Being on the start line of the Weymouth 70.3 race, 3 months and a bit after my last race and only a month after announcing my imminent retirement, was already a victory in itself. Not that I expected much, having had only a few pain free runs and a training regime somewhat chaotic what with a summer filled with festivals and gigs (and ensuing sleep deprived week-ends) every single week. In fact I hadn’t had a week-end off partying since Japan in early June! But, having teamed up at the last minute with my mate and 70.3 novice Evgeny, here I was back on the Jurassic coast nonetheless, planning to use this race as a good training day that would hit the reset button on and turn me into a triathlete again, albeit for a short amount of time. Because yes, Ironman Barcelona is only 2 weeks away, and as previously explained this will be my last race as a professional athlete. + more
Barely a month after the Norseman it was time, believe it or not, for some back to back racing. And not just any races. A tough 70.3 followed by an even tougher ironman (rated amongst the 11th hardest in the world by 220 magazine).
I took 9 full days off after Norway, which were necessary both physically and mentally, before putting in a block of 3 weeks of good training. Weymouth and Tenby had always been on the back of my mind and I had planned my DJ diary accordingly. 4 busy party week-ends in a row followed by 2 week-ends of racing where I hoped to be recovered and competitive. Not an easy feat with the constant lack of sleep and feeling of being on recovery mode from the week-end until Wednesday every week. However, as hard as the Norseman was, its run section was either flat or uphill, meaning no descent, much less impact and a somewhat easier muscular recovery as a result, with almost none of the dreaded blown quads and D.O.M.S.
In ironman triathlon world, early September means the start of the new season for WTS, and that the hunt for KPR points towards the next year’s world champs begins once more. All the top athletes who have qualified for Kona in October won’t be racing at this time of the year (except Harry Wiltshire that is) and so the races are more open. My idea behind these 2 races was that the results would give me a good indication of whether I should pursue the Kona dream in 2017 as a pro athlete, or step down as an age grouper come January 2017 and go there as such.
When I first heard a year ago about a new location for xterra Japan, I had the perfect excuse to plan another extended visit to one of my favorite destinations in the world. This was my 6th trip in the country in 4 years, and despite an embarrassing lack of progress in Japanese, I do feel like I have a second home here. And once again the trip lived up to and even beyond my expectations.
After spending the first half of the year preparing for and racing on the IM circuit, it was a welcome relief to be back on fat tyres and playing up and down muddy trails. I must have ridden my mtb 4 times max since Maui 10 months prior but I knew I had the fitness after a decent result at IM Kalmar.
In 2012 the race was in Marunuma, in the Gunma prefecture just a few hours outside of Tokyo, and it felt as remote as can be, with even a bear attack to add authenticity. This year it took place in and around Lake Kanayama, about 3 hours drive from Sapporo, Hokkaido. It didn’t look as stunning nor as remote as Marunuma, but still we had a nice enough background to play with. + more
The idea of a 30K ‘trail run’ the day after Xterra Japan didn’t seem too crazy initially (after all, running the marathon at ironman Sweden 2 weeks prior never felt that painful, and the recovery even less so), and despite a 5am start (why??), once I finished the xterra in one piece, I didn’t think twice before entering the race. I was eager to get a last run in before a 2 week hiatus in terms of training, and also to have a last good taste of nature before heading to the metropolis.
I went there with my Saucony Virrata, a light road racer that is, not in any way designed for any kind off road action…but I thought I’d be fine since the terrain was mostly dry…Also on the start line I found myself rather out of place, not only for being the only non Asian, but also for being by far the most evidently unprepared – no camel back, no sticks, no long sleeves, etc. All I had to save me was compression calf guards and a couple of salt tablets and Powerbar shots in my pocket.
Off we went and straight up the steepest slope that was (we’re in a ski resort here, why make things complicated?); we ran about 3 minutes tops and then we were all walking (well, scrambling) until a (majestic!) dear came out of the fog to tell us we’d reached the first summit. I took the lead as I assumed (go figure!) I’d be faster than anyone downhill, but by the time we’d reached the bottom again I was in 5th and not comfortable. We stayed in a group of 6 for about an hour and a half until we hit another vertical ascent and I decided to ‘attack’. As we were all walking up a 30% slope this was easily the slowest surge I have ever done (!), but still I got to the top in first and enjoyed all the cheers from the (many) tourists who’d risen almost as early as us (but instead of putting on the running shoes had opted for the gondola to take them to the summit – and enjoy the ‘unkai’ (sea of clouds) that forms every morning in the valley before disappearing).
Last minute decision for me to take part in this 1/2 iron distance race, part of the Hever Castle triathlon festival in Kent (2 days of multiples events and 7000 triathletes overall!). I noticed a decent prize money, checked the weather forecast and blagged a free entry from Speedo (thanks Dan!) – all clear!
No ad hoc preparation, certainly no tapering, no course recce, see-what-happens sort of thing. Lots of beetroot juice intake in the few days and morning before, hoping for the best. + more
After my DNS @ IM Nice in June, this was a race I wanted to do well at, an A race so to speak. Obviously the training hadn’t been regular these last 4 months with barely any swimming and running due to broken bones and other injuries, but I did manage to get on the start line with only a couple of cracked ribs to worry about, as well as a customary dodgy -but improving- Achilles. First victory.
I arrived in Japan 10 days before the race in order to acclimatise nicely. Couple days in Tokyo first, enough to catch up with my friends Nao and Mika, and also for a DJ gig at Grassroots, one of my favorite venues in Koenji. Nice to see some familiar faces there as well as a bunch of new followers. I had a ball and didn’t get to bed before 8am. Lots of rum and ginger and cigarettes too. Perfect IM prep! + more
The 3 weeks between xterra Germany and xterra England weren’t the most exciting part of the year – I got the shingles (!) pretty much as soon as I got back to London, which meant a week of antiviral drugs followed by a week of antibiotics as one of the wounds got infected, together with a mix of ibuprofen and paracetamol every 3 hours or so for a good 3 weeks, and a few antidepressants thrown in for good measure (supposedly to kill the nerve pain, but these only succeeded in killing my brain…). The pain experienced from the shingles is debilitating, I’d forgotten how much pain one could endure for such a long time…I am yet to find out what triggered the virus, but it is likely to be a mix of general tiredness and a weak immune system…I didn’t know what the shingles were before, but I will make sure I won’t get them ever again ! + more
This is what I’ve always told myself anyway…no need to go on a 10 day retreat or through the pains of daily meditation when I can go out and run in the woods for an hour. The state of mindfulness achieved through intense meditation is arguably very similar to the state of “being in a trance” that can be reached at the end of a long and repetitive endurance effort. + more
One day in London to swap bikes in between the Embrunman and Xterra Japan, and off I go again in quest of new adventures. Tokyo is boiling hot when I arrive, 40°c and a humidity level that must be close to 100%! Walking the streets is quite an ordeal, but still I am so happy to be back. Nakameguro is almost my ‘hood now! Thanks to Kei and Keizo I have just enough time to sample some of the magic that is Japanese cuisine and leave my records in safe hands; it is not party time yet! + more