Monday, 26 June 2017

European Sprint Triathlon Championships

On the evening of Wednesday 21st I flew out to Düsseldorf ahead of the European Triathlon Champs. I qualified for this event last year at the Nottingham Sprint Triathlon and since then have put in a huge amount of training to push my ability further and further. 4 nights in Germany before the race gave me some much needed acclimatisation time and I was able to do a little bit of training whilst there. The weather was tropical the first few days and I was very glad that it cooled down for the day of the race; I’m useless in hot weather, any ambitions would have taken a backseat to survival. Thankfully, come race morning it was a familiar 15 degree air temperature, although the water temperature was just below 22 degrees, meaning that wetsuits were optional for the swim leg. As I walked to the race start, I could see a lot of standing water on the major technical parts of the bike course and I just hoped that the combination of water, tramlines and white painted lines didn’t cause too much carnage later on. I arrived in transition with about an hour before my start time and set up the remainder of my kit (my bike and helmet had been set up the previous night). It’s at this point I should point out just how long the transition for this race was. With over 800 people racing, it was at least a 400m run from one end to the other. Typically, as one of the youngest in the field, I was right at the end. This meant I would have to run almost 800m in total from the exit of the swim to the start of the bike, barefoot! I was not keen but it would be exactly the same for my rivals too, and I’ve found the run to transition is a key stage where you can make up some ground.

So, fast forward 50 minutes of my pre-race playlist (mainly Eminem, a little bit of Gary Barlow) and a sweaty wetsuit clad dash to the start and I was stood waiting on the end of a pontoon. Into the water with one minute to the start and cue the sound of a heartbeat over the speaker system. At this point I was feeling pretty calm, my entire season had come down to this point and yet there was no point worrying, I had done everything I could to give me every possible advantage and now I just had to deliver what I was capable of. The airhorn went and after an initial 100m of typical swim brawling I was in open water, heading toward the first buoy 315m away. I never expected to be in the front pack for the swim but I was happy to see the field wasn’t too spread out. Starting at the left of the field meant I had a lot of space around me and wasn’t in the melee to my right, although this meant I didn’t have any feet to follow for most of the race. I followed the spiral swim course uneventfully, keeping the technique I’ve spent so many hours working on. With about 200m to go I started to see which athletes were around me and could identify a couple of racers who I knew were usually better swimmers than me. I was out the water in 20th position and immediately had to take in 30 steps from the temporary exit to the top of the bridge where the clock stopped for the swim. Up the steps I managed to overtake a further 4 athletes, bringing me into transition in 16th position.

The smoothest of wetsuit removals saw me record one of the quickest transition times (3 whole minutes!) and I was soon off and away on the bike. The initial 5 kilometres were pretty technical and it took me a while to get a feel for how wet the road was. My power numbers were looking good (300W) and I was overtaking athletes from the off. Within about 2k of the bike start I saw the first crash, a guy misjudging his line in front of me and taking a dive. 30 seconds later, on the next corner, a Belgian hit the deck in front of me and the sounds of carbon scraping the tarmac behind me indicated another crash. It was at this point that I made the decision not to push any of the corners and to ride sensibly, hammering the flat sections and making sure I made it to the run where the final battle would occur. The route crossed the Rhine twice before reaching a pan flat out and back section. Just as I was heading to the out and back section, there was a brief technical descent off the bridge which was the site of yet another crash. Thankfully, post-race I heard everyone was okay, and a couple of people even managed to finish after crashing. On the out and back section I could really put the power down and was averaging over 25mph. Despite the technical nature of the start and finish of the route, and my careful cornering, I still managed to average 39kph which shows just how much my bike splits have improved. Before joining my uni squad I had races where I would struggle to average even 30kph.

