16 days to go – now to get rid of my cold!

I have a cold.  I have had a cold for over a week now .  It just doesn’t seem to be going away.  I caught this cold off of my kids and we have a whole household of coughing, spluttering, snotty people.  Nobody has escaped.

All logic says that when you have a cold you shouldn’t train.  You should give your body time to recover from it’s illness and then resume training once you feel better.  Quality, after all, is better than quantity.

Ignoring my own advice, on Sunday 24th August Bushy and I went down to Weymouth to ride the Ironman bike course, all 112 miles of it.  I felt less than brilliant when he picked me up just before 6am on the Sunday.  My cold was in full effect, energy levels were very low and I had slept appallingly.  Usually Bushy and I will banter away with each other constantly when we meet up, but on this morning he commented that I seemed to have nothing to say for myself.  Clearly I wasn’t firing on all cylinders.

Arriving at Weymouth

The weather forecast for Sunday morning in Weymouth was bad.  Not light rain, but heavy rain and wind.  Regular blog readers will know how much I love riding in the wind.  Unperturbed, Bushy and I trundled along down the south coast towards Weymouth.  As we got closer and closer the weather closed in and by the time we arrived it was like a monsoon.  We parked in the car park that will be the transition area on the day of the race.  As you can see from the picture, the weather was not the best.

Following a brief discussion, mostly consisting of “are we really going to do this” we got out of the car and started to get ready.  The plan was to create an aid station in the boot of Bushy’s car.  We would carry enough food and water to get us round one lap of the 56 mile course, stopping halfway to resupply and then go around again.  Neither of us are particularly quick on the bike, so we were aiming for 4 hours for each lap. This is an average speed of 14mph, which is by no means fast but about right for our Ironman bike pace.  Remember that we have to run a marathon after cycling 112 miles so we need to leave something in the tank!

You can just make out our
new friend and his bike

Getting ready to ride at the same time was a very nice chap who told us he was there to ride the bike course in preparation for his first ever Ironman.  He was older than us, but whippet thin and one of those people who just looked fit.  Tall and lean with a very nice beard, he clearly knew he was a better triathlete than us and we clearly knew it too.  I remarked to Bushy that I often wonder what other triathletes think of us when we meet them.  We looked like two blokes who woke up one day and said “lets do an Ironman”.  He looked like a seasoned and well prepared campaigner.  It is funny how accurate looks can be at times.

Chatting further with our new friend, it turned out he was going for one lap round the course as he was in his “taper”.  A taper is when you reduce your training load to allow your body to maximise its strength and endurance ahead of your race. Made popular by top flight endurance athletes who train really hard and then back down to allow their body to reach peak fitness, it has slipped into the amateur ranks and many triathletes spend as much time talking about tapering as they do talking about how light their bikes are.  Anyway, he was tapering 3 weeks out from the event, which is a fairly long taper.  Each to their own I suppose, plus only an Ironman triathlete would consider a 56 mile bike ride to be “reducing their training”.  Soon we finished chatting and he was off into the gloom and rain on his very nice looking bike.  

Not long after this, after a considerable bit of messing about (I am the master of messing about), we headed off into the gloom ourselves.  It was raining…….hard.  The first part of the bike course is a climb up onto the “Ridgeway” and then you have about 35 miles of rolling Dorset countryside before another long gentle climb and then a drop back down into Weymouth.

One lap of the bike course

We made sure to stick to our nutrition plan (something to eat every 30 minutes) and cycled along, sticking fairly closely to our target average speed.  It was very very wet and we rode through numerous puddles and areas of standing water.  Within about 20 minutes we were both soaked…….and we stayed that way.

In nice weather I imagine the bike course would be absolutely beautiful, but in the rain and gloom it was hard to see where you were going, let alone any sort of view.

Cool map showing the topography of the course

Towards the end of the ride I started to feel bad.  Just lacking in energy.  Slow and lethargic. It was obvious that my cold had caught up to me.  I was pleased to have gotten as far as I had before feeling poor. Bushy whizzed off into the distance and I was playing catch up.  I had very little in the tank, was freezing cold and my wet clothing had rubbed my skin in a few places that you don’t want rubbed. Approaching the end of the first lap there was no way I was going out for a second. Competing in weather like this is fair enough. Riding for “fun” in awful conditions is something quite different.  

When we got back to the car for the end of lap one I told Bushy that I was done.  When it came to calling it a day, he didn’t take much convincing and soon we were into our dry clothes and on the way home to Pompey.

