My Friend Jon

5pm UK time on Saturday, as the nation pretends it likes rugby, and bemoaning the home nations’ inability to qualify for the latter stages, my friend will be lining up at Auckland Harbour (Ironically everyone there has more than a passing interest in the rugby) about to start his first marathon. 

I hope he’ll see this short message before he starts…

“Well, this is long overdue fella, but you’ve finally made it to your first marathon start line. I’m proud of you. I will never forget that night last summer, the night they nearly took my friend. But that’s behind you now and you should be proud of how far you’ve travelled. And now you’re about to travel that little bit further, and it really is a magical journey that you’re about to undertake!

 I don’t want you to dwell on that time last year, but keep it at the back of your mind, because things will get tough in places on Sunday; but you’ve been down a much more difficult path than the one you will tread tomorrow, and you got through. You blame me for this. That’s fine. You’ll be the third of my closest friends to run a marathon and blame me for it. If that’s all I’m guilty of then I’ll take that. Ironically, last year when we chatted it was around the anniversary of me running my first ultra. If that inspires you, then think about it (it really shouldn’t 😊) – high five the kids, smile at the supporters, sing along with the entertainment; the point being, do whatever you need to do to get you through!

 I can’t tell you how to run, but please try not to go off like you did in the 800m Uni Champs – it will end in disaster! First 10km, switch off. Look at everything around you. Take it all in. I know you can do that. Remember the crazy turbo session? Your mind and will is a strong as mine. If not stronger. Remember the 10pint water challenge? Or the Breezer Bender challenge? Think about these kinda things! This is just the celebration at the end of the journey – it sounds cliche, but you’ll begin to understand on Sunday – it’s also likely to be the start of another journey. A time will be achieved, one you won’t be happy with and will want to better, things will stand out that you could’ve done different. It’s a drug that gets inside your mind and body. Be mindful of the clock, but always keep the thought that you should be going quicker. Times are for another day.  

Get to 30km thinking the same thing, and then let that carry you to the finish and the beer. Write the race report in your head as you run; remember the things you’re going to want to tell me on Sunday evening. One day we will run one of these things together. And remember – Grrr, dry with a run up! 

There’s only one Jonny Wilk to me – and he’s never played rugby. Now go out and get that fucking medal for the lads” 

Andy

Advertisements

#1 Trying To Make It Back

It’s safe to say that the last 12months aren’t a representation of what I envisaged when I stepped away from the York marathon. A plan was made and everything was committed to, and then…nothing. I stumbled around Brighton marathon in April off a couple of weeks training, which I don’t recommend, but have sat by and watched one DNS pass by, and another, and another…

I rested on my laurels, and seemed to adopt the policy that everything would come right near the time or even on the day. The actual truth is I’m glad all these DNS I’ve had this year happened, and I’ve only got Chester marathon to pass and then I can start again (of sorts) with no pressure. The deeper truth is that my depression has encompassed me again, taken hold like it can, and sometimes entering a 24hr race with 30 or 40 other crazy mentalists isn’t the answer anymore. It’s maybe part of the answer, but it certainly isn’t the whole; real life is still going on around it. I am operating at my best when I can just accept, and stop looking for the answers. I’ve made a breakthrough in the last few weeks, after my calf stung again. I diagnosed complete rest, and then have gradually starting running and stretching and rollering. Its working; and more importantly the Garmin hasn’t left its docking station. I’ve ran free, without a plan, and without a thought in my head; just to try and find that feeling again – the feeling of discovery.

I’m making a commitment now to writing more of my thoughts, because I think it helps my logical mind to process things, so I will talk more about my mental state and the huge changes I’ve seen happen in the last 18months or so at a later date. But for now I just want to try and understand whether it has been all down to me as to why I’ve stepped back from (albeit it only playing around at the edges) what I ultimately love doing. I am the first to admit that the required spark just isn’t there within me at the moment, but it’s partly down to the fact I’m not sure I like how my sport of triathlon has evolved and the direction it seems to be moving.

I need to be blunt – I have no interest in where I finish amongst my peers in a race. None. It has never occurred to me. I swam, cycled and ran pretty much as soon as I could walk and if I wasn’t winning I was eager to find out why. It turned out there are a lot of people way more talented than me, and I quickly realised that if I was competing to the very best and the absolute limit of my ability, I was fine with that. I didn’t need tech back then or sponsors, or social media, GPS, apps, music in my ears or anything else that falls under the umbrella of the fitness boom. Don’t get me wrong, it’s amazing how fitness has such a high profile and becoming the norm in the media, but I didn’t need gimmicks back then, I ran because I wanted to and I was free. In today’s world I struggle to find, and wonder whether I even have a place in it.

This is difficult to write, because my running (and competing) is a mechanism for coping with my mental and physical state. I challenge myself and I race myself. No one else. This needs to be accepted if one is to understand why I have a problem fitting in to the age-group obsessed world of triathlon today. I have watched with fascination (bordering on obsession!) how age groupers can turn out a result in any given situation. You name it and it can be done. From the sublime to the ridiculous. From the standard top 10, 25 or 50 etc and the (now obligatory) age group placing, to the position out of the water in your swim wave (the others were all 75-79, but who cares right?), shoe size and sponsor placing, the place you came out of T2 of those wearing yellow tops etc etc…I may have used artistic licence there, but fuck it, it’s my story. I genuinely did see a podium placing mentioned for a FIFTH place recently, and praising a sponsor for a new set of goggles that hadn’t even touched water! I haven’t even mentioned the six apps we’ve got to start before a race or training session yet either…Where has all the fun gone or do we all now have to be spin doctors in this new tech, fast paced world? Maybe I’m simply an athlete born in the wrong era?

One last point to consider before I start the narrative (That’s right, I’ve not even started yet!) – The need for acceptance on our social media profile has led to us developing the largest compendium of excuses stored anywhere in the world for not performing as we said we would, bold as brass, the day before our main race of the season. We are all guilty of this, like anyone other than those closest to us, even care! Or the training posts, I don’t enjoy this, I don’t wanna do this, I can’t wait til next year when I’m doing something different etc etc. I demand that you try and answer the question as to why you started in the first place! The only person you have to answer to is the one that stares back at you in the mirror each day. If you don’t wanna sit on the turbo trainer, don’t. If you wanna eat that cake, eat it. It’s fine. I’m not saying that I’m mentally stronger than anyone else, I’m saying that we are all mentally strong for doing what we do, it just seems to be getting lost in the rhetoric. It seems to work for so many and I just don’t understand it! If you want to defer your London marathon place, you don’t need to write a statement as long as Alberto Salazar’s, just say you’re not doing it because you’ll disappoint yourself. It’s ok, remember we’re not all winners…but there’s a still a place for you. And you, and you….

