Sunday, 28 August 2016

Poor race, average result, great outcome

Last weekend was the European Xterra Championship race in Zittau, Germany and it went perfect.......no, wait, that's how I wanted it to go in my dream but it was close to a disaster from arriving in Zittau.
I worked until lunchtime then Ali collected me from work to drive straight to Manchester airport ( then benefits of living close to a major airport) and we sailed through the Jet2 check-in procedure and they even allowed me to take two CO2 gas cannisters for my tyres. We even had some time, due to a slight delay, to grab some luch in the priority lounge we have tickets for from our bank account privileges.
Arriving a few hours later Prague and picked up the hire care we drove north to Zittau which is positioned just inside the German border a few km from Czech Republic and Poland. We got to the Airbnb booked appartment around 10pm and we thought it was a joke or they were showing us the store rooms. The appartment looked lovely on the website but the reality was the opposite. It was an empty shell. We stopped the night in shock and shivered most of the night as there were no duvets or proper blankets. The next morning we got on to Airbnb and left to the race venue at O-see to recce the 36km and 10km single lap bike and run courses. Not ideal prep the day before a championship race but I've used up all my annual leave this year to fit in the series and score points for the European Tour.

minimalist transition. ...No wetsuit boohoo!

Race day weather was beautiful after a murky start and the swim was non-wetsuit and non-swim skin....gutted! I love swimming in my wetsuit and I love the feel of water against my skin too too but I had a two piece race outfit that isn't conducive to not being covered in neoprene. Lesson learnt! I'm not sure why the German triathlon federation do not allow swimskins though. I thought I got an OK start but I was cold and Christophe Maury 'The Frenchman', one of main Euro Tour chasers was alongside me. I am usually a few minutes ahead in the swim and already I'm thinking its not going to be a great day or Christophe has improved dramatically.
Onto the bike, I started well but my saddle bag was heavier with spares than usual (I NEEDED to finish in the points for this race) with extra bits and it dropped into my rear wheel. I stopped, re-fitted, and set off again only for it to happen again. Each time Christophe pulled ahead and I was forced to take the saddle bag and put it down my top and carry it to the finish. In any other race I might have been tempted to ditch it and collect it later but I need to come in the top at most to secure the European Tour for the 45-49 AG (last year I was 4th in my first Xterra). So for the next 16-18 miles I was riding, and constantly adjusting, a kilogram of spares trying to work its way out of my tri top like a wriggling joey in a kangroo. Ironically the steep down hill sections were the easiest as I was bent so far forward and I had it up near my neck. There were some scary sections of downhill and a fair few crashes. There was also a couple of sections of uphill that were impossible to ride and on one section I was walking quicker than the riders.
T2 was a beautiful sight, an artificial ramp to conquer and leap of the bike and get into my trainers for the scorching hot run was a blessing that I had made it back without serious injury or race ending mechanical. I just need to get into the points.
Straight out of T2 was the 'Mother-in-law', an artificial obstacle of steps and hay bales (piccy below) before heading up a grassy bank, traversing left and up the grass pyramid and out onto the course of tracks and trails. As much as I was looking forward to the run my legs decided they weren't. They felt sluggish and I felt drained.
The 'Mother-in-Law' on the way out of T2 stay left


