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Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Dear 13 y.o Michael

Firstly I wish I could claim full credit for coming up with this idea on my own but alas I am merely plagiarising a very well written blogpost from someone I follow on Twitter. It was so well written I thought I would write a letter to a younger me.

Dear Michael,

I know you're struggling with a lot of things at the moment. I thought I'd drop you a quick line to say that everything works out okay in 21 years time. You need to get rid of those thoughts currently going round your head relentlessly. Everything will be fine in the end. Yes it will take some time for you to find your niche but trust me, you do. We leave Clitheroe and eventually settle in Doncaster via a quick sojourn in Leeds (at Uni), Wakefield and a stint even working in the Big Smoke.

I know who'd have thunk it! Us from little old Clitheroe in deepest Lancashire working in the Big Smoke. And the best bit we help to build the Olympics. The actual Olympics. In the process we make friends with someone by the name of Etienne Stott who goes on to win a gold medal.

In London we also meet someone who changes our life. She strolls into our life like a thunderbolt and immediately we fall in love with her, she becomes our best friend,  we marry her and she supports us in everything we do. She completes us and is our much better half.

See I told you everything works out okay.

Yes we have our ups and downs but we come through them stronger for having been through them.

2006 isn't a good year for us but again what we experience makes us a lot stronger.

In your early 30'a you will make a decision which will change your life. You decide to do a triathlon for charity. As I know you have no idea what I'm on about,  I'll explain. A triathlon is a multisport event which comprises swimming (yeah you've got that covered), biking (you are okay at this now) and running.

Yes you read that right. Running.

I know what's going through that head of yours. We hate running. Yes we do. Being forced to run cross country in PE and being last. Yes I know it sucks. But triathlon will change your life. TRUST ME.

You will slowly transform from a couch potato into a triathlete, you will become a coach (and a pretty good one if your recent Coach of the Year Award is anything to go by), you will help set up a triathlon club, you will make a lot of friends, some through this crazy sport that becomes fundamental to our life and you will be told by people that you are inspirational.

All this transpires because you give up smoking for triathlon. I wish you didn't start smoking but you do to try and fit in. And herein lies the problem, you are constantly trying to fit in (it is hardly surprising given the hell you are currently going through). But you needn't try to fit in. Eventually you will be accepted and respected for just being you. You will make friends just for being you.

Anyway I digress, there is a bonus to what you are currently going through. It gives you a ridiculous amount of mental strength which pays dividends when it comes to triathlon. You will complete an iron distance triathlon (2.4mi swim, 112mi bike and marathon). TWICE. And fundamentally it is because you are strong mentally. You are definitely not the fittest but your self belief, grit and determination help you cross that finish line. You learnt to hurt when racing at triathlon and become relatively competitive in local races (I KNOW). So even though what you are currently enduring seems like hell on earth it does have benefits later in life.

As a result of triathlon, you start to really care about nutrition, you self educate yourself in what is healthy in an attempt to lose weight. In fact at 34 you weight less than you do when reading this. Go figure.

The most important thing to take from all this is EVERYTHING WORKS OUT OKAY.

You will live your life by the following mantras (the hash symbol before means the collection of words is a "hashtag" but don't worry about that as social media doesn't even exist in 1994 but it gets invented and plays an important role in your life from 2012)

#dreambelieveachieve you set yourself goals, believe they are achievable and then give your all in the pursuit of them.

#anythingispossible you learn that there are no bounds to what you can achieve when you set your mind to it.

Thats all from me,

The older Michael

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Rest period. Living life.

Since my last post, I've been really busy resting. The only things I have been doing have been swimming and social bike rides *if it doesn't involve a cafe stop then count me out).

That all changes next week when I start the build for 2016.

The last few weeks have been quite eventful for me even if I have been relaxing.

I've been spending a lot of time commuting and as such have been doing a lot of listening to podcasts by Vinnie Tortorich (and Anna Vocino) and RealMealRevolution. I am convinced that my decision to use a #LCHF (and mostly #NSNG) diet is right for me, the more I listen and learn.

This has been reinforced by the fact that I have been living life over the past 6 weeks. I've been going out with friends and as such drinking more than I am used to. As a result my weight has been yo-yoing somewhat.

Previously I have joked about my ass jiggling for a month after looking at a piece of chocolate cake but it transpires that I was correct in my assumption.

In early November, it was the Doncaster Triathlon Club awards evening. I was nominated for four awards after being selected by our members in a private ballot. I can't quite explain how touched I was to be nominated for the following awards.

  • Most improved male
  • Inspiration of the year
  • Coach of the year
  • Club member of the year
Anyway the night got underway and after several beers and the meal, it was the time for the awards giving.

I was shocked to be selected as the Coach of the year by our members.

