22nd WTS debut Auckland

Note: I was meant to be racing the 1485 Duathlon on Sunday morning but a nastily pulled calf on Saturday morning stopped me from being able to run…. Perhaps this was a blessing in disguise as it meant I could stay up until 7am and watch Conor racing LIVE on the BBC Red Button service! -Steve.

7 April 2014

After 2 mediocre results in the first two World Cup Sprint races of the season (Mooloolaba & New Plymouth) I had a solid result at my WTS debut in Auckland over Olympic distance, finishing in 22nd place.  This was the most competitive triathlon race I’ve raced with few of the top 50 guys in the world missing from the start line.

ITU Results

Elite Men Highlights

I had worked hard on my biking whilst staying in New Plymouth with my home stay hosts, (Merv, Jo, Liam, Sam, who were awesome and really helped me prepare well for Auckland).  I was in New Plymouth for 2 and a half weeks, the training was great and there were plenty of hilly bike rides to prep on for the savage course in New Plymouth.

Auckland is a cool city, I arrived 4 days prior to the race, staying in a city centre location, it felt like we were risking our lives every time we went out training, super busy traffic for biking and lots of hassle and bustle on streets so runs were never really that productive, so apart from race prep I spent a lot of time resting up in my hotel room or in the coffee shop opposite my hotel.

Race day and the start time was 3.30pm, so there is a lot of morning waiting around with your feet up until 1pm when warm up starts and I start to tunnel vision focus in on the race.  I have a well worked out pre race routine by now so it’s just a pre race process that works for me… Run warm up round bike course, get all kit together, drop it all at athletes lounge, bike warm up, set up transition, swim warm up, athlete introduction, start line, gun goes bang, race on.

Auckland was obviously a much bigger race than I’d ever done before and the atmosphere was electric pre race, so it was important to stay calm and not waste adrenaline hits on the carnival atmosphere pre race, I managed this well.

After two poor swims in the first races of the season, I had a relatively uneventful two lap 1,500m swim, not beaten up too much, 40 secs down on first guys out of the water not a disaster.  I had a fairly swift transition so I was in the middle of the chase pack at the beginning of the bike.

Auckland has arguably the hardest bike leg of all the WTS races, 40km (8x5km laps) of city centre criterium racing over cobble sections, with 3 fairly savage hills per lap and 3 “U” turns per lap, the chase pack I was in held the 45 sec gap for the first 5 laps then the lead pack put the hammers down for the last 3 laps and opened the gap to nearly two mins!  The racing was fast and frantic and it was important to stay focused at all times as there was a high potential for crashes.  Thankfully most of us stayed upright.  I hydrated well and got good fuel on board, important given the high energy exertions on the hard bike ride to run solidly.

As we approached T2 the the end of the bike I felt strong, got myself into a good position coming into T2 and again had a swift transition.  The 10km run was still hot (27 degrees on race day). So it was important I kept the body temperature down, I got water over my head at each aid station.  The 10km run was 4 flat laps of the city centre.  I went out onto the run conservatively, hard but not unsustainable and built speed throughout the 10km.  I had a good solid run and over took a fair few guys who went out way too hard, my last run lap of 2.5km was potentially my fastest, which is good pacing.

So a good hit out for my first WTS debut at 22nd.  I’m currently at 38,000ft above the sea north of Australia on a 55hr door to door journey to Ireland.  I’ll have a few days in Ireland for recovery the a solid 10 day training block then onto Cape Town, South Africa, for the 2nd round of the WTS  on 27th April.

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The Skechers Performance Range

Recently you may have seen a lot of very positive reviews in the magazines, on websites and via social media for the Skechers Performance range of running shoes…. so what’s all the fuss about?

The Skechers range has been readily adopted by triathletes, and with outstanding success too, but ‘pure’ runners have been a little slower in the take up. Maybe this is because of loyalty to another brand or skepticism over what some people perceive as ‘just a fashion brand’ manufacturing a serious running shoe. All I can say is “Give them a go, I’m sure you will love them!”

I have been lucky enough to have received some shoes from Skechers and I have now run in every model in the range so here is my guide to the range. All the weights listed are for a men’s US size 9.

