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”

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

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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.

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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.

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These incredible photo’s were taken by Andrew King.

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.

Black Line London Does New Forest Middle Distance

The one about the time a little bit of South Africa invaded the New Forest.
Carel Du Plessis and Guy Laister are to blame.

Black Line London does New Forest Middle Distance

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.

Kona, Meet Michael. He’s Coming To Visit.

Kona!

I feel it appropriate to start this race report with the word that led me to racing IMUK 2014. In 2012 I raced two iron distance races, the first being Austria which turned out to be a challenging day with some mechanical issues and the goal of going sub 10 hours not being achieved.

Plan B, challenge Barcelona 2012, 9:51 goal achieved, tick!

This was my ironman racing done and dusted; the Kona dream was never really a dream for me and not something I wanted to chase with all due respect.  I love racing, I love the vibe, the competitive nature, the camaraderie and travelling to race destinations with friends & family.  I was not prepared to put more into training with running my own business, ‘wife time’ & other interests!  After 2012 I decided 70.3 distances would be my thing.

Last year a group of us were having a pre-race braai (BBQ) at our villa before Mallorca 70.3 and we were talking Kona. Andy Brodziak, said the following words to me having raced Kona himself, “If you have the ability to qualify for Kona it would be a waste not to use it!” These words stuck with me for some time and the more I thought about it the more the desire started to grow. Having lunch with Raoul de Jongh in Sep 2013 after a run up table mountain, the Kona word came up again. Coming from a man who has done some epic and challenging events, to say that Kona is certainly a must and something that lives up to the hype, my decision was made. I need to get myself to the big island.

IMUK 2014; that’s my race! A hilly bike course, bad roads (equivalent to what we ride in Surrey) and a tough run. The race was entered end of 2013 and I started my planning. I was going to do this properly.  I had a plan! This was now all about Kona.

To add some background, I don’t ride with power, I barely analyse data and I only started downloading my Garmin data three weeks ago. I train on heart rate and feel. When I run I observe my pace but mostly know what pace I am running at due to my effort output. My dad ran 12 comrades marathons (two at sub 6:45 hours) with no heart rate monitor and purely on coke and water. I don’t think he even knows what a gel looks like so maybe this is where I get it from, rightly or wrongly so! My goal over the winter months was to get stronger in the gym to improve my riding. I have always run, since as far back as I can remember. My parents were both runners so that is what we did, we ran. I had never managed a good marathon off the bike and I knew this was due to my bike being my achilles heel. Wayne Smith (who coached me this year) suggested single leg squats and big gear riding. Project “strong legs” became my priority! January and half of February this year was spent in South Africa and I had the privilege of doing some great base training in and around Stellenbosch with Troy Squires. We rode some hard and hot rides on the MTB bikes in the hills of Jonkershoek and some good off road running up and down the Cape Mountains. A solid base was being laid!

When I returned to the UK mid-February, the plan continued…..out on the bike on the weekends and keeping strength work in the gym the priority. At the beginning of March, Wayne Smith sent me my first training program which was simple, consistent training for the next four months. Mallorca 70.3 was part of the training plan and was never a “race” as such. I had a great twelve day block of training with some solid riding (1000kms in 12 days). The race was always going to be a big brick session and that’s exactly what it turned out to be. Back in the UK, my block of ironman specific training commenced and I kept to my key ingredient-consistency! The weeks flew past and the training was complete. Before I knew it, I was driving my car up to Bolton and pulling into the car park of the Whites Hotel three days before IMUK.

The time had come.  I was nervous and excited all rolled into one. 3am the alarm went off on race morning, Sunday the 20th of July and I felt calm! I was excited and keen to get going.  After pre-race Breakfast and coffee we were in the car to Pennington Flash, the swim start of what would hopefully be a solid day out. I had specific times for the swim and bike in mind that I wanted to achieve in order to put me in a good position to execute my run……this was all about the run!