I was even more shocked to be nominated as Club member of the year. The attendees were shouting "speech" as I went to collect my award.

I was so shocked that I had to compose myself before beginning my speech, I was literally holding back the tears. I waffled something about how I got into triathlon, why I became a coach and how humbled I was to be stood there collecting the Club member of the year award.

Alas my shock was not over, our Club Chairman then got up to present the Chairpersons Award for services to the Club. He ran through the contenders and finally announced me as the winner. I was lost for words, brimming with pride and shocked.



I went up to collect the cup. I am so proud to be one of the founding members of this great club and to be the first athlete to have won the recurring awards (Chairperson's cup and Club member of the year). In years to come, my name will be the first on both of these trophies and no one can take that away from me.

The club blog about the night can be seen here. http://www.doncastertriathlonclub.com/awards-night/

In other news.

After spending so much time listening to VinnieAnna and Professor Tim Noakes on my commutes my interest in a "new" product was piqued. The product was Generation UCAN. A "superstarch" which does not spike blood sugar and therefore does not increase insulin production and as such will be able to used by me in my new diet. The podcast which really interested me was the one where Matt Bach was on Vinnie Tortorich. http://vinnietortorich.com/2015/10/metabolic-efficiency-with-matt-bach/

I have managed to become a brand ambassador for Generation UCAN in the UK after exchanging some emails. I can't wait to use this product over the coming season to help me #bethebestIcanbe. The plan is to use Generation UCAN to fuel my longer bike rides next year, I have been struggling to ascertain how I could fuel a 3+ hour bike ride and Generation UCAN now gives me a suitable option for this.



I can't wait to work with this new company and help increase their exposure in the UK.

DCLT (the operator of the gyms in Doncaster) has a Talented Athlete Support Scheme and after applying following my appearance in the ETU Aquathlon this year, I have been given free access to their facilities for the future. Again this will help me #bethebestIcanbe next year.

Many thanks to Generation UCAN, DCLT and Choosefitness for their help ahead of next year. I can't wait to see what I can achieve.

Thanks for reading,

Michael
#dreambelievachieve

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Learning to race

I started 2015 firmly with the belief that sprint distance racing was what I was best suited for.
Over the previous two seasons I have dabbled with every distance from supersprint to Ironman but towards the end of 2014 I realised I performed better when racing sprints.
So this year was firmly about learning to race. After having competed in 18 different races this year, I am absolutely exhausted and am currently relishing the 4 week break from training. I am still doing the sessions I enjoy (mostly swimming and functional movement) but it is nice to be able to relax after a long tough season.
My build for 2015 started in December 2014 so it has been a long season between that and my last race on 11th October.
How has the season gone?
Well in all honesty, better than I wanted it to.
Despite one broken arm sustained in April, which could have written off a lot more of my season than it did, it has gone better than me and my coach planned it to. We set some targets last November and I am performing ahead of those targets (or was when I was training). These were metric based targets set for the next two years and I am currently ahead of the where I need to be.
22:15 for 5km. My current PB is 22:00.
6:15 for 400m. My current PB is 5:50
379W for MMP.  My last test was 421W.
On top of this we also set a goal for the season.
Finish within 120% of the winner in my AG at a sprint distance qualifier to be able to be selected fro GB AG next year at the ETU champs. I managed to secure 118.3% at Southport after my arm break so was over the moon.
And now for the goal I set myself.
Complete a pool sprint triathlon in under 1 hour. Yes this was an ambitious target but I selected a race I knew and had broken it down in my head and it seemed achievable. Tight but achievable.
In my head I broke the race down as follows at Drax before the race.
  • 6:00 for the swim and run to T1
  • 0:30 for T1
  • 30:00 for the bike
  • 0:30 for T2
  • 22:59 for the run to bring me in with one second to spare.
On race morning I couldn’t have asked for better conditions. The wind was calm, the temperature was a mild 13 degrees. I listened to the following motivational speech by Greg Plitt on my way to the race and felt in a good place mentally. BE REMEMBERED
I swam the swim relaxed and exited the water in under 6:00, made my way to T1 and mounted my bike without any issues. On the bike I needed to average 22mph for the course to come in under 30 minutes. Despite my best efforts and my screaming quads I could not get my average speed above 21.2mph and completed the bike in 31:43. I flew through T2 and set about the run. I had forgotten how tough the off road portion of the run was and was thrilled with my 23:21 run split. I crossed the tape in a PB time of 1:02:35 (an over 2 minute PB) but was somewhat disheartened about my bike. Had my bike been where I wanted it to be, I would have been really close to going under the hour.
Greg Plitt once said
“Failure is part of the recipe for success. It’s the losers that fail once and quit. Every winner has done with failure. The loser and the winner, both have failed...... It’s just the winner gets back up and does it again.”
So with that in mind I will be back next year to go under the hour.
By far the biggest highlight of my year was my 7th place finish at Hatfield. Seventh. Me!!!!! WTAF!!!!! I’m still shocked by this and think this was my perfect storm race. Everything just seemed to go right. I swam relaxed despite being dropped from the pack but managed to exit the water first., I biked strong and surprised myself on the run.
All in all I will look back on 2015 as a great season, it was where I found my distance, where I learnt to race, where I became a better coach for my athletes at Doncaster Triathlon Club and where I surprised myself with what is possible.


