Update

Starting this blog is not that easy when you’ve left it 12months. Back then I was still chasing my pro licence and Lucy had yet to win a pro race. Now she is a global triathlon superstar and I am the most allergic pro on the circuit. Needless to say a lot has changed, but we still wake up when it’s “too early to swim”. We still do “just one more hour” of pushing the pedals and still run around most of the time “wondering when we might feel good at running!”.

I often get asked by those bold enough to ask what is it like living in Lucy Charles’s shadow? And I presume some people might often think that but wouldn’t ask for fear of offending me. I honestly do not take offence from that statement. Aside from the obvious that we are a team here is why it does not bother me.

I met Lucy when I was 20 years old, a young National standard swimmer studying at University. I was doing alright. still getting PB’s in the pool and good grades in my exams. Lucy was a 17 international level swimmer with a very real prospect of qualifying for the 2012 Olympics. From the day we met there has always been a difference in our level of performance. It never bothered me then and doesn’t bother me now.

It’s not because I am not competitive. Not that I’m content with my performances or that I lack the belief in my abilities. Anyone who knows me or has trained alongside me will tell you how hard working and positive I am. I give my all in every session and take my training very seriously. My own achievements are something I am very proud of, even if they are dwarfed when compared to Lucy’s.

The thing is, I take pride in progress. When Lucy 1st started triathlon she was winning Age Group races from day 1. It took me a year to win my 1st Age group race. By year 2 Lucy had her pro license. A feat that took me 4 years. By year 4 Lucy is 2nd at the Ironman World Championships. Who knows, maybe In 8 years that could be me! The fact is we are both still making progress and both still giving 100%. You can not do more than your best. So this is why It does not bother me.

I intend to blog a little more often about the CharlesBarclay preparations leading into the 2018 Ironman World Championships. Thanks for reading.

Challenge Morgán Gran Canaria

My 2017 Triathlon season has got off to a great start. I was content with sitting out the early season ironman 70.3 Dubai race in January which Lucy went for. I was still recovering from the post Kona come down. My mind and body needed a rest from an action packed 2016 season. After a great training camp at Club La Santa Lanzarote throughout March I was itching to race again. I had spent the winter months working hard on my weaknesses. My running has steadily been improving helped massively from training with the Orion Harriers Running club. It’s still a long way from where I would like it to be but I’m pleased with the progress. I’ve lowered my 5k Park run time by 40s in the past 4 months. My bike has been the biggest focus throughout the winter, I’ve Increased my FTP while lowering my bodyweight by 2kg. I’ve also spent a lot of time working on a more aerodynamic position. I am really starting to notice these improvements.

Lee Valley Active Training World half marathon

All of the improvements indicated I would be on for achieving my season goal which is to obtain my professional race license. As mentioned in a previous blog I need to be within 8% of the winners time at a recognised event such as Challenge or Ironman. I did say in that blog “I respect BTF’s rules and will not look to chase for a license unless it’s clear that I’m within 8% of the very best in the world”. Who would have thought then that arguably the best triathlete of all time would be at my next race. The double Olympic gold medalist Alistair Brownlee would be making his Middle distance debut at my opening race of the season. Whilst I laughed at the irony of my situation, I also appreciated the opportunity to be part of his debut event.

Photo credit Keith Perry – Welwyn Hilly TT

Race recap

The swim was ok, 1st age grouper out the water and felt very relaxed. Probably a bit too relaxed upon reflection as my Avg HR was in zone 2-3 throughout. I think I might have spent too much time concentrating on trying to go the right way and then dodging oncoming swimmers on the 2nd lap than actually putting the foot down and swimming.

Photo Credit James Mitchell – Swim Exit Gran Canaria

The Bike
90km’s of hill reps. The bike course goes along the stunning coastline of Puerto Rico on an out and back loop which you ride 4 times. Each lap has 4 distinct climbs which meant we had 16 climbs to test the legs. Ouch. It really did feel like a very long hill rep session. My Race strategy went out the window after the 1st lap as there really was nowhere you could open up a sustained effort. It was a case of smash the legs up the hill and descend as best you could. Each lap was quicker than the last as my confidence grew on the descents.

Photo credit James Mitchell – Descending at Gran Canaria

My avg power was 252 throughout but 292NP. I was very aware of my deficit to Alistair Brownlee on the bike, I knew that every second he gained on me meant a % off of gaining my criteria. But I did not loose focus or let this demotivate me. It was great to watch the woman’s race unfold. Lucy was riding extremely well and was right up there with quite literally the best in the world!

Photo credit James Mitchell – Push!!

The Run

I had no idea how my legs would feel off the bike, I had ignored my race plan and had been at suicide pace for most of the climbs. I didn’t expect my legs to work as well as they did, but this is a testament to the conditioning I have done throughout the winter. The run course was another 4 loop out and back course with some nasty climbs. It had started to warm up so I made sure I applied all the lessons I had learnt from dealing with the heat at Kona. I felt great running once I settled. On the way back from my 1st lap I spotted Ryf looking dominant charging down the tarmac. I thought to myself ok don’t let her catch me. Then not far behind I saw Lucy? What on earth was going on?? And oh god now I really can’t let her catch me!!!

Must have been a bad smell going through there

I spent the remainder of that lap trying to figure out how Lucy had got so close to Ryf, she had gained about 4mins since I had last saw her which didn’t make sense. Back out onto the 2nd lap and I could see Ryf struggling. Lucy was closing the gap and smiling looking really strong. I had totally forget about my race at this point absorbed in trying to do the maths on the woman’s race. However when I came back to reality and looked at my pace I was actually running really well.

