What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger – Ali Schofield

Two days after I’d finished the Helvellyn triathlon, entries for the Outlaw Half opened. In the days before my triathlons, I ran with my very good friend Jane Handy (clarkey) who was into triathlons. I used to think she was completely bonkers – she raved about the Outlaw and I thought why not, let’s give it a go. Entry done, message to coach, let’s do this….

Race Day

4am alarm – no one likes that time of the morning, but I woke up before the alarm, fully rested and feeling ready and fresh –thanks to my wonderful family up the road for proper looking after me.

The planning and preparation for my events gets easier the more triathlons I do. Set up, rituals and routines become unchanged. The thoughts of changing things do happen, but I pull myself back into line and remind myself, that’s what you do in training, this is race day, stick to what you know.

The Swim

The wetsuit went on like a dream. It was the most comfortable I’ve ever known it.  Waiting to start is the most anxious part of the day for me… I slowed my breathing down, long andslow breaths keeping my calm. The previous weekend, I’d been to the Lagoon in Scunthorpe for an open water swim which had been freezing and I struggled to swim with my face in the water, so did a lap of breast stroke. I’d already had a word with myself, whatever happens on race day, you just need to get on with it no matter what. The announcement came to us all, the water temperature is 15 degrees… phew!!

And we’re off…. Kept it calm, only one little panic after I’d turned the corner to come back as I lost my breathing rhythm, but kept it smooth remembering everything coach had taught me. I knew I was off my usual swim pace, but I was cool about that. Out of the swim, mum and dad gave me a cheer as I ran into transition.

T1 – Transition was smooth considering I had a wetsuit to whip off.

It’s bike time…

The smiles were wide. I passed my husband on the bike exit, gave him a big smile and off I went. Having not biked the course or paid much attention to the route, apart from being told it was fast, the most important part for me was hydration and nutrition. First priority on the bike was eat and drink. Then to keep eating and drinking at regular intervals. I continued to do this like clockwork. I was finding myself on the most amazing bike course I could’ve imagined (some of the course was in very poor condition but the organisers had done a fab job on marking everything out) It was fast with a few lumps too. It was perfect. I had to hold myself back, kept thinking I hadn’t run a half marathon since 2014 and I was slightly anxious about it!! I could’ve seriously pushed the power on that route, but did I want to completely smash the bike (body said yes you could) and potentially ruin therun….? Head said no!! I was proper focused. The miles just flew by….

T2 – Yep, smooth as once again. Happy times.

The run….  (honestly I was dreading this bit)

First mile, wow I’m running well, form is good, pace is good, legs feel good… had a quick glance at my pace, ok this was quicker than I would’ve expected it to be – let’s get smooth girl, you need to enjoy this run, not ruin it. Head was in an amazing place. Each feed station, routine came into play once again, one cup of water to drink, one cup to throw on my head/hat (I hate being hot!!) I mentally broke the run into 3-mile blocks. Couple of high fives to Rhydian, fellow OTCF team buddy out on the course and regular ‘’you’ve got this’’ shouts from hubby helped the miles go by. By 6 miles, I thought it was time to see how I was getting on. I took a look at my overall time…. Wowsers, was that right?? Ali, you’ve got 6 miles to go and you’ve got how much time to do it in? Jesus. I was had the biggest smile. I’d worked out, if I continued to run as I was, I still had time to play with, if the worse was to happen, even if I walked, I could still finish this near to my target time. My pace had started to drop off, my body had started to get tired but I kept my form and kept on running… YOU ARE NOT WALKING!! 3 miles to go, it started to hurt a little. I looked at my watch, quick pace check, ok yes, you’ve slowed down, but you are only losing 1 min per mile…. 5k is nothing now, you’ve got this girl. On the last 1.5 miles, I passed the last feed station, same routine as the others, but this time it was different, it was party time, they were playing Kelly Clarkson,’’ what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’’ I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, this has been my ultimate motivation saying for such a long time…. I had a little sing song and said ‘’Let’s take this home girl’’ Boom, I was going to finish well under 6hrs. I passed my folks with 1 mile to go, big cheers and huge smiles, I was buzzing… watch check, 0.5 to go, I could smell the finish line – the pace picked up, the flags got closer and closer… I was crying. Boom. I’d finished. Stop the watch. I was a little wobbly, focused my eyes on the medal and grabbed fluid…. I needed food, I needed food quickly. Grab a coke, walked up some stairs, bit of a daze and threw my arms around my husband… food, I need food. He knows me far too well in this state, I have one priority right now and that’s to feed my face otherwise my recovery is ruined. I still didn’t know my time…  he said my WhatsApp has been constantly buzzing, I couldn’t really focus on the what, where and when – quick update to coach, then I got a text…. OH, MY FRICKING GOD!!!! Not only had I gone sub 6 (target time) I had proper smashed it and gone sub 5hrs 30 – finish time of 5:29:56. I could not believe it…. And still can’t!!

Behind the Scenes

1. Majorca – the toughest week of training ever… both physically and mentally. But it prepared me for the above and provided me with the most amazing support network I could’ve ever have imagined. Girls and boys, you know who you are, thank you.
2. The mental side – massive learning curves. It’s been tough. I’ve learnt a lot about myself. There has been tears, lots of doubts, lots of highs and lows – but I kept picking myself up and stayed focused to the goals. I’ve found ways to deal with my struggles and had to make some big changes, but it is starting to work. Onwards on upwards (ps. buy Steve’s books!!)

Thank you to my husband – you are my true rock, day in day out. Thank you to my family and friends for the ever planning around my training and supporting me through my crazy events.