What finally sparked me to commit this to print? Well, stay with me there is a link, but it was something that happened when I was wandering home from work a few weeks ago. Two runners approached in the opposite direction, and one was clearly getting a hard time from the other. No drama there, a coach just pushing his pupil right? Correct, but the pupil was only a little guy, only just shorter than me…crack him I thought (Not surprisingly I don’t have a coach!). Well as they got closer I realised the pupil was only just shorter than me because in reality he was about 9 or 10 years old! My next thought was if anyone sees this he’s getting arrested for child cruelty; he really was pushing him, but I digress…this scene was me and my dad 25 years ago…
I cycled everywhere whilst my dad was out running; learning how to pace him, carry the bottles, I even carried it in a little bag like the guys had in the TdF, until I reach a time when I could run with him. And then we’d take turns on the bike, one ride one run (brick sessions even back in 1990). Next we were both running, and then later on (94/95) when I was specifically training we had come full circle and he was on the bike, relegated to bottle carrier and stopwatch expert, as the young buck started to take over. Ha I wish! I recall one specific ‘incident’ when I was told we were doing sprints at the football pitch in the park, and to steadily run the three quarters of a mile to said destination at no quicker than 8min/mile pace. (Garmin slaves please note: its possible to learn pace running without the use of satellites – I did this by the age of 11). Anyhow, I must’ve been feeling pretty good that night (I later found out I’d got there in 5m15s, not the 6m00s as instructed) and was surprised to find when we got to the park I was told to do one lap of the football pitch and then we were returning home. Confused, I went to the garden to stretch and wasn’t told for another half an hour why we’d returned home. I hadn’t listened! I was always going to be the pupil and him the master, a dynamic that still exists today. We returned to the park at instructed pace and completed the 10x100m sprints that were planned for the night’s training.

I realised on the walk home that night a few weeks back that there was a time when age-group racing mattered to me. It was those summers back in the mid 1990s, when I truly raced my peers, because that’s all we did. Like I’ve alluded to before, I didn’t excel in any given field, whatever the event if everyone turned up on their game I’d always finish second, third or fourth (something to crow about now) but what I really wanted before I left school was to win the Victor Ludorum trophy at sports day. You were allowed to compete in three track and three field events scoring points in each, with the person winning the most points taking home the trophy and forever getting their name associated with school folklore. In my head anyway that’s how it played out. At the end of third year, I’d gotten as close as I ever had to the fastest runner in my year, and with a full year to train I wanted to beat him in every event we went head to head in. It wasn’t secret training, as we didn’t have social media then, but it became apparent over the winter months that we both fancied this particular prize and I would say that it took a back seat to my school work for a good while. 1995 was also the summer Jon Edwards excelled at the triple jump and it turned out I wasn’t too bad at it either. My rival was a high jumper, me being 3ft6 meant I had to find another event to compete in the field, and that was the triple jump. Our school teacher managed the town team and said I could compete at the counties in triple jump, but I wanted the school sports day prize more.

The training with my dad became more intense, specific and focused. I was to compete in the 100m, 200m and 800m on the track, long jump, triple jump and maybe the javelin or discus to try and pick up what might be a vital point in the field. To add to the theatre, my rival would choose the 400m over the 800m and the high jump over the triple jump so we weren’t competing head to head all day. I never fancied the 400m after running for the county in the 400m hurdles (because no one wanted to do it) and I was deeply disturbed even then! My dad devised all kinds of crazy shit for me to do, but I always had to pay attention to the pendulum that was swinging in my head, as we tried to peak for the big day. It was all trial and error to me; some things worked and some things didn’t, but that’s just like today. I hated 10m sprint starts, mainly because if my mates turned up to watch or join in towards the end of the session, I could never fucking beat my Dad over 10m! I bet he’d still beat me today! Laps of the pitch were easy to me, he couldn’t understand how I enjoyed going round and round in circles – him and my friends used to get me to do more, just to see if I would stop. I never did. I did everything I was told. I was learning to be disciplined. And I was learning that I had a particular skill for endurance, when it was too hard for everyone else, I’d still be there fighting.

Back in 1996 at school our sports’ days were still competitive; we even had heats to qualify for finals day. Adding to the drama our teacher kept my rival and I apart in all the heats; think Gatlin and Bolt only EVEN bigger! We both qualified easily from our heats, running similar times in the 1 and 2, easing down and looking around for dangers in the 200m was a particular highlight. My rival came through the 400m, whereas my 800m would be a straight final on the day; see we were thinking about recovery even then! Now, I don’t really need to tell you this bit, but on finals day my rival never made it to school. I could’ve gone with the legend that I smashed him at every event and took the trophy in dramatic fashion, but sadly it was a little less legendary than this. Rumours circulated as the high jumpers prepared that Paul wasn’t in school, and I can still remember even now that it didn’t affect me; I knew what my goal was and I still had a job to do. My own day didn’t start that well either; I couldn’t get a mark in the javelin and then couldn’t get my markers correct in the triple jump – I PBed with 11.21m but some Cockney kid who had just moved up north was a bit of a TJ specialist and upstaged me, very similar to how Kenny Harrison out jumped Jon Edwards in Atlanta later that summer. I recovered to win the long jump and then it was onto the track for the afternoon session.

I have never since felt so calm on a start line as I did before that 100m final. Perhaps maybe, at the start of IM Cozumel, but this was 12seconds as opposed to 12hours. It didn’t matter that my rival wasn’t there – I’d have beaten anyone that day. My teacher knew I started from the blocks, so to speak, and gave me time to prepare. The race was over before 10 metres – I didn’t see another competitor and I cruised home. I executed that race to perfection, and the 200m followed in similar fashion. The 800m was slightly trickier as one of my friends decided to try and run the sting out of my legs from the gun, but I prevailed and then anchored home my relay team, which meant we won the overall trophy as well as me getting my hands on the coveted Victor Ludorum Trophy. It was more important to me than my GCSEs that I would sit the following year.     

