Asics Frontrunner launch weekend

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I started writing blogs a few years back to inspire and help others from my journey. I thought telling the story of someone who was lazy and never did running and swimming to winning medals would interest people. The fact is people inspire me, no matter their ability and everyone has a story. I am not professional, I am a normal guy who has a full time job and has a hobby where I have to train hard around work to better myself.

As many of you already know I was selected as an Asics Frontrunner last year. Due to races clashes, I was unable to make the launch last year but this year I was and I was so excited to meet up with my current team members and the new team members. The Frontrunner program only had 25 spaces with over 5,000 applicants applying from the UK. We are a community of athletes and runners from all sorts of backgrounds and disciplines, we do not get sponsored or paid by Asics.

Despite the bad cold weather in the UK, I travelled early hours Saturday morning to Birmingham in the first week of March, which was around 3:30 hours. I was excited. When I arrived the group had already gone on a run so a few of us waited for them to get back. We then had a Q&A session with Jodie Stimpson. I was very excited to meet her and her advice was great and so inspiring. We then had the new members introduce themselves and at this point to hear everyone’s stories and backgrounds,; which were so inspiring. When I hear what others have done and how they have done it, it always makes me feel inspired and wants me to better myself.

We then got to go and watch the IAAF indoor athletics championships.  I have got to admit I didn’t have a clue on some events but loved it. The weekend was very enjoyable as I got to chat with lots of team members and exchange advice and stories, my team mates are inspiring and kind people that encourage other runners. This is the message the Asics Frontrunner team is trying to get across.

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Overview and let’s get the new year started in a positive way

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This year has been a great year and it will be hard to improve and beat it. However I am determined to go better than this year.  Thank you for following my journey this year and I hope I continue to inspire you to achieve your goals. I always believe that if you train hard and smart, hard work will always pay off and you will be rewarded. So this is something I will take into the New Year to build on for next season. Winter is well and truly here and motivation is tough and to get out and do runs when it’s freezing, but it is days like this that count.

This year I have run just over 1,500 miles, and swam over 500 miles. I have competed in 10 Aquathlons where I got to the podium 8 out of 10 times; one was a race win and one was a National Silver Medal, four second places, three third places, and a sixth place at the world championships.

I competed in my first sea swim race which I won; something I was surprised about. I competed in 15 running races in a range of disciplines from Cross Country to Half Marathons. Some of my running races included Two 5k wins and breaking course records for those races. I also ventured off to a middle distance Aquathlon this year and came 2nd.

However my highlight of my year was being selected as the GB Team Captain for the World Aquathlon age group team. I am very proud of this and I enjoyed it. I like to help others and give something back to the community. So this year has been a great one in terms of sporting achievements and I am now starting to build my training for next season.

So this year is about to end and the most important skill I am taking in to next year is my experience. This is a valuable skill and of course it takes time. Every race, every training session is different. This year I learnt how to change my training when things are not working. It’s fine to change and it’s better to do this in order to progress.  I had some great training sessions last year which is not factored into my training but I also had some bad ones and these are the ones you really learn how to improve. I learnt if I had a bad session, don’t dwell on it but take the positives out of it. If I had a bad race, again I took the positives and moved on. It’s not about hard how you get hit, it’s about how hard you get hit and keep moving forward. I know I have taken that from the Rocky film, but it’s a great quote.

I learnt that my experience in races is so important; I could hardly walk a few days before national championships but after seeing the physio I was told not to panic and get to the start line. History repeats itself with me, I will get all sorts of niggles leading up to big races, even when I am not training as much and tapering. I now know if I am on the start line I am race fit. So I won’t panic in future races.

In terms of race strategies, instead of going into a race with just a plan and sticking to it, I now prepare for a few other race strategies. For example at the world championships the lake was shallow for the first 100m and I was struggling to swim. I didn’t know how to dolphin start which cost me a lot of time. However I didn’t panic and started off slow and then started to push as soon as it was deep enough to swim harder.

The harder I train I know injuries can arise, however it’s the way you bounce back from the injuries and deal with them that make you stronger. I am no longer scared of injuries; if I train smart I can try and keep them to a minimal. If I get injured I can train other ways that don’t lose the fitness that quickly.  I turned up to the European Championships with limited running training due to a calf injury but I still managed the 3rd quickest run time in my age group. So don’t beat yourself up about an injury; you can easily do other training. Worrying too much about an injury only makes the situation and injury worse. The mind can play lots of wonderful tricks with you.

