Race Report: first Ironman 70.3 — Kronborg, Denmark

July 10, 2016 originally posted: http://journeywell.net/journal/2016/8/7/race-report-first-ironman-703-kronberg-denmark

So a few years ago if you asked me what a triathlon was I’d probably gather it’s a three sport race. That’s it. If you mentioned an Ironman — I would have assumed you were talking about the comic book series or the character that Robert Downey Jr. in the namesake movies. It wouldn’t have even crossed my mind that an Ironman is an endurance race consisting of a 2.4m/3.86k swim, followed by 112m/180.25k bike ride and the finished off by a 26.2m/42.16km run.

And that people actually do this for fun. Just a few years ago I couldn’t even run a mile.

Who knew just four and a half years ago, when I was at 355lbs/161kgs that I would be able to do a sprint triathlon (two last summer) and a regular Olympic triathlon (one last year and three further planned this year). And its still shocking to myself to say that I even had the mental sanity to enter, train and then finish my first Ironman 70.3–1.9km swim, 90km bike ride, 21km half marathon on June 19 in Helsingør, Denmark (70.3 stands for the half mileage of a full Ironman at 140.6mi).

And I had fun doing it.

When I set out to fundraise for Save the Children and Basic Needs this year, I wanted to do something different, but achievable, to bring awareness to the work both charities do in low income countries with the poorest and most vulnerable. They do critical work in underfunded healthcare areas in Africa and Southeast Asia, especially in the case of maternal, child and mental health in developing countries– you can read more about their workhttp://www.savethechildren.org.uk andhttp://www.basicneeds.org/ I encourage you to read about the work they do and if you can spare just a bit, feel free to donate here:https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/journeywell2

Needless to say, any endurance race is a personal race against yourself. It’s a testament to your determination, toughness and stamina. It’s a test of your own mental strength and health, and ultimately your own resilience.

I knew a half Ironman race was achievable physically, but mentally I wasn’t sure. The hours of training, investment in coaches, testing and trying new gear and techniques, understanding what your cadence, SWOLF, SPM, power stroke, heart rate zones and stroke turnover rate all mean –and then at what levels these should be at for your height and weight — can be nauseating for the novice. Needless to say, despite being ‘geeked out’ on all the technical terms, data and graphs that my Garmin watch spits out every time I move (see below) and listening (well, most of the time) to what my coaches told me to do — it all came down to my mental preparation on race day.

It’s having the confidence and the stamina knowing that all the training and work you’ve put in is leading up to that moment — and that no one except yourself can tell you to stop.

Race day

Helsingør is stunningly beautiful. It’s a quick 45 minute drive north of Copenhagen and combines scenic views of rolling golden fields buttressed by the dramatic North Zealand sea that demarcates Denmark and Sweden. As you approach the town, Kronborg Castle — standing out majestically across the harbour — is in clear view. Built originally sometime in the 1420s, Kronborg was immortalized as Elsinore in William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet. And ever since then it’s been an important part of Denmark’s history and wealth — guarding the Øresund waters leading into the Baltic sea. It served as a spectacular start and finish point of the race

I had checked in my bike (after reassembling it — as I travelled from London with my own bike) the day before, along with my bike and running gear bags. The race start was a reasonable 8:30am, some other races in the Ironman calendar year have a 6am start time! I made my way down to the starting point with my wetsuit and trisuit, along with the nearly 1,500 other participants. The Kronborg Ironman 70.3 operates a staggered starting line for the swim — which means competitors are not all getting in the water at once and are divided up by age group, which given the size of the harbour we were swimming in — would have been nearly impossible for everyone to jump in at once. I got changed, dropped my street clothes bag at the finishing line to pick up later and lined up for the 8:30 starting point for 18–30 age group. Then we self-selected our estimated swim finish time and stood around the various time markers (20 min, 30min, 40 min, 50 min, etc..) for the 1.9km swim — which was two laps in the harbour.

