Shoulder recovery, Lanzarote, Kona.


October 29th, 2017 by



As I’m almost out the other side of this nightmare shoulder injury, I thought I’d document the last 10 week stint in a blog. People like to blog about the successes and the good times but I think what’s more interesting is how you overcame adversity, how you had to battle hard to get yourself back on track and what happens in peoples heads along the way. When I first stacked it off my bike in Loughborough town centre over 10 weeks ago it seemed so trivial at the time that I never imagined that this would wind up being my worst injury in my career. I’ve had all sorts of high speed crashes which usually result in bad road rash, maybe some muscular niggles but in general I’d come off relatively lightly, this was probably one of my slowest crashes and I ended up seriously hurting myself and kind of threatening my career.

Once I finally figured out that racing this year would be impossible I was able to relax quite a bit and let go of any ideas about doing sport for the next few months.  I tried to figure out how I could re-coup some of the travel money that I spent on ‘training camps’ and ‘racing’ but in the end it wasn’t worth it and instead I took the trips as holidays anyway. So I went to Sands Beach, Lanzarote firstly as a coach for Ruth Purbrook (one of my star athletes I coach) and then eventually with my family for a holiday. It was nice to be away with my family and a rare occasion being in Lanzarote without a bike but also very strange and slightly depressing. I was at one of my regular training haunts watching the guys like Ivan Rana and Ruedi Wild getting themselves in peak physical condition, looking like freaks with veins popping out of their skin, while I sunbathed with a beer and a bag of crisps. Part of me didn’t envy them but another big part of me really missed being in that shape with that anticipation of performing at the biggest event the sport has to offer.

The recovery to this point was was painfully slow, un-like most injuries where you can notice improvements day by day, with this you might not see any improvement for a while week but then every so often I’d wake up and it’d have turned a corner. This was quite difficult to handle as it seemed that this was going to take a very long time to get back to what it once was, if at all.

A few weeks later, 7 weeks post injury, I got the all clear to start to mobilise my shoulder again, because my fractures were now fixed. I all of a sudden felt like I was able to run without the shocks vibrating up my body and causing me pain however it was so stiff that I couldn’t rotate my shoulders properly at all so I was in danger of causing injuries from the pelvis down if I wasn’t careful. Still, it felt so good to move the body again and made me think why everyone isn’t out there moving their ass!

I then set off for my 2nd ‘holiday’ of the month to Kona. I even had a Business Class flight that I had bought months before in order to arrive on the Big Island fresh and ready to go so obviously my flight there was bloody nice. It was fun to have Ruth on the journey with me and we lived it up in the lounge between flights which made things easier but it was still a crazy long day.

It was amazing to be back in Hawaii again, even though I wasn’t racing it was kind of nice being on the other side of the fence. Ironman Hawaii without the stress! It’s actually a nice place to go as a Triathlete when you’re not racing. I was able to start a little bit of training, 1 to eventually 2hrs on my road bike, 30min runs (flat out) with Patrik Nilsson and one armed swimming and kicking Fartlek with the dolphins. My colleagues were all preparing for their big race so I didn’t catch up with many of them but I did get to hang out with a lot of other friends and other familiar faces from the Triathlon industry.

The race was epic as ever, and it was so good to see my mate Patrick Lange become Ironman World Champion as well as Daniella winning her 3rd title. David Mcnamee also made history becoming by car the best Brit to race in Hawaii with his 3rd place. My team mate and house mate while in Kona Patrik Nilsson came in 8th as the youngest guy in the race and Kona rookie! I was actually suffering a bit from the Bob Babbitt ‘Thank god I’m m not racing party’ but personally my main highlight was seeing my first ever coached athlete, Ruth Purbrook, come home in 3rd in her Age Group and 10th Age Grouper over all. What an incredible achievement and confirmation for myself and my coaching that I can guide someone to this very high standard!

Once the race done and dusted we went crazy hard at the post race after party. This is the only night of the year where you’ll get everyone in a place together, relaxed and ready to let it all go. What a night that was…however what happens in Huggos stays in Huggos so I can’t comment on the carnage of that night! I did break my phone though by dancing in the Monsoon all night.

