National Aquathlon Championships

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

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

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

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

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

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

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TRIATHLON ENGLAND NATIONAL SPRINT CHAMPIONSHIPS EXPERIENCE

This season has gone so well but where has all the time gone? It seems to have flown by. It’s been a great season for me no matter what happens in the remaining races I have left I have had a great one.

I did the National Sprint Triathlon Championships at Bedford back in August which was also the 2020 ETU Qualifier for the GB Triathlon team in Malmo. This was always the most important race of the year for me and to see how well I would do with experienced and strong athletes. I started training for this back in November when Mark Shepard started putting me through my paces on the bike. I haven’t been cycling long so I knew if I worked hard at it I could make big gains. With a season purely focused on triathlons, I knew it was going to be tough but I like a challenge and therefore focused a lot on this area. I always planned to do this race last year and kept it quiet from social media as I didn’t want any pressure and to keep low key. I only told my coaches, family and close friends.

So I wanted to keep a low key, I turned up to this race knowing I would be strong on the swim and run and hopefully the bike training would pay off, I have seen lots of gains on the bike. I didn’t really know what to expect, I have done big events before but I was entering a race which was the unknown for me.

I did my normal warm up and it was nice and sunny so was looking forward to it. I got ready for the swim and the start went off and I swam hard, I enjoyed the swim and came out with the front pack. I came into transition in 5th place and I then got on to the bike. The bike was going well and managing to keep a good pace. I had a few packs go past me which is annoying as they were drafting in a non-drafting race. It then started raining on the bike leg around 7-8 miles in for me and I suddenly nearly lost control at one of the roundabouts due to the rain and my lack of confidence on the bike. I then came onto a main road where lots of cars were going fast and so close to me. This put me off and I decided to ease off as my safety was more important than crossing the line as fast as I could. A few miles later my bike was making a racket and something sounded like it was grinding and I started to get very cold, but I made it fine to transition apart from forgetting to take my foot off one of my shoes. I got into transition and felt fresh, by this time it was pouring down.

I started the run fast and with it being wet and all on grass the conditions were tough. I had trails with me but left them in the car as the rain was not forecasted. I attacked the run going past a lot of people. I love cross country running, however with the rain coming down it was making the course tough. It was very slippery and I stacked it coming down hill as a result. Anyway I finished the run and was 11th in my Age Group. I had the 4th fastest run in my race and was not far off 5th place time wise.

So I am pleased with it as it was my first Triathlon championships and I will be back next year. This has given me a foundation and target now to work towards. Life is all about challenges and I decided at the end of last year to move into a new challenge. As a result of my placing I have a good chance of qualifying for the GB Triathlon Age Group team for a roll down place but will have to wait and see. What I do know Is that over the winter I will be working hard again on the bike and spending a bit more time on it.

European Champion!! a shock for me..

As many of you know this was my last GB race for the aquathlon team before I take some time out from this team. I competed in the 2019 Târgu Mures ETU Aquathlon European Championships on Friday 5th  of July for GB in Romania. The race consisted of a 1k swim in a lake and 5k run, with the run being four laps of 1.25km.

A few days prior to the race I developed a foot problem after one of my sessions and I was limping with pain afterwards. I was very worried about it being a big problem and that it would keep me out of the race. I tried not to think about it and rested up over the weekend prior to the race. I had a physio appointment booked in anyway the day before I went out. On the Monday I turned up to the physio expecting to be pulled out of the race, however he couldn’t find anything wrong and told me to go for my normal planned run that evening and then come back later for a scan to check no fractures to be 100% sure. So I went for a run and it was painful but didn’t get worse, I then went for a scan and it was all clear. This gave me huge confidence knowing whatever it is will not keep me out of the race. I always tend to get werid pains before big events.

Race day arrived and for some reason I was a nervous wreck before the start of the race in the morning, no idea why, maybe because of my foot pain. I got to the start line in very warm conditions and the horn went off and I started.

