#Project1406: Charlie’s Ten Ironmans and Full Distance Triathlons


  1. Ironman Bolton (2014)
  2. Ironman Bolton (2016)
  3. Outlaw Nottingham (2017)
  4. Outlaw Nottingham (2019)
  5. Challenge Madrid (2018)
  6. Challenge Almere (2019)


  1. Ironman Lanzarote (2020)
  2. Outlaw Nottingham (2020)
  3. Challenge Almere (2020)
  4. Looking for a biggy! Possibly World Champs Australia

When I completed my first Ironman in 2014 in Bolton, I’ll be honest, I hadn’t given any thought to what I would do next sport wise. I’d overcome so many challenges to get to that start and finish line and it really did hurt an awful lot. That said, it was always going to be hard to knock that regime out of someone who had been brought up in a swimming disciplined background and who has a pretty decent set of physiological and endurance traits.

It seems I’ve carried on and come quite some way since back in 2014. In 2021 I am looking to complete my 10th Ironman. They have to be officially affiliated as 140.6 miles for me to ‘count them’ and of course for me to finish. Some of you will know if you complete 10 Ironman branded races then you may get an automatic slot at Kona, the Ironman World Champs. Undoubtedly the most prestigious full triathlon in the world. I’ll never say no to Kona, and I’m sure I will chase it one day, but for now I’ve chosen a different path of sustaining GB qualification. My list above of Ironmans is also my own list and one that will hopefully complete with ten sets of memories and journeys, for no full triathlon is the same. Some of those were for others and raising money for charity, some for pure performance, some just for me when I needed them the most and some just because I just can. There are probably no days in the year when I couldn’t just wake up and go 140.6 miles without hardly any preparation.

The commitment is pretty big and some of you will think its bloody enormous. I understand why some do one Ironman, get their dot and say never ever again. I started out in 2014 following an Ironman training programme ‘to the letter’ or ‘to the minute’ in fear of not even finishing. That programme has been revised and revisited 6 times over and bears little resemblance to what it started out as. I now have my own recipe, taylor made by me for me. One that ultimately is a huge volume but one that doesn’t hurt in and of itself. I understand how to get to start line at my best, taking into account my body, feet and academic workload. It’s built on a huge cycling base wherein I completed 10,000 miles in one calendar year during 2019. It involves my Wattbikes on repeat, which I adore (mostly). Yet it also has plenty of scope for 4 pretty hefty runs a week. It’s also one that works around my day job as an academic. I therefore have no reason to stop. One Ironman sounds an achievement, 10 doesn’t sound so much as 10 separate achievements but 10 journeys integral to my identity as an endurance athlete, weaving together the whole of my life, career and being.

I’m starting racing early in 2020 with Ironman Lanzarote in May which is the second hardest in the world. After that I will push on for a total of three full distance triathlons this year, and any half Ironman’s I do will just be part of race preparation. I shall call my little pursuit #Project1406 for 10 races of 140.6 miles each. When I’m there my M-Dot will be adjusted accordingly. For having the same M-Dot as everyone else just wouldn’t be cool or right.

Race update: Outlaw revised format and skipping my way to the end


Hola! A quick and brief update on Outlaw last weekend as I’m hungry and tired as I didn’t expect to be back in full blown athlete training mode again so soon! I’m virtually back to peak Ironman training volume. Anyway, last weekend was supposedly Outlaw full and OSB’s 10th birthday. During the week I had executed the best taper I have ever done, it was to be my 6th full distance and each time I am learning more to fine tune it so that I’m in the best possible condition by race day.

6am came and I was in a toasty lake ready to swim 2.4 miles, cycle 112 miles and run 26.2 miles. It was absolutely pelting it down but I was in very good spirits (for me, I am terrible with the weather), so much so that I had stopped looking at the forecast and had accepted that it would be a wet day but hopefully a successful one. As 1500 of us set off for the swim little did we know how much things would change. I went through the first lap reasonably well and the second, and then I was crestfallen. I got out of the lake around the top 7 females overall but couldn’t work out “why isn’t someone (we nickname them “The Strippers”) helping me out of my wetsuit?” Instead, “please move over to the side, we need to brief you”. Immediately I knew something had happened during the swim. The 112-mile bike had to be cancelled. No full race distance here today. I was gutted as I really felt it was going to be my year. I was also gutted for Outlaw who had to make this decision on their 10th birthday. I know the Outlaw family well and I know they would have been equally gutted. I also know it was the right decision. Whilst the route was signed off safe at 5.30am, at 6.10am there was torrential rain that led to fallen trees and too much spray for 1500 cyclists at 25mph going through it.