Once home I vowed to myself to get my act together and start to finally show some progression in my training account. My shoulder was now pain free (but not quite ready to swim yet). It’s fair to say, in general I handled the whole shoulder episode pretty well especially as it happened right before my biggest race of the year but I definitely ‘lost it’ a bit in the last few weeks and got pretty lost with the parties in Kona and general bad attitude towards training. I wasn’t very happy with myself but my friend Rob Cheetham, pointed out that it’s called “Catharsis”. noun : The process of releasing, and thereby providing relief from, strong or repressed emotions”. In my first week back I managed to bosh out a good 15hrs training so onwards and upwards, I hope to be swimming next week.

Some good news, I did manage to sign another year with my team which will now be under the name, BMC Vifit Pro Triathlon Team, powered by Uplace. I’m honoured to go into my 5th year with them and I promise I am going all in for my best year yet.

On that note, I’ve changed up my coaching staff AGAIN and I’m going to hand over training responsibilities with two local people that I’ve always wanted to work with. Matt Bottrill to help get me in the mix on the bike and also a very well known sports physiologist who I’ll name as soon as I’ve had my first meeting with him! I can’t wait to get started.

I have to say a huge thank you to Luc Van Lierde. He taught me so much about how to prepare and race an Ironman that’ll I’ll be taking away with me for the rest of my career. He showed me that I need to trust my talent and train smart and helped me discover my weapon in Ironman, the marathon!

I hope everyone got what they wanted out of the 2017 season. Happy winter training, this is where you invest to cash in in 2018!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meh


September 13th, 2017 by



Lets kick this blog off with a cheeky quote, like many of my Triathlete colleagues like to do.

“Life is like a glowstick…sometimes you have to break before you can shine”.

The 2017 Triathlon season hasn’t been kind to me. I’ve had two of my worst injuries in my career and quite frankly I was lucky to keep myself together enough and walk away with a couple of very promising Ironman performances with 4th at Ironman Texas North American Champs and 2nd at Ironman UK but even in those I had problems. In the end I took home $5,000 from Texas which was soon gobbled up during my American Tour with my family. I won $4,000 at Ironman UK which I spent on getting my shoulder fixed in Belgium and I won $1,200 in Mallorca which I spent mostly on Jamon y Queso Boccadillos.

Lets take some positives from the year. I’m really happy with how we prepared this winter. We finally had a winter where we were able to be consistent and non-dramatic. My two Ironman performances were World Class and completed off 85% fitness because being ready for Kona was always in the back of the mind. I was really happy with my improved swim performance, my biking was solid again but not perfect but now I know what I need to do now to get faster. My runs were great. 2:42 in Texas off the back of my stress reaction was an over achievement and my 2:45 at Ironman UK on a very tough course was great especially considering I had some very bad patches even with some walking. I’ve got Luc Van Lierde to thank for this and I’m excited to go into next year with him and roll the dice again.

My latest drama came after a crash I had on my bike over 3 weeks ago. I won’t go into how it happened too much because it’s messy, a combination of faults and I’ve finally ‘let it go’. In 15 years of cycling accidents are certainly going to happen and unfortunately it’s just part of the sport. This won’t be the last I guess. 

I ended up going over my bars landing directly on my shoulder. My first concern was of course getting up as quickly as possible and pretending it didn’t happen! It’s the last thing I wanted 7 weeks out from Kona no matter how big or small a crash usually has at least a bit of an impact. However sitting on the kerb, unfortunately I couldn’t ignore my collarbone pushing up against my skin. Whenever you watch the Tour De France on TV and you see the riders go down in a big crash coming up clutching their arm, the commentators usually know almost instantly what’s happened, the collarbone again! Well I felt that for the first time as well and again, I knew what had happened instantly. 

Clare came to grab me bless her but she could see straight away that I was in a bad way. So we went to Lawrence and Sophia’s house to drop off my son Freddy off and after some spaghetti and meatballs we headed to Leicester hospital. Where I was rushed through past 30 odd people waiting and discovered I had separated my AC joint, rupturing the ligament. 

The next few days was a real whirlwind. Luc was adamant that I needed to come to Belgium to get it fixed as soon as possible so I can potentially get myself back fit for Kona. He did an amazing job getting that organised and got me in with Toon Claes who is a top shoulder surgeon with athletes like Eddy Mercx and Greg Van Avemaet on his books. It was a bit of a decision though because it was a clean €4,000 and a 7hr drive there and back with a broken shoulder. So less then 48hrs later I was in Belgium going under the knife.