And thank you to my coach, he sure knows what he is doing…. I’m proud to be part of the OTCF Family 😊

Slateman Savage by Camilla

Falling injured last year following the fittest period of my life was hard, very hard indeed. Mentally it was tough as I quickly reverted back to my old ways of inactivity, excessive food and alcohol consumption. What the hell was I doing? Stop feeling sorry for yourself, get on with it.
Swimming have always been my weakest discipline. This was my chance to finally focus on it and get my technique improved. Timing was good as OTCF was just starting their swimming improvement course and having trained with Steve before, I joined up. My confidence and motivation was returning fast. Around this time I was scrolling through social media, as you do, and a friend was rallying the troops for a weekend away in Wales for Slateman Triathlon. Full of said confidence, my finger slipped and there it was, confirmed, I was doing Slateman Savage, I.e. both days. Better shift my gears… I’m coming back!
As people were preparing for Christmas I was preparing to get back into training again. Oh my goodness, my former fitness had gone quickly, this was going to be tough. With Steve on my team I knew I had the right support to make it happen. Let’s do this.

Following several months of hard work, hills & mountains later, I finally stood at the start line, this was actually happening.
Standing in the valley of Llanberis, time had come to take the plunge, literally. Enter the cold spin of a washing machine. Swim was cold but the water was beautifully clear. Hands & feet everywhere and suddenly it was over. T1 went great and straight onto the bike and the climb, 10km to the turnaround point. I took time to enjoy this bit. The view of the valley and mountains were unbelievable and the atmosphere was really friendly. As I bantered my way up I kind of forgot the race part of this day. Big grin riding up and unfortunately a grimace descending. Not got used to this yet, it was scary.
Finally back into T2 and our support crew were loud and cheering, pressure was on! Stuff off, the trainers made it on, out on the run. As I headed to the hills a guy fell over right in front of me through the fields, I helped him up and we did the run together and we got each other up and down that run. I’ve never used hands during a run in a triathlon before, some parts were so steep, still, it was great. It may have been a race by name but it was joy by nature. Another big grin and day 1 was over.. I was left wanting more. Less than 24 hours later I knew my wish would come true. Double up and my first standard distance was waiting for me but it was not going to be anything standard about it!

Woke up with a strange feeling of calm, nerves were gone. As my friend, Jane, rightly said.. no need to be nervous as your race have already begun.

Back to the start line and day 2. Transition was now rammed and buzzing. Rain was coming down and I was ready for the swim. Goggles on and this day is about to get busy. And we were off again on a longer swim this time. I lost my head a bit towards the end of that swim, maybe the cold, maybe my awful sighting skills? My breathing was a little all over the shop but soon I saw the exit buoys… yay! Up and out and the support crew were loud and cheering. Swim done, yay!

Now back on that climb from the day before, race face came on and I got up that climb much stronger and faster than previous. The rolling hills, scenery and road was just amazing following that first climb. My fears of descending were gone and I pedalled hard down the hills and up them until we all grind to an unexpected and brutal halt. Lots of riders in the road, stopped due to a road accident. This was like a coffee stop now but with no coffee, we ate & drank. I had to keep moving to stay warm as I was quickly cooling down in the wind, few minutes later and we were setting off again on a massive group ride, some serious drafting was inevitable. About 15min later normal order had resumed and the race was back on.

2 hours it took to do the bike leg but it felt like an hour, I would happily have done that loop again!!!
T2 and onto the run. Sun was coming out. It took me around 5min to find my legs. I knew it was 3km to the slate mine and up the zig zags so I let my feet fall to an easier pace waiting for the climb to start, and boom, there it was, like a monster staring down at its victims. This was not going to be easy. I was running behind an athlete with a Welsh Ironman tattoo, he looked strong and as soon as he started to walk I took that as my cue to do the same. Ironman John and another chap called Ben became my zig zag friends and we helped each other up to the top. The place is like no other, think Lord of the rings or any other fantasy story setting. Unreal!!! Quick selfie and the race was back on. Ben had quicker legs and I tagged on. This was the last part of the race, let’s have it. Skipped and jumped through woods and paths and back up again through vegetation and gorgeous landscape. Made up good time and I could hear the finish line tannoy getting closer. At the last turn to the final descent I couldn’t help but to let out a scream of joy. Last 5 min to go… I was in touching distance of finishing this. I gave everything I had as I pushed it to the end. That’s it.. Savage done!

I knew I was going to enjoy this race but I had no idea how much I would love it. Big thanks to my coach but also to my family. They have been subjected to many hours of me being away training and they continually put up with my crazy tri goals as they know how happy it makes me. I’m really grateful I got to experience the Slateman Savage, maybe next year I’ll do the Legend…


Get your OTCF Ebooks now

How much do you want it – The ultimate Motivation guide with tasks to refocus and motivate you £6 

Positive MindA Mindset guide to help you restore the WHY we do what we do and tasks to help you set the focus for your journey  £6

Both of the above Ebooks  £11


OTCF Chase 2 Race Your Dream 100 recipe book £10

132 pages of healthy information and recipes

Standing on Mount Everest, in London

The London Marathon, the word on everyone’s lips for two weeks prior to the actual day.
For me the road to London started back in August when I ran my first marathon. Never done one never thought about doing one and then I’m in one. No set time in my head, let’s just get to the finish. Crossed the line at 4 hours 17 minutes. Second marathon entered, Barcelona. Let’s see if I can actually break 4 hours. Crossed the line at 4 hours 14 minutes. Hard day at the office, hot and maybe my preparation was wrong.
London Marathon entered via a charity place with MACS. Myself and my mate Craig raising money so we can run in an iconic event.
So I travelled down on the Friday morningwith Glyn, Shawnie and Zoe listening to shocking music and listening to some of the stories from past London Marathons.