I wanted to tell you a story when age group racing mattered to me. I was 15yrs old. I learned an awful that year, but it was only about me. Whenever I line up on a start line that’s the only person I’m truly racing. I’ve harped on about this before, but the 100km race in the centre of Stockholm was the time when everything came together for me, physically and mentally. It was a real personal triumph and I also happened to be the 4th British finisher that day.* for now, I would simply like to rediscover that feeling I felt in Stockholm, of running happy and free. I also hope I can still find my place in the world of sports are they appear to me today – I don’t begrudge those that find their motivations in different ways, whatever works for you – I just hope that I can rediscover my place in the world too.
Andy

* I was 4th British finisher that day in Stockholm – out of 4. One of which was Steve Way, who won it, and another was a guy dressed in a Jester’s outfit 😉 (But you see what I did there, right?!)

Kona – My Take

As the dust settles on another IM Champs, and the qualification for next year’s race about to kick in for the 1100 pro licence holders, I find myself asking a question…

What does Kona and the Ironman World Championships mean to me?

Well, if you imagine the final dance in Strictly, the final of X Factor, the cooking programme’s last showdown, the Christmas episode of Downton Abbey, the FA Cup final, the Superbowl, the opening AND closing ceremonies of the Olympic Games, combine all those together; and you’re still nowhere near Kona and the Ironman World Championships.*

I’ve mentioned before that sometime in the 1990’s I first saw highlights of the ‘Big Dance’ on Transworld Sport, and it captured my imagination. As the internet revealed itself as the information superhighway, I was able to find all these amazing stats and stories on these crazy fools racing around Hawaii, on the second Saturday of every October. I love history, and this mad event had it all. More than enough to answer the question I hear at least once a week….

“What distance is an Ironman and why do you put your body through it?”

I don’t roll my eyes anymore, instead I feel like I’m pitching in the Dragon’s Den. I regale the tales of 1978 and the early shoots of the event like I was there. I sound like I know Cpt John Collins and Gordon Haller personally. Whilst I’m going through my introduction I load up the footage of Julie Moss’s epic 1982 effort, hallucinating, crawling on her hands and knees, bleeding and covered in her own vomit only to be passed by Kathleen McCartney just yards from the finish line. I’ve got their attention. We can make this 5 minutes or 15, but you’ll have to stop me because I can talk all day.

Swim start footage is normally the next stop as I spin tales of Dave Scott and Mark Allen, whose rivalry reached its height with the so called ‘ironwar’ of 1989. They can’t believe you jump in the ocean with 2000 other hearty souls, and some actually enjoy it. I balance the story with the heroines of Kona, Paula Newby Fraser in the 1990’s and and subsequently Natascha Badmann. And then came the European uber-bikers of the late 90s in the shape of Thomas Hellriegel and Luc Van Lierde, when the fabled 8hr barrier was broken for the first time (although not in Kona – that’s normally met with the disbelief there more events across the globe??)

Are they still listening? It’s a well rehearsed script now and I throw in a joke about whether a Frenchman will win the Tour de France before an American wins Kona (it used to be a Brit winning Wimbledon, but Murray spoilt that one) as I reach the Aussie domination of recent times in the men’s division, and of course Rinny Carfare in the women’s ranks. The famous handshake between Andreas Raelert and Chris McCormack after Raelert had gradually hunted him down, only for Macca to kick again and take the title in 2010. It was the stuff of dreams. How else can I end my historical look on my sport without talking about the Queen of the Queen-K Highway, our very own 4 times Ironman World Champion Chrissie Wellington? Her (signed of course) autobiography is never far from me, and if my audience ever want to read anything about IM then this is where they start. If you study philosophy then you reach for Descartes; if you want to know about Ironman triathlon, then you start with Chrissie Wellington.

Of course this is a purely romantic view. As my knowledge of the fabled race has increased, I find it difficult to be totally at one with the mDot brand. Because that’s what it is; a brand. The professional athletes have a difficult time with the qualification system, in a race that I believe only a handful can win (This year – 3 potential men’s winners, the women’s race two) and most are knackered by the time they get there. As Mr Messick has addressed, he has no idea why anyone is a professional triathlete. This is apparent in the hideously poor coverage that are our hosts provide – chocolate milk, who will win the swim, how many men can impact on the women’s race and how fast can Starky ride the bike course before dying a slow and horrible death on the run are now standard fair, and that’s in between all the ad breaks. I realise that covering an 8/9 hour race may not seem terribly exciting, but to the educated eye it really is! I’d like to see a European version of the coverage than the American one, simply as it’s not just their event anymore – it’s worldwide.

‘D list celebrities’ shouldn’t be making their long distance debuts in Kona in my opinion, simple as that. Some say they bring a different demographic to the sport that ordinarily wouldn’t watch. I don’t think it needs it to be honest. This year’s Olympic speed skater finished in an amazing time, much quicker than I will ever achieve, but do I care? No. Next year I am gonna pick a random bib number and follow their journey all day, twitter will get sick of me, and that’s if I can hold off mentioning our dear friend the chef…

The age group athletes are the very essence of the race, I just wish I fell into an age group where I could qualify! I want to be that athlete that can juke the stats on social media to appear 10 times better than I actually am, but at the same time say that I’ve danced the big dance. Make no mistake, I have laser focus on 2040 when my campaign to get to Kona will start in earnest, until then it will remain just a dream! I love reading the experiences of those who have been, but given how withdrawn I am, I think a lot of race week would simply pass me by, coupled with a feeling that I really wouldn’t belong in that company (This was a feeling I had in Cozumel – a lot).

This year’s pro race threw up two challenges for me. The first being it was the night before I ran York marathon, so didn’t see as much I had hoped. And the second was I was in a fine position in the IM Predictor competition, and was torn with whether to go with my heart or my head. After crunching the numbers for weeks before the big day, it turned out my heart and head weren’t far apart; only Sebi Kienle, Freddie Van Lierde or Jan Frodeno could win the men’s race, and Daniela Ryf was gonna hammer the bike, lead most of the day and then the Hawaiian Gods would decide whether Rinny could catch her on the run. I gambled and went with Frodo and Ryf….so close, but I think I saw the winners of 2015 😉

Kienle had served his apprenticeship well, and had a stellar race in testing conditions. Ben Hoffman and Andy Potts performed the race of their lives and nearly ruined my American joke completely! Jan Frodeno and Nils Frommhold made spectacular debuts, and Crowie showed that age is just a number in Kona. I also hope Ivan Rana has a better bike next year, because that boy can run! Mirinda Carfrae’s run was sensational to collar Brett Sutton’s angry bird Daniela Ryf just 5km from town, but what a debut from Ryf, who is surely a lady in waiting? Exceptional performances from the British pair of Rachel Joyce and Jodie Swallow too.