Finding my legs off the bike

Out onto the 3rd Lap and Lucy was within seconds of Ryf now, but with fearsome looking Emma Pallant running strong and gaining fast. Into the 4th and final lap, the 1st lady I saw was Lucy. OH MY GOD, she has overtaken the Ironman world champion. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. At the time I did not know that Ryf had actually made an error on the bike and headed into T2 a lap too early. So I thought Lucy had just gone insane and put a 600w surge at the end of the bike, caught Ryf up and was now running like a nutter. Hence why I spent most of my run trying to do the maths.
I finished my race in a time of 4:28, I was fastest age grouper of the day by over 7mins but I wasn’t with 8% of Alistair Brownlee’s time despite my best efforts (9.7%). However, I was 6.9% within 2nd place Pieter Heemeryck and 4.9% within GBR’s Mark Buckingham. Of the 36 Pro men who started my time would have placed me 14th, and I know that had I been in their race from the start I could have gone quicker.
After my race I eagerly awaited the finish of the Woman’s race. It was Emma Pallent who crossed the line 1st after a stunning 1:15 run split with Lucy just 6s behind. I’m immensely proud of what we have both we achieved at Gran Canaria. I’m super motivated moving forward and really looking forward to getting back on the start line in just 2 weeks time at Challenge Lisboa.

Photo credit James Mitchell

 

Finally I would just like to say a huge thankyou to all my sponsors for their support and to everyone who voted for me as male age group athlete of the year.

 

Mind the Gap

I’m often asked the question “when are you going to go pro Reece” to which I normally reply “when the time is right”. With my recent successes in triathlon it’s easy to assume that a professional career as a Triathlete is imminent.  But when is the time truly right?

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Killing myself to take the overall win at Outlaw Half Holkham Hall

I wanted to post this blog to reflect on some of the challenges we (Lucy and I) have encountered in chasing and bridging the gap to becoming a professional Triathlete.

British Triathlon Federation (BTF) has recently updated their criteria for obtaining a professional race licence. The rationale for this was to raise the overall standard of the professional long distance race circuit. Admittedly, I was against the new rules at 1st. It directly impacted my partner Lucy Charles and was holding her back in her professional development.

In brief, Lucy had her professional licence application rejected after becoming a double age group world champion. The reason BTF gave was that she was not within 8% of Daniela Ryf’s time in Kona. At the time of that race the new rules had not been made known to us. Now I’m not saying that Lucy could have indeed finished within 8% of Ryf’s time. But I’m sure that she could have gone faster. She was 30 mins in front of 2nd place in her Age group and it was her 1st Kona experience.  It would have been ludicrous for her to start burying herself chasing a time and risk a DNF when the age group world title was hers to lose. Especially given the ridiculous heat we experienced last year on the big island.

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Lucy with Ryf after the 70.3 worlds Zell am Ze

The interest in mine and Lucy’s journey has always been about the rate of our progression from pure swimmers to triathletes. It’s never been about how good we were from day one (we really wasn’t very good at all to begin with!). The progress trajectory we are on meant that it was only a matter of time before Lucy would cross the threshold and meet the criteria. Fortunately BTF reviewed Lucy’s application taking her progress into account and granted her a licence in time for her to register for Ironman Lanzarote where she finished on the podium.

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Lucy finishing Ironman Lanza, 1st race as a Pro

Thus, my attitude towards the new criteria got off to bad start as it failed to take into consideration potential. But as time moves on I’ve began to accept and actually respect this criteria. I’m used to strict criteria being set by a previous national governing body British Swimming. There were clear cut qualification times in swimming from county all the way through to international level. However in the pool a 50 seconds for 100m free QF time is the same for everyone anywhere in the world. Unfortunately the within 8% of a winner at a given event is a little more varied and open for interpretation.

8% does seem a little random, and hard to achieve given the variations between Pro vs. Amateur. But British sport, and indeed British Triathlon is in the best position it’s ever been. An outstanding medal haul at the Rio Olympics finishing 2nd in the overall standing in front of previous powerhouses like China. It’s no wonder the bar has been set so high. We are amongst the best nations in the world for sport, and I’m very proud to be part of it. Having spent countless hours on the turbo watching hours of the games I’ve never been more motivated to achieve in sport. It is for that reason that I accept the 8% rule set by BTF, I embrace it as a challenge. A goal to meet.

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With the olympic torch before the London 2012 Games 

But where does this currently leave me in terms of bridging that gap?

Well, in short, tantalisingly close, but not there yet!

I’ve recently listened to a brilliant podcast interview with Pro Triathlete Will Clarke on Cup of Tri;

http://www.oxygenaddict.com/podcast/2016/8/24/cup-of-tri-triathlon-podcast-87-will-clarke

Will talks about having to ‘up his game’ in order to stay the same level because the standard is forever increasing. My progress has come on tremendously over the past 2 years, and I’m showing no signs that my progress has started to slow down. However I’m under no illusions. I’m not at the world class professional level yet. As Will referred to, the bar is forever being raised; it’s up to me to progress at a rate that sees me get over it. I’m doing my best…

 

The illusive 8% Rule. In terms of performance the variation of meeting that criterion is huge. You could race in an event where not a strong pro field turns up or be pitched up against reigning world champ Jan Frodeno as I was in Lanza where I finished a tormenting 9.7% behind the winner. Then there are the variations in rules from pro’s to amateurs to consider. I know for a fact I lost minutes on the bike to the pros in Lanza where they were permitted to cross the other side of the road on a tricky descent. Again in Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire where my wave set off an hour later than the pro’s and had a storm to contend with. Perhaps the final and most important variation is the lifestyle of pro vs. Amateur. Finishing within 8% of someone who trains eats sleeps and repeats for a living is not easy when you have a full time job. These factors cannot be ignored and definitely make that 8% a colossal mountain to climb.

