April Update

April has been a challenging month for me, both mentally and physically. Under usual circumstances, I would have already kicked off my season off at an early European Cup and set a benchmark for the upcoming year, but due to the Pandemic I was unable to get out to any races or they were all cancelled. In light of this, my coach and I decided that I should give a 5km race another go and hope for better conditions this time!

I decided to do the PB5k again as it is relatively local and other people from my training group were doing it. It would have been nice to do Podium 5k, but it wasn’t worth the risk of travelling so far up North when there was a race down here. After watching the Podium race online and seeing other triathletes set some very fast times, I was very excited to see what I could run. I was feeling very fit and knew a good time was capable. I had set a time of 14.30 in my head, it was a tough ask considering I’d only just ran 14.46 a few months previous, but it was a time I thought I could reach. The field was looking pretty strong with some good depth, but unfortunately, again the weather wasn’t on my side. The rain held off, but there were still 20mph winds on this very exposed bendy course. I was gridded on row 3 in a wave of around 40 runners, and 200 overall in our race due to Covid measures. I managed to get a good start and found myself leading the race by the first big bend. It was clear from the start that due to the conditions this was going to be a tactical race as opposed to a fast race. This was a little annoying as I had come here to run a PB and wasn’t worried about where I would place. Due to this,s I decided to take on the race and led up to the first straight into the headwind. I then tucked in and let the others do some work. The group was still fairly big and no one wanted to take it on. The race was very cagey and it was clear people were prone to tangling with each other on the bends, so I made sure I was near the front and out of trouble. As we entered the tailwind section again I went back to the front and started to pick up the pace, causing the group to string out and splinter. We hit the halfway mark in around 7:17, so I was on pace for my target. I was feeling really strong and I knew that breaks in the group were bound to happen very soon, so I tried keeping myself up at the front and near the action.

As we hit the headwind there was an instant surge in the pace, and I got slightly caught out. I was stuck behind a few runners and had to come out into the wind to try and close the gap to the leaders. Two leaders had broken away and had put in a strong gap on the headwind and downhill section. I was in around 6th place with a couple of runners just ahead of me and the main group just behind. I knew the tailwind was the place to make up some positions as after that there was a downhill section, and then just the final run into the finish. I pushed hard and found myself in 4th position just before the downhill. I caught the guy in 3rd place on the downhill and decided to run as hard as I could pass him and hopefully put a gap into him. I opened up a gap of around 10 metres. I maintained this gap right up to the final 100m, where we then took a sharp right up into a small hill and then left onto the final finish. I was really feeling the initial kick now and the person behind was catching me. I managed to just hold on and crossed the line in third place, with a one-second gap to the person behind. I ran my final km in 2:43, which helped me improve on the time I was heading for. I crossed the line and had just ran a 14:17! I was really pleased with this time considering the tactical nature of the race and the windy and challenging conditions of the course. The time has put me in equal 18th place with Gordon Benson on the UK U20 all-time 5km rankings, with another year left in the age group. Hopefully, I can improve on this position in the near future.

Unfortunately a few days after the 5km I became very ill, having to stop training entirely for almost 2 weeks. Somehow I had managed to catch Salmonella. This is not ideal preparation leading into my first triathlon of the year, but I have recovered well and am now back into full training. I had a strong Winter base, and after a few sessions back I’m already feeling back to near full fitness. I have another 2 weeks of hard training to get ready, and then I’m into my first taper of the year for the Euro Trials in Llanelli! I’m really excited to get stuck back into racing and seeing how my training has paid off. I’ll keep you updated on how it goes.

Hamish

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March Update

After having settled into a new year, and the easing of another national lockdown, I thought it was about time that I wrote another blog on what I have been up to for the last few months.  Last September, I was lucky enough to head out to France where I was finally able to race in a quality field. The first race was located in the centre of France, in the city of Chateauroux. I entered the race with no real expectations, as I didn’t know how fit I was or how I would compare to the rest of the field. My main goal was to get as good a swim as I could and do  my best to help out my team – Vallons de la Tour triathlon. The swim was in a lovely lake with a beach start. After all the warm weather in the previous weeks and the weather on the day, it was deemed a non wetsuit race, which normally doesn’t suit me, however I managed to get a really good start and found myself near the front of the race very early on.

After the race I had to focus on recovery as the next race was just 1 week later. This time we were racing in the French Alps. The race was located in a small village called St Pierre D’Albigny. The layout of the race was completely different and presented a very challenging bike course. I had heard a few people tell me it was the hardest bike course they had ever done and they weren’t lying! Straight out of the swim you started climbing up a mountain, with no rest bite or easing off. Once you had reached the summit, it was back down the other side and along the switch backs to the bottom again. We then had to repeat that all again for a 2nd lap with over 550m of elevation for both laps. 

