Phillip Graves
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November 2016 - IRONMAN Arizona report

It’s been a week since Ironman Arizona; a week for me to dwell on what really was a huge disappointment for myself. After the highs of Ironman Wales and a good training block in the following TWO months I was really ready to go in Arizona. All my training told me I was in much better shape than I had been in Wales despite zero TT racing and I was genuinely looking forward to getting out there seeing what I could do!

After a pretty uneventful flight out on the Tuesday and eventually finding our homestay (whom were absolutely lovely and really made the trip such fun), I managed to get out on the course the following days and get my bearings. It was certainly going to be a fast race and I loved the bike course, flat, windy and almost a British TT’er heaven, and the guys at ceramic speed were kind enough to put on a new rear derailleur pulley for me to race with, so I certainly looked the part and had another few watts at my disposal.

Come the few days before the race the nerves I had when I was at home training seemed to subside, I get really nervous when training hard leading into a race, and then when I’m actually at the race they just disperse and I become much more comfortable. I was really hopeful of a good performance but you just never know what Ironman is going to throw at you, and I was going to be in store for one of those days….

Race day, well, where do I start? It never feels natural getting up at 4am but I was totally ready to get stuck in. The swim was one lap so thankfully we didn’t have to swim through hundreds of amateurs like we did at Ironman Wales, but that did mean standing to get in the water and looking down the lake you couldn’t see the turnaround point. Indeed, after the starting cannon went off, the mad dash for the first 500meters and then the settling down period it seemed to take an absolute AGE to get to the turn. The swim was a very long rectangle, just over a mile out and a mile back. I just sat near the front of the lead pack, I thought there was one guy off the front but I was more than content to just sit on the feet of the guy who was leading our pack (even though he seemed to be zigzagging his way up the lake rather than swimming direct), but it was pretty hard to see the buoys so left him too it!

A little mad dash to the swim exit and think I ended up out the water 5th or something with all the big players so I wasn’t concerned in the slightest if there were guys up the road, the flat nature of the course and strength on the bike of the guys I knew were around me meant they were going to be swallowed up early doors.

I did lose a lot of time in T1; I wanted to put on all my aero kit as I knew aerodynamics were going to be key and would pay off in the long term. I slowly made my way through the guys who were in my swim group in the opening miles of the bike and genuinely felt great. Soon enough I was near the front of the race picking my place to ride. I knew Cameron Wurf would hammer on the bike but I had decided I wasn’t going to go with him but just bide my time knowing he would die off on the run. After about 30km I found myself following T.J. Tollakson (who I knew was 3rd last year and rode a 4.15), so I decided if I could just follow him, hopefully that would set me up for a good run.

Fast forward a couple of hours and I was still following T.J. He had tried to make a few digs to get away but I was riding very comfortably looking forward to trying to run 2.55ish, a time I really thought I could pull out given the training I had put it and results coming out.

However, my day was about to take a turn for the worse. At about 120km my feet really started to get painful; the arch of my inner sole was digging like a knife into my plantar fascia. I was still able to follow T.J. but over the next 20km or so it just became worse and worse to a point where I could only put out like 200 watts through my feet. I had lost T.J. by this point and was getting so frustrated. My legs felt fine, it was just that my feet that were on fire. Luckily at the turn on the last lap and the 30km home it was downhill and tailwind so I could put the bike into 57 x 11 and just pedal at a low cadence and cruise it back to T2.

I had lost 4min to T.J. in the last 40km, not as much as I thought I had, and even with soft-pedaling the last hour, no one from behind had really caught up with me so I came off the bike in 5th. Cameron Wurf came off 1st, then Lionel Sanders, T.J. and then myself and an Italian guy who had been riding with me and T.J. came off the bike pretty much together. When I was really struggling with my feet at 140k he had passed me, but I had held him at about 15sec on the way back into town.

Initially I wasn’t going to run. I honestly didn’t think running would be possible with the state my feet were in but I was at least going to try in the hope that running and different shoes might not hurt as much. That wasn’t going to be the case though; the damage had been done. I struggled round the first hour at just under 3h marathon pace but then I really found any sort of running impossible. It was going to simply be a ‘get round’ job. The next two and a half hours seemed to last forever and were very uneventful. Run, walk, eat, question my sanity, eat a bit more, scowl at American shouting ‘you’re doing a great job’ when you’re not. Finally the finish line came in sight, I would normally say by this point my legs were in bits but they were just not, my feet honestly were so ruined I couldn’t run hard enough to properly hurt my legs like I did in Wales. As soon as I crossed the finish line there I couldn’t walk. In Arizona though I was fine, just really disappointed with how the race had gone.

There was nothing I could do now though, and five minutes after crossing the line I had expelled Ironman Arizona to the history books, time to learn, move on and come back next year to right some wrongs. I really can’t complain, the injury ridden last 18 months I have had, if you had told me even six months ago I would have finished two Ironman races by the end of the year and come second in one I would have told you to get lost - and I’m more motivated than ever to make 2017 something special!

September 2016 - Second at IRONMAN Wales!

Well, I’ve written a few blogs this year so far, but to sit down and write about Ironman Wales... it’s all a little different!

The Preamble...

As many of you know, the last 18 months have been a disaster for me with serious injury after serious injury. I picked up Achilles Tendonopathy after racing New Plymouth World Cup in March 2015, which took eight months to get over. Then, after a month very steadily building my running back up, I started to get a very sore knee. Even now I have no idea what was wrong with my knee, no physio could get to the bottom of it and after another six months of no running, to say I was at the end my tether was an understatement. I was killing the TT races I was doing, getting some great results and wrapping up the National TT Series whilst keeping my swimming ticking over. However, with one month of not even 50% volume running since March 2015, an Ironman seemed not even a spec on the horizon come the start of July!

As a last ditch hope I went to see Dr Kevin Burns at York Chiropractic Clinic. I listed my woes and he seemed pretty certain I could be fixed despite my symptoms being rather perplexing. Within a few days he had me in, getting my back, knees and hips all X-rayed, which showed up several anomalies. Finally, could this be the start of actually getting back to triathlon? After a couple more weeks of treatment I started running again and despite it feeling very alien trying to put one foot in front of the other at anything more than walking speed, thankfully the new rehab work I was doing, coupled with a few mechanical adjustments, well, it was all finally beginning to work!

I was still racing a lot of TT races at this point and had entered a 100mile TT on the 31st July on what I initially thought was a fast course on the A19 but it ended up been a sporting, B-road carriageway affair around East Yorkshire. Oh well, I still went to race and used it as training, did an extra 12 miles on the end to make it up to Ironman distance and then did a very slow and painful run off! I can remember the first km off the bike was so hard; running off the bike was something I hadn’t done in over a year, never mind off 112miles at just over 25mph average! I did 3km and was quite content with that, it was a start!

Finally there was hope, so not knowing what the next few weeks would hold the next day I went about entering Ironman Wales and bought my Professional Ironman license for the rest of 2016. You have to hold your license for 45 days before you can race so I had to get a shimmy on. I think I bought the license and entered Ironman Wales 48 days before the race itself, cutting it fine I know!

So, I got my training diary out and put the days to go before Wales at the top of every page for the seven or so weeks I had left and set about trying to get myself fit. I could write a book about those seven weeks but I trained hard, too hard and again got injured on my last big run day 17 days out from the race. I had planned to do 2x 10mile runs with 3 x 2km efforts in the second run. I managed one ok and then on the second 2km I strained my quad really quite badly and had to have six days off running and three days off the bike. This was a disaster, it was two weeks to Wales and I couldn’t even run. It was even sore to go on the cross-trainer so I had no idea how my quad was going to manage a super hilly marathon. I was however so diligent, I did everything to get it better and with 11 days to go before Wales I managed a 35min jog. It was a start.

Thankfully the quad really started to get better quick and I ended up trying to hammer out a decent weeks training, probably more for confidence than anything, but it left me exhausted. I killed myself for seven days, did two races (a 10 and 50mile TT with 5k hard runs off both on back to back days), and by the Monday before Wales I was knackered! Hopefully a taper would sort that out!

Come Friday I was feeling better and after the six hour drive down to Tenby I went out to ride the hillier 60km or so loop of the course. It was very tough, in that 60km there was 950m of climbing and it certainly hurt my legs, which definitely hurt my ride on race day, but least I knew where I was going!

After more course recce on Saturday and the usual pre-race stuff, Sunday came around before I knew it! So the race, the bit you all want to hear about…

The Race...

The swim, well, I found it pretty steady away to be honest. I had swum a lap of the course the previous day, which was the first time I had swum open water since the European Games in June 2015. It was indeed the first time I had actually swum in a wetsuit since March 2015, so to all of those that preach you need to train in open water, I wont hear anything of it!

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Ironman swims are always a funny affair; it’s a long day out and you get into a situation where no one wants to take it on so the entire swim became a bit of a stalemate. At the end of the first lap there was an Australian exit so I tried to sprint round there and dive back in and swim hard a bit, but there wasn’t really much point in expelling so much energy early on. Pretty much immediately we started to catch age-group athletes on their first lap and it was like trying to thread a needle for the next 1.5k. It made more sense to stay on a fellow pro’s feet than spend the entire time looking to see where you were going to make sure you didn’t swim into someone on their first lap.