To say I am buzzing for it is an understatement. I feel good, I feel full of energy and I’m with friends who will share these same feeling with me in two days time.
I collect my number from the EXPO and now it seems real. Having a little chat with Craig about the world record marathon time and how someone’s body actually lets them perform to that standard.
Number collected now for food and rest. That evening and Saturday was spent resting and making sure I was hydrated and had a few good meals in me.
Race day, the big day. Up at 6am, coffee, water, food, race kit on. So this is it, I am about to take part in the biggest marathon in the world, one which I have watched so many times in TV. When we reach our designated area I give everyone a hug and kiss Zoe and wish my friends good luck.
I have a special surprise up my sleeve but only if I do something that I have not done before and that’s run a marathon in under 4 hours.
As I sit on the grass with Craig to rest that one last time I just new deep down to my bones I was going to have a good day. Something Craig always says to me before and event “ you will do it today mate” when he said that I new today was going to end with smiles.
At my starting area with a friend from work, who is running his first marathon. Having a chat and laugh about the past and this takes our minds off it. Then at around 10:20 we go and that’s it I am part of his huge event. As I run my own race I leave my friend after 3 miles, good luck mate see you later stay safe. As I run around London I see familiar faces from back home in the crowd. Big D i here from a distance which makes me laugh, thanks Rob. I can not describe the crowd around London, it was  amazing. I strongly believe that the crowd has a huge part in you getting to the finish line. One place that stands out for me is when I crossed tower bridge, I could feel the vibration from the crowd cheering and stamping there feet.
I found the 4 hour pacer at around 8 miles, I stayed with him till 23 miles. These men and women are just incredible. At 20 miles I passed Zoe, I didn’t see her but I heard a voice say oy Dawson, which my response was “ hello you sexy little bugger” a few ppl around us giggled. After a like conversation with Zo I said I felt good and at 23 miles I was going for it. At 23 miles I felt good, I had a sneaky look at my watch and a small grin came to my face. Let’s go Dawson let’s go and do this. As I ran around the last corner with 200 metres to go I looked at my watch and I new I have gone under 4 hours. The smile on my face was happiness, relief, monkey off my back and jubilation. Having that medal round your neck makes you feel so alive and happy.
My goal was achieved 3 hours 56 minutes. The special surprise I had up my sleeve was to ask Zoe to marry me. Thankfully she said yes. It was her 30th Marathon and my first under 4 hours, what a day to remember.
In the pub after “sorry coach” and after a few beers Craig said to me “ stop smiling” the thing is I couldn’t stop smiling, I was standing on top of Mount Everest with my friends Zoe, Shawnie, John, Craig, Gemma and Glyn.
A big thank you goes to Steve. You know what you do day in day out for yourself, your family and us your friends and team mates.
Thank you.

Breaking the 4-hour Barrier at London by Gemma Scott

It’s safe to say the 2 weeks leading up to London Marathon were difficult for me. Training hadn’t been going to plan due to lack of energy and having to make some drastic changes to my diet ahead of the big day to combat this. I had to train less something I am not good at doing & It was touch and go whether I would actually run on the Sunday. I had decided it would be a see how you feel over that weekend decision.

London Marathon weekend is always so much fun. With Friday arriving we set off down to London and headed to the Excel to collect my number. There was a big gang of us and the excitement was pouring off us all. This would be my 5thLondon Marathon and I really wanted to break that sub 4 hour at London, something I had been so close to doing in 2015 but due to weaving around the course I actually ended up running 27 miles and missed out.

Once I’d picked my number up I made my mind up I was doing this marathon whether it would be a case of a training run or run to the best of my ability on the day. I knew the crowds would get me round and I had friends on the course there for moral support.

Saturday we had a nice stroll around the Olympic park, but generally had a relaxing chilled out day another thing I never do the day before a marathon. It’s hard to explain but even though you know rest is good for you, it’s hard to follow through with it.

Fast forward to race day, I woke up before my alarm feeling nervous, excited and unsure how my day was going to go. I kept telling myself “Just Run, no pressure”. I had my overnight oats, coffee and countless toilet visits as the nerves escalated, but once I put on my kit my race head took over and I began to get focussed for the task ahead. We made our way to the start, excitement brewing from all other runners and I just felt at home.

After dropping Craig, Aaron, Zoe & Shawnie off at their starts I headed to the Blue start with Glyn and John. Two toilet stops and bags dropped I headed to the start zones. We were in the middle of a field freezing. Both Zones 3 and 7 were merged together so there would be a lot slower runners in front of me. Not ideal but we can only control the controllable I can hear coach Clark in my head!

Gun goes and we slowly start moving towards the start line. It takes 15 minutes for us to get over the start line. First mile I need to stop for the loo, surprisingly I managed an 8:57 minute mile with a wee stop, get in!! Now I’m on my way my legs fall naturally into line, breathing is good and I am enjoying every minute.

The miles ticked off quickly and before I know it we’re at Cutty Sark, reduced to a jog as the road narrows and it’s very congested. The key here is to not get frustrated and use it as a breather traffic soon flows again.

Tower Bridge soon came into sight, such a welcoming sight I knew I was now nearly halfway and feeling strong. I came across the halfway point in 1:48 and to my right there was a big screen that showed Eliud Kipchoge heading down birdcage walk. I wasn’t quick enough to see him on the course, but it was amazing to see how effortless he was cruising to that finish line.

Heading towards Canary Wharf the crowds were unreal, to say the day was overcast and cold (my perfect running conditions) the crowds were bigger and better than in 2018. I cannot thank the crowds enough for the support it’s what makes London Marathon the most amazing experience you can have racing.

