British Cross Country Champs Podium

What a rollercoaster of a month, from being in the best shape I’ve ever been to finding out World Junior Championships along with many other races have been cancelled. It certainly hasn’t been something easy to take but I’m slowly coming to terms with what is going on and how this Pandemic quite rightly is bigger than Triathlon.

The month started off with the race I had been targeting all winter, British Cross Country Champs – The UK inter counties. Training leading up to this race had been going really well, and I knew my run fitness was pretty strong, so I was hoping for a good result, maybe a top 10. My previous best at this race had only been 22nd and that was over 2 years ago so a top 10 wouldn’t be easy.

After being ill at Christmas and having a shocker at Kent Champs, I had only just scraped it into the Kent team, meaning I had been placed in the Pen as 7th our of 8. Not ideal when almost 300 people are on the start line. Luckily on the day I was moved up to 4th place in the pen, so it wasn’t as bad. I had a really good start and by the first corner, I found myself towards the front. I stayed in the front pack for the first lap and tried to stay out of the wind as much as possible. After the first lap, the pace slowed slightly and everyone bunched up. We were nearing the long hill at the back of the course and I knew this was going to be a key moment in the race. I positioned myself on the inside just before the hill, meaning I had space to move so I could get the best line. As soon as we hit the hill there was a surge in pace and the group quickly splintered. Halfway up the hill, the group had quartered in size to around 6 of us with one person just ahead. By the top of the hill, I found myself in 4th place, around 10m behind the leader and with 5 other strong runners. This part of the course was very challenging with sticky mud covering the whole course. Every step I took I would just sink into the mud and have to drag myself through it. We then had to negotiate another hill caped in sticky mud. I was still in 4th place but there were now two people just in front of the group of 3 I was in. I was starting to struggle now, the mud was sapping energy every stride I took. However, I knew I had to try and close the gap to the leaders. Towards the top of the hill, I pushed on and we entered into the extra loop. This loop was flat and fairly dry, meaning the pace increased. I had managed to drop the two in the group and I was now focusing on closing the gap. I came out the loop in 3rd, I hadn’t managed to close the gap but I had put in some distance between myself and 4th place. We now had around 800m to the finish, and I really started to push on. The last 400m or so was all up a gradual hill with long grass and more mud. The gap behind continued to grow and this time I was closing on 2nd. Sadly I had left it just too late, but I crossed the line in 3rd place, just 3 seconds off 2nd! Everyone else in the Kent team also had really strong races and we ended coming first in the Team race! I was so shocked to finish 3rd at the British Champs, but I knew i had had my best race. I had prepared really well for the race, so I was extremely pleased with the work and to finally get the result I knew I was capable of.

A week later I decided to race at English Schools, I hadn’t planned on doing it but after such a good race the week before I thought there was no fun in having a run round in Liverpool. The course wasn’t ideal for me, fairly flat the whole way round with no big hills. But English Schools is always a great event and this year I was racing for Sussex Schools due to moving school.  The race was flat out from the gun with no shortage in pace. I struggled from the start, I didn’t prepare well enough for the pace at the start of the race and found myself in a below ideal position at the first corner. The course narrowed very quickly and i had to weave in and out of a lot of people. I never made it near the front and my heart rate didn’t recover from the sprint at the start, so I was really feeling it at the end of the race. I crossed the line in 19th place, not my best result, but after my race the week before and being bottom of the age group it was still a fairly good result.

Little did I know that that would be my last race for a long time and soon after that the lockdown was imposed. Since then I have been keeping myself ticking over and I’ve enjoyed the extra time I now have due to not being at school. Although I’m missing the pool, thanks to the help of Sportsaid, Pedal Potential, and KT4YS I have been able to purchase a small pool and I’m using a bungee chord and innertube to create my own ‘endless pool’. It’s not ideal but it simulates the feel of swimming and it’s the best I can do at the moment. I have also been using swim chords and I’ve been set some very hard sets by my coach. Thanks to platforms like Zwift riding indoors hasn’t been boring and I’ve been leaving my 1 permitted exercise daily to doing my runs. My running is going really well at the moment and the sessions I’ve done have been really fun. I’m hoping to come out of this situation better than I was before!

I hope everyone’s safe and well during this time.