I’ve got to be honest, I cool a little bit each year towards Kona. I prefer the stories of days gone by, and less about the sponsorship, the product placements and the media profile of today’s athletes, but it’s still the World Championships after all. I’m an old romantic at heart! I guess because I know I will probably never race there, I’ve realised there are other races that hold a certain mystic for me, like Alpe D’heuz triathlon, Embrunman, the Comrades marathon and the Spartathlon…but then there’s always something that draws me back to Kona, and this year it was Marino Vanhoenacker’s heart breaking post race interview. He was in contention until about half way on the run, but completely blew up and finished with a 4.31 marathon. He said he wanted to finish because he wouldn’t be going back to race there again.

I hope he changes his mind because you should never give up the chance to dance the big dance in Kona 😉

* Not scientifically proven, and I have to admit being in Hyde Park for the Brownlee show in London 2012 was pretty special…

Validation

I’d decided some time ago that the Yorkshire marathon was simply going to be a bridge too far this year; I’d barely ran since Stockholm (Only 90miles in total). I’d enjoyed Stockholm chugging round in just outside 4hrs and decided that was enough for this running lark for a bit. It certainly hadn’t been the stellar running year I was expecting and hoping it could be. Yet something was nagging at me that it would be a pretty disappointing season if it had started in early April and finished in late May in the Swedish capital. I figured I could get round, starting steady for once, and just try and hang on. Now seemed as good a time as any to start training for 2015’s returned to triathlon, but was I running for the right reasons and what did I expect the outcome to be? And then I read Pete Jacobs’ begging letter to his boss before he arrived in Kona….

Validation. I was going to validate my 2015 season by running York and justifying to myself that I can do this long stuff, and in this case off very little training. I know it wasn’t meant in the same way as Messick had criticised Jacobs for in Zurich, but those are the rules and Pete just had to finish to validate his Kona slot. What Messick fails to realise is that for an 8hr athlete, it must’ve been horrific for Pete to hobble round that run. And that’s what I needed to do; validate for 2015 in my head. And that meant I’d suffer. Simples.

Now the race organiser Gods failed to inform me that when I entered York it fell the day after the Ironman World Championships in Kona. Given that it’s pretty much the greatest single day race on the planet, there was little chance of getting much sleep the night before my little run, but I figured if I could get 2hrs kip after the women’s race finished, I’d be OK right? I’ll write some more about Kona and the race in a different blog, it may be long as results didn’t go my way, but that’s another story.

I’m really relaxed on raceday mornings now, and everything is done very calmly, which gives me more time to watch everyone else doing mad crazy things before the off. It’s really fun to watch! It was my mate Chris’s first marathon, and after some internal debate, I decided to line up with him, and try and keep his pace in check, which may help mine. What a great last minute idea this turned out to be…

I’ve never set off so relaxed at the beginning of a race; even at the Stockholm ultra as I’d only awoken half an hour before the start, and the first couple of miles just breezed passed. The weather was perfect, no wind, visibilty down to about 100 yards, and we fell in with the 3.56 pace group. We chatted (first time for me ever in race) about anything and everything. I was only looking to validate and this was perfect – Chris and I had good craic telling eachother the km/mile splits; each of us only understanding one but not both, and thats how it continued for about 16 miles.

Beep. 5.45km (Me blank look)

Beep. 8.53mile (Chris blank look)

Beep. 5.43km (Me blank look)

Beep 8.56mile (Chris blank look)

You get the picture. We just started to drop off the pace a little at about 16 miles as we headed towards the out and back section, which can be quite difficult. Chris started to get a little cramp, and I backed off and talked him through the stretches, as I didn’t wanna start run/walking just yet. I’m not sure what people think about the course, and probably think it’s a little boring once you’re out of York but I like it and it’s very fast if you’re looking for a PB time. The out and back section between 16 and 20 miles is tough though, and I was determined to get us through that section without walking. We dropped off to about 9.30 mile pace, but we did it. Just a 10km left now.

I was disappointed with myself because I dropped off completely at 22miles and I was the first to walk. I waved Chris onwards, whilst I had a little word with myself. The sun was just started to break through and I remembered this section from the previous year. As soon as those memories came to the fore, I had a gel and kicked back into run pace; determined to try and finish strong. It had the desired effect and I started to close in on Chris again, I felt we would defo finish together. I was within 50m of Chris when he cramped up quite badly and came to a stop. I resumed sherpa duties immediately, stretching with him and talking; I’m sure he’ll have got sick of me telling him to ‘take the racing line’ through corners. I told him we’d walk the last feed zone at 24 miles then get ready for the hill at the finish.

I was feeling a lot better through this last section and perhaps selfishly I didn’t wait for Chris when he waved me on when he got a touch of cramp not long after the final feed zone and he needed a walk break. I hadn’t finished a run this strong since probably Amsterdam, and I wanted to finish properly. Running 26miles with the mindset that I’m running 62 had worked in a fashion, I’d eaten properly, hydrated properly and paced well, finihing in 4.08.45 with Chris just three minutes behind in his debut marathon.

I’d done what I needed to do.

10 days have passed and the scales this morning started 61 point something, so it’s time to regain focus and start thinking properly about 2015. I’ve finally settled on a race plan for next year, that will help me build and build throughout the course of the next 15 months, ending (hopefully) with another trip to Mexico – with the focus to achieve swim/bike/run splits that I can truly be satisfied with – and that run split will hopefully be a sub 4hrs.

2015 will look like this:

  • 18th January – Brass Monkey Half Marathon (York)
  • 01st March  – Haweswater Half Marathon
  • 12th April – Brighton Marathon
  • 02nd May – Endurun 24hrs (Newcastle) – 10 laps only (100km)
  • 20th June – The Wall Ultramarathon (Carlisle to Newcastle 110km)
  • 05th July – Kielder Iron Distance Triathlon
  • 04th October – Chester Marathon
  • 29th November – Ironman Cozumel (Mexico)

I’m developing a strength and conditioning programme that works for me and I aim to write more updates to my blog, even if no one reads it, because I feel it gives me something to be held accountable to. It’s another form of what this whole race was about really. Validation.

The half marathons should keep me focused on winter running and brick sessions when the turbo sessions become mundane or I’ve ran outta boxsets to watch. Bizarrely though, I don’t mind the turbo trainer. I find there’s a distinct fall in the number of crazy drivers when I’m on the turbo trainer. The plan is to build for ‘The Wall Ultra’ with Brighton and more so the Endurun 24hr race where my aim to test the kit I’ll need, only run 100km, but also try and run that distance in 10 hours.

