Monday, 23 May 2016

And so it begins!

The triathlon season has well and truly begun again and spring is in full effect, what a great time of year this is! I used the Nuffield Health Eton SuperSprints to kick off my year and to help iron out any early season wrinkles before my 'A' races next month, and to also introduce a friend to the wonderful world of triathlon.

As a Nuffield Health employee it was great to see them as the Title partner of a tri with Human Race, so when the offer of a place came up I Jumped at the chance. We also all have that friend too who has mentioned that they'd love to give tri a go but haven't quite taken the final leap of faith and entered, so I did it for him! Marty is a rugby player so not quite the standard triathlete shape (is there even a standard triathlete shape anymore??), but he teaches a lot of classes and can run pretty well to be fair to him so I knew once he got out of the water he'd be fine. He SMASHED it and has well and truly got the bug and is already asking when his next one is. You should've seen the smile on both of our faces when he finished :D

My race had the standard 1st race errors, not quite giving enough time to get ready and set-up before the start and a couple of rusty transitions but overall I'm happy with how it went. Starting from the back of the pack in the swim meant I had to go round/through a lot of small groups but meant that I could also use a few for drafting. I felt really strong on the bike and was able to keep a good cadence ticking over in a higher gear than last year, only really loosing out to the guys on aero bikes. The best bit of the whole day though was the run. I've worked hard on my running through the winter (not to say I've not done so on the swim or bike) and I really felt the difference. Being able to start quick and get quicker was amazing and the feeling of being able to reel in the guys and finish with a sprint to grab another place on the line, incredible. 27th overall and 3rd in age group, I'll take that as a cross triathlete masquerading as a roadie. Have to say a big thanks to ashmei too, the tri-suit had its first outing and it performed faultlessly. I didn't really notice I had it on at any point during the day it was that comfortable, I think that is really the best thing you can ask for from a suit 10/10.

The countdown is now on for my big races and I couldn't be happier with where I currently am with my training. I still can't sing the praises of my coaches highly enough (thanks Jacqui & Ben) and would recommend anyone who wants to improve their times/enjoyment of the sport to go ahead and get booked in with a coach- what's the worst that could happen?? We're just 18 days out from Xterra Belgium and 32 days from the ETU European Cross Champs at Xterra Switzerland, June is going to be a busy month! My swim is coming along nicely and I don't really see it as my weak link anymore. I'm feeling stronger than ever on the bike being able to push the pace and then recover quickly and as mentioned earlier I've never enjoyed running so much. So lets see what we can do this year, it's going to be a BIG one!

For now though
Take it easy
Tom

Monday, 4 April 2016

Swings and Roundabouts

I was hoping to be writing this post about my first race back of the season, the Hole Park Cross-Duathlon. However that plan was scuppered by catching the office bug that had been threatening to take hold for the last month or so, that hit with perfect timing to drag me into a grumpy snotty mess for the Easter Bank Holiday weekend.
Any athlete who is training alongside a full time job always has that thought in the back/front/whole of their mind of how far could they go if they had the chance to train full time. What could they do if they got the chance to wholly focus on training and racing without fitting it around the precious time that they have outside of work, their free time for which they can dedicate to whatever they want, whilst still of course reminding your family of what you look like. This is why our weekends are cherished so dearly as we get to decide when, where and how to train without worrying if we'll get to work on time or if we'll be able to miss the traffic and make it to the pool/track/wilderness before it closes/gets dark. Even better are long Bank Holiday weekends like the one just gone by for Easter, where we get the chance to have 4 whole days in a row of solid back to back training days with the added incentive of eating (more) chocolate. It's fair to say that I always look forward to the Easter break.