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February – Winter Update

It seems like only last month since I sat down and wrote my last blog, and in the time since a lot of things have happened! I returned last week from a warm weather training camp in Portugal with the South East Academy. It was great to escape from the cold, wet weather of the UK, especially as Storm Denis was going on! During the 8 full days we were there, I managed to get over 35hours of solid training done in the beautiful surroundings of Monte Gordo. The facilities there are superb, smooth roads, beautiful trails for running, and a lovely 50m pool, not to forget the beach and sea! The camp was great and was really good to see progress and know that the hard work is really starting to pay off, especially with my swimming, where we did a 400m TT and I got a 16 second PB! I also got to try out my new wetsuit after the mishap in Jersey. Yonda were kind enough to send me a brand new Ghost II along with a few other things. I absolutely loved it, it provided enough bouyancy in the sea and I loved how the neoprene wasn’t restricting the movement of my arms. I also wore the Yonda Hydro Glides (Yonda’s Polarised open water goggles). These are honestly the best polarised goggles I have used, they fit my face perfectly and gave me a clear view at all times, without fogging up.

Pre camp I had a few running events, the first being the South of England Cross Country Championships. I knew my running was going well, but I had no idea of where I would come. I went into the race with an open mind, hoping to just run at my best and focus on the things I could control and not aiming for a certain position. I had a fairly good start and found myself towards the top end at the top of the first hill, just off the front pack. I kept pushing hard and worked myself up to the front group of around 8. It stayed like the for about 3/4 or the race until the pace increased and I missed the break. I managed to keep pushing and started to close the gap down again, but it was too late and I finished in 5th place. A result I was very happy with, which gives me confidence for the season ahead. 

The next event I had was a 5km road race. My coach had told me to enter the Chichester 10km road race, but instead of doing the full race, to run 5km and see how fast I can go. The event attracted some big UK names including Andy Vernon and Nick Goolab (The UK 5km record holder). This meant the race would be hard, and at an ideal pace for me to get a PB over 5km. I arrived at an overcast Goodwood Motor circuit with the idea of running sub 15minutes. This would mean having to run around 2:57/km. I knew I was capable of doing this, after my good result at Southerns and hitting all the right times on the track during training. Again I had another really good start and was in the front pack straight away. I settled down into the middle of the group and felt as though I was cruising. The first km past quickly and we went through in 2:53, KM 2 slowed down and we went through in 2:58, still well up on pace. By now the front group had whittled down slightly, but I was still feeling strong. The pace picked up again this time doing a 2:55 3rd KM, going through 3km in a total time of 8:50. I started to feel it in the legs at around 3.5km, but I kept head strong and didn’t let this phase me, passing through the 4th km in 3:03. The final KM was very tough, all up hill and exposed in the wind. I dug deep, really wanting to break 15 minutes and finished the 5km in 14:46 unofficially! I was really pleased with this and am looking to see what time I can time I can do in an official 5km race and maybe one even on the track. 

Training has been going really well recently, hitting some big numbers when doing bike testing in the labs and doing some big run sessions. I’m still chipping away at the swim and look forward to seeing what time I’ll swim the 800m in at the Performance Assessments in early April. For now I have the National InterCounties Cross Country coming up, followed possibly by English Schools XC. I’m getting really eager to start the Tri Season now and see where I can go this year! 

As usual thanks to everyone for the support, its been a great Winter and I look forward to translating the hard work into results!

September Update – New Training Group

This month has seen some big changes, after lots of consideration and time spent thinking about what I want in the future, I have moved further South to become a sports scholar at Eastbourne College. The main reason for the move, besides the academics, is the amazing triathlon club down here in Eastbourne. I have been lucky enough to be able to join Bodyworks triathlon club. Bodyworks is a triathlon performance centre and a British Triathlon Satellite Centre, which has world-class athletes and is lead by Glenn Cook – who has been the head coach and coached multiple Olympic Teams. With this wealth of knowledge and elite athletes training alongside me, I hope to further progress in the sport. Getting used to the new school has been tricky, but so far I am loving it, it has awesome facilities and some great people here.

 

At the start of the month, I had the final race in the Brit Tri-National Super Series, the ‘Big Weekend’ held at Mallory Park. This was going to be a tough race, as not only was I racing against Juniors, I would also be racing against elite Seniors. Again this was another sprint distance and I was feeling in great form, I was hoping to get an overall top 10 and secure the win in the series. We got into the water and the starting horn sounded, and we were off! I got a really good start and found myself with clear water, but due to a lack of concentration, I was heading towards the wrong buoy! I instantly realised, but by this time I had been swamped and the carnage began. It was quite a violent swim, and there was chaos at every buoy, but eventually, I exited the water. I jumped on the bike and started pushing, trying to close up the group just in front. I caught up and for the first half of the bike, we worked well together, closing the gap to the lead group to just 13 seconds. However, from here the group just stopped working and we failed to bridge the gap. The seconds kept rising and by the time we hit T2 the gap had grown to over 30 seconds. I had a dreadful T2 and came out last from our group. I had lots of work to do and set off running hard. I instantly started overtaking people, and I was feeling really good. By the third and final lap, I was in 10th place, but it was around here that I started to hurt. I tried pushing on but I was overtaken just before the finish and had to settle for 11th overall, and 5th GB junior. This was enough to secure the overall win, which I was super pleased with and a great high to finish off my best ever domestic season.