My only worry is the two week recovery between The Wall and the Kielder triathlon. I’ve done an ultra 3wks after an IM but not the other way round, so far. Kielder is gonna be tough as well as epic, which is why I fancied and scheduled another crack at Cozumel at the end of the year. Because the swim in Mexico is practically downhill, I think it will give me the incentive to swim more (well at all) and be in amongst more faster bikers earlier on. I coped OK with the winds and defo feel that I can be much better prepared for the run in the heat. Time will tell.

Shit, I might even go swimming this week 😉

 

 

Getting Back On My Bike…

Well it’s safe to say that 2014 has been a bit of a let down so far…mainly down to my decision to concentrate solely on running. I was going to resume my story from Friday last, but lets start with what someone does after completing a second iron distance race in six months, and after I finally felt like I was starting to find my identity again.

Not a lot is the answer. In December and January I ate a bit, drank a bit and finalised race plans for the year ahead. I started to get severely pissed off with work, and was successful in alienating more people there than Lance Armstrong in a hospital room. In February and March I started missing races, got more pissed off with work, and was finding more and more ways not to run. Still my TT bike sat in bits. Triathlon, mainly for financial reasons, was not on the agenda for this year. I started to miss my children even more. Things were starting to slip again, I could recognise the signs. And still I did nothing about it.

April saw my return to the Brighton marathon, and saw me run my worst marathon to date. My calf was still giving me grief and I tried to run a contained first half, then see what happened. What happened was I should’ve dropped out and waited for me mate in the bar next to the pier. I didn’t, I stubbornly carried on and was passed by literally everyone. It hurt. In my head, my heart and my legs; it hurt. I only pushed on because I needed the miles for the Stockholm marathon, the following month.

Things improved for a few weeks as Stockholm loomed; I was excited for this race because it’s where it all started in 2004. I dropped out just before 30km, in the worst pain I had ever known. I never got to run on the famous old track at the Olympic Stadium, and I had always vowed to return. It wasn’t going to be a PB race as I had initially thought, but with my confidence really low after Brighton I just wanted to run a ‘steady’ marathon and not watch it all fall apart from 20 miles as normal.

I think my love for all things Scandinavian helped me very nearly run the perfect race. For 35km, I maintained a steady pace, appreciated the crowds, took everything in, and began to understand what Chrissie W meant when she said the perfect race didn’t have to be your fastest. I was on for sub 4hrs, I was gonna run on the fabled track, and then I was done with marathon running. If I could run that time, with haphazard training, I’d proved enough to myself. I have a 3.29 on the CV, that would do. Well 7km later and the clock ticking over to 4.03 meant it wasn’t prepared to let me go just yet! Still I was pleased with that, with virtually nothing in the bank for the year.

I was pleased with it until the next morning. Waking up with a massive hangover after the Carl Froch fight, I knew I had York marathon booked for October. One last PB attempt maybe, before I get back to triathlon in 2015? Well, possibly, but there’s longer stuff to come before that. A lot longer. Surely Stockholm could shock me into action?

It didn’t. I’ve wasted another 6 weeks really. I’ve changed jobs, had a few things going on, but I’m just making excuses in all honesty. It’s a difficult situation, but one I recognise; my mood is low so I need to train – but I can’t train because my mood is low. This leads to a lack of sleep, loss of appetite and no energy. I was like this in my early 20s, which led me into taking a few different anti depressants for a number of years. Before I slipped back to those days, I knew I needed to try and fix things.

The doctor didn’t agree with my diagnosis, which I wasn’t surprised about really – and if I’m brutally honest I didn’t want to start taking pills again either. It hadn’t reached the point where I couldn’t get out of bed in the morning (yet) and after being made to feel like I was 12yrs old (not the doc’s fault really) I decided for the second time in my life to stop wasting the NHS’s time and sort myself out. The answer was waiting for me, right outside the docs; the bike I’d ridden to get there.

The Tour de France being on had possibly worked its way into my subconscious, and I suddenly realised that I needed to get back on my bike, a bit like Tommy Simpson on the Ventoux I guess. I ride to work everyday, so it isn’t like I’ve been off it for long, but it runs deeper than that. If you ride a bike, you probably know what I’m talking about; that innate freedom you first felt as a child when you were first allowed out. Lance and Tyler and Floyd even talked about it before it became win at all costs to them. Marco knew this feeling, before cycling eventually claimed his life. That’s a different blog post anyway….

Me being me, I had every mountain stage of the Tour booked off work minutes after the route was announced, and last Friday provided the perfect opportunity to rekindle those old feelings – a ride in the morning and the Tour in the afternoon. I even got my mechanic (my old man) to give my machine a full service. To fully immerse myself in this experiment, I dug out my 1997 FDJ kit…well if you’re going to ride a bike…may as well be a full kit wanker 🙂

I spun the pedals, flicked the through gears, spun some more and listened. I’m not sure whether I was listening to the gear changes, or whether I was expecting my legs to ask why the fuck we’d not been out doing this for a while, but I have to admit it felt pretty special. Laurent Fignon said cycling was for loners and he was right – it’s this lonliness that I searched for as a kid going out on my little Raleigh racing bike. But it made me happy. If something makes you happy, then it can’t be wrong?

10km, 20km, 30km…I can’t believe how easy it felt. It was nice not to think about my heart rate, or my cadence, or was I eating and drinking at the correct times, so I’d be fine on the run. I just rode. And I thought…I thought about how much more enjoyable it was back in the day before we had mobile phones, and GPS, and Strava to track our every move. My gran used to come and look after my sis & I in the school holidays, I used to head out most mornings, each day going that little bit further – no one having a clue where I was. It was bliss. As we got older, I left my sis to sleep and I could get my cycling fix before she even knew I’d gone and left her. I thought a lot about those rides on Friday. I also just rode.

40km, 50km, 60km…can’t believe I’ve gotten this far now, damn I was even thinking about having a little run off the bike. My mind continually drifted back to past rides. I remembered being beaten up all day long by some friends, every climb we got to – dropped. It can’t have been fun for them either having to wait for me all the time. Still, that turned into a 185km day and I remember laying on my girlfriend’s living room floor afterwards, my little girl holding a flannel on my head and saying to her Mam ‘Will Daddy need to go to hospital dya think?’. Thankfully I pulled round when the pizzas turned up.