All of the Skechers range are designed as a neutral shoe and allow the foot to work as nature intended, just giving it a little help with a bit of extra cushioning here and there. They have roomy toe boxes allowing your toes to splay, super soft uppers and cushioned midsoles. All shoes feature the M-strike technology. This is a slight curvature of the sole with strategically placed foot pods to promote a mid-foot strike. The shoes generally omit a heel counter (the hard piece of plastic around the heel in most brands shoes). This gives the Skechers shoes a very soft, slippery fit, whilst saving weight too.

Go Run 2/Go Run 3

Go Run 2

The Go Run 2 and it’s new successor, cunningly entitled the Go Run 3, are the models that have been gathering rave reviews for quite a while now. Why? Well these shoes are super light weighing in at just 187g. They feature a 14/10mm midsole height giving a 4mm drop. Being so light I find this is my favourite shoe for shorter races (5 and 10km) and interval sessions, especially hill sprints.

Go Run Ride 2/Go Run Ride 3

Go Run Ride 2

The Go Run Ride 2 is very similar to the Go Run 2. The main difference is that it has an extra layer of Resalyte cushioning in the midsole giving it a 17/13mm midsole height, maintaining a 4mm drop for that midfoot strike. Recommended for slightly longer distances, people looking for extra cushioning and heavier runners. This would be my choice for an everyday training shoe for serious runners. Weight is 238g.

Go Meb Speed/Speed 2

Go Meb Speed 2

The Go Meb Speed is my favourite model for road racing over half marathon and marathon distances. Although similar to the Go Run 2 it has two small differences being made on a narrower last for a snugger fit and having a carbon spring plate in the midsole. This plate helps with toe-off and helps support tired foot muscles.  I recently posted a 10 minute PB at the Ashby 20 in a pair of Go Meb Speed’s. Drop is 4mm. Weight is 193g.

Go Bionic Trail

Go Bionic Trail

The Go Bionic Trail is a fantastic and very versatile shoe. I used a pair of these extensively at the start of the year completing training runs up to 30 miles in them and the 45 mile Country To Capital ultra race in them. For a trail shoe they are very light weighing just 226g. The ‘Bionic’ part of the name comes from the fact that if you leave the insole fitted you have a 4mm drop like the other models, but if you wish to have that pure barefoot experience, just remove the insole for a 0mm drop. The races I did really pushed these shoes to the limit.

Honestly, this shoe does not cope too well with the thick, gloopy mud and waterlogged areas that plagued the UK at the start of this year, being quite slippy in mud and clay. The laces also absorb a bit too much water. They do clean exceptionally well though. You don’t need to worry though for I have submitted my plan for a Go Run Mud to Skechers! What I would say is that this shoe is awesome for door-to-trail type runs, fire roads and hard pack. If you lived in California or the Alps this is probably the only shoe you would ever need :-)

Go Run Ultra

Go Run Ultra

The Go Run Ultra is the latest shoe from Skechers to hit the UK and addresses some of the issues that I had with the Go Bionic Trail. In 2013 Skechers sponsored the Milton Keynes Marathon and the Equinox 24 Hour event. No doubt the comments they had from competitors at these events helped shape the Ultra shoe.

The Ultra is designed for long distance running on and off road. It gets a more aggressive tread than the Go Bionic Trail although it has cut outs into the outsole rather than teeth stuck on. This means it still feels smooth on road whilst giving a good amount of grip and bite off road. Good thinking Skechers!

The most notable feature when I first put on an Ultra was the lack of oxygen due to an increase in altitude. These shoes have so much cushioning they make you about an inch taller than any other shoe in the range! They have 65% more Resalyte cushioning than the already impressive Go Run Ride 2. Skechers combine this extra cushioning with a 6mm drop, rather than 4mm, the idea being to save your legs and feet just that little bit more when you are 16 hours into a 24 hour race! I love doing recovery runs in my Ultra’s. With 5 ultra races on my calendar this year, plus a 100 mile Team World Record attempt, I am sure my Ultra’s will get a LOT of use.

Please feel free to email us if you have any questions on the Skechers range… or better still, pop down between Tuesday and Friday to try some out!



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Creating Custom Wheels

Last year I wrote a blog about how to build a pair of wheels. You can see it here.

This is a follow up to that to show just what can be done for our customers.

This is the story of how our customers Gary and Lyndal ended up with their bespoke wheels.

Wheelbuilding maths!

All our custom built wheels are built specifically for each customer and tailored to their individual requirements. These include rider weight, strength, what drivetrain is being used, colour preference, intended use and terrain amongst others.