 

The next day I had been selected to race for Eastbourne Performance Centre in the Accenture mixed relay cup, which included Australian teams and all the top university tri teams such as Leeds and Loughborough. The race was going to be tough, but I was looking forward to it. I was on the second leg and had a very good race, bringing the team into the top ten. The team did really well and we came 9th overall, even beating Loughborough Uni!

After this race, I had some time to get some solid training in before my next International race, which was Superleague Jersey where we would be doing the ‘Enduro’ format, swim, bike, run times two with no break, however, our second swim had been taken out because it was too cold. I had high expectations for this race, wanting to repeat a result similar to last years. I felt in really good shape and was looking to see if the change I had made helped. However, the actual race was far from the idyllic race I had hoped for. As soon as we got onto the pontoon I knew it was too crowded, there were almost 3 people in each starting position meant for one person. This meant that as soon as we dived in, it was horrendous. People were instantly swimming on each other and even diving on top of people. I was pulled back and dunked so many times on the way to the first buoy. It was the most violent swim I’d been in, and one person even dislocated their shoulder. Finally, I exited the water, many positions behind where I wanted to be and where I should’ve been coming out. I went to unzip my wetsuit but instantly knew something was wrong, as the zip was not coming down. I got to transition and realised my wetsuit had been ripped and that my zip got broken in the swim. At this point, I had a decision to make. The first being to pull out and not finish the race. The second, to finish the race but continue in my wetsuit! Of course, I chose the second, and onto the bike I went with lots of people staring at me! I started overtaking people and made my way up the field, at this stage I was feeling quite good. However, after the short first bike, we came back to transition for the run. At this stage, I was starting to heat up, and by the time I started running, I wasn’t feeling good. Back into transition and back on the bike we went. This was where it went downhill, I started slipping back and was now starting to really overheat. I lost concentration and went down on a slippy roundabout. But luckily not much pain as I was padded by the wetsuit! Finally, it was time for the last run, by this time I had lost all hopes for a good position and could only think about getting out of my wetsuit. I eventually finished coming home in 20th, which isn’t too bad considering! Overall the rest of the weekend was really good, and I managed to get into the athletes after-party and have dinner with all the pros, which was great to find out more information.

Next month I have my final race of the season which is Superleague Malta, which is another international. Hopefully, here we won’t have to wear a wetsuit and I can finally show what I know I am capable of!

Thanks to everyone for the support so far, Hamish.

August Update – European Junior Cup Podium

Despite only racing once this month, this has possibly been one of the best and most exciting times of the year I’ve had. On returning from the French GP, I decided to miss a race I had marked in my calendar (UK school games) and instead continue training and put all my focus on the first and only European Cup I would be doing this year. The European Cup I had chosen to do was Riga Junior European Cup, a Cup that is supported by Brit Tri and has always had a high quality of field. European cups bring together some of the best athletes in Europe to race over a series of events.

I was slightly worried heading into the race as I had been put in the last spot on the pontoon due to never having done a cup before, but it didn’t affect me too much. I had quite a good swim and came out in the top 15, after avoiding all the carnage at the turn buoys. Straight onto the bike and I found myself instantly chasing after seeing what was the lead group form just up the road. I caught the group just before the first dead turn of the race. The group started riding quite slow, but I didn’t want this to happen as there was a solo rider who had gone on his own. I wanted to catch this guy as he was the Youth Olympic champion and I knew we couldn’t let him get away.

I launched a few attacks and this got the group working. We caught the leader up by the second lap, and the group had established a big gap to the chasers. Just after halfway someone else in the group launched an attack, and 4 of us got away. We worked well together and built up a 30-second gap heading into transition. By this time our breakaway was only 3 people, me, a New Zealand, and a Danish athlete. I had a swift transition and was straight onto the heels of the Kiwi. We instantly dropped the Danish athlete and settled into a quick pace. By lap 2 of 3, I started dropping off the leader and couldn’t run any faster. I tried holding my own pace and settled back into a good rhythm, but behind me, some fast runners were coming through. With around half a kilometre to go, I was overtaken by a very fast running Swedish athlete. This meant I dropped back into 3rd place. I kept pushing all the way to the line and managed to take a bronze medal at my first ever European Cup! This is definitely one of my best ever results, considering I still have 2 years left in this age group and I beat a lot of people who have got some very good results.