In summary here is my palmarès for 2015.
Yes there are people who are a lot better at this sport than me. But I have only been doing this sport (or exercise of any sort) for three years following my previous existence as a couch potato and I was only going to do one or two triathlons. Considering where I have come from, I am proud by what I have achieved in the short time since giving up smoking. Note to self – “I need to remember that sometimes.”

Whats on the cards for 2016? More of the same. Improving as an athlete at sprint distance, aiming to qualify for GB as an age grouper, more weight loss, continuing to surprise myself and making my family (alive or not) proud. The race calendar is currently being formed but I suspect there will need to be a double peak next year with me wanting to qualify for GB and wanting to break the hour at Drax.
I don’t know about you but I’m excited for 2016. It’s the year I will “be the best I can be”. #dreambelieveachieve
Thanks for reading,
Michael

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Banting - Should it be a way of life for everyone?


Before we begin, I am not nor have I ever had any training as a nutritionist. These views are simply my own based on my findings over the past 2.5 years but more specifically the last 30 days.

As you may or may not be aware I gave up smoking in January 2012, fell off the wagon in August 2012 and have been back on the wagon for over 1000 days since November 2012. After I decided to give up smoking, I decided to take up triathlon to give me something to concentrate on. What followed after my previous sedentary lifestyle was a period of weight loss. I started at 16 stone 5 pounds and eventually bottomed out at 15 stone give or take a pound or two.

However since November 2013 my weight has hardly shifted at all.

I have revised what I eat to try to initiate more weight loss to no avail. This has been increasingly frustrating and has led to bouts of crying about it to my ever supportive wife. Yes I am fitter than in November 2013 but I still weigh the same. This was highlighted at my numerous lactate threshold tests (Nov 13, Jan 14, Apr 14 and Mar 15) at Blizard Physiotherapy where the weight was consistently around the 14st 12lb mark. To achieve what I want to achieve in triathlon, something has to change.

My diet before July consisted of typically something like this.

  • Breakfast – Cherry, banana, Cherry Active, almond milk, spinach and cocoa smoothie
  • Mid morning – Cottage cheese on 3 ryvita, satsuma and a pear
  • Lunch – 100g Chicken with peas, sweetcorn and broccoli, 20 grapes and a Satsuma
  • Mid afternoon – Carrot and an apple
  • Tea – Something cooked by my lovely wife that consisted of a "healthy" mix of protein, fats and carbs.

On paper, this looks a healthy diet and it is. The problem was that I wasn’t losing any weight. Some weeks I’d weigh less, other weeks more.

I was so frustrated by this. My weight was starting to hold me back on what I could on paper achieve.

This was further highlighted the other week when I went out for a bike ride one Sunday evening with my good friend Max. We averaged 20mph for the ride and on getting back I looked at my power data like the data nerd I am. My average wattage for the 90 min ride was 236W and I wasn’t burying myself for that. We were working but it wasn’t unsustainable. A few days later Wattbike shared Luke Rowe from Team Sky’s power data for Stage 2 of the TDF. Luke Rowe averaged 236W and his speed was 27.1 mph.  The only difference apart from him riding in a peloton which will have made him quicker was just the small matter of 23kg. To put this into context I wonder how he'd cope riding carrying a bag of sand and 3 bags of sugar. He weighs a feather weight 72kg compared to my 95kg. Like I said something has to change for me to move to the next stage on this journey I am on.

Almost at the same time as this David Tune of Blizard Physiotherapy was telling me about banting and how he had lost 20lbs in just over 2 months (for those that know Dave- I didn’t think he had 20lbs to lose). I had a lightbulb moment and thought “what is the worst that could happen?” Try it for a month or two and see what the outcome is.

Banting is a low carb high fat diet, that is currently popular in South Africa and is the brainchild of Professor Tim Noakes, the chef Jonno Proudfoot and Sally-Ann Creed

Bear with me on this. This is not me pushing some new fad diet, it is merely sharing my experience of the past 30 days.

On Monday 6th July I got on the scales to record my starting weight. 15 stones 0.8 pounds.


Given my current high carb diet, I decided that I could not progress straight to banting as it would be too much of a shock to my system, after all I still had to train for my upcoming triathlons.