Next season is going to be a long season as the European Aquathlon Championships is not until October. I have just got confirmation I have qualified for the European Championships which are going to be in Ibiza. I have also got confirmation about the World championships in Denmark. I always get very nervous when the email comes through, but it’s a huge honour to represent my country and I am very lucky. These races are my key races including the National Aquathlon Championships.

Thanks again for your support this year, if there is anything you would like me to blog about or post on social media to encourage others, I am open to ideas.

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6 Success Secrets

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I have written this blog to help others and share my ideas that have worked for me.

Nutrition

Nutrition is very important in your life and for your training. It is about doing the basics consistently and well. This is something that you have to get right and this aids improvements and helps with recovery. Eating healthy is the key and trying to stay off processed foods. I eat a lot of fresh vegetables and fruit on a daily basis. I eat much more than the recommended 5 a day from the government. In fact in the 1940s we were recommended to eat 10 a day but the government changed this because nowadays, the public won’t do this. So I eat lots of fresh food and cooked meals such as chicken, steaks, salads, rice etc.

There are three key elements in nutrition when you are training: fat loss, performance and muscle gain which you need to replace with the right protein, vegetables, carbs, fruits and fat. A lot of people go wrong the day before a race and eat as much as they can but this just bloats you for race day and you are going to struggle as your body cannot process this in time. Instead try increasing your intake by a little, 3-4 days before the race. Nutrition with play key parts in your sleep, energy levels, immune function and digestion.

However the most important is when you take it. I spread my food intake throughout the day, with Weetabix in the morning, some fruit and protein snacks a few hours later, a large lunch, late afternoon snack and finally dinner in the evening. My dinner or food intake will be within one to two hours max after my sessions. However food isn’t just important, fluid is for me; I just drink water and drink lots of it, well litres. I make sure I am always hydrated as your muscles need the water.  On a race day I never change anything up and still have my normal Weetabix with plenty of water before the race.

Training Plan

Having a training plan is a must and having a structure to it. Being able to change it up regularly, train and do this consistently.

I train in six week blocks, where I increase my training each week and the intensity with the 6th week being harder than the first week. I then have an easy week with light training and two full compete rest days.

Rest days are important in your training; don’t think of them as a rest day but an improvement day. This is where you make the gains.  I have a complete rest day every week and two rest days on a key race week. If I have a key race such as the world championships, I start bringing the training back down slightly a few weeks prior in volume and intensity terms.

Don’t do the same training week in week out; simply change it around on a regular basis. So for example one week do 1k reps and another week 400m reps. You should also take a week off now and again throughout the year. Lots of people train all year round and get injured; having a week off after a big race such as a marathon would do you a world of good. You don’t lose much fitness having a week off. I have two weeks off at the end of the season, so I would advise having a break. Athletes like Gwen Jorgensen take a whole month off after the season.

Listening to your body

If your ill or feeling very tired don’t train, do cross training or take it very easy. Don’t push yourself too hard. Rest up and do not over train – this is very important, as mentioned before I have lots of rest days. The other week I raced while feeling ill and I shouldn’t have and ended up prolonging the virus.

Mental Strength

This is such a hard one and it is important you have mental strength. If you believe or think you can do something you will get there. I have had many sleepless nights before a race and turn up feeling nervous and worried about races. However my key is controlling the controllable and planning what I want to achieve from my training and race. For example I train at negative splits which is very hard but I make it happen and do it. The same is at races my last mile is the fastest and I make that happen. Thinking positive and looking to push yourself to get out of your comfort zone is vital. In a race you need to have this strength as your mind plays lots of tricks. Stay focus and control what you can.

On Racing

Racing can be scary for anyone, I don’t get very nervous at the big races but it is the local ones that I feel nervous about. I normally listen to music before I warm up and take my self away from people to relax and that really does help.

I really enjoy racing and I love meeting other athletes, I find when you are at a race you can push yourself which is also good training. I like racing in Aquathlon’s as there is three key parts, the swim, transition and run.

Don’t change up anything on the day as you will come unstuck and stick to your plan. I do quite a lot of races throughout the year and each has its own targets.

Enjoying the journey / Process

Everyone has a journey no matter what their targets are and enjoy it as you never know what it could lead you to.

I only started running 5 years ago after the 2012 Olympics and I do believe hard work will always pay off. Don’t wait for it to happen, make it happen. If you are after a PB then train for it and work hard for it. It is so rewarding when that happens.

