2015 Review

2015. What a year.

You start a year with targets. Targets are good. What I didn't consider at the time was the pressure all these targets would be putting on myself, the feeling of a need to achieve. It's a vicious circle. You push to achieve, take time away from your family and friends to train, then spend all the more time thinking 'all this time I am taking being selfish, I better do what I set out to do, and then do even more.... What I've reminded myself off the back of all this is that its meant to be fun. It doesn't pay the mortgage.

So these targets. I wanted nothing less than a GB spot at every distance except Sprint, not only that I wasn't looking for roll down places. If there wasn't a Q1, Q2, or Q3 for the automatic selection against my name on the British Triathlon Website after the relevant Qualification races then I decided it didn't count. Finally, I wanted to win the Midland Sprint Series for my Age Group.

From the off I hit the ground running, banging home ALOT of training over the winter, to stand me in good stead for the summer ahead. Hours & hours in the garage plugging away on the turbo followed by a chilly brick session round the Town. Plenty of cross country runs and time in the pool.

In January we headed of to PHISH, now a bit of a pilgrimage, and came away with a terrific haul as a team including a Gold in the Relay.


(Back again only yesterday, 3 of the original team, and one who has succumbed to the cold who has had to be replaced with an equally able man. We go to retain our crown, with a write up to follow shortly that I won't spoil here. A sudden turn in the weather for the better (colder) made for an interesting day.)

So, after making the most of the weather the training then carried on in earnest until May when the Midland Sprint Series started. My nearest rival - also a friend, and team mate at PHISH (far left on the photo above), it all came down to the last race. I eventually came away as 35-39 Age Group Champion having repeated a consistent sprint performance, albeit with no specific training for the distance, at my home race in Woodhall Spa. Phase 1 of the plan down. It was good to have some glassware early on in the year, and attention could now turn from Regional to National & International efforts.



After 2 of the sprint races was my first real A race of the year. We headed to Beaver Middle Distance for my first crack at a 70.3 and I was properly happy to come away with a top 20 overall and 5th in my Age Category. There was some tough racing that day (race report in this blog) some exceptional athletes and a couple of miserable hills that battered my body. This result also bagged me my selection at both the European Long Distance Champs in Weymouth in September with a Q3, and a Q2 for Austria 70.3 Champs next summer. Another 2 big boxes ticked.

This race should also have been the warning signs that you can do too much. I was feeling on absolute top form following the winters base work, but the regular racing, and increasingly long distances were starting to take a bit of a toll and I should have listened to the early signs of pain in my stomach that had me doubled over after this race in particular. While family & friends tucked into the massive picnic around me I just sat and watched while my stomach churned.

 
 


 
Some key parts of The Beaver Middle above summed up in images. A good swim, exiting early into an empty T1, a strong run on a hilly course leaving me absolutely spent at the end, and unusually -  totally unable to stomach the cracking spread after. Gutted.

There was a bit of a rest from racing for a month then, and the training focus shifted straight on to Olympic distance. Pushing the speed, I couldn't believe how easy it felt off the back of a half iron, and we headed to Dambuster and the final aim of the year. A GB Qualifier, this would give me a good idea of where I stand against everyone else in the Country on a National amateur basis.

By now I was suffering pain in my stomach that felt like a knife being pushed in my groin and stomach with nearly every training run, that the doctor advised was likely to be a hernia. An ultrasound was booked, but the race was before, so I ignored this and stuffed a few painkillers down my neck to dodge any twinges. Having done the course a few times I was confident in how to tackle the race and had a well balanced solid day with a quick swim, a 23mph bike and my first 10k run hitting under 6 min per mile average in a race of this distance. It left me with a 33rd overall across every age group, 5th in my own Age Group and most importantly a Q2 offering of a spot at the World Championships in Chicago in September. Job done.
 
 
Hitting the Bike at Dambuster 2015
So after a great few months I had pretty much done what I set out to do, and could turn my attention to a little treat I had lined up in the form of The Outlaw Iron Distance in Nottingham.

This is really what all the distance training had been about, and I was seriously excited about where I sat form wise. Ignoring the stomach cramps and other pains, the times in training and all the splits were giving me a realistic target of a 10:15hr finish time, and a top 20 position based on the previous years results.

All year Ella has been working really hard on her swimming, and is loving the open water side of the sport. As a bit of fun we both entered The Amphibian for some fun, Ella doing the 1km with my Dad, and my brother, some friends and myself doing the 5km distance.

Ella having a belter

The main event after. It's all bout the food really.

I bloody love cream.
A great race in an original format, on a wet day that turned fine, and allowed us some time on the bank afterwards in the sun to enjoy another typical Ball track-side feast.
 