I had a flashback to another ride with the same bunch – a 90km ride – when I was training for IM and as a chaingang we were aiming for sub 2.30. I worked like a Trojan that day, taking longer turns and never sitting in the wheels. I popped on the last climb of the day, and they sat up and waited for me. Apparently, I’d earned the right to ride in with the group. I faked a smile, regrouped, finished my last bottle – and went right back to the front end. I didn’t need any favours! It was time to ride on my own again, and besides, as they headed for the pub I had a run to do 🙂

Back to Friday and I was on the rivet by 80km and had given up on the idea of running when I got back, but I was pleased with my efforts given I’ve not ridden over 10km this year and the TT bike still lays in bits in my spare room. It was nice to just be back on my bike, it won’t help with my running but it might spark me back into training. Two things are certain – I don’t need pills and I’m not finished yet. I might need structure, a plan and order in my life….but sometimes it’s important that I just ride…

Ironman Cozumel – 1st December 2013

I stagger ever so slightly, and my head feels just like it did at mile 24 on the Outlaw run. This is way too early. I’m gonna sit down. I need to sit down. I feel the curb against me and my legs feel light as I raise them off the ground, if only for a second. This is hell. My head sits gently on my arms, which in turn cradle my knees. I close my eyes; I’ll just sit here for a second….the day had started so well, but wait…I’ve seen this scene before…I’ve visualised this exact moment in my dreams. I have a choice to make.

I take a long lingering look to my left and stare deeply back down the road that I’ve just trotted along. It’s dark now, and I can only see one or two souls coming my way. I then turn to my right and steal a look towards the town. I try to see my intended destination, but it’s just too far away. I’m really not sure how far I have to go, or if I can make this. I knew I would get to this point in the race; to my left is the path that I’ve been down before – the one where I quit races (it was just too much) and to my right is my new path; the person that finished Outlaw, somehow got round an ultra and then finished a marathon with a pulled calf muscle. I’m not perfect, and I carry a heavy soul for the mistakes I have made in my life and the people I have wronged, but I’ve got to keep trying…the choice is an easy one to make. I just need to get back on my feet…

Race Weekend:

Three things shaped my race in Cozumel and they all happened on the Friday – 48hrs before raceday. I woke about 5am as was standard for the week, woken by the torrid winds that were ravaging the island and slowly sapping any confidence I had for the impending swim. I’d decided that I was gonna go for a little run as the sun rose to test my calf muscles, then go for a massage before breakfast. By 6am it was already hot, and a 6km run had done very little to build any confidence as to what lay ahead for Sunday. I stretched off at the end of the pier and watched the breakers crash into ferry dock and batter the coast road. They were getting worse. I decided that I simply couldn’t swim in those conditions; it was dangerous and it may even result in a shortened race or even a duathlon. I hadn’t travelled halfway around the world to do a duathlon, I mean, I wouldn’t even go to Stockton to do a duathlon. I shed a little tear.

I went for a massage, which seemed to make my legs tighter, and it was safe to say I was in a bit of hole at this point. And then I got a message from someone who I’ve yet to meet, telling me they’d written a blog post about me and how I’d helped her believe in her running ability. For the second time today I was welling up, and it wasn’t even 11am. She told me to smile during the race, and of course she was right; I had to smile. I was here to race and to feel alive, and these things should make me smile. The third thing that would shape my race on Friday was at the race briefing. I was gutted to miss meeting the gorgeous Rachel Joyce at the expo by just a few minutes, and then trekked quite a way on tired legs to the host hotel for the race brief, hosted by pro triathlete Michael Lovato and British tri coach Steve Trew. They were quite a double act! The Americans clearly didn’t understand Steve’s sense of humour!

About halfway through a pretty standard race brief, that tried to alleviate people’s fears about the swim and assured people to trust the weather forecast (which turned out to be pretty accurate in the way that the current and winds would return to normal for raceday) Steve asked the question as to who was doing their first IM. I would say 75% of those in attendance raised their hands. He then made a brief speech that will stay with me forever. He invited us to look around the room at each other, and recognise that we were special people for even getting this far. No one who toed the line on Sunday would ever be the same person again, regardless of the outcome, AND it was ok to feel like this. Embrace the fact that everyone in that room was different from the people we see everyday of our lives, but then use this to make sure we ENJOY the race. For the third time today my eyes were filling up. Steve was right; I am different. But use this, don’t just pass it off. What he said will stay with me for a long long time, it was like a switch flicked on inside of me. So now I had to smile and enjoy the race; jeez this was gonna be tough!

Saturday afternoon was bike check in and taking place at Chankanaab Park it was always going to be a special atmosphere. I had ridden out there to test my bike on the Thursday and figured it was going to a difficult layout, so I wanted as much time as possible to figure out the route from the swim. Upon arrival, you could almost touch the atmosphere, although by this point I was getting a little tired of the Americans and their overbearing attitudes. I would turn this into a positive when I was tearing passed some of them on the bike come Sunday morning! Body marking and bike racking always feels like it should be more difficult than it actually is; just visualise the swim exit and the route to your bike and everything else is fine. I walked back through the pro bikes, where Marino Vanhoenacker and Eneko Llanos’ steeds were already racked and ready to go. This was the big time – and that meant it was time for some big time eating. 

I had the most immense meal of pasta and pizza at a lovely little restaurant just off the main square, and meandered on back to my hotel, where in reception a lovely Brazilian girl was looking at a swim map of a race. I didn’t think too much about it until I got to my room, checked twitter, and found that the map the girl was looking at was indeed the REVISED swim route for our race in the morning. A 3.1km point to point swim. I was devastated. Don’t get me wrong, I was petrified about what could happen in the swim, but at the same time I hadn’t travelled halfway around the world on my own to race a shortened distance. I got straight on the text to my operations manager (@funjonone) with specific instructions to find an IM in Europe, with entries still available. 2014 plans were changing. Just then the heavens opened and the sixth thunderstorm of the week hit the island.

I woke after a pretty decent sleep and jumped up to the window, it had stopped raining and it seemed pretty calm. First bit of breakfast was downed and then I returned to bed to start listening to my zone out music and video clips that really help me find that special place (It has a name now, more of that later). Because I’m such a fusser/worrier there really isn’t a lot to do on race morning, its rehearsed and prepped well in advance, yet I still find things to do; its all just killing time until that zero hour. I don’t remember what time I left the hotel, but people were silently making their way around and the staff were all around to wish you well. It was gameday.