I keep on top of my hydration by sipping my Tailwind every half a mile and then ensuring I am having 3 mouthfuls of water at each water station. Before I know it I’m approaching mile 20, usually known as the Wall for most runners where your glycogen levels have depleted. I feel amazing, what is going on? I am not running slow my pace is not at my PB pace, but it’s faster than Barcelona Marathon I ran 6 weeks ago, and at this rate I’m going to go sub 3:40. Yes!!!

Ok so now is the game of keeping my mind focused and not allowing my head to drop. I know I’ll start seeing friends from mile 21 so if I keep smiling and plugging away I’ll be there in no time. I reach my friends who are pleased to see I’m smiling and still putting one foot in front of the other. Mile 22 more friends, feeling strong, buzzing with the crowd and the fact my pace is fairly consistent. Mile 23 I know my running buddies are up ahead, I have my second bottle of tailwind waiting for me & a big hug ahead. As I approach them I become so emotional but still strong both mentally and physically. After a quick hug I’m on my way home 2.5 miles of cheering and then the victory mile!! Glyn catches me up and we run together for a short while before my pace picks up.

Mile 24 I get a pain in my stomach. You know that feeling when your stomach wants to eat itself. This gives me the kick I need to get to the finish. I need food and my legs are starting to hurt now. I approach Big Ben and I know I’m nearly there. I pass a guy running as Big Ben (I later find out he got stuck up the finish line). Everyone is going wild for Big Ben and my skin begins to tingle with goose bumps from the noise.

I’m nearly there! I look at my watch & I can’t believe it…After 5 attempts I am finally going to go sub 4 hours at London, I’m going to get a Good for Age at London, I am going to go sub 3:40, I’m faster than I ran 6 weeks ago in Barcelona. Final 200 metres I give it everything I have left and push my body that last few metres.

3 hours 39 minutes and 32 seconds. I have gone 22 minutes faster than I have ever run at London Marathon and I am buzzing!! 2 weeks’ light training have not made me lose fitness and I am so much stronger than I thought I would be capable of. Thanks to my coach Steve for guiding me, now onto the next challenge…. Ironman UK 2019!!

Shawnie runs 3 hour 21 minutes at London

Since I can remember I’ve watched London Marathon on the TV religiously every year and after deciding I was going to give marathon running a go London has always been on my hit list. 5 marathons later I decided to put my good for age time to use and get a spot in London.

My marathon training had gone perfectly for London until Iran Hull 20 (5 weeks before) and I started struggling with shin splints. Mileage for the next few weeks was cut, and as an injury prone runner I was nervous. Miles on my bike and miles in the pool kept me ticking over but little miles on my legs. The weekend before London I managed 8 miles at marathon pace and after hobbling around for a few days after, I was 50/50 whether to run.

After speaking with Coach and going to the London Marathon EXPO there was no way I wasn’t at least starting the race.

We collected our numbers from the EXPO on the Friday and after sampling ever protein and energy bar the EXPO had to offer, getting taped up at the KT stand and entering every marathon ballot going (maybe I’ll end up doing Kenyamarathon next year) I was definitely psyched up again for London.

The rest of the weekend flew by and before I knew it- it was race day and we were on our way!

I was in the green start with Zoe, both of us super excited, far too happy to say we was about to run a marathon.
We were soon put in our separate pens and after lots of small talk with my surrounding runners we were being moved forward to the start line.

And off we went…

Coach had told me don’t set off to fast for the first 5 miles (would I ever? :P) and that’s a challenge in itself. Trying not to get carried away with what’s happening around you and the realisation of actually running the London Marathon is enough to make even the best pacers get a little carried away, surely? I’ve always thought that the first half of a marathon feels like a solid but comfortable Sunday run and the second half feels like, well the complete opposite.

The first few miles involved merging together with all the other starts, tackling the mile of speed bumps, high fiving as many kids as I could and amazement at the crowds that lined the streets before we’d even got into the main section of the race. I was actually running next to a Christmas tree at one point for the first bit.

The rest of the miles until Tower bridge went pretty quickly, I was feeling good, my shins wasn’t hurting, my pace was exactly where I wanted it to be so I was enjoying this feeling. I’d had a shout out at mile 8 which was a nice surprise by Lindsay and Nicola and crowds were growing and growing.

Tower bridge soon approached – and we were already around the half way point. I don’t think I’ve ever been over Tower Bridge in my life so this was an extra special part of the course. As I approached the bridge, I saw Mick and his wife, the atmosphere was quite overwhelming, the crowd was so loud and admittedly I had a happy tear running over the bridge (cry 1 of the run).

Mile 14 – my Mo sighting. Running down a dual carriagewayI saw a 22 mile sign on the other side of the road and the crowds really started cheering, I knew Mo was on his way. First group Kipchoge and the gang and then 1 minute (ish) later, followed another loud cheer and Sir Mo himself, hanging on in there. Amazing to think we set off at pretty much the same time yet they’ve gained 8 miles on me.

From my 5 marathons I know that I’ve always struggled anywhere from 16 miles and if I’m lucky from 18 miles so I was expecting a hit anytime soon, especially because of the last 5 weeks. Miles were ticking away (quite literally couldn’t believe how fast it was going) and my watch soon buzzed 18 miles. I still felt good, pace was still good, everything was good, I was still smiling.

Then I heard ‘fancy seeing you here’… Turned around and there was Craig, we got on about the atmosphere and he told me the best bits are to come… Really?! I didn’t think there were people left in London after seeing the crowds for the first half! And off he went.

Mile 20 – fastest split of the marathon a 7.07/min mile, oops. Don’t know where that came from but I’ve never done that 20 miles in before.

Mile 22 – I knew Uncle Rob and Auntie Linds were somewhere along this mile and for sure they was. (cry number 2) no time for a hug, but a high five, a friendly face and a ‘welldone’ kept me smiling.