My journey is a journey I never expected, where I was sitting at my parents’ house watching the 2012 Olympics. I remember thinking how hard the triathlon looked and enjoyed watching it. I was inspired, which got me into running, at that time I was swimming but not a good swimmer. I look back now at how far I have come and it inspires me to carry on and I like to inspire others. It is never too late, no matter what age you are and the more training and races you do the more experience you get. I am learning all the time and the journey has been great with ups and downs but it is how you bounce back to keep moving forward in your journey which is the key to your success. If you have a bad day in training/races do not dwell on it and just take the positives and what you can learn from it. I always take positives out on every session and race as I am still learning all the time. The experience will come in time and you will become wiser in your training.

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Motivation Struggles

Lots of people have asked me to write about motivation and how to keep motivated. Motivation is the key to achieving your goals, to keep improving and most importantly not quitting and enjoying the whole process.

Recently I posted this quote on my social accounts as I find it key in helping others. “You need to ignore what everyone else is doing and achieving. Your life is about breaking your own limits and outgrowing yourself to live your best life”.

So why do people lose their motivation and even give up? Well as a running coach I see this happen a lot and there are many factors that contribute to this. One big factor is people train all year round with no complete rest and when you’re injured that is not complete rest – that is recovering. I am talking about being injury free and resting. All the top pros take weeks and even a whole month after their season. Club runners just train all year round with no rest and this leads to problems, as they get injured, train the same way, no goals, no improvements and therefore lose motivation and even stop doing the sport they love.

This year for the first time since I took up running and swimming I have found it hard to get going again after my two week break after the World Championships and with all my key races not until the summer, keeping motivated is going to be hard as I don’t really need to train much, so here are my key tips. With the winter coming and the dark cold months it will be hard to get motivated but you have to get out there and train, even if you do not feel like it as those days of training are the ones that really count.

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Have a break

Firstly have a break and don’t train all year round, people worry about their fitness and are a bit obsessed about this, but what’s the point of overtraining if it won’t benefit you and you will end up injured. I have taken two weeks complete full rest since the World Championships, where this allows my muscles to get stronger and body recover from the hard training for the past year. Have a break,  and ease back into training slowly. I am having 3 weeks of easy training and then building my running up slowly after this. I am going to have regular weeks off next year as I found I can train better.

Reflect on what you have achieved

When you’re struggling and times are bad in your training, take time to reflect and look at what you have achieved in your training and races. This will help you stay motivated; think of a time you have had a great training run or a PB. I struggled a lot in the swimming pool this year, with endless long sessions and it is boring in the pool. I would think about how I could hardly swim 6 years ago and look at what I have achieved. My motivation was to keep at it and not give up. Reflecting on your season and what you can do to improve on will spur you on.

Change your training

Don’t do the same training every week, change things up. My training never has a same week in it. People like to do the same training each year which works but then they don’t improve and wonder why this doesn’t motivate them. I have an easy week every 7 weeks, this allows my body to recover; I am still training but not as hard, I tend to have a great race after the back of this.

After each cycle I reassess my training and look to see improvement, if not I will change the training up. Each cycle has tests in it to see improvement or what areas I need to improve in. So for example I may do a long run on a track to measure my improvement.

Select races and plan ahead

Select key races throughout the year to work towards. This will help you gain motivation and it is important to stay focused and not get carried away. I have key races across the year which I target for different reasons. This can be for a PB, podiums, fitness test etc. I would say do not get carried away with too many races as when you start to get the times you do not want you will lose motivation. My advice would be plan ahead and make a plan so you know what you are doing training wise each week. I tend to write myself a 10 week program. If I need to change anything up I do.

Set goals

Regularly set different realistic goals and aim to meet them. Setting goals throughout the year is important and it keeps you motivated as you can see the improvement in you training and races. There is no easy way; if you train hard you will be rewarded. If you don’t meet the goals have a look and at what went wrong in your training and work on that area.

In the winter months when I have no more aquathlon races I set goals for running and swimming. So some of my goals are to work towards another successful cross country season, trying to finish higher than 7th in the league. This allows me to work towards improving my running over the winter months. Another one of my goals is to change my swimming technique and revaluate in January. So goals like this can be great to help with motivation. Another area is to work on my strength so Craig Coggle my strength coach will reassess my programs and how I am performing in order to make me stronger and faster.

