Highs and Lows (Euros and Nationals)

IMG_8303After a hugely successful year last year and something that I didn’t think I would be able to top again…. So as you are aware I am competing again for Great Britain at the European and World Aquathlon Championships at age group level. I am very honoured and proud of my achievements and I am very much excited and looking forward to it again this year (well, what’s left of the season). Anyway, so where am I competing this year and what are my targets?

First stop was the European Championships in Bratislava on the 27th May. I had changed my target of pushing for a podium place to just getting round the course and enjoying the experience. Training went so well over the winter but a month ago I picked up a minor calf strain that did not seem to want to go away – this was my first injury in years where I have had to rest(You can read dealing with the setbacks in my last blog.)

I flew to Vienna on Thursday 24th of May for the European Aquathlon Championships. The race was on Saturday in Bratislava so I drove across from Vienna to Bratislava, it took around 40 minutes, so not far at all.

The week before I had raced in the Ocean Tri Aquathlon where I came 3rd overall, however the last bit of the race my calf played up and had to rest up again as the Europeans was only 9 days away. I didn’t really have any targets for the race due to my injury problems and lack of run time. I was going to enjoy the experience and my target was no longer a podium place but to try for a top 10 placing in my Age Group. I was pleasantly surprised about Bratislava – lots of history and beautiful buildings in the old town.

I popped down to the lake where the event was on the Thursday to check the course out and register.  When I arrived I thought I had turned up to the wrong place as nothing was set up. I decided to get in the lake for a swim just to check it out and then walk the run part of the course. The race was a 1k swim which was 2x 500m laps and a 5k run but 5x 1k loops. The run course sounded pretty boring but had a small incline which would make it interesting. I went back the following day to meet up with friends and fellow athletes and there was a lot more set-up. This time it looked more like an event was going on.

Saturday came round fast and it was race day, It was very hot and humid. I had to arrive in transition by 8.30am but my race was not until 11.30am so it was going to be hot. I watched the other Age Groups go off and I soon realised I was over heating and needed to get out of the sun. I decided to get my body temperature cool and use a wet towel and put it over me to a point I made myself freezing.

We were then called over to the athletes tent and one by one our names were shouted out by the commentator and we had to jog to the start line. I had to wait for everyone to come to the start line and it took a bit of time. The next thing I heard the race starter say steady and then he blew the horn and I was off.

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I was a bit overwhelmed to start off and had a slow get away in the lake. The first 500m of the swim I realised I had not pushed myself and on the second lap I was trying to make up time. I came into transition fresh so I realised I did not push the swim but it was still a personal best for me in just over 16 minutes. While in transition I put my trainers on and snapped my shoe lace lock and therefore had to run with a very loose trainer, oh well.

 

I started the run and started over taking people in my wave/race. I was running well and it was only the last 1k where my calf started to play up. I pushed on and managed an 18:34 5k – I was happy with the way it went and managed 9th place, so achieved my target.

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I had time after the race to reflect on my race and I was happy with the way it went. However fully fit I am sure I could of placed higher, but on race day it was my swim that let me down a bit. I didn’t push myself as much as I should of in the swimming but you learn these things and it comes down to experience and lack of race practice this year. My running time was good considering the lack of running time I have had. I was very pleased with the outcome and it has given me more experience. I even got to spend a few days in Vienna with my wife after the race and I was amazed how nice Vienna was. Anyway it was a privilege to be selected and picked for GB again in my Age Group and I am very happy and proud of the performance I gave and hopefully I will be back next year.

 I then had two weeks left until the Nationals and I was hoping if my injury held off I could do well. However the week before the event my Achilles flared up and was getting rather painful walking around. The following day I ran my long run but it got worse and I started worrying about it.

On the Monday I was in a lot of pain and considered dropping out of the race and other races due to the pain I was in, my mind was not in a right place. I have been dealing with my Achilles problem since September but this time it was getting more painful.  I saw Laura from Team Buckley on Tuesday as Andrew Buckley was away who is my normal physio and she said carry on as normal and you should get through. Its amazing how much confidence you can get from that and the pain eased off. I turned up to the National Championships In Leeds on the 10th of June where again I had to change my targets and just enjoy it. I was in a bit of pain with my Achilles even with resting it a few days, however made the most of using my Wellbrix blocks during my rest period to try and speed up recovery.

It was a gloomy day in Leeds and it was wet and not very warm, the course was the same as last year and the run was super hilly. Got to the start of the race and decided to attack the swim and see how I felt on the run. The lake wasn’t warm – 16.1 degrees but it felt colder; the race started and I started off fast. I kept pushing and when the turnaround point came I started to struggle as I am not used to pushing hard on the swim. I tucked in behind some athletes in the swim and managed to get pushed along. I came out of the lake and heard the commentator say these athletes are coming out just shy of 11 minutes, so I knew this was quick for me. Transition was long and I made the most of being a strong runner taking the long transition and trying to run fast up the slope leading into it.

