Inside the Peleton – A New Experience.

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about group riding since completing the Mallorca 312 last Saturday. It’s something most of us long distance triathletes never do and the view from inside the peleton was a new experience.

Once out of the mountains when it got on to the flatter stuff past Palma at about 170k it got particularly interesting because it was the first time I had experienced riding in a really big peloton among some fairly well drilled riders. 

The 3 of us from Black Line who were riding the event (Me, Mel Wasley and Al Maher) ended up in a big group being led by a Mallorcan team from Manacor -who were all in smart matching kit and riding very disciplined. You hear about being sucked along by a peloton but in all honesty until Saturday I thought this was a bit of an exaggeration, however sure enough, once we were in this group we were scooting along at over 40k per hour by just soft tapping and freewheeling. It was an amazing experience but also pretty stressful as you have to concentrate 100% on not getting too close to the wheel in front, touching wheels and causing a massive pile up….making you the most unpopular person in Mallorca.

Continue reading “Inside the Peleton – A New Experience.”

Paul Burton’s Ironman South Africa 2015 – Kona Booked.

“Obsessed is just a word the lazy use to describe the dedicated.”

That’s one of the cringeworthy ‘inspirational quotes’ that obsessed athletes wheel out to defend their mindset and what they do. It’s a load of rubbish. I’ve been utterly obsessed. I think everyone who puts themselves through endurance sport training with the aim of being as good as they can be is obsessed. Obsession is good for performance or else you wouldn’t put yourself through what it takes to get there. It can also be highly damaging if not kept in check to make sure some form of balance is maintained. But anyone doing this silly sport of ours who claims they’re not obsessed is most likely lying. Ask their families…

Continue reading “Paul Burton’s Ironman South Africa 2015 – Kona Booked.”

Alechia van Wyk : Pilgrim Challenge North Downs Multistage Ultra

Mud, mud, glorious mud.

 Apparently there’s ‘nothing quite like it for cooling the blood’ – if you’re a hippopotamus that is, but if you’re a runner taking part in the Pilgrim Challenge North Downs Multistage Ultra  (31Jan/1Feb) then it almost stopped you in your tracks.

 It seemed to me that the whole of the North Downs is built on Surrey clay which feels like running in glue. It made the 66-mile, two-day event even more of a challenge.

 But now it’s done and I’ve passed another vital staging post in my psychological progress towards coping in these grueling endurance events and going beyond the inner hurdles and demons, I have created in 2014, with many DNFs.

Continue reading “Alechia van Wyk : Pilgrim Challenge North Downs Multistage Ultra”

Black Line London’s Best of 2014 Gallery.

It’s impossible to really capture what Black Line London means to our family members, but we’ll give it a go.

As 2014 draws to a close, here are some of our best bits – it might be a great photo, an important moment or just something that made us laugh.

We hope you had a great year…..see you in 2015.

 

BLL Andalucia

 January: Paul Deen, Paul Smernicki & Nico van der Westhuizen winter train under big skies in Andalucia.

Wokingham half marathon

February: No Wokingham Half? No problem! We arranged our own in Richmond Park. 

SA bike recce

April: First big event of the year as a delegation head to Ironman South Africa, motherland to several of the gang. Looking good on a bike course recce.

James_Peet_IMSA

April: IMSA – James Peet finishes in spectacular style. 

Jane Mallorca

May: Ironman Mallorca 70.3 – Jane Hansom wins her age group. The Universe remains stable.

Ash_Matt_Paul_Mallorca

May: Ironman Mallorca 70.3 – Ashley, Paul and Team Freespeed’s Matt Molloy spend the last 5k of the run discussing the 4th discipline: How to execute the perfect photo finish.

Alechia_NDW

May: It’s not all Ironman. Captured by husband Carel, Alecia makes final adjustments before the North Downs Way ultra marathon.

sexiest trio in tri

July: The self-proclaimed ‘handsomest team in tri’ dominate at Bananaman.  They told me to write that.

Outlaw finish

August: Epitomising the BLL ethos 2 grown men, one of them looking like Malibu Ken, hold hands as Paul and Sam narrowly miss the podium in The Outlaw team relay. It should be noted they were a team of 2.

MEl_Norseman_small

August: By far the hardest thing anyone at BLL did this year was Mel Wasley’s epic adventure at Norseman. It’s insanely hard and she smashed it.