I stopped as soon as I got outside the hotel; I couldn’t believe how calm it was or how still the ocean was! The storm had blown through and the current did look like it was going in the normal direction again ( I was unaware when I entered that the previous year 400 people had missed the swim cutoff). I shared a taxi with a Boston living German who quietened down when I told him the swim was shorter, and no, I wasn’t new to this, at which point he started talking to the taxi driver and I felt comfortable enough to stick my headphones back on. I would smile and enjoy it but the build up is all about me remaining as relaxed as possible. Arriving at T1 was very special, it was like stepping out of a limo to a film premiere at Leicester Square! Phew, get me away from this and to my bike!

Safe to say that everything in T1 was soaked from the storms, and my chain looked decidedly rusty, but I clicked through a few gears and it seemed fine. I stretched out under a tree until it was time to drop my bag off and get a bus back to the new swim start. I ended up standing on the coach, but I love that feeling of being able to see out of both sides of the bus when you’re moving – a panoramic feeling that you’re really on the road to somewhere, and in this case it was true. Entering a top class hotel, filtering through onto a private little beach just in time to see the pro’s set off was amazing. The guests of the hotel had all made an effort to get up and see this spectacle; I’m sure they weren’t disappointed. All of these were pleasant little distractions, remember I still hadn’t got my feet wet at this point.

I waded into the water 5mins before gun time and thought if Michael Lovato thinks this is like bath water then he needs to get a plumber in, because it wasn’t that hot! But actually, once you got used to it, it was lovely. Clear enough to see the coral reefs and fish below you. Damn I could actually enjoy this. I didn’t want to start on the beach because I wanted to get the swim over as fast as possible and also because I wanted to look back at the scene on the beach. I was already setting myself up for how the day would pan out, desperately searching for my special zone whilst at the same time cherishing these literal ‘once in a lifetime’ moments. I was beginning to understand.

The klaxon went off to signal the start of our 3.1km swim and I had a quick glance back at the scene on shore then put my head down and powered on. I’m sure everyone who describes these mass swim starts as horrific are simply looking for trouble and starting in the wrong place, or maybe I’m just lucky! If I felt people closing in, I just sat up and adjusted my line, I passed a few and a few passed me. I mainly concentrated on looking at the fish, looking at the divers, counting in sets of 12 and sighting every 36. The current was definitely helping, but given this is my weakest discipline, I’ll take all the help I can get. Given I hadn’t swam for at least 7 weeks prior to today, I was happy to just survive the swim!

I did a double take when I realised I could see the change tents, after what didn’t seem very long at all and figured I probably only had 500m to go. Smile and enjoy, the keys to the day. I was actually waving at some of the diver photographers as we swam around the jetty and the dolphin enclosure, and kicked a bit harder to get my legs ready for an incredibly long run through T1. I pulled myself ashore to three astonishing things. The first one seeing a long line of competitors queing for showers to get the salt water off them! Really? The second one was the clock, does that say 1hr 1m???? Jeez, wait until I do some swim training for my next race! But then almost immediately I was tinged with sadness that it wasn’t a full distance, I could’ve been out in 1hr 15m, but hey-ho it is what it is, just smile and enjoy. The next astonishing thing is the thought of the idiot/genius who walked into the Dragons’ Den and said “I’ve got this amazing idea for sports events, whereby we give the competitors a pouch of water, that is IMPOSSIBLE to open on the move, and they’re gonna love it” This stupid bastard should’ve been kicked down the stairs, but instead someone decided to give him the money for the idea, and why now he was sipping cocktails somewhere, and I was dodging thousands of unopened pouches on the jetty, still with the awful taste of the Carribean Sea in my mouth, but I guess them’s the breaks eh?

Feet dried, food in jersey, long white sleeve top on, helmet on and grateful for the mouthful of coke that was passing around transition. It felt like I took an age in T1, and in fairness I did, but it was an extremely long run to my bike and then to the bike out. And given I knew the clock was on 1.01 when I left the water I could’ve had a cigar in T1 because there was a swagger about me now! Just wait until I get the wetsuit back on I thought. Anyway the swim was over, and my arrogance would spoil the first 30km of the bike leg, where I was about to get my first real experience of how hard it is not to draft. The bike loop was basically three left turns around 60km of the island, and those first 20km all of the wind was coming over my right shoulder. I was flying. Everyone seemed to be sticking to their plan. Me, on the otherhand, had thrown mine out of the window and was doing my best Tony Martin TT impression. I think I passed about 100 riders in that first run down to the south point of the island. I didn’t care. Full gas until the wind, that was my new plan.

The 18km stretch directly into the wind on the first lap was in a storm too. I shouted to a big group that were drafting as I passed them ‘UK weather baby!’ They weren’t impressed. I rode much of that section out of the saddle and I knew this would be difficult to do on laps two and three, so adopted one of the football commentator Ray Wilkins’ favourite sayings and decided I needed to ‘stay on my seat’. In true Sean Kelly style, I made some calculations as to which points of the course the windy section would be, and decided this was were I would burn all my matches. The last time round would be 144-162km. What would I have left by then?

Going through the town I worked out where I would loosen my shoe straps and glanced towards T2. The support around the whole bike course was amazing, kids out all day long shouting and yelling as every rider went passed, even the parts in the middle of nowhere. I’m not sure they understood why so many people would come to race their island, but to be thanked by so many for doing so was quite a humbling experience. For their endeavour, I would leave my heart and soul out there on the course for the Mayan Gods to do with as they pleased.

The rest of the bike passed by without incident; the winds got stronger, I became more tired, I ate a lot, and nearly swerved into the lead men when I realised they were streaming through. I went through 90km in 2hr 56m. I knew this was too quick, so decided to just dig in and save everything for the third 18km windy stretch. I had developed quite an annoying technique of hitting the cats eyes on the inside of the rode and it was really beginning to piss me off. I noticed too that I hadn’t put sunscreen on my legs; they’d be a lovely red glow tomorrow. My overall feeling was still pretty good though as I approached that final section. I hadn’t ridden over 60km on the TT bike since July. Dig in.

That last section was hell. It felt like a hurricane. Somehow I still managed to keep the revs at about 70-75rpm and slowly ticked off the kms until the final turn. I didn’t meet anyone like @jackywhites to see me through that last section like I did at Outlaw, the only comforting factor was a lot of other people were suffering too. I had nothing left that last 20km and chewed some more flapjack, thanked the crowds all the way back into town and prayed for the final corner. I didn’t want to run, but I didn’t want to be on the bike anymore. The fact the course measured nearly 185km pissed me off beyond words.