I decided to slowly ease myself into this new eating style.

I immediately lowered my fruit intake and changed from sugar in my tea to stevia. I slowly set about cooking such things as cauliflower wraps and I ordered a spiralizer to turn a simple courgette into courgette spaghetti “courgetti

I recorded my weight one week later at 14 stone 11.6 pounds. A 3.2 pound loss.


I didn’t feel deprived from my lack of carbs and was encouraged by the weight loss.

After a further 7 days on my reduced carb diet (chips, rice potatoes and pasta were still allowed at this stage) my weight had stagnated as at my next official weigh in it was 14 stone 12.8. This probably wasn’t helped by my night out on the Saturday night.


So on Monday 20 July my banting journey commenced, I am doing my best to stick to the guidelines laid out on the website and in the book. More details on banting can be found at www.realmealrevolution.com or by buying the book. But for starters here's an extract from Real Meal Revolution : the facts

"William Banting was a British undertaker who was very obese and desperately wanted to lose weight. In the year 1862 he paid a visit to his doctor, William Harvey, who proposed a radical eating plan that was high in fat but included very few carbohydrates. By following this eating plan Banting experienced such remarkable weight loss that he wrote an open letter to the public, the "Letter on Corpulence", which became widely distributed. As more people started following this eating plan to lose weight, the term "banting" or to "bant" became popularised."

Fundamentally it revolves around three lists. This makes life easy. There’s a list where you can eat as much as you want from. The greenlist.



As list where you should limit the amount you consume to ideally two items off the list each day. The orange list.



And finally the red list which contains the things you should avoid.


Given it is in a list form means there are no grey areas just a case of green orange and red. I like this about the diet. It makes it easy.

On day three of banting, I’m not going to lie, I had the most horrific of headaches. I don’t normally get headaches, so in typical man fashion I moaned a lot and made sure everyone knew about it. But aside from that I’ve not really suffered any ill side effects. There have been no crashes when training. No weird flake outs when running or cycling. I’ve still done the usual 90 minute sets on my bike.

Now time for day 7 of banting and my weekly check in.14 stone 9.6lbs which was a total weight loss of 5.2 lbs in 3 weeks. Maybe there is something to this diet after all.


This last weekend I even raced on the diet. Previously race morning would have consisted of me hovering up carbs like they were going out of fashion. This time however it was a far more sedate affair (home made almond flour bread toasted with almond butter followed by a cup of hot chocolate (cocoa. whole milk, coconut oil and stevia)). I had a good race and the times were consistent with what I managed before I started the diet.

This past Monday was time for my weekly recorded weigh in. Down to 14 stone 6lbs. My god its still going down. This continued weight loss has made me obsessed with my scales. I weigh myself most mornings (and get told off by the wife).


Today for example I weighed in at 14 stone 4.8lbs which represents a total loss of 10.2 lbs and takes my total loss since 2012 to over 2 stone. I now weigh less than I can ever remember weighing as an adult. I’m even lighter than when I lost a tonne of weight dealing with stress after losing my Mum.

There have been a few times where I have struggled with the diet. Like when people bring cake into the Office but on the whole it’s been okay.

In comparison to my pre banting diet. My food intake now consists of

  • Breakfast – scrambled eggs with ham and cheese
  • Mid morning – pepper crudités with cottage cheese and some almonds
  • Lunch – Chicken salad with some almonds
  • Afternoon – home made quiche with almond flour pastry
  • Tea – courgetti with chicken, pesto, pine nuts and parmesan

Apparently there will come a point where I drop my snacks because I am still full but at the moment I am quite happy with what I am eating especially given my continued weight loss.

The best thing about the diet is that I have been spending more time in the kitchen being inventive.

I’ve been making 



I even amended the cauliflower wrap recipe to make some chips to go with Friday nights fish.

I’m genuinely shocked by what this diet has done to my weight. I understand the theory behind it but it took some getting my head round. I’ve been brought up to consider fat as bad for you (as most of you reading probably have). To then switch that to a diet where fat is good and carbs are not good for you was a bit of a challenge mentally, especially when it was carbs (sugar) which were basically fuelling my exercise. If you want to know more, please buy the Real MealRevolution book

Now to my new found views on the food industry. In a similar way to how the cigarette industry relies on peoples addiction to nicotine to keep them hooked, I believe the food industry relies on the same trap but with sugar as the drug. The food companies have departments to get people addicted to their products by replicating “the bliss point” which is a perfect combination of fat, carbs and protein which keep you going back for more.

People being scared of fat is actually making the situation worse (where you read low fat on something – please instead read either high in sugar or chemically modified to within an inch of its life).