6am Craig Alexander sounds the hooter and off we go, the usual chaos of an ironman swim start. Arms, legs, swim over someone, washing machine and finally…into clear water.  I was feeling calm and got into a good rhythm.  1900m done and it was out of the water for the Australian exit, Garmin reads 27.30! I was happy with that, back into the pond with another lap to complete. Exit 59 minutes, I lost some time somewhere on that second lap but sub 1 hour was always the swim goal.

Wetsuit off….helmet on…shoes on and exit T1! Time to be sensible, my motto was to ride like a tourist for the first 120kms.One rider after another past me.  I knew I had to keep calm or perhaps I was riding too slowly? I kept telling myself I will see them on the run… The first lap of the bike went 100% to plan, I saw my support crew (Mary, Tania, Parys and Paula who were incredible!) and gave the “all good signal”.  The second lap and up Sheep house lane I was still feeling good. It was at the 120km mark my legs vanished! The next 60km were categorically the worst 60kms I have ever ridden in any iron distance race. My legs were aching, my heart rate dropped and the power and confidence disappeared. I kept pushing along with my average pace reducing and finally accepted that this was “not to be my day. Thoughts of did I over train, was that long run to close to race day, maybe I am ill? The demons in my head were talking and talking loud. How am I going to finish a marathon feeling like this let alone run the marathon? Into T2 and very pleased to get rid of my nemesis the bike (my slowest bike split in an iron distance race by some margin).

My Garmin file below shows my reduction in pace and a drop off in heart rate: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/546910257

Onto the run…..run time is fun time…or is it!? I had a plan; 4.35 min kms and if I was around 10th in my age group at the start of the run I felt I could run myself into a Kona spot. My thoughts at the time were that there was no chance after that bike I could be anywhere near 10th place! My strategy was adjusted and I thought I would catch my friend Phillipe. I knew he biked five minutes quicker than me and so we could then jog the marathon together and accept that I was not good enough on the day for this Kona dream. Soon enough I was running with Phillipe along the tow path. A brief chat and the question of where we might possibly be sitting position wise in our age group. I was managing to hold my target pace and feeling pretty good.  It was perfect timing when my support team appeared. Mary shouted out that I was 12th  in my age group and the information started to materialise. I soon realised that most of the guys had slow bike splits and the ones that went too hard were already starting to fall apart. Like a hound to a blood trail, I knew it was game on and time to dig deep! I never studied our start list and my philosophy has always been to focus on my own race and not on the other guys around me but there was one chap I knew who was on good form after a great race in Mallorca. I predicted him to be a podium finish at IMUK, Roger Barr.  Running down into Bolton for the first time I saw Roger coming up the hill and not looking healthy at all! I knew if I could keep my pace and run sensibly I would certainly be passing him. One foot in front of the other…..step by step.

At this stage I had linked up with a chap called Joe Duckworth, a local lad from Bolton and we were running a similar pace. Joe had already qualified for Kona at IM Wales & was racing Bolton “for fun” (as you do!). We started chatting and working together. Joe gave me the following words of advice that I needed to hear, “MC keeping running like this and you will go to Kona, the guys will fall apart on this course, it happens every year”. It was these words that sealed the deal in my head and my heart. Another lap down and the word was I was 9th….the stress levels in my support crew and those following me online were immense. I knew that I was doing all I could and that I was digging as deep as I possibly could. I was drawing energy and strength from various thoughts, memories and words (as I am sure we all do when deep in the pace cave).  In particular, a running picture my mom sent me of me running on an athletics track when I was eight years old kept coming to mind. Positive thoughts like I have been running all my life and Wayne telling me that the ironman marathon is not about who runs the fastest but who slows down the least is what kept me going.

The final turn in Bolton town, over the cobble stones and back up the long hill for the last time. Everything was hurting; small quick steps, one last climb and back downhill to the red carpet were my thoughts. Slowing slightly up the hill but still maintaining a good pace. At the 37km mark I past Roger and I knew if I was ahead of him, I must certainly be in the mix! I turned at the top and back down to town for the final 3kms, the legs felt strong and the pace was sub 4.30 minute kms . Down into Bolton, back over the cobble stones and floating with each stride as I turned the final bend and down the red carpet to the familiar ironman voice of Paul Kaye.