So the answer to the question is it the best thing to do now?

Not yet. I will go pro if/when the time is right. That time will be if/when I finish within 8% of a winner whom I consider to be world class. By that I mean I respect BTF’s rules and will not look to chase for a license unless it’s clear that I’m within 8% of the very best in the world. Until that time I will continue to train every bit as hard and enjoy triathlon every bit as much as I would if I were pro. At the very least it gives me an extraordinary hard goal to strive for and I’m very motivated to achieve it.

Once again a massive thank you to my team managers Martin and Mark and my sponsors:

HUUB, Compressport, Boardman, Skechers, Moonlight Design, Lazer, Pedal Cover,Active Training World, Iprint Stuff, Hatfield Cycles, Tannus Tyres, Bedfordshire University Sports Science Department, Baker Pringle, Your Town, KAYMAC, GLL Sport foundation, Stealth Nutrition, Curranz.

 

Ironman 70.3 Saffordshire 2016

How often can you walk into a virtual strangers house, pitch up a blow up bed in their living room and have them offer to cook you dinner? Dean, Mark and Annette Edwards, your hospitality was amazing, thank you for making us feel so welcome. That is one of the many amazing aspects of sport, the unity it can create between complete strangers. I had met and shared a room with Dean Edwards before in Kona, one of the hardest working guys I know and since become a great friend and inspiration, but I had never before met his parents. They had very kindly allowed us to stay the night as they lived near to the course at Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire. We sat up talking until late as though we had known each other for ages, we shared our common passion and it made the conversations natural and interesting. Mark, Annette, I can see now why Dean is such a great guy and I’m really looking forward to racing with him again, this time it will be down under in September. Onto the race report.

Swim

I felt like I was having a really good swim until I saw the results, I was definitely swimming faster than a 24 min pace. I am in the best swimming form I’ve been in for a long while and the results just don’t add up. Having spoken to Paul Newsone from Swim Smooth later on we figured our timing  chip must have been triggered before we entered the water while on the pontoon waiting because a lot of people’s times seem to be slightly slower than they would have normally been. Either that or I swam incredibly off course. The pro’s started in the water so didn’t have this problem (that’s my excuse for Lucy beating me!…again).

I swam next to Dan Bradshaw for virtually all of the 1900m, Dan is a fantastic swimmer who used to compete for Bath University. I knew that if I was with him then I was definitely moving fast. However it was virtually impossible for us to stick together towards the end as we swam into the heart of the previous wave. We were both weaving in and out of the slower swimmers and desperately trying to avoid a stray breaststroke kick to the side of the head.

As a top end AGer, it’s sometimes frustrating being at the back of a multiple wave start like Ironman Staffordshire. I feel that Ironman could perhaps adopt the system they use at the London marathon and have a good for age category that set off slightly behind the pro’s. It would probably be better for everyone as we tend to startle people when we start ploughing through the water past slower swimmers, and it’s even worse on the bike. I’m sure that the many completing rather than competing would enjoy their experience much more if they didn’t have a motivated mob of AGers clawing their way past. I fully respect everyone taking on the challenge and admire those racing to raise money for charity but do feel the race would be better for all if they kept those completing and competing slightly separate. Anyway I diverse, back to the race. A smooth transition and onto the bike.

The Bike

Again very dangerous and difficult to navigate round the age groupers from previous waves, especially as the 1st 10 miles of the course take on some very narrow bends on country roads with some technical descents. Despite the difficulties, I was having a blinder on my Boardman Bike, I was pushing well over 300 watts and my NP was gradually climbing as the roads opened out. I knew that I was sitting 2nd in my age group and knew that I would probably stay in 2nd for a while. Dan Bradshaw who I had swam with was leading, he is also phenomenal biker. He raced last year and posted a faster bike split than reigning World Champion Javier Gomez.

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Photo taken while exiting T1, No aero bars allowed during this section for safety reason

I also knew that not far behind me would be another phenomenal athlete, and great friend Dean Edwards. Dean is hard as nails and works harder than anyone I know. I knew that if he caught me it would be game over. For a race that had no expectations it had turned into a battle, and I was absolutely loving it! I dug deeper into the legs and pushed on. The heavens opened up on us with a cloud burst around 60k in, the rain had made the roads really slippery. In the interest of safety I had no choice but to ease off the gas slightly to control the bike. Had it been an A race I might have been more inclined to keep pushing and take the risk, but with Ironman UK Bolton looming and my last chance to qualify for Kona, I thought that taking that risk was too much of a gamble. I still pressed on hard, albeit at a slightly cautious pace and made it to T2 soaked through and cold, but safe in a time of 2:26. Onto the run.

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Loving the new Boardman Bike and Lazer Helmet, photo taken before the rain came

The Run

Initial thoughts “no chance mate, go grab yourself one of those amazing smelling burgers they are cooking for the finishers and call it a day” secondary thoughts were “ahh sod it, the burgers can wait and what harm can a couple more blisters do”

My legs felt pretty good considering the effort on the bike and despite the pain I felt in the 1st few miles. My feet are in a very bad way after Ironman Lanzarote just 3 weeks ago. My toes genuinely feel bruised from how I’ve been walking awkwardly around blisters the past couple weeks. However within a couple of miles that pain had subsided and I was running reasonably well. I always knew that my running speed would not be on great form as I just haven’t been able to put in the miles running after Lanza. But I was definitely gaining on Dan and knew that if I held my pace I could catch him and take 1st place. I was genuinely excited about how this race could unfold, I live for racing and liked how I was in a situation where it was just me vs my mind. If I conquered my thoughts and maintained my pace, I would win. I wouldn’t say it was easy, but it was certainly far easier than 3 weeks previous at Lanza. You’ll know from my previous LANZA BLOG that I had a serious battle in the marathon section of the full ironman Lanzarote with Petr who eventually went on to beat me with just 4km to go, soul destroying. But I went to the depth of hell and back again in that race trying to hold him off for a little over 38kms, so this race wasn’t even a scratch in the surface to that level of discomfort.