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Onto the long run into transition and I didn’t feel too bad to the honest. It’s a 1km run through Tenby to T1 which makes for a great spectacle, indeed, the entire day had the most amazing support - it was truly unreal! A pretty standard T1 and out onto the bikes, now the day could really get cracking.

After so much time out I didn’t really know what to expect but after about two miles it was just myself and Daniel Niederreiter at the front of the race. I let him lead a while whilst I settled down before making a pass and cracking on with the rest of my day. I didn’t attack him or anything, I just rode past steady but before long he was back coming past me! Full credit to him, so I sat about 20 meters back for the next five miles to see if he was going to slow down before I went back past. He sat there for the next 15 miles or so, I wasn’t hanging around but made a bit more of an effort at 25 miles when there was a fast tailwind section to get away and before long I had a couple of minutes lead on him. Right I thought, lets buckle down and get this done.

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The rest of the ride was a lonely affair, I really tried to hold back and felt I was riding at a similar intensity I did my course recce at, just a solid training pace. Like the swim, the last 70km of the bike I found myself passing hundreds of age-group athletes on really narrow, technical Welsh roads, so there wasn’t much opportunity to open the taps... probably a blessing in disguise knowing the run would be tough.

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Off the bike I had about 4-5min lead, not really as much as I had wanted but we can't have it all. The run at Ironman Wales is super tough, four laps, a huge 2-3km hill on each lap, indeed probably 80% of the course is either uphill or downhill! I did however not feel horrific, I tried to keep my run form and though 10km I ran 40min flat, well up on a three hour target I had set myself! The second 10km I ran in about 41.30, another 45 seconds in my back pocket faster than three-hour marathon pace!

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Half way into the run is where it always starts to get tough and indeed after about 25km the wheels started to come off! With only one 30km long run in my eight week running block, I was always going to be going into unknown territory and from 25-35km I really slowed. It was awful. Even coming through Tenby with one lap to go I was in a dark place, I was totally ready to just bin it but I gave myself a thorough talking to. I knew if I could throw myself into that last lap I would get down the finishing chute.

It was around the 35km mark I got passed by Marc Duelson. I had lost a huge chunk of time that last 10k but I really fought the next 5km, I held him at 10-20 seconds and really just fully committed, I mean anything could have happened, even one bout of cramp for him I would have been back up on him, but it wasn’t to be! With about 2km to go I was cooked, it wasn’t my legs carrying me forward any more but just my sheer force of will to get to that finish line!

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And get to that finish line I did. Gutted to race for nine hours and loose by one minute, but that’s racing I guess. I really had exceeded my expectations and had just thoroughly enjoyed myself all day! Even now, two days on from the race, just thinking about the sheer amount of suffering I did on that run makes me just love the sport in such a gross, masochistic kind of way, I just cant wait to suffer like that again!

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So yes, two days on, two days of doing everything to recover and only just now can I walk down a flight of stairs unaided. I really did go all in, gave it everything I could, and for a first attempt back at Ironman and first triathlon in 15 months, I would give myself a B+.

With a few more longer runs in the legs (and obviously the adaptation I’m going to get from mullering my legs up and down that hill in Tenby), I really am excited for the coming months and what they hold! I really feel I’m back to where I was when I won Ironman UK in 2009, and with much more wisdom I’m not going to make the same mistakes I made back then which resulted in a seven year gap between Ironman podiums!

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Thank you everyone for the support, the sheer amount of messages I have had is just unreal and I can't thank you and my sponsors all enough, thank you for believing and having faith in me!

It has been a VERY dark last 18 months but I feel I’ve come out of a pitch black tunnel and finally am starting to feel the warm glow of some spring sunshine on my skin once again. Sincerely, thank you one and all, you make the sacrifices and suffering all worthwhile!

August 2016 - An update...and some positive (iron) news!

It's some while since I have penned a blog, but with an easy day and a few hours to myself, I thought I would share with everyone what I have been up to the last couple of weeks.

July started off well enough. With the Tour I somehow ended up riding my bike a lot. I raced the National 100 as a training race; I was just going to let it go by but with the race being on the A19 less than an hour away, I thought why not, it would be a good way to get 100 miles in the bag on a Sunday morning. I rode the race itself very controlled, pressed on the last 20 miles or so and ended up with 3h 45, a 27mph average ride for a very low heart rate which shocked me; I must have been fitter than I thought!

So on went July, smashing out the miles on the bike (I ended up riding over 2,000 miles in July), and rehabbing my knee as I have done the last several months. Seemingly getting nowhere with my knee, I explored pastures new and walked into York Chiropractic Clinic and scheduled an appointment with the head doctor there. It took a few visits and a trip to Doncaster for a number of x-rays to see what was going on inside my hips, knee and back. Finally, were we going to discover what was wrong after over SIX months of pain and agony?! Well, the x-rays did show some interesting things and all I can say is a month later, from no running at all, I have managed to run a 50 mile week, but more on that later.

Anyways, after the National 100 I decided I would enter a few more TT races. With the huge number of miles my legs there must be some form in there?! First up was the Team Swift 100 last weekend which I again chose to just do as a solid training ride as it was only 20min from home. With the running and swimming ticking along nicely, I didn’t want to destroy myself so I would have to take an extended period to recover. On a flat but very tough course, 90% on B and unclassified roads, I thought a 40km/h average would be pretty good so I set off with that mission. The plan was to ride the 100miles, then add on another 12 miles to make it to an Ironman distance bike and then attempt a short run off the bike. All this went to plan, I rode the 100 miles in 3.56 (with the last 10miles pretty hard as my dad said it was close for the win), then made it to 180.2km in 4h 27min, and then a short two mile run off the bike which was pain free, perhaps the greatest achievement of the entire day!

After that success it got me thinking, what is possible here? It’s the 31st of July, I had just ridden 180km in 4.27 at an average HR of 130bpm with a pain free run off the bike of two miles. Since I started back upping the running after I had my series of x-rays and completely changed the rehab I was doing, I was now swimming 25km a week too with some ok sessions in there, so I thought why not, and I shelled out the $850 for a Ironman Pro License. I had a look at the race schedule for the rest of the year and there were only two races that stood out, Ironman Wales on the 18th September and Ironman Arizona on the 20th November, so, I entered both.

Now, I know this is going to be a HUGE leap into the unknown. My last competitive triathlon was Gold Coast WCS in April 2015 when I raced with my Achilles tendinopthy which left me out for the rest of the year (even though I managed a domestique appearance at European Games in June 2015). I haven’t run properly for almost 18 months, but like I said earlier, I have just got a 50 mile week under my belt with some good tempo runs in there. Every TT I do now is training with a solid run off the bike, so on Saturday I took the opportunity to race a 25 mile TT on a tough windy course to do 10km off the bike, not pushing too hard but just enough to test me a little. A short 52 and a long 38min 10k made for a successful Saturday afternoon, and I backed it up Sunday with 125km on the bike and a 20km run (my longest run since march 2015).

So, it's now 41 days away from Ironman Wales and I am under no illusions that it could all go very wrong but Ironman is such an odd sport. I will definitely be there fitness wise swimming and riding I hope, but the running, I just don’t know. 42km is a very long way and not to be underestimated. I'm just going to try not be stupid, keep the running building gradually and bashing out the sessions I need to do across the board, and who knows what will happen on the 18th September! No matter what happens in Tenby I will have another two months to get some more running under my belt before Arizona. Hopefully I can just keep things ticking over like they have the last couple of weeks and I should get to Tenby in decent enough shape, even though I simply have no aims for the race.

I just want to get back out there and enjoy it, if that’s possible over 140.6 miles! Either way, i'm sure it will be fun…. Probably!

12th June 2016 - RTTC National 50-mile Championship

Well, I was due a bad race, and Sunday provided that at the National '50' down in Plymouth. I’m not going to do a blog full of excuses and bore you all, but I will just tell you how it is; honesty is the best policy!

It was certainly a tumultuous week the week before; two cancelled races was frustrating but I went and did a local 10mile TT on the Tuesday night from Tadcaster to get some race speed back in the legs. This went really well, I did a mid 20 on a rolling single carriageway with already 70miles in the legs earlier in the day. I just focussed on trying to be as good as I could for Sunday and first National Champs of the year.

The race was early Sunday morning so we decided to go down in the camper van the day before. I underestimated how long it would take; we set off at 9.30 and only arrived in Plymouth at 5.30pm. It was a long day travelling with a couple of stops. Straight out on the bike to see what I could of the course and it looked super fast despite, the 1300m of climbing and the headwind for the return 25mile leg. It was going to be tough, whatever!

So, up at 6am, porridge and it was time to warm up before my 7.40am start time. My plan was to take the hills steady and press on down the hills, carrying the speed on the flat, before really opening the taps on the return leg into the headwind.