Marathon time 3hours, 22min. Finally the marathon off the bike I had been hoping for and on a tough run course in the heat (not to mention off a horrific bike).  Job done! The finish line was epic; I had my medal around my neck and got to share Tamsin’s euphoria of winning IMUK on debut.

Most importantly, there they all were, my stellar support team who gave me the news that I had finished 5th in my age group and that MOST likely we will be booking flights to the big Island.  A sense of relief, happiness and also the reality that in 10 weeks’ time I will have to do this all over again for my last ironman dance, Kona;  what a way to complete my ironman journey. What was never my dream was now a dream finish! Those that race Ironman know it’s about overcoming adversity and digging deep.  On a day when I thought my chances of a Kona slot were totally gone, I managed to run myself from 12th in my age group to 5th.

I still maintain that overriding on the bike is our biggest mistake. Ironman racing really is ALL about the run….the first 30kms you run with your head and the last 12 kms you run with your heart and soul.

Below is my Garmin file for the run:

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/546951216

IMUK is not one of the exotic IM destinations, but it’s a tough and honest ironman course and that’s why I chose it as “my road to Kona”. The people of Bolton were mega in their support and friendliness. Bolton, oddly now, has a special place inside me. A massive thanks to everyone who played a part in my journey but the biggest thanks must go to Mary who made the same amount of sacrifices as I did to allow me to get myself race ready. KONA BABY!

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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.

Black Line London Does Windsor Triathlon

Swans of Windsor.

Back once again with the renegade master……the latest micro race reports are a departure from the torture of long distance racing and focus on a different sort of torture from the Windsor Triathlon 2014.

James Peet (22.18/62.03/41.47 = 2.09.22, 4th in AG and 12th Overall)

Fun morning out and a result indicative of my current fitness given lack of proper training over prev months. Decent swim (for me), ran out of steam on the bike & my legs haven’t felt so wobbly out of T2 in a long time. Loosened up & ran well in last 3km but def need more bike/run sessions if I’m going to do better at this short course stuff.

Jane Hansom (13.56/48.23/23.12 = 1.29.04  1st in AG and Overall)

entered sprint distance in prep for european champs in kitzbuhel this coming sat after 70.3 training. swim was ace. had a great start with a decent gap after 100m. swum through the wave in front. traffic jam at the buoys. drafted a fast moving swan on return (pro tip) swum too far around the power bar buoy )not a pro tip) bike solid. went hard. run could  have been faster. was overtaken by no one. fun event despite 6.12 gun. cheered on other BLL’s. went for coffee. definitely prefer longer distance. then i would have earned a bit of cake too.

Paul Burton (19.11/59.44/39.28 = 2.01.19 – 2nd in AG and Overall)

Goal: swim fast, bike under 60 mins, run solid off a massive one day taper. Result: swam very fast (must have been short), fastest bike whilst maintaining some semblance of control, ran solid. Second overall and age group in 2.01. Job done. Next stop Swashbuckler en route to Ironman Sweden.

Guy Laister (27.21/76.02/49.35 = 2.39.19 – 160th in AG and 671st Overall)

Proper comeback after nearly 5 years with injury, chuffed with a 2:39 finish. Tough swim, quality bike, run – enjoyed the feeling of hurting again.

Paul Deen (23.59/62.10/40.47 = 2.09.43 – 2nd in AG and 15th Overall)

4am alarm = OUCH! Strong current made for tough swim but happy with effort. Fastest T1 of day, but no prizes for that.  Felt good on bike & blew past all but a few in previous waves. Solid T2 but if I had known there was a prize for fastest I would have ran quicker! Run = hello pain cave, blimey short course hurts. Dig in & suck it up. Sub 2:10 goal achieved = happy face. Dominated by Pablo yet again, but I’m used to that and he isn’t a #KonaLegend like me.