James Peet_Zell_am_See

August: Looks fast? Is fast. James Peet at Zell am See 70.3

Paul_CPH_Finish

August: Paul Smernicki completely gubbed after Ironman Copenhagen. “I said many times on the run “never again” but was front of the que to enter for 2015 the next day.”

Nico Ironman Wales Run

September: Great shot of Nico at IM Wales, sporting our new Fusion Sport kit on his his way to 3rd in AG and Kona ’15 qualification….a great day for him and us.

new-forest-1

September: South African Wildebeest trample all over the New Forrest. Wildebeest win.

Al_Colonel

September: Dark horse Al Maher rocked up at IM Louisville without telling us, and powered to a PB. More importantly, he met Colonel Sanders who asked for a BLL T-Shirt. We told him to fuck off.

Jen_Deenzy_Kona

October: The big show! We were so proud to have 3 of our gang at Kona. Here, Jen gives Deenzy pure evils as they get ready for check in.

BLL_team_pic

October: BLL at Kona. Jen Hill, Mary Collins, Michael Collins and Paul Deen. Envy and pride in equal measure.

BLL_Kids

October: Young Team at Park Run. Next gen, yeah?

Troy 100KM

November: Troy does a 100km run. Respect, but THAT’S JUST FUCKING NUTS BRO!! 

Mike

December: There is only one pic we could finish with. The world will soon be one person faster. Congrats Michael and Mary Collins for helping Black Line London grow……

A 100km Run and I’m Not Sure I’ll Make It

UTCT-10

October 2004. London. I’m about to step out the door for a 5km run and I’m not sure I’ll make it.

October 2014. Cape Town. I’m about to step out the door for a 100km run and I’m not sure I’ll make it.

The driving factor to get my arse out the door in these two situations was remarkably different, but ultimately, it boils down to one common thread.

The Comfort Zone.

Following that run in 2004, I’ve been extremely privileged to be able to complete many races. Half marathons, marathons, triathlons and a handful of Ironman events. I say privileged because not only is competing in these races expensive; the act of movement is not something everybody gets to enjoy. I’ll stop there before I go too deep.

So why 100km? Over mountains. With a 15 hour time limit? Because that’s exactly what the Ultra Trail Cape Town involves.

That common thread is why. To move outside of my comfort zone. My focus over the last few years has been on Ironman triathlon. The goal of simply finishing my first one quickly moved to finishing the next, and the next, and the next, as fast as possible. Chasing a time. Or a Kona slot (more on this in a future post). Admittedly, there were other, superficial, influencing factors. A first for Cape Town – my ‘hometown’. On ‘The Mountain’. Trail running. A route I’ve invested much time exploring, in awe.

(For the record, Cape Town is trail running heaven. If you don’t believe me, check out my Instagram feed.

Hovering the cursor over the enter button, my mind was clear. It said, “You’re biting off more than you can chew here dude. 100km is a LONG way. I don’t think you can do it.”

Click.

I’m a socially motivated athlete. I obviously compete for ‘myself’ and any pressure to perform comes from within, but I find sharing goals with friends and family massively motivating. That’s why I tend to make a campaign out of it. I guess it’s a poor excuse to rally up support. Or, a way in which I help apply pressure on myself to do something. Ask anyone who’s done a race where they’re able to be tracked and they’ll tell you – it helps to know people are following you online. It keeps you going. Each time you cross a timing matt – they’ll know I’m still going.

Sir Winston Churchill famously said, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” That’s where #keepgoing came into it. My campaign mantra. My driving force. It’s what I trained my brain to say every time the thought of “This is too hard, just stop” entered my head.

If you asked me to write a report on what I did during my fourteen and a half hours of racing, I couldn’t. Some parts are vivid, others a blur. Even days after, I’m getting flashbacks to experiences of the race. Some that make me smile, others wince. So here’s a short summary…

Making my way to the start line, I bumped into Raynard Tissink doing his final race pack checks. It was good to see Ray as we’d done a route recce together a few weeks before and had agreed to not shave until after the 100km. We wanted to look like ‘proper’ trail runners. The mood at the start was jovial. Still pitch dark, with the nervous flashes of headtorches darting about. Soon we were ambling through the streets of Cape Town, with Ray complaining about the slow pace. Slowly, slowy catch the monkey Ray-man.

