Chipping away at it – Marc Davies Blog Part II

Marc Davies Blog Part II

For a week after I rested, only going out on the bike once for a gentle ride and one gentle training swim.  The next thing was to concentrate on getting faster at everything, because I wanted to do Oakham next and then Desford and then maybe a few running races towards the end of the season, and look for an Ironman for 2015.  At Least that was the plan.

I started to increase my distances across the board, and was getting on well with 10k runs, 40mile biking, and swimming roughly a 1km at a time, whenever I was in the pool.  The weight carried on coming down little by little, but it would sit at a 92kg then drop about 3 weeks later, and stay off.  Was I building muscle, quite probably?

Mid June and training for Oakham was going great, I would ride off to Oakham and try the bike section a few times, and ride back.  One night in the pool I was talking away with a friend, and I heard about the Rothley 10k, it was only a few days away, but as I had done several hilly 10k training runs at about 54mins mark, I was happy I could give it a go.  So I lined up on the start on June 17th in my tri-suit, and set off.   It took all of about 2mins for it to dawn on me; I was the only one wearing a tri-suit and looked a right plonka.  56mins and 48secs later I was crossing the finish line, rather annoyed with myself for going too fast at the start, trying to maintain my 5k pace, even up the naughty hill at the start, and slightly miffed that I had lost 2 mins over my best 10k distance in training.  But never mind a free swanky T-shirt and a lesson learned.

Oakham Sprint Tri came about, I had tapered, mentally set my targets, had everything in mind set to give it my best.  My support crew were amazing being dragged out of bed early on a Sunday Morning. I assigned each a pivotal role. Tayla (12) head of marketing and PR, Ayrton (6) race mechanic, Leah (6) Lollipop girl and Elly-May (11mths) chief cheer leader, they loved it.  Once I had my life squared away in transition, I had a bit of time with them to chill which was great to take the mind of race nerves.  We all went pool side to have a look, and were really shocked.  No way was the pool 25mtrs, was it? My word it seemed small, and choppy.  I have been on calmer crossings across the English Channel.  Never mind, it’s the same for everyone. I dived in and barely clung to the side the water was so low, and then I was off.

I planned to do 100mtr Front crawl, 50mtr breast, 100mtr Front Crawl, 50mtr breast, and bomb the last 100mtr Front crawl as fast as possible.  It had worked in training, and I was getting times of 9 mins 15 sec.  It was hard going, and unbelievably choppy, I must have swallowed water god knows how many times, but then the ultimate, collision with someone on the downward length. I got moving again, and just blitzed the last 50 metres.  10mins 10 sec total swim time.  Gutted, I knew I was better than that, but never mind, head down, get into transition and get biking, I knew I was going to be strong on this.

One by one, I picked off fellow age groupers going through Oakham, and felt great doing it.  I started to get out in the rural hilly part, and felt a buzz as I picked off two guys on race bikes on my heavy Carrera Crossfire in quick succession.  Then it would be miles before I saw another competitor.  This was a good sign, no one passing me on TT Bike or Race bike, and then on the return to Oakham section I started catching another few fellow age groupers.  There was another massive hill and I could see the pair struggling, so I mashed on the pedals, because I knew I could bomb down the other side, into Oakham, and put some distance on them.   10ft before the top of the hill, as the hail stones started to pound, I passed both of them.  Going downhill I pushed as hard as I could, and maxed out at 40mph, then tucked everything in and got low. As it levelled off I looked back and could see I had some good distance on them.  Then came a T junction, and the Marshal motioned me to stop for traffic, and as it became clear to go, the two guys passed me.  Sods law.  I came into T2 a little peeved, but that all went out the window once I saw my support crew holding signs or encouragement.  I ran out of T2 holding back the tears, I couldn’t let them see me crying, again.

The run outward felt good once I had resumed composure, I felt good, I didn’t push, and passed several people struggling, and gave words of encouragement for them.  I planned to take the outward fairly easy, and then nail the return leg.  It worked, as I rounded the drinks table and half way point, I could see a guy from a college about 20yrs my junior  cresting the top of the hill about 150mtrs ahead of me, that was it, that was my target, pick him off, pass him, and pull away.  As we got to the crossing where they were doing road works I could smell the bitumen, and knew I had him. I pushed on passed him, getting further away with every stride, and as I got back onto the College grounds I checked back, and had done it, all that was left was a sprint finish to a bundle of hugs, kisses and smiles.  I felt good and happy with my 1hr 35min race time, considering the weather, the pool, it was an achievement.  The best reward came in the car on the way home, Dad can I do a kid Triathlon? From my 12year old.   She has the bug, even now.  So next year once she swims properly she’s going to have a go.

I carried on training, pretty much the following week as normal, and now in possession of a lucky competition win of a Specialized Shiv Elite 2013 TT bike; I was flying on the bike at least.  I knew Desford wasn’t far away, and it was next on my to do list.  But about 2 weeks before, on a family bike ride, I ended up going down with my youngest on the back, trying to avoid one of the other kids who had stopped dead. We had just set of too, but before I could even get my foot out of the cleats it was knee into gravel time, and any chance of doing the Desford Tri out of the window.  Instead I offered to Marshall and had an awesome time doing it.

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Chipping away at it… from Fatboy to wannabe Ironman – Marc Davies Part 1

October 2013 I looked at the scales in sad disbelieve, this can’t be right, is this thing calibrated? I know I will bash it a bit… Ugh 118kg (260lbs in old money).  Right I need to do something before I have a heart attack, without having a heart attack.  I know I will bike a bit more, and go for a run every now and then.  Great idea, erm… yes well 1.77miles around the block and my lungs felt like they were going to leave my body any time fast.  6mile bike ride in 45mins as fast as I could possibly go and I felt like I was going to explode if I went another meter.  A stark reality check, but then I had been burning the candle at both ends, doing silly double shifts, partying too hard, eating junk.  The image in the mirror that scared me every morning was distressing.  My jeans were too tight at a 38” waist, I was buying new clothes to fit and it all was getting XXL.  So I did what most people do, diet, well that was good for a Kilo or two, but nothing major.  I needed to get serious, and realise it wasn’t going to happen overnight.  Working stupidly long hours and being on the road didn’t help much, as trying to stick to any sort of gym or training plan would go out of the window one week from the next.