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I thought I struggled in the swim because the lake was warm and my arms and legs felt dead after 100 metres. I came into transition in 4th place in my age group which is very high for me and I went down the wrong row in transition and panicked as I couldn’t see my trainers, they were two rows away, I have never made this mistake before and I was thinking this was not going to be a good day but tried to keep positive. I then got on the run and ran well but was struggling towards the end, I took the lead on the 3rd lap and had the fastest run in my race and one of the fastest on the day. When the commentator announced me as the champion in my age group when I crossed the line, I was shocked and didn’t really believe it but my wife kept saying they said you won and we were so happy, I couldn’t of done it without her support over the years.

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I then had to wait pretty much the whole day until the medal ceremony which was in the evening. I lined up for the podium and when my name was called out as the Champion in my age group I was blown away but over the moon, it was a great feeling and a special moment for sure.

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A nice end for me for the team as I am moving to other challenges. When I started this journey I didn’t expect to achieve so much. I couldn’t swim in 2012 and only started running then, I hope this inspires others that if they train hard they can achieve their goals. Very shocked but over the moon about it, still can’t quite believe it. But I have to thank all my family, friends, coaches and sponsors that have supported me throughout the years as they certainly played a part in this and it was a team effort for sure.

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Thank you for all your support over the years.

Warm-ups – do you do them & why they are important

Lots of people do not do warm ups before their sessions so I wrote a short blog.

A warm up can be defined as a period or act of preparation for a performance or exercise session, involving gentle exercise or practice. This is also known as the pre-match warm up.

With anything in sport if you don’t warm up the muscles you will get injured; you need to get your body loosened up ready to go. Thousands of people every Saturday turn up to parkrun and stand there waiting for it to start and then fun hard with no warm up, this can bring on injuries. I do wonder how many people get injured from this as a result from going from one extreme to another. The younger runners are the worst and think they don’t need to do this. No warm up is just going to end in disaster purely because your body is going from being cold to trying to get it to work at its max.

Warm ups don’t have to be complex and can be easy. Ii warm up for every session and before my races. On speed sessions and race day I do a structured 9 minute warm up.  For example my running warm up is 3 minutes at an easy pace and a certain heart rate zone, I then ramp it up for the next 3 minutes which is my 60-70% heart max and for the final 3 minutes I go 90% heart rate max and this gets me ready to race and works all the energy systems. Since doing this warm up I have gone into sessions and races hitting my target times.

A warm up doesn’t need to be complex it can start off with a brisk walk for something like 3 minutes. This is ideal as it is low intensity and eases you into it and then you can pick the pace up. Adding strides helps the blood flow more and activates your fast-twitch muscle fibres. I would also throw in some dynamic stretches such as squats.

Once you have done a warm up you are ready to go. You have to experiment and see what works best for you. I do hear quite often that runners say it takes them a few miles to get going; but these same people haven’t done a warm up. I think you need to make sure you hit your energy systems so you are ready to perform your best. No point turning up to a race saying it took me two miles to get going and missed out on a PB/medal etc. It’s important you give your body a little taster of what you are going to expect.

Some things I see before races is people stand at the start lines cold and stretching but doing static stretches. This is also a chance for a disaster to pull a muscle. There’s tons of stuff on the internet so see what drills, dynamic stretches and warm up you would like to do and have a go. But remember warm up is key to get you ready and going.

I also took part in a research study on the benefits of a well-structured warm up and if you can improve from this. I did this last year with Hannah from the Kent University sports department and found that it improved me. Now I mentioned earlier about my 9 minute warm up and this is where I got my warm up from. Before I used to just run an easy mile which didn’t do me any benefit at all. So the science behind this study was to get me running my speed sessions and races faster as I was fully warmed up and my body was ready to go race pace.

So this study included me doing this warm up twice a week. I used it on my weekly speed sessions and races throughout a three month period. Each month I had to perform my warm up as planned on a track with Hannah, so 3 minutes easy, 3 minutes long run heart rate and 3 minutes race pace. She then took blood samples every 3 minutes to see how my body was reacting. I then had short breaks where I did other samples and went back out on the track and ran 12 minutes as hard as I could without looking at my watch. So quite hard to pace if you are not used to not using your watch. The first test of the study covered 3,040 metres, which I was a little disappointed with because I thought I would be covering more distance. However, every month after that I had improved by the last test and had run 400m more in total. A huge improvement, so it shows that you can improve with just a structured warm up before your races and training. The point of this was to get you fully warmed up and ready for your session/race therefore in theory able to run faster/harder instead of taking a while to warm up.