I finally caught up with Dan with 4km to go and took the lead. The run course had become particully busy at this point and the muddy section through the forest had become so boggy I almost lost my Skechers trying to move through it. Thankfully all the corss country practice with Hoddesdon Tri Club throughout the winter had tought me how to handle the mud!

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Shot taken from Hoddesdon Tri Club cross country back in the winter months

After passing Dan to take the lead I really enjoyed the final few KM’s and found a burst of speed, probably adrenaline lifting me through the final lap and through to the magic red carpet or possibly the smell of those burgers which I had to run past 3 times before finally getting my hand one. I soaked up every second of the red carpet, high fiving the fans and finding lucys parent who had come up to watch us finish in a total time of 4:21. I then swiftly moved through the finishers tent and finally found one of those burgers which had been teasing me throughout the run, bliss.

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Finishers Photo
1st place 25-29, 2nd amateur overall and 14th including the pro’s. For a race where I had no expectation and probably not in the best place physically to race it was a great result. I’m pleased to say that taking 1st in my age group has enabled me to qualify for the 70.3 World championships in Australia in just a few months. I have accepted my slot and have every intention of rectifying what went so horribly wrong last year at the world championships ZELL AM ZEE. However Kona is still my primary goal and will be focused on qualify for that at my 3rd time racing Ironman UK Bolton in just a few weeks.

 

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Podium Finish with great friend Dean Edwards 3rd and Crazy pink bike rider Dan Bradshaw 2nd

What’s Next?

I’ve been very lucky to have been invited to the BEST swim centre Mallorca by one of my sponsors HUUB to test out some of the latest pioneering technology. Just a few hours after Staffordshire I was on a flight to Spain and have already taken part in so much testing and training I need to write a separate blog to review it all. Look out for my next blog coming very soon with a detailed overview of the latest swim technology. I have to say, even for an ex swimmer, this experience has been very educating and I have lots to take away from it all.

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Lucy, Professor HUUB and I at the BEST swim centre Mallorca

A huge thank you to all my sponsors for your continued support, your belief in me keeps me driven and motivated to succeed. A special mention to my support team Martin Godsave and Mark Charles who have worked tirelessly to support me recently.

Ironman Lanzarote 2016

A special occasion for 25th Ironman Lanzarote with Lucy making her professional race debut and me racing up an age category for the 1st time. 

People who know me will know how hard I’ve worked leading into this race. Countless 5am starts with 10pm finishes in an attempt to balance working and training commitments. I’m very fortunate to have built up a successful  Personal training business where I train such a supportive and understanding group of clients who are genuinely interested in my races. They make working enjoyable and something I look forward to. They say that if you enjoy your job then you’ll never have to work a day again. I’m sure they are all just as excited as I am for me to return and give them some training 😅
I also won’t bang on about how hard it is to manage work and training too much because I’ve got to know a fair few inspiring people who have endured the same process as I through doing this sport and I’m sure there are lots of people out there working just as hard. That said, I’m very proud of what I’ve achieved and I am now more confident than ever in what we (Lucy and I) are doing. 
I felt a certain amount of pressure leading into this race for three reasons. One being that given the performances I had last year I had alot to live up to. 2nd was that I’ve been fortunate to gain the support of some fantastic sponsors recently and felt I need to deliver to justify their support. And 3rd, I felt a certain amount of responsibility for Lucy’s race having taken on the position of managing her training programme.

Onto the race itself. The course at Ironman Lanzarote is notoriously difficult, over 2500m of elevation on the bike with strong winds. It’s argualble the toughest race on the Ironman circuit. The race was in its 25th year which was a special occasion. The race had attracted a stacked professional field with over 40 starts. Most notable was current world champion Jan Frodeno. 

Pictures below show the wind speed for race day and the map of the bike course with its elevation profile.

wind speed (mph) for lanzorte race day
displaying route map + elevation profile

The swim 
Back on the beach, a few paces behind the Lucy Charles vs Jan Frodeno hype, I was calm and ready waiting for the start. 

Lined on the beach ready to start

After the initial 400m brawl and swimming through the slower pro’s I found myself comfortably leading the chase pack. The front swimmers were about 25m or so infront at that point and I had a decision to make. Go for it and get on their feet or stay with the chase pack. However before I could make that decision I stupidly swam into a bouy and then got clobbered by the other swimmers, what a clumbsy idiot! But decision made for me. 

I was happy in the chase pack but not happy leading as the guys behind me were not just tapping my feet but wrestling my legs! I dropped back and let them lead for while before giving them the same foot massage therapy they gave me and then swimming away from them in last 500m to make sure I had some space in T1. The pace was abit too slow for me but I came out feeling like I had hardly exerted myself in a 50:44. 

picture not from race day but same course 1 week earlier

The Bike

A few riders who I really respect and admire had recently told me how strong I’ve been on the bike. This gave me a big confidence boost leading into the race as I was feeling good. There was a small niggle of doubt which stemmed from an Olympic distance race I had done just a few weeks earlier where my bike split had been below par. This came a day after I had set a huge PB at my local TT so I probably left my legs dead for that race and shouldn’t have let it bother me. The mind can play funny games with you In the build up to a key race.