Train with others

I found this year after the world championships, I had no motivation to get back to training after my two weeks of complete rest. My mind is thinking why train now as my events are not until next year. I found it hard going back to training, but I decided to build it back up slowly and for my speed reps get my training partner Steve to pace me round the reps. This gives you a boost in motivation, as you can push each other round and have a nice chat as well. Training with a group is important as you can share stories and even do a long run where you can have a cake stop during or after the run together.

Try different sports

Trying different sports throughout the year is a good idea, such as doing a bit of cycling. I am going to cycle a bit over the winter and see what road that may or may not lead too.

So guys I hope this blog helps you, the winter is closing in now and motivation will be tough in those cold dark months of the year. However if you plan and set goals and purely just get out there on the days you do not feel up to it, it is days like that which will count.

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World Championships 2017

 

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I headed off to the World Championships in Penticton (Canada) on the 22nd of August. This would be my 2nd World Championships and I was very excited, I was in great form as the previous weekend I won the London Aquathlon whilst taking it easy. A race that I always wanted to do because it was in the 2012 Olympic Pool. I started the race as well as racing in the race. This season has had its up and downs, but has been a great one.

 

So I got to Vancouver on the 22nd and the following morning I headed off to Penticton which is a four hour drive with my wife and two friends. When I arrived there I only had time to check in the hotel and head off to the registration tent, where I was meeting some more GB athletes for a run and swim reccie. This is something I set up for the team as I was selected as the Aquathlon Team Captain for GB for the World Championships. This is a huge honour and I was very privileged. This role included getting the team together for runs and swims, meeting up, meals and activities and helping with queries so that the Team Managers didn’t have much work to do as they were busy going to meetings etc. I really enjoyed it and it was fun, plus I got to meet other athletes.

When I was doing the swim reccie I soon realised that about 150 metres worth of the swim in the lake was not deep. I saw people practising Dolphin starts, so I practiced a few but I had never done them before. That night I struggled to sleep and jet lag got to me big time, I hardly slept and was so tired and felt ill. I was worried about it as the race was the next morning. I contacted Gobinder and he said control the controllable which I did and I stayed relaxed. I relaxed in the hotel until lunch time until I went and met my wife and friends before the Team Meeting.  I just watched TV and talked to some Australian and New Zealand athletes that were staying in our hotel.

 

Race day came and I was very calm, I had a target of top 15 but decided to go for top 10 as I was in great form. I had a good night sleep and felt better, although still tired I couldn’t wait to get started. Before the race I listened to music before I entered transition and put my kit down in my box. It was a wetsuit swim and was a little chilly in the morning as it was 6am and the race started at 7.20am.

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The swim started on the beach and as soon as the horn started everyone was running into the water. I tried to swim normally but because it was shallow, most athletes where doing Dolphin starts and I was getting hit everywhere. I tried to do a Dolphin start, as I couldn’t run as the water was a bit deep for that. I panicked and found myself near the back before I could start swimming properly. I was out of breath and struggling as I was not used to this. I soon got into my rhythm and started to go past athletes. I felt like I was getting quicker and stronger towards the end of the swim.

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I then got into transition and realised I was with athletes that I am normally ahead of. I started the run and went off hard but I  soon realised I was well down the pack. I had to stay focussed and I started pushing and after the first lap (2.5km) I overtook athletes and ones that I am normally in front of.

I then got a stitch which was painful and I couldn’t shift it but carried on pushing. I came across the finish line and grabbed the GB flag from my wife as I didn’t have anyone to chase or behind me and I walked across the line holding the GB flag. I finished in 36:48 and 6th in my Age Group in the world. An amazing achievement for me and beating my target. The run was slightly longer then 5k but enjoyed every second of it. I was 3rd Brit home in my Age Category. Fellow team mates Shaun Challis and Andy Cockerell were 3rd and 4th. Amazing efforts from them and the whole team, well done.

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I was over the moon and buzzing from this result and as a result I have re-qualified for the World Championships in Denmark next year. Every race is a learning curve and I have learnt a lot here. I need to improve my swim and learn Dolphin starts, which my new swimming Coaches will help me to do. I am very happy about the result because I am 6th in the World in my Age Group, hard work pays off.

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I would like to thank my amazing wife Melanie Christodoulou, who puts up with my training and supports me at every race, without her support even with hard times, injuries and setbacks it would not be possible and to all my family and friends.

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Thank you to all my sponsors, because without them it would be hard to get to races like this and my team for getting me into the best shape I can be.