I really had no clue how long it would take to complete the swim. The waters were fairly calm, but open water is just completely different than swimming in a pool. I had been retraining my stroke technique specifically for open water for months — lengthening out the catch and high turnover (so extending the arm upward further when out of the water for the follow-through catch in the water). And I had gone through not one but four separate swim coaches in the past 6 months. However, I had not been able to get my swim practice in the month leading up to the Ironman — mainly due to work travel. So needless to say my confidence levels were not high. And swimming is not like cycling or running where I could just power through it — efficiency, speed and technique is key to get around a 1.9km course. So to say I was nervous jumping off the jetty into the frigid 14C degree water is an understatement. I self-selected in the 55–65 minute group (second to last timing — 65–80 minutes was the last group and you had to be out of the water at 80 minutes or you would be disqualified).

It’s 8:30am and the starting gun shot goes and all the super fast swimmers go off first (someone finished a 1.9km swim in 19 minutes!). About 90 seconds later I dive right in and start on the course. When I first looked at the race map about a month earlier I studied the swim course and freaked out — it appeared to be simple but it really wasn’t. It’s two laps of the same course with 8 different buoys to turn around and the first lap you need to veer right so to not go into the finishing area. It’s difficult enough to ensure you are swimming straight (which surprise, surprise — I have difficulty doing…my left shoulder is weak so I have to overcompensate, despite alternate weight lifting in the gym). So as I start there are a few obstacles in the harbour — various boats and of course competitors….and then wait for it…. jellyfish. Yes. Jellyfish. Everywhere. They had not mentioned this in the pre-race briefing and what a weird feeling when your stroke goes into the water and instead of pulling back for the ‘catch’ your hand goes right into the membrane of the jellyfish. This happened at least five times, despite trying to avoid what I could see of the jellyfish, or vandmand in Danish, when in the water.

As I head into the first straight of the course, I start hearing my name being called out — my mom found me! So I had my own cheering squad going on for the first quarter of the first lap, some other locals started joining in. As I start to make the turn at the far end of the harbour to go back toward the starting point, I’m thinking I am feeling pretty solid, fairly confident. But literally a second later, pain in my right shoulder starts — not splintering pain but more of a bruising soreness. I had seen my physio a week earlier as some muscle tissue sourness from my inner pectorals and right deltoid shoulder muscle were extremely tight — crucial muscle groups for swimming. I tried not to freak out and second-guess myself. This is after all a mental game — I knew I could finish — I wasn’t going to stop. So I powered through the pain.

As I turn into the second lap — ensuring I veered right and not to the finish line, I see the second age group lining up (30–40yo), they would likely enter the water as I am going on my second lap — as I pass them on the jetty — all I kept thinking was I did not want some old guy passing me! I hear the gun shot go off behind me as I am about the first quarter into my second lap against the harbour sea wall. My adrenaline shot up (if it was not already sky high) and I was determined to power through the shoulder pain and finish before the age group before me passes. I caught a glimpse back and I was surprised that I was somewhere in the middle / back-middle of my group — definitely not one of the stragglers. My confidence now was growing. Mind-set focused. I knew I could do this. And then my personal cheer squad shows up again (mom)! I get into a stride finally for about 10–12 minutes or so and as I look to make the penultimate turn to the finish — disaster strikes — literally.

Triathletes will know it’s common to get struck or hit by fellow competitors, and often you’ll hit others in the water (leg kick or arm stroke). You’re in the water with hundreds of other insanely competitive athletes. It happens. The purpose of staggering and self-selecting your start time is to prevent this, but you always still get whacked. The first few triathlons it is unsettling, after that then you get used to it. Had a bit of kick hit me in the head and shoulder at the start and then I whacked someone in the head with my arm a few times initially. Nothing major. But about 200m from the finish line someone comes on my left side, I go to breathe on my left and whack — his right hand lands forcefully right in my left eye and nose as I come up to take a breath. It was the only time I stopped my stroke outright during the entire swim. It was bloody painful. As I go back into the water to complete my stroke and reset, cursing this random guy who just hit me (silently of course) — I realise my goggles are filling up with water. This guy hit me so hard a small fissure formed in my left goggle. Water is creeping in. Nothing more motivating to finish than not being able to see out of your left eye! Not.

Luckily in triathlons the only time you really use your upper body is in the water so I went for it and ‘hauled ass’ until the end. I get to the end and slipped as I tried to get onto the floating jetty, I looked back with the harbour dotted with orange (18–30yo) swim caps (there were still quite a few in my age group) and then the green caps (30–40yo age group) — the leaders making their second lap start as I ended my swim (and no old guys passed me!). I started to run to the transition zone #1 to change into cycling gear. I look at my Garmin watch and am shocked — I finished the swim in 41 minutes!! An amazing time for my first Ironman 70.3, especially given swimming is my weakest sport and I had a lack of consistent training in the weeks prior. I headed into the transition tent a happy man.

