National Aquathlon Championships

My last big race was approaching on September the 8th the National Aquathlon Championships. However leading up to this the weekend before I picked up a foot infection after competing at the triathlon sprint relays on the Sunday prior. My foot was hurting and inflamed straight after the race. I have had a problem near my toe with a lump for a while, unfortunately after being told to go to the MIU from the medical team at the race there was no doctor on duty at the MIU to give me antibiotics. The good news is I had a doctor’s appointment booked in for the Monday anyway a week before. I turned up in pain and hobbling at the doctors, the doctor confirmed it was an infection. I explained my health comes first and if he pulls me out of the Nationals that is fine. Well he said there was no reason for not to continue to train etc and gave me antibiotics and stated only train if it doesn’t hurt and keep an eye on it.

So I did, however on the Thursday I started feeling unwell and drained so I took Friday and Saturday off prior to the race. It worked a treat as Saturday morning I felt really good, all though still had pain in my foot; it was healing and didn’t affect my running or swimming. I didn’t know what my fitness was and Saturday night I had another problem with the fire alarm at the hotel went off just after midnight which woke me up and then I struggled with sleep after that and had roughly a few hours max sleep. So race day came and I was shattered and felt awful.

Feeling sorry for myself Sunday morning and not great at all I had to just give it my all and see what I can do. The race was in beautiful Arundel and I highly recommend visiting. The race started and we went off in waves, I tried to pushed hard in the swim however felt sluggish I didn’t give up but at the turn around point I started to feel awful and struggling to get keep pace or go faster. I came out the river and didn’t feel great, I proceeded to transition and realised I must have had a good swim as I was close to the top guys.

I was struggling to get my wetsuit off due to the air temperature and lake being a bit on the cold side. I came out of transition and onto the run and decided to run hard and see how long I could keep this pace up. I managed to catch the lead pack with around 2k to go and took the lead in my AG. 2nd placed stayed on the back of me and I knew he could get past me and at that point I had nothing left. However when on the final stretch of the race, I asked my body to go faster, gritted my teeth and tried to turn my legs over quicker still feeling awful but kept saying to myself in my head come on nearly there and my body reacted an moved.

I came storming to the finish line and started celebrating. It could well be my best race, I didn’t expect to get on the podium at the start of the week but I gave everything and didn’t give up. So very happy to defend and win the National Championships for a second time. I learnt something here today and that is never give up until it’s over. I kept wanting to stop and ease off but mentally I was in the right place. Lots of negative thoughts came into my head but I managed to keep positive and block the negative thoughts out and this is what made the difference. I had to dig very deep to defend this, of course if I was fully fit I know I could of been faster but I did just enough to retain my title.

This season has been amazing and becoming European and National Aquathlon Champion has made me achieve more than anything I could ever imagine. As mentioned before in blogs I won’t be taking up my GB spots for the Aquathlon team next year as I want to focus on triathlons. However I am yet to decide if I will come back to the nationals or not next year for Aquathlons. Since I started this journey in 2015 I have raced in 37 Aquathlons, podium 29 times and had 7 wins. I have won 2 National titles, Runner up and 3rd, European Champion and Bronze medal, represented GB 8 time and captained the team at Age Group. It’s been an amazing journey and I move on to new challenges now.

Vorgee Vortech & Stealth MKII Goggles review


It is important to get the right goggles to use and there are so many factors that you need to consider before purchasing a pair such as: are they suitable for outdoor swimming and races?  Vorgee kindly sent me some pairs to test and review. A little bit of background to the company, Vorgee is an Australian owned company which was established in 2005. By providing products from beginners to competitive swimmers. So being an Australian company and Australia having a track record of outstanding swimmers I was very interested in testing their products. I got to test the Vorgee Vortech and Stealth MkII swimming goggles so onto my review.

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Vorgee Vortech swimming goggles were the first up to test and below are some quick features:

• Soft frame unibody for added comfort and a softer fit
• Soft but firm gasket to hold correct position away from the face
• Ultra vision lens – a curved lens which offers greater clarity and wide high grade silicone dual band to ensure correct strap positioning and fit
• Anti fog injection
• UVA and UVB protection
• Exclusively endorsed by Swim Australia

First impressions were that they looked good but I thought the grey clips on the side looked a bit cheap. I think it was because the colour makes it look slightly cheap plastic. However I am not too worried about that but it could be something to change in the future. They don’t look flashy; I like goggles to have tinted lenses but that is my preference. However this type of goggle is bulky and this is what I like in goggles and are the type I use in races and outdoor swimming. I found it was a perfect fit and the grey levers are easy to do up and tighten up. I am also a big fan of this type of rubber strap and design. It is very light; this is due to the ultralight gasket and frame to provide less pressure around the face and for comfort.

