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.


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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!).


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.



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The Speyside Way Ultra (36.5 miles) by Steve Pascale Jones

The Speyside Way Ultra (36.5 miles)

Och aye, hoots, frrreeeeeeddoooooommm and all that from Bonnie Scotland!

Earlier this year I was browsing for some more Ultra races when I came across the Speyside Way Ultra. This particular race jumped out at me because between the ages of about 9 and 15 I used to holiday in in the Moray/Speyside area with my parents and family at least three times a year so I know it fairly well. When I saw this race was on I entered immediately. By complete coincidence entries had literally JUST opened and I was only the second person to enter the race.

SWU is a trail Ultra and is a dangerously long 36.5 miles. Why do I say dangerous? Well I don’t mean that it is hazardous in any way, the course is pretty safe. More so that when you are running 50, 75 or 100 miles if something goes wrong at the 30 mile point you still so long time left that you can pull back time, run off niggles etc. 36.5 miles is ‘just’ 10 miles longer than a marathon so can attract some awesome marathon runners, but the most dangerous thing when considering a 36.5 mile race is being in the ‘Well it’s half the distance of the Great Glen Ultra, so it should be easy enough’ mindset. I can assure you that 36.5miles is still a F***ING LONG WAY!!!

When you set out to run 70 miles, it is all about pacing, and I mean REALLY pacing yourself. With a 36.5 mile race there is a very real temptation to think ‘Well I can do XX:XX:XX for a marathon and I can do XX:XX:XX for 10 miles and add them together and that’s what you might just be able to do if you had an amazing race. The reality is a marathon is VERY, VERY hard. To add an extra 10 miles on and run to try to continue running at full marathon intensity, off-road, on terrain with 1000ft climbs would destroy any runner. Conversely must ‘serious’ Ultra runners will be looking at their main races being 50, 75 or even 100 miles (there was even a 184 mile race on this weekend!!) and the pacing and fuelling for these races is completely different again. Try to run a 36.5 mile race at 70mile pace and you certainly won’t be drinking Champagne that night (maybe Lidl’s sparkly wine might be more appropriate).

So, Mr Smarty-Pants Pascale-Jones, how do you run a 36.5 mile race well? Well, probably the best way is to work out the best pace or heart rate (or even power output if you have that level of tech available) and run at that level. OR; the simplest way is probably to run the first 10 miles at a warm up pace and then try and run a flat out marathon.

So, how did I do it on the day?

EXACTLY as you would expect. By doing completely the OPPOSITE of what I would recommend!!!! Racing,eh!!!??

I’ll go back to the start before I get into the race details. The SWU race takes place over 36.5 miles (58.8km) from Ballindalloch to Buckie on the Morayshire coast. The terrain is predominantly trail with just a couple of short road sections thrown in towards the end.

Race registration took place at Buckie Community College at 6.30am. As Buckie is about 80 miles from where I live my lovely sister, Louise, and top brother-in-law, Stuart kindly volunteered to be my support crew/cheerleaders for the day. The poor things got up at 3am (yes, really) to drive to my house and pick me up just after 4.30am. They arrived just as I was prepping my feet for the coming miles and had a quick espresso (surely the only kind of espresso?) whilst waiting for me to have some breaky (oats and yoghurt, pancakes and golden syrup, 2x espresso’s). All fuelled up and off we went.

The drive to Buckie passed without incident and we arrived at the college. I registered and left my two drop bags for the checkpoints at 12 and 24 miles. Almost straight away I bumped into Richard, from Leeds, who was a runner I met at the Great Glen Ultra. Richard, Louise, Stuart and I had a nice chat, then it was off to the start.

Two buses left Buckie to drive the 97 runners down the road to Ballindalloch. This was a nice relaxing hour for us to all take in Malt Whisky country, Highland Cows and the beautiful River Spey. I loaded up on my the last of my US-Strength formula Gatorade so that I was adequately fuelled and hydrated for the miles ahead and had a chat with some of the other runners. As usual, nerves were in the air, I could taste them! Or was that the toilet on the coach? Hmm.

Anyway, we disembarked (I love that word; had to use it as I don’t think there is any other context in which it can be used, it’s so much better than ‘got off’) the coach and milled about doing the usual nervy runner things of endlessly adjusting clothing, repacking race packs and queuing for the Portaloo’s even if we didn’t need them! There was also the nice touch of McToot the Piper greeting us on arrival.

The race organisers were spot on and didn’t keep us waiting long. We were ushered onto the start of the trail, given a quick “5,4,3,2,1, Go!” and that was it.

I started more-or-less where I expected to finish about a quarter of the way from the front. About a dozen guys started really quickly to open a gap straight away. I started hard myself, running at about 170bpm from the start, much higher than the 158-162 level I was looking to stay at. Never mind, I was shifting so getting some ‘time in the bank’ as it were.