So I took a leisurely 11:31 minutes in the transition zone (could have made a coffee!) changing out of my wetsuit and into my cycling gear then ran to collect my bike and get on the 45km route which you lap twice to complete the 90km cycle segment of the race. The route was for the most part flat and fast. About half of it went along the stunningly beautiful Danish coastline with fantastic views across to Sweden and the Øresund sea, dotted by stately manor homes and a few villages. Spectators gathered in their lawn chairs, waving Danish flags and yelling ‘gå’ (go in English) to competitors. The middle part of the route then cut into the countryside around Helsingør — rolling hills, wildflowers, and a patchwork of houses and farms. Oh and a prison camp — which looked more like a farm — just with a 10 foot high fence around it.

One of the things you don’t do on race day is try out new equipment. I was in violation of this tacit ’rule’ on two points. First, I had tribars fitted (extended bars to rest your elbows on and to make your posture more aerodynamic) and, secondly, I was trying out a new Garmin Edge 1000 GPS computer. The tribars surprisingly worked well despite having not been on a bike with them for more than 45 minutes before race day. Naturally after 3 hours on a bike your lower back and shoulders start to annoy you, no matter what position you’re in, but nothing too serious. On the Garmin though, the fitting of the bike computer was not the most sturdy and as I made a turn up a small hill to go inland the device became unhitched and flew off. Luckily someone found it and I got it back after the ride.

Although cycling is my strongest sport out of the three, I paced myself. I needed to feel confident to run a half marathon after a long time in the saddle. I had a few SIS energy gels, 2x bananas, tribar mounted tri water bottle and two additional electrolyte filled water bottles. So I was fueled up. Not to mentioned numerous break stations on the way. I completed just under 3 hours and with fairly little effort — my heart rate was incredibly consistent, staying in zone 2 most of the time and a average HR at 130 BPM. Next time I’ll start to turn up the effort and test out what’s possible — probably could shave at least 20 minutes off the bike portion in my current body composition and performance.

Transition zone 2 into the run was a bit faster. I ended up completely changing my entire outfit to be as comfortable as possible on the run (most athletes will wear a trisuit — one single item of clothing for the entire race, but it was my first time so I was not trying to beat any Personal Bests — so didn’t mind taking more time to change gear). Something to mention on the run (and in fact on the entire course and for all Ironman races) — you’re not allowed headphones or communication devices other than a GPS watch/bike device and a heart rate monitor. For some people like me, having no music is a pretty big issue. But I lucked out: on the bike ride, I just zoned out and was alone with my thoughts and then on the run the spectators were like legalised doping — incredible crowd along the route. Pain didn’t event cross my brain. I killed time by solving math equations my watch, counting houses and spectators on the way, pressing various buttons on my watch and GPS device (until it dropped off my bike), and guesstimated how many miles I thought I had spent on an airplane this year (note to self: don’t do this it — it’s depressing).

Coming into the run, I wasn’t too worried about it as I was before I started the race — I knew I could crank out 21km — after all I had just done my first marathon about 6 weeks earlier, but more importantly, I really paced myself on the bike ride — 3 hours to do 90km on a fairly flat course was a breeze and my HR rates showed it — I barely was breaking a sweat most of the time. Now it all came down whether I’d be able to complete the half marathon in under two hours. My last half marathon in February I had a time of 1 hour 45 minutes, compared to my fastest time of 1 hour 40 in Stockholm last September.

The route for the half marathon was four loops of the same course, which I thought would be a bit boring. How wrong I was. It was spectacular — looping around the Kronborg Castle grounds and the harbour lighthouse, then zig-zagging through the quaint town of Helsingør with a strategically placed water and break station midway. It was a fairly flat course with one very minor incline near the beginning and a few technical spots — so grass around the castle, along with gravel and sand and two steep jumps around the harbour from rock placements on the course. There was also a makeshift bridge to cross over where the transition point was between the bike and the run course. A bit odd given the mats on the bridge (to provide friction and stability on ascent and decent) kept slipping and slowing runners down.