The revised format was to continue with us doing the marathon at 9am (a two-hour transition!). Advantage runners. Many decided not to bother, and I get that. Ever seen a long-distance triathlete run? The majority of us train to semi-crawl a marathon after a 2.4-mile swim and 112-mile bike ride. Running a marathon from scratch was going to hurt and require much more recovery and therefore stop any potential replacement races happening. I was of two minds; did I want my Outlaw series medal? Did I want a good run in prep for the European champs or did I want to sack it off and press on with 6 hours indoors on my wattbike?

I decided to run. I’m not sure it was the right decision but I struggled through and ended up 12th in my Age-Group. I was up to my ankles in water for large parts of it. My hammies were shot to bits from jumping over things and my 6-week-old carefully run in Hoka trainers totally trashed. And quite frankly I was afraid I was going to continue with my clumsy fashion, slip and put myself out of the European Champs. I made myself a pact: walk the deathly bits and if I start shivering and showing the first signs of hypothermia from being so wet, I am out. I continued with that mind-set for 26.2 miles. Basically, for the memories: I was there the year this happened! It did really hurt, so much so that I have learnt a new trick…run 100 steps, skip 10. Try it! Everyone laughed at me but the skipping breaks that redirected the pressure from the hammies to the quads helped enormously. I’ll be doing it again.

Being race ready and then it not happening was a very strange experience for me. I think it could be worse than not finishing due to a mechanical or injury. Sat there with this amount of fitness, full of carbohydrates and some giant dreams many people were in transition in tears at their lost prospects. It is virtually impossible to find another available full distance UK event this season. I’m not without though and I can race middle distance at European and World champ level next year if I don’t retrieve a long-distance time. It might even be quite fun to make myself a better middle-distancer, although will require some different training.

The shenanigans have reminded me of one thing though. My love and my drug is for the full distance. When a race or something doesn’t go to plan, my golden rule is get back on it as soon as you can. Just like when you crash. The very simple “onwards and upwards”. I was very sore Sunday night but made the commitment to myself that I would ride the 112 miles I didn’t do that day throughout the week as extra training. This has meant 28 miles extra after work four nights this week before an easy day. Sounds mental, but if I can’t control the weather(!), I have to do what I can control and that’s my legs and my body to keep myself in the best situation for Amsterdam European Champs. As I haven’t been the 140.6 miles it means I haven’t had to reverse taper much and can get back on it pronto.

So long the British weather. I’ll be back next year.



Race Updates and Goodbye “Smelly Skelly”


I raced two weeks ago at the World Champs Long Distance in Spain. It was quite frankly a brutal affair, I ended up 20th in the world in my age group and it was the hardest start line I have ever made. There were several reasons for this but a big bike dilemma right up until the day of departure on a hilly course certainly didn’t help. I was quite unsettled otherwise and the best I could do was to give myself 3 jobs: get on the plane, get to the start line and then a finish line. All that said, as ever, I had a great time racing for my country. It’s also helpful to remember that this isn’t just finishing Ironman’s (my original dream) but actually being selected and racing for Great Britain. For what its worth I think perhaps that affords some Great Bragging Rights (GBR). On the day the swim was massively shortened which cut one of my biggest advantages and my cycling wasn’t the best, but overall it wasn’t bad for an early season race. I did however come home very sore which is unusual for me and had a mega cut on my neck that was showing signs of infection. How. That. Hurt.

I knew I had to get things right to be on a start line again in just two weeks at Outlaw Half today (19th May). I am not sure I have had to manage such a short turn around before. The first couple of days I settled into sweet spot training on my Wattbike and was still pretty sore. And then suddenly, boom, by day 3 the legs came back with a bounce. At the end of that week I was sleeping at 37BPM and feeling in the form of my life. I basically reversed tapered from the race in the first week, put in over 8 hours effort last weekend and then this week I have had to taper again to race today. It’s been hard and I’ve had to really work at it, but I’ve been patient and have taken tapering to a new obsessive level. I shall be doing it again, I have truly loved watching my body prepare to race better. I’ve obviously always tapered as a triathlete but I’ve paid extra attention to sleep, carb loading at the right time, keeping off big gears on the bike, massaged the hell out of myself, managed foot pain and religiously taken vitamin C. I also had to do serious work on the neck wound.