The European Triathlon Union wrote a very in-depth article on the race, here it is https://europe.triathlon.org/news/article/riga_what_a_race

After Riga, I jetted straight off to Spain for some warm weather training with my friend and the Youth European Champ, Igor Bellido. I had a great time in Seville, learning lots of new things I could take into my own training. We did some solid sessions and I’m looking forward to going back again sometime soon.

Later on in the month, I had another training camp, however, this one was slightly different. This one was the London Marathon Young Athletes Camp, so it was purely running based. This camp brings together the best middle and long-distance runners in the country, for a week of training with British Athletics coaches and performance athletes. This year’s camp was being held at the University of Birmingham, which meant I got a good look at what the University is like, and university life itself. The week was very hard, with some tough grass and track sessions, and more mileage than I usually do. But I found it very beneficial, learning lots of new things and meeting some great coaches and athletes. It has given me a deeper insight into Uni Life and training as a full-time athlete, something I hope to do one day.

Next month sees me doing my last proper Triathlon – The British Champs in Leicester, which is also the final of the Super Series. I’m then doing Super League Jersey International again in late September, which I’m really looking forward to! I also start 6th form at my new School, Eastbourne College. I’m very excited about this as I’m launching myself into a new training environment with Team Bodyworks and the Eastbourne Performance Centre!

Hamish

July Update – French GP

July has been another busy but rewarding month. The month started with my first event, which was English Schools Track. I was really looking forward to doing this race as it was my first time doing the summer track version as opposed to the usual wet winter cross country. It was completely different to what I was used to, and I struggled to adapt to all the new things you had to do at a major track event. Therefore I didn’t have the race I wanted. I came 13th, with a disappointing time. I had hoped for much higher, but on this day it wasn’t to be, so I had to accept where I came and just enjoy the awesome experience that I got. I enjoyed the last time racing for Kent Schools, and look forward to my next Summer English Schools.

After ES I headed up North to enjoy the tropical weather they were having and get in some good training with a great athlete and friend, Dan Dixon. I had a really good week and did some solid training leading into my next Tri , which was Hetton Lyons Super Series. For this race we would again be competing along with Juniors, however the format for this race was much different. Much like Europeans the race was done as Heats and finals, with a much shorter racing distance. The heats were held in the morning, and I had a very good race, qualifying first with any major effort required.

I had a few hours to recover from the heats, before it was time for the finals. However during this time the heavens had opened, and the track was soaking wet! Luckily it warmed up and we were allowed to race. I had a great swim, and came out the water in 2nd. However my transition went awfully, and I came out near last! I had to work really hard, but managed to make it onto the front pack by the end of the first lap. I decided to just stick in for the rest of the bike. I managed to the lead the group into transition, and I came out in the top three. The pace was rapid from the start, so I decided to set my own pace. This worked out well, and by the end of the first lap I had made it back to third place, however halfway through this final lap, another guy came flying past me and I was unable to go with him. However he dragged me up to the person ahead, but it was to late and I finished 4th, 4 seconds behind 3rd. I was very pleased with this result as I was 2nd Youth and had a very good race. Leaving me standing in first place heading into the last National Super Series Race. There was one final race of the day, the mixed relay. Our region had a very good team, and after a tough race we managed to come away with the win. A great day for South-East!

After Hetton I headed off to another training camp in Leeds, with the ENGland squad. It was a great week getting to train with the pros at the Leeds centre and other good england athletes.

This camp lead nicely into my last race of the month, which was another international race in France, for the third round of the French GP, in Muret. I was really grateful for the team Valons De La Tour to offer me this racing opportunity for them. They were a great host and I can’t wait to do more races for them in the future. The race itself was changed to a Duathlon, due to the strong current in the river. This was slightly annoying however it didn’t phase me too much, and after a tough race I finished in 9th place against the elite seniors, 3rd Junior. I was very pleased with this result and even more happy to help the team get the stage win, and help them progress in the league!

August is going to be another great month, with a european cup in Riga, a training camp in Spain and perhaps another French Grand Prix. As always thanks to everyone who supports me.

Hamish

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