Lion’s Head (not the top), Platteklip Gorge (the almost 1 hour climb that gets you to the top on Table Mountain), MacClears Beacon. Not that I could see the beacon. The top of Table Mountain was covered in thick cloud. Thankfully I’d enjoyed the view on other occasions so no view meant I could focus on moving forward.

A few kilometres from the Constantia Nek check point, a friend, Kevin Flanagan, caught up to me, meaning I had some welcome company from the check point, pretty much all the way to Hout Bay (halfway). Running across Llandudno and Sandy Bay beaches was beautiful. The Atlantic Ocean looked massively inviting.

“The first real bit of suffering was soon to follow”

The section off the beach, over Karbonkelberg and down to Hout Bay was painful. Kev started dropping back on the climb. Eventually he’d find a rock, sit down and have a few words with himself. I wanted to do the same. It’s when the doubt set in. Running downhill became excruciatingly painful. And Hout Bay was only halfway. Feeling that sore, with 50km still to go, had me stressed. Keep going. Keep going. KEEP going. I made the 50km check point and with fresh reserves (in my Camelbak), I shuffled out of Hout Bay.

UTCT-11

Constantia Nek, the Constantia winelands, the Contour, the University of CT (UCT). By this point, it was a simple matter of moving from check point to check point. On average, about 8km apart. Coke and water being my saviour. It really is the best sports drink in the world.

Leaving the final check point at UCT was a huge confidence boost. It’s when the belief came back. I wasn’t going to come this far and not finish! The final mountain to climb is the aptly (on this occasion) named Devil’s Peak. I felt like I was in the Devil’s cave. That familiar, dark place. I’d been here before, only this time it was pitch dark. Keep going.

As I ran around the Devil’s Peak contour, the city once again revealed itself. I actually let out a massive WOOOOOOOOHOOOOOO, and proceeded to run off course. Shit. I’d run (downhill) 600m in the wrong direction. It was at this exact point that I learned that the body (and mind) always have more. From struggling to move my legs, the adrenaline kicked in and I started running back, uphill! It felt effortless. I was floating. If I didn’t run, I wouldn’t make the 15 hour cut-off.

As I found my way onto the correct path, I saw a familiar face. KEV! Without a word, we knew the task at hand. 10km to go, less than an hour and a half to make cut-off. I ran that final 10km in absolute fear. Fear of failure. Fear I’d celebrated too early. What a fool.

Only when I turned the final corner onto the finishing field did the fear fade away. 14 hours and 38 minutes. I crossed the line, thanked Kev for the company and doubled over. I stayed like this for a minute or two. Time became irrelevant. I’d done it. Then came the tears. I’ve never been ashamed to admit I’m an emotional being. I wear my heart on my sleeve. Someone in the crowd thought I was retching, when in fact I was sobbing.

I sat down, pulled my phone out for the first time since I’d put it away on the start line, called my parents, and allowed tears of joy to stream down my face as I let them know their son was safely home.

I made it.

UTCT-9

These incredible photo’s were taken by Andrew King.

Charlotte Cooper’s Spotify Playlist Takeover

Charlotte Cooper

In the scheme of things, very few people have raced an iron distance event. Fewer still have performed at a major international music festival like Glastonbury.

I’d be pretty sure that Charlotte Cooper is a community of one who have done both.

She’s been the beating heart of her band The Subways, touring all across the world at some of the most incredible venues and auspicious company for 10 years. More recently she been bitten by the ironman bug and it turns out she’s not to shabby at that either.

“I’m still pretty new to ironman world, but I’m hooked! I did Challenge Roth in 2013, Outlaw in 2014 (won my age group hurray – I don’t like to show off, but I’ve never won anything before so I’m pretty proud of that!) and I’ll be doing Challenge Weymouth next year.”

And so it seemed more than perfect to ask Charlotte to take over our Spotify playlist – the top 10 tracks are hers, and here’s what they mean to her.

Fleetwood Mac – Don’t Stop

I’ve been listening to a lot of Fleetwood Mac while we have been recording our 4th album and they’ve become one of my favourite bands. It seemed quite poignant that at a point where I was really struggling in The Outlaw this year, I ran past a boat that was blasting out this song. Every time I ran past a different Fleetwood Mac song was playing!

Paramore – Misery Business

This is my favourite treadmill song. It’s perfect for a tough threshold session, inside or outside. I can’t help but run/dance during the solo!