For the past few weeks I have been feeling a little under the weather, a little bit off but nothing too major to throw much of my training off. A couple of days here and there where I couldn't quite hit the reps, sets or times wanted but still able to get some quality sessions in. I didn't think much of this until the Wednesday before Easter when it all got a bit worse; sore throat, blocked up head and a bit spaced out. I knew I had finally succumbed to the office bug. A coldy/fluish bug that's made it's way through pretty much every department at one point and had hit a few colleagues in the weeks before. By Thursday it had officially hit and I retreated home early from work to collapse on the sofa and a 3 hour sleep followed, just in time to scupper those weekend plans of miles and smiles.
Now from here this post could quite easily have descended into self pity and cursing at cyclist I saw riding past my window enjoying the early spring sunshine (this might have happened). But instead to my surprise, I quickly found a new perspective on the enforced rest. I had the chance to veg out on the sofa, watch some films and eat chocolate whilst my better half looked after me (she did pretty well to put up with me to be honest). Yes I was still thoroughly hacked off to be ill and not able to do what I wanted, but for the first time I think ever, I was able to accept it and just get on with recovering. I must be getting old!
Hannah's form of sympathy...
This led me to look back at my recent training and how happy I am with how far I've come on since teaming up with B&J Racing. Coaching really does work and if you're thinking about signing up with a coach, be it long or short term, I would really recommend that you jump in and commit fully to it. It's not an automatic ticket to improvement, you still have to put in the hard work, but knowing with every session that you're ticking off that you are moving in the right direction, at the right pace and with the right recovery. It's a great feeling.
Now looking forward I have a few xc mountain bike races in the next few weeks and then I'll be travelling to some local and then some not so local cross-triathlons in Europe. With 4 days of very light training under my belt since starting to feel human again, fingers crossed I'm out the other side of this bug. I cannot wait to get going again with training properly and now that the days are getting longer, warmer and brighter, it's going to be a great season.


But for now ladies and gents do like have been, take it easy :)
Tom

Friday, 18 March 2016

Exciting times

 

Sooo it's been a while since my last post, I've decided as a late New Years resolution (it still counts right??) that I will be keeping on top of this blog and updating it as regularly as possible.

First thing first lets have a look at last year. My aims were to carry on improving my swim, bike and run, travel to as many Xterra/mountain bike/running races as possible and to continue loving the sport so that it never becomes a chore. I can quite easily say I've ticked off all three of those goals. My fitness has jumped massively (mainly due to working with a couple of the best Xterra athletes/coaches in the world) most noticeably in the swim which has gone from back of the pack straggler to mixing it up in the middle of the bunch and I'm still gaining huge chunks of time in training. Travelling firstly to the ETU Cross European champs and then the ITU Cross World champs as a Team GB age grouper was incredible and has started new friendships and opened my eyes as to where I want to be as an athlete. Last of all I love my sport, I love the training and I love the people meaning you can't help but have fun. This is hugely important to me as if I didn't enjoy any part of the training or racing, it just would not happen.

Heading to T1 of ITU Cross WC, Sardinia
Also I am thrilled to have been selected by the lovely people of ashmei (and I'm not just saying that, they really are nice) to be an ambassador for 2016. This is some of the nicest gear I have ever seen, with a mixture of style and performance in every garment you can really tell that they care about everything they make. The main attraction is in the property of the material they use, merino wool, which works to keep you warm in the cold and cool in the hot whilst not stinking once you warm up, what more could an athlete ask for?? Plus with a tag line of 'Outperform the best' you know they've got the idea. Keep an eye out in later posts for reviews and updates as my relationship with ashmei develops and go have a look at their stuff, it really is top notch.


Right that's it for me for now but I promise it won't be as long until the next one :)
Take it easy
Tom