If you can't try the banting diet, why not try to cut out on the processed food and eat something more natural. Back in the days of the caveman, there wasn’t such a thing as a sugar loaded breakfast cereal. So how is it that today this is common place? Quite ismply the problem was created as a result of the 2nd World War. Governments subsidised farmers to grow wheat and other grains which have now found their way into our diet and it is this high carb content which is causing obesity.

I have not gone into this diet without doing some research. I work in a technical job so it would be remisce of me to not do any research. This started by me watching "Fed up" (trailer) and since then I have had my eyes opened to the sugar trap that exists in todays society and how it is firmly led by the food companies greed. I can’t wait to be able to watch “That sugar film” (trailer) which is a documentary which charts someones weight gain by eating 40 teaspoons of sugar (the average each person consumes) each day in supposedly healthy products for 60 days.

I hope you found the above interesting and as I said previously I am not a nutritionist this is merely a recollection of my experience of the first 30 days on my new diet.

Thanks for reading,

Michael


Friday, 31 July 2015

Ding dong round 3

In 2012 my first ever triathlon was Hatfield. (2012 race report)

Since then I have raced it once more (2014 race report). As it is my most local race, it seems a shame not to race it whenever I can. I like to use it as a progress check.

So this year I made sure that I entered the race. Yes it was a week after the Jenson Button Trust Triahtlon and 4 days after the Doncaster 5k but like I said I use it as a check on progress.

The race is a 750m swim, 24km bike and 5km run.

I looked at the start list before the race and didn’t notice any of the local really quick swimmers entered. Could I pull off a cheeky #firstoutthewater? Who know buts it was something I would quite like.

On the morning of the race I had a bike mechanical. My front derailleur had slipped and was snagged on my chainring. After a lot of stress I managed to free this up with 15 minutes to go before my race start. I flew through transition setting things up, racking my bike and put on my new Huub Archimedes 2. I had a minute to spare before the hooter. Hardly ideal race preparation. No warm up whatsoever.

I had a quick splash in the water. Read manic flailing of arms while I tried to calm myself.

There was a slight format change this year, the race start was a beach start. I lined up at the front confident that my swim speed would enable me to break free of the melee. As the hooter went all 50 athletes set off together.

Wade, wade, dive, dolphin dive, start swimming. After about 30 seconds I looked up and realised I was not in the lead. Oh well there goes that #firstoutthewater I wanted. By 200m there was one swimmer about 50m in front of me and another 2 swimmers. By my reckoning I was 4th. The second place swimmer seemed to put in a burst of speed to break free of our pack of 3 after about 300m. Stay calm was all I kept telling myself.

One thing I noticed was that the other swimmers in front of me were not swimming to the buoys, they were swimming wide. Why they did this I have no idea but when you’re not part of the thrashing mass, it makes sense to swim the course as tight as you can. At the 5th buoy the 2nd place swimmer was now only a body length up on me. By the final turn buoy at about 500m the first swimmer had faded whereas as my slow and steady rhythm was easily maintainable. We turned this buoy and after another 10 strokes I was leading the swim.

After the first 200m I thought this was out of the question. Me leading a swim out. I got a bit giddy with myself. Calm down Michael. Keep it together. Stroke, stroke, breath. Repeat. I was making sure I was putting as much power down as I could maintain. A quick glance around and I confirmed I was leading the swim. It felt amazing leading the swim out. With 50m I felt someone on my feet, I put in a last burst of effort to ensure I was out of the water first. I was overjoyed getting to dry land in first place. At Hatfield the transition zone is up a short hill. There was no way I was losing whatever lead I had in this run to transition. I dug in to make sure I was first into T1. Whatever happened after that, nonone could take my #firstoutthewater away from me.

Suit off, helmet and belt on. I was first out of T1 as well.

Me leading a race. Woohoo.

Jump on my bike, pedal a bit, get feet in shoes. Oh crap there goes the lead. I was now 2nd and we had only just left the Water Park. Never mind. If you’d offered me this at the start, I’d have bit your hand off.
I know the course at Hatfield well, the course is flat with six hills (read motorway bridges) and the only trouble with the course is that it is in a wind corridor so at some point on the course you get a 4 mile straight with a headwind, either on the way out or on the way home. For this year it was a headwind back. That and the horrific rain made bike handling interesting.

I had set myself a wattage target. I wanted to hold 220/230W for the first two thirds of the bike and see how I felt for the last third. One biker passed me after 4 miles and another 10 seconds later. I was not in 4th. After another 2 miles the 5th place rider overtook me. I was now in 5th and sill had 7/8 miles to go. Stick to the plan. Stick to the plan. After a total of 8 miles, I pressed lap on my Garmin and made sure that the average watt for the remainder of the bike leg were above 250W. The second to last hill was horrific, I felt I had put too much into the bike. The run was going to be interesting.