CEP clone recovery tight review

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can check them out at the following at CEP here

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

 

 

 

 

 

Believe the impossible is the possible

No matter how talented or how hard you train the key to your success is believing in yourself so you are able to achieve your goals.

Last Sunday I did my fist triathlon in nearly 6 years. I always believed the bike was the root of my injuries when I first took up running. With big injuries that kept me out of action for long periods of times and nearly giving up on running I turned my back on triathlons; but it was triathlons that got me into running.

So looking back at that it was wise of me as I was hugely put off by injuries. I believed I could stay injury free and after staying injury free for a while and gaining lots of PB’s I moved into Aquathlons where I went from strength to strength and have achieved some great things.

I decided last year to get back on the bike and try and do some triathlon’s this year and see if I would enjoy it. As a mental aspect getting back on the bike was very concerning for me because of the history of my injuries. I believed I could get through this and despite being knocked off my bike this year, I forced myself out on the bike and I was enjoying it. Sadly I was meant to do 2 triathlons this year but because of normal life commitments I can only do one triathlon.

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So I did the Channel  Sprint Triathlon on Sunday, very nervous and had no target, I just wanted to enjoy it. It was a sea race in Folkestone and it was also my first triathlon which was not in the pool. It was a very windy day and the swim got cut by 250m. The race started and I knew swimming would be fine but the waves going out were so strong it felt like I was being slammed against the floor. I was struggling to breathe and didn’t enjoy it, but once we turned around with the waves pushing you I was fine and came out of the sea in the lead. We had to run around 1k into transition, so I was able to pull away.

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I then came out of transition on the bike and was quickly overtaken by two competitors. I knew the bike would be tough and the course was super hilly but the miles flew by and I was out on my own for 9 miles until a group of competitors came riding past me drafting each other in a non drafting race. I wasn’t 100% sure about the rules but I knew I need to drop back so I stayed well back.

I came into transition in 8th place but was very happy with my bike performance. I then got onto the run and my legs felt awful. I started overtaking people and by 2.5K my legs felt fresh and I went from running a 6.10 mile to running 5.40s. I soon caught 3rd and went past him, I still didn’t expect to be this high and I managed to take 2nd place near the end.

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I was over the moon and shocked that I had placed, I wasn’t even expecting a top 20 placing. I always believed I could be strong in a triathlon if I worked at it. This has now made me want to do triathlon’s more next year so watch this space.

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Photos by Lee & Jo Robinson Photography

Experience….

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I have learnt a lot of things since I took up this journey in 2012 and have decided to write a blog about things that might help others.

It is not all plain sailing along any journey and there will be many setbacks but also some really good times, which most of the time outweigh the setbacks. It sure is a rocky road and injuries can be a nightmare but from my experience there is no point moping around about an injury as it’s the way that you bounce back and move forward which really counts. When you first get an injury you think it’s the end of the world and you think things like ‘will I ever be able to run again’. Your mind can play many tricks with many phantom pains. In the early days when I was injured I used to sulk however these days if I get injured I firstly look at my training plan and wonder what I did wrong and correct this. I would also cross train, for example if I can run I will go pool running. It doesn’t sound too bad does it?

I find that I used to train all year round without a periodic training plan. Most people train all year round and spend much of it on the side-lines injured. I found that taking a full week off or more now and again works well and I feel like I have a proper recovery and mentally feel better and ready to train again.

Like with many things experience is the key, you learn from your mistakes over time and sometimes it’s best you make these mistakes. I know this sounds a bit odd, but when looking back at all the mistakes I made in the past I learned a lot and improved hugely. My journey began in 2012 and when starting out in any sport it is a long road ahead and when you look back you see how far you have come along. I remember struggling with Canterbury Harriers running an easy run. It does take time and you have to be patient, but at the same time remember to change your training up. If you don’t change your training up over the course of the years you might struggle with your goals. I now look back at my old plans and know that something that worked last year may not work this year, so I need to change it up.

I believe that hard work and determination is a much better trait to have then talent. I am not talented and have found over the years that working hard will pay off in life. Its easy to go into a session taking it easy but you have to remember if it is meant to be a hard session rather than an easy session. I used to run my long runs as fast as I could and suffer for days. Now I run at an easy pace and I now run quicker than I did back then as my body has become more efficient.