The first 10miles were super fast and even taking the hills real steady I was averaging 31mph by the turn at half way. I genuinely thought a 30mph ride was on and turned round ready to press on coming home, but it wasn’t to be my day. After about 30 miles I started to feel my left hip and glute becoming really tight and painful, deep inside the joint. This just got worse and worse until I was basically just riding with my right leg. Every time my left leg went round it was just excessively painful. Really the end couldn’t have come soon enough and as soon as I crossed the line I tried to dismount my bike, which only just happened as I couldn’t lift my left leg, and tried to have a stretch. With a 3 mile ride back to the HQ I genuinely had no idea how I was going to get there. I somehow managed to get back on my bike and rode back at 5mph, becoming more and more cold, constantly looking behind me in the hope Andy Jackson would turn up and push me back, it was that bad!

Somehow I got back to the camper van a shivering mess and needed two people to support me just to walk. Getting changed and showered was the biggest challenge of the weekend and thank god there was a physio there I could see who would manage to release off my by now solid glute to the extent I would walk unaided. As I footnote I ended up 13th, somewhat of a disaster but I have to take the positives out of the situation, the fact clearly there is something majorly wrong with my left hip is a relief! I can fix this then I should be ok to start properly pressing on. If things were breaking and there was no underlying factor that would be something to worry about, but the sheer fact my hip does feel so ruined, its just a huge relief if that makes sense!

I’m still able to swim / bike run / now after seeing the physio today but it really needs some more exploration as I think this is what’s been affecting my knee so much this year. Doing the huge amount of TT’s hasn’t helped probably but I can't change anything now and am very grateful for what this season his given me so far, and I'm sure there is much more to come!

I've just been to see a guy in York who has treated Jamaican 100m sprinter Yohan Blake in the past, so combined with the other physios in Leeds and York, im sure they can put me back tomorrow. See you all on the road!

22nd May 2016 - National TT Series Round 5 / New 10-mile PB

After the joy of becoming the fifth fastest ever man over 25-miles there really wasn’t much time to sit back and relax! Having three races in eight days ensured I was going to be a busy boy so it was onto Wednesday night and the fast 10 course on the V718. After the weekends exploits I was expecting big things, possibly even a sub 18 minute clocking and the conditions certainly seemed to be on my side, a very slight easterly wind! However, with a 8.10pm start time there was going to be zero traffic to help my sub 18 quest so I was basically going to have zero assistance and it would be 100% me!

After hanging around all day for my race I was really up for going all in, so a good warm up later I pulled up to the start and battered it down onto the A63. I could tell there was a slight headwind but I felt ok, the speed was definitely there and I got down to the turn at 4.5miles in no time! Having tip toed round the two wet roundabouts it was head down for the final 5-miles. I don’t know what it is about the return leg of the V718 but I just don’t like it; I always suffer so much and it feels unbelievably slow! The tailwind I thought would gently push me back to the finish just wasn't there and I could see a sub-18min clocking slowly slipping away. Coming up the climb at the end I just stuck my head down went full gas; I wasn’t going to give up without a fight. Result – 18.20, a huge new 25 second PB over 10 miles, certainly not be sniffed at, but I was left a little disappointed as, having eternally high expectations, I had expected a little better! Oh well, there will be other races on there and I’m determined to go under 18 minutes!

So with that in the bag on Wednesday night, Friday came around and it was off to South Wales for Round 5 of the National Series. I knew a top four result here would ensure series victory, best 4 of 6 races to count, though having won the last three rounds I was determined not to stain my record! After a seemingly never ending drive we stopped overnight in the camper van at the top of a hill in the Brecon Beacon. The road sign said 400m altitude, a tiny bit of pre-race altitude for me there (every little helps!). After a very unsettled night of howling wind and driving rain we drove the final 70 miles to the race so I could ride around the course, again in pouring rain! It was definitely the easiest course of the series so far, the first 5 miles fast downhill, 10 miles of flat and then in the last 5 miles a couple of nice juicy climbs to get my teeth into!

After finally drying out, race day came around and feeling a little worse for wear it was race time, third big race in eight days! Usual warm up later and it was off to the start with the privilege to be last off. The last few riders go at 2min intervals and having taken 3.5 minutes off Dean Robson in the previous round my plan was to go hard at the start down the hill then try and get him in my sights and steadily reel him in.

So, I set off like a bull in a china shop, rode the first five miles in well under nine minutes turned the corner and started with the 10 miles rolling section of the course. There were points where you could see well up the road but there was no sign of Dean. Where was he?? I really didn’t feel my best and started to panic a bit, my riding just seemed to go out of the window. Even at 15miles and still averaging over 30mph I started the first climb and still, no sign of him. I think instead of just concentrating on my own ride I was so hung up on trying to beat and catch people around me I just started to unravel a bit and everything went to pot! Coming into the final three miles and the last climb I FINALLY caught sight of him, 30 secs up the road and went full gas in an attempt to try and catch him! In all honesty it was just as well I did as my four minute man Chris Fennell was on a flyer and despite managing to take 90 sec out of Dean, and this more down to complete luck than ability or judgment, I only took six seconds out of him! Boy it was a close one, as it had been on Wednesday when I only beat Dan Evans by seven seconds. I think I've used up a lot of my luck for the season in the last week!

I think testament to how hard everyone rode, the top four were all under the old course record, and thankfully the win gave me that, 90 secs faster than the old mark. A nice added bonus but I had embarked on the 650-mile round trip to South West Wales for the win, and that’s what I got to wrap up the overall series so I was over the moon! Way back at the first round of the National Series I said if I came top three I would keep going to see if I could perhaps challenge for the Series, so to win the last four rounds in a row and sew up the series before the end of May, well that’s something I really didn’t expect and I'm just so thankful to everyone that’s made it possible, everyone at Madison, Orca and Powerbar and my parents for taking me to each event, no matter how far away, in their new camper van so I can challenge properly at each race. I’m forever thankful and couldn’t do it without everyone!

14th May 2016 - 46:28 !!!

After the disappointment of a cancelled race the previous weekend (I was due to race a 50 mile TT on the A19 but it was called off because of lingering fog), I was very keen to get back to it at the scene of my only loss this year so far, a 25mile TT on the fast Etwall course near Derby, and try and put right some demons!

With a 16.05 start time it meant a leisurely day, a morning ride at home and then two hours in the car to get to the race, with a start sheet that resembled more a national championship than an open 25 race! Usually I'd be really nervous racing such a high quality field but I was more excited to see where I would stand compared to everyone else, and hopefully try and improve on last months time on the same course where I went 48:18, a time which itself was a new PB by over 2.5 minutes!

The weather certainly seemed much better than back home in York, a north westerly wind which would hinder on the way out but help ever so slightly on the fast return home.

So, a good warm up later (actually the fastest warm up of the year so far at 34kmph for 20k), it was ready for the off. With most the faster guys going after me I just had to concentrate on doing my own ride and pick off the guys who set off after me.

I had been given the advice to start off really hard on the way out and try and hang on for the return trip, so that was the order of the day! I absolutely hammered the first outward leg into the head wind; indeed I was under my 10 mile PB for the first 10 miles! So, swimming in an ocean of lactic acid I had 15 more miles to get through. The only way I was going to get through that was to break it up into sections. From 10 miles it was only 2.5miles to the turn where I could have a little rest around the roundabout (and by little I mean 5-10 seconds), then it was just 2 x 6mile TT’s on the way back.

I have to say the nature of the course with three busy roundabouts to negotiate from miles 11 to 14 does lend itself to hammering the first bit, then you are forced to rest in the middle, as the traffic at the roundabouts is always quite bad, and then its full gas to the end with just one roundabout to negotiate at 19 miles and a junction with 1 mile to go. So, splitting it up into little 6-mile efforts does really work well!

Coming into those final six miles I contemplated many things, retirement being one of them because it was just so painful! The miles seemed to take forever to tick over too, why is it always like that!!! Off the dual carriageway and with one mile to go it was just stick the head down time, try not to throw up all over my gorgeous bike and get to that line.

I knew a fast time was in the offing, my average speed was approximately 2kmph faster than my previous ride on the course a month ago so working a little math in my head riding something special on the cards. I even thought a mid 45min clocking was going to be possible at the turn but my early efforts really hurt me on that return leg and I lost a fair bit of time. Crossing the line though, looking down and seeing 46:28, a PB by another whopping 1min 50 seconds, I was surprised! Clearly the few upgrades I had done to my bike and my new suit from Orca with the NoPinz speed pocket had worked a treat!

So, it was back to the HQ and the usual hanging around to see what everyone else had done. As the times rolled in it turned out I had had a pretty special ride! Second was Steve Irwin, 51 seconds behind me, with Josh Williams, who was 4th at last years National 25, was 1.12 back to round out the podium.