Gary and Lyndal were after a new pair of wheels each to help them with their triathlon racing across a couple of distances. They had to co-ordinate with their existing bikes, be light enough to get up the hills and be aero enough to tank along on the flat!

After some discussion we decided to go for a similar build to what we put together for Claire Shea-Simonds when she raced at the World Ironman Championships in Hawaii. These are super aero 60mm deep rims, black DT Swiss Revolution spokes, lightweight colour co-ordinated alloy hubs, matching titanium QR skewers, Continental GP4000S tyres and tubes, and Shimano Ultegra/Campagnolo Chorus cassettes.

Gary uses Campagnolo gears and wanted red hubs, spoke nipples, skewers etc so they were selected. Lyndal uses Shimano gears and wanted white components. Once all the parts were ordered it was just a case of waiting for them to arrive!

Ta daa!



Full carbon clinchers……mmmmmmmm!

Custom graphics ready to go…..

I won’t talk through the whole process of calculating spoke lengths, lacing and tensioning as I have covered that before. This blog is more to show how we can create you something unique to you that we feel can outperform the ‘big name’ brands at a fraction of the price!

Last couple of spokes going in

All laced up…..

Two pairs of wheels built, parts fitted, just waiting for graphics….

This whole process, from the initial enquiry to being built and shipped, took 5 weeks although this can be quicker depending on what is required. A more typical Shimano hub on Mavic rim wheelset could be done as quickly as 2 working days!!

Gary and Lyndal have now had their wheels for a few weeks and I ma happy to say that I have had positive feedback from them both. Good luck for the 2014 season guys…. hope you smash your races!!! :-)

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35th New Plymouth World Cup

28th March 2014

Last weekend I had an average performance at the New Plymouth Sprint Triathlon World Cup, New Zealand.  My over all race was OK though I had a terrible swim relative to my normal swim performances which left me catching up most of the race.

Race video
ITU race report


New Plymouth is in the North Island of New Zealand, about half way down the Island on the west coast.  I arrived here straight from Mooloolaba, Australia.  Even though it wasn’t a far journey, (5hours flying over two flights). It took 15 hours door to door, a long day travelling.

I’m staying with a local family in New Plymouth (Home stay) who are hosting me until I move onto The Auckland World Series race on the 6th April.  Merv, Joanne and their two kids Liam and Sam, it’s great Craic.  Their house is 5mins from the pool, 60mins biking from Mt. Egmont (2,500m high!) and 5mins from the sea and coastal run paths, this along with the 20 degrees and clear skies each day makes it pretty much a perfect place to train and prepare for races.


The race was on Sunday 23rd March, I felt good on the day and it was almost perfect racing conditions, dry and warm.  Being a sprint race and having 76 athletes in the field, it was essential to have a good swim in the 750m 1 lap swim in the sea.  I had a terrible swim.  I just wasn’t quick enough off the mark, I was at the wrong end of the pontoon and got pumped going round the first turn buoy when it bottle necked.  This put me about 40secs back by the end of the swim.

I had a solid bike on the technical course and managed to close the 40 sec gap after 13km to make my way back up to the lead pack at the cost of expending a hell of a lot of energy.  To be fair from there I was a spent force, no matter how good my running ability I had burnt too many matches biking hard to run well.

Given all that 35th was solid enough and a 15:49 5km was all I could expect.


I’ve been training solidly here since the race.  I’ll put in a few more hard days then on Wednesday 2nd April I travel up to Auckland to prepare for the World Series Olympic distance race on Sunday 6th April.  This is the first WTS race of the season and highly competitive with all the top guys racing.  Then I’ll head back home after the race.

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40th Mooloolaba World Cup

15th March 2014

I had a poor hit out in my first triathlon race of 2014 in Mooloolaba, Sunshine Coast, Australia.  This was probably the fastest sprint distance triathlon I’ve ever raced with the race winner (Mario Mola, Esp) running 13.55 for the accurate 5km in 31 degree heat and 88% humidity.

Results – http://www.triathlon.org/results/result/2014_mooloolaba_itu_triathlon_world_cup/264270
Video – http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Z9aFhYCYU4o
Triathlon Ireland Write up – http://www.triathlonireland.com/index.php?id=107&nid=1642

So what happened?

Well I done a few things right and a few things wrong, here is the post mortem.