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I got into transition and realised I was with athletes that are normally quite a bit in front after the swim.  I started the run which is super tough and hilly but I like hills. I started off fast and felt very tired; I was catching big groups of athletes and kept targeting each athlete and then pushing past them. I started to struggle towards the end as I was really tired and I knew this would happen because of my swim. When I finished I was 12th overall some 10 places better than last year. I was also a minute and 11 seconds faster than last year. I then found out I was second in my age group and was over the moon as I did not expect a podium place and to go one better. The first thing I did when I got home from Leeds was jump into a bath full of Doms Ease oil, my body needed it.

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I learnt a lot from this race and the week leading up to it, even if your not fully fit and get setbacks – NEVER GIVE UP. This makes me stronger and I am now targeting my next big race the Heaver Castle Aquathlon Challenge followed by the World Championships. Thank you everyone and my sponsors for their support so far this season and a big thank you to Andrew Buckley and his team for getting me to both start lines.

The broken road to Bratislava (Dealing with Setbacks)

After a great winter base of training and no setbacks apart from the minor Achilles niggles which I have had for a while but have not hampered my training, on the 25th of April I was struck down with the dreaded word “injury”. So I decided to write about the set back to help others stay positive as the European Aquathlon championships is on the 27th of May and I am to get there fully fit.

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So on Sunday the 23rd of April I went out for a long run, was happy as I managed to get 16.4 miles at an easy pace at my heart rate. However the last few miles of the run I noticed my left calf wasn’t right but carried on. After the run I done the normal stretch etc and it felt fine. The next few days I was walking around with a slight squeeze in my calf.  I didn’t think much of it as I get loads of weird aches etc. On the Tuesday evening I proceeded into doing my session which was 1 mile warm up, followed by 5x mile reps and a warm down. In the warm up my leg was fine but as soon as I ran the mile reps the leg was sore but then disappeared. So I got through the session alright until the last mile rep on the last 100m I felt a sharp squeeze in the calf. So I eased off and stopped, tried to jog part of the warm down but I stopped as I didn’t want to make it worse.

I didn’t think too much about it and wanted to stay positive – the following day I knew something wasn’t right. I got hold of my physio and sponsor Andy from Team Buckley. He got me in to see Alex at the clinic straight away that evening. Although I am able to walk fine but in discomfort I heard the dreaded word from Alex that I have a minor calf “Strain” the first thing that went through my mind was its the calf that gave me so much trouble 5 years ago when I first got in to running has come back and its going to be recurring like before. Then I decided to snap out of it as I am more positive now and this can be a positive then a negative.

I was advised to not race in the Total Motion Aquathlon on the Saturday as I had a risk of making it worse and putting the European Champs at risk and the rest of the season. I was gutted as I really wanted to do this race but was not worth the risk. So I was advised no running until Monday so at least 5-7 days rest and hopefully I will be back training again then. I left the practice not feeling down but more determined to be positive. Even when I get reassessed next week if I get bad news I have many options.

A week off from running will not do anything to my current fitness levels. So I have decided to blog about this set back and how I deal with it until I am running again.

Thursday 27th

After having a massage today the calf is very sore, to be honest hurts more than the other day. Today is going to be my rest day as it was going to be hard getting a session in today with the cross country awards for the Canterbury Harriers later that evening. My positives today is it’s a complete rest day, so nothing lost but more gains for recovery and I wont lose any of my running fitness for the first 7 days.  Tomorrow no running but I have changed my training plan around and will crack on with my normal swim session that was planned for Sunday. I will also start some pool running at the weekend.

Friday 28th

 Waking up in the morning and the first thing I was thinking is whether my leg is better. Last night it started getting painful towards the end of the day. I attended my running club Canterbury Harriers cross country awards for the 2016/17 season. I was lucky enough to receive a certificate for completing 5 races and coming 7th overall in the league. A great achievement for me for that season, it was only 3 years ago I was running in the 140s places.

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So feeling positive my leg wasn’t really much better, perhaps maybe slightly but nothing  really of notice. Feeling positive today because looking back on how much I improved over the winter. I am not too worried about another day off from running. Time is a healer and no matter what happens I will be at that start line of the Europeans whether its fully fit or whether I have to walk it. So what is the plan for today? Very simple just one normal swim session that was scheduled for Sunday. Today would have been a rest day but I just swapped it round with yesterday. Tomorrow I will start my first pool running session.

Saturday 29th 

Leg slightly better but today I started pool running. Apart from people asking me what I was doing running up and down in the swimming pool. I enjoyed it, I done one hour of pool running, where I ran as fast as I could for a certain time and then took a recovery and repeated this. I found it weird I was running but not touching the ground as I was in the deep end. The faster I went the harder it got with the resistance.  Feeling still upbeat that I will be running next week and plus got a great work out as it sent my heart rate quite high. Four weeks time I will be at the European’s and it is coming round very fast and getting slightly worried because I want to be at my best.

Sunday 30th 

My leg was starting to feel much better and I am feeling more positive. I felt very fresh from the pool running the previous day. I decided to do my scheduled 40 minute swim session followed by 1 hour of pool running. Normally Sunday’s are when I do my long runs but my pool running session was the same session I done yesterday. Feeling very positive about running next week now.