So today was Outlaw half. It started hairy, there was an accident en route from Leicester to Nottingham at 4am! Got re-routed and then ended up parking a mile away from transition and where I needed to be to race. I literally ran to rack my bike and made it at 5.58am with the deadline to be in transition being 6am. With such shenanigans, I then found the remainder of my breakfast (neglected in my hour of need) in my pocket about ten minutes before the start. It obviously had to be binned without further consumption. All went better after that.

The swim was very solid, it wasn’t a sub 30 minute as I hoped but I was still 11th out of the entire female field and felt good. It was my last swim in this wetsuit, named “Smelly Skelly” by my Mum. It’s the only wetsuit I have ever owned and it has some fantastic memories: my first open water swim, my first Ironman, my first GB start and some less favourable moments (for later!). I am proud to say I have peed in him at least once in every single triathlon I have done (around 20).

I’m still getting used to my full TT setup on my new bike but 19mph average without foot pain worked for me. I said pre-race that I would get that bike home through 56 miles and home in under 3 hours. And so I did. It was perhaps the first time I feel I have done myself justice properly in a triathlon on a bike. The huge numbers I see in my training 6 days a week finally came out to race.

The run wasn’t the fastest, but I wasn’t in too much pain and didn’t need to do my run/walk show. Put together these things left me in 11th place in my Age Group and within 115% of the winner which is needed to keep my GB places at World and European level. I’m delighted with the result. Outlaw Half to my mind is one of the most competitive half ironman distance events in the UK. This is the very last race I would have fancied my chances of qualifying at this season. I have always been a better full Iron distance athlete but I now hold qualifying times at both distances and I’m looking forward to making myself the very best Middle Distance triathlete I can.

I don’t expect too much repair work needed after today as I have already been up to 80% of full Ironman training this year and have the miles and legs. Next is Holkham Outlaw half in early July. I’m now ready to build up some big volume again and heading to Tenerife for a week of Charlie’s training camp soon.

Bring on wetsuit “Smelly Skelly 2”.

A brief Spring update 2019 and a bit of suffering in cycling

IMG_9304 2.JPGIt’s been a while and a very dark winter, but I thought I would give a short update on 2019 racing and something I’m musing. Spring is finally making an entrance and that always brings brighter days for a cyclist. I am currently at my highest volume across all sports that I will reach prior to the Worlds Champs (long distance triathlon) in Pontevedra in 6 week’s time. I must admit after completing my longest run this week I was dead chuffed to have gotten to this stage. It’s been a very intense training block circa 200 hours in 12 weeks, of which 199 hours have been by myself (that 1 hour was when I returned to Thursday night group Wattbike training this week). It’s been a long slog, but I am pleased with the results and I am responding and recovering very well.

The following are my races for this year so far. It is a shorter schedule than usual, I have saved everything I can, and I love racing, but I have decided to race less and target higher performances. This doesn’t reduce any pleasure for me because I love to train and feel I can also deliver some higher performances in training that will feed into my racing. I have recently fallen in love with the North and South Downs again and can see myself putting some quality miles in on the bike down there. I also know I can very effectively spend time in Tenerife.

ITU World Champs Long distance –  5th May 2019

Outlaw Half Nottingham – 19th May 2019

Outlaw Half Holkham – 7th July 2019

Outlaw Full Nottingham – 28th July 2019

Almere Amsterdam ETU long distance European Champs – 14th September 2019

Outlaw Special X North Nottingham- 22nd September 2019

In the next few weeks I will begin my taper into the World Champs and start doing some race specific training e.g. shorter and faster. After that I will have to train to reach peak again for Outlaw full in July, but that should be much easier after the intensive block I will soon finish.

Over the past month an invitation to write a book proposal keeps floating past my eyes. I would love to write The Academic Athlete text I have planned but sadly now is not the time. It would be too much to ask with my current projects on vaping in workplaces and gender equality in sport. That won’t stopping me making plans for the future though!

However, I do have a Sunday project that will help me along in the final weeks of my taper when I am training less and travelling with time to read. I’ve long thought that cycling has a serious problem with mental health and sadly a recent example is Kelly Catlin who took her own life after a spiralling effect of a crash and struggling to return to peak performance. There have also been some recent accounts of what it is like to “suffer” on the bike, Jens Voigt being a prime example. I can definitely attest to that, even as an amateur. Riding a bike is very painful indeed. Anyway, I want to think more about suffering and mental health in sport. I can’t help but wonder that one of the factors that feeds into mental health problems is the over glamorisation of professional sport as a form of work. Again, even as an amateur, I get pretty mad when people have said to me “cheer up, you’re an amazing athlete”. OK, I clearly have a pretty well-trained body and perpetual self-discipline but this in no way accounts for the suffering and struggles I have endured during and outside of my sports. I’ll get to thinking now. Happy Spring sunshine.