I tested these in the pool and open water; no leaks whilst swimming so that’s a win win, they felt very comfortable and no problems of them feeling too tight or leaving marks on my face. What I was impressed by was that wherever I was swimming the goggles did not fog up. They were clear and did the job.

My conclusion is that although they look like normal swimming goggles, a few minor upgrades to the looks (so that the grey levers don’t look too cheap) and having tinted lenses would make the goggle stand out hugely. I think these are great goggles; they are comfy and do not fog up. They are at a good retail price with some retailers pricing them under £16. I would take “great goggles” anytime over “flashy goggles”.

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So on to Stealth MkII review; first impressions were that they looked very flashy. I liked the colour and design, they stand out and this is what I like. But did they do the job? Vorgee have designed this as ultralight low resistance racing goggles. I don’t race with these types of goggles as I like my race goggles bulky because most of my races are open water. But that is a personal preference. Below are the key features of the Stealth MKII:

• Race goggles
• Curved silver mirror lens for an increased wide angle vision of up to 140°
• 3D seal design
• High grade silicone, dual band strap with Quick Fit Strap Adjustment
• Anti-fog coating for enhanced visual clarity
• 4 interchangeable nose bridges
• UVA and UVB Protection

When using them they felt very comfy and light. However I had a problem with the dual band straps; I struggled to do them up and get them in the right place and Ii was not overly keen on them. I preferred the other type of goggle straps but these types of straps were very robust and a low chance of the straps snapping. They did not fog up and they were very clear. However when swimming open water I sometimes got a little leak but once I did them up they were fine; I don’t think I did them up right.

My conclusion is that they are not goggles for me purely for the strap reason; I can never get that right. Nevertheless they were comfy and looked flash. They are great pool goggles but not so sure about using them outside. I like the colour design and maybe a recommendation is that in the future they do a different strap design. So overall I really like the Vortech the best; they felt great and did the job.

CEP clone recovery tight review

 

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Being an Ambassador for CEP I get to try their products and test them. So I decided to review and test out their Clone tech recovery tights. I am a huge fan of recovery and I do think CEP products are the best on the market. So will this product disappoint me?

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A bit about CEP – unlike other compression companies, CEP markets its products around its medical history and supplying the medical industry around the world.  It is owned by a leading healthcare manufacturer. When researching their products I noted that they were of high quality compared to other brands; the compression in CEP products is medically graded and incredibly safe and effective as a result. These products are all focused on recovery. Recovery is very important as lots of people don’t rest up enough so people turn to recovery socks to aid in recovery and of course help with performance.

So on to the review, I was asked to go to my local CEP retailer which in this case was the Bay Running Shop and get measured up for these tights. I had my ankles, calfs, waist etc all measured. I wondered why this had to be done but this is because they clone your lower half of your body. Every measurement has to be spot on and for you. This means the product takes a few weeks to arrive but is tailored just for you when it gets made. You can also put letters on so I asked for YC my initials in sliver; looks pretty cool to be honest. But you can choose gold if you prefer that colour.

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The tights arrived in a nice fancy box with a certificate that says you have been cloned. So a few days later I was at the World Championships and the evening after the race I put the tights on for a few hours and the following day my legs felt pretty fresh. Now the tights come all the way up to your waist which means unlike the compression socks they compress your whole lower body. I decided to use them after my long run and in this case 14 miles my legs were pretty tired and I had them on for most of the day and my legs seemed to be fresh in the evening. The next day my legs felt fully recovered, I kept feeling like this when using them after my training.

The tights are pretty hard to get on but once on they are fine, its important that they are tight. Once on you can put your work clothes etc over the top and no one will know you are wearing them.

My conclusion is I love the CEP products and use their products all the time, at the moment of typing this up I am wearing my Calf socks. These tights come at price and just like a cost of a pair of decent running shoes so worth the investment. I am huge on recovery and recovery is where all the gains are made. So I would highly recommend this as a must have product for recovery and to use after any session and for injury prevention.  I use these before races too to help the blood circulate.