Was I dehydrated and tired? I think so, but that's racing.....some you win some you lose and you suffer all of them and keep plugging onwards. I kept telling myself I was racing for medals and points and it was impossible to know where you are in the race. I heard third elite male finish just after I was starting my run so I knew I was maybe 45 mins behind the elite men (they started ahead of the Elite ladies and the age groupers) which is probably a little more than I would have liked but I was already 3 minutes down on my swim time and who knows what I lost on the bike, but I usually make up a few places on the run. I was catching some runners and after about 7km I caught Christophe and went past with friendly, but a fierce-fully competitive, gesture. This was just before we headed into the 'nature park'. For those uninitiated to German way this means a a nudist beach. It's slightly unnerving to be racing through a nudist park but part and parcel of Germany I guess and it reminded me of the quadrathlon Ali and I did in Germany a few years ago when my sister and family came to watch. Young children and nudists don't mix well!
The temperature was in the mid 30's by now and the local fire crew had set up a hose at the end of the nudist area. I normally avoid getting my shoes wet in races but this is Xterra, you are meant to get wet and muddy, in fact the courses are usually designed to make you muddy and wet, and it was very hot so I ran through the edge and headed up the last big hill. By now there was only 2km to go and suddenly Christophe is on my shoulder again so I surged again and heard him say 'no Mat, don't do this to me' in a comical almost desperate way that proves our combative nature. I decided to go for it there and then and managed to pull out 16-sec by the end of the race and we made our friendship again afterwards.
I had no idea where we finished overall but after a massage and some alcohol free beer recovery drink and food I found out that I had come 8th in my age group with Christophe 9th. It was enough points to win the European Tour with a few spare although for some reason I was still unsure. Maybe it was disbelief that I had sealed the tour. The winner of our age group was in a different league and 30 minutes ahead of us among the pro times...maybe he was pro in an earlier life? Who knows? I was disappointed overall with the way my race went from start to finish but you have to take the rough with the smooth sometimes. No individual medal...in fact ten minutes away from the medals but I got the overall series.
So with one race left in the Xterra European tour we head to Mons Klint in Denmark next weekend with a 112 point lead. It's another gold race so 100 points for a win are up for grabs so I expect a good field of competitors. Christophe is considering coming too despite him having 2nd place in the tour pretty much secure. Ali is also racing her first Xterra. I'm sure I've mentioned it before that this year I feel like a pro in the sense that I've done a full series of travelling but without the race money, faster times and without the sleep and training commitments but I've done what I set out to do......firstly qualify for the Xterra World Championships in Maui and secondly, after consideration and my first win, take on the series for experience and win it. Hopefully in 2017 I can ride off-road a lot faster although financially this years reacing has been expensive and next year will be just as expensive with getting married, honeymoon and races. They are prioritised Ali! ;-)
Winning the series was a dream at times but would not have been possible without the support from my chief supporter and wife-to-be,Ali, and without being physically rebuilt after all the injuries and niggles by Jane Murray, Sports therapist, at Peter Bennett's Physiotherapy Clinic..Steve Austin eat your bionic heart out.. Other notable mentions and thanks should go to Chris Stirling for recommending CurraNZ which helps amazingly with the serious DOMS I used to get, I can't believe how excited by this I am! Marc Preece should get a mention for selling me his old Scott 910 MTB which is considerably lighter than my Cyclescheme Whyte 629 bike but also for recommending Xterra UK last year which was my first off road experience. All the other competitors incuding Christophe for the motivation to race to the finish line. Xterra Wetsuits UK get a special mention for providing me with a Vector Pro wetsuit that I just love swimming in. Roll on next weekend! Thanks for reading.

Race results for 2015..


  1. Xterra Malta                      3rd April                     1st
  2. Manchester Marathon       10th April                    2hrs 55min 15sec
  3. Xterra Greece                    7th May                     1st
  4. Outlaw half-ironman         29th May                    4th
  5. Xterra Switzerland            25th June                   6th
  6. Xterra France                     3rd July                     10th
  7. Outlaw ironman                 24th July                    1st new (AG record - 9hr 38min)
  8. Xterra Germany                20th August                8th


to do

  • Xterra Nordic(Denmark)                 4th September
  • Chesterfield half marathon              2nd October
  • Xterra World Champs(Maui)           23rd October

Saturday, 30 July 2016

I am an Outlaw

Well last weekend was the Outlaw Ironman distance race. For those uninformed, Ironman is now a brand name that originated from the first Ironman Hawaii triathlon which was a 2.4 miles swim, 112 miles bike and a 26.2 miles run, so the term Ironman gets used a lot for familiarity. Some also call 140.6(miles) or 226 (km) but its basically an Ironman triathlon for the old skool.
When I entered last year the plan was to emulate my mate Daz Sharpe in being an Ironman winner, (although he went and won the whole bloody race!) but this year, if you have read my blog you'll know, I'm trying out the off road Xterra racing, with some success, so my attitude and expectations had somewhat changed.
Last week I was so chilled out because I was expecting to do well and my knee injury was still healing so on Sunday morning at Holme Pierpoint I put myself on the start line feeling like I was doing a local sprint triathlon. No pressure on myself!
With about a minute or two to the klaxon I started my watch and waited for the swim start frenzy that never really materialised. Head up swim for about 5 metres then settled into long strokes getting out to the left away from the crazies. I spotted Nick Summers (among a 1100 swimmers) to my right and thought 'wow, i'm doing ok here', so I sat in and let him tow me round. A few times I tried to come past but the effort wasn't worth it so settled back again and sat there for most of the 2.4 miles and then sat in the middle of a small group for the last half a mile. I exited in 57min 21sec and Nick spotted me and I thanked him for the tow. The swim felt so easy made easier sitting in on Nick's relaxed style.
Nick already half stripped as I struggle to find my zipper cord - www.xterrawetsuits.co.uk  