Race over and onto the next one, or so I thought! A bit more research later and it turned out, amazingly, my 46.28 had made me the 5th fastest man every to ride a 25 mile TT, just behind a certain Chris Boardman in 4th and, sadly, pushing a certain Alex Dowsett into 6th place. Sorry about that! What’s more I am sure there is much more to come, I don’t want to downplay my ride or sound arrogant but it was only my second ride on that course and didn’t feel the absolute best I've felt all season. That’s probably due to the fact I did some running in the week, the triathlon comeback is still at the forefront of my mind. I’m still swimming average volume, did 16km the week before the 25, short warm up’s then decent free aerobic sets with some speed work in there – I'm definitely feeling its helping the TT’ing. Oh and my pacing was absolutely terrible! Its only May anyway, plenty of time to get it all right but I really can't complain AT becoming the 5th fastest man ever in a very cozy Boardman/Dowsett Sandwich!

1st May 2016 - RTTC Classic Series Round 4

After last weekend’s win in Round 3 of the National TT Series, it was on to the Lake District this Sunday for Round 4. This is usually one of my favorite races of the year, held around two laps of Bassenthwaite Lake, usually accompanied by a jaunt into Keswick after to go to Old Friar’s Sweet Shop. Unfortunately this year, due to road works, the course was changed to a more testing two-lap affair around a circuit from Greystoke, a small Lakeland village five times from Penrith.

The weekend took a usual turn, arriving at lunchtime Saturday to do a lap of the course and see what was what. It turned out to be a lot harder than I had ever imagined! The scale on the elevation profile had lulled me into a false sense of security and the first eight miles of the fourteen mile lap proved to be very up and down, with a total elevation gain of 350m a lap on roads which in places were little more than farm tracks. It was going to make for some hard racing!

Perhaps the most notable fact of the weekend was that James Gullen was to be last man off, two minutes behind me. We have been carefully tracking each others progress throughout the season so far and it was inevitable our paths would eventually cross! His 17:51 at the Good Friday 10 on the V718, and taking a course record off Bradley Wiggins just last weekend was testament to the great form he is in. I’m sure if Pedal Heaven had got the invite to the Tour De Yorkshire, he would have been more than visible! Anyways, it was going to be a showdown, something that had been at the forefront of my mind all week. Could I get a second Pedal Heaven scalp of the year after beating Harry Tanfield at an early season TT from Stokesley?

Sunday morning came, as did the wind and dark cloud, though the rain did managed to hold off thankfully. Warming up I felt ok, even if it was a little cold, so I made it back to the camper van, completely changed into my race kit, went for another little spin and it was go time!

The first three miles of the course were literally all uphill, so it was little chainring and try not go too hard! With James Gullen two mins behind me, I'll be honest, I was really worried he was going to pass me half way round the second lap. At the moment I’m not a climber, I have more than several kg of swimming weight on me so the up hills are hard, something I try to counteract on the down hills... but you can only do so much! I had it in my mind he would pass me at the top of the last hill on the second lap then I would probably manage to take 20sec back out of him on the descent into the finish and that would be that.

So, after the first lap, and having not been passed, I cracked onto the climb for the second time. I felt much better the second time up there even though the top bit of the course was getting super windy! Parts of the road were little more than farm tracks filled with all manner of muck you get in the middle of nowhere (my poor, poor bike), and there were parts where it was so windy it was a case of holding on and hoping for the best.

Over that last climb, and still having not been passed I hammered it back down to the finish! The last three miles had a huge tailwind and was ever so slightly downhill, it was literally a case of 57 x 11 and spinning like crazy at 45mph; so much fun!

Having looked like I’d just raced Paris-Roubaix, it was that painful waiting time again but there was no sign of James….I'd won! It turned out he had put some spangley new gold jockey wheels in his rear derailleur the day before that had unshipped his chain three times and he limped home five minutes down on me in fifth place overall. Oh well, I’m sure I will get chance to race him properly sometime this season and I’ll really look forward to it. It certainly took my performance to a level I haven’t been at this season so far!

Proof of that was how far behind second place was this week. Dean Robson was 3:37 behind me this week over 28 miles, though I only took 3:14 out of him last weekend over 39.5 miles…I really did push myself into the red this time round.

All in all, a really fun, successful weekend and a step closer to clinching that Classic Series TT title!

24th April 2016 - RTTC Classic Series Round 3

After what seemed a long time coming, it was round 3 of the National TT series this past weekend around a rolling 39.5mile course just north of Worcester. After winning the previous round, I really wanted to do well again in the hope that another good result will help to the overall series ranking.

Despite it being a Sunday race, Team Graves decided to head down Friday evening, allowing me to ride the course on Saturday morning so I knew where I was going before the race on Sunday. This all went very smoothly; I headed out on Saturday morning to a course of two halves. The first loop was very much flat and pretty fast which definitely lulled you into a false sense of security before a savage last 20 miles with two big and steep climbs, punctuated with a few rollers, though the main thing to draw attention to was the fact that after the first major climb you kept your elevation for 10 miles before dropping back down. This meant no time to recover so it would be a case of taking it easy on the climbs then really pushing on when I know others were suffering! It was definitely going to be a lot tougher than the previous round of the National Series where I beat Tejvan Pettinger by just under a minute. He returned and was to be my 2minute man, but the top five from Buxton were all there - Brett Harwood, Matt Clinton, Jack O'Neil and Christopher Fennell. Add in Dean Robson and current National Hill Climb and 10-mile TT champion, Richard Bussell and that meant it was going to be a solid day at the office!

It was a great honor to be last off of the 140 or so starters and I couldn't wait to get cracking after watching everyone else warm up and head out on their rides. After the usual warm up it was go time, with slightly wooden legs after getting a little lost the previous day and ending up riding 70k at a ‘I should have known better' pace.

An uphill start led to a fast descent and a long 15-mile flat/rolling section and I surprisingly managed to get Tejay in my sights after about eight miles. I gradually reeled him in and then pushed on as best I could knowing he would ride the climbs like a mountain goat. Riding the course definitely was the right thing to do on Saturday. Even though my legs were a little flat I knew I didn't really have to brake on any of the descents so could just focus on hitting a top speed, sustaining it on the flat and then making it up the climbs as best I could. About half way round I managed to glimpse my 4min man, Brett Harwood, just at the top of one of the climbs so figured I must have been going ok, even if the legs were more than a little sore! After 30 miles the final climb came with parts at 17% so with ruined legs I just tried to use all my upper body swimming strength to pull on the bars and get as much power through those pedals as possible. It wasn't really cycling any more, just weightlifting on a bike! Once over the top of that my aim was to get as aero as possible on the descent to recover for the headwind and uphill last three miles.

Going into those three miles it became apparent Matt Bottrill's course record of 1:32:29 was on, so I just went full gas! No it wasn't pretty, in fact it was rather ugly, but peddling squares I crossed the line in 1:32:35. Damn! Oh well, course records are the icing on the cake it's the win that I was after, and I was somewhat surprised with a 2.38 gap back to Richard Bussell in second. Clearly something had gone very right and was over the moon with another national win!

So, another very successful day and that's two wins in the National Series. With four races to count out of a possible six and another event next weekend including a big showdown with Pedal Heaven's very own James Gullen, hopefully I can get a few more points added to the overall tally!

16th April 2016 - It's not everyday you beat an Olympic Champion…

It was with much trepidation that I raced on Saturday (16th April 2016) at the Otley CC 10-mile TT on the local V212 course to me. It's quite a tough little 10 on the old A1. This means no traffic and a nasty little climb with a couple of miles to go called Redwall in honor of, you guessed it, the red wall that runs alongside the climb, and the fact by the time you get to this point in the race you are solidly in the red zone!

When the start sheet came out for the race I couldn't believe who was off at number 20, it was only Steven Burke MBE (Team Wiggins), Bronze medallist from the 2008 Olympic games in the Individual Pursuit and Gold medallist in the 2012 Olympic Games Team Pursuit. As if getting beat last weekend wasn't enough, I was pretty convinced another trouncing was in order this Saturday!

So Saturday came and after running a triathlon training morning at the gym, a short nap and lunch, I took off over to Arkendale and the course. The first thing that hit me when I arrived was the wind; boy was it windy! It would be a super tailwind out for the first 4.5 miles and then 5.5 miles back uphill and into the headwind. It was going to hurt for sure!

I managed to tailor my warm up so I could see Burke set off at number 20 (my number being 90, which meant I was starting 70 minutes after him). I got the bike out of the car, rolled up to see him off, quickly back to the car, get changed, sorted, and then back to the finish to see what time he did. The result, 21:20, so that was the time to beat.
I set off on my warm up, just 30min easy with a few little efforts and the wind was certainly a huge problem, I was struggling to keep the bike upright in places but hey, it's the same for everyone. Everyone I spoke to said how awesome it was on the way out with the tailwind, only for it to be so difficult and incredibly slow on the way back.
Looking forward to at least the first half of the race I was off to the start, ready, composed, knowing that 21:20 was the time to beat. I told myself I would get to the turn just as past as possible and just try to keep that average speed on the way back as high as I possibly could!

What resulted was quite possibly the fastest 4.5 miles of my life. It was just amazing, even with a few bumps on the way out it's mostly downhill so always going to be fast. Running out of gears seemed to be par for the course and I had to freewheel twice, saving my legs for the hard homeward turn. I had a little look down at my Garmin as I made the turn, average speed – 58.9kmph. Wow I thought, that is bloody fast, and hopefully there was enough in the bag to give me a decent time at the end.