Though I was unaware at the time, my efforts on the bike saw me enter the second transition area in 3rd place! Only a Danish athlete and a Belgian were ahead of me at this point. After another smooth transition, I started out comfy as has been my style lately. I maintained this until about 1.5k where I was joined by another British athlete, a Frenchman and a Belgian. The French athlete charged past; I was only able to hang on for about 400m. I continued to battle with the Belgian, slowly reeling him in while fellow Brit James Hodgson moved slowly ahead of me. He would go on to finish as first Brit only 30 seconds ahead of me, despite crashing. I overtook the Belgian with about 2k left to go on the run, only to be overtaken by yet another Belgian who had been waiting behind. I was unable to hold on to him and just tried to run as hard as possible to the finish. The out and back nature of the course meant I could see the athletes both ahead and behind me, and I had my eyes locked on a Danish guy just ahead. I caught up with him with about 600m to go. Usually I wait and let the other person launch their sprint first. I wasn’t having that this time. With 300m to go I kicked hard and put in about 20 strides before looking back. Seeing he had nothing left, I knew I’d secured my place but still pushed hard. Perhaps too hard, as anyone watching on the livestream will have seen my finish line antics!

I was ecstatic to be 6th and the 2nd British athlete to finish. This means I have automatically qualified for next year’s European champs in Glasgow, where I’ll be looking for my first international silverware. As one of the youngest in the field, I have another 4 years in this category so I’m very excited to see what I can do. I will be back.

Next up for me is a well-earned break from tri; I’ll be travelling round Europe for a month with my girlfriend Lauren. Upon my return, I’ll have around 8 weeks until World Champs. I’ll do a local race or 2 during this time and work hard to make sure I’m a serious podium contender for the race in Rotterdam.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. Thank you to all my supporters and my friends and my family. Thank you to everyone at the University of Nottingham Triathlon Club, you’ve all had an impact on me this year and helped me get to where I am. A big well done to Niall Rennie and Kat Hewitt who were also representing the uni. They both finished 12th with great overall performances; at one point Kat was leading! A big thanks to coach Steve Lloyd and the lads from the performance squad who have peer pressured me into the vast majority of 6AM swim sessions this year. Special thanks to my Mum and Dad, without whom I would never have been set on this path. It’s only thanks to them I’m able to do this sport and I will be forever grateful.


Monday, 19 June 2017

Racing update

As of last week my second year at university is over and I can finally sit down and spend some time on my blog! So much has happened since my last post, back then I was just starting to build my running back up and looking forward to a training camp in Majorca. Since then I've had 4 races and a bucketful of exams; allow me to shed some light.

Majorca was an amazing experience for me; a whole week dedicated to doing what I love without having to think about uni work. Most of the days were spent riding up some brutal climbs, with Sa Calobra being the most famous, a 9.4km affair full of hairpins which sees you climb over 600m vertically. Clocking up over 300 miles during the week really helped to add strength to my riding and it has shown in my early season results.

Not long after returning from the training camp, I raced locally at Southwell triathlon. Originally, I’d been expecting to take an overall podium place but after a stellar turnout I was happy to take 8th overall and 4th in my age group. Some residual fatigue from Majorca meant I had a subpar bike leg and my swim wasn’t up to much either, but I had a decent run for this time of year (16:41 on a short 5k), leading to a solid result for my season opener.

A week later I was off down south with the rest of UoN Tri for the BUCS (British Universities and Colleges Sport) Sprint Champs. The race was in Calne as usual which meant a 3AM start. We arrived at around 8AM, plenty of time for my wave which wasn’t due to start for another 6 hours. The BUCS races always have a cracking turnout, with some of the best student triathletes in the UK competing. Therefore, I was simply aiming to beat my time from last year and see the results of my hard work. I did just that, coming in over 3 minutes faster after knocking a significant amount of time from my bike split.

Next up was the BUCS Standard Champs, raced over the Olympic distance of a 1500m swim, 40k bike and 10k run. This was to be my second ever standard distance and, as I was finally starting to find my running legs, I was excited to see what I could do. First off, a less than elegant entrance into a murky ‘marine lake’ at our race venue of Southport. As the race began, I knew I had to maximise my swim time gains over the rest of my university team mates as we have some pretty good runners in the squad. I swam hard to the first buoy to try and stick with one of the lead groups and was pretty happy to be just at the back of a pack with clear water behind me. At the time I thought this was probably the chase pack, but in hindsight, looking at my swim time this was clearly not the case! A mediocre swim saw me exit the water down in 55th position with work to do.