I realised running was going to be out of the question for a while until I lost some weight and my legs and knees could take it without feeling like a cripple for days afterwards.  I had to concentrate on cycling for now, and started going out at least three times a week as a minimum, and at least for an hour or so.   By Mid-December 2013 I was getting 30 miles done in roughly 2hrs 5 minutes, and weighed 95kg. Yes Progress…

It was at this stage I considered doing a Triathlon, it was late one Thursday evening, and I just watched an age grouper cross the finish line of Ironman Canberra, probably a re-run, he had 7 kids, a farm in the outback, and managed to train around farming and the family.  He also had an amazing wife who supported him.  That Friday evening over a pint of Trooper in my local with some friends and family, I continued to mull it over.  Everyone was asking what was up, because of my unusual quietness.  So at the fear of laughter, I blurted it out.  “I want to do a Triathlon, possibly an Ironman”.  To my surprise no one laughed, and were quiet supportive.  After another pint, Trooper is too good to just have one, it became clear I needed to try a smaller distance first, and get back to swimming.  I did a sponsored Triathlon when I was in the RAF Regiment, where I swam the best part of 2.5km and biked 50km and then did a full CBT (Combat Fitness Test – 10mile run with everything), how hard could it be? Ok that was 13 years ago, but still….anything is possible.

 

I still recall the first day in the pool, I couldn’t manage 50mtrs without stopping and that was breaststroke, and as for 400m, well that took about 18mins, and resulted in near death experiences.  Ok who was I kidding I was never going to be a torpedo.  But with time I knew I would at least be able to swim 400mtrs without stopping, and clinging to the pool like a limpet mine after every 25mtrs.  I worked on the strategy if I can nail it breaststroke, just get it done, then I could possibly have the lungs to do it partially front crawl.  So I swam at least once a week, and made sure when I did it included at least a mock race attempt at pace.

Christmas came, and as usual, you eat all the wrong foods, drink all the wrong tipples, and if my brother had anything to do with it New Year would be messy, and it was.  New Year’s day I stepped on his scales, boom 106kg.  The expletives ran through my mind, which mostly concentrated on chastising myself for over indulgence.  Once my heart rate had returned to normal, it became apparent I was going to have to dig hard.  Over the course of the celebratory festivities my brother had decided we were going to have to do a triathlon together or at least against each other, and the Leicester Sprint Tri would be it.  Bank Holiday Monday race day, a weekend of having him over with the family to compare training notes, go over the routes, brilliant.  Oh and wine of course!  I should explain of course at this point Chris is 9 years my junior, lanky, and loves nothing more than running up hills or muddy puddles for fun.  He also trains 4 hours a day when he is on shift at the Tidworth House Rehab for Soldiers centre.  What was I letting myself in for?

The plan was to train hard, so I started full of desire the first week of January.  On the 13th, 18miles in to a 30 mile endurance ride, I realized I could fly quiet literally across the bonnet of a Ford Fiesta.  I had been flying down Anstey lane and was going through Blackbird Road Junction as my lights went from green to amber, the idiot, (who probably got his licence from a cereal packet) decided to jump the lights, and I just saw him heading to cross my path, I braked as hard as I could, and snapped the mechanism in the lever, as I got my speed from 30mph to 19mph on impact, it was going to end one way.  Ouch, Ouch and well I will let you imagine the burning rage in one’s eyes.  As I slid of the bonnet, untangling the bike, I realised my left leg took the worst of it.  No claret spilling out of my head, arms and digits all ok.  Yep I was alive.  I could put weight on the right leg, and the pain on the left was immense, but I hobbled a few steps with the bike, and immediately checked it out, no major damage so it seemed, phew!  The driver apologised and then accused me of going through a red light, and then drove off.  He only came back once he saw the police and me in an ambulance, with some crock story.  Lucky for me I had deep tissue bruising, the world’s sorest dead leg, and no broken bones.  Amazingly there wasn’t a scratch on the car, and even the bonnet deflected back.

February I started to train hard again, well so I thought, I would spend two sessions a week in the pool, a mid-week quick 13 or 16 mile bike, and carry on working away at my running trying to get 3 miles done without stopping, as many times as I felt my body could take it.  Fridays I would get on the bike gently pedal over to the English Grammar School the other side of town, and then go hell for leather around the bike course, and then pootle back the long way via Houton on the hill, Scraptoft and Barkby then back to Birstall.  All tolled a nice 50 miler.  Whatever I was doing it was working, my weight kept coming down, sure the calorie counting helped, but the muscles on my legs were now bigger than ever.  By the end of February I was back to 95kgs and bruises free.

Through March and April, I carried on training at least 4 days a week with alternate days as rest days.  I had my 400m swim down to 12-13mins depending on how many people I had to navigate in the pool, 16 miles around north Leicester, including some fruity hills down to 50mins, and my 3 mile run time about 28mins.  I was starting to feel confident.  I was starting to see a reflection in the mirror that I liked, and I became completely obsessed with Triathlon.

 

Mid-April my partner Catherine suggested I could try a dry run at a Sprint Tri from the Pool, straight on to the bike, do about 12miles, and then run the 3.3mile course on our doorstep.  So on a sunny Sunday Morning I gave it a go, I swam 400m in 11mins 30sec, T1 was out the back of my Banged up old Landrover Discovery and lasted 10 minutes, as I fought in vain to get the Front wheel back on the bike.  The Bike was brilliant, I went balls out and did it in 50mins, T2 was home, where my partner was there waiting to take the bike whilst I changed footwear and went again.  I did the 3.3 miles in 31 mins.  All in all 1hr 45 mins something.  I knew now I could do it.