After that turn, boy it was tough. I was just thinking three things, trying to get as much shelter from the hedge at the side of the road, trying to stay as aero as possible and turning those gears over so I got everything out of each pedal stroke! As I hit the bottom of the climb with three miles to go I just thought churning the gears over would be in vein so it was little chain ring time and I rode the next two miles on the little ring. By this time my average was tumbling, well south of 50kmph by now but I knew I just couldn't panic especially up the climb where you can loose so much time! Coming over the top I slammed it back in the big ring and had a little look down at my Garmin again, it was on 19:20 and I had done 15.1km,... if I could get that last km done in under two minutes I would get the scalp of an Olympic champion!

I literally gave that last kilometre everything, the headwind was so strong I had simply no idea how fast I was going, only that I was going at absolute full gas! Crossing the line I had a look down, 20:35, a solid 45 seconds in front of Steven Burke. Get in!

So there you have it, my Saturday afternoon! Chuffed was an understatement; I really thought I would get my ass handed to me on a plate, but there you go! On to National Series Round 3 next weekend, hopefully I can get some good points to go towards the standings!

10th April 2016 - PB’s and course records!

Another weekend, another two races! After a big week, 115 miles on Tuesday, two chain-gangs, a solid swim session on Thursday simply just because it was my birthday (10 x 400s off 5.15 repping 5.00), when Friday came around it was a case of holy s**t, I've got two 25-mile TTs this weekend. After trying to recover on Friday and limiting myself to a swim, gym and 90min ride at 150 watt average, Saturday came round and it was time to go full gas again.

Saturday's race was at Etwall on one of the fastest 25-mile courses in the country. Being my first time riding it I really didn’t know what to expect but driving the course it seemed good, lots more roundabouts than I expected but fast nevertheless! Somehow most of the cream of the British TT scene also decided to come out to play so my eight in a row winning streak was most definitely under threat!

After a warm up hampered by showers and 15min spent in the car watching it throw it down, I wandered down to the start not really knowing if the race was even going to be on still, sometimes because of spray from lorries when it rains on dual carriageway courses they are more often than not cancelled because it becomes too dangerous.

Things however seemed all fine and off I popped. The first two miles are on a single carriageway to the A50 and then its up the slip road and open up the throttle. I decided to try and hold something back on the headwind outward leg and try and motor it back on the faster return leg. This was great logic and I felt I was holding myself back well even though I was averaging 48kmph by the time I got to the turn, where it was raining so I had to tip toe around the roundabouts at a snails pace with 140psi bursting in the tyres. Ok I thought, legs get on with this and I started to pick up the pace on the way back. The average was getting faster and faster, great I thought, keep it in the biggest gear and stay aero. With two miles to go I was at 49.8kmph average so I was determined I was going to get that up to 50 even if it killed me, which it nearly did, but coming off the A50 and back onto the single carriageway I hammered the last miles for 50.1kmph average and 48:18 finish time, a huge 2min 32 secs PB. Not bad I thought, even though I was a little disappointed not getting under that 48 barrier when I knew I had lost large chunks of time in several places out there.

Oh well, it was back to the HQ and time to see where I had come. Andy Jackson did a storming ride with 47:46 and Steve Irwin, whom I beat by five seconds in last weeks 10, beat me by a single second. You win some, you lose some I guess! What was more disconcerting was I was 25 seconds faster on the way out than Andy, even holding myself back riding conservatively, though he took 55 sec back off me on the return. Conclusion…definitely a bigger top gear needed!

So onto Sunday (just my luck Saturday’s race started at 15.55 and Sundays 9.50, not much time at all to recover), and it was up to Stockton-on-Tees for a Sporting 23-mile TT promoted by Stockton Wheelers. I seem to go much better on the harder sporting courses than the drag strip ones so hopefully this one suited me a bit better despite having less than ideal legs! A brief look at the course, some slow bits and some fast bits, and a long warm up later it was go time, take two. With two laps to cover it seemed easy enough and like the day before I decided to take the first lap easy and then push on. This was all going to plan and I was even a full minute up on the next fastest guy, Keith Murray, after one lap. Then the lights went out. Boy oh boy, the last 10-miles were a struggle! Aerodynamics had to take priority because there really wasn’t much power coming out of the legs! Thankfully the last bit of the course was flat with a nice tailwind so it was back into 53 x 11 to grind it out to the finish.

I really wasn't too happy from my ride, I really had given it the beans the day before and suffered badly but I managed to get over the line first by 30 seconds from Keith, and what’s more a new course record, third of the season and win number nine - thankfully back to business as usual!

As a footnote, I thought it would be a great idea to ride the 100km home - what a mistake that turned out to be... headwind all the way and a stop at half way to shove coke and baked goods into me. Good training nevertheless, with 100 solid miles in the bag. Now for some proper recovery!

2nd April 2016 - 10-mile PB

I'm really lucky living in York, having the fastest 10-mile TT course in the country so I do try use every opportunity I can to ride it. You never know what the V718 (the course code), has in store for you! After James Gullen's superb 17:51 on Good Friday, I was super excited to see what I could go given the chance. With chaingang starting too after the clocks changed last weekend, it meant the first double riding of the spring too, an easy couple of hours in the morning on Tuesday and Thursday followed by a super hard effort with the group in the evening, complimented with a swim and gym between the rides.

After a big week I knocked it back on Friday ready to go deep on Saturday afternoon. Looking at the weather forecast, and even when I got to the race the conditions seemed really perfect; a southerly wind which would mean a tough first 4.5miles, followed by 4miles with the wind on the back/shoulder with the last mile or so crosswind. Oh, if that had only been the case!

After a good warm up where the legs felt ok, nothing special, it was a rush as always to get to the line for 3.20 and off I went. It's so hard to gauge the effort over the first couple of miles but felt I was going ok despite it feeling a bit grippy. Towards the turn I started to feel my legs getting used to the 400w effort. I was churning out 53x11 and just focusing on being aero. I was really looking forward to getting around the turn and picking up a huge tailwind on the way home which I felt I had more than earned on the way out. I had a quick look at my Garmin and the average speed said 50.6kmph. I was like, 'is that it?!', expecting it to be in the region of 53kmph ish. Around the turn and well, the last five miles were like cycling through treacle and a real struggle. No traffic to help the speed which you expect on a dual carriageway course, the sheltered nature of the course meant zero tailwind and a grippy crosswind the last two miles or so. I simply dare not look at my Garmin for fear of the worst especially after crawling up the climb at nine miles but after emptying the tank I stopped the clock at 18:45.

I couldn't complain, a 10 seconds PB, but I couldn't help but feel a little disappointed as I felt the course had so much more to offer. I did genuinely think it was the end of the winning streak, there were faster riders still to go and conditions were definitely getting better as the afternoon went on. I had a long wait for the times to come in but it seemed everyone who raced (the same course) on Good Friday was about 40secs down. Clearly the conditions were much tougher than I thought and I hadn't done such a shocking ride. Richard Bideau's time came in (he rode 3.18 for 100mile TT last year only to be told the course was 100 meters short or something), and he had done 19:14 so I had hope I would hang on. In the end it was a close one. Steve Irwin posted an agonizing 18:50 so I won - just - and extended the winning streak to eight in a row! Next week is going to be much tougher as I race a 25m TT on the fast Etwall course with a start list rammed with the best TT talent in the country! Personally I'll just be looking for a fast time and the result will be the result I guess!

25th March 2016: National TT Series Round 2

Good Friday marked the biggest race of the season to date, round two of the National TT Series on what is billed as the hardest TT course in the country, the Buxton CC Mountain Time Trial.

With Alex Dowsett winning the first round the previous weekend, but not racing this week, it was a good opportunity to pick up some big points to go towards the overall series, which I figured I would go for depending on how I did at Round 2 (best 4 of 6 races to count).

Knowing it was a very tough course I had decided to go down the day before and ride a couple of laps in the afternoon just to familiarise myself with the climbs and where I was going. Thankfully my parents have bought a camper van so it makes these things really quite easy so at 4pm we arrived at the race site, I simply got changed and headed out on my bike.

It was just as well I rode those two laps on Thursday afternoon as going into the race blind would have been a recipe for disaster. The course is essentially a triangle, one side 7km mostly uphill with about 200m climbing in, the top side about 5km very rolling but mostly uphill with 100m climbing in, and then the final side was 6km downhill with a few little bumps on the way down.

Really it would all be about pacing, especially with a headwind up the climb and a tailwind on the way back down, and the fact the race was three laps, 53km and 950m climbing.

So with the course firmly in the mind and a great nights sleep in the camper van literally 100meters from the race HQ, I was eager to start going on Friday morning. With that much climbing and about every hill climb specialist in the UK turning up, I kind of knew my six in a row winning streak might end but if it was I wasn't going to give it up without a fight.

I went for my usual warm up and after the usual rush to get to the start line I was off. First time up the climb I really tried to just control the pace and not go too far into the red. With the headwind I tried to do most the climbing on the TT bars, and for the steeper bits I tried to really back it off. I had to accept I was going to loose time on those steeper bits and its so easy to do like a minute at 500watts and then pay for it 40km down the road.