After a reasonably fast T1 it was out onto the bike but I heard Karl Alexander's name tannoyed so figured he wasn't too far behind but pleased to be ahead of the expected winner. Within a few minutes of cycling though Karl came past and disappeared just as quick. A quick wave to Ali's mum then it was onto the A52 with some riders in sight. After a few miles of overtaking and being overtaken I settled into my race pace of 150-160hr (I don't use or can afford power measurement yet) and found myself riding at a similar speed to a rider with DRG stencilled on his backside. We exchanged places a few times over the next 50-60 miles and he always seemed to pull away after feed stations as I fumbled with bottles and dropped bananas and gels. I had even dropped a protein bar I'd taken with me and was trying out some Cadbury's Brunch Bars as race food. Not conventional but as I mentioned, this race had different expectations, and they seemed to work and I got the feeling of eating normal food rather than energy food that can upset my guts. I also took a pack of Airwaves chewing gum which I ate regularly to freshen up my mouth after taking on the gels. I only took about 4 gels but used the High 5 drink every time at every feed. From about 70 miles I was on my own heading into the southern circuit and it was somewhere there I saw Karl sitting on the side of the road. After a consolatory wave I rode on and caught one of the relay riders who was cramping up. After a few miles of him yoyo'ing on and off the front with cramp he finally pulled away with about 7 miles to go. I never felt like I was pushing hard at any time yet still managed to ride the distance in 5hr 1min when I really expected to ride about 10-20 min slower. I was beginning to think today the weather and wind was kind to us. I cramped a little myself coming into T2 and had a little sciatica tingling around 70 miles and some scapula pain on the right side but when I handed my bike over to the catchers and started running to the change tent it felt good.
Leaving the change tent I started looking at my watch for the speed and heart rate display and instantly had to slow down. I had two plans pre-race; go hard and hold as long as possible or run 1:40 for the first half and see what happens. This was decided by the knee injury pain experience and I settled for option two and tried to control my pace to 7:30min/mile. The first mile was 6:45 but the following two where about 7:15 so I figured that would do and just watched the HR about 156. At half way I was on 1:40....the plan worked but still had another half marathon to go. My feet got hot despite choosing the lighter socks and the blisters started in the middle of my left foot, still I plodded on and I wasn't getting overtaken as I thought I might be.
post race walking would be difficult
 I took some paracetamol about 2 miles into the run but I was still getting some knee pains every now and then. Getting on to the rowing lake for the final circuits was a godsend except you can see the whole way round which is quite demoralising. With only about 5.5 miles to go Pete Norris caught me and went past but he soon cramped and I caught him just for him to start up again and jog on. I tried to keep him insight but soon lost him as the lake circuit filled with new athletes. Bethany, my daughter, and her boyfriend Lee, surprised me by coming along to watch and with a lap to go (4.8km) she said I was in 1st position in my age group but being caught quickly so I put in a final push for the line trying to take advantage of the tailwind then using other runners as shields on the home leg. Paul Breeze, my mate who should have been racing, and Cath his partner had also turned up to cheers us on and he was beaming nearly as much as I was as I entered the finish chute.
A few metres to go, no pain felt!
I heard my name called and that I was the age group winner and I just screamed with excitement and relief. I never really believe....or did I(?) that I would ever win a major title.
I then turned my thoughts to how Ali was doing. I always worry about Ali when she races but I found out she was on the run before I finished so knew she would be OK barring injury. Ali was having a mare on the run in comparison to her training runs but in good old Ali attitude she persevered and her determination got her to the finish time with 27 minutes to spare. I don't know if I could spend that amount of time out there or weather my knees and back could hold out for 7 hours of running but she does it well and out her non finish at Bolton behind her. Like me she is an Ironman and an Outlaw. Legend!
The next day at the trophy presentation I got the icing on the cake. I found out that I had also set a new age group record with 9 hours 38 min 33 sec. To say I was surprised was an understatement. I was just chuffed I'd won.
45-49 AG winner and record holder - 9h38m33s

 Swim57:212.4 Miles
 Transition 12:17
 Bike5:01:05111.99 Miles
 Transition 22:49
 Run3:35:0126.19 Miles
 
So now its onto the next focus...back to Xterra racing but first I need to order some CurraNZ which assist with prevention of DOMS, delayed onset muscle soreness, and by heck it seems to work. By Tuesday I could've run if the blister wasn't so sore, but I'm taking a few days off to recover from the tiredness and just chilling out but with the knowledge that I'm going to need some power for climbing on the MTB. One of the pro Xterra athletes, Jacqui Slack, has given me a few programs so I'm on it to get ready for Xterra Germany in three weeks time, Denmark in 5 weeks time then the World Championships in Maui in 2 months. Racing 2016 like a pro!

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Double weekend racing

A little late getting onto this blog as I've been busy with work and study since getting home from our trip to Xterra Switzerland and Xterra France.  I'll keep them short cause I've got more recent news to share.

