2012 was always going to be a tough year to follow. Most races I entered I was lucky enough to finish on the podium - ranging from sprint distance through to 3/4 Iron Distance racing. I was lucky enough to be supported by some amazing people to train with and provide me with what I think is the best kit out there. This is vital to any athlete. Having confidence in you equipment is key and I am grateful to work with those companies again this season.

When I hung up (temporarily) my Ironman boots on the promenade in Tenby in 2011, having failed to qualify for Hawaii, I knew I needed to step back from the commitment of long distance racing. It was too much for me and my life and I needed a new challenge. So I decided to embark on a meandering journey which would end in Hyde ark in September 2013 at the ITU World Olympic Distance Championships. It had been 5 years since I properly raced short course (1500m swim, 40km bike, 10km run) and I wanted to see what I could do and how I compared to the other athletes racing. I also wanted to see how well I could do in a marathon (unofficially a 2:45 at New York Marathon that never was) and win one of Race New Forest's unique trophies (which I did at The Boskman). Along side this I wanted to develop my endurance sport coaching business and in doing so I was lucky enough to work with Joe Friel at a training camp organised by
TriDynamic. I must have impressed them as I am returning there this year.

So after a successful 2012 this years' plan is simple. Do it again - but better. I have moved up an age group (which doesn't mean too much as they are still bloody fast!). I chose the Dambuster Triathlon to qualify for London, and decided to recce the route by entering the Dambuster Duathlon which uses the same course, but in a different format. A 10km run to start, followed by a 42km bike, then a 5km run to finish (you) off.

I'm quite a supersticious person and have rituals tthat I like to keep before a race. Every race last year my pre race breakfast was a large coffee, apple crumble and rice pudding. I am quite particular about my coffee so I take my own Nespresso machine!! So on a cold and windy morning I find myself in a travelodge 10m off the A1 with my coffee and my homemade apple crumble and rice pudding thinking "5:30 am is a silly time of the day" and "I can't believe it is race season again". The weather was forecast to be shocking and luckily they got it slightly wrong, it was windy and it was chilly but there were no snow storms or rain. There was a familiar buzz that you only get at multisport events. I was quite relaxed and I chatted to friends whereas normally I go into my own world and focus on the task ahead. This race was different. I had put no pressure on me and whilst I wanted to do well it was more about getting to know the course. Everywhere I looked there were amazing bikes. I have just been fitted to my new Argon18 bike by
Primera and I racked it amongst the other Super Bikes - never have I seen so many top of the range Cervelos, Treks, Specializeds etc. It was crazy. Over the tannoy they announced that this was the strongest field they have ever had at a National Championships and everywhere you looked there seemed to be a World Champion. To say I was daunted would be an understatement. But I remained calm and knew what I was there to do.

As I took my place on the start line I could sense that this was going to be panful. A flat out 10km hurts, but a flat out ten km followed by a max effort 42km bike and then a sprinted 5km run to finish seemed silly. Bang the gun goes off and immediately four or five people take to the front. I chase hard but after 500m I know that if I keep that effort up then I'm not going to learn anything and I settle in to about 12th place. The run course is reasonably flat. There are a few sharp corners which were a bit muddy and there were a couple of climbs but nothing too bad. The field spread out and by the turn I was a fair distance behind the people I was expecting to be behind. I was calm and relaxed and because my watch strap had broken on the start line I was running by feel. I felt ok. I picked up the pace (or effort) a bit and caugh a small group. Then I went by them. I was in about 8th place in our wave. I came to transition and decided to put a sleeveless gilet on. Helmet on, and grab my bike. I overtook a couple of people at the mount line and off we went.

People had said the bike course is fast. I assumed that by that they meant flat. It isn't flat. Like the Irondistance race Roth the course is fairly rolling with a couple of decent out the saddle climbs. But there are no dead turns, not too many sharp corners and so you can keep your speed high throughout. I worked in a little group, careful not to draft those around me as there were plenty of draft busters eager to penaise you. Riding the same speed as people such as Lee Piecy (world champion) has two effects on you. 1) it gives you immense confidence that you are riding well and are in a good position overall and 2) you then think you're probably going way too hard and are going to run the second run like a lame donkey. There were times where the pace was too hot for me and I could have quite easily backed off and let them go but I fought hard to stick with them. Even though you aren't in the 7 meter draft zone where you get a massive aerodynamic benefit, riding with people and pacing off them helps heaps.

As we came towards the end of the bike I was metanlly preparing myself, ready to lay it on the line. My training has be so inconsistent over the past 3 months I wasn't expecting to perform as well as I had to up until now. And I was fully expecting to be crushed by the 3 other athletes around me. Another slick transition - bike racked, helmet and gilet off, on went my slipper like
Scott Race Rockers shoes  and I was on my way. My legs felt surprisingly fresh - probably down to my Compressport ForQuads which really do help prevent my legs from getting too tired. I was out and on to the run course in second in our little group, unaware of where the leaders were. I simply knew that anyone I overtook now I would be beating. I just ran as fast as I could and that is the good thing about a short run is you know that you haven't got too long to push. I caught the person in front of me (who happened to be in my age category) and by the turnaround I had 5 meters on him. Another person was in my sight and I caugh him on a downhill section. I felt good. I had that familiar burning lung feeling. I didn't really care that I was covered in breakfast (another "habit" of mine is to bring up breakfast on the bike - maybe apple crumble isn't the best afterall). I was running scared. Being chased down (possibly) but I daren't look back in case they sense my weakness and push harder. Across the line and I'm done. I'd say that it was about as perfectly paced a race as I have ever done. Experience and a calm head lead me to finishing in 5th place overall and 2nd in my age group. A massive surprise and I was really happy.

I couldn't ask anything more of the race. I surpassed my expectations, I gained valuable knowledge of the course, I know I have the best equipment available for me and I know I am able to perform better still. I have lots of work to do if I want to qualify for London but I know it is well within my grasp.

Watch this space!

I'd like to thank Primera Sports, Compressport,  Scott, Xendurance and H2Pro for continuing their support of me. If you would like more information on their products, services or you are keen to talk to me about coaching then please get in touch with me.