The plan for this race was to attack the swim and open up a gap. I wanted to make sure I was on my own down the technical descents and not in a group with an increased chance of crashing. The weather on the day was miserable and the lake was much colder than the previous week, meaning for a wet suit swim. Another beach start meant for chaos at the first buoy situated only 100m from the start. Luckily I managed to avoid most of the carnage and found myself in the lead after about 150m. I pushed on and started to open a gap. I exited the water with around a 5 second gap to the next swimmer and a decent gap to the main group. It was now time for this horrid bike course, I knew what I had to do and didn’t hesitate in continuing to push hard up the first climb. Holding over 350 watts for over 10 minutes meant I opened up a decent gap to the summit. It was now time for the sketchy descent. The rain continued to pour down and the roads were super slippy. I took it a bit tentative on the first lap allowing the others to close slightly, but we were still doing +70kmph and chucking it into the switch backs. As we reached the end of the final lap I was joined by two others and we went into t2 with a big gap to the next group. I went out onto the run with one other guy from the bike and we started to build a gap. I was feeling quite strong , but I decided to stay on the other guys hip, to try and save a bit of energy. We got to around the 4km mark on the final lap of 2 and I was still feeling strong. However, in one lapse of concentration the other guy put in a small kick and I didn’t realise until it was too late. He opened up a small gap of around 5 metres. I tried closing up the gap but couldn’t. It stayed like this right up until the final hundred metres, where he managed to grow the lead and I was unable to catch him. It was a slightly disappointing result, as I knew I had the legs to win the race and had worked really hard on the bike to build up a gap. However it was a really good learning experience and I was just very happy to have been able to race at a high quality event in such a difficult year. I want to thank my team Vallons De la Tour for giving me the opportunity to race again in 2020 and helping me stay out there for two weeks. I’m looking forward to racing with them again this year, where were hoping to gain promotion to D1. 

Later on in 2020 I was able to race at the PB5k when the lockdown restrictions started to ease again in mid December. This was my first official 5km race so I was going to get a registered time, as opposed to the 14.45 that I had ran unofficially at Chichester in February. I was feeling in good condition and there were some very good runners there that would help to push me on. I was in the 4th row of wave 1 so I was at the back, but I still managed to get a decent start and found myself towards the front of a group of around 20 people. We went through the first km in around 2.50, which felt quite comfortable. The group started to whittle down at around 2km which we passed in 5.45. Again I was still feeling very good and was in a good position, tucked in behind a few taller runners. We went through 3km in 8.37, so I was on target for a very good PB. But things started to go wrong around here. I found myself caught out and boxed in as a split in the group started to occur. There wasn’t much I could do and once I got out, the gap had opened up and I found myself just off the leading group with one other runner. I stayed behind this runner and let him do the majority of the work into the headwind. We passed 4km in 11.32. So I was still on target for a very good PB. The final 1km was mostly downhill and I started to open up giving all that I could. I crossed the line in finished in 12 place. With 14.43 on my watch which would have been a PB. However for some reason both timing and distances of this race were quite off for almost everyone. My official time was 14.46 which is one second off what I did in February, but the distance recorded by everyone on their watches had the race at around 5.07-5.1km which is a little annoying. According to GPS, which isn’t the most accurate I ran 14.30 which is a big PB, and although unofficial there was lots I could take away from the race. I ran a very good time considering the miserable conditions and rain during the race. I also raced quite well and was in good positions for most of the race. I’m hoping to beat this time on Easter Monday, where I am again racing at the PB5k, with some even better names on the start list this time, including people such as Jake Wightman. 

Training has been going very well recently, and I am fortunate enough to have been able to keep my swimming up at my College Pool. I have achieved significant PBs in the pool with an 8:49 800m TT. There are still areas I need to work on, but I’m the best swim shape I’ve ever been and will hopefully be able to make it out in the front swim pack now. I have also achieved good numbers in the power testing we have done on the bike recently and I can’t wait to get racing now! 

Hamish

Lockdown Update

It’s been a while since I last wrote a blog, so I thought I would give you an update on what I’ve done and how things are going. During the lockdown, the focus of my training had a big change. Rather than doing a mixture of aerobic and anaerobic sessions, my training switched to almost entirely aerobic work. This meant that my mileage increased and my aim was to build a solid aerobic base that I could build on over Winter and use during next year. Alongside this training, my club, Team Bodyworks held weekly zoom calls. These were very beneficial as not only did it give us a chance to catch up with the rest of the squad, it also gave us key opportunities to learn as many of the calls had guests on. These guests included professionals, ex-professionals, and leaders in select fields. One of the best talks I think we had came from Andy Jameson, an Olympic medallist in swimming and now a leader in major banking firms whilst also being a sports commentator and commentating on 8 Olympic Games so far. He talked to us about the benefits of visualisation and having coping strategies.

During the easing of the lockdown, I started doing a few time trials and some testing to see where my fitness was and to see what needed improving. I was surprised at how in shape I was and i produced a few PB’s and found myself not far off PB’s. The first time trial I did was the England Athletics virtual 5km Champs. This was a tough race, and I messed my up my pacing, going out too hard. I finished with 15:19, which was a considerable amount of time off my PB, but I wasn’t expecting to run fast considering the type of training I had been doing. A week after this I also did a 1500m TT this time on the track. Again my pacing was off and it was quite a windy day, but I recorded another PB of 4.08. Nothing special but again considering the circumstances I was quite pleased with the time.

After these TTs, my training changed a little and I started adding a few small sessions in, nothing major, but it was nice to start going hard again, even if the reps were just short.

The next time trial I had was a 3km on the road. I was feeling in much better shape for this one after doing a few sessions and was looking forward to it. I ran quite well and only faded in the final few hundred meters, recording a time of 8.38 which was a big PB.

Around this time I also received news that races in France were going ahead and that there would be no more high level racing in the UK. This news was a bit annoying, but I was happy I would at least be able to get some high-level races in this year, even if they were in France.
I will write about how these went in my next blog!

I will be heading back to Eastbourne soon, and I can’t wait to be back training with the squad, it has been very missed!

I currently don’t have any more races planned, so at the moment I am just looking forward to getting back into some tough sessions and hopefully some cross races soon.

Thanks, Hamish

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.

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!

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