Kylie Minogue – Into The Blue

I’m a huge Kylie fan and she’s been my favourite artist since I was old enough to know what music was. This song from the new album was the soundtrack to my Outlaw training this year.

Kate Bush – Running Up That Hill

I do love songs on my training playlist that relate to swim, bike, run – could there be a more perfect hill rep song?!

Garbage – Run Baby Run

Shirley Manson has always been a hero of mine and Garbage one of my favourite bands. I love to train to this running related tune!

Muse – Plug In Baby

My favourite band as a teenager – I had posters all over my walls! Origin of Symmetry was always my favourite album, so one of those tracks usually features on my playlist.

Chvrches – We Sink

My favourite new band! I’ve been obsessed with this album this year!

Bleech – Here I Am

These guys supported us on our recent UK tour. I set myself a challenge to cycle 1000 miles over the month long tour and I was always singing Bleech songs while I was out on the road!

Foo Fighters – Monkey Wrench

Quite simply an awesome tune! I like songs that make me smile and want to dance when I’m training!

Supergrass – Caught By The Fuzz

I grew up in the Brit Pop era, so bands like Supergrass will always have a huge influence on me. As a bass player too, I love Mick Quinn!

Follow Charlotte on Twitter.

The Subways.

The Subways new album.

Paul Burton’s Ironman Wales

Swim-display

I’ve made no secret that my triathlon dream is to qualify for Kona. I like public goals. Stick it on a flagpole as your motivation. Anyhow, after getting so close last year I could hardly deny it’s the goal. The problem is that this is as binary as goals get. You either achieve it or you don’t. Simple.

In golf, the sport I spent my younger years obsessed by, there’s a phrase ‘there are no pictures on the scorecard’. A lucky 4 from someone that didn’t get near the fairway, thins one through the trees but somehow holes a long putt beats a 5 from someone that cracks a 300 yard drive, flushes a long iron to 8 feet then 3 putts. As a golfer I was the former – a mean short game meant I often beat people who hit the ball much further and better than me. I was really annoying to play against. My Ironman racing has seen the boot on the other foot. I have been the equivalent of the big hitter who gets into great positions but has the yips with the short stick. Ironmans’ South Africa and Bolton in 2013 saw me off the bike in great positions and run down out of the Kona slots. As great as a 9.30 in South Africa felt, the scorecard shows that I came back home without a Kona slot.

I waited a long time for another crack. I went back to South Africa in April. Then someone, let’s call them ‘The Dream Crusher’, on the flight deposited their bronchitis in my face. I started the race, and even came off the bike in 8th in AG but common sense prevailed and I found myself turning left to get pizza and ice cream at half way on the run while my friends duked it out in the heat.

Take 2 was Sweden in August. This time a stomach bug 3 days out meant I couldn’t get away from the bathroom long enough to even reach the start line. At 7am on race day as the gun went off I was on a train leaving Kalmar having collected my bike as transition opened at 5am.

Having laced silver across the palms of Nirvana Europe to get a late entry to Wales (4 weeks after Sweden) I found myself lining up on North Beach, Tenby for a last throw of the dice in a season that promised much but delivered little. 2nd at Windsor and 1st at Swashbuckler were signs that I was in decent shape, but I only truly measure myself by Ironman performance. I wanted to have the best race I could. Squeeze everything out of myself (not in the way I did at Sweden) and run the back half of the marathon strong. ‘Don’t be shit’. If I did that then Kona would take care of itself.

The stunning sunrise distracted us from the ‘challenging’ water conditions – 1.5m swell, wind, an incoming tide. As a decent swimmer it was fun – mainly as I knew that it would be horrific for the slower swimmers – but it was damned hard. 64 min was 8-9 min down for me, but as I don’t wear a watch (for exactly this reason) I wasn’t to know. It was slow for everyone. 13th in AG / 70th overall was about par.

