2016 Season review

I thought it was best to write a blog about my season review as my journey this year has been an amazing one for me, with highs and lows.  Firstly I set up this blog and my social media outlets to inspire others to achieve their goals and great things. My hard work in training has improved me year on year. I only took up running in 2012 and swimming 6 years ago. It always amazes people when I say around 6 years ago I got into a pool and could only swim 6 lengths in an hour, now it is at least 120 lengths (3000 metres) in an hour. I really hope my journey inspires others to do the same. I have always been dedicated in what I do and I will continue this through the 2017 season.  I hope 2017 is a successful season again for me but either way I will enjoy the ride and keep inspiring others.

So the 2016 season started with an 18 week marathon program, which being a running coach I designed myself. So January involved high mileage and a lot more mileage than I have ever been used to.  I was training for the Manchester Marathon and normally I don’t go for longer distances. So I aimed high for the elite time of 2:45 if not go sub 3 hour so I could get into London Marathon for 2017. To be honest I was not that fussed about marathons and this would be my first, all I really wanted to do was London Marathon so I tried to get in this way as the ballot is so hard to get a place. So training incorporated Cross country races and I was placing higher and times were better than previous years. First stop was Canterbury 10 miler, towards the end of January, I managed a PB on an undulating course and my time was 1:02:46, where I was happy with the time, considering it was off a high mileage week for me. Doing high mileage was a huge unknown for me and was already up to around 60 miles a week. At this point my body seem to be coping well.

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February came around and I had another target race to focus on towards my marathon, this was the Deal Half Marathon in mid-February. While trying to push hard for higher mileage and getting up early most mornings before work  for easy runs, I was struggling. I kept getting ill and colds and I ended up stopping after half a mile of a local cross country and had to rest. The week after came Deal Half Marathon and I was still unwell; I done the race and started off very well, however after 10 miles my body was struggling and ended up with 1:27:04 as a time. I was disappointed as I was hoping for a PB and was quite a bit off it; however we won the team prize and a free boat trip to France so I was happy with that.

March came along and my training was becoming a struggle, all speed reps were slowing down and I wasn’t enjoying the marathon training, it felt like I was stuck in a tunnel and wasn’t getting out. I was still swimming and going to the gym throughout my training. First stop this month was the Lydd 20 miler, I was looking to marathon pace in this race and at this point it was my highest mileage week going up to 70 miles with this race. I wasn’t sure I could do it but was going to give it a go. I ended up finishing it 2:14:12 and managed to keep to marathon pace until the last two miles. So I was getting ready for Manchester. Two weeks later the next race was the Vitality North London Half Marathon. By this point mileage was coming down and Manchester was only a few weeks away.  I felt great on the race and with it being undulating was quite hard, I went for it and managed to keep a good pace and ended up with 1:23:56. I was over the moon about the time as I just got 30 seconds outside my PB.

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April came fast and I started struggling with all sorts of weird pains and niggles while tapering, Manchester was nearly here and I wasn’t looking forward to it. So it was time for the race and the night before I was told we couldn’t stay in Manchester and had to change our hotel to Bolton. That made me a little stressed. The morning of the race we left early to then find out that the road we were trying to get down, had only just closed and we had to do a huge detour which ended up me getting my wife to drive and myself running to the start line for the start. I found my training partner but I hadn’t drunk a lot of water as I was stuck in the car which was a bad idea. After training had not gone too well I decided 2:50ish would be a more realistic time.  After the mad rush to the start Steve (training buddy) and  I started the marathon; for twenty miles I felt fine and my mile splits were all consistent and spot on. However 22 miles in my calf was getting very tight and I thought it would be best to stretch it, which was not a good idea. I then proceeded and a mile later had a pain in my hamstring and I stopped, I then struggled back and managed to jog back. The last few miles were such a struggle but I managed to get 03:14:44. Looking back at it I should have drunken much more water, I shouldn’t of stopped and I would completely change my marathon training up. I was glad it was over to be honest as I wasn’t really enjoying the training and learnt a lot. After the race I took a week off and contacted my swimming coach for training.