Thursday, 13 August 2015

ETU Cross Country European Championships

So my first time representing my country and in GB kit.....wow that felt good!! There really was something special about pulling on that GB Tri-suit on race morning and the feeling of wanting to do it proud. The ETU Cross Champs were in Schluchsee (Germany) and having travelled out a couple of days before the race and had a quick recce of the course, with new buddies Deano and Simon (cheers for looking out for my guys) I was feeling positive about it all and just wanted to get going. Heading down to transition to set up on race morning and it was a little cloudier/cooler/windier than we all wanted but hey that's racing (just to rub it in the following day was perfect sunshine and not even a breeze). A slightly different rack was used than I was used to where you try and wedge your rear wheel in a crate, for some bikes it worked perfectly, unfortunately for the bike next to me, not so great...each time they left their bike, I'm sure you can imagine the sort of domino action that occurred. Very annoying and not to mention a little worrying when you're leaving your pride and joy to be knocked over :( normal racks please next time.
The lake
Transition was a fair way away from the swim so once racked it was time to walk down and have a quick dip in the swimming pool next to the lake, I'm not sure it's owners wanted it but they were going to struggle to stop a few hundred pumped up triathletes from jumping in for a quick paddle. The elites were called down in order and us age groupers had a great view of their start from the bank, 2 minutes later and we'd be off. I've witnessed the heat-beat countdown at the ITU London race in Hyde Park and it was quite nauseating then and I wasn't even racing, but to hear it for your own race really hyped the pressure on even the most relaxed of us. The gun went and we were off; a few stoney steps into the water, a dive and then go. I was very happy with the first half of my swim, I managed to settle into a rhythm quickly, found a few feet to tow along on and was making good ground. However after the 75m beach run and out onto the 2nd lap it all went a bit to pot, I think I pushed a bit too hard on the run trying to make up places and as such was gasping for too much air whilst trying to battle against the choppy water. A couple of near drowning's and bit too much effort later I reached the turn buoy and enjoyed the last leg of the swim down wind and with the flow back into the beach for the 450m long run back to T1, picking up a few places and then off on the bike I went.
Rolling around on practice day
There was a fair amount of climbing straight out of T1 so I was conscious of holding back a bit and let a few guys power off up the hill as I was sure I'd see them again in a bit (most of them I did, fair play to the guys who stuck at that pace!) On my practice lap, the 2 lap bike course seemed a bit tame and with not much going on other a couple of big hills, come race day it felt completely different. Due to the fact there was a lot of fire road there was a real emphasis on trying to lay the power down and hitting 62kmph doesn't happen much on a mtb course and is fine, but really sapping for the legs when trying to spin up the hills afterwards. There was a nice techy downhill section towards the end of the lap that was great fun and made me a lot of time on others and a crowd pleasing log to leap too, sounds like someone got it a bit wrong though and had a bit of a face plant, hope that's healing well bud!
Running that fast...
A swift T2 and out on the run. 4 laps of a tortuous 2.6km lap with the majority being slow and steady fire road uphill's and then short sharp single track descents followed. My running form has been coming along nicely recently and I was feeling really confident going in that I could set a pace and stick to it, on the day my legs had other ideas though. Cramp set in both hamstrings by the end of lap 2 and was always lingering on the edge or sending me to the deck like a sack of spuds at anytime. Grovelling uphill and then praying downhill with a good few kick outs to try and release them led to a funny running style, think ministry of funny walks and you're part way there, but with a bit of a stern talking too and remembering how far I'd come I made it to the finish. A free stein and complimentary alcohol free beer, a currywurst to recover and off to celebrate with the team mates I went.
Giving it the robot :)
Looking back I'm fairly happy with the result, 11th in Age group and 75th in Europe knowing I couldn't have pushed any harder on the day feels pretty good. International fields are always stronger than you think they will be, remembering everyone there had to qualify just to start helps....but I want better and I know I can improve. Training adjusted and new sessions added, its time to get stronger, faster and better.
Current phone screensaver
Until next time xoxo GG.....Oh no wait that's someone else's tagline
Take it easy
Tom

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

And in other news...

....we've moved house!! As many of you will know moving house takes a lot more time than you think/hope it will. After fighting many obstacles and chasing as much as possible it finally happened and boy did it happen quick. I got the call on Friday to exchange (whilst away at a conference) and then we had to set a date for completion for the following Wednesday, leaving 4 days to get EVERYTHING ready. A few stressful days later and not much sleep we were in and living in the new place, bits and bobs are still in boxes here there and everywhere but we love the new house.

Something that I'm extremely proud of and what I was aiming for ever since starting Tri (and many years before) was to represent my country and get my name printed in my bum :-D. The fact that I got the chance to do that in my favourite aspect of Tri at the ETU Cross Country Tri championships makes it even sweeter. Write up to follow on how I went soon. 

But for now, take it easy
Tom

Monday, 29 June 2015

So whats been happening.....

Its been a while since my last post and A LOT has happened, so better dive straight in.

First of all there was a bit of training that has really caught me by surprise as to how much I enjoy it and how much of a buzz and increase in fitness I have gained from it. I am talking about teaching the Les Mills GRIT series. A mixture of Strength, Plyo and Cardio training sessions all squeezed into half hour HIIT blocks with very minimal rest. If you've never tried GRIT I urge you to go and give it a go, yes it hurts, yes it's only half hour and yes you will have to do it in the gym. But wow does it give your fitness a tune up! It took me about a week to be able to walk properly again after my training days :) Unfortunately I had to miss the 2nd round of the Brass Monkeys due to this, but you've got to pick what works best for the long run (and your career). I became good friends with my foam roller that week!