What does winter training look like for an academic athlete?


I think it’s fair to say winter is here and since my return from Madrid, lots have asked me what I am up to. I think most hope I am going to say that I am vegetating on the sofa. I know quite a few triathletes who like to take it easy, to virtual standstill in winter. I think I understand that, let’s be honest, it can get pretty tough sometimes. However, training in winter is fundamental to my academic world and is also where I believe I earn the summer’s results. I also train because it’s my love my drug and I can. Here’s a short little update for those interested.

My recovery from Madrid was quite incredible, just 8 hours post-race finish line I was spinning my legs in the hotel gym! In the immediate week I enjoyed running and cycling relatively gently in and around my favourite part of Spain. By 7 days after the event I was able to ride and very much enjoy 106 miles in the glorious Autumn sun (without a horrid brick run after!). I carefully tracked my heart rate and its variation, and all was good. Don’t get me wrong, I understand my body and know when it’s OK for more effort or when it needs a rest.

I knew in those first few weeks post racing that I didn’t have long until the clocks changed in the UK and so switched to winter training and routine almost immediately. This means religiously being at the gym early doors to keep to routine and sleep patterns and by continuing to get up early I don’t tend to notice the shift to Greenwich Meantime too much. It also helps keep up writing routine (the drill stays the same, woken up by Lumie light from 5.35am, train 6.30-8.30am fasted, shower, coffee, breakfast at 10am post first block of writing). I also cut down some of the very long-distance riding like 6-hour death rides outside in the freezing cold. I find it pointless going out for several hours when I have to wear everything I own and still struggle to keep my heart rate up to a reasonable work load. I feel the cold quite badly and I have a borg like heart that requires substantial effort to get it to rise. I therefore train mostly indoors, cycling up to 150 miles a week on my Wattbike and running for circa 4 hours on the treadmill.

My weekly training load will stay the same now until probably the 1st of week February and is basically what Ironman would call week 12 of a 24-week full distance plan. The sessions are shorter but can produce a much higher training score stress. I love to race and train for long periods, but some of these shorter sessions give me the most amount of pleasure. There’s something about being on your Wattbike, drowning in sweat with Blink 182, riding at your threshold. Those are some of the hardest sessions I complete all year and because I don’t have to be ‘race fit’ it doesn’t matter if I take a few days to recover from a giant effort. The same can be said about brutal leg training.

With some slight variations a week normally looks like this:

30-mile ride (largely spent in the sweet spot)

50-mile ride (sometimes split into two)

30-mile ride plus 5K run just below race pace

60 minute all out ride (bucket often needed)

90-minute hill run on treadmill plus short abs workout

60-minute interval running session (800 metres beyond race pace /200 metres rest), upper body weights #1

30 minute cross training, leg weight training, 30 minute swim

10K fast run plus upper body weights #2

1 hour/ circa 2 mile swim

A bit of rest and then whatever else I fancy, which usually means chucking myself on my Wattbike.

I only make minor adjustments to my diet and keep to pretty much 90% on it, 10% a bit more relaxed, occasionally 80%/20%. One can relax a little more in winter nutritionally, but I am always mindful that what I put on now will have to be worked off come Spring. Admittedly I am vain and tend to like my abs! Training on a Wattbike also burns considerable energy and needs to be fuelled even more than riding outside sometimes. I therefore will use carbs mostly around training and in conjunction with the day’s effort levels. Cue the rice pudding above. If I start getting fatter, I’ll do a bit of ketosis but I don’t expect that to happen this year.

But winter isn’t just about training hard and protecting my academic sanity, it’s also the time a triathlete gets to make adjustments. Some of my aims this year include: perfecting my swim stroke and breathing, building a new aero bike to take more pressure off feet, running in a new pair of insoles, studying my Oura ring and sleep patterns, and lastly trying to increase my cycling cadence and pedal stroke. The latter is a big job but one I am confident will save me foot pain. In four weeks I have already increased 2 rpm.