Mile 23 – there’s the wall I was waiting for. It never hits you gradually, it just happens. I remember running past a Lucozade stand desperate for water and asking one of the volunteers for water but it was a no go- just Lucozade, unfortunately I’ve not found my perfect supplement for running yet, energy drinks are not for me when I’m runningand neither are gels, I take shot blocks and I cant even stomach a lot of them.

Luckily for me, I saw three friendly faces jumping up and down on a block (Kerry, Andrea and Loraine) I gave myself a pep talk because at this point a little walk would’ve been very much welcomed and so far I had not had a walk yet (a new first for me). Besides what’s a parkrun when you’ve already ran 23 miles?

Mile 25- Craig was right, it did get better. I had definitely had enough at this point but the crowds just kept you going, there must’ve been thousands of people and it was so loud that you didn’t hear anything, just white noise. Then my watched ticked over 26.2 miles and I saw the 800m to go sign, next time I’m sticking to that blue line.

600m. 400m. 200m. Mustering up some sort of sprint to the finish line, forgetting all about the last 26.2 miles because I was so happy and relieved to see the end (cry number 3). And I’d done it, tired legs but one happy girl.

Things London Marathon has taught me:
Believe in the process and the miles in your legs.
London Marathon has definitely earned its title for best marathon in the world.
Listen to your coach it works.
I can run 26.6 miles without stopping.
Christmas trees can run fast.
I made it onto Tri24/7 London report see here

London Baby By John Chambers

London Baby! London Marathon 2019

Having deferred my 2018 entry following significant ligament damage to my left ankle 2 weeks prior to Ironman Wales in 2017, running was off the agenda for much of last year. Ironman Wales 2018 came and went with only 3 months of serious training as it took such a long time for my ankle to heel.

2019 brought about an increased volume and intensity of training, not just running but all 3 disciplines, but my running was becoming better than it had been for years now recovered. Early March saw a marathon PB in the heat at Barcelona so things were going well.

The OTCF team travelled down to London on the Friday (Craig, Gemma, Zoe, Aaron, Shawnie,  Glyn and myself) and we headed straight for the Expo to collect our race numbers (and for some freebies!). The Excel as big as it is was absolutely packed, buzzing in fact – all friendly faces and a number of other people who we knew also that we bumped into.

Unlike Barcelona, we managed to have a lazy day on the Saturday, chilling, food and hydration was the aim of the day. At this point, I was not that enthusiastic about the thought of running 26.2 miles the following day!


Race day – Sunday morning 0600, shower, tea, porridge and banana. On the tube to Greenwich Park around 0745, there was something in the atmosphere at this time of day that you knew was going to be special. Hoards of runners, old and young departing and walking to the start zones – I was in blue and the same pen as Gemma. Trying to keep warm in the breeze at this point was the main aim – Gemma did try to gain cover from a loosely fitting poncho of the guy in front but he was having none of it!

It was 10:14 by the time I crossed the start line, and unexpectedly, there were no hold ups due to congestion. In fact, I went through the first 5km a bit to quick so had to slow down. Being my first London Marathon, I was actually amazed at the volume of spectators all the way round the course, the support was immense and it is always good when you see a few people in the crown who have travelled all that way to support you also. I have a habit of not taking much in when I am running, I remember Cutty Sark and Tower Bridge but the rest was a bit of a blur – I was busy. Once I had settled into a good pace the miles just seem to fly by. The call of nature made me stop at mile 20 following which I found it difficult to get going again as my legs had seized up a bit. Run time on my watch, 3:27 – chip time 3:31. A bit disappointing I didn’t go under 3:30 but I ran a 17 minute PB in Barcelona and managed to knock another 3 minutes off at London so happy really.

A great experience to run with great friends. As usual, expert guidance and coaching from Steve Clark – next stop Ironman UK.

3 hours 15 mins at London for Craig

It’s Friday afternoon and I’m making my way into the London Excel to collect my number and weather it’s your first or fifth London this is always the point where the scale of the event you are about to be part of hits you, so much excitement in the air it literally gives you goosebumps. Saturday comes and it’s a day of rest with a stroll around the Olympic park making sure I eat well and stay hydrated. Sunday morning the alarm goes off at 6amstraight in the shower then get a light breakfast in with the usual black coffee. 7:30 me, Gemma, Aaron, Zoe, Glyn, Shawnie and John all get on the tube to Greenwich full of excitement nerves and hopes that we all have a great day. Me and Aaron say goodbye to all the others as they are on a different start then make our way into the red starting pen, we now have time to try and relax stay calm and soak up the excitement. Now I’m in my start zone and going through my warmup now I’m ready to roll, that famous music starts and that’s it I’m on my way just taking in what I’m a part off and controlling my pace for the first couple of miles. 10k in you hit the Cutty Sark and the noise from the crowd is just incredible people shouting cheering and stood seven or eight deep, I’m now into my target pace and feeling good staying relaxed and enjoying every minute. 13 miles in and I’m on Tower Bridge which is such a special part of the course not only because it’s one of the biggest landmarks but you are halfway, I’m still feeling good but now is where it starts getting hard so I make sure I monitor my pace and stick to the plan, at around 14 miles I was lucky enough to see Eliud Kipchoge (the winner and greatest marathon runner of all time) coming the other way and I’m just in awe of how fast and comfortable he looks, around a minute later Mo Farrah comes past and you can see he’s working hard but not giving in. I’m now into the Isle of dogs and getting into the toughest part of the race so I’m making sure I keep on top of hydration then set my self a target to hold my target pace until 20 miles then hold it a mile at a time for as long as possible. After spotting a few good friends in the crowd I’m back out onto the embankment and at mile 22, I’m starting to feel fatigue creeping in but still managed to hold my pace so I focus on staying relaxed and embrace the crowd. Mile 24 it’s hurting now but the atmosphere is just incredible, the support from the crowd is hard to take in to the point where I got a little emotional and started struggling to control my breathing but I composed my self and focused on getting to the finish. Mile 25 comes up on my watch and to my amazement I was under my target pace, before the race started I set my watch at my Marathon PB of 3:19 so it tells me how far in front or behind that pace I am but as yet I hadn’t looked at that screen, i now have 1.2 miles to go so I take a look and I’m 3 mins in front of my PB pace so I dig deep and give it everything, I then make the turn in front of Buckingham palace and see the finish line, I cross the line and it’s a mixture of emotions from pure elation to finish to exhaustion as your body starts to punish you, i then look at my watch and it’s 3:15:46 so a  three and a half min PB I’m so so happy.
There are many things that need to go well during and building up to a marathon from staying healthy to the weather but most important is the great guidance in training pushing you when needed and knowing when to rest so thanks for everything Steve Clark.
I knew he was happy with what I had done when I got the message to go have a beer.