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Your support this season has been great and thank you very much as I could not of done this with out you and your support. Which has included 7 podiums out of 9 races in Aquathlons. One of which was a win but I also had wins in swimming races, 5k’s and being selected by British Triathlon as the GB Age Group team captain for the world championships. I am still learning in this sport and next season will be even better. Looking forward to new challenges next season and taking up a new sport.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You never know who you are inspiring

I decided to write a blog about how I got into running, swimming and competing in Auqathlons. I am not talented; I just think hard work pays off. Some of you may know my background and some won’t know my background. This blog is to inspire others to achieve their goals and dreams.

I set up my website and social media accounts to inspire others and this is also why I have joined the Red Squirrel Blogging team. Anybody that posts stuff on social media keep going as you never know who you are inspiring.

 Photo by Jason Dodd Photography.

 

March 2010

At the age of 25 and not doing much exercise, I only played five a side football once a week with some friends and some gym sessions just doing weights. I decided to run the Sport Relief 5k at the University of Kent for charity. I hadn’t run since I was back at school when I was 15. So only trained for it a few weeks before and when I started the run I found that I would struggle and after a mile I had to walk for a bit; throughout the run I kept walking and running. I was happy to finish it but didn’t really enjoy it because of the pain and the struggle I had to go through, but hey it was for charity.

Fast forward to 2011, I realised I was very unfit and pretty much just playing football once a week. I decided to go swimming in my local pool which is a 33m pool. I only managed 6 lengths in an hour and found it tough. This was the start of something, I decided I wanted to get better and would start swimming once a week but I still struggled with the lengths.

In 2012 I was pretty much going to the gym twice a week, not that I had a clue what I was doing, football once a week and swimming once a week. I was doing more lengths at this time around 20-30 and it was still tough. Sport Relief was back because it is every two years. So I started running and training for this in January on a treadmill only about 20 minute runs twice a week. The run came and I managed to not stop and somehow managed to be the first person back. I really enjoyed myself, however running stopped after that.

I then watched the Olympics in 2012 on the television and watched the men’s Triathlon. I was wowed by the Brownlee’s and really enjoyed watching it. I texted a friend who recently ran a 10k and convinced him about joining a running club. I was inspired by the Olympics and decided to get fit. I joined my local running club Canterbury Harriers and soon got the bug of really enjoying running. I soon realised that if I trained and worked hard I could be alright at this. Unfortunately this didn’t last long as I was doing speed training and my calf went. This then set off problems and setbacks for around 7 months on and off. By this time it was spring time in 2013. I turned up to my local swimming pool that had a triathlon class on and I gave it ago. 

The first thing the instructor asked was why I was wearing goggles if I didn’t put my head in the water. I listened and learned the stroke she had told me to practice and my swimming was getting easier and better. I decided to train for a triathlon and my leg was healing. However it did not take long for it to go again and this time I had to do a triathlon. I turned up to the race with a bit of a limp and was fine on the swim and bike but a mile into the run my calf felt like someone had stabbed it with a knife, I had to carry on as I was raising money for charity and after I limped back I was unable to run for nearly two months. Unfortunately healing was a problem; I would come back to running and get stuck in a cycle that every time I ran every 6 weeks it would go again. I had to stop playing football but it still went and it was at this point that I considered to just give up running.

My friend who joined the running club with me was making huge progress and I just felt down about my body being injured all the time. I decided to see a private physio who I still see now. He filled me with huge confidence and from there-on I managed to go 6 months injury free, making progress.

The summer of 2014 saw me compete in triathlons and I was getting better however it wasn’t long until I got injured again and this time I was out for a full 3 months with an Achilles injury. I stayed positive and managed to bounce back after a long lay-off. This time I had a goal of staying injury free for longer and it worked. I ended up getting around 15 PB’s in races in 2015, which is due to the fact of keeping injury free.

After going a while injury free for a bit, I was in the process of buying a house and planning my wedding with my future wife. I didn’t have the time to go out and train for all disciplines so therefore didn’t have time to train on the bike. Two days after we were back from our honeymoon, I entered a local Aquathlon. I was very jet lagged and was advised by a friend who is a sports scientist not to do it but I still did. I ended up coming back in 5th place and was happy with that. I took many positives out of it and then decided to set my sites on qualifying for the Great Britain Aquathlon squad.