After a mixed transition (I managed to lose my bike…) I was out on the bike course, trying to hunt down those ahead whilst also trying to stay clear of those behind me. As this race is draft ILLEGAL, the onus is entirely on the individual to ride as hard as they can with no benefit allowed from sheltering behind stronger riders. Riding to my power metre, I aimed to race at around 285W for the first half of the bike leg and then try and push on with whatever I had left in the tank. My legs didn’t have it in them on the day so I just gave what I could. The course was flat and fast, suiting those out and out power riders and giving no advantage to those with a knack for climbing (aka me). Due to the out and back nature of the course I was able to keep tabs on those athletes around me and though I was making decent headway, one of my teammates James Harkin (Side note, James cycled up Sa Calobra 13 times in a row on our Majorca training camp to equal the height of Everest. He’s crazy.) was well on his way to catching me. I put the hammer down with 5k to go and came into transition with around a 40 second lead.

In my previous 2 races, both times I’d set off on to the run with a stitch which hampered my performance. With 10k to run I’d decided to start off comfortably, not pushing myself too hard and just keeping my cadence high. Thankfully I had no stomach troubles this time round and I was very happy to see my first kilometre split was around the 3:30 mark; if I kept this up and didn’t fade too badly I’d be able to maintain and build upon my current placing for sure. As expected I did start to tire a little, but not before running my fastest 5k so far this season and moving away from everyone in the field bar Niall and Adam, the fastest runners in my club. Adam put in an excellent 33 minute 10k and Niall out ran me by about 20 seconds, but my performance in all 3 disciplines saw me hold them off and hit the red carpet as first scorer for the uni.

I was very happy to finish in 27th position, and as a whole the Nottingham boys finished in 5th position overall, securing crucial BUCS points. The girls team also did well, scoring points.

Next up was an interesting period where I tried to juggle both studying for my upcoming exams and getting ready for Deva Triathlon in Chester, a qualifier for the World Champs. I had my exams on the 2nd, 3rd, 5th and 6th of June, and with the race on the 4th, this meant for some tricky logistics and not the smoothest preparation for the race or for the exam. My parents picked me up from uni after my second exam and we drove to Chester to scout out the course and get an early night. Come race morning I was raring to go, having never tested myself over the standard distance except at the BUCS races.

I was first into the water for my warmup, in the hope that this would help me be first out of the water later on! The swim was very challenging, 1500m with a significant chunk upstream made it hard going, and I recorded a PW split of 22:30, including the run to transition. The fastest split of the day was only 19:45, from a swimmer who has previously done ~16:30, so I wasn’t too hard on myself about this. However, I was pretty annoyed coming out of the water as I was kicked in the face with about 200m to go and then had an athlete behind me pull at my timing chip! Add to this the very shallow water I was swimming in for the first half of the race and it made for a swim leg to forget about. Into transition and things went… kind of okay? I was lucky to avoid a time penalty for a complete and utter numpty move on my part. I jumped onto my bike and got to work trying to move up the field, as I knew I had a lot of athletes to catch if I wanted to wear that GB trisuit come September. I could see people not too far ahead of me which was great for motivation. This course suited me a little better, with the inclusion of a categorised climb, though I still would have preferred something a little more alpine! My average power was much better than my last race, though I buried myself and was just holding on for the last 5k back into the town centre. As such I wasn’t sure what my legs would have to offer for the run, and the fact my garmin wasn’t working for the first part only added to this! However, I felt like I was moving fast and comfortably and I was very happy to catch a few more competitors in the early stages of the run. When my GPS did decide to work, I realised I was having the best run of my life; other aspiring qualifiers were going to have to do a lot of work to catch me! I continued to hold good splits throughout the race and even managed to blaze past someone in the last 200m. I crossed the line 9th in my wave with a respectable time of 2:03:12. Judging the race solely on the race photos I would consider it a big success, but the fact that I had qualified for the world champs as one of the youngest in the age group made it all the sweeter.