Clean before the start of Xterra Switzerland


Xterra Switzerland.
Ali and I flew out the morning of the Brexit announcement and you couldve heard a pin drop at Heathrow. We used our Avios airmiles to fly Britich Airways from Manchester to Heathrow to Geneva with the bikes included as luggage. Alsolute bargain and amazing service by BA. Car hire by Europcar was a Clio estate and perfect size for us. The hotel in Forcine le Haut was quaint and cheaper on the French side than booking in Switzerland and only about 15miles away from the race venue at Le Chenit. A quick recce in the dry on Saturday proved advantageous as the skies opened with thunderstorms late afternoon and drench the course turning parts into a mudbath. My swim didn't go particularly well and I choked on a bit of water but came out in 23+ minutes but onto the bike I thought I did OK on the first lap. It was so muddy and slippery though that I couldn't get any nutrition in as everything was covered in mud. Big mistake. The second lap was when I started to make mistakes and crashed a few times, the last crash only a mile from the finish would gash my knee open very deep. Onto the run and aware my leg was bleeding and aching I continued to catch people and ran my way back to 6th in the age group. Had I registered with British Triathlon in time this would have been an ETU bronze medal but I was here for Xterra European Tour points and i grabbed 63 from a possible 100. I was wiped out at the end and Ali didn't even recognise me as I was so muddy. I got into the small stream to wash off the mud and clean my cut then headed for the hot showers just as a bit of shock was setting in.
hard to recognise the make


Xterra France
We booked a lovely apartment in Gerardmer for the following week from a lovely couple Robert and Martine Schwarz and they were so kind inviting us to dinner. We laughed and joked about us being their first British guests ever and so soon after Brexit. We would go up to the course most days and Ali would go off swimming or road biking whilst I walked some of the run course and then managed to recce the bike course albeit very slowly with a painful knee. I got some hydrogen peroxide cream and dressings from the pharmacy but realistically I know it should have been stitched. By Wednesday I got some waterproof dressings and on Thursday I was able to swim the length of the Xonrupt-Longmer lake at ironman pace.
On race day the swim was manic. 1000 people crammed into a space about 25m wide so I went hard left into clear water and stayed there almost to the first buoy then joined the thinned out line of swimmers. I exited in 21:26 and chuffed to get out onto the bike ahead of a lot of Xterra Warriors. The bike course is tough.....really tough.....and really long....and really really hilly. Almost straight away you climb and climb forever and my Garmin read 5000ft of climbing over the 25 miles/two lap course and included a few man made structures to keep the spectators happy and entertained with crashes into the sand and falls from the ramps and jumps. The second lap was horrific know what is to come and its been churned up by the 1000 half course athletes in the morning and then a 100 full course athletes in the afternoon. My brakes were not brilliant, I've subsequently found out the front was rubbing and the back need adjusting as it just slipped and was non effective. I learnt not to trust someone else with the track pump as my tyres were too hard causing a few spills and managed to bash my poorly knee again which still hadn't healed.You live you learn! Onto the run I was smashing past loads of runners and made up nearly 50 places overall and was pleased with the 53 min run which also went up hill a lot,, but what goes up comes down and despite a little cramp going up I thrashed the downhill. I finished 10th in AG and gained another 45 points.
racked up for Xterra France

I now lead the series with 258 points with two more races planned; Germany and Denmark before finishing at the World Championships in Maui. Theres a few races left in the series for someone to catch me but I'll try my best to maintain the lead and I'll be learning how to ride an mtb from August to October.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Xterra take 2

OMG whats happening in 2016? I don't think I ever imagined winning one Xterra triathlon never mind two but I have. Coming over from road triathlon and ironman has given me a great starting base but there's so much to learn and I am little gutted I have left it so late in my triathlon life to fully appreciate the off road side. I should've been mixing it up years ago but I'm going to make the most of what I have right now.

Top spot again. I could get used to this.