Monday 1st May 

I had to get up early to help my running club (Canterbury Harriers) with their race the Whitstable 10k. Some 750 runners were expected to compete in it. Leg was feeling much better but still very tight when walking. Once the race started my sponsor and physio Any Buckley was there with his team providing massages after the race. He gave me a quick check over and said give it a few more days. I felt relaxed with his advice and will be trying to run on Thursday easy. That’s a huge positive and if all goes well I can quickly get back up to speed. The race went well for my club and I decided to take this as a rest day and change my training up. So pretty much ready/waiting to go again.

Tuesday 2nd

With no running today, my training will be a pool running session, followed by a gym session. Leg feeling miles better today so a few more days more from running and then I am able to crack on with training. However this doesn’t give me a lot of time to get to full fitness for the Europeans.

I hit the pool for an hour pool running and headed off to Team Buckley to use the Normtec boot machine which I use regularly. I managed to speak to Andy (my physio) and had some really positive news. It is a big “if” but if my running goes well on Thursday I may be able to get back straight into my training level. I hit the gym after and had no problems with my leg. So I am keeping positive.

Wednesday 3rd

Feeling very positive today with no pain in my leg at all. Today I have a swim session which will be a tough one as its sprints. I followed that by having a massage on my leg. Feeling ready and fingers crossed for tomorrow’s run.

Thursday 4th 

Today is the day to check my leg out in an easy run on grass. I went for a 40 minute run to see how it went. Could feel it being tight and a twinge but managed to get through it fine. Tomorrow will be a test to see how it went and how I should proceed. So far looking positive.

Friday 5th

Woke up and the first thing I wanted to do is walk around the house to test it. It feels tight and achy but I am guessing that’s a good sign as its the first time I have run. Going to speak to my physio later to see how to proceed and things do feel like its going to be a positive answer now. After speaking to Andy he said to carry on running tomorrow for an hour easy and if all goes well then I can start putting the speed work in. Fingers crossed as I don’t really want to have any setbacks. I am thinking of going to Canterbury Park run and taking easy tomorrow, that’s if I get up early! I carried on with my normal training plan of going swimming and the gym.

Saturday 6th 

Calf was achy and didn’t feel right but I was thinking it was all in my head. I headed off to my local Park Run to take it easy and then run after that for up to an hour. I took it easy at 60% heart rate and enjoyed cheering people on that I knew and managed to get the whole hour of running done. I then headed to the swimming pool for a swimming session. Leg felt fine until I got home it ached like hell but did not hurt. I had a slight concern but decided to try a speed session the following morning and go from there.

Sunday 7th

Felt very positive about today and was ready to test the leg out a nearly full speed. I had my training partner join me on the track to push me round. I decided to try mile reps and mentally this was important as this is how my calf got injured. I started the reps and finished the session and was completely fine. I was over the moon with how the session went in fact buzzing as  I hadn’t lost too much speed and was only 12 days since my last speed session.

So feeling very positive that I can get back to full fitness, my advice to anyone dealing with setbacks is don’t rush back and ease into it. It is ok to rest and you will be back in no time. Cross training like pool running has definitely helped me.

Monday 8th

Leg felt really good after yesterday’s run and although I felt I could do more reps I didn’t want to push it.  Felling quite good and positive about this swimming and gym on the agenda today.

Tuesday 9th 

You are wondering now why I carried on my log…. well today leg felt great and nothing wrong with it. Over two weeks since I had hurt the calf and I was very happy and upbeat the way training was going. However that following night I went and done hill reps, now looking back that was not a great idea. I thought my leg was alright and it was only a few days ago I was telling people don’t rush back. I didn’t think it would be a problem and I started my reps slower than normal. After the 5 rep I notice a weird feeling while running and had to slow down. However it eased off, I pushed on for a few more reps and also managed to run a few miles slow after. Although it didn’t feel right I got through the session.

Wednesday 10th 

I woke up and quickly realised that my leg was not right, there was no pain but just an ache and tightness. Today was a rest day from running and I was quite worried about this. I didn’t feel positive now and with the Europeans fast approaching I was already deciding whether to pull out of the race but me and my wife were using it as our holiday too.  This was my biggest fear and became real. I was no longer positive or upbeat as this time it was against me. However there is not much I can do until I test it out Thursday. But this time it is more of a weird feeling not a pain. My wife cheered me up a bit so tomorrow will be the day.

Thursday 11th

Still getting this weird feeling in my leg and my gut feeling is today is the day it goes. After stressing about it yesterday I was trying not to think about it. My wife said to me “think positive as you are always giving people inspirational quotes and now it’s time for yours. Believe in yourself, panic makes a situation worse and steals your joy and passion. You are a fighter” and also sent me a quote from Rocky.