May came along and I was in full training for my European Aquathlon. I was starting to get worried as I knew my swimming was not very strong, so I trained hard in that area. I had two races this month the Ocean Tri Aquathlon mid-May and the Vitality 10,000 at the end. I had an easy week of training at the beginning of May as I was in Cyprus and swam in the sea while I was  out there. With the marathon still in my legs I turned up to the Ocean Tri Auqathlon mid-May and finished 3rd, I was over the moon as I also had improved my swim by a minute and my running was coming along. So this was looking good as the National Aquathlon Championships were only a month away. So the Vitality 10,000 approached and my wife and I headed to the race. When I got to the race I then noticed I forgot my shorts, I was paying too much attention on wearing my GB tracksuit when leaving that I left my shorts back home. I then was trying to work out what to do and asked loads of people for a pair of shorts. A nice guy kindly gave me his spare shorts. I wasn’t expecting a PB but decided to run hard to start off with. I felt good all the way and managed a huge 1 minute 10k PB time of 36:50 I was over the moon.

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June came along and I had been training well, four runs a week, four swim sessions with 2 gym sessions as well. I done another local Auqathlon and came 2nd and was over 2 minutes quicker which was great. At this point I didn’t really have any ambitions for the European Championships but jut to go and enjoy it.

However first stop was the National Auqathlon Championships in Leeds two weeks before my trip to France for the European Championships. It was a long journey to Leeds and once I was there I helped out at the Zone 3 tent for a few hours and everyone was nice and friendly. The following day was race day and although I had won a local Auqathlon a few days earlier I was very much very tired and suffering from the races I had been doing the previous weeks. I was very nervous but got to the start line. As soon as the race started I got my googles knocked off and had to grab them and put them back on. By that time I was near the back and therefore had to swim hard, I made up ground but then got boxed in with other swimmers. I knew I had to push the run and with the course being hilly at Rounday park it was going to be tough. I came out 45th in the swim and not where I wanted to be but I pushed on to come 23rd overall by pushing it on the run, I was very happy with how I performed on the second part of the race, but when I found out I was 3rd in my Age Group and automatic entry to the World Championships in Mexico, I was over the moon.

After gaining this massive achievement and bronze medal, I had a few weeks left for the European’s. I decided to just try my best and enjoy the whole experience. The week leading up to France I came down with a bad cold and was unable to train for the whole week. I was advised to rest although feeling ill I packed my stuff and arrived in France the day before the race. It was very warm and we had a long journey from Paris to Chateauroux which made me feel quite ill again. Once there I had this buzz and felt much better. The next day was the race day and although I was feeling slightly better I was very relaxed about the race. The time came to start the race and we were told prior no wetsuits allowed as the lake was 26 degrees. The swim was 1,000 metres so a bit further than my normal races. We started with a large crowd watching and at the 500m point we had to get out and run back in, I noticed I had a large group in front of me, so I pushed hard to get close to them. Once I came out of transition I then started my run and just went for it. I was picking people off throughout the run and I then saw two guys in my Age Group in front of me at the last 400 metres, I somehow found something extra and sprinted passed them to take 3rd on the line. Another Bronze medal and another achievement I never thought would happen. I was over the moon and something to tell my children in the future; my  wife shed some tears and she was very proud of me. She comes to every race with me and has been there from the start since I took up Aquathlons and has been very supportive. Read full report HERE

Early July I had a local 10k (Les Golding 10k) and was struggling to find form and struggled and was over 2 minutes slower than my PB, I had struggled since the Europeans. I entered the Mid Kent 5 Miler and finished 9th.  I was disappointed with my time which was slower than it was last year in the same race. With Mexcio just under 6 weeks away I turned to my target race of Whitstable Surf N Turf on the 31st of July. Training has been tough in recent weeks, perhaps not enough rest in between the Euro’s and too much racing. With a minor leg problem in training recently it has been a struggle to be able to push it in the run and I have felt like my running form has dipped.