Ironman Greece 70.3 Vicky Gounari

1. Pre-race bike drama (Friday 12th Apr)
We arrived at Costa Navarino around 11 am. The plan was to assemble the bike and go for a short ride, to check out the steepest part of the course.
Unfortunately while trying to put the saddle back on, one of the components that hold it in place fell into the frame and got badly stuck. After all our attempts to take it out failed, we took the bike to the bike service area which thankfully was not too busy yet. There I watched as 3 bike mechanics were trying to get that thing out. Of course I was panicking and even cried a little bit. After 30 mins they managed to get it out and things were looking up. Before I left the service area I checked to see if the di2 was working fine. And it wasn’t working at all. So then they had to take the saddle out again and check the cables, and luckily nothing was damaged, it was just a matter of plugging the cable to the battery properly.
Around 4 pm, we were finally ready to go for our ride. The bike was fine, the pouring rain had stopped and life was good.
My first impressions from the bike course were good. There were some steep parts at 9 to 11% gradient, but they were quite short. Most of it was less than 5%. So quite manageable. Going downhill was not that bad either. The road was wet but didn’t feel too slippery and the turns were quite wide, so no need to brake really.
I got back just in time for the race briefing, then pasta party and early to bed.
2. Testing the water and a bit more bike drama (Saturday 13th Apr)
At 8 am, I was in my wetsuit and down at the beach. My 2 biggest concerns coming into this race was the water temperature (as I had never swam in anything less than 22 C, and the sea here was around 16 C) and the fatigue during the run, given the bike would be very demanding on the legs.
A few other people were there too, I followed their advice and went right in, swimming hard for the first few meters. My body felt fine, the wetsuit was keeping me nice and warm, but my hands, feet and face were freezing. However, after a while they went completely numb, and  you weren’t really feeling anything so I went to breakfast reassured that the swim would be ok. I have to mention that on Saturday the sea was calm as a pond.
Around noon, I started preparing my stuff for the bike check in. It was then that I noticed my flat front tire.  It looked like I had gotten a slow puncture the previous day. This would not have been an issue had I gotten the right spare tubes with me. But I hadn’t. It seems that not all tubes have valves that can attach to the extenders. I didn’t know that, but now I do! It was not that big a deal but enough to stress me out again. Anyway, I managed to find the right tube, fixed it and checked the bike in.
3.1 Race Day – Swim
We walked down to the beach and as soon as I saw the sea my heart sank. With 2m high waves, the sea looked really rough. I had some hope that they would cancel or shorten the swim, but didn’t happen.
I told myself that getting in and out would be hard but inside would be better, and heard all the advice my super-swimmer friends were giving me. Dive in for the first few waves, and then you’ll be good. So off I went, and managed to get underwater for the first big wave but as soon as I came up, a second one came and before I knew it I felt I like I was in the washing machine. Naturally I panicked and started breast stroking and treading water mainly, just trying to stay afloat. It took me 4 mins to get to that first buoy, around 100 m out. And the further in we were going, the worse it seemed to get. Meanwhile, people all around me were flagging down the rescuers on the canoes and  jet skis, and I won’t lie,I thought about quitting myself. But then I decided to go for it, I was sure I wouldn’t make the cut-off time anyway, so at least I could say I tried. The only good thing was that the cold water was of no concern at this point. Didn’t even feel it.
Around 10 mins into the swim I managed to pull myself together and finally start swimming. It was slow and hard but I started feeling there might be a chance I’ll make the cut-off. Last highlight of my swim was when I was exiting, I stood up at knee-depth water to run outside and a wave knocked me down. Thankfully lifeguards were everywhere and one of them pulled me out!
The transition was super long, around 800m run uphill and some stairs to make it more fun. But I was so happy I was out of the water that I didn’t even mind. Once the steepest part was over I started jogging and felt pretty good.
3.2 Race Day – Bike
Not much to say about the bike. It was tough but I loved it. I felt very well prepared with all the hill training I had done these last few months.Kept a steady pace for the first 15km climb and tried to step on it going downhill. The road was wet and there were some pretty strong crosswinds going down, so I had to get out of the bars a few times, to make sure I have good control of the bike but didn’t brake once, which is a major achievement for me.
From 30 to 37 km it was again uphill, a lot less steep than the first section but there was headwind which made it equally, if not more, hard.
I was feeling great throughout and only started feeling a bit tired at around 70 km
3.3 Race Day – Run
Once I was off the bike I could finally relax. I love the run because it’s all up to your mind and legs. No waves or mechanical issues can affect you.
The temperature was great and the route was stunning and I was feeling good up until km 12. Then I really started to feel fatigued.
The run course was mainly rolling hills and around 8 km of it was on gravel. Add to that the demanding bike from before, and it’s no surprise that everything started hurting.
But still it was manageable. I didn’t have any doubt that I would make it or any thought of walking. I was just pushing through.
Overall, I loved it! Definitely going back for it next year.
The race was incredibly well organized (which I was not expecting for a first time race to be honest) and the volunteers and spectators were amazing. Every time we would pass by a group of people or an aid station we would get such a boost!
Key takeaways:
Coming 11th in my Ag shows I’m improving after only a few months ago I was 25th in Ironman Dubai and a top 10 is the next target
Get better with my swimming, especially in rough sea
Be better prepared for bike mechanical issues
And don’t panic!