She is right I am a fighter and the time has come for me to fight this setback and get through this. If today on my easy run the calf goes, I will be disappointed and there wont be any chance I will be fully fit for the Europeans and all the gains over the winter would be lost. However if that is the case I will get back on to cross training and get there one way or another and running. My target for this race will change and the same will go for the nationals and sometimes these things happen and its the way I am aiming to bounce back that will count. You learn from your mistakes, however we will see later what happens.

So after that positive motivation from my wife I went running in the evening. With my leg not feeling right I was slightly worried. I ran on the track at heart rate and it was a very hot day. I was planning for around 1 hour 30 but stopped after an hour as my leg wasn’t  right. Maybe a mental thing but best to be safe. I then cracked on with my swimming session.

 Friday 12th

Wasn’t feeling great today and convinced it was all a mental issue. I planned to do 400m/200m session, I was aiming for 6 reps of each. I needed to test it out, I went out slower then normal and the leg started playing up on the 4th rep so I eased off and carried on running easy for 30 minutes. It felt fine and I was convinced this is all in my mind and now I was ready to race at the Stelling Minnis 10k  Sunday to see how it reacts.

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Saturday 13th

Today was a rest day and decided not to think about it and be positive.

Sunday 14th

Kept positive and I know that this particular race was probably not the best of ideas as it is a hilly race but I needed to test my leg and fitness. I started off slower and eased into it. I had no problems throughout the race which is a huge positive. I came 6th in 38:20 I was hoping to go a bit quicker but I know the course was slow. I was happy as so many Harriers did well and I helped pick up the team prize.

Wednesday 17th

Today my legs felt fresh and I was very much looking forward to my first Aquathlon race for a while and seeing whether my fitness levels were ready for the Europeans next week.

I got to the race not feeling up for it as it was awful weather conditions with it pouring down, making it quite muddy and a water logged track. With it raining it didn’t bother me too much as I was going to get wet anyway!

So the Ocean Tri Aquathlon started and it was a course I know very well. I started the swim part and started off fast, however I did struggle a bit in the swim as this was my first time in the open water this year and also using my wet-suit. I came in to transition in 6th place with a swim time of 11:55 minutes. Not my best time but due to the conditions I was happy with how it went.

I started the run and didn’t push too hard due to my injury problems. I stuck to two 6 minute miles and the last past a few seconds faster as the gravel on the track was so wet I was sliding everywhere. However during the final mile of the race I felt my calf but I thought I am not far so kept going. I was delighted to finish 3rd overall and happy with my run time. I was hoping for quicker but I didn’t want to over do it. Straight after the race when I stopped I could feel my calf, it was not right so I proceeded to a mile cool down and my calf started hurting when jogging round. I tried not to think about it but by the time I got home I was struggling walking without a limp.

 The following day my leg wasn’t great again so quite concerned and trying to keep positive. I am seeing the physio tonight and will go from there.

Friday 19th

So the physio has told me to take two days rest and see how it goes on a gentle run Sunday and go from there as we don’t have a lot of time to work on it.So I am keeping positive and determined to get to the start line race fit. This is my final blog as I am keeping positive and I hope this helps you when you are dealing with an injury. I have learnt a lot and although my running improvement and gains over the winter have been lost I still have high fitness levels. Its ok to take a rest and sometimes it’s the way it goes and you have to change your goals and targets. My target now is to get through the race and just enjoy the experience, I know before my target was to push for a podium place but with my difficult age group this year I will try and target a top 10 finish if I can.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clock is ticking to Bratislava

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I am now in full training mode for the European Aquathlon championships. I have been quiet over the past month in blogging but wanted to knuckle down and concentrate on training.

My major race in running this year was the Reading Half Marathon, back in March. Training has been a huge success over the winter months and I have improved hugely. For the first time I didn’t know how to pace myself as my target time was 1:23:00 but with my training I was sure I would go under the 1:20:00 mark. A week before the race I came down with a cold and was forced to rest but all the training was done.

Race day came and I was feeling good and it was a very windy day. I started off a bit slower than my previous 10 mile races and aimed to get quicker throughout the race. I felt really good after 3 miles and started to cut my time down and I was getting quicker. However on mile 8, when I got to the top of the hill, I tried to push on but for some reason my body switched off and didn’t want to move. This was an odd feeling and I started losing a lot of time and I wasn’t able to react to it. All of a sudden I knew something was wrong and I knew at this rate I would be lucky to get to the finish with a PB. The last 2 miles I was struggling which is unlike me as I get quicker towards the end of a race. I wanted to stop and walk but managed to carry on and get to the finish.

I somehow managed a PB by 20 seconds of 1:23:20, not what I wanted but had to be happy to come home with a PB. On the plus side it was nice seeing my wife get a huge PB of about 6 minutes. The following day I came down with another cold and had to rest up a few days as it was worse than the last one. It was probably still in my system during the race.