 

Race day loomed, and this was going to be it, my first ever Tri.  My Brother was quietly confident he could match my time, because whatever he lost on the Swim and bike, he would make back on the Run.  I knew at my best I could do the swim in 11mins flat, bike in 40-45mins dependant on wind around the airfield, and run in about 28mins.  Chris went in the pool first as he was going to be 15mins plus, and I counted his lengths for him, well until I had to jump in.  Chris finished as I was about half way through my swim, and I was having a mare.  I overtook the same guy twice, and then struggled on the last 50mtrs.  I got out of the pool and looked at my watch 10mins 50sec, result.  I faffed about in T1, as my cycle shorts struggled to go up my wet legs.  Once I mounted my Carrera Crossfire at the mounting point, I knew there was only one thing to do, hunt Chris down.  How hard would it be to catch a bright orange stick insect on a Mountain bike that had seen better days?  I started passing other age groupers, conscious of the drafting rules, and felt great.  I got round the back of Leicester Airport, and in the distance I could see bright Orange, it had to be Chris, and I was reeling him in little by little.  As I came up to the Junction with Washbrook lane, I caught up; it wasn’t Chris, but another age grouper.  Damn.  He had to be close.  I pushed on and bombed it down the hill.  I came back into the school and didn’t let up until the dismount point, where I flew off and passed someone on the timing mat. I saw my family and shouted “where’s Chris?” I got 2 mins ahead of you.  I knew it hung in the balance now.  He can run, with legs like a gazelle, but if he was only that far ahead, I might still have a chance on the stop watch.  I left T2 full of confidence and hunger; I left the School grounds, and soon realized I hadn’t tightened my trainer elastic in T1, stopped and sorted it, and got off again.  After a mile I saw my brother Chris coming the other way, we high fived, and carried on.  On the inbound leg I knew the hill lay ahead and dug deep and gave it everything, I rounded the corner and could hear my family screaming my name, and that was it I found another gear.  I crossed the finish line full of emotion.  I did it in 1hr 28mins, and beat my own goal of 1hr 35mins.  The best was still to come, Chris had whooped my ass by five mins, posting an overall time of 1hr 23mins.

The Analysis had already started in my head, if I hadn’t fluffed T1, stopped; I might have just about beaten him.  Secretly I think he still hasn’t forgiven me for beating him at clay pigeon shooting with his own shotgun.  But still we are brothers, and there was no love lost.  He attributed his success to the bike, highlighting that it had never gone so fast.  I shouldn’t have serviced it on the Saturday beforeJ.

With nearly all the family, in-laws, and friends at the finish, I couldn’t help but let the emotion of success flood out as I hugged my partner, and our baby girl.  I hadn’t won a medal, or title, I hadn’t even got top in my age group, but I had succeeded in the first step of what I set out to do complete a Triathlon.  I couldn’t have done it without the support of my partner or the kids pushing me on, and believing in me.

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Steve Pascale-Jones 2014 Season Roundup

The Aviemore Half/End-of-season Blog

After an up and down season I finally came to my final race of the year; the Aviemore Half Marathon on October 12th.

I’d entered this race so long ago that I’d almost forgotten I was in it! With post-Equinox blues still present from 3 weeks prior, I hadn’t really prepared for this race like I normally would have done, either long-term or short term. I had also relaxed my previously strict diet a little and, whilst far from a porker, I didn’t feel quite as tight as I had done.

For most of 2014 my training had been focussed around improving in Ultra Marathons, which had undoubtedly worked well, but I had not done anywhere near as much speed work as usual. That being said I have only done two official half marathons before and I was confident that I was generally fitter and faster all round. My two previous halfs were Loughborough in 2013 where I did a 1h39m02s and Market Bosworth earlier this year where I just beat my Loughborough time, finishing in 1h38m38s having had a few weeks off training with ITB issues. With my general fitness good and a favourable course profile (it has a net downhill) I was hopeful of doing OK. I set myself two targets: a sub 1h35m race (so a big PB needed) and a top 100 placing. Based on previous years results this would be tough but it should hopefully be achievable.

For this one last race this year I paid extra attention to doing things properly. I don’t like to have too much in my stomach so a very light breakfast of fruit and Fuel10K was consumed before the 90 minute drive to Aviemore. Once again, my lovely wife Adele was in charge of transport and cheerleading duties.

It was a cold morning so I was well wrapped up on top of my race kit with leg warmers, beanie hat and Frog Island jacket keeping the chill away. Once registered at the race HQ we had a shortish bus ride to the start area up on the hills in the woods above Aviemore. As we arrived at the Badaguish Outdoor Centre where the race (and the simultaneous 10K race) was to start from, the smell of fresh coffee filled the air. Thoughtfully the race organisers actually laid on hot porridge, tea and coffee for any of the 1000 half marathon and 500 or so 10K runners. Nice touch and very welcome on such a chilly morning, thanks!

One hot coffee and my pre-race energy drink consumed I initiated a very thorough and intense warm-up for the 30 mins or so prior to the race start. I waited until the last possible moment before removing my extra layers and dumping my drop bag for collection at the finish. I took my place in the sub-1h40m section and kept bouncing and moving keeping my HR around 155bpm before we got going. Target would be around 176-178bpm. At the start I said hello to West Highland Way Race Director Ian Beattie, who I recognised, and wished him luck.

We were off. Although this race has a net-downhill, the first 9 miles are on trail, mainly in the forest and around the edge of the Loch, meaning it’s anything but easy. I was glad to have chosen the extra cushioning and grip of my Skechers Go Run Ultra’s rather than the slightly faster but firmer Go Run Speed’s. There is one small climb after 1/2 a mile but the main climb in the race comes between 3 and 4 miles, meaning it’s essential that you are well warmed up and zipping along by that point. My plan was to be well revved up at the start, go hard for the first 4 miles and then use the downhill gradient to allow me to maintain the pace (effort level) I had.

I started hard, very hard, and my HR was straight up to around 178bpm. I flew past quite a few people. I hit the 1 mile point and a downhill, this was hard already!! Oh well, keep pushing! As I hit the climb at 3 miles I was seriously in danger of blowing if I ran at my current intensity all the way to the top, so I actually paused and let a couple of people past on a narrow single track section. This was wise though as I was able to use them as pace makers. As i was running I was constantly doing sums, knowing that if I could be around 7:15/mile then I was well upon PB pace. Although I don’t use a GPS watch, the 1 mile markers and my HRM made this easy to calculate. I was checking the time as I went through each marker, knowing the key was if I was 29mins or quicker after the 4mile mark (the highest point of the race) then I was on for a good race. As it was I think I went through in 28m45s. Proper Bo indeed!!