The town was out in full force and the spectators were awesome. The clouds parted and it was a perfect 23 degrees. Nothing much more I could ask for. Each loop completed you got a bracelet that was latched onto your wrist (to ensure no cheating) as you passed the finish line entrance (instead of turning left onto the red carpet finishing line you just kept going on course). About half way through the half marathon — I was spot on in terms of my pace — 1 hour — certainly slow if I was only running but I felt solid after having smashed the swim and took my time on the bike. I realised I could complete the full course in under 6 hours — but I probably needed to pick up my pace just a notch or I risked being a minute to two over six hours. I wanted that 6 hour time chip badly!

As I entered into the penultimate loop of the course I slowly picked up my pace to a HR zone of 3.4/5 — I had been sitting around 3.2/3. As any runner knows — this HR zone (for me somewhere around 143 BPM) is a steady pace and not terribly fast. It’s comfortable. It feels nice. But I knew I needed to up my game to complete in 6 hours. So half way through on the 3rd loop I upped my pace and kept an eye on my watch. Then on the 4th and final lap I turn to make the final sharp turn around the harbour lighthouse (which also happens to be the centrepiece of the finishing medal) and got my final and 4th bracelet which allowed me to head to the finish line. I was just a mere 200m from finishing and at 5 hours and 59 min. I absolutely floored it and came down the finishing line and ended at 6 hours 11 seconds. I immediately dropped to the floor and did six push-ups (for six hour completion) for the adoring crowd at the finishing line. Got up and had a medal draped over me. I saw my mother who watched me finish.

We were both in tears.

What a way to finish.

And I can’t wait to do it all again — hopefully later this year in Taupo, New Zealand.

Chris

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Race report: Zürich Marathon 2016

June 2, 2016

Persistence. Stamina. Resilience. This post is a bit overdue but here I am about six weeks ago, 5 meters from the 42.195km mark about to finish my first marathon in Zürich, Switzerland on April 24. So many thoughts and emotions going through me at this point it’s hard to describe. The adventure of a transformation journey is tough — on your body, on your mind, on others around you — but it’s so worth it. Resilience is one thing I’ve always had, but it’s been hard to find at times — I’ve had to tap into that special place that we all have to keep motivated, stay course and achieve that goal. But it was sheer stamina that kept me going six weeks ago. Two years ago I could run 5 miles, 3 years ago I could barely do a mile, 4 years ago it would have been difficult to run even 1000 feet. And finishing my first marathon in 2016 was a dream come true.

Staying motivated throughout my first marathon I knew was going to be hard. But I never could have anticipated the truly apocalyptic weather conditions I had for my first time. Snow, hail and freezing rain battered my face; my legs were iced over for a good 10km and I could barely feel my hands. The temperature did not go above 3 degrees Celsius during the entire run. Just to prove it was snowing — you can see the front page of the local free Blick newspaper (and for those wondering what the main headline is: the Swiss are debating legalised prostitution).

At 7:45am I walked down to the starting point from my friends’ house I was staying in Wollishofen on the Southwest side of Lake Zürich. It occurred to me I was severely underdressed — running tights, thermal sleeveless top and a t-shirt. It then started to hail as I was getting on the #7 tram making my way to the Chinese Botanical Gardens in Enge — the starting point. I eventually got there and dropped my few belongings I wasn’t running with at the starting gate at 8:30. It was still hailing 15 minutes out from the starting gun. I spotted the 4 hour pace group flag and started to do some warm up drills. I had been intensely training about six weeks before the marathon following a bespoke training schedule developed by my running coach, Richard Coates at Full Potential. Ideally I should have started in earnest about 8 weeks out, but oh well.

The starting gun shot went off with Swiss precision at 8:45. The first part of the race goes through the city for two loops around the central district or Kreis Eins (1), with a loop down to Kreis 8 (Seefield area) and then again back to Kreis Eins (1) near Hauptbahnhof and up the main shopping street Bahnhofstrasse before heading pass the neo-classical Zürich Opera House for the long 17km stretch down Lake Zürich to Meilen (the turn around point).