When I won in Malta it was mission accomplished in achieving my slot to the World Xterra championship in Maui. Then I started to think if I could get more experience and practice at other events, all subject to funding by the Bank of Self. I looked at the Xterra European tour and checked out the race in Athens. The races need to be near or cheap travelling distance from major airports and Vouliagmeni fits. I had a load of Avios air miles from Tesco shopping vouchers saved up and I have never been able to use them and suddenly I have a British Airway's flight from Manchester via London to Athens for £70 in taxes only. A bus from the airport at 4am to Various takes 25minutes and €6 and then its a 40 minutes walk lugging a bike bag, a carry-on suitcase and a backpack through the empty streets to Appolonia apartments in Varkiza, about 2km from Vouliagmenia.  Everything is so peaceful until two large Alsatian dogs start barking at the noise of the wheels on the bike bag and run out onto the road I'm walking down. I know very little Greek despite living in Cyprus for 6 years of my life but u always remember my dad telling me to shout "no dog" in Greek which suddenly seemed relevant and helpful after 20-odd years. So, in my best Greek I hushed "oxi skilagi" (that's maybe the phonetic spelling! ), and the dogs stopped in their tracks and one sat down. I should also mention I positioned the bike bag between me and the dogs just for emergency. One continued to follow me for another few metres then I was able to relax whilst I lugged 23kg of bike bag to the apartment.
The key and welcome note was on the open reception (24hours service) and a quick check around the room at the facilities and in my chosen bed of three and trying to kip at 5.30am with the alarm set for 11am.  Vouliagmeni is the Greek Riviera and played his to the 2004 Olympic triathlon, the one where Marc Jenkins punctured or had a mechanical and had to run the last few miles to get back to T2 and finish his Olympic dream. Nobody wants a DNF especially at the Olympics.
The venue is a gorgeous private beach and behind the beach are the rolling hills. The Xterra Greece team are setting up when I register and I leave my bike with them to go recce a lap of the run route. It starts flat on the paths and roads outside the beach area and a stepped underpass takes you under the busy main road. The road ramps up steeply near the race hotel then there are some steep steps that take you up to the edge of the off road section. To this point the bike and run routes are the same. The run route goes left up a dusty rocky trail and on the recce I was able to run it but its steep. Reaching the top I stopped to take in the scenery of the sea and the islands and Dave Nicholas, Xterra Managing Director, is there with his wife and friends. A quick hello and chat then I'm flying down the hill towards the next climb. Brutal is a word I would use for the next climb. Its just rocks and almost a scramble and steeper than the previous. After that its trail and a small road climb and descent back to the steps for lap two or straight on back to the venue. On race day the run enters the private area and loops behind tennis courts and finishes with a 200m beach run (to emulate Maui?).
After lunch at a local bakery I return at 4pm to recce ride the course with Nico Lebrun, previous Xterra world champion and a few other guys. The bike loop is completed twice and we are not permitted to ride the steps down the underpass for safety of other riders and runners on race day. The steps at the start of the trail need to be negotiated and it means carrying the bike uphill each lap. Unlike the run, the bike leg does a bigger loop taking in more hills and trails with a few technical twist and turn sections to slow us, well...me, down. The final section is a fast road via a water station then back out on loop two before returning to the underpass again. Everything seems OK except its easy to overcook a few corners on loose gravel and dirt. After the race briefing its back over the hill to the apartment and spaghetti and tomato dolmio sauce for dinner with a tin of rice pudding for dessert and then its off to bed to race in my head whilst trying to sleep causing me to stay awake for hours.
I get about 5 hours sleep and after porridge, custard bagels and tea I leave at 7 for the race. I set up my transition and recce the transition entry and exits and walk through my routine.
At 9am we are due to start and on the shoreline I chat with British professionals Rory Downie and Matt Dewis. There are not many Brits here, Louise Fox being the only female British pro. I do meet Gary Dressel, my age group, later on the run and I had seen he was a good swimmer if its the same Gary. I also met a Brit called Colin Brown but he lives here, and Rory's dad Gavin is also racing.
The swim starts and I'm positioned near eventual winner Roger Serrano but in metres he disappears but I'm also in the pack amongst the red-hatted pro's for the first lap before just dropping off the pace during the second 750m lap. It feels great and I'm buzzing with positivity. Getting to my bike I can see none have gone from my age group and there were only a handful of white hatted age groupers ahead on the swim. The bike goes pretty well despite jamming my chain at one point right at the start of climb and getting dropped by the female pros but at least I was ahead and I just try to ride smooth and maintain speed in the turns as Nico pointed out. I did have another forced stop which resulted in cramping both quads when female pro Latina Buss slipped her back wheel on a short climb and I was right behind her. I spun it off but it was in my mind just as it was in Malta.
Back into T2 and I'm the first bike back, yippee, and I'm out on the run feeling pretty relaxed, well trying to, knowing the bloody awful climbs are coming. The first road climb I manage to run but thereinafter its a walk with cramp again on the first rocky climb. In my head I am trying to keep the speed going to do enough to stay head without over doing it. Second time down the hill and its almost joyeous to reach the road and head for the underpass with just the beach to finish. I hit the sand and aim for the water line hoping for firm traction and its probably better than the really soft deeper sand.
I enter the finish chute and in my head I've won but I'm taking it for granted. When I'm having a massage and food, The Frenchman as he's known,  Christophe Maury tells me I've won with him third after being overtaken by another French triathlete Franck Fonteyraud in the closing stages. Still I'm not convinced but 99% accept it. Later that evening it would be confirmed on the podium. Winner!
Another trophy and another winner certificate with the Maui entry code which Christophe is after but Franck may take the place.
I had won by 9 and 10 minutes over Franck and Christophe and I now lead the European tour with maximum points after two wins from two.