You can check them out at the following at CEP here

Recovery tights are available at Bay Running Shop complete personalised 18 different measurements here

 

 

 

 

 

Such a scary moment….

Saturday 4th of August evening and I am out with a friend enjoying a bike ride. I am 25 miles into our long bike ride on the outskirts of Canterbury in quiet country roads. I go round a bend and look up to my horror to see a car take the corner very wide, it was going to hit me head on. The only thing I could do was quickly turn my bike while going around 20mph to avoid the car. I managed to avoid the car but I went flying and so did my bike, with my bike going the other side of the road. I then slowly got up to find the driver of the car decided to drive round me and carry on why I was still on the floor.

Some nice guy came to help me and check I was alright. I seemed to have got away with nothing broken but my hip was badly bruised and cut and I was covered with cuts around my body. The bike handle bars were the wrong way round and my friend was able to sort this at the accident scene. No other damage to the bike apart from scratches and a minor dent. I think I was very lucky to not break any bones but also very lucky as it could have been worse.

The following day I woke up in pain and bruises, the pain was more to do with the cuts. As a mental aspect I didn’t want to get back on the bike after this. I definitely wasn’t myself. The cut on my hip was the biggest problem as it was just taking a while to heal. I was able to go to the gym a few days later but struggled with doing my strength stuff on the floor on that side and felt stiff. I started feeling better during the week and went for a run and then a bike ride later that week. The run felt fine but the bike wasn’t very comfy and I seemed to be getting pain on my opposite hip. I woke up the next day with a sore hip but was able to still train. Anyway I couldn’t swim until 10 days after the accident as my hip was cut and wasn’t healing and I couldn’t risk an infection.

So I am very lucky to have come away from this with just some bruises. Mentally this has affected me in a way that I don’t feel safe cycling and wanted to not cycle again. So I made sure I got out on the road a few days later to overcome this fear. Since the accident it took me the best part of a week to get over this, knowing that fact that people are like that and drive off.

Two weeks after the accident, with training limited I was getting my head round to keep focused and not be disheartened by this. Training wasn’t ideal and on the positive side if I had come off worse my season would have been over and I would of missed the European Championships. When my training hasn’t gone well I have been looking at how far I have come and what I have achieved to keep me positive. I was hoping to get out more on the bike but because of the problems and my bike needing a refit I was limited. This changes my triathlon targets for the Channel Tri in a few weeks time to just go out and enjoy and not race it.

So two weeks after the accident I was back racing at the London Aquathlon. A race that is in its third year and a race I look forward to as it’s in the Olympic pool and its not every day you can race there where so many Olympic greats achieved successes. I helped out at the event starting the 3 waves off and chatting to competitors during and after the race. It was nice to see the race numbers had increased significantly and had also attracted other GB athletes.

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I decided not to push hard because of my training and also to experiment with my running.  So I decided to just swim to a point where I wasn’t feeling tired and maintain speed. I always find it harder swimming in a pool when you don’t tumble turn. I  started the race and gave some advice to people and was first to start in wave 1.

 

I got over taken in the pool by two people; I am not keen on racing in the pool as I always find I am slower. I came out into transition with another GB age group athlete. Being a pool race we were not allowed to run until we got outside. As soon as we got outside I started to run past the person in front and I was in the lead. I tried a different strategy by not going out as fast on the first mile and aim to get quicker.

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I didn’t get it right and was too slow at the first mile, oh well never mind. As I was running round I was encouraging people around the course. I came back first in my wave but second overall. I was pretty happy with it, considering my lack of training.

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After the race I got to chat to a few people who did the race and it was such a lovely vibe and getting to meet new people. Also a special well done to fellow Asics Frontrunner team member Becca for finishing her first ever aquathlon.

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So I am now 9 week’s away from the European Championships and I am hoping to get in some consistent training and hopefully be ready for the race.

XK Swimzi review

 

IMG_6768I was able to try and review this product; first impressions is this looked similar to other products on the market but how wrong was I.