Then the snow starts. Yes, snow. It’s now 7km and we’re crossing the main bridge spanning the Limmat river’s mouth into Lake Zurich and probably it’s the first time I thought I couldn’t finish, that I couldn’t do it, that I wouldn’t last. I started to psychologically doubt myself. And then it hit me. The mental became physical. My Garmin watch started to vibrate and beep — my heart rate shot up and I tried to feel my fingers — but I couldn’t, I tried to feel my quadriceps — they were ice cold. I hadn’t warmed up at all in the 9km we were running. I wanted to stop. I wanted to quit. But I was only 10km into 42.195km. I couldn’t stop. So I slowed down and reduced my pace to a crawl, let some people pass me, pulled out and gulped some processed energy gels full of carbohydrate and electrolyte goodness. My body was craving some energy and almost within 3–4 minutes I got the result. So as we approached Zollikon, my childhood home (about another 2km from my low point at the Opera House-my childhood home), I started to restart my marathon pace around HR zone 3.3 (145 BPM). I regained my focus and consciousness of my body. I could feel my hands again. I could feel every muscle working toward my goal. I was engaged. The snow had stopped, the hail had ceased and a light drizzle was just sprinkling along the race route. I checked my timing and then looked for the 4 hour pace group — I was miraculously still ahead of the group, despite the slow down! I regained my confidence and my legs started to warm up. And just as the skies started to open up and the sun peel through — I looked up to the left to the hills of Zollikberg. I could just see the battered copper steeple of the main church in Zollikon — just a block away from where I grew up. Coincidence?

Zollikon on a fall day…

We’re now 17km in and some of the hills of Küsnacht and Meilen start to appear — nothing too major and I had expected them having trained last August here for the Gstaad Glacier 3000 mountain run (28km up 3000m!). Checking in with my body, my heart rate was fairly consistent at this point and no major pain points were happening at the half-way mark as we turned around at Meilen to head back to Zurich. My training and changing my running technique had worked. I hadn’t taken much water in as it tends to make me thirstier than I am but drank some PowerAde and chowed down on bananas at 22km. I would do so again 2–3x more before the finish. I basically ran the half marathon empty — with the exception of my pre-race routine (two shots of espresso, two croissants or pieces toast, banana, half-litre of water and an energy gel edible). At the half way mark I felt fine, a breeze in the park. Average heart rate was decent (HR zone 3.3/4) and my pace (5:50 KM/h) was declining slowly but not terribly.

HR and Pace

We’re now back at Küsnacht approaching the outer city limits of Zürich at 33km, and I started to feel my legs getting tired, first my quads were having that slight ‘pins and needles’ feeling –like when you haven’t moved for awhile from sitting down. My average pace had slumped. Despite the lack of rain, the rising temperature (3 degrees!) and sporadic sunshine creeping through the sun and generally feeling fine — another unique marathon issue came up — I needed to pee. And badly. Yes, this is gross, but let’s face it — most people have this issue while on any endurance race, let alone a marathon. There are a lot of tips and tricks to trying to ‘hold it’ or ‘let it go’ and I tried all of the mental tricks in the world for at least 15 minutes to convince myself to keep going. It didn’t work. So at 34km mark I stopped for the first time in the race — to take a wee. And once you stop, you stop again, and again, and again, and again. I had restarted my focus and my feet and hamstrings were starting to go, and then the ultimate mental barrier went up — I saw the 4 hour pace running group had passed me up ahead when I was relieving myself and there was no way I was catching-up. My hopes of running my first marathon under 4 hours had been dashed. But I was not going to give up.

I am not sure if I ever hit the inevitable ‘wall’ but I stopped quite 5 times in total between 34KM and the finish line. My pace slowed down a brisk crawl (but no walking) for the last 5km. My heartrate was mainlining or actually increasing. My mind was completely at ease. I just wanted to finish. I got some help from two other runners, one Swiss and one German, who ended up pacing with me until the end, one of us ended up stopping every 3–4 minutes and then we’d play catch-up. We reached Opera House (where a few hours before I had wanted to quit), crossed the bridge to do the final loop through Bahnhofstrasse to make the final 3 km sprint to the finish line. And it started to rain again. It was noticeable the lack of spectators — telling how bad the weather was — the Swiss wouldn’t even go out in it! And then we the final turn for the very short ending sprint, crossing the finish line official at 4 hours 11 minutes and 23.8 seconds.

The last 5km!