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After Reading my confidence was a bit knocked and I struggled a bit, however I decided to get over it and move on. I decided that I needed to get some race practice in for 5k’s ready for the Aquathlons. I had a few weeks of good quality training and entered The Tri Spirits Hole Park 5k trail race. Not my normal race but wanted to give it a try; plus my wife wanted to do it. The race went well and I was leading from the start and didn’t need to push as I had no one to chase down, but the course was mega hilly. I finished 1st and broke the course record by over 2 minutes. I waited for my wife to finish and she finished as the 2nd lady. I was very proud of her and we were both over the moon with the outcome.

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The following weekend it was all go for me as the Aquathlon season kicked off. It was my first race this year and since the World Championships. The race was the Basildon Aquathlon – an event that has been going for 25 years. This was a good test to see if I had improved and to get some practice. The race had quite a large field for an aquathlon and lots of upcoming young stars. It was a super hot day which made it tough as I was starting in the afternoon. The race consisted of a 400m pool swim and a 5k off road run.

I am not keen on pool swims as I don’t tumble turn as I don’t need to do them in open water races. The swimming pool was really hot and I started my 400m swim as we had to start in swim ability at 30 seconds gaps from each competitor.

I started off fast and then eased off a bit on the swim part. I didn’t go off too fast and I wish I did now as it was a short race. I got into transition and put my trainers on and off I went for the run. I had forgotten how hard multi-sports are but went for it on the run. I suddenly realised how tough the course was when I was told there were three hills and the first one was the easiest. By the time I got up the last hill my legs wanted to explode.

I overtook quite a few people as some were walking. The problem when you don’t all start a race together is that you don’t know who you are racing. I kept digging hard and ran as fast as I could downhill. I was 400m away from the finish on the running track, the flattest part of the course, when I started to push to the finish. I didn’t think I had placed as I didn’t swim to my best, however I was over the moon to find out I was 3rd overall and 2nd Senior.

 

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With a solid base of miles and swimming over the winter, I am feeling good and ready for the European Championships which is now a few weeks away.  Training the past few weeks has been a struggle where fatigue and long training session are taking it toll. However this was expected. My target for Bratislava is to try and get on the podium for my Age Group (30-34) if I can and to just enjoy and try my best.

Since writing this blog unfortunately I have received a minor set back with a calf strain. I will be writing a blog about my injury and recovery soon. I will try my best as my Age Group is very tough this year with a mixture of elites and professionals.

 

 

 

All roads lead to Penticton 2017

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So 2017 arrived and I am now in full training mode for the European Aquathlon Championships in Bratislava and the long road towards the Penticton World Championships in August.  It is a long way away but both will come around fast and before you know, it will be the end of the season.

So I have worked out my plan leading up to the European Championships and the National Championships and decided to put some New Year goals and targets into place. Below are my targets and goals for this season/year.

  • Improve my swimming technique and get faster
  • Improve my strength 
  • Improve my running as a whole
  • PB in running races in 5K, 10K, 5 miler, 10 miler and Half Marathon
  • Improve aquathlon race times
  • Target podiums or near at the Nationals and Europeans
  • Top 20 World Aqauthlon finish

 

Improve my swimming technique and to get faster

My first goal is to get my swimming stronger and have recently started getting coached again by Matt Tithecott for this. We have already notice technique flaws and are looking to correct this. I need to get faster and stronger with a better technique so I have started working early with him this year to correct this has it will take a while.

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Improving my strength 

This is a must for me, by improving my strength I will be stronger in races and therefore will be able to push more. I started working with my Strength and Conditioning coach Craig in October and we have been working on my core and power ready for this season. I have already seen some progress and I am looking to further progress. I will write a blog about this soon.

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Improve my running as a whole

In the off season and winter months one of my goals is to make my body more efficient and stronger in order to improve my running. As a running coach I have been able to work on my technique and looking at my arm drive and my stride length. I concentrate on these areas while on my easy long runs which at the moment are a must for me to improve my running economy by long easy HR runs. Please read my previous blog about HR running HERE. Training has changed and I will continue to change it in order to keep improving and getting better such as longer reps in the winter months and shorter reps in the summer.

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To PB in running races in 5K, 10K, 5 miler, 10 miler and Half Marathon

Over the winter season and towards my major races I have some races that I want to improve my times in all race disciplines (5k, 10k, 5miles, 10miles and Half marathon). I didn’t get many PB’s last year so I want to correct this. First of all is to record a 5k time of less than 18 minutes officially, as I have managed this in some Aquathlons and longer races last year. My race plan has changed and finding the right pace is hard at the moment and I am working on it. This is why recently at Parkrun I went and had a test run but struggled to get the pace right. This resulted in me going to slow the first mile and struggling to make up the time in the other miles. A big lesson learnt.

I raced in the Parker Tools Canterbury 10 miler recently and that was a target race for a PB. I hoped to go better then the Thanet 10 mile race in December and work towards a sub 1 hour 10 miler this year.  Next target race for me will be the Vitality Reading half marathon in March, this is where I really want to PB and hope to go well under the 1:23 mark. These two are my next target races up until March. Once April is in full swing I have Aqauthlons and 10ks to keep me busy. I am aiming for a sub 36 minute 10k this season and also PB in my 5 miler time.