People can be harsh and the old saying goes, people want to know you when you are doing well and don’t want to know you when you are not doing well. Social media is a funny old thing and I have come across more and more negativity towards people because of their ability in sport. Let’s face it no one is perfect and you should be proud of what you do and do not allow anyone to bring you down. They have no right to bring you down,  let them be and ignore them.

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Learning is always important as you can’t always get things right and must understand this. I have had some great races when I didn’t expect to do twell and I have had some bad races when I expected to PB for example. I used to look at what others did and wonder why I couldn’t achieve this. Looking back at this, it is the wrong mind set and do not copy someone else as you are a different person. When having a bad training session or bad race, don’t dwell on it but instead take the positives out of it, look at what went went wrong and move on from it.

Setting realistic goals are important so you can work towards achieving them and exceeding them. I like to set mini goals throughout the year to achieve.

This is also key for my World Championships race. So I am off to Denmark on the 10th of July as I am competing at the World Aquathlon championships on 12th, of course I am very excited about this but I am also very nervous.  This will be my third World Championships and although I have a target to be in the top 10 which I know will be hard, whatever the outcome I will be happy with it as I am just proud to be there and to put on the GB kit. Not only am I proud I have also been selected as the Team Captain for my Age Group again so looking forward to giving something back to the team.  So from my previous experience I am looking forward to it and I know I will enjoy the experience.

Training does take its toll and balancing it around work and a family life is hard. I am very much looking forward to getting this race done and 10 days later the National Championships. Once these are out the way I am able to concentrate on less training for a few months as I need the recovery. Don’t get me wrong I do really enjoy the training etc but a lot of people don’t rest and this is where problems occur such as injuries. Preparations have gone well, despite feeling unwell a few weeks ago and easing off training, It is always important to listen to your body. I have managed to come 2nd and 1st in my last two races so I am ready.

Mentally this is so important that I keep a right frame of mind which can be hard. People have asked me what I do before races to relax. I like to spend a day taking it easy before a major race and I normally watch motivational videos and speeches. On race day I will listen to music before the race and keep focus on my race plans.

People like quotes so I am leaving this one here “Be proud of yourself and don’t let anyone put you down”

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Who Am I?

I am a skinny sluggish man who decides to run a 5k Charity run for Sport Relief in 2010 at the age of 25. With not much training I thought I would give it a go. The only exercise I did was playing 5 a side football once a week. No real background in sport since I left school. The day came and I was nervous, ran as fast as I could for around 400m and then I struggled and about a mile from the finish I started to walk. I was in too much pain and tired, I got close to the finish line and started to run again as I didn’t want to let people down. I was happy to finish it but I hated it and I was glad it was over. The following year I took up swimming, well tried to swim. It was tough; the first time I went swimming I managed 6 lengths in a 33m pool in an hour. I remember I would do a length and wait about ten minutes to do the next length. This was so difficult for me but I kept at it and slowly went further and further.

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Two years later (2012) I decided to do the same again and raise money for charity in the 2012 Sport relief 5k run. This time I trained a few weeks beforehand with no real experience the race came and I was nervous again but this time paced myself and got round. I was happy and I didn’t have to walk. This time I enjoyed it but that ended there.

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In the summer of 2012 I was watching the 2012 London Olympics on TV and this is what started my journey. I was inspired by watching the triathlon race and how good the Brownlee brothers were. So, inspired, I joined my local and current running club Canterbury Harriers in September that year.  As a novice in running I kept getting injured and nearly gave up the first year, I had on-going calf injuries.  However after setback after setback I decided I wanted to carry on running and was determined to get through this bad patch. 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 learnt 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.

The summer of 2014 saw me compete in a few 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.

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After going a while injury free for a bit, I was in the process of buying a house and planning for 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 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 one by one. So when I crossed the line, I had no idea I was in 3rd place in my age group. When I found out I was third I was very proud and shocked.

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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.

As a result of my European and National age group Bronze medals I was able to compete at the World Championships in Cozumel 2016 in tough heat. I struggled and came 28th in my age group. I was very disappointed.