Final results according to my Garmin watch

Final official result

Wow. I was beat. No euphoric ‘runners high’ after this one. I was just depleted. And then very, very cold. I waded through the finishing pen as runners collected their medals and gear. The smell of beer and bratwurst was in the air. I didn’t want to eat a thing — just wanted to be wrapped up in a blanket at this point. Despite it being cold — there were no thermal blankets at the finishing line. I needed to make it back to the starting point where my gear was. My body temperature was dropping rapidly and I realised that it was actually another mile (or just under) walk. My phone battery died. No use trying to find any friends at the finishing line now. I needed to make it back to the starting point. Fast. I was so cold that I stopped in the Chinese Botanical Gardens in a greenhouse to warm up to make the last 10 minute walk to collect my gear and get to the #7 tram, which I eventually did.

I got back to Michael and Jonas’ house in Wollishofen, drank about a gallon of water and then passed out on the sofa for two hours. I was beat. The rest of the evening I ate much deserved pizza, steak and chips, with a few glasses of wine. No injuries to speak of except a pretty bad blister and light sprain in my left foot which meant limping around for a day or two after.

Would I run a marathon again? Maybe but I need to be in better shape. Half marathon — definitely (and a few more planned this yea — join in here and help raise $25,000 for Save the Children and BasicNeeds).

19 days until the KMD Kronborg Ironman 70.3 in Denmark.

Chris

DONE!

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Swim. Bike. Run. Repeat.

April 22, 2016

So it’s been awhile since I’ve updated the blog on my training. First marathon is on Sunday in Zurich (in 3 degree weather apparently!) so training has been intense.

Training for 16 events isn’t a walk in the park, as you may guess. Doing it while working and travelling is challenging. Do I have a perfect training regime? I try. Do I have a strict diet? I wish. Will I get fit? Maybe. Am I having fun? Absolutely.

So a few things have changed from my original event calendar for this year, mainly due to work travel and spacing my training out. The changes are as follows

1. March: completed the Psycle 2 Psycle duathlon on March 20th

2. May: Axing the London 2 Paris in 24 hours cycle challenge that was slated in May

3. May: adding in a triathlon — need to get this in to practice my transition times in advance of the Kronborg Ironman 70.3 — so doing the London Crystal Palace triathlon on May 15

4. December: this is a big change and has been a difficult decision but I won’t be racing my first Ironman in Perth, Australia in early December. I have no doubt I will do a full Ironman someday, but right now given my IT band injury late last year and my busy travel schedule, the risk for a running injury is pretty decent. Half marathon distance is pretty a walk in a park for me but a full marathon is serious business (first one is in Zurich next week!).

Lake Taupo, NZ

Lake Taupo, NZ

So I have decided to transfer my December event and do my second Ironman 70.3 race in Taupo, New Zealand! So that will be a 1.9km swim in the beautiful Lake Taupo followed by a 80km cycle and a 21km half marathon around the Lake. Can’t wait!

Follow me on Strava.

Lake Taupo 

Lake Taupo

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Race report: Hampton court Half Marathon

February 22, 2016

DATE AND TIME: 08:30 February 21, 2016

LOCATION: Hampton Court, UK

RESULTS: 1:49.10, place unknown

On-time. Cobblestones. Historic.

Three words for the Hampton Court Half Marathon which took place on Sunday 21st of February with a very early start of 8:30am. For a February, it wasn’t shockingly cold, but typical London overcast with threatening skies. It didn’t rain, thankfully. I arrived 30 minutes before the race — which was equally shocking (often fidgeting around at the last minute for these things) especially at that time of the morning on a Sunday.

At the finish line

At the finish line

I don’t tend to look at the routes before races (probably should change that) — but I was disappointed when the majority of the race was on A and B roads around Surrey and Kingston. Sidewalks were pretty uneven in some places and ended up on the side of the road running against traffic. Luckily I did not trip, but I was controlling my pace most of the run, trying to shorten my stride, increase my cadence, and focus on my hamstrings to motor me along. The first half the race was thoroughly boring (narrow roads, sidewalks along main roads), it got interesting around 14km when we went around the town of Hampton Court and Kingston, until….wait for it….. cobblestones! #WTF Who puts long swaths of cobblestone pathways in a marathon route? Pretty unavoidable I guess, but maybe I had high expectations, so I slowed down to avoid tripping and injuring myself. Around 16KM we hit the outside of the palace grounds as the route circled around the Thames, mostly on hard dirt paths. Then 17km my right knee (where I had an IT band injury late last year after overtraining for the Stockholm Half Marathon) started to play up, but in a different place than in before (felt like something was loose in my knee cap). So I slowed down and took it easy until the finish. So the result was my slowest and most controlled half marathon at 1 hour and 49 minutes. Overall, probably wouldn’t do this race again, but glad it was done and over with. Also got acupuncture for the first time for my knee the day after at Pure Sports Medicine (my physio — and they are awesome!) — seemed to do the trick, no injuries since.