I had good preparation and build up to the race, the 40 hours travelling to Australia were smooth and I managed the jet lag, sleep deprivation and heat acclimatisation well.  I was out training on the bike course 3 days before the race and I got hit side on by a lady who admitted she didn’t look before pulling out.  Thankfully bike was fine but my knees and arse took all the impact, so I ended up with my bike under the front of the car and me bouncing over the bonnet/windshield.  I had bruising and stiffness in my hip, not ideal race preparation but I’m lucky it wasn’t a lot worse.

I arrived a week before the race and stayed with an awesome couple (Matt and Jo) just 10mins from the race start.  Matt and Jo were Ironman specialists themselves and took podium spots in the Age group Olympic distance race held in tandem with the ITU World Cup.  This was an awesome achievement given they spent the previous day outside in the 30 degree heat cheering me on!

Jo, Me and Matt

The week before the race was very relaxed and I got all my normal race prep routine right.  My cousins Emma, Nicky and Arthur came up from Melbourne and my mate Shane came up from Sydney to watch the race.  By race day the temperature was rising along with humidity… It was hot.

I had a brutal swim and struggled the whole way.  I lost my hat and goggles after 50m from the start so I was navigating by pure chance and by bouncing off people to my left and right.  With strong sunshine and salty water I was practically blind for 700m.  I’m amazed I actually got round the buoys without actually being able to see them.  I maxed out a few times in the swim trying to hold onto feet, but failed miserably as I was zig zagging from side to side.  But saying that I was close enough to the front of the race to close the gap on the leaders with a good strong first 5km.

I had to ride very hard to close the 30 seconds the lead bike pack were ahead of me coming out of T1… I was probably deep in the red for 6-7mins, but after 4km the gap was closed and I was at the front.

This hurts!!!

There were few technical bits to the course but I got close to the front for those so stayed out of trouble, there were about 4 people taken down in crashes.  Coming into T2 I had a reasonable position and had a clean trouble free T2.

I ran OK, but suffered in the heat, and had limited range of mobility in my hip/knee from the crash.  There is mainly just bruising there and I’m getting physio on it every second day now to try and limber up for the New Plymouth Sprint Triathlon World this weekend (23rd March)

Just a nice 5km jog!!


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Ashby 20 2014

In 2012 I took up running after a bit of a lay off from ‘serious’ training, mainly as a fairly inexpensive way of shifting some excess weight (I’m still working on that!). As much as I enjoy training it’s racing and competition that really gets me going so I entered a few 5km races and got hooked.

2013 saw me up the distance and my first race was the Ashby 20 (20 miles). I subsequently did many other races but still rate this race as my best performance of the year, mainly because I surpassed even my best expectations recording a 2h39m56s time.

Now we fast forward one year to Sunday 9th March 2014. There have been ups and downs, injuries, good races, bad races and everything in between; but this was race day and I was up for this one.

The weather forecast was for the sunniest and warmest day of the year so far. This is generally a good thing, but I also knew it was going to make the second hour harder as fatigue sets in and the temperature rises as the day goes on.

Ordinarily I would like to aim for a negative split in a race. For the uninitiated this means going faster in the second half of the race than the first- not by going easy to start with though, just pushing even harder later on! I managed this well last year, but that day was cold and snowy. This makes it easier to push harder as your body cools quicker. On a hotter, humid day though this is much harder as your body dehydrates quicker.

I had given myself a goal time of 2h32m based on experience and my recent training performances (which have included some PB’s) and I thought this was achievable.

I was lucky enough to be given a lift to the race by my friend Stewart Sale who is raising money for the charity Hope Against Cancer and is embarking on becoming an Ironman from being a novice triathlete. We got to the race early and said hello to a few friends then set off for the start line.

Stew was aiming for a 3h00m finish so hung back slightly whilst I was mid-pack. The race was started and I set off hard to get straight to my target heart rate of 173bpm, a hard effort, but one I should be able to sustain for 20 miles.

By 2 miles my legs were turning over quickly and I felt good. I had made sure that I had joined a group of runners who were a slightly faster pace and I got stuck in. In the last few months I have worked hard on adapting my technique to more of a mid-foot running style and the awesome Skechers GoMeb Speed shoes that I was running in certainly helped!

The Ashby 20 is a very well organised event and the numerous water stations were even more welcome than normal on such a warm morning. Just a few sips made all the difference and I was going well.