Training ride a few days before the race

A few days into my taper and the legs felt the best they’ve ever felt. I even had to recalibrate by power meter several times as I couldn’t believe the numbers I was seeing and thought it might have been over reading. I’m riding a new Boardman Bike thanks to my sponsors and it has been properly fitted with the Help from Hatfield cycles. I’m super comfy on it, even over 180km I have had no complaints in my back from holding a solid TT position.

After the swim I set off at 270 watts for the 1st hour with an avg HR of 140. It was great to see Lucy after 20km on the way to El Golfo with a full camera crew and lead car beside her. She was having a cracking race! I had a huge confidence boost from seeing her looking so smooth and knew that she would continue to ride well. I passed her signing a little song which is a private joke of ours and she was smiling, as always. 

I normally start to get caught up on the bike around 30km, but it wasn’t until I had passed La Santa around 70km into the race that a few riders finally reeled me in. However these riders were pro’s. 

I started to question if I had perhaps gone out too hard, should I be this far into the race and still be riding ahead of some pros?  would I pay for it later? 

I then reminded myself that numbers don’t lie, my power was good and my HR was low. I had been hitting these numbers in training all week, perhaps my power meter wasn’t over reading after all.

I also reminded myself that a few riders who I really respect had told me I’m riding strong, and they are no bullshit kind of guys who wouldn’t say it if they didn’t mean it, I do need to start believing in myself more.

To my surprise I managed to drop the pro’s who had caught me on the main climb up to Haria. A huge lift as I knew that my legs must be fresher than theirs and that I had paced it well. 
The fast section of the course after Mirador was a little frustrating. The Pro’s had been told in their race briefing that they were allowed to cross the centre white line to take the technical corners and ride the wrong side of the road. However the age groupers were told in their briefing that if they crossed the line it would be a penalty of some sort and possibly and a DQ. So I was stuck in the middle of a pro pack who were all buzzing through these corners crossing the centre lines and I was left for dead cautiously trying not to cross the line in fear of getting a red card. I also ran out of gears coming home along the motor way drag which is something I need to look into for the future. A couple of the fastest age groupers caught me and there was nothing I could do as I was at over 100 cadence trying to hold 250 watts, I had no more gears to grind. 

The remaining bike section was uneventful, I maintained 250-70 watts and started to super hydrate myself ready for what I knew would be a hot run along the Puerto Del Carmen prominard.  

I got an update from a spectator informing me I was in 21st position overall. My final bike time was 5:25 which given the course is a massive improvement on all my previous races. 

The run 

I came into T2 just ahead of 3rd place in my age and slightly behind 1st place who had overtaken me just a few minutes prior to transition. My age group was super fast this year, out splitting many of the pro’s.

I looked up on the big screen showing the live stream of the pro women’s race and saw that Lucy was still leading. Another confidence boost! I’m always nervously checking for her on the run course to see if she is ok. I worry about the bike section as its where things can go wrong. If I see her on the run course I feel relaxed knowing she hasn’t had any drama. It’s funny as she feels the exact same, we worry more about each other than we do ourselves. It was nice to see her on the live feed still riding strong and looking relaxed which made me feel calm heading out for the run. 


I set off onto the run at a suicidal 3 hour marathon pace. I knew I could not maintain that speed, I wasn’t underestimating my ability, it was more about being sensible and realistic that far into the day. I knew it was suicide but for the 1st few KM’s I held the pace as I wanted to shake off the guy who had come into T2 with me. The 1st section of the run is directly into a headwind and I didn’t want him sheltered behind me getting a draft. 

It worked a treat as he had already started to walk when I next saw him at the 10k turn point. However I knew the race was far from over, I was in for a battle for a Kona slot as there were just 2 places available in my age group and I was sitting in 2nd place with a bunch of fast runners about to hunt me down. 
I gave absolutely everything I had and managed to hold 2nd position rite up until I was finally cought by Petr Soukup at 38km’s. Petr has raced as a professional in the ITU races and has a Stella run on him. It was devistating watching my Kona slot run away from me with just 4km to go, but I was already at max, I had nothing more to give. I can’t say that I’m not gutted to have narrowly missed out on a qualification slot, being 9th amateur overall and 28th including the pro’s, I felt I had earned myself a spot. Another year and my time would have been enough, but not on this year, that is just the nature of the sport. I will keep that mental image of Petr running away from me on the final stretch and use it as fuel to grow and develop as an athlete. 

Narrowly missing out on Kona aside, I’m extremely pleased with my performance. My bike split was faster than I had expected. I’ve learnt alot about believing in myself and having the confidence in my ability.

I managed to overcome some demons on the run which I’m pleased with, the run is just as much a mental game as it is physical. I tested myself and I’m pleased with how I held on despite the pain I was in. I could see Petr closing the gap on me at every turn point, no matter how hard I pushed he was there, gaining. That really was a mental battle to just keep fighting as there was always the possibility he could blow. 

I manage to clock a new ironman marathon PB of 3:13 and I didn’t even end up in the medical tent afterwards which is a 1st! 
I’m still progressing and have just clocked an Ironman PB of 9:37 on one of the hardest races there is (not that any ironman is ever easy!)


To summarise;

– Pleased with my performance, yes – I literally could not have given anything more out there.

– Content with it, no – I will keep pushing to be better and stronger, I know there is still much that can be done to improve.