From this point it was the usual race scenario of trying to pace myself both via feel and HRM. My indicated ave HR was around the 180 mark, very high but it felt maintainable and I tried not to worry about that too much figuring that my high level of fitness plus the intense warm up had enabled me to rev a bit higher than usual, happy days.

The race passed through a final forest section over a small wooden bridge and I spotted Ultra Running Supremo Donnie Campbell so gave him a shout as I went by (I may be looking at using him for some coaching in 2015). One of my competitors was kind enough to offer me a gel just as I was consuming exactly the same type of gel myself….. great minds and all that!

As we rejoined the road I had either dropped most of the people I was with or had been dropped myself by the really fast guys and girls. No worries. Being the freak I am, I’m usually shouting some kind of verbal abuse (which is not appropriate for a blog) at myself to keep going so I indulged in a bit of that. Most of the road section was flat or downhill. However a course is only as easy as you allow it to be and the previous 9 miles of hard trail running meant this was by no means a picnic and there were people being reduced to a walk even on the downhill sections and I gave a few shouts of encouragement as I went by. There were also a few of the 10K back markers who I made sure I gave some positive, kind words to. As their race had started at the same time as ours, with a slightly different course but finishing with the same road section, this meant they were going approx half my speed or less with a couple of miles still to go.

Pressing on I came into the last mile and Aviemore itself. I caught a couple of more runners with a final push, one of whom tried to get me in the sprint for the line….. haha, fat chance my friend! Despite being almost on my knees there was no way he was getting past me and I kept to the left side of the finishing barriers meaning I knew he would have to come by on my right hand side. I pumped my arms hard and allowed kinetics to do their job. Sure enough he couldn’t get by me. As I finished it was nice to get a shout out over the PA system for “Steve Pascale-Jones of Racetime Events finishing strongly”. I was over the moon to see Adele waiting for me with a much needed Fuel chocolate recovery shake!

I finished with an official time of 1h34m06s, a PB of over 4m30s and a placing of 87th out of 916 half marathon finishers. I was very happy with that as I achieved BOTH of my goals in my final race of 2014.

2014/2015:

This is how my 2014 race season panned out:

Jan 11th. Country2Capital 45 Mile Ultra. 8h29m34s. 198/315. Top 63%.

Mar 1st. Belvoir Challenge 26 Mile XC. 1h26m40s. DNF after 8 miles.

Mar 9th. Ashby 20. 20 Mile Road Race. 2h29m56s. 185/1071. PB by over 10mins. Top 17%.

Mar 23rd. Loughborough Half. DNS due to ITB injury.

Apr 6th. 1485 Spring Duathlon. DNS due to ITB and calf injuries.

May 11th. Bosworth Half. 1h38m38s.118/569. PB by 24 secs. Top 21%.

June 21st. West Highland Way 96 Mile Ultra. 8h58m43s. DNF after 34 miles.

July 5th. Great Glen Way 72 Mile Ultra. 13h40m50s. 19/86. Broke previous course record by 26 mins. Top 22%.

Aug 23rd. Speyside Way 36.5 Mile Ultra. 5h34m08s. 18/97. Top 19%.

Sep 7th. Tiree 35 Mile Ultra. DNS due to logistical issues getting to the island.

Sep 20/21st. Equinox24 24 Hour Ultra. 120km in 14h14m47s. 25/74. Forced to withdraw whilst around 5/6th place due to severe nausea. Top 34%.

Oct 12th. Aviemore Half. 1h34m06s. 87/916. PB by over 4m30s. Top 9.5%.

I had many ups and downs this year, as you can see from my results. In the races where I did quite well I do think that, with more course knowledge, I could have gone much better, especially at the Speyside Way.

My highlights included a gloriously sunny day and 10min PB at the Ashby 20, a good performance at the Great Glen Ultra bagging 3 UTMB points and breaking the previous course record, being selected to attend an Ambassador Day for running brand Ashmei and attending the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow to watch my good friend Conor duelling with the Brownlee’s.

Next year is already looking exciting. I am off to Mallorca for my first proper training camp in April with my Racetime Events teammates in April and I have also entered my first actual triathlon but, rather than mess about, I have gone straight into a half-Ironman at Challenge Poznan in Poland which, just this week, has been named as the race which is the 2015 European Long Distance Championships!!! No pressure then.

I have also entered the Edinburgh Marathon at the end of May with the view of getting a reasonable time, hopefully somewhere around 3h15mins.

My main aim in 2015 will be the Scottish Ultra Marathon Series overall positions. There are Long and Short series titles as well as a combined title too. I finished in 143rd place out of 1200 or so qualifiers this year in the combined sees despite not even knowing I was in it!!

I am still contemplating entering the ballot to get in the CCC race at UTMB 2015, but funding and the odds will be against me on that one :-(

Thank You’s:

I want to say a few quick “Thank you’s” to everyone who has supported me this year:

Firstly my wife Adele who gives up a hell of a lot on a daily basis to help me succeed; sister Louise and brother-in-law Stuart for taking me to races; Johnny and Laura from Racetime Events for being so supportive and for working so very hard 25 hours a day!!; friends/teammates/superheroes Claire & Duncan; training partners Steve Salter, Stewart Sale, Terry Withington and Emma Rathbone; Nicola, Nini and all my other inspiring RTE teammates; everyone at Frog Island Triathlon; Brett Worth at Skechers Performance (without question the finest running shoes around today, for me at least!!); Jon and Sean at FuelYour10KHours (delicious pre and post race granola, porridge and shakes); Robert and Stuart from Ashmei (I love their running clothing and am excited about the new cycle and triathlon gear-available to pre-order NOW!!); and to all the race organiser, marshals and volunteers Thank You.

 

See you all out on the road, trail or in the water in 2015!!!

 

:-)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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12th October 2014 23rd Cartagena World Cup

12th October 2014
23rd Cartagena World Cup

Columbia is an awesome place to race.  I arrived in Cartagena 4 days ago and I’m back in the airplane leaving Columbia now… way too soon.  I’m on route to Korea for the last race of the season in Tongyeong.  It’s a long haul trip, around 50hrs door to door.