The start of the trail was flat but VERY narrow and recent rains had turned into 50% bog, 40% ice rink and only 10% firm ground. Still, conditions are the same for everyone.

I was quickly joined by the awesome runner Sophie Mullins who I had followed on Twitter just the day before and she recognised my Racetime Events kit. I confessed that I had maybe started a bit too hard really and commented that she was going well. Sophie told me this was her first Ultra and that she was going for the win!!! Well I know she is a 3:02 marathon runner (compared to my PB of 3:50) but such spunk and chutzpah were to be admired!! Her tactic of start hard and get out of range were the order of the day. ‘Right’, I said, ‘Let’s work together.’ I offered my services as a domestique for as long as I could and we worked well together, going through the first 8 miles (12.88km) in 59m31s. I managed to pace Sophie for one more mile but then dropped back to concentrate on my own, slower, race.

By the time I settled back into my rhythm I was coming towards the first checkpoint (CP1) at Craigellachie, one of my favourite places from family holidays of yesteryear. Just as I neared the CP I started getting some cheers and it took a few seconds for me to cotton on that Louise and Stuart had found their way onto the course and had spotted me. They informed me that I was ‘About 8th place’ which came as a big surprise really. I grabbed my food and rounded the corner onto the first big climb of the day. I took the opportunity to replace some lost calories by hiking up the hill whilst eating some energy bar and trail mix. About a third of the way up I got passed by a couple of runners who must have started slower and chosen to attack the climb, including the second placed lady.

The first part of the race had been almost all flat but now the course veered away from the river a bit and the next 12 miles or so were fairly hilly. Fairly hilly in this case means a couple of climbs to 920ft and 570ft. Once these were dispatched though it was downhill/flat all the way to the finish. Other than losing a couple more places as I tried to even out my effort, things were pretty uneventful. I paced myself and took in nutrition as and when I felt like it. CP2 arrived and, whist I knew I had lost a few places, there were LOADS of drop bags left so I knew I wouldn’t be last at least. I took on some more water, thanked the marshal and carried on. I passed quite few people doing a charity walk and received a few cheers and words of encouragement which was nice.

The River Spey reappeared on my left hand side and suddenly I could see it opening out into the sea. It was beautiful. At this point I turned right and the rest of the course followed the coast eastwards, through Spey Bay, Portgordon and onto the finish in Buckie. I got to Spey Bay where there was a water stop and LouNStu were there again cheering me on which was so nice :-) I paused for some water, a hug and a photo and carried on. A brief section of road then led onto a really nice piece of trail that rolled and ebbed and flowed over rocks and roots and sand and stones and it really seemed to aid momentum. The smell of salt in the air was lovely too. When this bit finished it opened out onto an exposed piece of coastal path. I looked at my watch. 1:59pm. It was due to rain at 2pm. 2pm ticked over and it immediately started to hammer it down! Well done Met Office!

I didn’t care though and the cool rain was refreshing to me. I cut through Portgordon and as I crossed a road I slowed a black Peugeot down a fair bit. It pulled up alongside me and it was LouNStu again!! “Meet you at the finish” they said. So I pressed on along the seafront, half jogging, half walking. One of the hardest things in Ultra’s is the lack of information and I didn’t know if it was 400m or 4 miles to the finish, so I just kept to a steady pace enjoying the scenery. Eventually I started seeing a couple of runners who had passed me who had just finished. They encouraged me a bit and I rounded a corner up a slight hill to the finishing straight, crossing the fine in 5:34:08. Pre-race I had worked on a time of 5:30-6:00 so was generally happy. Knowing the course now and how relatively fresh I was at the finish, I am sure that I could have ran a 5:20 or maybe a bit quicker if I had got everything right. Still,  was very happy with a 5:34 and what turned out tone 18th place out of 97 finishers. All in all my race results are going in the right direction!

Special thanks go to Louise and Stuart Kelman for being awesome supporters on the day and for getting up at 3am on their days off! Thanks also to The Speyside Way Ultra for putting on a great race and to all the volunteers at CP’s, water stations, turns etc. Thanks.

My next race is the biggy: Equinox 24 Hour 2014.

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18 Aug 2014 Morzine/Avoriaz it’s been great

18 Aug 2014
Morzine/Avoriaz it’s been great

So I’m into my last few days in Morzine.  This has been the training groups training base since the 1st of June, so after 10 weeks it sort of feels like home.  It’s an awesome place at just over 1,000m Morzine is in a valley surrounded by tall mountains.  Most of the training group spent a little time at altitude, just up the mountain at 1,800m in Avoriaz.

Morzine is in the Northern French Alps, only 90mins from Geneva.  It’s a super place for training.  We’ve have the wettest summer here for many years (according to the locals), but a wee splash of rain does the trick to cool you down and compared to Ireland…. Well this place is like the Sahara desert.

