Chichester Corporate Challenge – Race 3

It’s 7pm on Wednesday 25th March and I am standing outside the West Cornwall Pasty shop in Chichester.  Must be time for the Chichester Corporate Challenge.

A pasty

Regular readers of my blog will be aware that my event write ups usually start with my alarm going off; however this was a very rare event indeed.  Rather than starting at silly-o-clock, the Chichester Corporate Challenge is run midweek after 7pm.  This was the third race of a three race series and I was representing my company, Moneybarn.  

Most alarming about standing outside the pasty shop was that I was on my own (and not eating a pasty).  I was positive that I was at the right pasty shop; however I was due to meet my colleagues at 7pm and nobody was there.  My usual sense of direction at the front of my thoughts, I was fairly convinced I was at the wrong pasty shop and busied myself examining Google Maps trying to see if there was another one around.  A few minutes later I saw a bunch of my colleagues casually ambling towards me and knew that I was actually in the right place.  Perhaps I was a bit early?  Having never been early for anything before perhaps this is what being early feels like.  It’s lonely 🙂

Exchanging a bit of chit chat with my colleagues I felt nervous.  Much more nervous than I should have.  It’s a big deal for me to represent anybody other than myself whilst racing as I always want to put in a good performance and not let the side down.  

Soon it was time for the “A” race, which featured runners capable of running the 4.5km course in less than 18 minutes.  We had two representatives in this race (neither of which was me) and as they set off at lightening pace for their 4 laps of the course I set about a combination of warming up and cheering them on as they went past.

In what felt like a very short amount of time both of our runners from the “A” race were finished and it was time to make my way towards the start with my colleagues for the “B” race (featuring everybody else who wasn’t in the “A” race).  As is customary for my racing, I took a start position fairly close to the back and waited for the off.

In the back of my mind I had a target.  One of my colleagues had confessed earlier that she was looking at a time around 22 minutes.  I thought that if I kept up with her that would be an excellent result for me over 4.5km. My plan was formed. I would stick close behind her and if I felt good at the end try for a last minute overtake.  She was positioned just to my right, so I kept my eye on her I waited for the start. The start was announced and the group surged forward. Within 0.3 seconds I had lost sight of her and that was the end of that plan.  Hannibal would not have been impressed.

So without my master plan to follow I just ran.  Weaving through a few slower competitors eventually a couple of other Moneybarn runners overtook me so I tagged onto the back of them.

The short lap involved 4 left turns covering tarmac and cobbled streets.  Following the 4th left turn you were back where you started on the “start/finish” straight.  As I made it through the first lap the race organiser announced I was running with a group that were on for a 22 minute finish time.  Immediately I was concerned that the pace was too strong for me and I would fade.  Never the less my competitive nature kicked in and there was no chance of me slowing down.

Through the second lap in around 10 min 30 seconds if anything I was speeding up, but I felt good.  I hadn’t competed in an organised running race since the Stubbington Green 10k in January and the buzz of competition was probably delivering more adrenaline than I would have ideally liked.  Half way gone though, so might as well try to hold the pace.

Third lap done I was suddenly on for a finish around the 21 minute mark, which was beyond my wildest expectations.  I was also acutely aware that my breathing had become a lot more laboured.  Also my watch was reporting a heartrate of over 180bpm which is getting close to my running maximum of 192, so I clearly didn’t have a lot more in the tank.

The fourth lap was a bit more of a struggle; however I completed it in sub 5 minutes and crossed the line around the 21 minute mark (21:03 according to my Garmin).

Mentally scanning over my body I realised that I had not picked up an injury.  What a result!  Not only had I run at a reasonable average pace (the fastest I have ever managed) but I had done so without picking up a niggle.  This was especially important so close to the Marathon and was great news.

So all in all a successful event.  I put in a good running performance for my team, didn’t get injured and really enjoyed myself in the process.  The rest of the team had all done very well and everybody seemed pleased with their performances.  As they headed off to the pub to partake in a post race beverage I parted company with them to head home to see my wife and kids and try to lend a hand with the newborn.

During the ride home (motorbike not pedal – I’m not that keen) I had some time to reflect on how my race season is shaping up.  A 10k PB at Stubbington, a 5k Parkrun PB, an excellent run/bike/run at the Portsmouth Duathlon shaving 8 minutes off last years time and now a good performance at the Chichester Corporate Challenge.  Compared to last year, which was a series of errors and mistakes at almost every race, 2015 is looking a lot better than 2014.

