I first came to see Jimmy at VO2 in November 2017. Although I had been running and cycling for quite a few years I’d never been coached before, always relying on putting my own training schedules together based on my own experience alongside ideas cobbled together from magazines, books and websites. This had brought some successes with a sub 3 hour marathon the previous year and more recently winning my age group at the London Ultra Duathlon.
In January 2018 I was going to be moving up to a new age group, 55 – 59, and I knew this could be a chance to taste further success! I wanted to see if I could still improve my performance. Would having a coach help? Would they help me reach new levels or was I already at my limit? There was only one way to find out…
At my first consultation Jimmy asked me what my goals were, I had a list! Qualify for the World Duathlon Championships, cycle a sub 2 hour 50mile TT, but most of all I wanted to podium at a National Championship. Jimmy told me straight away, this is an “outcome” you can’t influence; that you just have to concentrate on being the best you can be and on putting yourself in the position to do well. This made sense to me but didn’t quell my motivation, the scene was set, bring on the training!
Straight away I could notice the differences between our approaches. Jimmy had observed from my previous training records that a lot of my workouts were at 75 – 80% of maximum effort with few easier training days and more importantly there weren’t many sessions where I would train close to my maximum. Since I’d be racing at maximum, Jimmy said that it would be a good idea to get used to the pace and effort in training. My ‘favourite’ session along these lines is the 45 minute tempo run at around 90% of maximum, this was to be my race pace in a standard duathlon and before every session I would doubt my ability to maintain the pace, especially if I was doing it after a couple of heavy training days. But every time, once I got into the session I could start to see the improvements.
After a good three months of training I tasted success at my first race of the year: the Anglian Duathlon, winning my age group and qualifying for the World Championships later this year in Denmark, goal number one down. This was a real achievement, but my goal race was the English National Championships at Clumber Park in mid March. The weather was not on my side though and the “Beast from the East” wreaked havoc with the racing calendar and the race was off! Not wanting me to dip in form, having spoken to Jimmy, he set me a “race replication” brick session at race pace the same day. The British Championships were only eight days away after all!
The British Champs were being held at the Bedford Autodrome over the Standard Distance. At Bedford this meant 4 laps on the first run, 8 laps on the bike and a further 2 laps on the final run to make up the 10k/39k/5k race distance. I’d talked through the race strategy with Jimmy and was happy with the plan. All through the previous months Jimmy had said that the key to success would be to maintain the pace and stay strong on the second run. Let’s see if all those multi brick sessions and increasing the pace throughout would pay off!
Perfect conditions on the day saw 200 competitors line up for the mass start. After the race briefing we were off and the pace was fast at the front. It’s so easy to get caught up in the excitement of it all and go off too fast and I knew I had to run my own race. After the first lap I’d settled into a good rhythm and some of the enthusiastic starters were beginning to come back to me, always pleasing! I managed to maintain my pace, the tempo sessions were paying off, and came into T1 in 38:50.
I noticed that one of my age group competitors had arrived just before me but thanks to practicing my transition drills with my shoes already clipped in I was out in 42 seconds just behind him. As a racing circuit, Bedford has a beautiful, smooth surface which made a welcome change from the pot holed roads I’m used to training on and I was soon up to speed. Due to the twisting nature of the course I was able to keep an eye on my rival but after three laps I couldn’t see him, so I concentrated on churning out the laps and negotiating the increasingly busy track as the rest of the runners joined us on the bike leg. Halfway through the seventh lap I was passed by a cyclist who I recognised as having beaten me in my age group at Eton Dorney the previous year. I knew he was a great biker so dug in and tried to keep him in sight. At the end of the eighth and final lap I’d managed to keep the gap to around 400 meters, but more importantly, I was bang on my schedule entering T2 in just under the hour in 59:58.
Out of T2 in 58 seconds, after a very slight delay to stretch out a cramp in my calf, I was around 200 meters behind my rival. Now was the time for a level head and to put Jimmy’s plan of a strong second run into action. I had 5k to try and catch my Eton Dorney co-racer so there was no need to push on and risk blowing up! I passed my wife for what must have been about the twelfth time and her encouragement gave me another lift. Around halfway through the first run lap I was making steady progress and had reduced the gap to my ‘rival’ by half when I could feel my right hamstring tightening. Having previously suffered in races with cramp that had forced me to stop and walk I feared the worst. I shortened my stride and knocked the pace back slightly and was very relieved when it quickly subsided. This seemed to give me a real mental boost and I set off in pursuit with renewed vigour. My quarry appeared to be slowing and I passed him at the end of the first lap. After this, it was just about concentrating on maintaining the pace and not cramping. I crossed the line in 2:01:08 with my arms aloft. It was a relief to finish. I wasn’t sure if I’d won but had managed to take over 40 seconds out of the next competitor in my age group. After waiting for him to cross the line to congratulate him we went to check the results.
It’s hard to describe my feelings after seeing that I’d won the British Championships, it was beyond anything I’d hoped for and I went straight to join my wife to share the moment.
Managing to stay strong on the second run had been the key and had brought the dream result. I’d averaged 6:10 min/mile for the first 10k and 6:14 min/mile on the second 5k. The changes that Jimmy had made to my training had really worked as I’d never been able to maintain a strong effort through to the end of the second run before, but this time I had. Thanks Jimmy!