I passed the 3rd and 4th placed runners as I was entering transition as they had just started running. They were only about a minute up on me. It felt odd getting back to transition with so few bikes there. A nice odd, though. Bike racked, helmet off, trainers on, spin number belt. Suck it up.

After racing the Doncaster 5k on Wednesday (which was perfectly paced according to a friend “first lap controlled, second lap barking like a seal (a noise I make when running hard), 3rd grunty and wonky”) where I posted a 23:07 finish I was hoping for a sub 24:30 run split from Hatfield.

It was weird being towards the pointy end and oddly quite lonely. There were no other runners to run with. I completely zoned out on the run. This is the first time I have done this. I dug in and gave it everything I had. I reached the turn point at one mile and was still in 5th. Well that was unexpected. I had expected to be caught by two people I knew by this point. I didn’t see anyone after the turn point before we veered off for the rest of the course which meant I had at least a 400m lead on 6th place. As I turned to the offroad section of the course, I was feeling good. I was completely zoned out and knew I was running well. I apparently saw some of my club mates after 2.5 miles as they were coming back in on the bike. I have no recollection of this at all. I remember signalling to a female clubmate as she was starting the run by raising a thumb. I wasn’t wasting precious energy on a verbal greeting. But apparently I stared through another clubmate who was finishing her bike. Sorry Amy. I still hadn’t been overtaken on the run with 600m to go. I was still 5th. OMG OMG OMG OMG!!!!!!

I entered the final field and after 50m someone overtook me. 550m to go and I was in 6th. Dig in Michael. Don’t lose it now. Run strong. Check form and posture. Relax. Relax those shoulders.
I had now turned the final corner and managed a quick glance back, I could see one of my clubmates gaining on me. I had 150m to go finish this. Stay on target. Don’t sprint too soon. I continued to run strong. Nope he was still gaining. 50m to go. Time to engage the afterburners. Oh god this hurts…….
I crossed the line 3 seconds before my clubmate in 6th position overall. 6th. GET IN!!!!!! I was 6th male to finish but 7th overall because the female winner was slightly quicker than me.

My run time was 23:22 which was only 15 seconds worse than Wednesday after the swim and the bike and with an off road portion as well.

To put this into context. In 2012 I finished 161st out of 166. 



In 2014 I finished 68th  out of 141 



But now in 2015 I had finished 7th out of 64


An extreme sense of euphoria swept over me. The last time I was truly this happy was at my wedding in 2010. The hard hard work I had put in over the winter was paying off. Even after my arm fracture. I raced with no pressure at Hatfield and as a result raced relaxed. This is by far the best performance I have had in a triathlon and no one could take my 6th place and #firstoutthewater away from.
Well actually they could. Due to a timing cock up I was not given the correct swim time. Who knows how but I and all the spectators know who was first out.

Clearly ahead coming to dry land
Had I suspected my time was near my target of a sub 12:00 750m swim I would have complained but it wasn’t because I believe the swim was long. I saw some Garmin logs at over 900m. I never time my swims anymore. What will be, will be.

The most important thing was my finishing position was correct. 6th. I’m still a little in shock about this. I completed the race in 1:20:27 which was a 7 minute PB over the same race from last year and the wind was a lot worse this time round.

Now to knuckle back down before the next block of racing. I have 4 races on back to back weekends in August so it’s going to be a busy month.

Thanks for reading,

Michael

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Mojo found

I know it's been a while since my last post but once I found my long lost mojo I decided to knuckle down and crack on with training.

Since my last blogpost I've been really busy.

I managed to complete more races than planned.

In summary.

Epworth Sprint - struggled with bike and run but pleased with 6:40 swim off little swimming since I broke my arm.
Askern 10k - predicted a 52 minute 10k, ran a 52 minute 10k. Happy days
Tyram Tri - 3rd out the water, 3rd in off the bike and 6th male finisher overall. Please with this last minute local triathlon. Felt strong on the bike and died on the run.
Nottingham Sprint - Good swim, disappointed with my bike (I couldn't get the power down in TT position) and ran to feel which worked okay but I was about a minute down on what I wanted. I was more annoyed with myself for knobbing around in T1 and T2.

After that batch of racing I decided to knuckle back down with some serious training.

After my poor bike at Nottingham I booked an appointment with Mike Taylor of Bridgtown Bikes to assess why I couldn't put the power down. My reps on my Wattbike show that I have power in my legs but for some reasons in this race I couldn't apply it. After a few minor tweaks to #Rinnie and some exercises for me, I managed to increase my power output by about 100W for the same effort. I went in outputting 220W and left outputting 340W in my TT position.

My run is getting stronger with each passing week. I am now back below 25 minutes for 5k at below my threshold HR. Last week I posted my fastest ever sub threshold 5k in 24:17.