Deepest, Steepest, Highest, Hardest

It all started seeing Coach Clark dominate the full triathlon X in 2017 and wondering if I could even contemplate half the distance and attempting to finish the toughest half iron distance triathlon in the world. I also felt as though I wanted to push myself this year at this distance and do something that genuinely scared the living heck out of me. I would later find out it did.

After a few conversation with my uncle saying he was wanting to give it a go. I continued to talk with Steve in regards whether I had the talent and ability to give it a stab… he replied

“yes sure I believe you can so get it entered.”

So with the coaches wise words and blessing I went and entered the event with around 8 months to prepare.

So the training for this epic and scary adventure began. Plenty of rides out with the dream team (Gemma and Craig Scott) as they prepare for there ironman UK debut. A lot of solo rides out in the tough winds and hill rep after rep mansgate claxby and a lot of reps in the Wolds. Its strange once you get cracking up the climbs you begin to enjoy the pain the comes with it as it symbolises achievement and a small success and a step forward and times up and down come down.

Turbo sessions are tough but when you have an amazing group around you each Thursday evening the scotter church with the pastor Mr turbo Cannings with his whistle, Christmas songs, super relevant and relatable 1 hour sessions it seems that little easier to make progress.

The winter months dragged on and progress was on the up. April was here the best month of the year for me. Training camp 14 days of eat sleep and breath training. The coaches Steve, Dean and Dave did and incredible job. Very good sessions every day lots and miles,smiles and climbs. Big shout out to my fellow 2weeker champions Jon Veall and Pete Tindell for the company and the recover rides.

So as the days, weeks, months, training sessions and races past by the big day approached and the magnitude of the challenge of what I had set myself became more and more menacing.

Flash forward to 28th of September. Its massage day to get my legs pummelled by Emma Davis who is a super star, keeping my body supple during the brutal training blocks.

Saturday 29th September my birthday turning 27 and nerves at an all time high I have all my bags packed into the car the bike, transition bag, wetsuit, trial bag you name it it was all packed.  The long drive to the lake district began 164miles. Best of 4 hour drive I pull up to my hotel the ambleside salutation. Only a mile from race start line an transition.

After registering and collecting our numbers and having our mandatory kit bags Checked  we went back and to the hotel dinner ate and constantly checking the weather forecast. All looks well for the morning , little cold but what can I expect from the lakes. Al least it be dry right… more on that later.

Well this is it race morning did I sleep well not a lot. The first time ive not slept well for aa race in all the time ive been racing.

Ate half of my porridge pot and a couple coffees.

Gathered all my bags and my bike from my car and met my uncle in the cold and dark car past at half 6. few words were spoken its race day so what can we both expect.

Steady ride down to the start and time to begin the whole racking we’ve all been through so many times before.

Thats it no going back now the wetsuit is on double capped walking to the race brief to begin the race at 8am.

Race brief done swim course was changed from a 2 lap small lap to a larger 1 lap route and a water temp of just 13.8 degrees.  Cant be that bad right??

In the water we all went… tentatively may I add with a few ooos and ahhhs along the way.

The horn blares though the air and that’s it go go go.

Set off near the front in the middle heading got the light on the boat. Sighting and breathing im seeing everyone on my left. OK set a rythem like I have in training feeling comfortably UN-comfortable. People on the left… people on the left …people on the left… people where the hell they go. I look up find a group in front and slightly to the inside line of me and about half a dozen. Quickly made an effort for 200m to get on terms the  recover.

Made my way around and dropped to jump to the chase group of around four guys. This group was hard to catch I made the last turn to come back to shore and still hadent caught this group. At this point negative thoughts going through my head I was so cold I wanted out. As I looked back I couldn’t see the group I dropped so I knew I needed to push on. Maybe 500 meters from the end I caught the group and hung on started kicking to try stay warm and get ready to run out of the lake. Glanced at watch was 32mins.  later find out the official time was 27 and placed 13th out the water I was very pleased with that.

Swim done felt pretty good but it was so so cold. Got to my bike I felt as though I had about 8 pints of cider I was so dizzy I sat down to get my socks on and shoes. Stood up jersey on and gillet thought about arm warmers but it was raining so no chance of being able to get them on so ran out of T1 jumped on and began the bike section with the rain coming down.

1 mile done then BOOM 20 % kirkstone pass (the struggle) legs still cold not been on the bike 5 minutes and im already climbing. Going to be a long day. Managed to climb at the same speed as another chap and we had a chat between very deep breaths up the top. One out of six climbs done.

Knowing nutrition was going to be key today forced a bar down with a swig of drink and got my head down. Few rollers and the next climb was in front of me wall end climb 25% but now warmed up I could push on that bit more and enjoyed the climb more than the struggle even if it was steeper.

Heading back to T2 with the first and easiest loop completed  and knowing id be back on the main road plus people going to be watching as I pass transition to head out to the bigger climbing section I click through the gears and get the arms on the bars and time trial my way though, well warmed me up a little.

Right its now time to dig in wrynose pass next I see Grimsbys own Les Thompson behind me as we began the 20% climb. Crunch through the gears pedal stroke by pedal stroke we climb to the top Les had a tumble at the top checked on him, he said he was OK. I deceded the wet side of  wrynose pass and recover through the valley before I climb up the west side of harknott.