Next up for me is the European Triathlon Champs in Dusseldorf. I’ll be flying out to Germany on Wednesday to give me time to acclimatise and do some course recon. My race starts at 8 AM on Sunday morning; hopefully the weather will be a little cooler than it is in England at the moment! I’ll post a link later in the week for anyone who wants to follow live!

As always, thank you for reading! Sam 

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Spring Training Update

It's been over 6 months since my last post and, like most triathletes, I've had a winter of laying the foundations for a strong 2017 season. Since my last post about the National Relay Championships, my typical work load has increased drastically. I'm now regularly reaching over 20 hours in a typical hard training week, despite the fact I've also had to rehab from shin splints over the winter. I've had some epic training sessions and some fairly miserable ones in typical british weather. I also took part in the Rapha Festive 500 from the 24th December til the 31st, a cycling challenge which requires participants to cycle over 500km over the Christmas period. This was the longest week on the bike for me to date and saw me log some mega miles.

Last season, the International Triathlon Union updated the format of the world championship races, making them draft legal for age group athletes. For those not Tri-lingual, this means that you can ride very close behind someone to gain an aerodynamic advantage, like the peleton in the Tour de France. This change in format provides entirely new race dynamics, placing much greater emphasis on being a fast swimmer so you can join a group on the bike, and making the run the discipline where the race is won. As such, changes to my training have been implemented, with an increased number of hours in the pool and the addition of a weekly cycle track session working on group riding and cornering skills.

So apart from training, training and more training, what have I been up to for this past 6 months?
As club captain of the uni tri club, it's been a busy time for me, having a hand in everything from introducing new students to the club, running aquathlons, spending a weekend away training in the peak district and being in charge of the clubs entries for the BUCS (British Universities and Colleges Sport) Duathlon. It's been tricky at times trying to balance my time on committee with studying and training but I think I've got it sussed now.

I would have liked to race a couple of times to finish off 2016, but the unfortunate resurgence of injuries kept me out of BUCS and all but the last of this seasons XC races. Thankfully I was able to take part in the North Mids XC meet at Wollaton park, a mere 10 minutes from my flat. A brilliant venue (the location of Wayne Manor from the Batman movies), though I would have preferred the course to have a few more hills to suit a mountain goat like me. I went into the race with the confidence of bambi on ice, having only run 10k once in the past 4 months, and that was the week before!

With this in mind, I would have been happy just to complete the race, but as ever, the competitive beast within me was awakened and following the starters gun, I was very surprised to run a rapid 3:20 first k, a lot faster than I thought I would be capable of. My pace quickly slowed from there but I was still able to post my fastest 5k split for an entire year and hang on to finish a respectable 67th against a decent field.

There's no doubt in my mind that all the work I've been doing on the bike over the winter has kept my engine ticking over nicely. Therefore, although I don't quite have the leg speed right now, I can still keep going at a decent pace, and hopefully bounce back fitter and faster.

In hindsight, I went a little too hard in that race than my body would have liked, and it's left my legs a little worse for wear. In a sport like triathlon, where you're spending so much time, day in, day out training, it's very important to listen to your body, and back at the end of January, my body was telling me that I was teetering on the edge of injury. Previously, I might have ignored the signs and ploughed on through, but I think I made the right decision in taking some time off my feet, resetting and now, at the end of March, I think I've finally got it right, returning to running with no more than 10% volume added each week, with all of my runs on grass. I've just started returning to harder surfaces and I'm confident that I'll be fighting fit for my first race on the 23rd April at the Southwell triathlon.

Southwell will act as a warmup for me before BUCS Sprint the weekend after, where I hope to improve on my performance from last year, against a field which has previously featured olympic athletes.

Before Southwell though, I have two major events to look forward to, the first being the Notts Triathlon on the 2nd April, i.e. tomorrow. For a change, I won't be racing in the Notts Triathlon, as it's an event put on entirely by the university and I have an important role in the running of the event (though I will be donning my swimming trunks for a relay team or two). It's a great event and being on the committee for the club this year has given me a real insight into the months of planning and the hard work, blood, sweat and tears that go into making it a reality.