Wales is arguably the hardest Ironman in the world – sea swim and a hilly marathon punctuated by a brutal bike course. 3,000m of climbing, stunning views, wind, incredible crowds lining the towns, in particular the climb out of Saundersfoot which was louder and more spine tingling for me than Solarberg in Roth. On the first lap I went through there with Tim Male, a friend from Thames Turbo, and we had grins like kids on Christmas morning. As a light guy, strong rider, and disciplined user of a powermeter on a course where people have a propensity to blow their legs off, the Wales course is perfect for me. Or at least it would have been. If my legs had bothered to turn up. It started well enough, settling in to my power target and letting a couple of groups go up the road, knowing that I’d see them all later as usual. But from about 50k onwards I kept having to revise my power down as the perceived effort and heart rate felt too high. This was foreign territory for me – I’ve never felt so weak on the bike. Unsurprisingly the chimp came out to play. ‘Why bother with Ironman?’ ‘Why don’t you stick at Olympic distance? You’re good at that’. ‘Sell the bike, go back to golf’.

I thought back to one of my favourite quotes…..

I felt like a fish trying to climbing a tree.

alberteinsteinfishquote

The chimp’s argument was valid – if I’ve underperformed in the marathon off fast bikes that felt easy, the marathon off this bike was likely to be a disaster. However, despite a few hours in the chimp’s company, I stuck to the plan – kept feeding him (sugar can shut the chimp down) and tempered down to a level that felt sustainable – I was just having a poor day and was 15-20 watts down on normal. Having said that, in the back of my mind there was a memory that Black Line London friends Deenzy and Mike have run into Kona slots after poor bikes. You never know.

Nico passed me like a train at about 140k – I think he saw I was in a mood so didn’t hang around. Then another friend, Dave Rowe, caught me at 150k. We ended up riding the last hilly section back to Tenby close to each other. The company and prospect of running with a friend perked me up. At the time my mindset was that it would most likely be a social 3.59 marathon to cap off a disappointing day

Bike

Our support crew told me I was 11th or 12th off the bike. After that ride I didn’t think I was capable of running into the 6 slots – and I don’t think they did either! But Dave was 20 seconds in front of me he so was a good rabbit to chase. Kona may have been out but why not sign off the season with a decent run? I stuck to the plan of jogging the first lap easy – ignoring the Garmin as the course was either up a steep hill or back down a steep hill. I was up to 10th after a lap and was encouraged by the gang that I was still in the race. I wasn’t convinced. But my legs felt alright, I was on about 5:10/km pace which wasn’t so bad on such a hilly course, the gap to Dave (who looked pretty good) was stable and whilst I heard that Nico was up in 2nd in his AG he was only a few minutes up the road, so maybe I wasn’t doing that badly?

As I came back into town on lap 2 at about 19k there was a seriousness in Deenzy’s voice when he shouted ‘ you ARE in this race, you’re looking great, 8th and 9th are close’. Christ, he might actually be telling the truth. If my mates had come all this way and I was indeed in the mix (I had absolutely no idea how) then I owed it to them and my coach to give it a go. In that instant my mindset changed, game face went on, and the chase started.

The first surprise was that when I went to push, my body responded immediately. It was on. Controlled aggression. Flirting with bonking. Eating, drinking, pushing. Saving a bit for lap 4. Past Dave then back into town at the end of lap 3. Position update – up to 9th but 8th is slowing. Their belief was infectious – now we all believed it was possible, most importantly me. I saw a mate, Rich Lewis, in town with 11k to go. He ran into the Kona slots here last year. His reaction sticks with me vividly… he just howled (he must have been on about 10 pints by that point) ‘they’ll crack, Paul. 6th to 8th could be walking… THEY ALWAYS CRACK!’

Run

I emptied the tank on lap 4. I passed 8th near the bottom of the hill. Now the Garmin, which I was ignoring earlier, was a huge motivator. My average pace was improving every step and I was, unbelievably, negative splitting the marathon. This was the feeling that James, Nico and I have been talking about for months. I had no idea where 6th and 7th were. I kept thinking ‘funny things happen in the last 10k of an ironman. THEY ALWAYS CRACK (thanks Rich)!’ If 7th was getting ground down, I would find him. If 6th was walking, I would find him. In truth, I thought I probably had. I passed maybe half a dozen people on their last lap. No idea what age group they were in. Then at the final out and back with 2k to go, I noticed someone was closing in on me. He looked in his 30s. Now I was both hunter and hunted. Back into town for the final 2k, massive crowds, clipping curbs and corners, overtaking people on their last lap with surges that they wouldn’t bother to chase. As I hit the red carpet my pursuer was still there. Great. A ‘sprint’ finish after 10.5 hours. I held on by 5 seconds.