Despite not making the full 112 miles, 56 miles had been ridden in awful conditions.  The best part about it is that we had completed one lap of the course in just over 3hrs 35mins, which was 25 minutes faster than planned.  We had also averaged 15mph, 1mph faster than planned and allowing for the awful weather this was a great result.

On the day, in decent weather and when I do not have a cold (hopefully) then I think the bike course will be great.  112 miles is a very different beast than 56; however as soon as I start lap 2 of my bike ride on the 13th September I will know that all I have left is 56 miles of cycling and a marathon.

Whilst to most this sounds like a lot, to me I am half way done and only have half way to go. I will be half way to being an Ironman!

Before I go, a very quick update on my fundraising. I am absolutely delighted to say that I am 60% of my way towards my fundraising target of paying for a day’s care at Chestnut Tree House.  The generosity that people have shown towards my endeavour is astounding, with well over £4000 raised so far.  A brilliant total, so to those of you reading this who have donated thank you from the bottom of my heart.  You have been with me every step of the way during my training.  Every time I go for a swim, ride or run I think about those kids at Chestnut and all of the kind people who have donated to my cause.

It sounds like a cliche, but at some of my lowest points during training the kind words and donations that my supporters have given me have picked me back up again.  I cannot lie about it, training for this Ironman has been tough, but it has also been the greatest journey of my life so far.  In 16 days time that journey comes to its end.  I will have covered 10’s of 1000’s of miles in training.  I will have only 140.6 miles to go.  Nothing to it……………….right?



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.



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 https://www.justgiving.com/Iron-Snook

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.  



Stubbington Green 10K – The Acid Test

It’s 7am on Sunday 18th January and my alarm has just gone off, must be time for the Stubbington Green 10K.

Now as this is my first event of 2015 I was understandably excited and keen to get going.  My reaction to the alarm going off was to set it to go off again at 8am and get back to sleep.  God knows why I was getting up so early for a 10am race start.  What was I thinking?

So, it’s 8am on Sunday 18th January and my alarm has just gone off (for the second time), must be time for the Stubbington Green 10K.

Up out of bed, shower, running gear on, bowl of porridge and I am out the door on the way to Stubbington.  The weather forecast was for it to be cold but the rain to stay away.  The look of the sky as I got closer to Stubbington said otherwise and as I parked my car I was hoping that the weather would hold and it would not rain.

Really, running in the rain doesn’t bother me; however I run either barefoot or in my Luna Sandals (picture on the right) most of the time and barefoot running in the rain is no fun.  Your feet get cold and the wet ground has a much more abrasive effect on your feet than when it is dry.  Deciding to stick with the sandals I put my rain jacket in my bag (just in case) and headed towards the main race area at the community centre.

Having already collected my race number, I only had to drop off my bag and then I was ready to go.  Now when I say it was cold it was cold.  Too cold for standing around in running gear, so after a quick trip to the loo I slowly jogged towards the start.

The start was set in waves, with me going in the green wave (second to last group) as my projected run time was around 60 minutes and the organisers would not want a plodder like me holding up the swifter runners.

It was my plan to meet up with Curry before the race; however he had given me the cryptic directions to meet him “where the closed Budgens used to be”.  Now I had now idea where this might be in the village of Stubbington so just decided to keep an eye out for him at the start.  Sure enough I spotted him whilst I was jogging on the spot and doing a bit of stretching to keep warm.  

Curry in his “short shorts”

Curry clearly does not feel the cold like I do, as he had on a pair of shorts that really did not leave very much to the imagination.  Have you ever heard that song “Who Wears Short Shorts” by The Royal Teens?  If you haven’t, allow me to explain.  In the song they sing “Who wears short shorts?”.  Well the answer to that question is that Curry wears short shorts.  I have enclosed a picture on the left to give you an idea just how short his shorts were.  

Anyway, after I got over the initial shock of just how short Curry’s shorts were, we had a brief chat before it was time for the off.  Curry jogged ahead to join his wave (as he is a quicker runner than I am) and I headed back down the queue of starters to join in with the fellow green wave competitiors.

Before the race I had two ideas in my head.  Firstly I wanted to try to get under 60 minutes, with a stretch target of under 55 minutes if I felt good on the day.  Secondly I wanted to run a negative split.

A negative split is when you run the second half of the race faster than the first half.  This is standard practice for most professional athletes.  Also it works brilliantly for each leg of a triathlon as you get time to adjust to the new discipline as you swap between swimming/cycling/running.  Practicing running a negative split is always a good idea.

Crossing the start line I start my Garmin running and set out at a comfortable pace.  Glancing down at my watch after a few minutes I noticed I was running at 5:15min/km pace.  This is a bit quick for me; however I felt good and my heart rate was around threshold so I decided to stick with it.