After this I wanted to make sure I could improve and come back stronger for the summer. So the winter of 2016 came and I was determined to improve. I had high hopes as training went very well. However 6 weeks before the European Championships this year I strained my calf and I had around 10 days off from running. I was struggling with motivation as I knew I lost all my improvement. I turned up to the European Aquathlon race in Bratislava in 2017 fit but not fully fit. I had a great run and was 9th overall in the end. It was my swim that let me down. Ten days later it was the national Aquathlon Championships – 3 days prior my achilles flared up and I was struggling to walk. I kept positive and turned up on race day with a sore foot where I came home in 2nd place in my age group. I didn’t expect that.

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August 2017 and the time came for the World Championships in Penticton and I was fully fit and in the best shape I have ever been and selected as the Team Captain. The race started and I struggled in the swim at the start but managed to improve towards the end. I struggled in the first part of the run but then got faster towards the end; I knew I had a bad swim when I came into transition behind a lot of guys I was normally in front of. I kept pushing on the run and came 6th in the World in my age group – something I was over the moon about.

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From my experience the GB races were never in my mind. If you train smart and hard you never know what path you will go down. Never give up and always enjoy your training and races.

A 10 mile road race in and around Canterbury organised by Invicta East Kent AC and sponsored by Ssangyong

What can we learn from our Heart Rate max and V02 max

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I wrote blogs a while ago regarding Heart Rate training and V02 Max since I have had many questions in recent weeks regarding this – I am revisiting these blogs but also adding what I have learnt from the two years since I wrote these blogs.

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 and run at a much slower pace and see the benefits.

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. Most universities do this at a cost but also some do this free as part of student studies. It sounds tough to run as fast as you can for 10 minutes; well it is but the key is to find your heart rate max as you need to determine your personal heart rate zones and not what your watch pre-set zones are. You can also figure this out from the old method which is 220 minus your age. However this is not accurate for some people and this is the case for me. For example when I use that method it says my Heart Rate max is 186 however when I had a V02 Lab test, mine came out as 179. Quite a bit of a difference so be aware of this.

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 than just speed training alone. Of course you need to do your speed sessions but you shouldn’t be running as fast as you can every session.

Long runs at 60% to 70% of your heart rate max 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. The past two years I spent most of my training doing these long heart rate runs that have proved to work. At the same time by making you more efficient it will improve your running economy, which I will mention shortly. I was part of a study a few years ago in seeing how people can improve from running at a slower pace and improving your running economy. I was told I was over training; my long runs at the time would be to run 13 miles every Saturday morning at 6.30 pace. My legs used to take a best part of three days to recover. I started my heart rate training and was concerned my pace was over 8 minutes per mile and going up hills I felt like I was walking. I was told to stick at it and just follow my heart rate zones. Well since then I have improved a lot and over longer distances and my pace can be well under 7 minutes in my long runs. I have also managed to take 6 minutes off my 10 miler time.

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. I will talk about V02 Max later.

A lot of marathon runners use this because instead of pounding away for 13 miles on a long run, they can go longer at an easy pace and won’t 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. As mentioned briefly earlier 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.

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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 as I am interested to see if you get any improvement.

Let’s look at V02 max now. 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 and was a national Ultra Champion. I wasn’t sure if it would work and benefit me so I decided to try as there was nothing to lose.

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. This was related to the heart rate training, mentioned earlier.  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 I could struggle a bit in my runs but my running economy had improved hugely and something I needed to work on more.

A common method for assessing an athlete’s running economy is to look at the volume of Oxygen (O2) in a lab they are able to consume at a speed of 16kmh-1 on the treadmill. 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.  Table below provides normative data for well-trained runners.

Running Economy ml•kg-1•km-1
170-180 ml•kg-1•km-1 Excellent
180-190 ml•kg-1•km-1 Very good
190-200 ml•kg-1•km-1 Above average
200-210 ml•kg-1•km-1 Below average
210-220 ml•kg-1•km-1 Needs improvement

 

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.

However I was asked to go back in August 2016 while I was preparing for the World Aquathlon Age Group Championships. Since I originally had the first test in 2015 I improved so much and this helped me qualify for the GB Age Group Aquathlon team where in 2016 I won a European and National Age Group Bronze medal, so I was pretty much looking forward to this test.  This time this test was 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 the treadmill then I had to do this on the track.