Next race — Psycle 2 Psycle duathlon on March 20th

Please support me in my 16 races this year raising $25,000 for Save the Children and BasicNeeds.

Psycle 2 Psycle spin-run-spin duathlon is next on March 20th. Then the Zürich Marathon on April 24th.

Start something, somewhere and join in.

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Swim, Cycle and Run with me in 2016!

February 7, 2016

 January  Switzerland - Zürich   Neujahrsmarathon 
  January     Marrakesh - Half Marathon
 February  UK - Hampton Court Half Marathon 
 April  Switzerland - Zurich Marathon 
 May  UK/France - London to Paris 24 hours
 June  Denmark - KMD Ironman 70.3 Kronborg
 July  USA - Nantucket Triathlon
 July  UK - Prudential Ride London 100 velothon
 August  Norway - Oslo Triathlon 
 August  Switzerland -  Zürich  Limmatschwimmen 
 August  Switzerland - Matterhorn Ultraks trail run
 September   Sweden - Stockholm Halvmarathon
 September  Sweden - Velothon Stockholm
 October  Turkey - Alanya Triathlon
 December  Australia - SunSmart Ironman Western Australia 

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Race report: Marrakesh Half Marathon 2016

February 4, 2016

DATE AND TIME: 09:15 January 31, 2016

LOCATION: Marrakesh, Morrocco

RESULTS: 1:45.10, place unknown

“Marrakesh is simply the nicest place on Earth to spend an afternoon…” –Winston Churchill

Still true of Marrakesh today, the former capital of Morocco and known as the Paris of North Africa. Landing in Marrakesh, you witness large cranes building a new multi-billion dollar terminal across the desert. As you disembark the plane, you feel the power of the warm, bright sun with cool winds cascading from the Atlas Mountains nearby (which I’m told you can ski).

Only a 3 hour 45 minute flight from London, so it’s no wonder the Friday flight was packed with marathon enthusiasts. Marrakesh offers European runners a way to kick off the New Year with good weather and a nearly flat course. The race course takes you on a great sight-seeing tour through the outskirts of the medina scattered with oasis gardens and olive groves, mostly on well-paved roads.

A 3 hour 45 minute flight from London it’s no wonder the Friday flight was packed with marathon enthusiasts. Marrakesh offers European runners a way to kick of the New Year with good weather and a nearly flat course. TheInternational Marathon and Half Marathon of Marrakesh offers a great sight-seeing tour through the outskirts of the medina filled through the Agdal Gardens and Oliveraie de Marigha, and for the most part well-paved roads.

Marrakesh Half Marathon route

Marrakesh Half Marathon route

Woke up on Saturday not feeling great so stayed around the riad (a traditional Moroccan guest house) and relaxed. One small issue, which was I didn’t pick up my race badge number at the ‘marathon village’. I figured I’d be able to do it just before the race start on Sunday morning — how wrong I was.

So I started the race at 9:15 on Sunday without a race badge. That meant no official time, but I did have Strava (which failed) and my Apple Watch (which worked) with me. I wasn’t going for any personal bests, so I was surprised and pleased I ended the race on 1 hour 45 minutes, managing to semi-sprint the last 500m. A few impressions along the way: as ever, a great crowd watching; kids lined up with hands extended for an elusive high five from runners; hoards of motorcyclists being held back by police honking their horns; even a camel here and there running along-side with its owner. Oddly, you have to peel your own oranges at the break stations (and I actually saw people do this!).

I’d definitely do the race again, this time with an official race badge….

Hampton Court half marathon on February 21st is next! See you there.