Hardknott in front of me within 100 meters of the climb I was in my easiest gear and stood up pushing hard my rear wheel spun and I hit the deck. Bottle flew out rolling down Les caught it and brought it back to me. With a grazed knee and substantial pain in my right wrist I walked up the climb and descended to head out onto the out and back section before climbing again. As I was descending I notice my front wheel was rubbing on the pads. I tried to correct it but was no good. I later found that I had damaged the rim it had rippled and distorted as it over heated coming off hardknott 1st time.

They say it would be easy section to recover and get ready for the way home. But the section was just as demanding with tough rollers and now not being able to stand and put a lot of weight on my wrist without great deal of pain. After descending there was a traffic jam on a narrow section with kit cars and a Nissan gtr. All of us racers had to brake rather abruptly, get off get out bikes held above our heads and walk between the cars. That was a good twist cyclo-cross, didn’t sign up for this.

On way back seeing other riders shouting encouragement and my uncle just descended harknott as I was on the way back over with 2 climbs to go. The road was so steep starting from the famous red phone box and over the cattle grid. Digging deep I rode the first few corners before thinking I need to be smart and ride with my head rather then letting pride getting in the way. I unclipped and walked till the road levelled off to a mear 7% and rode until the road kicked up into the hardest part of the course the pitches of 33%. walking over the crest of the steepest paved road in the UK I jumped back on the bike descended the very wet and oil covered road. Very scary decent and a few squeekly bum moments I was down safe just one more climb.

Wrynose east ive ridden before I put the pain behind me and pushed on and climbed it all. Lovely climb if it was dry but the views were just amazing. Last decent and its a flat 6 miles home.

Homeward bound. Right thinking back to all the lincsquad time trials when you’re hurting after making the turn. I bring back the thoughts of what I have to do. Big ring get aero, drink whatever I had left to get me back. Push push push.

Thats it I made it back to T2. I see a fimular face its Siobhan o Brien from Doncaster and fellow tri camper. I get my gillet off my shoes are changed run pack on and run gloves on with pain rushing though my right wrist and I pulled it on. Quick chat hearing that is was so cold at the top it may get shorted.  and an emotional hug from my friend and off I went

Im running… running me. How the hell do my legs feel so good to run after putting them though all that. Its flat for the first 2 and a half miles the turning right past drywall hall up and steep incline. The leader was on his way back as I was starting the climb.

After the steep path you enter a small wooded area and the huge nab scar in front you and a rocky staircase with not a single step the same or the same direction. Some points using my hands to help me get up through the rocks. it was so hot climbing to the first summit. It flattens a little with rocks and ruts all over. I stop and pull out a fleece top out from my bag as the higher and higher I get the colder and colder the air becomes.

The wind it getting stronger and stronger the higher I climb I look back and I see the huge rain clouds heading this way and the views over each side of the trial were just amazing. I was thinking on some of the trails one wrong step I could trip and fall hundreds of feet down the side of this mountain. So with that there was a sharp down hill I began to run more when the opportunity showed itself.

Cramp struck and threw me the the ground few runners ran to me to make sure I was OK. I had to have a minute have some food and water from my bag. Get up carried on. I was around 2 miles from the summit as the ran came. It began to get heavier as I got closer to the summit. As I got to the 2nd to last summit there was a little tent, so I thought that’s it but nope one more peak and a small incline to go. 1 mile.

The waterproof jacket came out as I climbed the last large incline. No longer to feel my fingers so walking up a mountain like a moody teenage round tesco on a Sunday.

Finally I see the little red flags that say that there is 400m to the summit. A small orange tent I came to with a chap hiding from the wind and rain shouts out for my number and if  was OK. Confirming my number and my condition was OK I headed back down. I took a good look around and could see the trail winding on the ridge of the mountain, thinking ive just come up there. The views were just amazing, hard to absorb as I was concerned where I was putting my feet.

This is it way back spirits lifted as homeward bound I began to run down the rain stopped same placed it started so the waterproof came off and back into the bag it went.

More steep climbing and sharp descents. I remembered I still had my cycle jersey on so reached in and behold…. a snickers never eaten on so fast. The sun came out as I was 4 miles from home so I knew it was only 1 and half miles of trail left before I was back on the road.

Began to run and trying to keep up with another racer he was a very good runner we helped each other off the mountain I had a couple of trip and falls one on grass falling on my wrist and one with only 40 meters from the bottom of the mountain.

Checked in with the Marshall at the base of the trail and made it into the road. Adopted the run walk stratagy and I was less then 2 miles from the finish. I was running low on energy moral was getting low legs were heavy and sore from cramp.

Thoughts were bouncing through my head I knew what I had to think of, one of them was all the good running I had done in racing and training up and down hills and all the speed work. The other was a memory from supporting at ironman Bolton when I ran with Craig after him finishing went to find Gemma to see her home. So if she can get though her huge achievement and pain and negative thoughts I can get through this next 2 miles. If not shed shout at me telling me to run.

Running into the town of ambleside it all came to me I was 300m from the finish I couldn’t believe I was going to finish hold the pain and emotion back I pushed on as fast as my body would carry me….

Done I crossed the finish line the medal hanging heavy around my neck as I completed the toughest half iron distance triathlon in the world.

It took me a few weeks to think whether id return to it or not but once id been to hospital and found id broken my scaphoid bone in my right wrist and required surgery I knew I needed to go back for redemption.

I could not have done this race without the ongoing support and encouragement from Mr Steve Clark and all the people that I have trained with other the past year. All the people that believed in me and encouraged me thought this journey. Thank you so much. Big thanks to my family for the support wouldn’t be here without any of you.