At the moment my first planned race next year is Marbella 70.3 in April. I am heading to Tenerife for two weeks over the festive period and will put some long hours base training in then, almost certainly riding up and down Mt. Teide.

Time for hard graft.

The Long-Distance European Championships: Our Challenging but bronze 3rd place in Madrid

Team GB ladies on the podium.

When I started out as a triathlete I dreamed of one day racing for my country and going to the World Championships as a Team GB cyclist last year only fueled my desire to do so. I never thought my first appearance as a triathlete would come less than four years into my triathlon career, nor did I think I would come home with a bronze medal on my first start.

Our trip to Madrid was quite simply often full of more emotion than we could handle, but it was the stuff dreams are made of and it will never be forgotten. Most of it couldn’t even be made up. Here are a few of the more unique and ‘special’ moments.

Friday – 21st September 2018

Myself and my mum arrived safely in Madrid having travelled from Malaga. Despite the usual nervous wait for the return of bike box, all was well, until we faced the task of building the bike. We felt like heroes having got the pedals, wheels and headset on. And then we crashed back down to reality. The rest of Friday night did not go without incident. The bike pump broke, tire sealant went everywhere. Google said the nearest bike shop was 20 minutes walk away and would close in one hour’s time. Off we trot, no time to notice our dehydrated and hungry bodies. The hypoglycemic attack would have to wait. We arrive at “Bicycles We Trust” according to Google. Except Google lied and there was no bike shop in sight. Next we head to “Mammoth” bikes. Thank the Lord that the bike shop we found by better luck than judgement answered our prayers and serviced us with a shiny new pump without charging us tourist prices.

We had an equally eventful dinner and then tried to sleep. After four hours of cursing every moving vehicle on the road directly below our second-floor room, at 1am we inform reception of our dismay and are moved to the ‘quieter back of the hotel’. Walking down the corridor in my pyjamas in the middle of the night, blind as a bat, with my bike, wetsuit and every race possession I own is not a moment I shall cherish. True athlete panic had set in and at 3am I am convinced I won’t even get to Sunday’s start line because I don’t think I will be able to keep my contact lenses in my eyes if I don’t sleep enough.

Saturday – 22nd September

Of course, the new room on the same floor does not induce anymore sleep than its counterpart a few doors away. In our sleep deprived state we then spent the entire day either faffing, packing stuff or in a bus traveling between the venues of the three disciplines. By the afternoon I felt like I had moved house 5 times. The longest racking in history, in 30 degrees and burning sun, walking 12,000 steps. We find better spirits though as we hang out with the other 30 or so Team GB athletes and are comforted being in this organized chaos together. By Saturday night, we are in our third(!) room in the same hotel in less than 24 hours. Fast asleep at 11pm in our quiet 7th floor room our peace is disturbed once more. One of the kind hotel staff had come to return our broken pump that I left in the first room in a strop. I never wanted to see that ever again and definitely not when I was getting up in 3 hours to race. The shock of the man waking me up nearly gave me a cardiac arrest.

Sunday – 23rd September

In short, the most beautiful courses of swim, bike and run I have encountered, but equally the most brutal. Around one fifth of the race starters did not finish. I was out of the swim 1st in my AG and managed to avoid a face plant up the steep hill to transition. The bike course had 3 mountains in the first 60 miles which meant I needed to exercise a careful regime of foot pain management and also conserve energy. This seemed to pay off as I felt fresh in the second half of the bike. Until one of the marshalls unnecessarily chased me into transition for nearly an hour as I was close to the bike cut off. I never expected to be on my bike almost 8 hours and I don’t think I was as close to the cut off as he liked to think. Personally I think he wanted to go home and put his feet up. Nevertheless, I deployed beast mode and if he was to end my race then he was going to have to peel me off the floor and probably take me back to transition two via the nearest hospital. Happy days, despite feeling like I had diced with death, and feeling somewhat depleted having rushed the last feed and water station, I made it with 30 minutes to spare ready to start the death march of a marathon in boiling conditions after a traumatizing bike course. I knew my maths wasn’t that bad and I knew I needed 5 miles an hour for 5 hours and I would be home and dry by midnight. This became a challenge to finish rather than a race.