Leaving my shoes on my pedals was a strange idea, considering this wasn’t an Olympic final and I had never practiced it, but the truth was I didn’t have the energy or power to clip my feet out of my pedals (I’d tried to stretch them with 10km to go). I managed it, just, and didn’t hesitate as I passed my bike to the smiling volunteer. I never wanted to see her again (the bike, not the volunteer). I’d remembered to switch the Garmin on, and felt like I got through transition steadily, restocking my energy gels on my belt and trying not to reflect on how badly I’d gone on the bike in the second half. I’d finished with a split of 6hr 38m. It didn’t take that long to forgot about the bike; the run had already become a worry. By the first mile split had beeped I was already overheating and struggling to keep my core temperature down. Ticking these miles off was going to be a long and painstaking process. Bizarrely, I remember asking spectators the time, just to check I’d started the run before 3pm. I must’ve had an overwhelming need to run smack bang in the middle of the heat of the Mexican day.

It was a fairly straight run for 4.3 miles and back again, for three laps. The first six miles passed in much the same way: run to aid station, gatorade down, cover in water, ice in as many places as humanly possible, fill ice in the cap, walk for a bit and then repeat. Survive, survive, just survive. Even though it felt slow and I was walking much more than I wanted to, I was doing about 10min miles upto the six mile point. Brett Sutton himself was out on course at an independent aid station. Naturally being British, I refused a gel, but I savoured the high-five. And then, all of a sudden, everything changed. The thunderstorm rolled into town.

I’ve mentioned the Shawshank Redemption in race reports before. This was akin to the scene where he’s finally escaped and Andy is on his knees savouring the thunderstorm raging around him. I stopped short of re-enacting the scene, but its certainly how I felt. Out of the cap went the ice, and my core temperature came down in a matter of minutes. I was smiling now. My pace seemed to pick up and I was on my way to my special place. The place I was about to name ‘Naked Existence’ as told by the great Aldous Huxley in The Doors Of Perception. I was soaked to my bones, the roads were underwater, I was on my own on the otherside of the world in an IM with about 20miles of the run still to go. Did I want to be anywhere else? No sir, I did not.

The opening paragraph is the next part to this story, but in the fortnight since the race, I’ve become deciedly unclear as to which part of the course it was on. Well in truth, I know which part it was on, but I’m unsure of the lap. My initial thoughts were it was at about 16miles, but that would be back towards town, so it can’t have been there. It was dark, definitely dark, so I think it was on the last lap, which places this point about 21miles, much further on that I first remembered. It raises two valid points this mental turmoil I’ve put myself through trying to remember. The first one being I was in my special place for at least 17miles of the run. This excites me for training and racing in 2014, because I perform better when I’m in that state and I’m finding it easier to get into this zone. The other, rather alarming point in all honesty, was how close I came to a DNF. I’m pretty sure in and around those moments I decided to sit down, that I blacked out, albeit just for a second. What got me up off that curb and heading back towards town I really don’t know. It needs an explanation, and as yet, I haven’t been able to come up with a satisfactory answer.

The thing that got my head together was at 22miles (that is definite!) when an American guy gave me a salt tablet. This brought my head back into planet earth, and then at about 23miles I caught up with another American (John from Boston) who was struggling a bit too. Turned out he had another lap to go after a 40min swim, and cursed himself for concentrating on swim training and not doing enough running. We really lifted eachother’s spirits. I was just thankful I didn’t have another lap to go! We walked together for about 2miles and chatted about anything other than what we were doing. Laughing and joking, we trotted down the road towards the plaza. It was still raining. This was surreal. I couldn’t stop laughing. I thanked John for raising my spirits, he gave me a bear hug and promised he would finish. I would never know. I wanted to run in the last mile, and couldn’t believe how fresh I felt. These bodies we abuse really are truly magical specimens. It’s a mind/body detachment.

Heading to the right and hitting the red carpet (I think it was red) was a goosebump moment. I steadied myself as  I went across the timing matt, which inevitably gave Mike Lovato and Steve Trew the information they required, and the words I’d waited a lifetime to hear…

“Number 1170, Andy Sloan, from the United Kingdom…You Are An Ironman”

More bloody tears, but I was smiling and I’d enjoyed. I was alive…and I will live again.

Andy 😉

Manny Speaks…

Finally I’m allowed to speak, I knew I’d get out of control again. Everyone else has a chimp to control; Andy has to be different. I’m Manny and I’m a meerkat and I live in Andy’s subconscious inside his head. I’ve had great success over the years, but this year he’s fought back and had me under control pretty much all the time whilst he’s been racing. Damn, I’ve even been mildly impressed at how he’s done so far at the Ironman and the Ultra, he’s been able to put me in a box and ignore me, but now he’s in a slump I’m back.

Over the years I’ve always been in the ascendancy. He would enter races and then I would go to work. I would mess with his head that much he wouldn’t even make the start line or rock up injured & underprepared in at least one of the disciplines. My biggest successes were the Stockholm marathon in 2004 and and the Outlaw in 2011. Stockholm was easy, although he got to 18 miles and I was surprised he cracked, but crack he did. Just walked off the course. Cooked. He never got to run on the track he loves or see the finish line. If Stockholm was easy, then Nottingham was tougher yet spectacular. He’s developed a steely determination, and even with sore shins and little run training, he started the run. The crash on the bike didn’t put him off either, but 12miles into the marathon I had my day. Timing chip off, race belt thrown across the path, and a trudge back to the tent. Different venues and different races but the results were always the same.

Even when he gets a good result, because he’s such a perfectionist, I help to turn it into a bad one. Don’t get me wrong, I like it when he does well, but we have to co-exist and my job is to simply to plant those seeds. The rest is all his own doing. I didn’t even get close to stopping him at the Outlaw, but I thought I had him in Sweden; the lap between 37 and 42miles. Somehow though, he saw through me. This last year, something has changed that shows I’m gonna have to change my tactics. If he’s gonna insist on putting me through these insane distances, then maybe I’ll have to accept that he’s going to finish and I should try to get him to enjoy it a bit more. Yeah, this would be a novel feeling.

I wanna give him a slap sometimes. These slumps after races even bug the hell outta me too. I can’t think of the last time we just had some fun. Stop analysing results, stop looking at your wristbands, stop seeking approval and go and train again. You don’t even need to take the watch, do some cross training, just swim bike and run, I need the adrenalin rush too. Its been an interesting year so far and there’s more to come now he’s worked out how to tame me, but can he sort things out enough to function in the real world and not just in some crazy race? Only time will tell…

Til we speak again (maybe)