The next big race for me will be Ironman UK in July. My favourite race and another opertunity to qualify for Kona. But for now, a few days rest!

A huge thank you to all my sponsors 
Moonlight Design, Tannus Tyres, Skechers Performance, HUUB, Active Training World, Your Town, Compressport, Boardman Bikes, Baker Pringle & Hatfield Cycles. 


2016 Blog Update with Race Reports

Let’s kick start this blog with what many call the Ironman blues, which turns out to be more of a pain in the backside than a poorly fitted Adamo! I had heard the phrase before but never experienced it until after Kona. I guess I’ve always had a goal to keep me protected against the ‘downs’ but after the massive hype and build up of the Ironman World championships; it really was a startling crash back down to reality. I felt deflated, and for the 1st time in years I didn’t have a clear goal to keep me driven. Thankfully I am a member of a fantastic triathlon team, Hoddesdon Tri club, and within a week of returning from the big island the atmosphere at the club had reignited my enthusiasm to train. For anyone reading this that trains alone and has experienced the dreaded Ironman blues then add this to the many reasons why you should definitely consider training with a group. At the time I did not have a goal for the oncoming season, but  just being out and doing what I enjoyed most with like minded people turned a tricky situation into one of the most relaxing and enjoyable ‘down times’ I can recall.

Now that we have covered my emotional dilemma’s let’s move on to some more exciting news and review some of my recent race performances and detail some of my 2016 goals!

The Relay Run

One week after returning from Kona, and still severely jet lagged I took part in a local event. The Relay Run is a 8x4km race however instead of 8 members on the team it was just my good friend Pas and I, which meant we each had to run 16km, that certainly kick started the return to training!

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Handing over the relay baton for the 1st of 4 times, smiles gradually faded on the 3rd and 4th round of 4km.

ATW Stevenage Half

Next up was the Active Training World (ATW) Stevenage half marathon. I was apprehensive about running this event as aside from the relay the week before I had done almost no running since Kona. However, ATW had supported me and Lucy throughout the 2015 season, and they always put on fantastic events, it was a good opportunity to meet and thank them for their support whilst ‘enjoying’ a painful half marathon. I’m pleased to announce that Active Training World is continuing their support through the 2016 Season.

As for the race, well the finish time was an underwhelming 1:25mins on a flat(ish) course, this was a fair reflection of the lack of running over the past weeks.

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Lucy and I with Mr James Shipley, owner of Active Training World and our proud sponsor, shortly after the Stevenage half marathon.

After these two initial events a goal emerged to keep me motivated; a few of my friends were considering entering Ironman Lanzarote, a race which is considered by many the hardest Ironman there is and has long been on my to-do list. I couldn’t resist the temptation despite once saying never! I soon found myself on the start list.

I began training for Ironman Lanzarote with a gradual increase in swimming volume at my favourite site, the 2012 Olympic park at Stratford. I’m very proud to be supported by GLL which enables me to train at this fantastic venue.

STRT
The London 2012 olympic pool training venue

It didn’t take long after my entry into IM lanza for the winter race season to kick in and whisk me back into shape, I often joke with the tri club that the actual triathlon season is for us the off season with the amount of races we do throughout the winter, but I wouldn’t want it any other way! There is no better way to get a quality training session in than sticking a race number on and competing.

Buntingford 10 Miles

By Christmas I had taken part in several races across all three disciplines, these included the National Arena swimming league. It was great to revisit my past as a swimmer, though it’s fair to say I am no longer a fast-twitch athlete. I also took part in the London Velopark duathlon series and several cross country league races for Hoddesdon Tri club.

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Running to the finish in thick mud at the Hoddesdon Tri Club cross country league. Thanks Compressport for the calf guards, needed them on this day.

Of all the races, it was the Buntingford 10 miles run which had stood out the most. I managed to improve my 10 mile pb by over 3 minutes from the previous year and dip under the hour on a hilly course. The only downside to this event was being beaten by my good friend and super runner David Craddock who was dressed in a Santa morphsuit, thanks David!….

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Mr Craddock running with ease in a santa morphsuit at the Buntingford 10 miler

Training began to get much more focused after Christmas; from my previous blog you’ll know that I had been working with a coach. However as of 2016 I decided to go it alone and coach myself. This was a big decision to make, it was based on me being a Coach myself and having already trained myself for years previously I know what does and doesn’t work for me.

After an underwhelming Stevenage Half marathon it was time to really test myself and see if the running form I had seen in training would translate to a race. The Watford half marathon is a notoriously hilly course with over 240m of elevation; I knew that to get a PB on this route would indicate I was in good shape. My previous half marathon PB was set during a 70.3 race at the inaugural Ironman Staffordshire where I ran a 1:23 after the swim and bike. I knew that I could go faster than that but I was well rested for Staffordshire, I was far from rested leading into this race!

The event started off well, I was holding well under my target pace of 3:50/km and by 10k I had run a sub 38 min whilst covering most of the worst hills on the course. I managed to maintain that pace through to the finish in a time of 1:19.06, a big PB and much faster than I had expected given the terrain. Reflecting on this now I know I could have gone faster, but given that this was a C priority race I had not rested at all and went into it with some residual fatigue in my legs from a hard week of training, including some from the 18 mile Club TT which I had done the day before. I had to be pleased with that all things considered, but it begs the question how fast could I go rested and on a flatter course.

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Custom race numbers courtesy of our proud sponsors Active Training World

Ely 25M TT

 The Ely 25M TT takes place on the same route as the Ely Monster Middle triathlon. Once again this was just a good training day for me; the aim was to finish and run a decent 10k brick on heavy legs.