I had originally planned to get to 10 miles in 1h17m and to do 1h15m for the second 10 miles. On this hot day though I had a change of plan and decided to go faster and get some time in the bank and then try to hold on!! Well I certainly was up on schedule when I got to 10 miles in 1h11m and 13 miles in 1h33m which is 6mins faster than my half marathon PB!

This was working well but the relentless heat and hills started to get to me after 14.5 miles or so. At this point I was pretty much running on my own so pacing was harder too. As I tired I noticed my technique slipping into bad habits so twice slowed to a walk for about 30 secs just to ‘re-set’ my self. Other runners passed me with encouraging shouts of ‘Come on mate, nearly there’ and ‘Dig in buddy!’. Much as I appreciated their help I knew what I was doing as I have seen many people cramp on the way back into Ashby. I knew 1 minute lost here was far better than cramping and losing 10 minutes.

I got to the brow of the hill just after the 19 mile mark and hit the accelerator. Sure enough, folk who passed me uphill were unable to stay with me on the downhill finish and I made up quite a few places. I turned left into the finishing straight and crossed the line with a time of 2h29m50s, 10 minutes faster than last year and just over 2mins ahead of my goal. I was very happy with that!

Not long later Stew came home in 3h07m just missing his time but doing brilliantly in that heat for a 6’3″ 105kg guy.

I averaged 12.88kph and 173bpm with a maximum HR of 191bpm. Here’s a picture of yours truly coming into the finish….. and yes, I am wearing shorts!!

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Going Down Under

6th March 2014

I’m at Heathrow Airport now on route to Aus/NZ for my first 3 races of the 2014 season;

15 March Mooloolaba World Cup
23rd March New Plymouth World Cup
6th April Auckland World Series Triathlon.

I’m looking forward to this first block of races and I’m in decent race shape.  Got about 40hours of travel to my home stay in Mooloolaba, if I manage the travel ok with any fatigue or sickness, it’ll be a good race.

Below is a short video from my last training camp in Spain.

Just received new race wheels from FrogIsland Tri, they are pretty awesome.

Gotta go board a plane now.

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First race first podium of 2014

24 Feb 2014

I raced in a local but high profile duathlon in Aguilas, Spain.  I finished 3rd.  It was a Sprint draft legal duathlon round the streets of Aguilas.  Distances were 5km run, 20km bike and 2.5km run.  This was my first Duathlon since a cold soggy wet day in Market Bosworth, Leicestershire in early 2012.

In the lead up to the race there was no taper for the race as it is in the middle of an important training block for me and it’s status is insignificant compared to my goals for the season which are based round ITU racing, Commonwealth Games and Olympic Qualifying.  The hardest training day I completed in 2014 was 2 days prior to this duathlon, so there was probably some fatigue in my legs.

Anyway the first run in the duathlon was swift, I lead it out and pushed hard through 5k in 14.50 in a small pack of 4.  There were 400 on the start line and I wanted to split the field up so I could get a small efficiently working group away on the bike.  It worked and coming out of T1 we were a lead group of 4, two Spanish lads, Richie Nichols of Scotland and me. Richie, by far the strongest athlete, is a previous European Champion so he was the one to watch.

On the bike the Spanish lads were soft, Richie attacked us all and got a solo breakaway, the guy is strong but I can blame myself with a tactical error that I didn’t jump at the right time to go with him, (it was my first race in 4 months so I was a bit race rusty).

Me and two Spanish lads rode together for the rest of the bike leg, coming into T2 we had a safe lead over the well organised 2nd bike pack but Richie had opened about 20 seconds on us so it was a battle for two podium spots between the 3 of us.  I had a poor T2 starting the run in 4th place but ran myself back up to 3rd place. 7.50 final 2.5km.

Nice way to start the season with a podium.

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Winter Training 2013/14

16 Feb 2014

I’m currently sitting in a plane somewhere above the Irish Sea on route to Spain for a 10 day training camp with the Irish Triathlon team.  Only minutes ago I was reading some rubbish in one of the Sunday tabloids, though the elderly man sitting next to me was looking incredibly bored so I passed the paper to him and thought I’d get on with something more productive like giving you a wee update on the shenanigans and training over the past 10 weeks.