My swim bizarrely is getting quicker considering I only swim once a week. I was shocked the other week when I finally broke through the 6 minute barrier for 400m.

I was so thrilled with this that I decided to set up a targets board in my garage. The reason I set this up was so that there was something tangible to remind me what I want to achieve when I am spending hours in my #paincave. Also if the targets are out there then I am accountable.


Today marked my first "A" race of the season. I picked this race out to find out how I ranked against others in ETU qualification. Yes I know we can make comparisons on paper but until you race the same race against you competitors then it is hard to know by how much you need to improve.

In 2013 I wrote about my dream to own a GB trisuit and this race was my first step on that journey towards qualification outright.

When I sat down with Coach Curly at the start of the season to plan my season, we decided that I am on a two year journey towards qualification. This first year was about learning to race and also seeing where I was at against those who qualify from my AG.

I have tapered well this week and my workouts have shown that my run speed is better than it has been previously. Following my bike fit I knew my bike power was there. Now it was just time to execute my plan.

I've been keeping an eye on the weather this week to help decide my wheel choice for my TT bike. As the week drew on, there was a deterioration in the weather as the wind speed went through the roof. I decided with the help of Curly to run a skinny rim on the front to asset with handling and give me more confidence on my aerobars.

Swim

The swim at Southport was in a marine lake and as the hooter went, it became apparent that it was going to be a punchy affair. In the end I decided to move away from the melee and swim my own race. I got to the entry to T1 in 12:26 and was pleased because I swam relaxed, which was the aim.

Bike

The wind had really picked up, I was eating sand while preparing for the race and I am not going to lie,  the wind scared me a bit. I knuckled down and managed to hold 240W for the entire 20k. Given there were 12 roundabouts and 2 dead turns to contend with I am pleased my wattage was as high as it was. Given the wind I backed off on all the roundabouts to enable me to steer around them safely. I think I performed well on the bike. My bike time was 36:39 which compares to 32:06 for the fastest cyclist in my qualification AG. Given the wind and my lack of confidence on my aerobars since I broke my arm, I'm pleased with this.

Run

I wanted to do myself justice on the run. My current PB for 5k is 22:48 and that was a standalone at park run with a pacer. I wore my watch to monitor my average pace and was shocked with the time of 23:07 which is only 19 seconds slower than my standalone 5k time #lactatetrainingpaysoff



In my current AG I finished in 17th place (after sorting out a slight timing issue where I was with the wrong wave which added 8 minutes to my time). Given I am moving up an AG next year (which is the category I was aiming to qualify at), my finishing position and time  in this AG wasn't really important. What mattered most was how I compared with the other athletes in the 35-39AG.

Drumroll please......

I would have finished in 19th position in the 35-39AG out of a possible 32 athletes.

But now for the really exciting part.

To qualify, you either have to finish in the top 4 in your AG in one of the 3 qualification races or be within 120% of the first qualifiers time where you then become eligible for roll down places.

My time today was c. 118% of the winner of my AG which means that I am now eligible to qualify for roll down places. It is a slim chance that they will roll down this far but it is a chance all the same. Given this year was about finding out where I need to improve and by what margin, to have completed my "A" race and be eligible is honestly more than I expected especially when you consider that it is 76 days since I broke my arm coming off my bike.

If you'd sat me down 77 days ago and told me I would be eligible I'd have bitten your hand off.

If you'd sat me down 75 days ago and told me I would be eligible I would have called for the local asylum to cart you off.

I can't really convey how happy I am.

I would like to thank my coach Curly for all his help this year including answering about a zillion Facebook messages. Without your encouragement, patience, coaching and plans, today wouldn't have gone as well as it did.

I would also like to thank the companies who continue to believe in me and support me on this crazy life changing journey I find myself on. Thanks Huub, Blizard Physiotherapy and Trionz.

Thanks for reading,

Michael





Monday, 4 May 2015

¿dónde está mi mojo?

So I've been discharged from the fracture clinic two and a half weeks after breaking my arm. After some prodding and poking from the registrar which resulted in no pain, he decided I was fixed!
No X-rays. It was like passing Go in Monopoly except instead of collecting $200 I was sent to the Physio. After being given some exercises to complete, I was discharged from here as well. I was told if my mobility didn't improve over the next two weeks, I should ring up for an appointment.

I have been doing my exercises and my mobility has increased. It is less painful to move my arm and I can nearly get it straight. So all thing considered, I should be over the moon. After all it is only 28 days since I crashed my bike, so why am I feeling flat. I am struggling to muster up the enthusiasm to train. I keep finding really lame excuses to not train, things like "I'm too tired", "I can't be arsed", "Traffic was bad", "I had to work late" and "There's not enough time".

Since my discharge 12 days ago. I have only completed 3 bike sessions, 2 runs sessions and amazingly 2 swims.