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Due to the race being a local race for me and just down the road, I was really looking forward to it and was very excited. Before I even got to the queue to register, someone came up to me and congratulated me for my European result which was nice. I then registered and took my bits to transition with quite a few people coming over and congratulating me and speaking to me about the Euro’s.  I always like a good chat and helping others; I felt like a local celebrity. I went into transition and met some locals. The sea was choppy and I got into the sea pumped up and ready to go. For some reason I was very excited about this. The swim started and it was very choppy after a few minutes; it appeared to me that I was swimming on my own. Towards the end of my swim I pushed on and came out the sea to find out that I was 1st out, not the normal routine for me, so I was happy about that and off I went onto the run part. I started to struggle but raced up the final hill, had a look around and no one was there. So I eased off to the finish line to come home comfortable in first place, nearly two minutes in front of the next competitor. This is my 2nd win overall and 2nd win of the year! I was over the moon because I love my local events and grew up in the area. It was nice to see so many people supporting the event and supporting me and cheering, I really appreciate this. I will be back next year to compete! Read full report HERE

August came around and I decided to concentrate on training and I was asked if I would kindly turn up to the Whitstable Parkrun for their 309th run for the I AM TEAM GB day. This was a day nationally celebrated for the Olympians on 27th of August. I really enjoyed myself and it wasn’t long until the World Aquathlon Championships in Mexico. Read full report HERE

The 14th of September came round very quickly and it felt not so long ago when it was June and I took home 2 Bronze Medals. I was in tapering mode, however preparations didn’t go to plan. After the Whitstable Surf N Turf I decided to rest my leg as I was getting a problem when racing and doing speed work which was making it worse. For some reason jogging was fine so I decided to take 9 days rest from running and I still had 6 weeks left until the World Championships. So I decided to do more swimming sessions and realised my running fitness wasn’t going to be affected too much. After the 9 days of not running I was back to normal and running fine.

Just before I headed off to Mexico I had five days in Greece for my cousin’s wedding, where I ran on a treadmill those days in the hotel. But I decided to shut the windows and air-con in the gym there so I could acclimatise for Mexico. It was tough and very hot but good training.

So I raced at the Ocean Tri Aquathlon on Wednesday a week before the World Championships and finished 3rd. I tried a few things different on the day like listening to music as Gobinder my confidence coach recommended. I found it helped and got me ready for the race. At the race itself, I didn’t push too hard and found my 5k time was where I wanted it to be; my swim time was around 1 minute slower but I knew that would happen as I wasn’t wearing a wetsuit. I finished 3rd and only 50 seconds off the winner, so I was happy as I took it easy and was the only non-wetsuit swimmer. I didn’t use a wetsuit as I wanted to get used to swimming without one for the World Championships.

The time came and I was off to Mexico, I was raring to go but I had a slight concern at the back of my mind as I had an Achilles niggle. I arrived in Mexico safely and the first thing I done was check the beach out for training. It was amazing, I have never seen such clear water and white sand; this was paradise. It was even better when swimming in the sea as I could see loads of fish. I had one easy one hour run a few days before the race and it was hot and tough because of the heat.

The day before the race we headed down to the ferry port to Cozumel and found out that there were no early ferries for Wednesday that would get me to the race on time. This sent me into panic mode and I was stressing about it, which didn’t help. I then went back to our hotel in Playacar and grabbed my stuff in a rush – my mind was all over the place. I headed to Cozumel and went to the Expo first to register, then I went walking round with my wife looking for a hotel for the night. We managed to find a hotel. The hotel wasn’t great but it would do for a night. After we checked into the hotel, I was more relaxed and then it was time to go to the team GB race briefing, have dinner and then sleep.

I woke up on the race day at 5am with the race at 8:50am, I wanted to be wide awake and ready to go. I always race better and train better in the evenings so it was important to be up early. I started to hydrate as it was very hot, roughly 32 degrees.  By the time I got to the race I had drunk over 5 litres of water which I found out later was probably not enough.

The race then started and I started off hard because of the different format of a 2.5k run followed by a 1,000 metre swim and 2.5k run again. I was going strong and in 5th place after a mile, however all of a sudden my pace dropped and I started to struggle. I got into transition and felt dazed. My wife usually tells me where I am in transition and I chat back but something wasn’t right as I was feeling awful. I proceeded into the sea and found it a struggle to swim the first 500 metres with my shoulders feeling dead. Afterwards I started to feel fine and started to push the swim. I came out into transition and sprinted out onto the run; I then started to find I was struggling and my pace started to slow down. I saw a person collapse near me but the last part of the race was a bit of a blur. I remember the last 100m sprinting and taking a while to move away from the finish.