So anyway, Cartagena was hot, humid and very wet.  October is rainy season and it pissed down briefly every day.  The race location was changed 2 days before the race due to flooding down town.  I stayed near the old town in a cheap and cheerful tiny hotel.

The race was an Olympic distance triathlon, a 2 lap 1.5km swim, an 8 lap 40km bike and 3 lap 10km run.
My race was ok.  I had one of my better swims of the year 15secs down on the swim leader Varga, I didn’t make the lead bike pac of 15, I got to within 10 secs of the lead pack after transition, but didn’t make it.

From there I was in the second bike pack of 8, and we lost 1min to the leaders.  The conditions were mental on the bike, serious winds and crazy thunderstorms and sections of the road that had 3 inches of flood water.  From there the aim was to stay out of trouble on the bike.  Onto the run and I was pretty flat, I ran as hard as I could and just about held on.  It was pretty hot and humid so I made sure to pace my run effort and take on as much liquid as I could when necessary.

So I’m in Medellin airport now in Columbia, in 8hrs time I’ll land in JFK New York, then a 13hr flight to Beijing and then a little hop across the Yellow Sea to Busan in Korea, from there a short bus ride to Tongyeong and all being well I’ll arrive there on Tuesday night.  Race is on Saturday morning in Tongyeong, it’s an Olympic distance World Cup, the last World Cup of the year and my last race of the season.

Results
http://www.triathlon.org/results/result/2014_cartagena_itu_triathlon_world_cup/268457

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28th in Cozumel World Cup 5th Oct 2014

28th Cozumel World Cup
5th Oct 2014

I raced for the first time in Mexico at the weekend.  The race was a sprint distance World Cup race. The race was on the Caribbean Island of Cozumel, it’s an awesome spot.  It’s very humid here at present with temperatures in the low 30s and 80/90% humidity.

For me the race went ok, I managed the humidity well, so that didn’t effect the performance in any way.  The men’s race was at 11am so we were finishing just under the mid day heat.  On race morning I woke up early and did all my pre race routine earlier than usual before the heat really kicked in.

I went to the race checkin about 75mins before the race, (it was just outside our accomodation).  It was very hot and the main thing was to stay cool in the conditions, I found a fan in the athletes lounge and sat I front of it for as long as possible.  After a quick swim warm up I was on the start line and ready to go.

I had a decent swim, about 15secs down on the leaders and into the main chase pack with all the race favourites in there.  My chase pack bridged up to the lead pack on the 3rd of the 4 out and back flat bike laps that went up and down the promenade.  The lead pack by this stage had nearly 35 guys in it and the narrow meandering promenade lead to a lot of nervous moments for everyone as we charged into the T2.  I had a decent position with 1km to go at the front of the pack but didn’t have the power to hold it coming up to the dismount line. I entered T2 about 4th wheel back.

The run was 2 laps of the promenade, it was just hard and fast, I ran as hard as I could, though it was only good enough for 28th place which really is not good enough.  I travel to Columbia tomorrow to race in the Cartagena Olympic Distance World Cup on Sunday.

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When Frog Island Triathlon met the Brownlee brothers…

When Frog Island Triathlon met the Brownlee brothers…

Composure, meet Nicola, she could do with a lesson or two!

When Spencer from Leicester Triathlon notified us of this opportunity initially, the sceptical ones among us (i.e. all of us) thought it was the world’s best triathlon prank. Were the Brownlee’s really going to come to Leicester to a pie shop for a book signing? It didn’t seem all that likely, and in the absence of any official advertising I was disguising my glee, in case it turned out to be a hoax (well spencer is a bit of a joker) ;-)

Two days ago I saw a relatively unofficial looking poster and the Walkers Pie Facebook page that did state they were coming – heart beat increases – would spencer really go that far and create fake posters hmmm?

Why didn’t I want to believe it was real?

Well that’s a good question… perhaps because these iconic brothers are incredibly impressive athletic human beings which can be intimidating for the underachieving triathlete (me).

Maybe the fact that they represent what triathlon is about for me – family and achievement and this would be the culmination of many years of triathlon-ing and looking in at the pro’s from a safe distance.

Either way, i was excited and wanted it to happen and when you want something really bad, you don’t want it to be taken away!

Well it’s now Thursday evening and I can say confidently that Spencer was not hoaxing us; they did indeed pay the pie shop a visit! Wahoooo

 

Thursday Lunchtime…

Ever early we were there about 11.40, excited and nervous and admittedly still a little disbelieving (where is my faith eh?) so we sat down and tucked into pie and mash which was delicious – if they didn’t show at least we got great food hey! We spotted a chap with a fancy looking camera and learned that he was there from the Leicester Mercury to photograph the event – bingo this was all the confirmation I needed to let myself get truly excited and believe. Clock watching and completely ignoring Elliot’s attempts at conversation over lunch, I squirmed in my chair and twisted this way and that attempting to catch a first glimpse of the boys!

Then they were there, just like that, they sat at the table right next to us! As Jessica Nurse said later ‘they look just like they do on TV’ which I think is the best quote of the day!

First off they had to do some promotional things, my favourite of which was pretending to eat a huge pie whilst the photographer got within inches of their faces. The life of celebrity! Glam!

I saw my opportunity as the giant pie was craned away.

My dad and uncle had done the Brownlee Triathlon last year and they had been lucky enough to meet Johnny post-race and grab a quick photo with him. I thought I would see if Johnny would mind signing one each for Kev and Steve – as they are also brothers in triathlon – albeit a bit older and with less hair.

At the moment of my approach the man from the Leicester Mercury jumped in and introduced me to them, oh no now I seemed like someone of importance, now I have to say something funny/intelligent even RELEVANT would do fine … come on Nicola, you are intelligent…. Hmmm well ok you have the ability to string a sentence together. But the brain was just not cooperating and I was caught like a deer in the headlights. Brain = flat lining!

Suffice to say I babbled my way apologetically and gratefully through the conversation. To make matters harder for me, the camera man suggested we pose naturally for a photo, you know one of those where you pretend to be having a conversation! How do you look natural when you are freaking out? I think I was completely overwhelmed by meeting two people whom I have admired and followed the careers of for years.