It was really special to see all the ‘Bluey’ GBR athletes out on the run, all of us cheering each other on. I was running really nicely until about 18 miles, I was hydrated and had already drunk around 15 litres throughout the race and my legs were relatively fresh. Feet were hurting but had felt worst. At mile 18 I had to calm it down and walk though as I was feeling very sick. This wasn’t helped by the now lacking water on the feed stations, but eating cold ice gently seemed to help. I walked most of the 3rd lap, I knew I was going to finish and was in a good position. I was quite simply terrified that if I upchucked I would pass out and would end up rotting in the dark in the park and hopefully eventually in a hospital, branded with a DNF and distraught without a medal. By the last lap I was able to run a bit more and crossed the line in 15 hours and 7 minutes with plenty of time to spare. I received my finisher’s medal and immediately I was rushed to the podium to collect my bronze medal! At the European Championships!

All in all the race was brutally epic and I don’t think any of us expected to take that long, but I had a ball. The Spanish and British supporters were simply amazing and words don’t do it justice. I’ll never forget running through Madrid city centre, watching the sunset and with my name being called at virtually every corner. I had broken my race number and so simply became ‘Smit’.

Challenge Madrid was indeed very challenging but I think it’s fair to say we overcame the challenges, learning the Team GB spirit along the way. Something tells me I may have just upped the game.

Revolve 24, 6-hour challenge: A brutal 1st place

1st place, 96.37 miles, 8714 feet climbed, 5:59:05

revolve winner

As I rocked up to Brands Hatch at 7.30am this morning I was immediately hit by the special ethos of the Revolve 24 event. I know the organizing team and it was good to see them. I came 3rd in the 24-hour ride last year but couldn’t do that long this year due to racing the European Championships Long Distance on the 23rd. I probably shouldn’t be racing this weekend but settled on the 6-hour challenge to try and find some confidence in my feet for Madrid. I also wanted to remind myself that Madrid isn’t about the result, it’s the journey that got me there in quite difficult circumstances that’s important. In the final week of a 38-week training block I know I should be remembering that even if I can’t always do that.

So, as I went to try and confidence build, I had hoped for a podium but not necessarily a win. I also didn’t really expect to do that many miles to get myself the win once it happened. I started well as I meant to go on, holding circa 9-minute laps. For someone who doesn’t climb, it’s quite a brutal 2.67 miles each lap with short sharp hills. It’s also very windy and open.

By 50 miles in, I was really hurting. I didn’t want to stop at all until 75 miles as I knew that’s around where one gets a podium. I pushed onto 4 hours and circa 60 something miles but knew I had to break the monotony for just two minutes to replace water bottles and grab some sugar to get me to the end. It wasn’t a surprise I needed these things when I looked at the calories burned which was very high compared to normal (6712 in total). I’ll be honest, I was broken but I saw a text from my Mum saying I was right up there and to push on. I knew I was doing quite well as I could see I had lapped a few.

Lots of positives to take home. I don’t like holding the lead, I am much better chasing and so to hold on in the end was good. I did some pretty big digging. I hadn’t connected my Garmin to receive texts but looking at them post-race they confirm the grinding. “30 laps done, 2nd place a lap behind”. “1 hour to go, 2nd place now two laps behind”. “45 mins to go, 2nd place still two laps behind”. Another positive was that it’s a good result at one of my most trained distances in my best and most treasured discipline. I ride 100 miles on a Sunday countless times in the year and generally do quite well but rarely race them. It’s nice to add something shiny to all of that grafting. And lastly, I did all this without my racing bike which is currently in flight heading to Spain. Bizzare eh.

For winning, my prize (apart from Prosecco) I will be given a personalized jersey. You bet I will be wearing that and returning to Brands Hatch next year to defend my title. Thank you as always for all of the support and well wishes. It was a bit lonely at times without my headies and when it was hard work just knowing you guys are out got me through. Now maxing out the recovery and tapering for a week.