The following days I resumed some light indoor biking hoping to improve every day and turn up to Kona a hero, but after some follow up X-rays and CT scans I discovered that I also had fractures in my Coracoid and Glenoid and they were worried about it. Fortunately they decided they wouldn’t go down the 2nd surgery route but I still have to immobilise my arm for a long time in a sling and it’s going to be impossible to get back to racing this year in any shape.

I’ve had so many heavy thoughts buzzing around my head in this past month. It’s been hard to keep the negative thoughts into perspective and at bay. This sport can be so epically brutal. On one hand there is no bigger buzz available then working so hard towards something big and then going on to achieve your goal. I find this especially true for Ironman racing because you have to endure so much during the long preparation phase before you even begin the 8hr plus event. So after all that waiting and suffering the sense of satisfaction can’t be beaten. However to get to that point you have to suffer a lot of lows and there is no guarantee at all that your hard work will pay off.

In this case I was coming off the high of a great race at Ironman UK and I was back in my routine excited to challenge myself again to see what I could do at Ironman Hawaii (which was all booked up). I spent the whole week chasing marginal gains to get every % possible out of myself. Within a flash you’re lying on the tarmac unable to do anything other then mong around the house, annoying your wife with all immediate goals completely out the window.

One thing for sure after 4 weeks in the sling and another 2 weeks to go and potential surgery again if my fractures are still not fixed. Once I’m fully healed and been through my rehab I’m going to have no problem with motivation for getting myself back into shape again. I feel like this was something that was sent to test me, ask me some questions and challenge me and if you can get through it you’ll come out a stronger person.

I made myself sound hard done by in this blog but the truth is that I’m really lucky to have the support of my team BMC Etixx p/b Uplace, Bob, Ben and all the partners who support us. I want to thank them for standing by me in these hard times and continuing to believe and support me. I am sure after the adversity this year, 2018 will be a great year. 

I hope everyone enjoys the rest of their season and for those racing in Kona. See you on the course and then in Huggos afterwards!

Ironman UK


July 20th, 2017 by



I had my heart set on racing Ironman UK ever since my 4th place in Ironman Texas. I wanted to give my best shot at winning an Ironman this year and I figured this would be a good opportunity for me. Especially since it’s a couple of hours up the road on very similar roads to what we’re used to.

It wasn’t all smooth from getting back from Texas to now. I think when you race an Ironman apart from the initial soreness and fatigue it just seems to take something mentally from you as well. I was very happy with my performance in Texas but a month down the line I found myself pretty unmotivated, not enjoying my training particularly and even though I was doing my sessions there wasn’t really any flare in there at all.

About 5 weeks out from Bolton. I had Dann B’s week long wedding in Santorini to force me into a rest. Super excited about a mid season holiday and feeling pretty naughty about it. I packed up my BMC mountain bike, my On’s and my Speedos and jetted off to one of the most stunning places I’ve ever been with my wife. We had an amazing week out there, I trained one session every day just based off how I felt. Some easy runs, some max hill reps on the bike and run and some swimming in the sea. I also had a couple of solid parties obviously to wash it all down but in general I came away from Santorini FRESH and motivated. When I got back home I vowed to go all in for Bolton and see what happens and I arrived in Bolton feeling very good about life. Just shows a bit of rest doesn’t do any harm and I knew deep down that slightly underdone but motivated is way more important then overdone and over it!

Santorini

There were a few things about Ironman Bolton that scared me a bit but the main one was the lack of predictability about it. The weather is always an issue up there, very, very, bad road surface, twisty and very hilly course which would slow down the riding time dramatically, especially if you managed to get yourself lost! All in all, even if I had the best possible race the winning time would be in the 8hr40’s which is about 40mins longer then I’m used to. Which is obviously not ideal when you’re racing an Ironman. I put all this at the back of my mind, tried to get to know the course and roll with it.