I caught up with an old friend the other day who I hadn’t seen or heard of in over a year I was quizzed on all things triathlon related.  Here’s how it went.


Overall the 2013 season was poor compared to my early season expectations.  I finished 2013 ranked 82nd in the ITU Points List and 96th in the ITU WTS points list.  I had great form after a solid 2012/2013 winter, Won a few cross country run races (English Midlands XC Champion 2013) and road races and was setting PB’s all over the place in early 2013.  My 2013 season was destroyed at my ITU World Cup debut in April where I was taken down in a bike crash, broken muscles in my left knee, 8 weeks off, never regained early season form and struggled with the integrity down the left side of my body for the rest of the season.  I did post 3 top 10 ITU Continental Cup and 3 top 15 ITU World Cup results which meant I met the criteria to qualify for the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games.


I took 1 week totally off doing anything physical after my last race, filled my time partying and catching up with friends and family.  Then I had 2 further weeks of unstructured training doing other sports and again partying and  socialising at home in Co. Armagh.  Had a few days out with old school friends, climbed a few mountains, cruised round the country with my dog Rio and done intense rehab still suffering niggles reappearing from my early season bike crash. So really it was 3 weeks of no triathlon training but I did stay active and nearly burnt myself out catching up with people.


So far 10 weeks.  I’ve been doing the basics, nothing complicated, just solid training.


This year I’ve been at home in Ireland for longer than usual, last year I was on the road a lot racing and training, so I spent more of my winter with family in Co. Armagh whilst training and it worked well.  Between home and the training centre in Leicester I’ve had a decent block of training.  At times the conditions (wind, rain, snow) have been brutal but a good block of rough winter training definitely hardens you up.  I have been on training camp with the Irish team and linked up with the Scottish team for a few weeks.




Unlike other years where I would have run 4-5 Cross Country races by this stage, I have focused on getting a good winter base and making sure I get a good volume of base training in instead of racing inconsequential XC races.  I’ve missed it though, it’s been an effort to hold back from racing, I’m like a caged up greyhound here ready to go.


I start racing on the 15th March in ITU Triathlon Mooloolaba World Cup, Australia, then onto New Zealand for another World Cup and World Series race.


Olympic qualifying starts in May this year and runs for 2 years so everything is focused around this.  Also establishing a higher world ranking than last year is also a priority.


Realistically about 15 triathlons in total all over the world, ranging from Super Sprint to Olympic distance.  These will include, Commonwealth Games, World Triathlon Series, World Cup Triathlons and French Grand Prix Triathlons.

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Country2Capital Ultra 2014

As anyone who regularly reads our blogs or follows us on social media may know, last year I ran the Equinox24 24 hour race, promoted by local race organiser Racetime Events. This was not born out of any particular desire to run for a stupidly long period of time, it was more a case of me being a poor swimmer, so when Racetime Events announced they were putting on a new event, which wasn’t a triathlon, I had decided that I was going to compete before I even knew what it was!

As it happened I had been doing quite a bit of running anyway and was preparing for my first couple of marathons, so this event seemed a good fit. To cut a long story short (click here for the long version), I did OK at the Equinox and so started the quest to qualify for one of the most prestigious running events in the World, the North Face Ultra Trail Mont Blanc. To qualify to enter this race you have to gain 7 ranking points from a maximum of three races. Should I finish sucessfully, the C2C would gain me my first point towards entering the UTMB in 2015. 

The UTMB….

The C2C race starts from Wendover, Bucks early on a Saturday morning. This meant a Friday off work so I could travel down by train.

Just before I left Casa P-J, I saw a tweet about a chap called Eddie Isaac who had worked at Leicester Railway Station for, get this, 53 years and was retiring that day. When I got to the station I went down to my platform and the first person I saw was Eddie. I went over to say thanks for his service, as I thought it was the right thing to do, next thing I know I’m being interviewed by BBC and ITV news crews! Nuts!

Eddie Isaac MBE with me.

The travelling down went without a hitch. I stayed down the road in Aylesbury and hopped on a 7am train back to Wendover for the start from the Shoulder of Mutton pub along with 300 or so other runners.

Despite having run Equinox and some long training runs this was really my first Ultra (an Ultra is any race longer than a marathon) so it was a bit of a trip into the unknown.  Lining up alongside was a member of Leicester Triathlon Club, Kieron Ford, a talented athlete who had completed a double-Ironman and Justin Horrocks, a fellow Equinoxer.