Egotistically, I know this is down to the hard work I have been putting in during my training hours and it does feel good to be reaping the benefits.  Next event is the Brighton Marathon, a truly daunting thought.  26.2 miles is a very long way to run and I have never managed longer than 19 miles in training (which almost killed me).  Still only 11 days to go till we find out what “Iron” Snook is really made of.



And now for something completely different

Tonight I am doing something I have never done before.  I am representing my company at the Chichester Corporate Challenge.  Tonight is the final race of 3 and despite my failure to turn up at the first two due to family commitments, my place is still secure for race 3.

The route is 4.5km round Chichester, consisting of a 4 lap loop.  There are two waves of runners.  Race A is for those amongst us who are capable of running 4.5km in 18 minutes or less.  Race B is for everybody else.  I am in Race B.

Competing when I am representing somebody other than just myself is an interesting experience.  I am very used to playing team sports (well football at least) and so you would think that this would translate into a team running event, but it appears not to.  As such, I am way more nervous about running 4.5km than I should be.  For a man who ran 30km on Sunday, it would seem logical that 4.5km would be a walk in the park.  The problem with this is as distances get shorter race expectations seem to get bigger.

For the longer race events, simply finishing is usually my aim.  I didn’t give two hoots how long it took me to run 30km, I was just pleased to manage the distance.  For the shorter races I now have pre-conceived ideas of how long they should take me.  For 4.5km, I should be able to maintain a fairly quick pace.  I don’t have to worry at all about endurance and really I should be able to attack the race at full pelt.

Bearing in mind that I ran a 25 minute 5km at the Portsmouth Duathlon (where I had to follow this with a 15km bike ride and then another 5km run and was subsequently pacing myself), there should be no reason I cannot run a solo 4.5km faster than 5min/km pace.  I have never really attempted to run this fast before.  This presents me with two options.

1) I run at 5min/km pace which I know I am more than capable of and finish in around 22-23 minutes.  A perfectly respectable time.

2) I go for it.  Head out at 4:30/km pace and see if I can hold it.  This would give me a finishing time of around 20 minutes if I can hold on.  A much better result that 22-23 minutes, giving me a better showing for my team and company.

It seems a no-brainer that I would go for option 2.  The problem with this is the risk of getting injured.  As you run quicker, the chance of picking up a injury increases.  It is obvious that I need to do everything that I can to avoid injury; therefore option 1 becomes the clear favourite.

In truth, I don’t know which I am going to go for.  My competitive streak is very strong and the desire to do well for my company will push me even further.  Can I ignore this and run sensibly to make sure I don’t get injured?  

We will have to wait and see.

Update:  I managed the 4.5km in 21 minutes according to my watch.  Not bad at all.  Very pleased.



Portsmouth Duathlon – 1 year on, am I any fitter?

It’s 6am on Sunday 15th March (Mother’s Day in the UK) and I have just woken up in a very uncomfortable position on my sofa.   It must be time for the Portsmouth Duathlon.

Before anybody jumps to any conclusions, I was on the sofa simply because I fell asleep watching TV and never moved.  Having a newborn means that wherever I fall asleep I tend to sleep much more soundly than usual.  I am assuming this is because I am generally knackered pretty much constantly.  It’s not bad sleeping on the sofa, except for the fact that it is cold not especially comfortable.  Still I had racked up at least 6 hours sleep and that’s pretty good in my book!

Breaking from tradition, I had done a little bit of preparation the night before this race, so my bike was ready to go.  I quickly checked the tire pressures and then set about eating breakfast and double checking my bag.

Half way through breakfast my oldest daughter Niamh woke up so I fished her out of bed, stuck her in with my wife and gave her the rest of my porridge to keep her entertained.  Having decided on wearing my tri suit with shorts and my Grazing Saddles cycling top I put my clothes on, gave the family a goodbye kiss and was on my way.

From my house it is a very short bike ride to the start, where I grabbed my race numbers and went about the now familiar process of attaching them to my bike, my helmet and myself.  I saw Anthony (who comes to my triathlon training sessions) and had a quick chat with him and Darby from the Pompey Triathletes before racking my bike, assembling my gear and then heading out for a quick warm up.

I bumped into a few more people from triathlon club (Simon, Andrew, Emma) and had a brief chat with each of them.  The overall consensus was that it seemed to be too early for the first race of the year and that people felt a little under prepared.  As far as I can tell, this is entirely standard for any sort of race.  Nobody gets to the morning of the race and thinks they have done enough training.  Everybody seems to doubt themselves.  Perhaps it is human nature.  Or just that everybody actually hasn’t done enough training. 🙂

Quick warm up completed, I joined the queue for a pre race wee with about 10 minutes left until the start, scheduled for 8.30am.  

