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.

Off Season Recovery

 

Recovery is something that is very important for anybody that does sport, whether you are a professional or not.  This is something that gets neglected and from my experience runners tend to be the worse. I see many runners pound their bodies week in week out all year without any rest; some run marathon after marathons, some run a very fast marathon and then a few days later they are running hard again. Well all these people in my experience and my coaching experience struggle with injuries, going backwards with form, slowing down etc. In an ideal world running all the time sounds perfect but if you are being realistic there is no way you can maintain form all year round, your body will breakdown. If you look at top athletes and one particular Olympic Gold medallist Gwen Jorgensen, she takes a month off in the off season; most people won’t even take a day off.

For me rest and recovery is important and I have managed to keep my body in good shape and injuries to a minimal the past few years. Rest is rest and means not doing other activities in place. Many people have an injury and decide to cross train when they have been told to rest and in fact they make their injury worse. I know some injuries you can cross train and help maintain fitness however expert advice is needed for this.

After a hectic summer season and probably too many races I thought it was best to rest up after the World Championships. Unfortunately I picked up an Achilles injury which in the past I would of panicked.  However my mind set has changed and at least I can still run.

In previous years I would train all year round because being from a running background, there are many running races all through the year and I wanted to PB every race I done. I now know with my experience that it is not the best idea and I shouldn’t go pounding away every single week; recovery and rest are important. So I had two weeks off after the race; I then done easy training for about 3 weeks after, keeping my runs to a max of an hour and cutting down on the runs for two weeks and three easy swims a week. This was also to factor in Achilles problem as well.

So for the first time in four years my target and important races are now in the summer so I have to keep my self-ticking over. I have set my targets as you may have read in my previous blog, to keep my fitness up. I am slowly increasing the miles now and really working on my running economy and endurance. I have the Cross Country season now to keep me busy and hopefully improve on my placing from last year. My big race is Brighton 10k which I will try to get close to my PB but may not be possible at the moment; I am in no rush to get fully fit yet.

With recovery being important at the moment I think it’s important to get a massage to help my injury recover. Dealing with an Achilles injury can be a nightmare and even stop you doing your hobby forever.  I had an Achilles injury a few years back and rested for 3 months before I could run again, this time it was very painful but did not hurt much while running so very different. My advice for anyone who has an Achilles injury is to be patient and don’t rush back because it’s a slow healer and could cause further problems. Perhaps next year I will take a whole month off.

 

 

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.

The next journey begins now. Goals for the cold winter months!

After a very successful Aquathlon year and being able to represent GB twice which was a huge honour, I have not been able to PB much in running and improve my running since the winter months. Therefore while the Aquathlon season is over until next spring, I will be focusing on improving my running on a whole ready for next season; of course I will still be swimming and improving so I have included all my targets from now to start building for another successful year.

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Please keep an eye out on my website for my current race schedule as it will be updated regularly and my Twitter account for my results.  My goals are:

  • One area is my 5k time, to officially record a sub 18 minute 5k; I have run aquathlons quicker than my official 5k PB, so I want this to now show in PB times.
  • To improve on my 10k time of 36:50 set in May 2016. I hope to do this by the end of next year. Ideally I would like a sub 36 minute 10k.
  • To improve my 10 mile race time of 1:02:46. I would like to take off a big chunk. I aim to do this in either a race in December 2016 (Alan Green 10 mile race) or January 2017 (Parkers Steel Canterbury 10 miler). With the main aim of running a 10 miler under an hour in the future.
  • For a half marathon, I aim to PB this year to beat my time of 1:23:32 set nearly two years ago. I don’t do many half marathons so next year is a focus to do a couple and improve on my time. With the main goal of dipping under 1:20.
  • Build on my swimming and to improve my swimming times over the winter.
  • To have a successful cross country season with Canterbury Harriers.
  • Work and prepare with Gobinder (My confidence coach) ready for next season.
  • Strength training through the winter.

These are my goals for the quiet winter season which will keep me ticking over until spring. I have in mind my goals for next year in Aquathlons but will set these out in the New Year.

So I have treated myself to a new pair of Adidas cross country spikes and a pair of Adidas Ultra Boost. So what’s next for me? Why have I chosen these targets?

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Well because of all the aquathlons this season I was unable to record PB’s in my road running races, so this is the target for the winter months. The good thing about the winter is that there is not many road running races so I can focus on a good winter of training ready for the spring. Being a running coach I have sorted my plan out for the next 6 weeks, so I will be doing 6 week loading plans with the 7th week easy running and then start again. I will revaluated myself every 6 weeks and target what area is needed in my running from this. I am looking at targeting quicker times in half marathons so will be doing a few of them and building up the endurance for this. I will also be competing in some of the Kent Fitness League cross country races because this is important to strengthen me up ready for the summer.

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I have decided that swimming is an area I need to improve on a lot for next season and I will be working with Matt my swimming coach in December. This is much earlier than the previous season as I only started working with him in April and only had a few months to get stronger and faster.

I am a regular gym user and like to do weights in the gym twice a week depending on training. I figured that I needed help in this area so shortly I will be working with a strength and endurance coach. This is going to be very important to build strength up to make me stronger and faster and keep those injuries at bay. I am looking forward to this and it is going to be a new experience for me. I will keep you posted about this in the future.

Another aspect to improve is my confidence; I have just recently worked with Gobinder who has already helped a lot and we have implemented aspects ready for next season. I look forward to this journey as we have just started and look forward to the end outcome.

So what’s next?  Well keep looking at my current schedule as I will update it regularly. I have had two weeks off from training since the World Championships and to allow my body to fully recover. Unfortunately after the race I picked up an Achilles injury which I am trying to manage. I have slowly got back into running and swimming but only easy sessions and I enjoy the free time I have now.  I have entered the Givaudan Ashford 10k on the 9th of October as I organise the Canterbury Harriers Club Championships there, so wanted to run it. I am not fit for the race due to having a rest and I am yet to decide whether to run with my wife or to just race it and see where my current fitness levels are at the moment. I have also entered the Trispirit Events Chilham Castle 5k the following week which will be the first week of proper training. I have entered this because I won it last year and hold the current course record and it’s only a few minutes away from where I live so I wanted to do it. Ater this the hard training really begins with a target race being the Brooks Brighton 10k on the 20th of November. This is the race I hope to be fully fit for and hopefully knock on the door of a PB.