Quick note on threshold heart rate.  This is between 82% and 87% of your maximum heart rate and is an intensity that you should be able to maintain for an hour.  My maximum heart rate is 191, meaning that threshold occurs somewhere around 156-166 beats per minute. 

Running downhill, then up, I was quickly past the 2km mark and then the 3km mark.  I still felt good and was holding steady at around 5:30min/km with a steady heart rate between 155 and 160bpm.  Things were going well and I felt great.  It was superb to be running with such a large group of fellow athletes (2000 registered for the event) and I was even overtaking a few people.

Grabbing a bottle of water just before the 5km mark I had a couple of swigs, dropped the bottle in the bin then had a think about what I should do.  I was through 5km in around 27 minutes and felt OK.  It was always my plan to run the second half of the race faster than the first, but how much faster?  Kicking on I made a concerted effort to keep my pace as close to 5:10min/km as I could.  This was all going well until we got to the only major hill on the course.  Determined to get up this hill quickly and not let it slow my pace I pushed hard and remarkably my body responded well.  I flew past a good few runners and getting to the top of the hill felt fine.  My heart rate was up but recovered quickly and I was back to pace again.

It was at this point that a huge smile came across my face.  I realised that I can actually do this running business.  My race plan was working.  All of the hours I have spent in the pool, on the bike and running the dark cold streets of Pompey were paying off.  I couldn’t help thinking about Trevor (Triathlon coach) and the gang who I train with on Monday’s and Wednesday nights.  All of those evenings spent with Trevor putting us through punishing intervals were for exactly this.  There is danger of me becoming a proper Triathlete yet!

Pushing on past the 7km mark for the final 3km I felt brilliant.  My pace remained at around 5min/km and I was overtaking even more people.  With 2km to go I picked up my run rate determined to put in a quick end to the race.  With 1km to go I matched the very lithe and extremely quick fella next to me stride for stride right up to 50 metres from the line (where he finally put the burners on and lost me).

Over the line I stopped my watch and was gobsmacked as it read 52:36.  52 minutes and 36 seconds!  I, James “Iron” Snook, had run 10K in 52 minutes and 36 seconds.  This is a whopping 11 minutes faster than I had ever run 10K before.  To say I was pleased was an understatement.

My race plan had worked perfectly.  I ran a negative split, never ran out of energy and felt great for the entire run.  I attacked the uphills, relaxed on the downhills and really really enjoyed my race.  

As I sit on my sofa writing this I simply cannot wait for the rest of the 2015 season.  I will keep training hard, keep trying to eat right and hopefully go onto another personal best at the Arundel Lido Triathlon in May (my next event).

I hope that you and your family have had a great weekend.  Keep your eyes peeled for another blog update soon.



PS – If you are wondering about how Curry got on in his short shorts, he did rather well.  He also recorded a 10K PB of 51:33.  Perhaps there is something in these short shorts?  They really were so short!

Henley Sprint Triathlon – very much a mixed bag

It’s 6.30am on Sunday 22nd June.  My alarm has just gone off.  Must be time for the Henley Sprint Triathlon.

I took the executive decision not to follow my usual pre Triathlon preparation of going out drinking and getting less than 3 hours sleep, and awoke after a relatively decent nights sleep.  I had already loaded the bike into the car, and was in definite danger of being close to being prepared.  That being said I had prepared nothing other than the putting the bike in the car the night before; however even this small step is a huge improvement in my normal organisational levels.

Quickly whizzing round the house gathering up my stuff, my ever supportive and beautiful wife Cat and bidding the dog a fond adieu, I jumped in the car and headed off to Henley.  It’s a long drive to Henley despite it being only 60 miles away from Portsmouth, and as usual the sat nav on the car took us a weird and wonderful route down some very picturesque country lanes.  We arrived around 9am, which was in plenty of time for my 9:56 start time in the swim.

Having not factored in that it was a 15 minute walk from the car park (well car parking field) to the triathlon venue, Cat and I arrived and wandered to the registration tent.  “Still plenty of time” I was thinking to myself.  By the time we had registered and procrastinated a bit more I realised it was only 20 minutes till I was due to start. I still had to put my bike in transition 1 (us cool triathlon people call this T1), my shoes in transition 2, get changed into my tri-suit and then get to the swim in time for my pre-race brief, which happens 10 minutes before your start time.  Essentially I was running very short on time.

