake to Thalwil to climb the Albis once again and head back to Zug. This is where it fell apart a bit. I say ‘we TT-d’ – it was more Oli doing the work, with me desperately trying to keep up. After 10km of HIS ‘race pace’ I think the fatigue was finally catching up with me. It blew my legs to pieces. I never found him again and not having a phone with me, and Oli with the garmin I had to jump on the train home (oh what a shame) Still it was another 90km for me and 1000m elevation for the day. Topping off over 800km in 8days and over 10km of ascent on the bike!

So where does this leave me/us. Well – quite tired after some pretty intense training over the last few weeks, I’m looking forward to IM UK 70.3 on the 20th June. Whilst I haven’t got in any proper running yet since the injury, I’ve started running again on the treadmill.  I’m still undecided whether to even attempt the run leg. Perhaps I should just be happy to go for a fast swim and solid bike in prep for IM Switzerland in July. At least I know now that the initial injury is gone, since I wouldn’t have survived/been able to complete such a bout of training if it had still been about to bother me. Only question is has the gym work done enough to keep it at bay, and do I risk it with a tough half marathon at the end of a tough day in a couple of weeks time?! I probably shouldn’t but with Transalpine coming up at the start of September, Ive gotta get some running in soon or I that could turn out to be a pretty ugly affair!

Stay tuned – and I promise not to leave it so long between blogs next time. That is unless, training gets in the way again!!

Marshman Triathlon Race Report 16th May 2010

Short Report:

2.6km swim:  39:43
130km bike: 4:14.55
30km run: 2.33.52
finish time: 7.36.44

Conditions: Windy, flat, radioactive, inbred.


So in the run up to this event, I have come a cropper to bit of an overuse injury which has seen me not running for 2.5 months and no consistent cycling in the last 5 or 6 weeks. All I have been doing is swimming lots, with a pull buoy and a band around my ankles. The race organiser had very kindly allowed Lotte to do the run for me as a relay at no extra cost, which was very accomodating.  My only real aim in the swim was to get a time that would translate to a sub 1 hour swim at IM Switzerland in July.


We all go in the water about 2 mins before the race start if that. I positioned myself at the front, with the aim of going hard and getting on someones toes who was fast. Off we went and I immediately got right behind someone. He was flying. I put my head down, to try to go with him but when I looked up to sight after about 15 seconds of hard swimming, he was perhaps 10m in front of me. Hmmm. Luckily this turned out to be Mark Stenning (he won the swim by about 4 minutes, and is essentially pretty useful in the water). Anyway, alongside me to the right was a group of 3 or 4 swimmers, who i tried and successfully latched onto. I found the feet of a girl in front of me who was going pretty hard. I basically followed her around the swim the entire way. With only a field of about 50 to start with, we were right up the front and drafting options were limited. I wanted a whole group to draft off but it turns out it was just 1 person. she was about 5-10 metres behind the ’lead group’ (except for Mr. Stenning) and at the pace she was swimming i didnt attempt to go past to bridge the gap.

I was pushing hard, and although she didnt exactly swim straight i manged to stay on her. I got dropped once or twice and pushed to get back on, deeming the extra effort worthwhile for the ride). One of these efforts caused me to take in a mouthful of water, choke and vomit the a good proportion of my breakfast into the water. (Sorry everyone behind me). Anyway I settled down and coasted back in right behind her.  I could have gone a little harder I think but I was close to where Id want to swim. My wetsuit is pretty tight on me making breathing hard and quite restrictive around the shoulders, so I was pretty happy with my time, knowing I could sustain that pace for another 1.2km if need be. better still that time would have brought me out of the water in 58 ish mins over IM distance. Bring on Switzerland!

Having cycled most of the course the day before hanging off the back of Olis wheel, at a completely unsustainable pace for my untrained legs,  i was worried that i may have nothing to offer on the bike. Not having any consistent riding under my belt wanted to treat this as a training ride more than anything else, and so I wasnt overly bothered either way.  I am now used to having the quicker cyclists pass me after a quick swim, and it was good to see Adam pass me early on at something approaching light speed way out in front of the Marshman (half IM race) field.   I relatively happy to maintain a little over 30km/h for the whole ride. Some of the course was pretty hard going, although dead flat, you know your in for a hard time when your on a 10 mile stretch facing in the same direction that a 26 turbine windfarm (which you have to do twice). Unfortunately I dont have a power meter,  so as hard as I was trying, I doubt I was generating enough power to run 33,000 UK homes, unlike that sodding wind farm.

Conversley cycling with that tail wind was epic - its not often you can feel like you arent trying, and be clipping along at 45km/h on the flat.  That was the best bit of the course by a mile, and great fun. Also amusing, are the variety of things ’for sale’ in deepest darkest kent. its a weeeeeird place. But I think someone should contact the Dungeness operators, because although its closed down, judging by the locals, I think there may have been a leak.


Well I dont know much about this, I was changed and having a coffee whilst lotte did all the hard work and ran 2.34 into some very tough headwinds, as the condtions got worse over the day. The run tours a lovely part decomissioned nuclear power station, so I suppose its good if your into that sort of thing. Her sterling efforts bagged us the equivalent of 9th place overall and a total time of 7.36.44.

Moreover she didnt get lost which is more than can be said from a lot of people I spoke to.

As accomodating as the organiser was to let her do the relay free of charge, this was not reflected in the quality of the marshalls. They sent lots of tri londoners the wrong way, and many others Im sure. Most of them didnt have a clue, and the overall signage was ambiguous at best. Not the end of the world, if you are treating it as a training race, but not so funny if you are leading the race, which was the case for Adam on the Marshman.   There was no food available for free after the finish, not even a banana, and there was only a £4 meal deal for athletes, which was pretty shocking (either pasta or a bacon roll, some fruit and coffee or tea - I should have gone with the roll, because after eating the pasta its safe to say it looked like and tasted worse than my breakfast that i left in the lake on the swim). Its hard to tell where the £95 race entry went really, which is a shame because it could have been a good day.

If your thinking of this race next year, go to the dolphin inn, only £25 quid for a masssive double room or £20 for a single. its a mile from the start and they are super nice. My  only other piece of advice would be, dont do this race next year.