The day Blobby Boris Johnson overtook me

boris day

I reposted this picture today ‘for the lols’, as I put it, when it came up on my Facebook feed as being 5 years ago. Before I reposted I did think to myself, ‘this is so embarrassing’. For starters, my helmet wasn’t fitting properly and was on the wonk, I seemed to have lost both of my gloves, and sunglasses, and god only knows what was in one of those drinks bottles. And the drinks bottles weren’t matching, a big no no for a cyclist. Sorry fellow comrades. I was riding my trusty Boardman, my first full carbon road bike and was wearing Livestrong (Lance Armstrong campaign) shorts that I still have to this day because they are so comfortable and I can’t ditch them despite their holes and rather tainted brand associations. I then noticed the jersey I was wearing, it was for the London Ride Prudential 100 miles. I might just add that it was only ever white once (you’ll see why in a minute). It was at that point that I realized despite its comical value, that this picture was a very early part of my journey, it was in 2013. I remember the ride well. It was not long after I had started riding centuries and doing so by myself. It would have been in the days where I could run a marathon but was an avid cyclist and hadn’t yet fully pledged myself to triathlon. The route was fantastic, closed roads (a rarity for a cyclist) and I remember climbing Box Hill and actually enjoying it. There was still paint on the roads cheering on Team GB from 2012. However, it remains to this day one of the longest times I have taken to ride 100 miles. This wasn’t because of my fitness, it was because of the punctures. This was the day I had no less than 7. The most I have ever had in a ride and now thankfully ride tubeless which means it shouldn’t happen to that extent again. I spent most of my day by the side of the road fixing them, covered in grease, begging spare inner tubes off fellow riders, borrowing track pumps from people’s front lawn whom were stuck in their homes because of the closed roads, stealing gels and bars off people when I got hungry. I had just fixed the 5th or 6th, a rear one I believe, I stood up and was about to get back on the ‘bloody thing’ but then there was a huge whoosh and a very large pack of riders surrounding someone going past.

Who was that someone?

It was ‘Blobby’ Boris Johnson as I called him.


I was crestfallen. Boris had signed up as a challenge and nobody really thought he could ride a bike but yet he and his posse had just overtaken me whom had trained for weeks and had been putting their heart and soul into this day for hours. I carried on and soldiered to the end of the ride, with just one more puncture. I’d learnt to grind somehow but I’d learnt lessons about punctures that I will never forget. As a result I have puncture paranoia for life. There’s so many rides, miles and places I go on my bike but on this occasion I think this one is right to remember and its of little surprise that it’s still laughing stock in our house.

Blobby, oh Mr Blobby, your influence will spread throughout the land. 
Let’s hear it for Mr Blobby…

National champs race report, peak performance reached in August and a busy September!

vitruvianIt was great to be back racing yesterday at the National Middle Distance (70.3) miles Championships (Rutland Water) despite getting up before 3.30am for a half Ironman! It was an extremely tough field, dominated by Army and Air force athletes. My result was 11th place, 5 hours and 36 minutes. I can’t be unhappy with that given that it’s only my second-best distance, albeit my 5th one of the year!

The swim took on a new level of brutality. I tried not to let a beach start, it being 6.20am in September and two massive clouts on the head get to me (I thought I was going to get concussion at one point). The bike was consistent, but I did make a very dim decision to leave my aero bars off (that new bike has to happen, especially if I want to compete properly at this distance). I was basically resting on my handlebars or drops on my arms without any pads. It killed but I needed to try and make up the 20 minutes I’d lost without bars. The run was also solid, didn’t fall over either but I did have a bit of foot pain which disappointed me as it was after only 10 miles, although I hadn’t any pain relief since 5.30am so I could easily have had some more but had left it in transition. Nutrition went a bit wrong for me yesterday which is rare. There were was only one feed station on the bike and I’d exhausted my supply of gels. Thank christ I didn’t drop the very last one I had at 40 miles. On the run I was getting stomach cramps which is also very rare and all I could manage was a few small sips of energy drink. Overall though I was happy with how it all felt as I hadn’t raced since Outlaw in July.

It’s been different for me this year. Normally I’d just be having a bit of fun in September at the end of the season but when I qualified for the long distance European Champs (23rd sept) and after I’d already planned a full distance at Outlaw (28th July) I knew I was going to have to reach peak performance differently and possibly twice. I was virtually at peak for Outlaw full in July, although perhaps not totally tapered. Whilst August didn’t see me race, I trained very consistently and solidly, most of which was outside of my normal environment. I was out of the country for a lot of it with three trips abroad and being quite a busy academic. I only really needed to maintain fitness but taking an athlete away from their norm can sometimes be anxiety provoking. In short, I planned meticulously and I worked my ar@E off. I packed kit (and much travel wash!) and nutrition and took it everywhere. I rode 100 miles from Ipswich before leaving for the airport, in the UAE, I ran at 5am before teaching, in Portugal I completed a full weeks training from a less than average hotel gym and I also spent 3 miles teaching myself to swim again.