After the earliest start ever of 5:55am the gun sounded and we made our way round the course in Pennington Flash lake. I felt good and sat at the back of the group of 7 of us. After the first lap I knew I was in a dodgy position and I moved up to 3rd and soon realised that was a bloody good move because for the whole last 1900m we were essentially starting at the back of the Age Group field due to the rolling starts. Obviously it’s hard to follow each others feet while passing a thousand people but because I was in 3rd I could just about and behind me the guys who all were stronger then me on the first lap got themselves lost between the amateurs!

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When we exited the water straight away we noticed very wet weather and I realised it was going to be a grim and sketchy first lap of the bike. Romain Guillaume gapped Harry Wiltshire and I straight away but it was alway my plan to let him do his own thing so I wasn’t too worried about that.  After 20k Cyril Viennot joined us and we rode together for a while, got lost briefly at one of the roundabouts and then he buggered off on the main hill Sheep House Lane. I rode 355w up there for 9mins and Cyril must have been closer to 400w. That’s not the way I can afford to race so we had to let him go.

We barely saw a motorbike referee the whole race hence why we took a wrong turn early on…(Thanks for that) but coming into one corner following Harry I drifted within the draft zone and sure enough a referee was standing there and pinged me straight away. 5mins stand down penalty at the end of the bike…Of course I had to keep my cool but deep down I knew the win was probably impossible now. I rode ok, I had decent legs I guess but I kept on making silly mistakes along the way which cost me time. I just wish the referees would be a bit more reasonable sometimes and use a bit more discretion…I’m not a cheater and 5mins penalty when you see a just a snap shot of the race isn’t acceptable. As is giving me a penalty in Texas for accidentally dropping a energy bar on the bike. (as if I want to drop an energy bar?!?!)

run finish

I came into T2 2nd after a better 2nd half of the bike. I believe Harry ran into some mechanical issues unfortunately for him and I served my 5mins penalty. It was about 2.5mins later when Kirill Kotsegarov and a few others trickled in so I ended up running out in 4th. 12mins down on Cyril and 2.5mins down on Kirill. The bike was harder then I’d usually ride in an Ironman so I was worried how my legs would feel but fortunately they felt their usual bouncy selves and I set off in pursuit, a little bit too hard as usual…

After the first out and back section I got an idea of what was happening behind me and I knew that so long as I ran ok I’d be safe for a 3rd place because the gaps were quite big. Over the next 10k I managed to claw back a minute on Kirill but the gaps were not coming down quickly and I had certainly set off with a lot of ambition and was hoping to be closer quicker. Between 10-30k I was still pumping out 3:49 average pace which is good for a 2:40 marathon and certainly too fast on this course but I still wasn’t and closer to Kirill and by this point I was getting really tired. In the last 15k I started taking on cola, I took a few short walks on the steeper hills and the negativity started to consume me and I realised that this last minute probably wasn’t possible to close today. Do you know how hard it is to see someone in front you’re expecting to pass for 38k, only to hold the gap the whole time! I must have given up the chase about 5 times!

I grovelled up the final set of hills on the last lap generally looking forward to sitting down finally and then at the last turn with 4k to go I started to feel a lot better and Kirill was about 40 seconds ahead and obviously not feeling so hot anymore! My team manager Bob and my family were out on the course and willing me to be strong and push for 2nd and I thought about how much nicer it would be to man up and come away with a result you had all but given up on. So I made a decision to go for it one last time, all out, and close the gap slowly but gradually.  The gap came down surprisingly fast in the end and I passed him at full speed to try to demoralise him into thinking I was feeling amazing! I think my last split before I attacked was 4:05 and my split when I passed Kirill was 3:22.

Ironman uk finish

So I crossed the line in 2nd. 6mins behind Cyril Viennot. Not exactly what I wanted and not the smoothest of races but I’m really proud of how I raced and a podium can never be sniffed at. My run split was 2:46 for 42.8k on a very tough course which gives me a lot of confidence in my running going into Kona.

A big thanks as usual to my family, Luc Van Lierde, BMC Etixx, and friends. Without you it wouldn’t be possible to race at a high level in this sport. Congrats to my competitors and of course the Pro ladies on your close racing. Thanks also to the volunteers and spectators. Finally a big congrats to everyone who muscled it out on this very challenging course. This is not an easy Ironman option, the course presents so many extra challenges and takes more time and energy them most Ironman races just to complete. You don’t get one meter for free here and anyone who gets round it can be very proud of your achievement.

podium