Improve Aquathlon race times

This is a huge target and goal for me, I am looking to improve my Aquathlon times as a whole. This is a must if I want to achieve my next two targets. I will be doing this by what I mentioned in the previous section and getting plenty more races in to practice.

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Target podiums or near at the Nationals and European’s

This is simple, I need to put the training and effort in to try and go better than last year. I will give it my all and try my best. I will aim for the podiums but if I don’t achieve this at least I have tried. I will be looking at improved performances for these races.

Work towards a Top 20 World Aqauthlon finish

I will target a top 20 finish and higher this year. I hope to go better as the heat won’t be an issue and have the experience behind me. With a future goal of being in the top 10.

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So what is happening at the moment? My swimming training has now begun and I am looking forward to working hard and improving this. Gym sessions are tough but they seem to be working and I find them fun and different.

 

 

Interview with Yiannis – GB Athlete featured on Marathon Marcus website

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As part of my blog I (MM) believe it’s important to learn from more experienced runners than myself to see how I can improve. I am really inspired by fellow DOMS Ease Oil Sport Ambassador Yiannis (YC) who only started running after being inspired by the London 2012 Olympics he ended up joining his local running club, the Canterbury Harriers. Fast forward several years coupled with talent and hard work, he is now an International athlete for the Great Britain Aquathlon Team where he won a Bronze on his debut in France. He competed in the World Championships in Mexico racing against the Browlee brothers. He is representing Great Britain in the 2017 European and World Aquathlon Championships.

MM: How did you get into running and why do you do continue to do it? 

YC: I only started running in 2012, I was inspired by the London 2012 Olympics to get out there, which ended up me joining my local running club, Canterbury Harriers. I didn’t train that regularly until the following year so progress wasn’t quick. I knew if I practised I could be a lot better and ended up doing just that. I knew I was never going to be the fastest in my area or club but I could get close. I continue to train as I want to improve myself and achieve great things. You would be surprised what you can achieve.

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MM: Injuries are apart of running, but not always easy to deal with, what advice would you give to runners for coping with injuries?

YC: In the first couple of years of running I was plagued with injuries and found it very hard and tough. I have learnt now what the difference between an injury and a niggle. You must listen to your body and recovery/rest is important. Taking a few weeks off here and now is important. Don’t rush back too soon and if you have an injury try swimming pool jogging.

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MM: Bar running what other training do you train to improve your running performance? 

YC: Strength training and swimming, its important to do strength training, well for me it’s a must and keeps the injuries away. Many people neglect this, swimming is good to loosen you off after a run.

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MM: My goal is to work towards a sub 3:05 marathon, with my PB 30mins of this, what advice would you give to someone like myself looking to improve their time? 

YC: Don’t do too many marathons in a year, two max if you want a PB. You must take rest and recovery after the marathons and I would do plenty of easy long runs. Why struggle getting your time down over a year when you could do it in one race? Make sure you change your training up regularly.

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YC: My favourite training session is mile reps flat out, my least favourite is Hill reps but they are beneficial.

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MM: You have a great social media presence, especially on Instagram. If you could accomplish anything via social media what would it be? 

YC: Just to inspire others and hope they can achieve their targets. If it helps one person I am happy.

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MM: For those who are unfamiliar, can you explain what an Aquathlon is? 

YC: Is a swim followed by a run, sometimes it can be a run, swim then run again. A normal distance is 1000k swim followed by a 5k run.

MM: Whilst competing what was your greatest lesson and what was your accomplishment in Aquathlons? 

YC: Swimming in a mass start, at the nationals I didn’t put my goggles on right and they got knocked off by another swimmer, luckily I grabbed them before they were lost in the water.

In regards to my accomplishment in Aquathlons this is a tough one so I cant really decide between these two. The National Championships I didn’t expect to come anywhere and to come away with a National Bronze medal made me feel so happy. The European Championships is another one but has to just get the edge, the reason is I got a Bronze Medal again. However this race is so clear for me as I left it to the last 400m to sprint to take 3rd place, this is something that still does not feel real.

MM: You’ve competed in National, European, and World Aquathlon Championships what strategies do you use to help you focus and concentrate, to excel in these competitions? 

YC: Well this year has been a huge learning curve and was the first time I competed in these events. In the Nationals it was a huge unknown well all the races were this year. In the Nationals I aimed to just go as hard as I could from the start and try my best. I didn’t expect to come 3rd after exiting the swim in the twenties (position). At the Europeans I was ill that week and I just wanted to enjoy it and not come last, I came out the water right near the back but something clicked in my head and I thought this could be my only chance, so I ran an amazing run for me and came third again. The World Championships I had a few niggles but being there was amazing. All though it didn’t go to plan my main focus was just to go round and enjoy it. Next year will be harder but I aim to improve.

MM: How do you avoid burnout whilst competing? 

YC: By having plenty of rest and recovery throughout the season and set mini goals.

MM: From your experiences running, what do you believe to be true? 

YC: Training at a slower pace does not make you slower, it can make you faster and running flat out all the time wont make you faster.