What do you talk to people about when you feel like you know them but they don’t know you? The weather? Well it was a nice day I suppose! Their book? Well I read it about a year ago and frankly, despite enjoying it very much, I was already struggling to be coherent as it was, never mind trying to recall accurate details about the book to ask interesting questions! That i work in a triathlon shop that sponsors Conor Murphy – could have been some common ground there! But did I think of any of that …nahhhh. So I settled on ‘what brings you to Leicester then?’ hardly inspiring eh!

So I got through the encounter without any composure whatsoever and probably didn’t leave much of an impression on them. As the reporter hinted afterwards, they probably weren’t as overwhelmed with me as I was with them. But very generously they took the time to sign my book and one photo each for my dad and uncle which I hope will be a lovely surprise for them!

Despite my nervous temperament and profuse sweating, I loved it, they were polite and happy to chat (even idle drivel with me) and they answered the questions from the reporters in good detail, even though they have probably been asked the same questions hundreds of times over. I never know whether people want to be hero worshipped but these boys do represent a level of commitment and hard work and talent that we can all aspire to! We may not all represent GB or go to the Olympics but we all do achieve every day whether it is getting out of bed to go for a swim before work, completing your first GO Tri, or even contemplating the thought of one day doing a triathlon – these boys are representing what can be done, and are excellent role models.

When asked who his hero was, Johnny replied simply ‘Alastair’. And this really resounded with me, humble in nature and prepared to work hard to the limits and beyond is a big part of what helps these two achieve so much. But I think that it is the support of your family or those who you love in achieving your goals that is the essential thing.

I got into triathlon because my uncle and my dad inspired me, and it’s given me 10 years of wonderful memories so far (the most recent of which is meeting these two inspirational individuals)! Triathletes tend to be humble and keen to share their knowledge and experience to help a novice or stranger and this I think is a really valuable asset that we can use to help the sport grow.

I hope that via the GO Tri’s, coaching and just chatting to people that I can pass along the love of a sport, or at least inspire someone to do something challenging and different from the norm.

Thanks to Alastair and Johnny for taking the time to visit Leicester and to Walker and Sons Pies for hosting the event. It was truly special and meant a great deal to a lot of people.

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Equinox24 2014 Steve Pascale-Jones

Equinox24 2014

In 2013 I committed to entering the inaugural Equinox24 race almost by accident. As the sole member of staff at Frog Island I felt bad that, although I was volunteering at triathlons with marshalling duties, I was not competing in any races as my own competitive spirit gave way to the fact that my standard of swimming is just so, so poor (which I’ll be rectifying soon).

And so, when Johnny who runs triathlon organiser Racetime Events, said that he was putting on a big new race and there was no swimming involved, I committed there and then. When he revealed it was a 24 hour running race, well I’d already signed up both mentally and to other people. I couldn’t back out, so I turned up, had a go and did OK, placing 7th and completing 16x 10km laps in 22h50m.

Jumping forward to September 19th 2014 and things have changed quite a lot. I have caught the ultra running bug and have changed my lifestyle to such an extent that my wife, Adele, and I have moved to Scotland and are now driving back down to Leicestershire from our new home in the Highlands, which is almost exactly 500 miles!

Equinox fever had me in it’s grip and just 10 days into 2014 I was doing my first ultra of the year, the Country2Capital from Wendover to Paddington in London. Other races that followed included the Belvoir Challenge (DNF), Ashby 20 (PB), Bosworth Half (PB), West Highland Way Ultra (DNF), Great Glen Ultra and Speyside Way Ultra. I also had entered a few other races which I unfortunately did not start due to injury/logistical issues. I have had a bit of a see-saw year and I can definitely say that the mental battle of running is the hardest part. all that being said I was very happy with my preparation for Equinox and was confident of a good race.

Friday September 19th: 7am

Adele and I set off from our house, The Bothy, in our little Seat Mii. We await the result of the Scottish Referendum on the radio to see if we’ll be allowed back in after the race! Results are in and the ‘Naws’ have it. All that’s over to Adele and I annihilate the contestants on Pop Master with our combined musical knowledge! (I should point out that we are pub quiz mercenaries!).

5.30-9.30pm

After a short detour to Nottingham we arrive at Belvoir Castle and curse the fact that our car has lowered sports suspension on the ‘driveway’ onto the campsite. I was very surprised to see just how many people were already camped up and ready. This was going to be a BIG weekend. I marshalled our way down to the solo camping area and we jumped out. Before you could say ‘Baden-Powell’s on viagra’ I had erected our tent in super quick time and we went off for an explore.

Straight away I saw some familiar faces and had a nice catch up with Tina who was running solo, having been inspired whilst marshalling last year. We also chatted to race organiser Johnny, Steve H, Brett from Skechers, Robert from Ashmei and a couple of other folk before setting off for replenishment.

Last year I didn’t get ANY food from the caterers at Equinox and I wasn’t going to make that mistake this time, so Adele and I got ourselves a coffee and ordered a pizza…. and it was delicious.

Belly’s full, we turned in for an early night.

Saturday September 20th: 8-11.55am

We got up and saw a lot of new arrivals setting up their camps including my good friend Stewart Sale. We both did EQ24 solo last year and ran through the night together. Stew was just using an open tent simply as somewhere to leave his food and clothing. I lumped my stuff in with his. As he didn’t have anywhere to actually sleep I offered him the option of kipping in our tent should he need it.

A little while later and the three musketeers were complete when Steve Salter arrived, another 2013 soloist. Time for a pre-race picture. Steve had been very quiet on social media recently and I thought he might have ambitions of doing well…… if he could stay awake this year!

Coffee’s drunk, breakfast eaten and time was dragging and we all just wanted to get started. 11.30am came and the pre-race briefing completed it was time to head to the start line.

11:59am

All assembled on the start line. The runners at the front were twitchy-they were doing the supporting 10km race and would be all done in 30-50mins. We were all in for the long haul. So soloists, pairs, small and large teams all lined up.