A week after the Notts Tri, I'll be jetting off to Majorca for a week for UoN Tri's annual training camp. Depending on the days aims, we'll typically be open water swimming every morning, followed by a ~100k ride, featuring some of the epic climbs the island has to offer, and some form of run session in the evening.

So 2017 is well underway now, yet the only racing I've been doing is to the front of the queue at the Aldi tills, what are my aims for this season I hear you ask?

Too much racing last year left me a little underprepared and so I'm starting off the season later, and with fewer races this year. The first race I'm targeting is the Deva Triathlon on the 4th June. It's one I've had my eye on for a while as a qualifier for the world championships in September, though I've been waiting to receive my exam timetable before entering, so it doesn't clash with any exams! I got my timetable yesterday and after seeing I have an exam on the 2nd, 3rd, 5th and 6th of June, I decided to enter anyway!

After this, my next race will be the European championships in Dusseldorf, where I'm aiming to finish on the podium this time. Following the race in Germany, I'll take a short break from training before building back up to target a European championship qualifier for 2018, and the world championships, where I'm aiming to finish in the top 10.

Now things are in full swing, I'll be posting a lot more frequently.
As ever, thanks for reading!

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Club Relays post for UoN Tri

23rd August saw 8 of the University of Nottingham Tri Club’s finest descend upon Holme Pierrepont, the site of the 2016 National Relay Championships. We had 2 teams racing, one in the Mixed Open category (Rosa Lavelle Hill, Alex Johnson, Zoey Garlick and Sam Broomhead) and one in the Male Club category (Stephen Jones, Peter Rought, Sam Evans, Niall Rennie). Both were competing in the ‘Relay x4’ where the first athlete completes the swim, tags the second athlete who completes their swim and tags the next person and so on, until everyone has done swim and then bike and then run. We’d decided in advance of the race it was only fair to let other teams win the national honours so instead we were competing for the title of ‘University of Nottingham Triathlon Club Relay World Champions’.

First into the water were Stephen and Rosa - though Rosa decided to make things slightly more interesting by accidentally giving Stephen a minute head start while she struggled to put her hat on, knee deep in the water, as the starting gun went off.  Both had really good swims but Stephen was out of the water over 30 seconds quicker – work to do for the mixed team! The second swim leg saw Pete build on the lead of the men’s team but by the transition to the bike leg, the combination of Zoey and I managed to claw back a chunk of time, opening up a gap of around 2 minutes.

This gap was built upon, particularly by Alex who lay down the fastest bike split of our athletes, smashing the legs off the rest of us. Great rides were had throughout but as the 4th members of the teams rolled into transition, it was looking almost cosy for the mixed team, who had a 3 minute cushion to play with. I must also give a shout out to Zoey who left some skin behind after testing just how wet and slippy the road was on one of the corners. Kudos to her though as she still finished with a smile on her face.

The run course was a 1 lap route around the outside of the regatta lake. The weather had started to brighten for the final part of the race, making it quite warm. The men’s team began to eat into the time gap from the word go, but it was still very even as the second runners exchanged the baton. Sam Evans had a great run to pull back 2 minutes on Zoey and as I set off on the last leg, I could see Niall right behind me. For the first 2k I felt like I was running for my life, but it wasn’t enough to hold him off. After a cheery hello and a dying grunt in response, Niall pushed on and, try as I might, I couldn’t stay with him. He disappeared into the distance to claim the title of University of Nottingham Triathlon Club Relay World Champions for the men’s team with the mixed team finishing a minute behind.

All in all the day was a big success, all of the team had a lot of fun and I would definitely recommend taking part next year if you’re in Nottingham and looking for something to do.

Racing Update

Hey folks, I thought it was about time I updated you on what I've been up to. It's been a busy summer for me, with a few races, a trip of a lifetime and an early (and much needed) off season. For now I'll just talk about the races and follow up in a later post.