I’ve clocked up a few miles since driving to Morzine with Aileen post London WTS.  In fact in total in the past 10 weeks I’ve drove just shy of 5,000miles (8,000km).  Most of this was done driving from Avoriaz to Morzine for training most days, or going to the track in Thonon les Bains, but I have cris crossed Europe for races also.  I’ll leave my car in Morzine for the next block of training/races then when the season is finished in late October have a relaxed road trip back to Ireland.

Since being posted here in Morzine 10 weeks ago I’ve raced 6 times.
2nd Bardolino, An Italian development race
16th Kitzbuhel European Triathlon Champs
(Drove to Hamburg  WTS but ended up 1st on the wait list, enjoyable 26hr round drive on autobahn)
12th Commonwealth Games Mens race
6th Commonwealth Games Team Relay
5th Tiszaujvaros WC Semi final 1
19th Tiszaujvaros WC Final

So the next 10 week block of training/racing will be an exciting stint.
The plan outlined (which will change towards the end of the season) because nothing is ever set in stone, but for now includes;
23rd Aug Stockholm Sprint WTS
30th Aug Edmonton Olympic WTS Grand Final
(Month of September I’ll be in Boulder, Colorado on a training camp)
11th Sept Las Vegas Super Sprint
3rd Oct Cozumel Sprint WC
10th Oct Cartagena Olympic WC
18th Oct Tongyeong Olympic WC
Back to Morzine to road trip it back to Ireland

So that’s the story, last 2 days of training in Morzine then we all fly to Stockholm for the race this weekend.

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13 Aug 2014 19th Tiszaurjvaros World Cup

13 Aug 2014
19th Tiszaurjvaros World Cup

If Carlsberg did World Cup Triathlon races… But if they did… TizzyWC.

It was my second time in Tizzy (as it is affectionately abbreviated to), and an amazing experience it is. Tizzy is in Hungary about 180km east of Budapest.  It’s a Sprint Triathlon World Cup but it is held in an eliminator format, semi finals on the Saturday and finals on the Sunday.

In the men’s race there were 3 semi finals with 30 men in each and the top 10 men in each semi went through to the final the next day.  I qualified in 5th place in my semi final, it was hard and fast but the key was qualifying for the finals but not to blow too much energy for the finals only 24hrs later.  I had a solid semi final doing all the basics right and qualifying comfortably.  On the Saturday there were about 15 races in all with Junior and age group races along with age group races taking place.

So Saturday evening was all about recovery and getting the body back to decent shape before the real show down in the final the next day (Sunday at 5pm).  I slept badly in the Saturday night after the race, as most probably did with the adrenaline still pumping and the humid conditions in Tizzy.  Next morning it was 30 degrees celcius by 9am and getting hotter, with our race at 5pm it was going to be a scorcher.  I did a 30min run with stretches and run drills to loosen up that morning then kept out if the heat and relaxed for most of the morning.

Pre race was the mortal routine 20min build cycle, 20min build swim.  I felt great and was ready to do a real good job in the race, then 15mins pre race, just a I was exiting the water after my swim warm up I stepped on a broken bottle that was submerged in the water, and my foot started pissing blood.  This was not good, it took about 10mins with a medic compressing my foot tightly for the blood flow to subside.  The rest of the guys were lining up for their pontoon call and I was lying on the ground with 3 medics seeing to the gash in my foot.

All said and done, the medics eventually wrapped my foot up in bandages and they advised me not to start the race as I’ve lost a lot of blood, (to be fair to the medics they had a point, there were pools of blood around where I was lying).  But I had a quick think, I was in too good a shape just to pull out, the medics had done a great job wrapping my foot, I stood up, took 2 energy gels as I was a bit dizzy for all the excitement of the cut, done a few hops, the bandages held in place and I said to myself I’ll give it a go anyway.


I was a bit dizzy again on the run down to the pontoon, but felt grand otherwise.  The gun shot and off we went , 3*250m laps, first turn buoy 115m away, I had a terrible start and got pumped round the first buoy.

See this vine of the turn buoy, I’m the guy dunked twice near the back, I was in the wrong place at the wrong time, if I’d have swam faster this would not have happened.

So I exited the water way down in the 3rd pack, in fact 20 secs slower than my swim time in the semi finals.  We got a small group working together and held the 2nd pack at 15secs for 18km and then closed them down eventually with 1km to go, our group didn’t work very well together but we got there eventually, I hit T2 7secs down on the leaders, significant amount of time lost but even more so a lot of extra unnecessary effort wasted on the bike.

I ran reasonably fast to finish in 19th but my technique was shocking and I wasn’t holding good form even if I was trying, may be because I was red lined from the work on the bike, or my foot had started leaking more blood on the run or I just wasn’t strong enough… Or a combination of them all.  All in all a great race and very enjoyable and a good time had by all.

I’m sure I’ll be back to race Tizzy some time again, give it a go, highly recommended.

Final men’s results, ITU race report and race results;

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