Finish 1

While I was ‘relaxing’ on the floor after crossing the line, my pursuer shook my hand and I saw M30-34 on his race number. Was that the 5 seconds that would be the difference? I had no idea. After how I felt for about 6 hours of that race where I had resigned myself to it being another bad day to cap the crap year, to finish like that was emotional (especially when Dave’s wife Sharon and our support crew were all there crying). The marathon was only 3.33 – not breaking any records. But in the context of a day where I had all but given up, the pros only ran 3.05-3.20s, a course with 500m of climbing, and a run where my final lap was my fastest, to be running 4:40s at the end of arguably the world’s hardest Ironman… well that was incredibly fun and I was proud to have overcome the chimp and ruined myself. To be looking ahead for scalps instead of looking over your shoulder. I turned a rubbish day into a good day and never gave up when I really, really wanted to. Knowing I can do this will be invaluable in future races and my ability to deal with whatever obstacles get thrown my way.

For whatever reason my bike legs weren’t there – it cost me 10 minutes compared to how I’d expect to ride – sounds like very little, but in the context of the race and my goals it’s huge. But I adapted the plan, stuck to the process and got to the finish line as fast as I could have gone with the cards I was dealt that day. I wasn’t shit.

Finish floor

I finished 8th in my AG and 32nd overall in 10:38, up from 45th off the bike. Sadly (for me) 6th and 7th didn’t crack after all. With 6 Kona slots it was always going to be touch and go. I heard on Sunday night that the guy in 2nd would not be taking his slot, so I went to the awards with hope and a credit card – but it wasn’t to be. Nobody else declined and I missed out by 1 place. Again.

I’ll finish with the words of Roger Barr, a good friend of mine. We’ve been united by a common goal and he gets it. He qualified in 6th place in his age group at Ironman UK this year and in his race report he wrote this, which nails it:

“The gap might be small but there’s an infinite gulf between 6th and 7th. The guy in 7th is frustrated, annoyed, regretful and faces at least 6 months of hard training before he can try again. His mind is full of “if onlys” and he sat there at the roll-down hoping for a slot to roll only to see all 6 snapped up in front of him. The disappointment of the day itself where he hurt himself harder than he hurt before compounded by a restless night’s sleep and then the huge disappointment of a roll-down ceremony where it didn’t happen. He has to explain to people that he didn’t get a slot. Over and over. After all that training. All those early morning sessions. All that sacrifice. I’ve been in his shoes and it hurts. He may never qualify. He feels like it’s his nemesis. The holy grail. Many of you reading this know the man in 7th because they’ve been there. Those same people have also qualified. I missed out in 2004 by 16s and it haunted me for years.
The guy in 6th has found inner peace, is on continuous high, wakes up and pinches himself, he thinks about it at least a few times every minute, has a trip of a lifetime ahead, will spend the rest of his life knowing he’s taken part in the Hawaii Ironman. The world’s most iconic endurance race. A race that most triathletes would love to do. Something he’s had dreams about as a grown man. It’s literally changed my life. I’m grateful for the opportunity, talent, luck, strength, understanding family that allowed me to achieve it.”

I’ve been that “guy in 7th” and missed out by a single place twice. Despite having friends around you, that slot ceremony where you miss out feels like the loneliest place on earth. I couldn’t be happier for friends new and old who got leis and podiums – Charlie, Dave, Howard, Tom, Duncan, Claire and, in particular, Nico who executed a perfectly controlled race for the first time – I’m convinced it’ll mark the breakthrough to some great Ironman racing in his future. My performance was up there with some of those guys – but the scorecard says no lei. The Ironman gods don’t do sentiment.
However, the desire to be that “guy in 6th” burns as bright as ever. I love this sport, I love the challenge and the mental and physical jigsaw, I love the people I share it with and even if I don’t ever make it, I don’t regret a single minute of trying. But I will get there.

A couple of thank yous:

Without the support and belief in me from the Black Line London guys at Wales I might have given up. I definitely wouldn’t have arrived at the finish line in the manner I did, utterly spent. More importantly, perhaps, without the wider Black Line London group and other training friends, I don’t think I would have made the start line. We’ve shared goals and hundreds of hours of training. They are some of my best friends, they have my back and we share adventures. Doing this sport alone is fine, but sharing it is what it’s all about.