So what did I learn this time? That running on a treadmill was 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 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.

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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 so I took this data into the winter of last year. I changed my training and worked on longer runs and long V02 max sessions such as mile reps and 1k reps. I found it worked wonders and I saw my race pace improve and my training over the past year and this produced me an Age Group Silver medal at the National Aquathlon Championships, 6th at the World Championships and 8 podiums in Aquathlons.

My conclusion is that Heart Rate running worked for me and still works; I am able to run longer and further and I do not feel as tired the next day, in fact I can still run a hard session the following day. It has also helped me keep injuries away and not getting as many injuries as the years before. I am still improving from this and I use different zones for different sessions that have been hugely important in my training and races. I definitely recommend giving it a try. V02 max is also important and I use this to work at it on my sessions as you can improve it slightly from V02 Max sessions. I have taken all this data and changed my training up and it is has improved me hugely and it can for you. I have learnt not to run too fast and how to train in zones, which is key and you can see the benefits. I like the science about running and if you want to improve you need to use the science.

A 10 mile road race in and around Canterbury organised by Invicta East Kent AC and sponsored by Ssangyong

Alan Green 10 mile road race

 

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Winter is now well and truly here and motivation is becoming a struggle in the cold dark evenings. My target race after the World Championships was the Alan Green Thanet Road Runners 10 mile race. A race which I have down 3 times previously. The race is pretty much pancake flat with a minor hill roughly 3 miles into the race, but as it is in December and along the seafront the wind always plays a factor in race times and therefore makes it a tough and challenging course. The last 3 years I have always got a personal best and one of my targets is to go sub 1 hour for 10 miles eventually.

Training has gone well but I have no idea where my training and fitness levels are at the moment so I was just going to use this race to see where I am at. I am not in peak shape yet and don’t intend to be until next year. My PB on this course was 01:01:40, which I broke 5 weeks later in a different race which was a tough course. The Thursday before the race I had planned to do a long easy two hour run. But that evening it was cold and I wasn’t motivated to run on my own in the cold and dark. I dragged myself out and I was trying to make all the excuses to stop myself running round the streets of Canterbury. Don’t get me wrong I love running but I prefer running in the countryside and not round busy streets during rush hour which is something I cannot do in the dark.  I nearly stopped after an hour but I managed to stay out for another 40 minutes which isn’t too bad. I was lacking motivation and I knew the race would be difficult on the Sunday.

The day before the race I had to attend Canterbury Harriers Christmas presentation meal and I picked up the fastest 5 mile award for the season. I was very happy with this as it is the first time I have picked up an award at the Christmas Presentation. My wife also picked up the fastest 5 mile award for the ladies; I am very proud of her running as she doesn’t like running but does it to keep fit.

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I managed to convince my wife to do the race on Sunday as there is cake at the end, so she did the race and had cake after – well plenty of it! I turned up to the race and it wasn’t as cold as the previous day so I didn’t need to wrap up warm for the race. When warming up I noticed we had no wind on the way out but the wind was quite strong on the way back. I decided to stick to my plan and start off slower and try to go faster the second half.

The gun went off and the race started. I could count roughly how many people were in front of me. I was in 17th place with just over two miles gone. I felt strong and focused on my breathing and sticking to my race plan. By mile 5, before the turnaround point, I had caught a group and the first lady. I then turned back in to some strong wind and headed back for the last 5 miles where I had already stuck to the plan and did fairly even splits.

I then decided to start to go a bit faster and over-took this group which then put me up to 6th place and running on my own for the rest of the race. I had lots of runners say well done on route; I couldn’t say thanks as the wind was making it hard for me to breath. I put my thumbs up to say thanks and thank you for encouraging me. I then battled the wind and managed to get slightly faster and before I knew it I was nearly at the finish line catching the person in front very quickly. I then came up the hill to the finish and noticed the clock time so sprinted to get a PB. I was over the moon as I didn’t expect a PB and my time was 01:00:59 so a slight PB. This gives me something to work on.

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I went for a warm down after and decided to run back for half mile down the route. I was encouraging people to keep going. I then waited for my wife and cheered her on to the finish. I enjoyed the race and next year I hope to come back and go quicker.

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