I had taken a few painkillers before the event to abate any pains in the stomach I might get during the event. The fact I'd stuffed my face was a bit of a sign I chose to ignore, because I hadn't been doing much of that after races of late. The doctor had had me taking in stool samples for analysis, and it was good to just feel like an old time event.... at least until I got home.
 
Once we got back the pain in my back began to grow, and I was suddenly completely crippled up down my left side from a serving of torn intercostal muscles. The pain killers had masked the stomach injury but not alerted me to a new separate issue that had developed. This set back took 2 weeks to heal enough before I could even sleep properly, and left little time for the final prep going into The Outlaw.
 
So, I lined up for the big race with over a month of lost training, but just happy to be there. In a way it helped me pace better, I took the swim easier so as not to re injure the back, had a great bike, and was sensible on the run, again to avoid further injury, and avoid what was now the constant stabbing in my gut that I got with every stride. The 10:15 target turned into an 11:10, but, in spite of the wet, the wind and the rain it was an incredible experience and one I firmly believe every Triathlete should go through. What happens in the changing rooms after - stays in the changing rooms. Only the people in there will understand the solidarity, pride and complete and utter lack of dignity. It is a humbling experience.

Bad weather at The Outlaw didn't stop extended family enjoying the usual feast - this time filling a busy corridor in the sports centre at the National Watersports Centre. Food first people. Food first.

140.6 after parties are simply crazy. Crazy.
From here we went to Scotland for a few weeks and enjoyed downtime driving around the very North of the Country, swimming off the most amazing coastline, collecting fresh food and camping on beaches as we went. The Outlaw dealt me further severe stomach pains, and torn intercostal's now down my right side, but I ignored this and we enjoyed the break regardless.

Some holiday training.. beach sprints to get my wife off my back!

Freshly picked mussels for tea

And plenty of swimming with my 2 favourite girls.
I promised not to talk triathlon for the full 2 weeks of the holiday, and while I think I succeeded I have to admit it was incredibly hard. I was totally consumed by it at this point.

Despite the compounded injuries I was now accumulating  I had committed to compete with team mates at the National Relays. I did some light run training on holiday, but suffered nothing but pain, and come race day just couldn't do the team justice. I had a great day out, mostly as a spectator - you can find my review of the day in the blog, so I won't bore you with more tales of throwing up on myself here.
 
I then had 6 weeks from the Relays to Weymouth and the European Iron Distance Championships. Again, the review is still fresh on the pages in the blog so I won't bleather on about it here. Needless to say it was a hell of a race in tough conditions. All things considered I am really happy to have finished as the 16th fastest man in my age group over 140.6 miles across Europe.
 
The MRIs, Ultrasounds and more recently a nuclear bone scan confirm that I had a stress fractured pelvis at the point of both The Outlaw, and then added to that doing Weymouth. That was the root cause of all the pain and subsidiary injuries that kept cropping up in the later part of the year.
 
It has taken me nearly 4 months from there to be able to start running again, but after months of misery, often unable to sit up out of bed without pain, I am finally training again. It is slow and it is steady, but the mileage is increasing and eventually the pace will come down. It is family that have kept my spirits up as I watched the hard earned fitness fade.
 
What I have truly learnt this year is that I WILL NOT be doing that much again. I will pick 1 or 2 targets at most, and focus on them. The mind may be willing but the body has limits that I cannot push it beyond. I have found that limit now.  I have got my GB suit, and raced at the toughest distance for my Country. Having tasted that I want more, and I want to improve, but with much less spread over distances.
 
Finally, but certainly not least I have created an award that symbolises everything it means to be a Working Class Triathlete, and the spirit of what it stands for. That award is the W.C.T Mustard Award. To be given to a fellow athlete that I feel has really served up the biggest dose of mental and physical mustard over the last 12 months in pursuit of their sport.
 
This year, for the 1st annual award I want to present this to a friend and fellow Louth Triathlete, Richard Conway.

18 months or so ago Richard suffered a heart attack. Since then he has regained his fitness, got straight back to work, and is not only now training again but in the last few months has started posting PB's in the pool and over 5km runs. He has also found the time to take up the position of Vice Chairman at the club and is passionate about pushing us forward. An old fashioned Northern family man, quiet & modest, he has got his head down and properly given it some mustard over this last year to get over the hurdles put in front of him and go on to become stronger, faster and fitter than ever. RESPECT.
 
Richard in action.

His priceless - soon to be presented award.
 
Thank you for reading, for your support and interest in 2015. If I can help you in any way in 2016 please do not hesitate to get in touch.