The first race I did since my last post was the Woodhall Spa Triathlon. It's a sprint distance race (400m, 24k, 5k) which I've done many times before with varying degrees of success. With how well my training has been going this year I thought it would be a good way of testing myself against a large field on a course I know well. I was off in the second to last wave and opened up with a reasonable swim split - not quite performing to my best but not too shabby. I was in 3rd overall as I set off onto the bike but knowing quite a few of the other athletes in mine and the following wave, knew I would have to work hard.

 I pushed myself hard the entire way round but dropped down 3 places to some very fast cyclists, including Mark, the owner of TFN, and Simon George, who went on to set a new course record holder. Onto the run and I was definitely struggling, the whole way round I was expecting to by passed. I managed to move up 2 places but with about 1500m to go was passed by the fast finishing Chris Davies. Overall I finished 5th - probably the best position without actually getting an award. Despite Chris taking the age group win, I'm pleased with my position as this time last year I was nowhere near him. Happy with 5th out of 800+ and I'll be back next year looking for some silverware.

Next up was the Peak District Triathlon at Chatsworth, held only 20 minutes away from my house. This race was a backup in case I failed to qualify for the European Championships at the Nottingham Tri. As I'd already qualified, I was able to go into it quite relaxed. In advance I didn't think the course would suit me as the only flat part of the race was the swim. However, it turns out it suited the other competitors even less. The swim was a balmy 11 degrees Celsius and I was only able to warm up in the last 100m. I posted the 6th fastest swim in my age group - a good enough start to the race given the cold conditions.

The bike immediately took in a 3rd category climb. I had quite a few riders from earlier waves to chase all the way up to the top and managed to make up a lot of ground. Knowing the climb well definitely worked in my favour. The route then shot downwards and I was able to overtake a couple of riders from my age group, despite a particularly nasty section which was in the process of being resurfaced.

Onto the run I was in 4th position in my age group and chasing down the 3rd place athlete. The route was again very steep, winding its way from the transition area all the way to the hunting tower at the top and back down again - not for the faint of heart. I was pretty pleased to say I managed to run all the way up and I managed to come home in 3rd position in my age group and 11th overall.

My third race was at the Bassetlaw Triathlon in Worksop. I competed here 2 years ago and had a fairly decent result for my ability back then. This year I was looking for slightly more but didn't have the greatest preparation. The week before the race I picked up a nasty cold, courtesy of my brother. In an attempt to be healthy for the start I took a week off training but was still not 100% on the day of the race. With about 10 minutes to go until the start, I would have been content with just finishing.

I had a disappointing swim but came out of the water only 10 seconds behind the leaders. Within a kilometre of the bike I'd made it into 2nd position overall and that's where I stayed until the conclusion of the race. The overall winner was very strong and put time into me in every discipline. After a solid bike leg and a run within my current capabilities, I was happy to finish with 2nd overall and 1st in my age group.

I had in mind to do a couple more local races after Bassetlaw but one cold after another after another I decided to take an early off season and come back to training healthy, if not entirely fit! Since then I've gotten back into training in a big way, laying the foundations for a good winter block. I'm already looking forward to the new season. Once again, thanks for reading!


Sunday, 21 August 2016

Memorable Moments

I’ve recently been challenged to write a slightly different post to my normal race report style. After 6 years of racing, I’ve picked up quite a lot of tips from the sport of Triathlon and experienced a lot, racing in every weather condition (apart from snow) and spending my fair share of time laid on the floor trying to get my breath back.

For this post I thought I would reflect on some of my best/worst moments in my athletic career thus far. Whilst some of the stories mat have been mentioned previously, my hope is that this will be a refreshing twist to a blog which ordinarily just focuses on my current season and race performances.
One of my worst and most memorable races was back in 2011, in my first season of racing tri, at the grand old age of 15. The race was the Grantham Sprint Triathlon and if memory serves, the winner was Andy Tarry, a guy who is still beating me to this day. The race started bright and far too early for my liking. Before I even entered the sports centre where the race was based, I knew I was in for a rough ride.