The work paid off, my fitness is at its highest and that always feels pretty special. Whilst I am now taking it down (keeping intensity up) I have decided to ride a 6-hour challenge next weekend. I wouldn’t normally do this a week before a full Ironman, but it was a considered decision and it’s also less damaging than a solid 6-hour ride as I can rest/stop at any point. Primarily I want to travel to Madrid with a good result behind me and being in September it should be cool enough during that challenge to only experience minimal foot pain. I’m also hoping it will take some of the damage away from what might happen in Madrid which is likely to see me really suffer with foot pain due to the higher temperatures and terrain. The best I might be able to hope for is to finish, even if the current x-ray shows a clean bill of health, but that is a long story for another day…

So, my September looks like this:

3rd– rode 101 miles from Chelmsford

8th– 70.3 Vitruvian National Championships

16th– Revolve 6-hour solo bike challenge (Brands Hatch)

23rd– Challenge Madrid Full distance European Championships

30th– One last very relaxed 100 miles from Ipswich (with considerable cake)

After that I will have to sit down and assess several things including foot pain, winter training and races, next year’s races (including GB stuff) and all given the funds available etc.

Enjoy the glorious September sun should it return.

Geraint Thomas: ‘I won the Tour, man’ and the story of more ink

Sport is really special. Like really special. Perhaps being an amateur athlete and cyclist myself makes me more attuned to appreciate professional’s efforts and achievements, but I will never ever forget what follows.

On the afternoon of the 28th of July, the day before the storms and my first Ironman of the season, I sat on the sofa sobbing quite badly. The very same sofa where I also sat almost exactly a year previously sobbing when JT played for Chelsea for the last time and was subbed after 26 minutes. I was naturally a little apprehensive about a full 140.6 miles the next morning in a storm but I really can’t blame that. And this was also considerably more sobbing than for my beloved Chelsea.

Geraint Thomas ‘G’ was stood on the podium in the yellow jersey having just won the Tour De France (2018) after 20 stages (no racing for general classification on the last day, stage 21). Some of you will know I’ve long been a ‘G’ fan. I posted on the morning of the defining Alpe du Huez stage ‘Your stage to take today G, ditch the lanky Froomy’. It was only 12 stages in but something told me to ready myself to dare to dream and it was also something for me to hold onto in otherwise difficult times. I don’t think many believed me. I heard cries ‘Team Sky will never let Geraint race Froome’.

If not now, when?

I then spent the next two weeks avoiding the internet until after 7pm until I’d watched the highlights of each stage.

Most of the time I had to sit behind a cushion. Not because of G’s riding but because I so desperately wanted such a deserving and talented candidate to win. He was quickly becoming the nation’s favorite but he’d been mine for years. The day the peloton was attacked by pepper spray? That. Was. Bad. In the end I had to look at the results with the overall times rather than watching the whole race or highlights. I was so excited, but I needed to put my anxiety to rest in the quickest way possible.

G is now 32 years old (the same age as me) and is thus one of the older pro cyclists. He’s been a huge talent, starting as a track rider, played a big part in London 2012 but always either having a mechanical or crash at the all-important moments. He’s also a very good domestique and has spent many years at Team Sky keeping Froomey safe and sound without being allowed to actually race him.

This year it was different. It was clear the team were letting them race after around stage 12. Green light, green light. They couldn’t not given G’s strength and when roles reversed and Froome took on the job of G’s domestique it really put him up in my estimations!

However, cycling needed a change from Froome’s domination and the many doping scandals previously but right until the last day G was clearly not believing it would be him delivering it. I see a lot of myself in that mindset including the bits where one doesn’t take oneself seriously enough as means of protecting themselves against defeat or deficient performances. Like most sports people he broke it down, steady Eddy, ‘one day at a time’ until the commentator pointed out to him ‘well, there are no more days after tomorrow!’. He did the simple things to perfection, kept himself out of trouble, pushed on when he needed to.

G has a good few more years in him but I doubt he will win many more, if any, grand Tours. I wouldn’t have thought that will matter. He’s waited years for this and one defining victory at the Tour de France is enough to put him up there as one of the best cyclists around. It’s everything he deserved after tirelessly working and serving others for over a decade.

And no, before you would like to suggest my new ink refers to the ‘G8’ summit, it doesn’t. G’s race number was 8 throughout this year’s Tour de France.

I don’t care if you think I am sad for having a second cycling related tattoo on my skin. Nor do I care that few will remember G in 30 year’s time when I am grey and old. I live for the now and all my tattoos come as part of my story, history and moments that were truly special to me and I definitely won’t forget this one.

Paint the town yellow please, give everyone free Welsh cakes and then hand out the Personality of the Year Award to G.