Optima Racing Team – the passion and commitment that James leads with is shared by each and every member of the team. It has created a performance environment that is infectious. I joined Optima and James’ coaching late last year to get involved with a couple of key sessions each week to address my weaknesses and I’m delighted to be seeing the fruits of our labour. I can’t wait for next year.

Box Hill 20 Gallery

Images by Carel Du Plessis of Black Line London’s annual Box Hill challenge. 20 reps, great friends and LOTS of cake.

Mel Wasley Does Norseman 2014

For those of you that don’t like reading here is a pictorial race report of my Norseman 2014 race last weekend. A spectacularly beautiful and challenging course, it was everything I hoped it would be and more.

Without getting too soppy I’d say it was definitely one of the most memorable days of my life (so far) and what makes it even more special is having your own support. My fantastic race crew kept me fed, watered and motivated the whole day (cheers to Justin, Carrie, Adam & Saleem). And special mention for my brother Justin who we worked out onto of coordinating all the support, completed his first half marathon that day, 10km of which was up and down a big pile of rocks!

Many thanks to Camilla Hylleberg for the lovely pics on top of the mountain which i’ve included here.

Black Line London Does Frankfurt, Szczecin & Swashbuckler

James Peet

Sometimes, life at BLL feels like a Benetton advert and last weekend we had troops at 3 events in 3 countries. Here are our micro reports.

Carel du Plessis – Ironman Frankfurt – Swim 3.8k, Bike 180k, Run 42.2k: 01:10/5:26/ 4:48, 229 in age group M30-34, 1254th overall.

Swim went as expected, spot on my target of 1h10m. Took  advice from fellow Blackliners on the bike – 1st lap should be easy, it was. Second lap went well until 130km in when my left tri bar snapped going over a pothole – no shelter from the wind for the last 50k but delighted to come in under 5h30m. Run stared well, legs felt strong until abdominal cramps started creeping in around 12km. A frustrating run walk up to 38km and then decided to rather walk the last 4km than to risk not finishing at all. Bitter sweet finish with loads of unused energy, I will have my revenge. 1st Ironman in the bag.

James Peet – Szczecin Half Ironman, Poland – Overall time: 5:01 18th overall, 7th in AG

Decent swim and onto bike in 11th. Rode strong over cobbles, tram lines and potholes up to 2nd place then puncture demons struck again. Used all my co2 and hand pump got me back to T2 a long way back in the field. Scorchio on the run but moved well back up to 18th. Very disappointing day out but a really enjoyable stay in Poland.

Paul Burton – Swashbuckler, Hampshire – Swim 1.9k (+T1), Bike 80k, Run 22.5k (+T2) 26.56/2.03/1.44 = 4.14, 1st Overall

Racing in the New Forest is one of life’s pleasures. What a location and my fourth time racing the Swashbuckler. A reduced field from moving the race from May to July meant I fancied placing highly. I managed to get away out front in the swim, extended the gap on the bike (loving the new aero Fusion Speed Suit) and hung on during the run to take the win. Ironman Sweden in five weeks – lots of encouraging signs and time to address some weaknesses.

Paul Deen – Swashbuckler, Hampshire – Swim 1.9k (+T1), Bike 80k, Run 22.5k (+T2) 00:28/2:11/1:39/ 4:19, 5th Overall

4th time at The Swashbuckler in 5 years must mean I quite like the race. I am not however liking the 4am alarms that triathlons seem to always need. Swam well for once & within 10 mins of the bike I was in 3rd. Came off bike in 2nd several minutes behind PB & cockily thought I could hold on….this delusion lasted for all 15 minutes when I suddenly found myself in 4th….bugger. Never mind I can definitely hold 4th I thought as Vicky Gill ran past me like I was stood still! 5th it was then & fairly happy all things considered but lots of work to do before Zell am Zee 70.3 & Kona.

 Paul Smernicki – Swashbuckler, Hampshire – Swim 1.9k (+T1), Bike 80k, Run 22.5k (+T2) 32:14/2:08/DNF

Epitomising Black Line London, this was ace. Friends, family, great banter, top event, amazing location. Planned as a hard training day I swam respectably, biked like a fucking train and almost pooped myself on the run. Sorry Farmer Giles about that thing in the field. Didn’t finish the run, but 2nd fasted bike of the day behind Paul Burton so I’m happy with that.