Brass Monkey number 3 was next on the hit list of races. I really enjoyed this series and can feel a huge gain in fitness due to these training races. Although everyone calls them training, you never can turn off the inner chimp that makes you want to push harder and catch the bloke in front, especially when its as cold as that day was. 2 and a bit hours fun later and its all over and training in the books, it took a while for the fingers and toes to return but can't remember that now sitting in nice warm living room in June. As usual it was a great course set by the Gorrick crew and happy to come away with 22nd in the final round and managed to grab some series points, now to just score at every race :)

Onto another very cold day but at a new Gorrick venue for the 1st in the Spring Series at Saddleback hill just outside Camberley. It was a great track and will be even better once the trails have settled down a bit but its always good fun smashing through the fresh loam. I had a good race overall, few little mistakes here and there but it felt great to put some intensity back into the legs again and bring it home in 14th- Another best :) Looking forward to more races at the saddleback and the stinger of a hill.

Spring Series 2 at the old favourite Crowthorne hill is always a popular race but for some reason I really struggled to get going and didn't feel on form and my placing of 21st mirrored this. The single track and technical sections felt great, but the kick on for the wider fire roads was next to none. By all means not my worst race ever and there were plenty of good bits, but something just felt a bit lacking.

After a challenge by one of the members of my gym the next race was the Brutal 10k in Bagshot, but he didn't even show up! Next time mate. Brutal definitely lived up to its name. A 10k cross country run over 2 laps, where the first half of the lap took you up and down as many of the very steep tank testing hills as possible and then the second half took all the energy out of your legs by putting you though trench after trench of freezing water. I always forget that feeling of ice-blocked toes when signing up for these events, but it soon comes rushing back. I finish 56th out of 530 odd people so really happy with that considering the lack of running at the time (cycling's just more fun!) with a time of 1 hour 5 mins, that might sound slow but to only be 12 mins back from the whippet like winner, I was really pleased.

Having been going well in the Spring Series events I decided I was going to travel that little bit further to the first round of the Southern XC at Black Park just outside Slough to see how I'd go. I have to say I was really pleased I did. The course was really different from what I was used to, just a total 50m of climbing over the whole 4 laps! I had a fairly poor start as I set myself up quite near the back but once the crowds thinned out and I was able to get passed on the wider sections I settled into a really nice rhythm and just sat on a really nice gear picking up some nice speed and consistent lap times. I finished in 20th with really consistent 21 minute laps and a great feeling. The course may have been flat but they crammed in some nice technical riding sections and bomb holes and drops that I've never really ridden over in a race before, some people really do need to work on their skills :D

Spring Series round 3 at Porridge pot was a day to forget. Nothing major wrong but just one of those races where you feel rubbish and never in contention - a bad day to just leave it at that

Spring series 4 next at Frith hill and finally spring seemed to be on its way. A slight delay on the start line due to timing system issues, but a few laps of the car park to keep warm and we were off. Another course I've not ridden for a while was a nice change and the new tracks were bedding in nicely, lots more loam to spread. Another 14th and more good fun, Gorricks are fairly hard to score points in as only the top 15 score so 4 points total meant 30th overall and a good first series in the sport.

Southern XC 2 and a trip down to the New forest and a lovely post race dinner with Hannah and Harv in a great pub. But anyway race time first, and another first of being gridded on the start #BIGtime #notreally20th ;-D. Another great course set out by the SXC crew with plenty of roots, techy bits and one long fire road. 21st overall so lost a place but a larger field and some good battles. Oh and the gammon, eggs and chips went down a treat.


Gorrick 100 enduro at Porridge pot a week later was a longer hit out over 3 laps of 10 miles. The aim of the game was to hit a decent pace and hold it for as long as possible, finishing 2 and a half hours later feeling great and very happy to take 10th place. 

Down to another new track for Southern XC4 in Bordon on what was a miserable wet morning and I really felt for the riders who were out early as it was chucking it down. Fortunately it cleared for my start but the track was fairly greasy to start with. I struggled to get up to speed to start with but began to get into it after lap 1. Some fun jumps and drops to keep you on your toes amidst the flowing singletrack and after the bad start I worked my way back up to 27th, not very happy but had some fun in the end. 