At the starting line...
The Souks
Time
Camel ride anyone?
Running
A few other ‘must-dos’ if you’re in Marrakech for a few days like I was:
- Maison MK (where I stayed — great, small Riad and amazing food)
- La Mamounia (art deco hotel just outside the Medina walls — amazing history here with Churchill and Roosevelt meeting here
- Le Jardin (great garden restaurant in the middle of buslting Medina)
- La Maison Arabe — good roof deck and amazing pastilla (local Moroccan delicacy)
- Definitely haggle for the best deals in the souks in and around the main square, Jemaa el-Fnaa
- Amanjena hotel is ridiculously over the top but amazing to just walk around and check out the grounds

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Healthcare & Life Sciences industries and the UN Global Goals for Sustainable Development

February 4, 2016

The sustainable development goals (SDGs) are a new, universal set of goals, targets and indicators that UN member states will be expected to use to frame their agendas and political policies over the next 15 years. The SDGs follow and expand on the millennium development goals, which were agreed by governments in 2001 and expired in 2015.

Over the past several months, I’ve been encouraged by the number of healthcare and life sciences companies engaged with and participating in the launch of the SDGs. Major industry players have agreed that collective action on these new goals is needed -especially in the developing world, where some 1 billion people face extreme poverty and live on just $1.25 a day.

In recent conversations I’ve had with industry executives and stakeholders, it’s clear that healthcare and life sciences companies understand the importance and complexities of emerging and development markets to their business, but, more importantly, that creating value for shareholders can be synonymous with creating social value where they operate in.

This concept of business creating wider societal value is not new, and certainly has been around for awhile (see: here & here for further reading). However, what is new is the groundswell of companies now recognizing and actively shaping their business decisions and strategic vision around creating value that is solely not profit motivated.

It’s one of the reasons I was proud to lead the UN and KPMG SDG Industry Matrix for Healthcare & Life Sciences ‘white paper’ and co-chair its launch in Johannesburg, South Africa late last year, with a round-table of African business, government and civil society leaders.

The SDG matrix for Healthcare & Life Sciences showcases opportunities and examples where collective action by industry can support the Global Goals for Sustainable Development. This could be through sparking new innovative approaches, prompting companies to replicate successful activities in new markets, catalyzing new collaborations and increasing participation in existing collaborations. It is part of a wider initiative by KPMG and the UN to look across seven distinct industries and how businesses in these sectors can contribute to the launch and success SDGs.

Now the UN & KPMG is looking for wider industry input into the white paper and is encouraging companies to submit examples of where they are taking action to support poverty reduction, education, healthcare and wider societal value in support of the SDGs. Initial examples are included in the draft consultation white paper.

Please encourage companies to submit examples here

Read the draft Healthcare & Life Sciences SDG Industry here

Read more about the joint UN Global Compact & KPMG’s initiative on the Sustainble Development Goals and other industry papers here

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Race report: Neujahrmarathon 2016 — Zürich, Switzerland

January 1, 2016

DATE AND TIME: 00:01 JANUARY 1, 2016

LOCATION: ZÜRICH, SWITZERLAND

RESULTS: 50:25, PLACED 11TH OVERALL IN MY AGE GROUP (M20)

Jet lagged. Sleep deprived. Not ready.

Definitely the words to describe pre-race tensions for the Neujahrmarathon 2016 in Zürich. Didn’t know what to expect when I got to the giant Sportshalle outside Zürich just before midnight — it was full of other crazy night runners doing the 10k, half or full marathon. I met a guy from Belgium who has run a new year’s marathon somewhere in the world every year for the past decade (who knew there were that many?). Last year he did Shenzhen, China — quite an achievement to run a full marathon in one of the most polluted cities in the world. Then just before the start I ran into a brother/sister team from Bozeman, Montana where my sister lives. I had been skiing there the week previous — a small world!

The race itself was a bit disorienting. I’d never done a night race with a headlight before (the one I used was awesome). Almost all of it was trail running with a -/+ 25m incline throughout. The course followed the Limmat river — I’ll be back here swimming in a race in August. Looking forward to seeing the scenery next time!

I was happy with my time of around 50 minutes for a cold 10K race in the dark, especially since I’d flown in from the USA the night before — 7:28 a mile pace!

Definitely would do it again. Maybe even the full marathon.

Follow me on Strava

 Strava tracker results
 Pre-race
 Almost done...

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