One of the cardinal sins of competing is to do things differently on race day to what you would do in training.  Only stupid people will do this.  Things like wearing different clothes or shoes, eating or drinking differently etc.  Usually doing this will have negative effects on your performance as your body undergoes new experiences whilst at race pace.

Naturally, I had decided to ignore the above and made the decision to try a different energy gel product before this race.  I had brought  a ZipVit Nitrite Gel with me for pre race consumption.  The theory is that ingesting nitrites allows your blood vessels to open up more, getting the blood pumping round your body more easily.  The science behind this is fairly sound so I was keen to try a product that supposedly helps.  Ripping the gel open I slurped down the bright purple liquid inside.  It was the consistency of wallpaper paste and tasted like how I imaging licking a compost heap must taste.  

Having eaten my delicious nitrite gel I headed towards the start line, where I saw my friend Greg (another person I met through tri club).  Greg is almost always enthusiastic and smiling, so I wandered over to start next to him and absorb his positive vibes.  We had  a brief chat and just as Greg was starting a very promising little story with the words “I got completely hammered on Friday night” we were off.  Somehow we had missed the start.  The lady in front of me was tying her shoe and had also missed the start, so I deftly avoided clattering into her and set about the business of running the first leg of the race, totalling 5 kilometres.

Normally you will run more quickly than you should at the start of a race as the euphoria of running in a group sees everybody set out quickly.  Glancing at my watch I noticed we were at about 5min/km pace as the big pack proceeded down towards Southsea Castle.  5min/km would give me a 25 minute 5k time.  My personal best 5k is 24min 56sec, so I was thinking that this pace was probably a bit ambitious for me.  Never the less I carried on and surprisingly I felt good.  Sticking at around 5min/km pace I even started to overtake a few other runners.  I have never, ever overtaken somebody running before and I must admit it did feel quite good.

Soon the kilometres clicked by and I was almost back to the start with 4km run and 1km to go.  I still felt OK.  I was amazed.  A minor hamstring niggle was in the back of my mind, but I always have some sort of leg pain when running and have gotten used to ignoring it.  At this point in the race I couldn’t help but smile.  I was competing in my first event of the year.  In less than 6 months I would be in an entirely different race at Challenge Weymouth and it felt fantastic to get my event season off to a start.

Rounding the final corner back into transition I glanced at my watch which said 25 minutes.  I had a run a close to PB 5k on the first leg of the Duathlon and was feeling good.  Well in all honesty I was more shocked than anything.  Perhaps my watch was wrong?  Quickly putting on my cycling shoes, helmet and grabbing my bike I was out of transition and onto the road, where I set about the business of cycling 15 kilometres.

I really like cycling and I had a game plan.  Whoever was in front of me, the plan was to catch them, overtake and then chase down the next person.  Setting about this and quickly getting up to race speed I was battling into a strong headwind but consistently catching those in front of me.  After about 5 minutes I ended up riding with two other guys and we kept overtaking each other.  The great thing about this is that it inspires you all to go faster and in the back of my mind I knew that when we would soon turn around and head back the way we came.  This would mean the wind would be on our backs and it would be time to put the hammer down.

Sure enough turning around and no longer riding into a strong headwind was amazing.  I dropped a few gears, got myself as low as possible and pushed hard.  Quickly passing 40kph (25mph) I was flying past my fellow competitors and loving it.  As we rounded the end of Southsea common it was back into the headwind for a bit, then a lap of the common again and once more into the headwind towards transition to complete the 15k.  

Just as I had got close to transition I had heard my wife call out my name and was ecstatic to see that she had gotten Niamh and Mia into the double buggy to come down and support me.  Not a bad effort for a woman who had a C-Section less than 4 weeks before.  I was in and out of transition quickly, saw my girls standing by the exit and ran over to give them a kiss.  Niamh (my 2 year old) gave me a big smile then shouted at me “RUN”.  This was all the motivation I required and I headed off into the last leg of the race with a huge smile on my face.  Only a 5k run to go.

By this time the pack had thinned out a lot and I was running pretty much on my own.  Using the same method I had on the bike, I lined up the person in front of me and ran.  Usually as a race progresses you slow down a bit (or sometimes a lot), which is a real indicator of a lack of fitness.  Glancing at my watch I saw I was cruising at 5:15/km pace, only 15 seconds slower than my first 5k and pretty quick for me.  Soon I was overtaken by a much quicker runner; however I stayed about my task and slowly reeled in a few people in front of me.  I was amazed that I managed to maintain a reasonable pace and was still feeling good.  