I work in a pressurised environment Monday to Friday, so of course I am used to tight deadlines and having to do things at the last minute.  Naturally, rather than reacting like I would at work, with steely determination, I opted for the opposite and went into full on panic mode.  Mostly I just complained to Cat that I didn’t know what to do, where to put my shoes, where to put my bike, how to attach my race numbers to my race belt, where the pool was, what my name was and that I had forgotten how to walk.  Fortunately for me she calmed me down, took control, pointed out where T2 was (for the shoes), walked me to T1, sent me off to get changed whilst she did my race belt etc and I made it into the swim about a minute before my start time.

The Henley Tri was a 400m swim in a pool.  4 laps are swum in 4 consecutive lanes, and you move from one lane to another after completing the 4 laps until you jump out after 16 laps of a 25m pool.  With pool swims it is essential that you get the right starting group, as if you are in a group of swimmers that are too fast for you then they will be slowed down and this is very bad form.  Likewise if you are in with a group of swimmers who are slower than you then you are slowed down, which naturally affects your swim time.

Artist Impression of the pool during my swim

We were asked for our predicted 400m swim time when booking up the Triathlon.  I didn’t have a clue what time I put, but knew that Mike, Bushy and Curry had all started before me (meaning that they had put down faster swim times than me).  The fact is that I am probably a better swimmer than both Bushy and Curry, so my starting position being later than those meant I was most likely in a far too slow swim group.  When I saw the other swimmers in front of me my worst fears were realised.  Most of them were swimming breaststroke – VERY slowly.

Despite all this I jumped in the pool, was given the count and was off.  I overtook the slower swimmers when I could, but was horrendously held up at the end of at least 5 of the laps.  Finally getting a bit of open water on my last 4 laps I swam like I had never swam before.  I wouldn’t be surprised if some people thought that I might have been Michael Phelps I was swimming so fast.  Just kept thinking how I had to make up for lost time.

Leaping out of the pool I instantly realised my sprinting the last 4 laps was a mistake.  I was dizzy and very out of breath.  I stumbled out of the pool exit, saw Cat, remember saying something bizarre to her like “see you later”, and then staggered into transition.  My hands were shaking like mad from the swimming exertion, and it took me an age to put my socks and bike shoes on.  I eventually got my race belt, helmet and sunnies on and was off out of transition.  

My view during the ride

The bike leg was two laps of 12.5km each for 25km in total.  I polished off the first 12.5km in 24 minutes and was happy that this was a good time.  I am strong on the bike, enjoy it and felt good.  The second lap was not so good.  I got stuck behind a Range Rover that simply could not overtake a slower rider up one of the climbs, which meant I had to grind my lowest gear super slowly just to get up the hill.  About 5 minutes later I got stuck behind another car which was doing a very bad job of overtaking some slower riders ahead, and then to cap it all off on the only decent downhill on the course a caravan overtook me at the top, then proceeded to ride the brakes the entire way down, sapping all my speed and causing me to say a swear word or two (sorry Mum).

Anyway I eventually rolled into T2 after 55 minutes on the bike, which I was very disappointed with after a quick first lap of only 24 minutes.  Continuing my poor transition form, I ran the wrong way towards where I thought I had left my running shoes, doubled back, found the shoes, on they went and I was off on my 5km run.

Running is my weakest discipline, and for the fist about 400 metres I felt OK.  Then things went downhill.  It was very, very hot.  I was not hydrated enough.  My mouth was a dry as Ghandi’s flip flops.  I knew there was water at the end of each 1.25km lap, so jogged round past Cat and the rest of the support crew, grabbed a cup and swigged it down.  This just gave me stomach ache, so on the second lap I decided not to drink and to keep on running.  The run felt very, very slow to me.  My stomach hurt, and once again, for the second triathlon in a row I knew I was facing a slow run.  After slogging out 2 more laps I crossed the line, to see my Grazing Saddles teammates waiting for me at the finish.  They all looked a lot better than I felt.

Waiting around for a while the results appeared on the main screen at the event, and I crossed the line in 1:35:16.  Amazingly this was exactly the same time as Curry, about 5 minutes behind Bushy and well over 20 behind Mike, who finished a very impressive 12th place.

If I am being honest I was disappointed with my performance.  The slow swim group did not help, and I could have gone at least 1-2 minutes faster in the pool.  Both of my transitions were poor.  The second lap on the bike was a disaster (although not really my fault) and because I did not hydrate properly on the ride my run suffered.

That being said this is only my second ever Triathlon, and I have learnt a lot.  It was great to compete with the team, superb to be so well supported by Ellie, Tymms, and the relevant WAG’s (remembering of course that Bushy’s girlfriend is not actually his girlfriend).

Next Triathlon is the Swanage Olympic Distance, which I am determined to put in an excellent performance at.  Onwards with the training.