Firstly here is a background on how the product was developed from their site. “Back in May 2015, a team of five British swimmers plunged into 9°C shark-infested waters in an attempt to complete the treacherous 30-mile stretch from the Farallon Islands to the Bay of San Francisco, with only a swimming costume, pair of goggles and silicon hat to keep them warm. In a relay-style challenge, the swimmers were to spend a total of 30 hours on board the support craft, where their main concern was to remain warm, dry and protected from the harsh elements. Here at swimzi, it was our job to develop a high-quality product that would not only act as an impenetrable shield against the elements, but also enable the athletes to perform with maximum blood flow when it was their turn to take the plunge. By working closely with the Farallon Swimmers, and adapting key features used in sailing and mountaineering gear, swimzi have developed a piece of weatherproof kit like no other. The XK jacket has been carefully designed to protect against wind penetration whilst keeping essential body heat locked in: allowing you to perform at your best… whatever your sport, wherever you are in the world.”

On to the review, firstly the material on the outside is waterproof, therefor keeping you dry which is a no brainer. The inner lining is made from super soft-warm handle Sherpa fleece. Now this is an important feature, unlike its rivals this product is designed to keep you warm after your warm up and retain your body heat so that you are able to start your race still warm. I was able to compare it with others on the market and this did what the others didn’t do. So I put this to the test, I did my normal warm up before one of my aquathlon races and put the XK on straight after my warm up. I had to wait a bit and it kept me warm before the race. I found I was able to hit the swim better than not using the Swimzi.

The product comes with a 2 way zip system which is very useful which allows you to zip up the hood to stop wind chill. What I liked about the Swimzi was that it felt much lighter than its rivals and it was thinner so therefore not as bulky and easy to carry round.

Another feature is that you can easily get changed inside it, you might think that its too loose but the cords allow you to tighten the jacket.

My conclusion is that this is a great product and in my opinion the best on the market. It is designed for swimmers by swimmers purely to keep you warm after your warm up, unlike others. Its light and gives you the ease of movement. So I highly recommend this product. The photo is me using it at the National Championships and is now an essential part of my kit.

Check out more info on the XK Swimzi Here

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Very proud to competing for GB again this year!

Quite a few people in recent weeks have been asking me if I am competing for GB again this year so I thought its time to write a blog about this as it has been a while since my last. Firstly thank you for the support over the recent years and I am proud to announce that after a fantastic season last year and finishing 6th at the World Championships in my age group last summer in Penticton (Canada), I therefore have gained qualification to the World and European Aquathlon Championships and I will be competing in those races this year. Just in case you don’t know what an Aquathlon is, it is like a Triathlon but without the bike part. Normally consists of a 1000 metre swim, followed by a 5k run.

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I am honoured and very privileged to be able to represent GB the past few years and again this year. I am very proud of my achievements in just a few years which as seen a European medal and two National medals. I am very much excited and looking forward to competing again. Working for NHS has allowed me to train well due to the flexi time, where I am able to train after work something I am very grateful of.

I started increasing my training since start of the year, it is hard work balancing training around work and trying to make sure I get some time to enjoy other things etc. A few of you have asked what kind of training I do, so here is a bit of an insight into my training. Straight after work I start my training around 4.45pm and I am normally home around 7.30pm most evenings, I prefer to have Saturday off training normally so I can do things with my wife and family. So my training for a typical week consists of the following 2 Strength training sessions in the gym, 4 runs a week, with around 30-40 miles per week. 4 swim sessions a week and a normal session consists of around 3500 metres and a bike session with at least one full days rest per week, sometimes two. Its pretty hard to maintain it and keep it up, cant wait for October as I will take a full month off.

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I do believe that you don’t have to be talented but working hard and being determined will pay off. Listening to your body is vital so if you get any niggles I then I back off. I always like reading peoples backgrounds and how they have got into running etc. I know a few in the Trust have taken running up in recent months which is inspiring as we all have to start somewhere. I only started running in 2012 as I was inspired by the London Olympics with no real background to sport and took up swimming just over 6 years ago and looking back now I couldn’t swim so if you are taking up sport, keep at it as you will get the benefits in years to come. I took up running to keep fit but nowadays I think its more because I like food too much. If anyone is looking for advice with their training, just drop me an email. I am always happy to help.

Anyway the countdown begins and first stop is the World Championships.  The World Championships this year is in Denmark in a place called Middlefart in July. So my training prep is all tailored for this event at the moment. I am hoping to target the top 10 this year and if I can place higher even better, but most importantly I just do it as I enjoy it and love the experience. I then will be competing at the National Championships in Peterborough which is only 10 days later. This does not give me much time to recover and training wont be ideal as I will only be back in the country for a few days before. In regards on targets for this race, 2016 was a Bronze medal, 2017 was a Silver medal so maybe there is a trend….I will try and target the podium again. If I did get another medal I would be over the moon. After the Nationals I have the European Aquathlon Championships in Ibiza which is at the end of October. Which is quite late and means it’s a long season ahead, but I have decided after this to take some time off all exercise for a few weeks to a month and decide if I want to continue this journey.  Anyway my target for this race will be to try and get into the top 10 in this race.