Soon enough the 4km marker appeared and I knew I had only 1km to go.  There was a young lady who had been in front of me for a while but remained stubbornly difficult to catch.  I resolved to catch her and kicked hard.  She had also sped up for the final push and try as I might I just couldn’t catch her.  Following her over the line I checked my watch and it said 26 minutes.  I had just run around 26 minutes for a 5k, having already run one 5k and cycled 15km.  6 months ago I couldn’t even run 100metres.  I was feeling quite pleased with myself.

L-R Greg, Emma, Me, Stella, Simon

Reunited with the family I had a quick chat with some of the triathlete guys, my friend Rachel took an excellent photo of us and then it was time to go home, very happy with my performance and glad to be injury free.  

Once the results came out it was time to have a look at how I had done and compare this to last year.

In the 2014 Duathlon I ran my first 5k in 28:16, took 32:39 on the bike and then the second 5k was 31:38.  Total time (including transition) – 1:32:35

In 2015 I ran the first 5k in 25:19, took 31:32 on the bike and then ran the second 5k in 26:01, for a total time of 01:24:54.

Although my bike was only slightly quicker than the previous year, 2014 was much better conditions and the wind was not close to as strong.  The thing I am so pleased about is the improvement in my running.  Also I was competing at around 85% of capacity as I have the marathon in April and picking up an injury would not have been a good plan.

So all in all 1 year on from my first ever multi-sport race there is no doubt I am fitter.  I also ran a sensible race, got my preparation right and am slowly inching towards some sort of competence in this sport.

Next event, Brighton Marathon on 12th April.  GULP!



Shameless request for sponsorship

Hello all,

As it is now getting close to the Brighton Marathon, I thought I would take this opportunity to remind you all why I am doing this Ironman in the first place.

Many of you will have read this all before; however I will make no apologies for repeating myself.  Chestnut Tree House is so close to my heart I hope you will take the time to read the below and donate if you can.



Could you, or would you even be willing to run a marathon?  26.2 miles is a long way to run.  On the 12th April this year I will be lacing up my trainers and running the Brighton Marathon.  How about running a marathon immediately after a 112 mile bike ride?  Why not swim 2.4 miles before that bike ride?  In September this year I am intending to do exactly that, an Iron Distance Triathlon.  I am raising money for Chestnut Tree House, a simply outstanding organisation that rely almost entirely on charitable donations to keep them running.  

Chestnut Tree House cared for my friends Louise and Steve’s daughter during her fight against Neuroblastoma.  Neuroblastoma is a childhood cancer, rarely effecting children over the age of 10 years old.  Amber sadly lost her fight against Neurobastoma and passed away in 2013 aged just 2 years old.   I was hugely saddened to hear of Lou and Steve losing their beautiful and fun filled daughter. When you first hold your newborn child in your arms, no parent expects that their life will end so soon.  Louise and Steve told me of the fantastic support that Chestnut Tree House provided for them and provides for other families. I knew deep in my soul that I had to do something to help this great organisation.

I decided to compete at Challenge Weymouth 2015, an Iron Distance Triathlon. 2.4 mile swim – 112 mile bike ride – 26.2 mile marathon run.  Iron Distance Triathlons are the ultimate endurance event with a time limit of 16.5 hours to complete.  I have never done anything like this before.  Not even close!  Perfect preparation for the Iron Distance Triathlon race is to compete in a marathon and I am extremely proud to be representing the Chestnut Tree House team in 2015.  I will also continue to raise money for Chestnut Tree House throughout the rest of 2015, culminating at Challenge Weymouth on the 13th September.

Chestnut Tree House is the only children’s hospice in Sussex and cares for over 300 children and young adults from 0-19 years of age with progressive life-shortening conditions. They cover East and West Sussex and South East Hampshire.  Chestnut Tree House care services extend to the whole family – not just the child, but mums, dads, grandparents, sisters and brothers.  Their aim is to make every day count. The good days, the bad days and the last days.

Chestnut Tree House rely on £3,000,000 of charitable donations per year to provide their care services. It is my aim to raise £6850, enough for a single days care.

If you would like to help me reach my fundraising target, please donate here

Your support is hugely appreciated and will keep me going through the 100’s of hours of training that I have ahead of me.

Ironman Training and young families…….can the two coexist harmoniously?

My newborn is 3 weeks old.  To say I am a bit tired is fair comment.  Newborn babies are nocturnal, or at least our one appears to be.

The Kraken / a 2 year old

We also have a two year old.  Two year old kids can be difficult customers at the best of times.  Throw having to compete for Mummies attention with a newborn baby into the mix and you unleash the Kraken slumbering inside any two year old.