Marathon Marcus website HERE

Winter Training Update and Thanet 10 Miler

img_5911Winter is well and truly here now and makes training hard in the freezing cold, the last few weeks I have had to put a lot of layers on for the first time in a long time.

My first target 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 still suffering with this Achilles niggle I have to be careful with training so that I do not make it worse. Most of my runs are easy at the moment and therefore making me more efficient – you can read up about HR training from my last blog HERE.  No point training too hard and too much speed work when my main races don’t start until May.

I have been working with my strength and conditioning coach Craig Coggle for the past two months and he has completely changed up my training in the gym and it appears to be making me stronger but it is a tough session in the gym. I am looking forward to seeing the future results and will keep you updated.

Swimming wise I am still getting in the pool on a regular weekly basis but again I am just ticking over until next year. No speed work at present just technique work as no point pounding away yet. However I am meeting up with my swim coach in a few weeks and I am pretty sure the training will be starting soon.

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 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.

I proceeded with the plan and did not get carried away with people I normally run near being further away at this point. So I started off slower and by mile 4 and 5 because of the wind I found keeping to my current pace a struggle and was a lot slower at that point from the first 3 miles. I then turned back at the half way point and found that there was no wind and started to push and overtake people. I kept going and each mile I was getting faster; by the time I hit mile 8 I was in 4th place and catching 3rd. I kept going quicker and the last mile I went for it, I just couldn’t get close enough to 3rd place but I finished in 01:01:40 and 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. When analysing my data I realised I had been 3 minutes quicker the second part of the race and managed a 5 mile and 5k PB.  I also looked at my Heart Rate max and it appears I was not near the max, so sounds like I didn’t try harder enough or paced slightly wrong.

So what next? My next 10 mile race is in January the Parker Tools Canterbury 10 miler and my target is still the same to try and improve my time and work towards a sub 1 hour time. I am going to keep my training in 6 week blogs and reevaluate at a later date. January is a busy month with the Cross Country races starting up again.

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Chilham Castle Challenge 5k

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One of my first running races was 5 years ago on the 16/10/2016 at the Chilham Castle 5k, coming 3rd. However much has changed since then; I remember going into this race wearing normal trainers and sliding everywhere and was a bit down on my time. But hey this is a challenging cross country race which I have gone on to support every year and is one of my favourites.

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.

The plan was to go out and enjoy it a bit like the previous week but much faster. I decided to practice concentrating and listening to music before the race. This is something I am working towards with Gobinder.  I was quite relaxed and I had also decided the night before to try negative splits, this is something I have never done in the past and want to practice over the winter. Being relaxed is one of my goals through the winter as I now know this is very important in performance on the day.

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At the race there were some familiar faces doing different events from my running club and competitors I have raced against. It was also nice to see some fellow GB athletes. I guessed the night before I could break my course record because last year I got sent the wrong way by a marshal and had to turn back round. Picture of Jenny and I below, Jenny broke the course record in her Duathlon.

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So 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. It’s not my quickest time because of how hard the course is but gives me a base to work on from here. My target race is the Brighton 10k which will be a test of my current fitness levels. Of course I would love a PB but will have to see because I don’t think I am near that yet.

It was again a great event by Liz and her team and I made the local paper too.

 

 

Givaudan Ashford 10k running with a different experience

img_5255As some of you may be aware I am currently nursing an Achilles injury.  I had signed up a few months ago to 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 minor 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.

It was the 30 year anniversary of this race with record numbers; this is the biggest 10k in Kent and attracts around one thousand runners. I do recommend this race as it is all on closed roads and you get a nice finish inside the Julia Rose Stadium.

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 decided to wear my GB tracksuit to the race and make use of it. I did feel a little uncomfortable when I first got there as quite a few people were staring and pointing at me. I also found it weird turning up to a race at the Julia Rose Stadium because that is where I train on a weekly basis after work.

So I warmed up on with a couple of Harriers and I knew that it would be a different experience running a race at a much slower pace. It was chucking it down, so I stood at the start line with my wife and when it was time to start I let my wife go in front and I tucked in just behind her as I didn’t want to put her off.  Due to where I was running I heard lots of people talking to themselves. For example one lady stressed she had gone out too fast to herself. I suddenly found myself in the way of other runners so I moved to the right to allow people to pass me. I let my wife run the first mile without any advice and after one mile I started to tell her what to do and what pace to stick to.  It was nice to see lots of runners I knew and this time I was able to cheer them on.

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The rain kept coming down and I was freezing; I thanked some of the marshals on the route. I was still tempted to run fast and it was just a weird feeling to be where I was but it was also fun. At certain parts of the course I was helping my wife by encouraging and telling her what to do; when we came up to inclines I would say to her attack the hill you can recover in the down hill section. When we came down to the last 400m I said to her its up to you what you want to do and she sprinted for 200m then eased off then sprinted again the last 100m, overtaking people at the end. I know she likes a sprint!  Well she left me behind in the sprint and she finished in 47:22, taking a huge chunk off her last PB in May 2016. I was very proud and happy for her, I really enjoyed running a race with a different point of view.