Top of the first climb and I had averaged 29.5kmph (there was a little bit of downhill and flat in that first 7km it wasn't all entirely uphill). I knew my average for the whole course had to be in the region of 39kmph if I was going to be up there challenging so it was a case of, oh dear!!

The top 5km of the course was really fast, rolling but a strong cross tailwind enabled me to get up some good speed on the down hills and hold it up the bumps. The final part of the lap gave me a good chance to rest and get ready to start the climb again, I just tried to tuck like I've never tucked before and make myself into a cannonball, I knew this was there I was going to get my time back lost of the uphill so I was rocketing down at 90kmph just trying to stay as aero as possible.

By the time I'd finished the first lap my daredevil descending has upped the average to 39.5kmph. Great I thought... just have to do that for a couple more laps and it will be a good ride!

Lap two followed a very similar pattern to lap one, strong but controlled on the climb, try and ride the rest as fast as possible. Going into lap three the legs were starting to get very smashed! My Dad was on the start of the long climb and he just shouted that if I was going to win it was going to be super close. Thanks for that I thought! It was then 25mins of awful pain; with it being the last lap I tanked it up the climb and the top 5km rolling section, I told myself that the finish was at the top of the course, the final 6km were more or less ‘free' with a few short efforts.

This really helped, I started the last downhill and I was more or less empty but tried to do the last descent as fast as possible. In fact, looking at Strava, my fastest descent was actually on the last lap, I really wasn't holding anything back! About 2km from the finish there was a short little hill, seriously only about 40seconds but I was literally peddling squares, it was a surreal feeling! I got over that, back up to 60kmph and tucked it in to the finish.

That's all I had, even the post race dizziness was testament as to how hard I had gone. All that was left was the usual stressful wait for everyone else's times to come in, and much to my surprise mine was fastest by 59sec from Tejay Pettinger, one of the best hill climbers in the country. Now at first I didn't quite believe I was fastest, I had to go back several times and check I hadn't missed some else's time but no, there it was, somehow I had won the hardest TT in the country!

Over the moon was an understatement, a totally unexpected win and that makes it seven wins from seven races this year to date! I have entered the next two rounds at the end of April so hopefully some good results there and the series win will be within touching distance!

All that was left was Friday night dinner, a good nights sleep and Saturday morning I rode back from the Peak District to York, 135km, which quite conveniently was all mostly tailwind thankfully!

Next Saturday and I'm on the V718 for a 10mile TT so hopefully I can do a super fast time and put some of this good form to use! Onwards and upwards I hope!

19th/20th March 2016 - Double Double

Another weekend, another two races! As more and more people begin their season, the competition keeps getting harder and harder. Keeping up my unbeaten streak was going to be a tough ask this week considering I was going up against the also unbeaten this year, and one of the best testers in the country, Andy Jackson on Saturday - and then on Sunday up against the National Hill Climb Champion from 2014, Dan Evans.

First up was the Harrogate Nova 24-mile TT on Saturday afternoon around two laps of a course I've done before so I know it well. There is something for everyone at this race, A road, B road and some fast downhill to boot; it's a true sporting course!

After suffering quite a bit in the back half of last weekends longer 20-mile TT I did really want to take the first lap steadier, then hammer the second lap. However, with a mostly downhill first four miles you get lulled into a false sense of security because you're going so fast, you just find yourself wanting to maintain 50-55kmph as long as possible, so I kind of blew my doors off on the first lap. Conditions were not ideal, it was cold and very windy so as I came round for the first lap and saw a 46kmph average I was pleasantly surprised. It's certainly not a fast course by any means.

Going into the second lap I really tried to focus on aerodynamics and trying to make it as easy as possible for myself, turning a big gear in the tailwind sections to try and rest my muscles a bit for a hard last three mile slog into a headwind which I knew would be decisive. There were only 3 things on my mind - power, aerodynamics, and trying not to loose my winning streak to a flying Andy Jackson. Thankfully, this proved to be enough motivation and I managed to sneak the win by 36 seconds from Andy with third placed Joel Wainman about another three minutes back. My 51:13 also took 90 seconds off the old course record, a nice little bonus to end the day on!

I felt my recovery went really well on Saturday night. Firstly, the cakes back at the Race HQ were a winner, as they always are with Harrogate Nova! I tried to be diligent; as soon as I got back home I popped on the turbo for 30min to flush my legs, had a stretch, ate well and got to bed. As if taking on Andy Jackson on Saturday wasn't enough, on Sunday I was up against uphill specialist Dan Evans, on what is billed as the hardest 10mile TT course in the country. It's essentially a 10mile uphill TT with 240m of climbing and a net gain of 90m, which means a nice downhill freewheel back to the start if anything!

I wanted to get to Addingham on the edge of the Yorkshire dales in good time as I knew a long warm up would be needed, which was just as well as the legs felt more than a little stiff when I got out of the car! A 30min ride with a few efforts seemed to sort that out though and the most beautiful sunny Yorkshire day greeted us, pretty much the exact opposite of the previous day when it had been four degrees and I shivered back to the HQ after the race.

I knew it was going to be close with such a competitive field so I made a conscious effort to start hard. There are probably three little descents where you freewheel and tuck so I'd planned to more or less micro-rest on these, try to get an even effort out on the flats trying to stay aero, and not go mental on the hills which could to lactic acid armageddon.

Sticking to that plan was easier said than done with a draggy headwind on the way out but as soon as I turned at half way I could proper get motoring up the last 3km drag. I knew the last 3km was downhill so I just focussed on getting to the highest point on the course at 13km and let a combination of gravity and aerodynamics do the last 3km for me (more or less). I knew the course record was 23.50 and at 13km my average was so slow, like 39kmph. Knowing a 40kmph ride gives you a 24 something I was thinking to myself, oh god I've had a shocker! However, coming over the crest of the hill and whacking the DI2 into the biggest gear, spinning like crazy and hoping for the best, somehow I crossed the line in 23:39, beating Tejay Pettinger's course record by 11 sec and Dan Evans by 13seconds to extend my winning streak to six with two course records in a weekend.

All in all, a very successful weekend and good training for round two of the National Series I have on Friday in the Peak District. It's billed as a mountain time trial - 53km, 1000m of climbing, who knows how this rouleur will do against the cream of the climbing crop!

March 2016: Double Weekend TT success

One weekend, two races! In my quest to do as much racing as I can this year my early season TT slugfest continued this weekend at the Malton Wheelers Sledmere 10.5mile TT on Saturday, followed by a 21mile race put on by Cleveland Wheelers at Stokesley the following morning.

After a week of pretty good training I was really up for the Sledmere race on Saturday afternoon. I do a lot of my training on and around the roads it uses and that Yorkshire Wolds feel like home to me. Even more motivating was the fact Jonathan Wears was racing. He beat me by four seconds in a 10mile TT at the end of last year when I was injured, unfit and pretty fat to be honest, so I was keen for revenge.

Sledmere is a beautiful place if you ever get the chance to go and visit I highly recommend it! Its also pretty hilly too, I think there was 130m climbing in 10.5 miles, decent for a TT. I'd been playing with my position on my new Ridley Dean Fast all week and it felt a lot better to what it had been for the last two races so I was also pretty excited to see just how I would go.

The course was a simple out-and-back, starting at the top of a hill, which obviously meant a fast start but a slow and very painful finish! I tried to focus on aerodynamics on the way out to the turn, as it was mostly downhill with a few bumps. 51kmph average at five miles was testament to the course really more than my new position but I managed to keep it going on the way back. Obviously the average tumbled on the return leg but I managed what I thought was a real good ride, 22:45 and a 46kmph average, but with several other seeded riders to go who knew how I would end up!

Very well it turned out, my 22:45 put me well ahead of the rest of the field, Jonathan Wears was second in 24:00 and third was one of my friends from York Cycleworks, Richard Sharp, another 30sec back. I was actually really surprised with the gap back to Jonathan in second; surley it bodes well when I get onto the fast 10 course on the A63.

After spending my winnings treating my parents to a Toby Carvery on Saturday night, it was an early start to get up to Stokesley for the Cleveland Wheelers Sporting 21mile TT. Not knowing the course, and knowing Harry Tanfield from Pedal Heaven RT basically owned the event having won the last few years, I really wanted to at least drive round so I knew where I was going. Somehow I had drifted under the radar for this one and I hadn't even got a seeding (the faster riders usually go at 5min intervals so have race numbers ending in a 5 or 0), so I had ended up with the number 54, setting off at 9.54am, an hour before Tanfield, so he would inevitably get warmer and better conditions. Nevertheless, I can only give my best but I really wanted to continue my winning streak to four in a row so I was fully prepared to go deep into the reserves!

Even with a shortened course to 19.1 miles because of a burst water main, it was still double what I have raced this year so I tried to go off conservatively. The course is actually really fantastic, small twisty roads with a long four mile flat straight banged in the middle where you can really get shifting!