I am also trying to fit my Ironman training around helping my wife with the kids as much as I can.  How she is coping with the demands of feeding the nocturnal newborn all night long and looking after both her and the two year old terrorist all day is beyond me.  I am constantly in awe of how she manages to hold it all together.

So far I have managed to stick fairly closely to my training plan.  I missed out on a bike ride over the weekend cause of family commitments but otherwise I have made all my other training sessions.  I can only put this down to the fact that my wife understands my motivation for wanting to go out training and is willing to stand by me whilst I do so.

Either it’s that, or she is so knackered that she doesn’t have the energy to object.  The more I think about it the more I think it is probably this; however I will make hay whilst the sun is shining and continue to train as often as possible.

So I guess the answer to the question “can Ironman training and raising a young family coexist harmoniously?” is yes, provided you have a supportive partner, or one that is so tired she will go along with anything.

Sunday 15th March is my first Multi-Sport event of the year, the Portsmouth Duathlon.  Curry and I competed in this last year and I am keen to see if I am faster one year on.  Fingers crossed for a good finishing time; however I do want to hold something in reserve as I am desperate not to do anything that may harm my Ironman training.

Competing at close to 100% capacity can result in injury as you push yourself.  A safer option would be to coast round at 85-90%.  I am hopeful that my 85% effort will be faster than my 100% effort from last year.

Looking back on my write up of last years event (click here to read it) I was suffering with shin splints at the time.  These devils are thankfully well in my past, so my running should be quicker purely because it is pain free.  I also have a nice shiny new bike to debut in it’s first ever race, which should be substantially quicker than the previous one.  I weigh less, should be more fit and am generally in better condition than I was a year ago.

“Surely he can’t go wrong” I hear you all thinking to yourselves.  Perhaps you are right.  Competing is a funny thing and as long as I prepare properly and keep my head there is no reason I won’t be able to improve on last years finishing time.

All I have to do before Sunday is a brick session tonight (bike then run), a swim and bike ride on Thursday, a long run on Friday (which will be at least 2.5 hours) and a long bike ride on Saturday.  Total amount of training ahead of me before Sunday’s race day is around 7.5 hours.

Nothing to it, or as Aleksandr would say…………………….Simples.  



I Fink, therefore I am

It’s all been a bit quiet on of late.  I haven’t updated the blog for over a month.

To be honest I have a good excuse.  On the 17th February my second child was born, a beautiful baby girl we have called Mia.  Naturally training went on hold whilst I helped my wife recover from the birth and look after our 2 year old.  I went back to work this week and my training restarted.

Don Fink – handsome isn’t he?

Challenge Weymouth is a mere 190 days away as I write this and I have started my Ironman training plan.  Well I say my plan, but I have done nothing to create it.  The honour of writing my plan goes to Mr Don Fink.

Fink wrote a book called “Be Iron Fit – Time Efficient Training Secrets for Ultimate Fitness”.  The training plans held within this book are designed to get the fastest improvements on fitness possible over a 30 week period.  Your fitness is designed to peak for your big race day and countless Triathletes before me have followed the plans to Ironman success.

I have had to start the plan on week 3, as week 1 and 2 were during my paternity leave and I was otherwise occupied.  You start with a mere 8 hours a week training, ramping up to over 20 hours a week by the end.  

This may sound like a lot to some of you and if I am honest it sounds like a lot to me.  That being said I am almost at the end of my first week of training and I feel great.  I have actually done a little bit more than the plan stipulates so far but am ache and injury free.  To top it all I have just got back from a swim session which was by far the most enjoyable training session I have ever had.  I felt strong and like I could have carried on swimming forever.

There are a few minor hiccups to following the Fink plan.  Firstly he stipulates specific dates when you should compete in an Olympic distance and then later a Half Ironman in preparation.  I have already booked an Olympic distance race and it doesn’t match the date Fink suggests.  Hopefully this won’t make much difference.

Secondly I am running the Brighton Marathon for Chestnut Tree House  on Sunday 12th April so I am currently doing one long run a week ramping up for this. Fink does suggest long runs; however they are not as long as what I am currently doing at this stage of his plan.  

The marathon is likely to take it out of me and normal people take a fair bit of time off of training following a marathon as it is quite a task in itself.  Triathletes are not normal people. I am treating the Brighton Marathon as a training run and will be back to my Ironman training plan as quickly as possible afterwards (though I might have a couple of days off as reward). 

Just a very quick update for tonight as I am intending on blogging weekly for a while as there is a fair amount to discuss.

Hope you all have a good weekend.