By the time September came I had already taken well over 2 minutes off my Aquathlon race time and it was time to submit my time for the GB aquathlon team. After being accepted in the GB team I was very nervous and excited at the same time. I thought I best get some swimming training to improve my swim, although my swimming wasn’t bad I still needed to improve it. During the winter months of 2016 I was training for Manchester Marathon and my target was to go for the elite marathon time or the sub 3:05 GFA time for London. I didn’t really want to do it, I just wanted to try and get into London as it’s an amazing experience. I hated the training and didn’t really enjoy it, I struggled with stomach bugs and this hampered my training so I decided to try and just get around the 02:50ish time. Cut a long story short on the day so many things went wrong such as not drinking enough water and just getting to the start line as it started. Up until mile 21 I was on for my target time but I started to get really tight calves so I saw others stretching and I thought this would be good and then my hamstring cramped up and I was limping back. I learnt a lot in that race and if I ever do a marathon again I have the experience. I finished in 3:14:44; I know it wasn’t the time I aimed for but I did it.

After the marathon I kept training and working hard just not to be last in the Nationals and Europeans. I turned up to the National Aquathlon Championships in Leeds and didn’t really have any goals but to just enjoy it. I came out the water in 45th place and as soon as I came out, I started pushing the run as it’s my strong point. The course was very hilly but I kept targeting people 1 by 1. So when I crossed the line, I had no idea I was in 3rd place. When I found out I was third I was very proud and shocked.

 

The European came round quickly and I knew I was in a lot better shape because training had gone well. Although I had a nasty cold a few days before the Europeans I was relaxed and just didn’t want to come last. The time came to start the race and we were told prior no wetsuits allowed as the lake was 26 degrees. The swim was 1000 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. Words can’t describe how happy I was and it was an amazing day for me.

 

Finally, last year was a great year for me and because of my National championships success I was able to compete at the World Aquathlon Championships in Mexico, where I came 28th in my age group. I do believe no matter your ability or setbacks, if you train smart and train to the best you can be, your goals will be achieved and exceeded. It was never a goal for me to compete at this level, I didn’t even think I would ever be in this position. I Hope this inspires others and please continue to read my blogs. 

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

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.

Heart Rate running – is it worth it?

I have decided to write a Blog on Heart Rate running and my take on it.

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For most runners they are under the impression that they should run full speed at all times because that will make them go faster and running at a slower pace will slow you down. Well this is not the case, why not try heart rate running. It is very simple and all you need is a running watch and a heart rate monitor.

So what is Heart Rate running? Well the key is to find out your maximum heart rate while running. This can be done by a VO2 test in a lab or by running for ten minutes as fast as you can with a heart rate monitor and then take the max from there.

So what’s next once you have your heart rate max?  Heart rate running is very good and if you find your 60% to 70% of your heart rate max you can be improving at a faster rate then just speed training alone. Long runs at 60% to 70% can make a huge benefit by teaching your body to not burn carbs and burn fat to make you more efficient. This therefore can make you quicker. Last year I spent most of my training doing these long runs that proved to work. At the same time by making you more efficient it will improve your running economy.

What is running economy? Running economy (RE) is typically defined as the energy demand for a given velocity of submaximal running, and is determined by measuring the steady-state consumption of oxygen (VO2) and the respiratory exchange ratio. If you don’t know what VO2 is please read my old blog about VO2 (Here)

A lot of marathon runners use this because instead of pounding away for 13 miles on a long run for example they can go longer at an easy pace and wont feel tired the following day. The key is to train at less intensity on a long run which will teach you to burn fat but also make you recover quicker. Many people struggle with the pace because it is a lot slower than they normally run and if you run up hill you need to run slower in order to keep the heart rate down. Of course it is a must to keep the speed sessions up but by just slowing your speed down a little on a long run it can be a huge benefit.  I used to do a 13 mile run every Saturday at race pace which of course felt good but took me a few days to recover and my Half Marathon time wasn’t any better. Once I had changed my training and ran at 60% I found that if I wanted to do another long run the next day I could because the body felt fine and improved.

So my advice would be to try it for 6 weeks and see how it goes, if you don’t react to the training then at least you tried something new. But how should you train for HR? Well a simply guide can be by the distance or time in your run to be increased slightly for a three week period, with each week increasing. Then maintain the third week distance/time for a further 3 weeks and see if you have improved in a race. Let me know your thoughts and progress.

My conclusion is that it worked for me and still works, I am able o run longer and further and I do not feel as tired the next day. It has also helped me keep injuries away and I am still improving from this. I definitely recommend giving it a try.