Finish line thinking I've won but not convinced


The tour is the best score from two silver and four gold events. I now need to race four golds to stand a chance. I am racing in Switzerland in June then hopefully France, the Xterra European championship in Germany then finish with Denmark in September before heading to Maui, Hawaii for the world championship. What a year! A lot of money to consider but I'll try to do it as cheaply as possible to make it happen.
Another issue I usually have is DOMS, delayed onset muscle soreness, and it usually wipes me out 2-3 days later. This time I had none which may have been due to the fact I was sent some CurraNZ supplements, on the recommendation of Chris Stirling, which are basically a shed load of New Zealand blackcurrants in pill form. They are antioxidants and help aid lactic acid dispersal and for now I'm saying they work and i'll be trying them again next time.

CurraNZ, a world-leading superfood supplement for health and fitness

I've also got a half ironman and full ironman in Nottingham (Outlaw) pre-entered and I wish I wasn't doing them now but my perspective may change on these. We'll see.
I have enough Avios points to get me and Ali to Switzerland so just accommodation and a car to sort then its consideration for the other races.
If your reading this and your company or you know of a company could sponsor me for travel to the races or an individual event then please contact me. I'd be extremely grateful.
So, now my trip to a then is at an end and I'm sat in the airport waiting to check in writing this blog. Its been fun....when I got past the 24degree\40 minute walk back to the bus to the airport lugging all the kit again. I arrived here about 1.15pm and I can't check in until 5.30pm but I spent an hour helping an elderly British family download Easyjet tickets from a playing up machine to save them £180. I even have their boarding passes on my phone!
I'm so grateful to use BA with my Avios points as my bike travels as part of my luggage allowance up to 23kg and my wetsuit and cycling shoes etc are in my carry on luggage. Well done BA! Maybe I'll contact them or send this to them as a tweet. I'm using them again for Switzerland as I have just enough points left for me and Ali.
I'll add some photos and post this later. For now I will have another coffee, check in and look forward to my night at Heathrow before my morning flight back to Manchester and heading into work.
Thanks for reading if you got this far....... Retweet or share as you like. Race hard but smart. Mat

Update....photos added and Xterra Switzerland (ETU Championships) entered but France is full and I'm on a reserve list. Also entered Germany the European Xterra Championships.



Sunday, 17 April 2016

2016 is looking good

So my blog is always a little erratic but here's the update so far.
The year starts OK with plans to race Manchester marathon, Xterra Malta, half and full Outlaw triathlon and then take it from there injury permitting. A few local run races would kick off the season before hopefully a good TT season (start next week) then open water swimming.
So late January the dreaded flu bug passes through the office like a tornado in Kansas, except I don't end up in Oz and spend a week in bed followed by another two weeks of general malaise and feeling lousy. The prospect of a week training and holiday in Cyprus with Ali keeps me sane but slightly worried I might be too under the weather to train properly.
All was fine and Cyprus proved to be a fantastic winter sun local and quiet familiar roads with plenty of climbing. No swimming though as the sea and the pool were freezing but supported recovery as an ice bath.I finished the week with a respectable 250 miles on the bike and managed a 2hr long run and total run millage of 25miles. We returned home to finish the week off with a half marathon in our village which was a disappointing 1:24 and would normally have been about 1:18 given the other competitors I know.
Next up was a local 10km race and in this one I managed a 37 something but it was 10.4km in the end and I was only minute from the winner. This was a great feeling knowing the speed was coming back(2nd place had beat me by 7min in the half marathon).
Ali and I recently joined Marple Swimming Club and Marple runners but the swimming has been really focused and included some hypoxic training (25m underwater swims) and feel this has helped along with the structured training. Something I probably haven't done for a year or two.
Off to Xterra Malta for a race and a bit of more sun and holiday in April and to put into practise the swimming. Xterra is the off-road triathlon version and from my experience at Xterra UK last year, and now Malta, they're not easy. Maybe its just me not knowing how to ride a mtb fast yet but I do rely on my good all round ability of swimming, bike fitness, and run to make up ground.
Malta was a great race. Of course it was because I won but it is a lovely place to race. Beautiful clear sea swim, rugged mixed terrain bike leg with something for everyone including some tarmac, steep climb, tricky descent and a few technical bits. The run has more of the same with a small scramble up the cliff and a quad sapping hill climb. The wind on the day didn't help much and only added to the difficulty. The swim went well and I mixed it up with the pro's but soon was getting overtaken on the bike. I managed to take some places back during the run but was hindered with quad cramp on the steep climb following a bit on the bike too. Not knowing where you are positioned or who is ahead or close behind made just give it all and I managed to win my first race in a few years (Age group obviously) by 7 minutes. Most importantly though was winning the slot to the Xterra World Championships in Maui, a bucket list race for me. Better start saving!! Good job its not a wet suit swim in Maui as I managed to put my thumb through the calf of my Vector Pro. I think I'll need to shorten the legs which will make it even faster to get out of.