I really tried to hammer that middle four miles as I knew I would loose time to Tanfield on the more twisty roads as his local knowledge would come in to its own. After about 12 miles I was really starting to hurt and felt I was simply standing still, riding through treacle... it was awful! My saving grace was actually the technical nature of the course, there was a really twisty section at about 15miles which allowed me to regroup and really go deep the last, mostly downhill and super fast four miles. I felt I had done an ok ride - 39.32. There were parts I knew I had lost a lot of time but it was in the bank and nothing I could do now, it was a case of back to the race HQ and time to sweat it out as the times came in with my Dad; talk about stress!!!

Eventually all the times were up and it was the best news for me, a 13 second win!!!! Despite feeling really guilty for beating local lad Tanfield (3rd at the Rutland Melton Cicle classic last year, so a quality rider in his own right), it was nice to continue the winning streak! Two wins in two weekends, best possible outcome really, hopefully I can keep it going next weekend when I have another double up!

Feb 2016: Kicking off 2016 - Two TT's and two wins

Two TT races down and two wins so far this year, so I thought it time to pen a blog tell you all what I have been up to.

I have promised myself I'm going to do as much racing as I can this year after a very barren year in 2015, where I sat on the injury bench. I'm still keeping the cushions warm as full running is still eluding me, but I will get there. Things are getting better every week now, thanks to daily trips to the gym for rehab and endless physio and massage.

Training has been going well, still very heavy but summer is a long way off and a bit of winter weight has been useful in the artic TT's of the last two weeks. Still, that hasn't stopped me trying and after a couple of months off the gluten free bandwagon I'm back on now. My dad lost 10kgs+ a couple of years ago by not eating bread so logically having the same genetics the same thing can help me. I managed it for 5-6 weeks before Christmas but the festive season took its toll on me. However, I'm happy to report its now been eight days since bread and it gets easier by the day.

So, lets talk racing! Well, I did the Yorkshire RC 10 last weekend, first race since September and I didn't really know what to expect. It was only the second time on my new Ridley Dean Fast with Di2, but a marked improvement on my first ride on it where I was just too low and I could hardly breathe. Anyway, that's beside the point. The first race is always a bit nervy, I had no idea how I was going to go but I was just really excited to go and put myself on the line. I did have a race plan, start steady and try and negative split. I have been doing some great building intensity reps on the turbo during winter, basically starting with three mins at 300w then one min hard at over 400w, then sustain the average for those four minutes for the next three min (325) then another minute max, then sustain that new average (335ish) for the next three min, another min max, then three more minutes at that new average power…you get the idea. Basically, doing a hard minute then trying to recover from that at a higher and higher power until you crack.

I'm sure those efforts will come in useful later in the season but for a 10 its hard to control yourself for those first five miles of the season. I went out hard into a headwind and mostly uphill first part of the course and at the turn the average was barely 40kmph. I was like, oh dear this is going to take some pulling back. Needless to say, the last five miles were pretty ugly but I pulled the average up to 45kmph on the way back. To be honest coming home in the last km I felt the best I felt all ride and like I could keep going for another 10 miles at least – definitely more speed training needed! I came out with 21:27, an average but solid ride and a win by 40sec over the evergreen Julian Ramsbottom.

This weekend was the Featherstone RC 10, same course as the previous weekend so I was determined I would try and go faster, hence the gluten free week and I spent an age working on my position on the Friday, but it wasn't to be. I even had to wear leg warmers it was so cold, which I don't think I've ever done in a TT race before. I started what I felt was harder than last week but I think the cold just made it hard going and I was 25 seconds slower to the turn at just over 5 miles. I did managed to make some time back from miles 5-8, I was 15 seconds faster than the previous week but then lost it all on the last two miles thanks to the complete lack of a tailwind (what would we do without Garmin and Strava so we can compare performances?!).

21.56 was this weeks time, I think everyone who raced both races was about 30 seconds down this week thanks to the 5 degree temperature drop and wind direction, so it wasn't just me. All I can say is roll on next weekend, I'll change my position a bit again after some feedback today and hopefully feel even better next weekend when I have back to back races, a 10m on Saturday afternoon and a 21m hilly on Sunday morning, I think recovery is going to be key!

June 2015: European Games Triathlon: Baku, Azerbaijan - TEAM GOLD!

What an amazing experience! I;m so proud to have been part of the team alongside Tom Bishop that helped Gordon Benson to win Great Britain's first ever European Games Gold medal.

Check out my in-depth report HERE, and get the inside track on the race from HERE.

September 2014: ETU European Cup - Madrid

I'm just on my way home from my first ITU race in over four years; a huge shock to the system but it was great to come away with, on the most part, a very successful race.

The last time I towed an ITU startline was at the European Championships when I was 21 in Athlone. That day also had its ups and downs, but the whole sport has certainly come a long way in the last four years.

So, my ITU comeback started on possibly one of the hardest courses on the circuit in Madrid's Caso de Campo park where the bike features a big 1km climb on each of its eight laps followed by a fiendishly hard four lap run which drags up for 1km before turning round and running back down.

Not really knowing what on earth to expect it was hard to have any firm goals. I needed to lay a marker in the sand on where I stand with the ITU boys and it was lucky/unlucky that Madrid, although it was only a Continental Cup, attracted quite a decent field with a number of World Championship Series regulars in there just for good measure.

I'll be honest, I didn't feel great the days leading into the race so I was even more nervous than I perhaps might have been, compounded by the fact out of the 66 guys on the start list I was, yes, ranked dead last.

Pre-race rituals out the way and seeing guys I hadn't seen for half a decade or more it was race time. Not having much choice where I was going to be on the pontoon - the only people behind me choosing their starting position having missed the race briefing - I was always going to have to swim 1510m. So, after introductions and the pre-start music designed to get you really nervous it was show time... basically sprint to the first buoy 300m across the lake and then assess what the damage was.

There was some damage but it wasn't catastrophic. I could see lots of splash in front of me and although arms and legs from every angle were nailing me I was still managing some forward momentum. This basically continued until the end of the swim. I nearly got drowned by a rope that held a buoy in position after 1000m which cost me a good five seconds but it was just one of those things. Quite simply, the physicality of ITU swimming is going to take some getting use too.

Out of the swim and I had no idea where I was. I wasn't in the front that was for sure, but I expected that first race back, and the long run to transition didn't help my front pack ambitions. But, after a decent transition I got on the bike, pedalled the 300m to the bottom of the first hill and literally saw the front pack just in front of me with a few stragglers desperately trying to get on. So that was it, after a Chris Hoy style next 1km I was there with the guys I've been watching on TV all season, Polyanskiy, Pujades and Blummenfelt my long lost Norwegian twin plus seven others. It took me a few laps top get into it but after 20k I started to feel not bad at all, opened a few gaps on the more technical bits of the course and rode the climb just at my own pace every lap. The gap to the second pack was ever increasing too. Near the end we had shouts of over two minutes back, I literally couldn't believe it!

Feeling not too shabby, very heavy legs but apart from that fine, it was off the bikes and the now standard ITU sprint the first 200m off the bikes. I felt good for the first 1k of the run, but that was about it. From km's 2 to 7 I was in compete meltdown, it was awful, it was an absolute sufferfest but my legs came round near the end. I ran 25m behind a guy for the entire last lap of the run and he ended up running 34.30 - it was just a shame the wheels came off for the middle 7km for me.

I ended up 28th - I know it doesn't sound great, but there were lots of positives; technically there is a long way to go before I become competent at ITU racing but for a first run out I couldn't really have asked for much more: front pack on the bike, learnt a lot on the swim and just need to find a favorable run course with the right conditions and I'll be away - I'm pretty confident of that. Onto the next one!

March 2014: Ironman Melbourne Update

March 2014: Ironman New Zealand Blog

August 2013: 10-mile TT Personal Best

July 2013: Ironman Austria Report

March 2013: Lanzarote here I come...

When will all this cold weather end? Well, for me it will be on Thursday (2nd April), as I go to Lanzarote for four months of training; it turns out that I just cant take any more of this cold weather!

As a cyclist you are always looking at the wind direction, and it's so annoying to think that had the wind we are having at the moment was coming from the west and not the east, it would probably be 10 degrees warmer! So after battling though a hard March... with some great epic sessions in there! My longest ride has been 206km, just over six hours... it was a great ride. I've been hopping on the Cervélo S5, which I have set up as a TT rig, and riding from York over to Bridlington and Scarborough. It's nice to go somewhere rather than just ride near home in the lanes, and then after I have seen the sea I can loop back home. You always feel you have done a long ride - as a child it always seemed to take ages in the car to get to Scarborough for a day out, now it takes me a couple of hours on the bike over the stunning Yorkshire Wolds.

Run wise things have been going well too, my long run is up to 32km, indeed I ran around my easy 70min cycling loop the other Sunday, it made it easier on the mind, I just imagined myself cycling really easy at 15kmph and sometimes I even forgot I was running!

Anyway, hopefully I can put a huge block of training in when I'm in Lanzarote, it will certainly be great to ride in shorts and a jersey rather than still going out in full winter kit at the end of March, not even a leg or arm warmer in sight!