Overall I finished 28th; I am happy with my performance and the heat did affect me and therefore was not able to perform to my best. This has now given me a new experience and learning curve that I can use to build on next year at the Europeans and World Championships. My Aquathlon season was over for the year. Read full report HERE

After the World Championships I had a few weeks off; by now it was October and I was running the Givaudan Ashford 10k on Sunday 9th October as it was my running club (Canterbury Harriers) Club Championships and I was sorting this out for the club. Due to my achilles problem I was advised by my phsyio not to race Sunday and run round with my wife. At first I was a bit disappointed but I knew that was best for me as I have only been doing easy training. My wife liked the idea of me running with her and pace her to a PB.  We never run together so I thought it would be nice. The day came for the race and I was very tempted to race because I had a chance to place highly in the club championships. Despite the wet conditions there was a record turnout of 48 Harriers – the biggest number of Harriers in any race since the club`s formation in 1993. That felt good as I really tried to get a lot of Harriers to do it. I helped my wife to a new PB and it was great running with her. Read full report HERE

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Next stop was the Chilham Castle 5k, one of my first running races was 5 years ago coming 3rd. So due to my injury problems and off season I didn’t target this race but as it’s only a few miles down the road I decided to do it again this year.  Having won the race twice in four years and winning it last year I wanted to retain my title. I knew I wasn’t in great shape but I have improved a lot this year and recorded some much quicker times then my current official PB’s in my Aquathlon races this year. I started the race at the same time as the Dual athletes so I had to be careful not to race the wrong person. I quickly found myself on my own in the lead, so I stuck to the plan and didn’t push too hard. The race went by so quick and I didn’t look at my watch that much. I came up the last hill and eased off. By this time I had crossed the line in 1st place and was happy to win this local event. I had kept to the plan and had negative splits; this is something I do need to work on.

I was then told by the race director that I broke the course record again by 40 seconds; I was over the moon with that. At the end of October I entered the Cross Country league in Kent (Kent fitness league) and managed 29th. Although I was very happy with the placing and had beaten guys that I don’t normally beat, I was hoping to place higher for future races.  Read full report HERE

November I raced in the second Cross Country race and finished 26th, so I was slowly improving and hope for a top twenty finish in the future.  Winter is well and truly here now and makes training hard in the freezing cold, training was becoming tough in the cold weather, I know I am a wimp. My first target now was to improve on my PB or get near my 10k PB time for the Brighton 10k.  With very little speed work leading up to it I wasn’t sure how it would go because my last race was a cross country race and it is very difficult to judge where you are with your fitness levels.  Although I got sent the awesome number 1 for the Brighton 10k race, it was unfortunately cancelled due to very bad weather in Brighton.

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So after Brighton I decided to enter the Alan Green Thanet 10 Miler on the 4th of December. A race I have raced in the previous two years. 10 miles isn’t a distance I race in regularly so I didn’t taper for this and decided to use it as one of my normal runs. Training runs had been going great at this point and I am very pleased the way they are going, I decided to try something different and start the race off slower than normal and see how it goes. I normally start out too fast and try to hang on the last few miles. The wind was against me for the first 5 miles and I think I was around 24th position after the first mile. I don’t normally count positions but I wanted to see if what I was trying to do would work. I was aiming for any time under 01:03:46 to be quicker than last year and 01:02:46 was my PB so anything around that time would be great. So I finished in 01:01:40 and I was over the moon with my time and beating one of my winter targets and nearly two minutes quicker than last year in the same race. As a result of the other Harriers doing well, we picked up the team prize and I was 4th overall and 3rd senior back.  Read full report HERE

So that is it for the year for me, I would like to thank everyone for their support over the past year on social media.  It has been truly a great year for me and I hope I can be better this year and inspire others to success. Thank you for following my journey and please  continue to follow my journey in 2017.

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