I removed the wetsuit on the beach due to the long run and steps up to T1.
Photo by Samuel Farrugia




Mdina glass trophy for Xterra Malta Age Group win ....yessssssss!

A week later and a few blisters remain from Malta but its time for the Manchester marathon with Ali and Daz Sharpe. We had thought last year we might be capable of 2:40 on the flattest marathon course in Europe but winter miles were lacking from me and Daz has Ironman Lanzarote in 5 weeks with my Outlaw ironman in three months. We would be happy with sub-3 hours and we did. I set off at my comfortable pace running at a HR of about 162 whilst Daz set out to run 6:45 per mile with the intention of picking up the pace later. Everything went well until about mile 21 when cramp started again. I had been running about 6:15 per mile but suddenly it was 6:30 for two miles then BAM! 7:45's. What could've been somewhere around 2:45 and a pb ended with 2:55:15. Happy enough but I was running scared the last few miles worried that Daz would catch me but he ended up with 2:59:45.
So we both broke 3hrs and happy with that, and I'm slightly happier as he still hasn't beat me over marathon distance. We then waited for Ali and the tracker showed she was on target at 30km but hen as 5hrs came and went we new she was struggling. 23 minutes later she comes strolling down Talbot Road with a big grin on her face. Again lack of mileage through winter took its toll. My biggest run had been 2hrs/16.5 miles but Ali's had been just under 2.5hrs in a half marathon. All in all it was great prep for the Outlaw.

What else?......oh yeah, Ali and I had a bike fit at CycleFit in Manchester. Big differences to my TT position but small tweaks to my road bike with a new saddle too. Ali has had some big tweaks to her position change of stem and saddle and as I write she is out on a 60 miles sportive and has punctured twice.
I'm also looking to sell my Quintanna Roo triathlon bike and also the Bp Stealth to fund my next tri bike. Some interest so far but no secured offers so get on the ironman journey Facebook page and make me an offer.
Next up Xterra Greece ....7th May

Sunday, 18 October 2015

End of year round up...sort of

Another year of sport and another year older and what was potentially going to be a great year and an excellent winter training ended (nearly) with some mixed results and ups and downs.
February started with a crash caused by an idiotic car driver slamming on his brakes and reversing towards us resulting in evasive action and a fall on my shoulder. Innocuous at the time but the shoulder stiffened over the weeks and months and needed a steroid injection to free it up, and just in time for my first race at Wilmslow sprint tri in May where I finished 2nd overall. Great result in my eyes.
Onto Bala middle distance on a tough course but my form was good and despite leading the swim and onto the bike the course was abandoned to a fatality. A very sad situation.
Next up was Ironman UK and again the form was there running a PB the week before and swimming and biking was great. Again lead the age group for much of the bike course and a short distance at the start of the run before I started coughing up blood and struggled with breathing for still an unknown reason. Multiple chest X-rays and MRI's and scopes in my throat and nose have detected zilch. Race finish in 15th AG is a result but not the win I wanted and trained for.
Medical tests and rest then back to training just in time for Xterra UK to try something different. A great swim, but lost a few places on the tough muddy slippery bike course and ended up 4th in what was also the European Champs. I did get offered a roll down slot for the World Champs in Maui but expense could not allow this year. Maybe next year ;-)
A last minute entry to the Tameside XL off road tri a couple of weekend ago yielded another 4th place and this was disappointing. A good swim again, and a good run, but my inexperience on a MTB and lack of course knowledge probably cost me a podium postion. 2nd to 4th were within 50sec and the technical hilly bike cost me this I'm sure. The winner overtook me about 3miles into the bike and left me for dead downhill on the loose rocks. Another learning experience.Following the Rules n+1 was invoked and a new (2nd hand) addition was added to help on the MTB front.



So winter training is starting and the local pool is a couple of minutes walk away with coached sessions two nights per week and one early morning. Absolutely ideal and I am loving the structure so far.
Running speed is coming back again and next weekend I am doing the Worksop Half Marathon with my old training partner and superfit mate Daz Sharpe. I am sure we are both laughing at the prospect of a race off. Cant wait but a 1:20 will do and coincides that Sunday is my long run day. Happy all round.
Biking is mainly commutes with longer rides planned for Tuesday and Thursday evening and a long club ride on Saturday.

So the form was there but bad luck conspired against me but remaining positive that it can be repeated and bettered in 2016. With luck also Xterra Wetsuits UK will sponsor me again and hopefully my bio will be there (to be updated soon) if you want a look at my past results and achievements.