Onto my first Tri of the year and trying Windsor for the first time on their 25th anniversary. Racking on Saturday was a good chance to check out the walk to swim (about 10 mins) and the very long transitions. Much of the conversation around the event village was about how long they were and why. Turns out due to the running of the Magna Carta celebrations on the same day meant that some road closures weren't possible so they just had to make the best of the situation. Race day dawned very early (4.30am) so I tried a new race day technique of a couple of Imodium tabs and hour before the start to try and combat any mishaps and it worked! Stable stomach the whole way round and very please with that result. Anyhoo onto the race which started with a great swim for me and a lot of thanks to Zone3 for a great suit and PB swim time. A long run to T1 and picking up a few more places it was out onto the bike and looking forward to seeing what I could do in my favourite discipline. Right from the start I was feeling off and as if I was going backwards with guys passing me who I felt really shouldn't. 40km of self doubt passed and off the bike into T2 I noticed my rear wheel wasn't spinning as it should, arse the rear brake had been running the whole way! A stupid mistake and something I should've thought of earlier but time to run. And boy did that run feel good. A seminar few weeks earlier about running technique and tempo has really helped my running and if really recommend getting your running looked at by a pro, they tend to know what they are talking about :-P. 46 minutes and a fair few places gained later running through the crowds on the 3 lap course it was done and I had a huge smile on my face, I have sorely missed triathlons. 2hours 44mins total with probably 10 mins lost on the bike and lessons learnt (double/triple check your bike!!)

Finally for this post it's onto today and Southern XC round 5 and back to Porridge pot. A crash right in front of me at start left me jumping over the handlebars and the rider who'd managed to hit the deck on the flat...hmmm. Dead last and a little bemused it was time to drag some places back on the most fun course to date. Dry swoopy singletrack followed by some short sharp and some longer hills made for a great mix and made sure I was battling with the same old riders as we passed and re-passed each other as we hit our favourite bits. Unfortunately someone had a bad crash breaking a leg on one of the steep downhill sections. Because of his position on the track the race had to be paused until the ambulance crew were able to move him and take him off to hospital. Heal well bud and hope you are back racing ASAP. The race was resumed 34 minutes later in groups of 5 in the places that you crossed the line preceding the stoppage, this made sure  there wasn't a huge jam in the first hairpin. 2 more laps of sprinting and smiles followed and I crossed the line in 20th, happy with how I'd gone especially in unusual circumstances.
 
I didn't knock him off.....honest!

So we're all up to date and I promise not to leave it that long again, that's too much writing for me to do in one go :-D

Thanks for reading and until next time

Take it easy
Tom

Monday, 8 December 2014

"Off season"

Retuning home from the massive high of Hawaii to normal life in England, was always going to be a struggle. Having never travelled long haul before, the jet lag was the thing that surprised me the most. On the way out I felt fine and quickly settled into the routine without much fuss, however on the return it was a completely different story. From trying your hardest to stay awake until 8pm and not fall asleep in front of the TV, to being wide awake at 3pm without a hope of drifting off again. I was quite lucky I suppose, one bad night followed by one good night for a few days, until I succumbed to the dreaded man-flu which knocked me out for a few days.

I've never really had an off season before, mainly because I played a variety of sport which always kept me busy. However this year I decided that I'd take approx. a month off structured training and only do anything active if it was seen as fun. Of course I couldn't stop altogether as the lure for the Gorrick MTB races is always too strong. First of all was the Gorrick autumn classic 2 at Crowthorne woods, a venue which I love racing at and is always a good loop. I stepped up to the sport category for the first time and am so glad I did. My fitness has obviously improved a lot since my last race with Gorrick back in the spring, as the extra lap didn't feel like a slog and the whole race felt pretty good and I managed to bring it home in 15th, my best result to date, happy days!


A couple of weeks later was the first round of the gorrick Merida brass monkeys, an event which I've really enjoyed in the past and it's great training. The 2 hour event is usually rammed full and this race was no different even though the weather was atrocious. The course held up well considering the conditions, but then the rain and number of riders carving it up finally got too much and it started to turn into a bit of a swamp. I finished 2 laps inside the 2 hour time limit but couldn't convince myself that I wanted to go round again and pulled the pin, like many others, feeling like anymore might be a risk of injury/illness. I finished in the top 30 feeling fairly happy with the training miles in the legs but absolutely freezing, plus it took ages after the race to get warm and dry again :)
 
 
Now I'm back in the training groove and looking forward to what 2015 holds, the first few sessions have been a challenge and feel fairly heavy legged but its starting to get "easier" again. 

Take it easy guys
Tom