The only part of the race I enjoyed was the swim, and that was only because the pool was heated. Out of the pool, I headed toward the exit and what was pretty much a hurricane. I proceeded to limp (relative to the other competitors) around the course. My usually slow bike pace dropped to snail pace and following that, my run slowed to a mere shuffle. I was so cold from the driving rain and freezing wind that I couldn’t even blink properly. Somehow I managed to reach the end of the race and, after staggering across the finish line with cramping legs, was helped inside under the protection of a foil blanket. I then spent the next half an hour huddled under a hand dryer, which seemed to be the only source of warmth in the entire town, as I attempted to recover from my hypothermic state.

Another memorable race for me is the Woodhall Sprint Triathlon. It’s a favourite of mine, one I do every year. However, in 2015, it was less than favourable. I started off with fairly good swim and bike times but in the process of transitioning from bike to run made a monumental cockup of things. The dismount came naturally as usual but on the uneven ground, my bike was far from stable. A wobble took the bike out to the side and I was unable to do anything other than kick it with my bare foot. This was a) very painful and b) rather upsetting as it caused me to drop my bike on the floor. As all triathlete’s should understand, it’s all about the bike. It also resulted in me breaking my toe. As you can imagine, this is not ideal when you still have 5k to run. It’s safe to say my run was little more than a hobble around the course. Yet that isn’t where the fun ends; pushing through the pain of my foot, I triggered a migraine, and by the time I crossed the finish line, my vision was blurry and complete with blind spot. Fortunately this wasn’t something completely new to me as I have suffered from migraines before, but it still meant that I had to spend around 20 minutes in the medical tent being checked out.

It’s impossible for me to talk about memorable races without touching upon the European Champs this year at Kalkar. My debut international race (unless Cornwall counts because that was a very long drive indeed) was a success and a half and left me craving more. Having my whole family their watching me and the rest of the british supporters cheering me on was incredible and I was super happy to take 4th place.

Although I haven’t been counting, I’ve probably competed in around 60 multisport events now and like I said before, I’ve got a lot of experience in triathlon. The vast majority I’ve entered have been brilliant but there are some improvements I’d bring in if I were ever to create my own event. There would absolutely have to be superbly clean toilets, some luxury type portaloos at the very least. I would also have music playing at regular intervals along the entire length of the course, like in the Rock n Roll running race series. Of course it would be my taste of music, so you can say what you like about that (cue. Lose yourself – Eminem). My tickets would be sold via Eventbrite, for ease and simplicity and there would be prizes for the top 3 in each age category. There’s nothing worse than waiting an hour for prize giving only to realise you’ve come 2nd and there’s no prize for that. Following that, the most consistent thing wrong with races is the amount of time it takes to prepare for prize giving. If the wait time could be under half an hour, that would be ideal. Live results during the race would also help with this. Fancy dress would be fun too. Maybe I’ll host the inaugural fancy dress sprint triathlon world championships someday, who knows. Lastly, there would be an insanely good buffet at the end of the race, featuring a hog roast – everyone loves a hog roast (except vegetarians).

Lastly, if I were to give any advice to prospective or novice triathletes out there, it would be to a) do nothing new on race day, b) build up your mileage and your training hours slowly, c) start off small (eg sprint racing rather than an ironman for your first race) and d) consistent training is the key to success.

Thanks for reading,

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Post Exams Update Pt 2

The next race on my list was also a BUCS (British Universities and College Sport) one, this time the standard distance championships. This format is basically double the length of a sprint, with a 1500m swim, 40k bike and 10k run. It was my first time racing over this distance so going into it I didn’t really feel that much pressure, with no idea what I was capable of I just wanted to see how my body would react and to see if I could race at my usual intensity. Getting ready for the race was a bit of mad dash but I made it to the start on time, heading into the marine lake at Southport in my brand new Orca Equip wetsuit along with 150 other athletes. Compared to the times I’ve been hitting in the pool my swim was a bit of a disaster; I was aiming for just over 20 minutes, including the short run to transition but my actual time was 21:25. I came out of the water feeling relatively fresh so I think it’s likely that I could (and should) have pushed more, something I struggle with in open water racing. After the race I heard a lot of people saying the course was longer than 1500m but I still feel I need some more practice in open water! My transition was also not up to standards and I struggled for what felt like an eternity while my team mate David Keasey got away.