So, onto 2016......there was a time when you could enter races a week before but popularity means having cash (or a credit card) to enter a year in advance when the entry goes live. Luckily Ali and got entries to both the half and full Outlaw next year. My brother and mate Paul Breeze are also entered for the Outlaw.

Good luck and safe training everyone and see you on the start line

So races for 2016 are go

April                   Xterra Malta
                           Manchester Marathon

May                   Wilmslow Sprint Tri
                           Half Outlaw

June                   Peninsula Sea Sprint Triathlon

July                    Outlaw

August               Xterra UK

September         Tameside XL

November         Maui??

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Something new....Xterra European Championships

Ive been doing triathlon for about 24 years now and whilst I have taken part in off road quadrathlon (triathlon with kayak as the 4th discipline), I have never done a mountain bike triathlon with a cross country run. Having been to Hawaii (Ironman) twice and raced on Oahu too (ITU Worlds 2005) I had heard about Xterrra on the island of Maui and quite fancy going there one day so I thought I'd give Xterra England a shot just to see how I compare and what I need to do.
My brother Philip is a keen MTB'er and racks up more miles than some roadies but his swimming is negligible and lets face it, most people can put one foot in front of the other twice repeatedly so running he can do, and with that he decided to enter with me to race at the Vachery Estate in Surrey on August bank holiday weekend.
We drove down Saturday morning after Philip had driven most of the night to get here from Larne, and had planned to recce the course by bike and foot. We put the tents up on arrival, registered, and set out on the bike course leaving our chief supporter Ali to read her book in peace. The course was fairly dry and with a few little hills that required concentration to progress without coming to a complete standstill. There was quite a bit of technical focus with tight turns and lumps and bumps that meant speed was nigh on impossible to maintain but it was dryish and within my capabilities. Back at the tent Philip went for a kip while I headed out for the run lap recce. The course was good with one steep hill, a ditch to jump or traverse twice and a huge tree trunk to leap/clamber over and a bog to negotiate each lap. Simple really.
We had the race brief then a bit of a Q&A with the legendary Conrad "The Caveman" Stoltz, Ben Allen and Jacqui Slack then had dinner at the venue and headed off to bed for an early night, typical camping evening. Also typical camping is the rain, and it fell in buckets.
Race morning was more of a race afternoon so a lie in was on the cards then bike racking at 1030hrs ready for a 1210hrs start. The pro's went off at midday then all the 40-44 and below age groups 5 mins after, then us 45-49 upwards with the relays.
There seemed to be a bit of a jump start on the swim but I worked my through the group and seemed to be at the sharp end. I could only see one swimmer ahead who I guessed was Damo Littlewood of Tri-1st Birmingham. I didn't see the relay swimmer or another athlete in front but the results show I was out of the water 4th from my wave in 21:54. It felt easy and comfortable in my Xterra Vector Pro but Philip was working hard to finish the swim 5 minutes quicker than his anticipated time in 35mins and it was his first open water swim in his Xterra Vortex.

X(terra)-men


Out on the bike the course was completely different following the deluge we had overnight. Firm dry tracks were now muddy and slippery and despite lowering my tyre pressures i still struggled. Every 180 degree turn was a front end slide and there were a few crashes but still I was overtaking the age groups ahead at every overtaking opportunity on the narrow tracks. I really wanted to capitalise on my swim and go for the medals and a potential Maui slot. There was a bit of hill running when traction just wasn't there. I realised I need to run tubeless wheels with lower pressures and get proper tyres to suit the course. Its all a learning experience. Maybe I need a carbon bike too and not a 'cycle to work scheme' bike, hmm....there's a thought....
Philip focussing

Upright for a change







One thing I am fast at is transitions and I headed out for the 10km cross country course feeling good and confident I could run some folk down. The first lap was fairly swift and I overtook loads of people and managed a great leap over the ditch and tree and even managed to catch a few of the pro's.

Huge tree to leap over
Philip clambering


The second lap was slower as I caught a few people through the muddier sections and I have to admit to feeling tired going up the hill. I managed to catch Damo (last years 40-44 winner) on the run which lifted me a little but I knew he was suffering from an Achilles tendon issue. 
I had no idea where I finished and Ali went to get me a print out from the timing tent whilst I ate my body weight in chocolate brownie and flapjack. The look on her face said it all as she walked back. I was 4th....probably the worst position to be in. No medals at the Xterra European champs boohoo...gutted!  But this was all about testing myself and trying to determine what I needed to do to get to Maui.
Meanwhile, Philip was out running the course and managed to do fairly equal splits. He has decided that he likes Xterra triathlon and is going to be training for next year. Ive also decided I like Xterra too and quite fancy racing abroad but I need to improve on my technical riding skills and maybe need a new bike, N+1 springs to mind.
Time to start training again and look at bike bling.