Me at 6am, getting ready for the start!

The start of an Ultra is an interesting place as it’s so difficult to know how it’s going to go. Some people look like they are going for a quick 5km session; others look like Sir Edmund Hilary embarking on a crack at Mt Everest!

I was somewhere in the middle. Kit wise I ran in a Gore X-Running GT AS jacket, Gore X-Run Ultra SO Light ¾ tights, Gore Singlet base layer, Gore Pulse jersey, Gore X-Run Ultra compression socks, Injinji toe liner socks, a Breo buff and Skechers GoRun Bionic Trail running shoes. I used a Deuter Sport Belt 4 to carry my Zipvit and Nuun nutrition, UP headtorch and other bits and pieces.

The traditional start to the race is a 400m sprint downhill through Wendover to the first stile onto the trails. I decided not to go too hard from cold as it was going to be a long day. I didn’t realise though that queuing would be an integral part of racing for the next couple of hours until the field thinned out a little.

The first couple of miles involved crossing lots of fields via more stiles and this slowed me up more than I wanted. I tried to make up some ground in an open field running hard, only for the mud to decide that it wanted my left Skecher shoe more than my foot did! Despite double knotted shoes it was literally wrenched off my foot. I lost about 15-20 places here-not happy! A mile or two later, whilst trying to make some ground up, I took a spectacular tumble running on an off-camber field, I didn’t stop though, breaking into a Commando roll as I fell and styling it out!

Despite recent heavy floods it was actually a dry day with glorious sunshine, the only problem being that the low Winter Sun was constantly in my eyes. Although I was wearing sunglasses my Gore visor would have come in useful here (note to self: be more prepared). The super slippery clay mud was treacherous underfoot and the Sun stopped you from being able to see which line to take making for a hard combination for racing. Still, I felt like I was going OK, jogging the flat sections, running the downhills and jogging/marching the uphills. Some of the uphill sections were pretty steep! I really enjoyed some of the fast, technical descents with streams flowing down them and we actually had two proper streams to run through too.

Steep going for some of my fellow racers!

One of the biggest aspects of this race was the sheer amount of navigation required. Unlike a marathon where you have a clearly laid out course, the C2C race required proficiency in using a compass as the only directions are the 17 pages of maps that you get given at the start of the race! Often I would be running in a group only for another group of runners to appear from behind a hedge from a completely different direction! Given the number of twists and turns, it could easily have turned from a 45 mile race into a 55 mile race.

As the miles (I prefer kilometres) went on I kept my pace steady and a constant stream of nutrition going in. I felt like I was going pretty well, just not as fast as I would have liked as I was struggling in the mud.

The race was meant to be approx 50/50 split between cross country/trails and the Grand Union Canal towpath, but the first ten miles or so of that was almost as boggy as the fields, hindering me further. I know the conditions are the same for everyone but people with shoes with more aggressive tread were definitely at an advantage in the mud!

Despite these conditions I was warm and comfortable throughout the whole race in my Gore gear, top quality kit really does make a difference in these long races with variable weather conditions!

As I hit the 13 miles to Paddington point the ground firmed up and my Skechers started to come into their own. My strategy of constant fuelling was paying off too and I got significantly faster as the race went on, it was just a shame I was already behind my schedule L

I think it was just before the last checkpoint where I caught Kieron and his friend (who was suffering a bit). At this point I wouldn’t say I put the hammer down, that would be a big exaggeration, but I was still able to run more than walk, which a lot of competitors were starting to do.

Eventually I joined up with two other runners and we came into the finish line. My time was 8h29m34s for 198th place out of 304 finshers, not amazing and a long way off my goal, but I finished OK. I think it shows how fresh I felt at the end as my checkpoint splits went from 231, 258, 214, 118, 176, 133 fastest between each point. My average was 234th fastest for the first half of the race and 142nd fastest for the second half of the race. I’ll take that as a decent negative split!

Astonishingly the winner, Edward Catmur, broke the course record with a 4h48m race. That’s 20min 5km pace (about my 5km PB) or about 2h50m marathon pace for 45miles/70km on really muddy conditions. How the HELL do you do that!?

You can see the full results here.

Map book, medal and race number.

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Posted in Everything Else!..., FrogIslandTriathlon, Preparation for the new season, Steve Pascale-Jones | Leave a comment