As featured on Triradar.com Yiannis Christodoulou Represents Team GB After Olympic Inspiration

Yiannis Christodoulou Represents Team GB After Olympic Inspiration

This year has been an amazing journey; my first year competing at a national and international level in Aquathlons. It all started back in June at the National Aquathlon Championships where I took home a bronze medal and two weeks later at the European Aquathlon Championships I came home with another bronze medal, this time during my debut competing for Great Britain. This led me to compete in the ITU World Aquathlon Championship in Mexico.

What inspired me to do this? Well it started four years ago, just after the 2012 London Olympic Games. I started swimming to keep fit and was a very slow swimmer with poor technique; I hadn’t run since my school days and just wanted to keep fit. Inspired by the Olympic Games, I joined my local running club, the Canterbury Harriers.

y3I slowly improved but started to get a lot of injuries.  The following summer, inspired by the Brownlee brothers, I entered a local Triathlon. Unfortunately this didn’t end well as I sustained a bad calf strain and had to jog back to the finish. I was out of action for 7 months on and off and nearly gave up running. By the time the following summer however, I had regained fitness and competed my 2nd triathlon. Sadly a few weeks later I had an Achilles injury and was out for another 3 months.

I remained positive and watched a lot of triathlon on the TV. Feeling inspired by this, I decided I wouldn’t quit and I kept trying to be the best I could be. The following year I decided to try Aquathlons and I finished 5th in my first race with 3 GB athletes in the top 5. That spurred me on and three months later I had taken minutes off my time which meant I had qualified to represent Great Britain. My greatest memory is the sprint home, 800m from the finish to pass two athletes and take home the bronze medal from the European race.

y2This spurred me on this season and I have achieved success I didn’t think was possible as I approach my mid-thirties. Looking back over the last four years, I am proud of what I have achieved with hard work and dedication. Of course, I wish I had taken up swimming and running much earlier, but it is never too late!

To read the article click here

V02 Testing – Is it worth it and can you benefit from it?

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In March 2015 I was approached by Phil Anthony from Christ Church University sports lab to be part of his research and test subject.  I jumped at the chance as Phil is an amazing runner and ran London in 02:16 a few years ago and was a national Ultra champion. I wasn’t sure if it would work and benefit me so I decided to try.

What is V02? Research shows that successful performance in endurance running is closely related to the level of aerobic metabolism that a runner is able to sustain throughout a race. This directly impacts on the runner’s ability to maintain their speed throughout the duration of a race. Aerobic metabolism refers to the body’s ability to convert oxygen, delivered to the working muscles, to usable energy. The maximal point at which each athlete is able to achieve this is referred to as their maximal oxygen uptake or their O2max.

The test consisted of a ramp test where you run on a treadmill in stages of four minutes with each stage going up a level in speed until you need to stop. The second test was a 5k time trial on the treadmill after running at 16kmph for 10 minutes.  The third test was that I had to run my long run on another day which was 1 hour and 30 minutes at 70% heart rate.

After this I was sent away for 6 weeks where I had to increase one long run by 6 minutes for 3 weeks and the other long run by 9 minutes for 3 weeks and then maintain it for a further 6 weeks.  I then went back into the lab and preformed the 3 tests like before. I was given my results and this showed my V02 max had gone down so could struggle a bit in my runs but my running economy had improved hugely and something I needed to work on more. So what is Running Economy?

A common method for assessing an athlete’s running economy is to look at the volume of oxygen ( O2) they are able to consume at a speed of 16km h-1. The average O2 in well trained runners at this speed is~52ml•kg-1•min-1. However, as an individual athlete’s running economy can differ according to their speed, and 16km•h-1 can be too fast for many athletes, it can be better to assess RE in terms of distance covered ml•kg-1•km-1. The average RE for well-trained runners, when expressed in this form, would be ~200ml•kg-1•km-1.

So mine had improved but was still poor so I was told to work on easy long runs at 70% heart rate through the winter. This was to purely make me more efficient and burn fat instead of carbs. I found I enjoyed the winter months as the training was easy and in a space of a year I had managed 15 PB in all different types of disciplines.

So I was asked to go back in August this year for another test but this time a test for the difference between running indoors and outdoors. This test consisted of a Ramp test on the treadmill, 5K time trial after running 15kmph for 10 minutes on treadmill then I had to do this on the track.

So what did I learn this time? That running on a treadmill is quicker as I was 20 seconds quicker on the treadmill. Does that help me? Probably not but the data I got from it does. I was told my V02 max was a lot higher than last year because I was purely training for 5k’s, however my running economy was still poor but much better than last year. So looking at the data the short running reps help for 5k’s but the longer distances help for the longer races. As I have decided not to do a marathon next year I will be focusing on speed in the winter but also targeting my running economy.

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Did I find the data useful and did I improve? Well I did, at first I didn’t think this would work but now I have the science behind me I can move my training forward. The first test last year did work hugely and now it’s time to put the August test in practice.