When I finally headed out on my bike I started off a little easy, knowing I had more than an hour and a half of racing still to go. The bike route was 2 out and back laps and so it made it very interesting to be able to see everyone else in the field. It also made my acutely aware of just how many people were drafting at the sharp end of the race. For those that don’t know, drafting is where you sit close behind another rider to give yourself an aerodynamic advantage, and reduces the amount of energy to go at a certain speed by around 30%. In this particular race, drafting was banned and as such 2 minute penalties and disqualifications were being handed out for offences. As I approached the first 180 degree turn I spotted a couple of large packs, made up of some very good athletes who should definitely know better. It seemed very unfair on those athletes racing honestly, and particularly frustrating for me as I spent the majority of the bike by myself. This frustration fuelled my ride and I hammered along the closed roads, recording both 10 mile and 25 mile TT PB’s. I was impressed with how I handled the ride, only slowing noticeably in the last couple of kilometres where there was a substantial headwind.

I was still in 2nd place from Nottingham as I set off onto the run, though my friend Alex Johnson was hot on my heels. I started off at my usual 5k pace and though I dropped off a little, finished strongly with a big smile on my face. Well done to all of my friends who raced as there were some brilliant performances, too many to mention individually but I’m proud of you all. (Special mention to Sam Evans who finished the race despite crashing on the first turn around, breaking his hand and fracturing his cheekbone!)

The last race of this particular update was a favourite of mine, the Nottingham Triathlon. Being a qualifying race for the European Triathlon Championships, it was one I was particularly focused on doing well in. 

A slightly delayed start saw the first wave go off from a different location to normal, as there were concerns over toxic algae. This didn’t make much of a difference however as the swim portion of the race still took place in the regatta lake of Holme Pierrepont and with a distinct lack of wind, was abnormally calm. In complete contrast, the swim start was the most violent I’ve ever experienced. I was late getting into the water so didn’t get a good start position. Once the gun went I launched into a sprint to move ahead of the field but instead received a kick to the face followed a few strokes later by a punch to the head – all in good faith of course. By the first buoy things had quietened down and I focused on keeping my stroke rate high and making sure I swam the straightest line possible, a sure fire method of getting a fast swim time. However, the distance was slightly inaccurate and I ended up swimming further than expected yet again. My transition was rather lethargic and I emerged out onto the road surrounding the lake in around 35th position. 

The bike leg at Nottingham is exceptionally fast, a 4 lap course with absolutely no elevation gain and a guaranteed tail wind on one of the straights. I felt really good and was regularly catching people on much better bikes, showing that money isn’t everything. I knew a couple of people in my age group were ahead, having performed better on the swim and so my aim was to catch up to these and get myself into a podium position. I eased up a little on my last lap, partly to get my legs ready for running and also so as not to be included in a group that were drafting just ahead of me. On entry to transition number 2 I was in 4th place in my age group, courtesy of a 25mph average speed on the bike. I felt really strong setting off onto the run and managed to run a couple of really fast k’s early on. Stomach troubles caught up to me at this point but I managed to keep it together, moving into 3rd place and finishing only 20 seconds behind 2nd place. After the race I dashed off to go and watch Sheffield Wednesday play in the Championship Play-Off Final and so my mum took the job of collecting my award, though she declined to stay for the podium photo!

If you have managed to get to this point, I applaud you, it can’t have been easy to read through all that mumbo jumbo triathlon nonsense. Since the Nottingham Tri I have had confirmation that I successfully qualified for next year’s European Champs in Dusseldorf, the main aim of my season. I also competed in 2 local aquathlons, finishing 1st overall in both and I obtained the results of my first year exams. I achieved a 2:1 which I’m very pleased with and shows I’m not too bad at juggling triathlon and studying for a degree.

Next up for me is the Woodhall Spa Triathlon on Sunday, followed by the Peak District Tri the week after, and then some much needed chill time.

Thanks for reading, I really appreciate it! I got some really nice comments from people who read my last post so thank you for that, it means a lot!


GB Age Group Triathlete and Duathlete