The swims came as a complete shock. I went to coach some of our beginners at their first open water swim and ended up swimming two laps of 300m with them. I followed this up with a pool session and despite having no strength on my left side, I was still moving well. Yes, there was a bit of discomfort on the catch and pull but nothing disastrous.

I have also been building strength back up in my arm using weights, therabands and elasticated straps in an effort to increase both my strength and mobility.

The reason for this cathartic blog is that if a problem is shared a problem is halved. And also by admitting there is a problem and putting it out there, then it becomes tangible and as a result I can't deny it anymore.


My bike strength is there and I am really pleased with the numbers I am producing, my swim will get there but it is mainly running I am struggling to motivate myself for.

My first run back was a threshold 5k and I managed to do it in 25:39 which was only a minute down on where I was before my injury. I was having to rein myself in to keep my HR below 170bpm. This pleased me, but since then a combination of work and my own lack of drive have resulted in no more runs until today.

I had a lot of time to think about things yesterday after visiting family in Bury St Edmunds and being a passenger for 5 hours. I decided "enough was enough", it is time to knuckle down and put in the hard work again.

This morning I ran 5 miles at threshold and was pleased that my initial speed was still there, it is just my fitness that is lacking. My first mile was completed in 8:22 but my last mile was a 9:22 for the same HR. But I struggled mentally for each of the 5 miles.

I have improved before (like last December when my first run back was an avg of 9:25/mi but within 22 days I was running at 8:03/mi pace) so it is time to put in the hard work again. It is hardly a surprise that my confidence has taken a knock as before my injury things were going really well. But I need to #HTFU and stop procrastinating.


After all it is only

16 days until Askern 10
26 days until Nottingham Sprint
48 days until my "A" race at Southport
54 days until ETU Aquathlon Championships

I have no more time to procrastinate. It's time to get it done.


Thanks for reading and if you feel like leaving a motivating comment to help me regain some of my mojo, then it would be greatly appreciated.

Michael

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Not the start to the season I wanted......

On Easter Monday I went out for a social bike ride with the members of Doncaster Triathlon Club.

I decided to ride the first 5 miles to the meeting point solo at race effort to see how my hours and hours sat on the Wattbike have affected my outdoor riding speed.

I was flying along and after I reached the meeting place, checked my average speed. For the 4.96 miles, I averaged 21mph including stopping for one junction and 4 roundabouts. I also managed 3 Strava 2015 KOM's and 2 2nd places. In a word the hours spent on my Wattbike have had a good effect on my outdoor speed. And all of this on my roadie with my standard wheels


I was buoyed with a new sense of confidence for the coming season.

We set off on the ride and I was taking it steady on the flats but putting in some efforts uphill and downhill.

The hills didn't seem any easier than last year but I definitely felt quicker.

After we stopped at Gringley on the Hill to regroup, we set off on a downhill section. As I reached the bottom of the descent I kept checking back for the other riders.

And then disaster struck. While checking back, I accidentally turned my bars and went flying over the handlebars.

After eating tarmac, picking myself up and dusting myself I noticed an unnatural ache in my left arm (well that and numerous scrapes). I rode on for another 10 miles before my adrenalin wore off. After that I could't continue. The pain in my arm had got significantly worse.

Cue a trip to A&E. My prognosis. One broken left radial neck. A minimum of six weeks off and having to cancel three races.



So now I find myself acting like a bear with a sore head because my preparation for this season was going so well but now the plans for the season have to change. I couldn't wait to put into practice everything that I have been working on since starting with my new coach.

The races I had to cancel were

Southwell Sprint
St Neots Sprint (A GB qualifier (I didn't expect to qualify but wanted to see by how much I needed to improve))
Epworth Sprint

Thankfully two of the race organisers have allowed me to either transfer to another of their races or given me a partial credit for another race.

Now the start of my season looks like this.

Askern 10k (I felt I needed a race post injury to test my fitness)
Nottingham Sprint (assuming I am able to race)

This is far from the start I wanted, I wanted to have raced three triathlons before Nottingham.

I realise I am cutting it fine trying to get race ready for Nottingham given it is only 54 days after my crash, but I need something to help keep me focussed.

I am trying to keep motivated by using my Wattbike but even this is difficult as I am not able to get into my correct riding position.

I am unable to run or swim at present unfortunately and I realise the 10k at Askern will really hurt as I will have only just started running again. My next check up at the fracture clinic is on Wednesday and I am hoping for some good news about the bone healing or even being able to drive.

Now I have been moping about my arm for two weeks. It is time to knuckle back down. I hope to complete 4/5 sessions on my Wattbike each week until I am able to partake in other training. If I can't be swim and run fit, I am going to do my damnedest to be bike fit.

Onwards and upwards,

Michael