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Testing out the new wasp Air helmet at the TT

On race day the wind speed was 15-20 mph  with strong gusts, several riders were blown off their bikes or slipped on the mud which lay on the roads from the weeks of heavy rain. The clubhouse at the finish looked like an A&E department with the amount of people being patched up and bandaged. Fortunately I managed to escape unharmed which is less than can be said for Lucy who unfortunately fell off early into her race. She got away lightly though with just a few cuts and bruises and still put in a decent time to take 2nd place female, hard as nails!

My power was good and where I had expected it to be throughout the ride, maybe even slightly higher, but I knew early on it was not going to be a new FTP day. Simply because I had to be cautious round the corners with the mud and wind. It’s not worth breaking your neck chasing an extra 3 watts. That said, I felt really relaxed and comfortable in my position which must have been helped from training indoors with the Wahoo Kickr. I felt really strong on the 10km brick run after the race and managed to run 4:00/km with relative ease. Except for a ridiculous head wind which made me realise that I don’t really like windy conditions and I have possibly picked one of the windiest places to race an Ironman In Lanzarote.

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After the Ely 25m TT and 10k Brick run. Not my best photo! Lucy has a cut on her chin from her fall and still manages to look better than me. Hairstyle was not intentional and was from running into a headwind! What a great way to spend valentine’s day!

What’s next?

I have several races planned over the coming weeks; these include more cross country races, half marathons and Duathlons. The next B priority races will be the Windsor Duathlon British Championships and the London Marathon, but I intend to plough through these events largely un-rested as and focus on the A race which is Ironman Lanzarote in May and Ironman UK in July.

That concludes my update for now. I’ve recently had several requests from people asking me what sort of training I do. You can follow my training on strava here;

https://www.strava.com/athletes/4384776

or alternatively I have an extensive interview with The Kona Edge where I go into much more detail about my training and what I did in the build up to the Ironman World Championships;

Elite Swimmer to Ironman Kona Qualifier- The Reece Barclay Story

Reece Barclay took 90 minutes off his Ironman bike time. This is how.

I would like to say a massive thankyou to all my sponsors for their continued support.

Moonlight Design                     Compressport                Tannus Tyres

HUUB                    Active Training World                  Lazer Helmets

GLL

Kona Ironman World championships 2015

I’m just going to focus on the race report itself in this blog as there are so many great things to include about my experience in Kona that most of you would likely be fed up of reading before you reached the part that detailed the race.

Pre start

Waking up at 3 o’clock for an early breakfast, no nerves for me which was a welcome surprise. I was able to stomach an extra large bowl of porridge and a 1L bottle of Gatorade. We had a short walk to Ali Drive where we flagged down a shuttle bus to the start line. That walk itself was memrobale, I had never noticed how clear the stars were in Kona until that morning.

  
Upon arriving at the Kona pier we were directed though the body marking tent. It  was great seeing all the Pro’s amongst the Agers looking very focused each of us united through the same process. Still no nerves! I felt relaxed, focused calm and ready. I put my race day nutrition on the bike, filled my bottles and waited my turn for the obligatory toilet stop…

BOOM (the cannon, not my toilet stop) The pro men were off! That cannon took me by surprise, it was like someone had just blown away the dam that was holding my nerves, a rush of adrenaline hit me like a ton of bricks, the filming helicopters swooped down and began circling the pro men as they started their swim. This is the Ironman World championships! And I’m part of it! I felt an immense feeling of accomplishment and pride for being part of the most iconic race in the triathlon community. 

BOOM!! The pro women set off! the men were asked to make there way into the water. Being a strong swimmer I wanted to get to the front row, I made it to the line and held my ground treading water for 15 minutes. That is until an over zealous American decided to push in front of me. “What are you playing at move aside” I said “F**k off you won’t swim over me you prick” is what he replied….

The Swim 

BOOM!!! We’re off!! 1st few strokes I started doing butterfly just to push everyone’s arms off of me. The over zealous Americans head got dunked and took a fair kick from me too, that’s the last I saw of him… (For now). The swim settled down fairly quickly and within 100m I was in a pack of 4 in what I thought was the lead (I later discovered that a Brazilian Ager had hammered off the front from the far left out of sight and swam sub 50mins, fair play!) all in all the swim was uneventful, I sat on the feet of the lead 2 swimmers all the way and felt like I was hardly trying, I had time to take in the beauty of the fish tank I was swimming in, I even heard the squeels of Dolphins but could not see them. I had swam the course the week before in 51 mins, so I figured hanging onto the feet of the 2 lead swimmers would be enough to go between 50-52mins, I was a little disappointed with a low 53 mins but I think probably 40 seconds was wasted getting up the steps as I decided to strip off my skin suit as soon as I exited the water so that the fresh water showers would wash the salt off of my actual body and not just my swim skin as I was worried about chaffing. Thankfully my HUUB swim skin was very well fitted and didn’t give me any such problems. Still, 53mins and barely a sweat broken, not bad! 

  
The Bike

A swift Transition putting on my Limited edition Compressport Kona top, careful not to forget anything, I also took time to neck a 500ml bottle of coconut water to top up my hydration. The crowd erupted when I got onto the the bike “2nd Ager 2nd Ager” I heard them shouting, I had made it through transition quicker than the 2 swimmers who’s feet I had held onto on the swim. I took a glance down at my Power meter, 310 watts, the crowd had lifted me and my legs were responding, but I knew that I could not sustain that intensity, so I concentrated on bringing the power down and getting some food in whilst enjoying the encouragement from the crowd. 