12pm

And we are off! At everything from flat out 10km race pace to a leisurely walk. Equinox really is a race for everyone. Last year I got caught up in the melee and really started a bit too hard. This year I came with a proper plan, with a schedule for each lap, which, if I managed to execute to the best of my ability, I was confident would put me in the mix come 24 hours time.

Laps 1-4

Although I start off steadily, very steadily, my heart rate is higher than is my target due to sheer adrenalin and the racing instinct. It’s very, VERY hard to keep forcing yourself to ease off when every fibre of your body wants to go for it, especially when you can see that your competitors are charging off ahead! However, I know that the vast majority of runners rarely, if ever, run further than a marathon so I’m expecting the early birds to slow up after 4 hours or so, whereas I am aiming to keep a fairly constant pace throughout the whole race. My schedule for the first 4 laps is 1h06m per lap, despite this I come in at 1h03m, 59m17s, 58m53s and 1h03m18s. It’s no effort so far and I’m feeling good. I tell Adele that I’m generally very happy and that I have some time in the bag.

It was great to be able to pace myself at the start as it meant I got to chat with new friends like Alexa and Sid before I lost the ability to string cohesive sentences together!

Laps 5-8

Things were going well and I was generally happy still. As predicted a lot of soloists had started too fast. Stew, Ade, Paul and a few others I knew had all gone zooming off ahead early on and I was now catching and passing them.

It was great to see Nicola and Elliot marshalling at the start/finish line and I mentioned that I was happy to them and had gone through the (1st) marathon point in approx 4h30m, not too shabby in a 24 hour event.

One of my friends, Paul Corderoy, is an experienced ultra runner and had finished one place above me, albeit by over an hour, at EQ24 last year. I knew that he had completed Challenge Weymouth the previous week to Equinox this year so was likely to be tired. Sure enough I caught him on the main tarmaced hill at 4km on lap 6 or 7. I pushed on straight through the water station at 5km onto the off-road section. That was a decent scalp to take, although with Paul having such a big ginger beard maybe taking his chin would be a better phrase!

At some point, I think around lap 5 or 6, Big Steve Salter passed me, which was annoying but not worrying too much as it’s such a long race and I was confident n my own plan. I had set myself a target time of 1h10m for these laps and was pretty much on the money with 1h11m02s, 1h07m44s, 1h06m18s and, due to a loo stop which needed a diversion, 1h19m11s.

By this point, and the aforementioned loo stop, head torches were already on and it was decidedly chilly too with some light drizzle. Now things weren’t as comfortable.

Laps 9-12

On lap 9 we were now well into darkness. One of the nicest things about this was somehow being recognised by the Team Shabba Runners who were camped at about the 1km to go point. As I ran by a shout went up “Are you Steve Pascale-Jones?”. I replied “Yes, that’s me!” to which I got the legendary response “WE’RE TWITTER!!”. Thanks guys, that really cheered me up as this was a bad lap.

Through the night I had a staggered schedule which I revised to a straight 1h20m per lap. Don’t forget that all lap times include any stopping to eat, drink, stretch, go to the loo, feel sorry for oneself etc. In terms of heart/lungs/legs I was still feeling really good, comfortable even, but an old enemy reared it’s head, or rather bent it double at the side of the course.

BLEEEUUURRGH…………. Yep, I was sick.

Nutrition in ultras has been proving my toughest challenge. When it goes right you don’t think about it or even notice it at all, but when it goes wrong……..      BLEEEEUUUURRRRGGHHH………..

Despite being sick twice, I still managed to complete lap 9 in 1h18m18s. Not to worry. I did think this might happen at some point. In ultras you have to expect problems. It’s how you handle them that matters. So I stuck with plain water to drink and not too much food and lap 10 seemed OK passing without major incident in 1h16m42s, still on schedule. Brilliant!!

But the storm wasn’t over. I managed to push on through lap 11 in 1h19m20s (on schedule) despite being sick again. Now I was starting to get a bit worried as I was barely eating so as not to irritate my stomach too much. It was nearly one in the morning. Even running 1h20m laps I was still getting through several hundred kcal’s/hour and needed some sustenance. Lap 11 finished, I popped into the tent, grabbed a couple of bits and carried on. Back onto the course, I tried to eat just one cashew nut and it came straight back up. No sick though as there was nothing left, just what appeared to be, by the light of my head torch, the lining of my stomach. Not feeling good now.

I pushed on anyway, but lap 12 saw me unable to take on any more food, little drink and I was ill three times. Of course I wanted to go on. But I will admit that I lost the mental battle. After running the last 40km in 5h30m on no food, in the dark and mostly on my own, I finished lap 12 in 1h34m54s after I spent a good 20mins battling my own inner demons which told me that I KNEW I could podium this year but that I should withdraw. Maybe I could have pushed on and recovered later on in the race. But it was 2:15am and the prospect of another 5 hours in the dark wasn’t looking too good, whereas the thought of getting into bed was. And so, after  120km and 14h14m17s of running I withdrew.

REST OF THE RACE

When I woke up, it was nice to hear just how many people were asking after me. For what it’s worth, I didn’t sleep too well and shivered all night, despite wearing all my kit and a fleece hat. Maybe withdrawing was the wiser choice this year? I was sad to see that the 2013 winner, Mark Dodgson had also had to withdraw, despite being near the lead, with a fractured ankle.

On the plus side, it meant that I got to enjoy the carnival atmosphere, eat some delicious food (3x breakfasts I think it was!) and meet with some great friends. Adele and I had a great chat with Robert from Ashmei and I bought an awesome new running shirt, whilst Adele got some socks. It was also nice to talk to Brett from headline sponsors Skechers Performance. If you still haven’t checked out their awesome range do so, you will not be disappointed. If only my stomach performed like my Go Run Ultra shoes I’d be winning races left, right and centre!

As the race drew to a close there were some determined performances from Stewart who bagged his 160km/100 mile target despite looking a bit like the walking dead and Steve S who crossed the line jubilant just after 11am on 19 laps. Unknown to him however Johnny, Adele, Steve’s wife Sam and I were all watching the timing board. Steve was in 2nd place, but the guy in 1st had already finished. Johnny barked instructions and we sent Steve off for another lap, meaning he was the only solo runner to hit the magic 20 lap/200km mark!!