March 2010: Abu Dhabi International Triathlon race report

Part One

Well, the first triathlon of the 2010 race season is under the belt. Abu Dhabi was always going to be an interesting race for many reasons, placing where it is in the year, the distance and the sheer strength in depth of the competition. I'm not sure what it looked like from the outside, but I can say that I actually never got bored on the bike - it was a lot of fun! I know many people were hugely hyping up the laps around the F1 circuit and going into the race I was thinking, it's just another bit of road to ride on. But oh my... what an experience!

The whole of the race has an individual atmosphere, very like Hawaii has its own identity and although ultimately I did have a kind of shocking race (more of that later), I do think that Abu Dhabi could in years to come challenge Hawaii. It is such a surreal race, the pictures I have seen of the race so far tell their own story, coming out of the swim with the high rise buildings in the background, pictures from the F1 track, it really is a photographers dream! To cap it all off we as athletes were looked after so very well by the guys at IMG, a huge thanks, they made everything so easy we could just concentrate on racing and try and put on a good a show as possible which, as always, I tried to do. Well, to the best of my ability anyways!

Race week was a very interesting affair. I had very different goals for the race then I had from any other race I had ever done. I wanted to banish some Hawaii demons and try some different things in my preparation and racing. It was quite clear that some people were trying to stir a bit of a thing up between me and Bjørn Andersson which was fine from my end - it was actually quite funny - no one knew what was going to happen in the race so really, it was anyone's shout!

I'm not going to say what i've done differently the past couple of weeks as prep but it has been a marked change from what I would usually do. I'm still young, learning all the time and want to take the opportunity to try different things, experiment if you like, even if there is some 'hype'. It's just nice to mix things up with all these athletes who were just names who I saw as idols this time last year. Well, they still are idols, i've not changed!

Sharing a stage at the press conference with Faris Al Sultan, Yvonne Van Vlerken, Virginia Berasategui, Raynard Tissink and Bjørn, it was amazing just to see them all racing never mind chat to them! What on earth was I doing up there, a 20 year old Yorkshire lad who likes his pies, chips and battered sausages!?

To be honest, I could write my dissertation about the past week and all the fun i've had, some of the interesting interviews I have done and the people I have met - it's been an amazing experience! I did one very funny interview where I was asked if I could invite any five people to a dinner party and they HAD to come who would I invite - these things take a lot of thought! In the end I settled on Lance Armstrong, Tony Robinson, Stephen Fry, Kylie Minogue and Jennifer Aniston. The last two are fairly self explanatory!

Part Two

So, race day. After getting up at stupid o'clock on race day morning (4am, that's earlier than an Ironman), we got the packed coach to the start, not one spare seat. It has come to my attention I'm somewhat the baby of the long distance tri world. I sat next to Dirk Bockel's wife and we had a good laugh, it's such a close knit community it is something special to be part of. Anyways, the 30min trip to the start went far faster than I actually wanted it to and after the usual warm up, delay to the start, pre-race equipment checks etc we were on the start line on the beach. Now, this beach start somewhat concerned me, my sister had got battered at the World Junior Champs in Oz last year and that was her first beach start and I had never done one. Thankfully, people decided to leave me alone and before I knew it I was swimming at the front, there was a line of about four of us swimming not so hard. I decided to have a bit of a chill and sit in third place chugging along nicely until we got out after the first lap.

After we got out and dived back in I swam with Fraser at the front who, I have to say, had an immense dive back into the water at the end of the first lap. I was mightily impressed and it look a bit of effort to get with him, this was clearly a sign of things to come! After this it was a case of just making it to T1 without being drowned by the very low flying helicopter. I'm sure the TV images will be fantastic but it's not ideal having to swim at a 45 degree angle just to go in a straight line being battered by tidal waves! Fraser got a bit blown off course but there was really no point hammering it with six hours still to go. We just swam in easy, went through T1 as fast as possible, I put on the now obligatory socks and set out for a long day on the aerobars. After stuffing my face with a Powerbar ride shot kebab id made myself and a bit of course confusion, a huge pack of around 30 athletes made its way out to what I'm calling the 'Abu Dhabi Queen K' (or ADQK for short). This long stretch of barren road is just like riding at Hawaii, only it was about 10 degrees cooler and not as windy to my relief. 200km in Hawaii conditions would have been like riding 300km in Abu Dhabi! To be brutally honest, not much happened for the next two hours. We rolled along at 43/44kmph in a huge pack. A few gaps appeared which I had to chase as I was riding near the back of the pack (inexperience on my part), which stretched about 600m long, we had our little criterium race around the Yas Marina Circuit and then made our way back on the ADQK to T2 to start our second lap. Now usually, I get really bored and attack like a lunatic off the front so after sitting in for 90km I decided I would try and test a few legs and I attacked up the main hill on the course up a huge bridge (believe me, they don't do small in Abu Dhabi!). As I went past Bjørn I gave him an Armstrong Style 'look' (which I so hope makes the TV edit, it would look awesome), as I wanted to imply to him that this was it and I wanted him to come and help and keep me company on the lonely ADQK. He did come and join me but to be honest, I have no idea how much of a gap we got. I pushed on for about 10km, tried to signal to him to come and work (even sitting at 12m behind you still get about a 30W saving), but it was to no avail and looking back the now somewhat reduced pack was, well, not as far behind as I would have liked so I eased back, took on some food and sat 2nd wheel behind my Specialized team mate Jordan Rapp.

At this point I was feeling great; my legs felt like they could react to anything anyone could throw at them and even though we did let Raynard Tissink chip off the front and get 50sec he soon came back but it was a valiant effort. Whilst Tissink was off the front, by the time we got the F1 track for the second time people were hurting. I didn't really feel the pace was on that much but I could see huge gaps appearing, people were tired and the technical nature of the track coupled with the inevitable Andersson attack out of the circuit ensured there was carnage. Bjørn went hard, very hard! He laid his cards on the table but I was straight on him and from a group of about 20 there were now 6/7 of us left for the long trip back along the ADKQ. Bjørn's effort lasted for about 10minutes and then he just simply sat up; we went from doing 50kmph to doing 30kmph as everyone looked at each other. This happened a few times and the group swelled to about 8/9 people, my legs felt great and I was really looking forward to the run. We went through 180km in 4h 12min, what would have been a new Ironman world record split for the bike, an amazing feet with us still 20km to go and having gone wrong at the start which cost us about 2minutes!

Coming into T2 my legs felt great and I felt my nutrition plan had gone well (eat and drink as much as possible). One guy made a late bid for freedom but feeling good I decided not to go with him, something new for me, as I would have hurt running my legs more than I wanted. I knew he would pay for it later on in the run so I ended up second off the bike and out on to the run. Eneko, Rasmus, Dirk and Fraser were all quick to pass me but they didn't made the inroads I though they would. Fraser went out supremely strong and I found myself running in seventh tracking down sixth place. After 4km I was closing and I could see Fraser about 100m up the road in 5th. I was running amazingly well, about five seconds off sixth at 6km feeling great! Then the lights went out - big time! I just fell to pieces in such a short space of time it was incredible. One minute I was fine just about to bridge up to run on the shoulder of the guy in sixth where I was going to stay for a few km before I planned to make an effort up to Fraser. The next minute I couldn't even run, it was the biggest meltdown of my life! I couldn't even walk in a straight line, there was a point where if I had lied down I don't think I would have got up for a fair while. I'd probably still be there now burnt to a crisp!

I'm not going to dwell on the last 10k much, only that it took me 65min to do but I wanted to finish and that's what I did with Dann Brook whom kept me company on the last lap of the run. Lets just say we made it round, maybe not entirely in 1 piece!

So, a bit of disappointment in the end result but I was pleased with the race and it has given me a lot of confidence for the season to come. I raced well for nearly 210k, that's along way for my young legs, it's just the last 14km that's the problem at the moment but I have time on my side, it is early in the season and I know what I need to do in future (though I don't know how I made it round two Ironman races last year now). I've done some good training, had a few good races already this year which I can build on, I just want to get out there and race now. Oh, and finish my University degree, must not forget about that!

Feb 2010 - First race of the season is now in the bag!

I was supposed to race last weekend but the weather here in the UK has been horrific to say the least so was cancelled! It was pretty unfortunate that I came home from my training camp in Spain early to specifically prepare for what would have been my 1st race of 2010, a 10 mile TT, on a fast course about 1h away from my house but when the morning came, so did several inches of snow. So, I had to be patient and wait another 7days to ride the Shiv in anger for the first time in 2010, and looking at the forecast I prepared myself for another write off but luckily the weather gods prevailed and I managed to open the 2010 account with a win and a 20min 8seconds clocking over a cold and very windy 10 miles. There was no taper this week either, I went out with 'the lads' yesterday for a 110k smash up and had a little run off it so the legs were not feeling so great.

It was particularly reassuring that last year, on the same course in what I would say were easier conditions on the same weekend I rode 20.51, so to take almost 45seconds off where I was this time last year fills me with confidence going forward!

Hopefully next weekend I will be able to go under 20minutes and do that 30mph ride for the first time this year

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