  
 
Before long the cheers had faded and we were out onto the vast empty highway with nothing but lava for company. It’s amazing how many people came hammering past me while I was pressing 250-300 watts, no way were they going to maintain that sort of power! What were they doing!! Annoyingly not too long into the ride along the Queen K two riders came past me closely followed by a draft buster on a motorcycle. He didn’t even hesitate to show all three of us a blue card which meant I had a 5min drafting penalty. It doesn’t matter if say the penalty was harsh, people will say “yeah right!” But it genuinely was unfair, they were absolutely flying past me, I wouldn’t have had time to grab their wheel nor wanted to even if I had tried, it definitely wasn’t a draft! Harsh.

  
It took me a few minutes to calm down after that but the race was young, I still had a long journey ahead of me. Head down, focus. My power on the bike felt so easy, my legs were on fire! and the bike felt great! Thanks Mr Jim Felt for tunning my bike before the race. I wanted to go faster but I knew that it might bite me in the arse if I overcooked it too early. Before I knew it I was up at the turn around point at Hawi where I took my 5min ‘drafting’ penalty. That was the longest 5mins of my life!!! I used the time to refuel but time seemed to take an eternity to pass.

Finally back onto the bike and onto the infamous windy descent down Hawi. Fortunately the winds were kind to us on this day, it was gusty but no worse than what I’ve experienced while training in Lanzarote. Back onto the queen K, things were starting to get noticeable hotter! The road stretching ahead was a fuzzy haze reflecting the Suns heat off the lava. I slowed up slightly at each aid station and propely doused myself in water to keep cool, NOT getting overheated and dehydrated was my number one priority. All the work I had done in the heat chamber with the UoB crew had tought me that once the core temperature reaches 39.3c there really is no going back!

Towards the end of the bike There was a strong headwind working against us. It must have demoralised a fair few riders as I started to pass loads who had come flying by me early on. I noticed a few riders who looked really wrecked! barely pedalling and looking sorry for themselves. It was then that the over zealous American made a dramatic entrance back into my race! He cycled past me screaming abuse at me threatening to kill me! “You {all sorts of insults} you dunked me, wait until I see you after the race” I spent the remaining 20mins of the bike laughing to myself thinking about how angry he was and how he must have felt when thr cannon fired and I swam over him. 

The Run 

I took my time though T2 and had a quick toilet stop, no way was I running a marathon neading to go! The pacing strategy on the bike had worked perfectly, my legs felt amazing. I was struggling to keep my pace slower than 4:30km, however it was really REALLY hot! High five’s to my sister and Dad as I began the 10 mile run out and back along south Ali drive. 

  
The run soon became a tactical battle to survive in the heat. Each aid station was like an oasis in the desert. I speed marched through each station making sure I got in plenty of water and stuffed plenty of ice down my top. Even with the 15s or so extra from walking through aid stations every mile my pace was still under 5:00km (3:30 marathon pace) I had never felt this good running in an ironman. Back towards the the town I finally saw Lucy who looked really strong too, we high fived and I told her to keep ontop of her hydration. Passing through the town waving at my family letting them know I was doing fine, back up Pallani hill onto the Queen K for the final stretch, it was great to have so much support.

  
The temperature had sored! It was getting ridiculously hot, However I felt good as it seemed like everyone was alread walking! Ahead of me I noticed the the over zealous American walking!  I joged past him, tapped him on his back “I’ll wait for you at the finish line mate” I didn’t look back to see his face, but no words came out his mouth, the heat had managed to silence him! This gave me a huge boost of motivation to keep running as the last thing I wanted was him running back past me making me look like a tit. 

It felt like the 1st half of the marathon went really quickly, I started to remember all of the sessions in the heat lab and the hard sessions I had done leading into the race, my legs felt heavy and even though I had kept ontop of my hydration it was virtually impossible to match my sweat rate in those conditions, I had began to hit the wall. Thankfully it wasn’t just me I remember seeing Frederik Van Lierde, the 2013 overall pro men’s winner, walking looking in a very bad way. “There is no pain” I defiantly ignored my legs and pressed on.

I finally made it to the turn around point at the iconic natural energy lab, “just 10km to go, come on!!” One more high five to Lucy who was on her way into the energy lab as I was running out, still looking very strong. She had at that point overtaken my American friend too 😄
The last bit of the run back down the hill into the town felt like the finish line itself, 1km to go, I had made it! I had beaten the big island in one of the hottest days the race had ever seen. The sound of the crowd was electric! I could hear the bellowing voice of Mike Riley in the distance shouting “you are and Ironman” to those who were already at the magic finish, knowing my turn to hear those words were moments away. 
Finish!!

“Reece Barclay, you are an Ironman!” The finish line itself signified more than just the end of the race, It signified the end of what has been an incredible season, with real peaks and valleys along the way. To redeem myself after a bad race at the 70.3 world championships, to bounce back and finish this race with a sub 10 hours on the clock and to execute my race plan perfectly with no drama (ok a draft penalty, but could have had worse). What an amazing feeling that is, and a memory that will last forever. At the time I had no idea I had finished in 5th place in my age group which meant that I would be sharing the podium at the awards dinner with Lucy who dominated her age group, that was a welcoming surprise and a very special experience.  

  
To round up the 2015 Ironman World championships race report I’ll finish by saying that the Kona experience lived up to everything I had imagined it to be… But the island of Kona itself by far exceeded my expectations worthy of a separate blog. Highlights of the trip was operatunity to swim with dolphins, turtles, all sorts of exotic fish (thankfully no sharks) and a helicopter tour of the 2,500ft waterfalls. One thing is for certain, I’ll be doing my absolute best to return to the island one day….