And so Equinox ended for most on a big high (Steve, Alexa, Stew, Team Shabba, Team Cake etc) and for others on a bit of a low due to injury (Me, Tina, Mark D), but I’m sure that we all be back bigger and better in 2015!!

Bring it on!! :-)

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Boulder – Colorado September 2014

Boulder – Colorado
September 2014

For a month now I’ve been based in Boulder, Colorado for training.  At 1,600m with the Rockies only 5km to the west, flat lands to the east and the first time I’ve ever went a month without rain, Boulder is a pretty decent place to train.  I’m staying in a great place close to the centre of Boulder with my landlady Shelby.

I got to catch up with some mates based here.  For one day I overlapped with Will Clarke who won the Lanzarote 70.3 last week, then a few days later I caught up with Tim Don who won Ironman Mallorca this week… No pressure then for me at the last 3 World Cups of the season in October.

I arrived in Boulder from the Edmonton World Series race where I had some sort of bug/sickness and had a poor race with nothing to give.  So our squad got into training here on the 1st September physically I was mangled and my immune system was on the floor, but pushed through the last 4 weeks feeling probably as bad as I ever have done physically as an athlete. I’ve had Sean Jefferson as a sparing partner here in Boulder, we’ve pretty much kicked lumps out of each other for the whole of September and it’s worked well.

On the 11th of September we raced in a Super Sprint in Las Vegas just off the main Las Vegas Boulevard.  It was awesome craic, heats in the morning, finals on the evening, great laugh and super fast racing.  We drove to Vegas, it was a silly 1,500 mile round road trip to Vegas, Sean did all the driving which was pretty amazing (about 29hrs over two days).  We were in Vegas for less than 48hrs… But what a 48hrs it was!  I got through to the finals and came 6th.


In the morning heats I got a fair bit of road rash after crashing over the top of a guy who came down on one of the corners.  The road rash wasn’t too bad, just more a pain in the ass, it was painful for 22 training sessions and it kept weeping at night, so I spent 10 days religiously keeping it clean and applying antiseptic stuff, I was fairly nervous it would get infected as there were a few decent openings, fortunately it cleared up.   If i wasn’t  already physically destroyed this would make sure I I’d stay pretty smashed up for the following week.

Anyway I hung on, got the sessions done and now am trying my best to freshen up now to find some decent race form for the October World Cups.  I have 3 back to back World Cups in October, Mexico, Columbia and Korea.  There is a huge amount of travel involved for me in October, so it’s all about managing fatigue from travel now and staying healthy to perform well.

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1st September 2014 Edmonton Grand Final

1st September 2014
Edmonton Grand Final

I had a really poor race in Edmonton, 8 days ago I had one of the best performances of my career to date in Stockholm, then in those 8 days I picked up a stomach bug and was not well for 6 days.  I got it together the day before the race but it was obvious as the race progressed onto the bike section I was really under power.

I travelled from Stockholm to Edmonton on decent timed flights, but if had 2 nights disrupted sleep and ate something that wasn’t agreeing with my body.  I got to Edmonton on the Tuesday and felt fairly broken, I did everything possible to pull myself out of the hole I was in, but I just needed 1-2 more days to recover to do myself any justice.

EDMONTON RACE

I felt good on the morning of the race and believed I was ready to race well, warm ups were good and I had all the pre race nerves.  Again as has been customary this season I had a poor swim, exiting the water half way down the field but still safely in the main chase bunch.  I felt physically ok on the swim, but then onto the bike and bang it hit me, there was absolutely nothing in my legs, I couldn’t even hold the wheels of the guys around me and got well and truly dropped going up the first hill.  From there I struggled for the rest of the race in chase groups, loosing time on every lap.  I ran like a donkey, compared to just 8 days ago when I ran my fastest split ever for a sprint triathlon, Edmonton was fairly sickening.

Oh well it’s only racing and it was was one bad race from 7 solid races in a row and it was from a stomach bug as opposed to any sort of underlying fitness/tactical/ability issues.

I’m on route to Denver, Colorado for a 1 month training camp.  I have a Super Sprint triathlon in Las Vegas, then I have 2 or 3 World Cup races to finish the season off in Mexico, Columbia and Korea.  Looking forward to getting my head down and stuck into a good block of training and finish the season on a high.

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23 Aug 2014 26th Stockholm WTS

23 Aug 2014
26th Stockholm WTS

At present I’m on a plane 35,000ft above Newfoundland on route to Edmonton, Canada for the WTS Grand Final. Today my day is 30hrs long as I’m travelling west, when I touch down in Edmonton the key is to get right into proper sleep patterns, so I’ll be saying up 6hrs longer than last night.

I travelled from Stockholm and I had a 15hr stopover in Iceland last night, didn’t get to see much of it, but I did see a lot of rain and volcanic ash and it’s a cold spot.  Most of the guys who raced WTS Stockholm and on route to the Grand Final in Edmonton.  My body is still a bit mangled after the Stockholm race and I’m a tad run down, so I was a wee bit envious of Sexton, Reiderer and Gomez who turned left getting onto the plane (Business Class).

So Stockholm WTS was a fantastic, a real hard sprint distance race.  Swim was cold and very choppy, bike was technical with decent cobble stones and course was narrow and greasy, a lot of guys were crashing.  And the run was fast though it did have one decent hill and a few cobble stones.

I had a fairly average race, I made a few mistakes tactically.  I went too wide round the turn buoys avoiding the congestion but swimming a lot further than necessary.  I let a few wheels go on the bike because I wasn’t strong enough to bridge the gaps after guys around me crashed and missed the lead pack marginally, it was the best field of athletes I’ve raced with 9 of the top 10 guys in the world there.  I ran my fastest ever 5km in Stockholm with 15mins flat, though I blew up with 200m to go.

Over the next few days hopefully I’ll freshen up in Edmonton and have a good crack at my Grand Final debut.

RESULTS FROM STOCKHOLM
http://www.triathlon.org/results/result/2014_itu_world_triathlon_stockholm/264438

START LIST FOR EDMONTON WTS GRAND FINAL
http://wts.triathlon.org/site/start_list/2014_itu_world_triathlon_grand_final_edmonton/264459

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