What I have learnt over the years is that experience in any race/training session is so important. I do get very nervous when these races come up and I get phantom pains/niggles, but I have learnt to keep a positive mind and try to relax. I do get very excited when these races come up and I like meeting athletes and sharing stories from different places around the world. But remind myself that this is just a hobby.

 

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Busy month of races

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The past month has been a busy month race wise.

First up was on the 25th of March which was the Tri Spirits Hole park 5k challenge. I had won the race last year and I wanted to analyse my progress from the previous year and try and beat my time and the course record I set.

It was a gloomy day and I felt so tired as we had been looking after my sister’s dog for the week which took its toll with a lack of sleep. I knew I was going to struggle that morning as my heart rate was quite high. Anyway the course is a challenging off road course and this year it was very muddy; last year it was sunny and dry.

I decided to run the first mile hard and see how it went. I had a few people sticking to me at the start but then they fell back. Being muddy favours me as I love cross country and I am a strong cross country runner.  I had no one near me but I decided to still push hard, falling over in the mud in the process. I finished the race is a comfortable 1st place, and with a new course record of 20:40 and therefore beating my last time of over 40 seconds on a muddier course.  I was really happy with it and it was a huge confidence boost.

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Less than a week later it was the Folkestone 10 mile road race on Good Friday. A race I have never done before, but is flat and a fast course. I was in great shape and with Fleet Half Marathon cancelled a few weeks prior I was sure I could get a PB and push near to the sub 1 hour mark. One target I am working towards.

I started my warm up and it started to rain and it appeared the wind was quite strong against me. Some 700 people had entered this race with many using this as marathon prep.  The race started and I wanted to hold back on pace and not overdo it. I was aiming for negative splits, my first mile was 6.05, but then after that it got slower and tough against the wind. Another 4 miles battling the wind and I was nowhere near a PB. I then turned around on the 5 mile part and headed back. By this point I was over a minute away from getting a PB and the rain had got worse, I was soaked.

I then decided to try going faster the second half and with the wind with me I started at 5:50 per mile and went quicker per mile. The last mile was tough but I kept going and managed to finish in 1:00:13. I was over the moon with the time and I managed to set 5 mile and 5k PB’s on the way back.

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The next race the following week was the Basildon Aquathlon. This was my first aquathlon for the year and my preparation for the world championships was under the way. I came down with a head cold that week and I was very nervous. On race day the weather was awful which made the off road course so muddy, it was also a 400m pool swim which I don’t like as I am slower in the pool as I do not tumble turn. However I have been practising. I entered transition and because it was muddy on the course I had to wear trails. This made me really nervous as I have never worn trails in an aquathlon. The race started and I entered the pool. I felt comfortable in the swim but the last 200 metres I was struggling to breath due to having this cold. I entered transition and it was hard to get my trails, but good job I practiced before the race.

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I got on the run and felt good, although the trails were making me slide around the paths. When I got onto the grass and hills, I made-up a lot of time and was very wise to wear them. The course was muddy and it was such a hard run. I kept pushing, overtaking people.

I raced home in 2nd place; although the time was slightly slower due to the run course being wet and muddy. I was very happy, my swim was a few seconds better and I had the fastest run split. My work towards a successful world championships race has now begun.

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Next up was the Asics Fleet Half Marathon that was postponed and rearrange due to the snow a month later. I didn’t really want to do it because of the timing. My wife was running it too. The weather was a bit cold and overcast. I just wanted to beat my current PB of 1:23:20, so I started off at a slow pace for the first 3 miles. I then built into it working on getting quicker and maintaining the speed. I was running with another guy for most of it and with the tail wind we decided to swap who took the lead along the course to try and keep the wind off us. I managed to get quicker and we raced home in 1:19:29. I was over the moon as this is a target I thought was unrealistic and therefore took just under 4 minutes off my last PB and 22nd place. This was a distance I have struggled in the past. I was also very proud to see my wife finish as she struggled with an ankle and calf problem.

 

Looking back at all these races, I am able now to push harder in training and work towards a great World Championships.

 

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