Posts by chris

Ironman Frankfurt 2016

July 15th, 2016 Posted by News No Comment yet

When I signed up for Ironman Frankfurt last year in July I didn’t even know if I would be allowed to travel aboard. This is due to the restrictions imposed on me by the UK probation service. To be fair they have been very supportive since my release but this was a big step and I took the gamble and paid the entry fee. I desperately wanted to race the best athletes in the world and outside of Kona this is the race.

The journey so far

April 28th, 2016 Posted by News No Comment yet

It was just over 3 years ago and I was still trapped…

I was sat in a prison cell, dreaming about my release and eventually becoming a professional athlete in the outside world.

Although I held a few British and World records on a rowing machine, this was the only proof I had of the physical ability I harnessed which could potentially turn these dreams into a reality. I had wasted almost a decade of my life locked up without the freedoms most people take for granted and this gave me an incredible drive to succeed. And nobody truly understood this apart from me.

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2015 – A Year of Progress

January 4th, 2016 Posted by News No Comment yet

As 2015 draws to its conclusion I thought I would write one last post to reflect on the year and to share some exciting news….

Firstly, on the training and racing front it’s been a fairly successful year – I’ve learnt a hell of a lot and continue to look for ways in which to push on and improve. One area that made a big difference was the decision to get a specific Ironman coach who could set me a training plan and offer his advice because of his own previous race experience. This is something I just didn’t have so thanks to Keith at Perform Fitness. I feel I’m starting to move nearer my potential as an ironman athlete…

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Ironman 2015 – the Road to Redemption

July 30th, 2015 Posted by News No Comment yet

Ironman UK was my A race of the year. This was the one where I wanted to put last years disastrous race to bed. My goal was to podium my age group (30-34) but I was not aiming to qualify for Kona. Not because I don’t want to race the World Champs but because I knew the US would not grant me a visa because of my past criminal convictions for armed robbery.

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At the Sharp End

April 23rd, 2015 Posted by News No Comment yet

I’m coming to the end of a big block of training and moving into the final 12 weeks before I get to my priority race of the year – Ironman UK.

I thought I would write about how training has gone up until now.

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2015 – A Big Year

January 20th, 2015 Posted by News No Comment yet

Well as it’s been a while since my last blog so I thought I would do my first one of 2015 which is a big year for me.

Last year was a mix of emotions but I had some really great things happen in my personal life. I gained permission to travel abroad for the first time in 10 years and went to a French training camp in the Alps with Hywel Davis who is an athlete I admire and respect.

I also had opportunities to work with some big charities  – helping kids to escape a life of crime using sport as a vehicle to better their lives and hopefully realise their true potential.

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Ironman UK 2014

August 11th, 2014 Posted by News No Comment yet

I don’t know where to begin with this blog. I’m totally gutted about a race where I should and could have achieved so much more.

When I had finished I was embarrassed. Finishing meant nothing to me. My expectations on the day were not to win my age group – I always knew 12 months of training would not close the gap on the top guys – but I expected to be around them. With the numbers I had put out in training over the past year this was a real and achievable target.

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Training Camp

June 5th, 2014 Posted by News No Comment yet

I’ve recently been on a training camp to the French Alps and like most things in my life its not been straight forward and simple!

My past life hangs over my head like a dark cloud sometimes and every now and then it decides to rain on me too remind me it’s there – just incase I forget.

Even the simple things that people take for granted like going abroad on a holiday or in this case a training camp aren’t that easy for me.

As a man sentenced to life imprisonment for armed robbery it means I’m on a life license forever. This means the day I was released from prison I signed my life over to the state. Until the day that I die.

So EVERYTHING I do I need to ask permission from my probation officer. Things such as moving house or in this case travelling outside the UK.

Last year I was offered to go and train with a man I greatly respect as an athlete – Hywell Davis. He was arranging a training camp in the French Alps with some other very talented runners and cyclists who were top athletes in their own right.

The reason he asked me to go was because we have several things in common – he himself has broken many world rowing records and knew about me taking up Ironman. He thought it would be good for my training and also potentially good for the group. This type of camaraderie is a great example of the supportive mentality of the Ironman family.

So I pay the money and book the flights in the faint hope they would let me travel by the time thecamp came around. It was a risk I had to take as this camp was going to be a real test of my current training and the cash had to be paid well in advance….

Last year, whilst still rowing, I was meant to be going on a high performance training camp to Milan to be selected for a boat to race at Royal Henley. I received many and several character references from ex international rowing coaches and other profession people stating that this was a genuine trip with other athletes and vouching for my character- but at the last moment the probation service said NO!! So I wasn’t getting my hopes up too much but still had a burning fire inside me and really wanted this to happen…

Then 3 weeks I got the call. It was a YES! It had been approved because over the past year and a half I’ve made so much progress with my life and built up trust with the probation service. This was a big thing. A very big thing. Essentially they were saying that I could travel outside the UK and they didn’t think I was to go AWOL and run off into the sun. Now bearing in mind there have been some news in the media recently about other inmates escaping and going missing and one of these was my co defendant at the time- this was a massive decision for them – and I will always be grateful that they showed faith in me.

So off I go too to the French Alps for the first time on a plane since I got arrested a decade ago.

It was an incredible feeling being at the boarding gate on that Saturday morning with just the feeling of being totally free again – it was priceless.

The camp was what can only be described as amazing. These guys were great athletes. A few all in the 2h30m for a marathon and Hywell Davis has won double Ironman and dominates in races over ironman distance – hes up there with the pro guys.

The whole camp was set up like a race – who can get too the top of a 2000m climb the fastest? That’s how I like to train J And I even surprised myself as for someone who has only been riding a bike for 7 months I was up there dropping guys!

As a self coached athlete, who never really trains with others, it’s sometimes hard to note real progression. Okay I sit on a Wattbike for 3 hours a day and see my wattage has gone up and my heart rate down BUT when you’re actually side by side with someone smashing the shit out of yourself and your pulling away that’s when you know you’ve improved.

I made sure everyday counted out there in the Alps. We did 20,000m plus of climbing on the bike on some of the hardest stages in the Tour de France. And all in 5 days! I made sure I gave everything to get those training adaptions at altitude.

So with only 2 weeks now until my first race – Ironman Wimbellball 70.3 – I can’t wait too see the gains I’ve made over the past 8 months and how the camp out in the French alps has pushed me on.

I’m not tapering for Wimbelball at all as it’s not important too me. The target is Ironman UK in July but I will still race it as hard I can on the day and see how all the cards fall.

Thanks for reading

John

DNF – WTF!

April 10th, 2014 Posted by News No Comment yet

This is going to be fun writing about the Manchester marathon  – I managed to run just 3 miles before I had to stop. My first ever DNF (Did Not Finish) and I cannot describe how angry I was. But upon reflection this is only training and what doesn’t kill me will make me stronger and I have learnt a hell of a lot from the experience – and that’s the key to continual performance improvement.

This was my first ever fresh legged marathon. I’ve run ultra marathons up to 100k before with no real run training and just my rowing fitness to get me through. So this was my first proper running test since I started training for Ironman and as everyone knows running is an important part of the Ironman race.

Over the past six months I’ve coached myself into some pretty decent running shape on just 3 or maybe 4 runs a week. Out of all the disciplines in Ironman, running is where I’ve made the biggest gains and continue to progress. I’ve just kept it simple and use my rowing philosophy of training for running. So anyway, all the training markers for me were to run under 3 hours comfortably with my real goal being 2h 40s ish. I would have been happy with this time at this stage of the year especially as I’m relatively new to running. So I was going into the Manchester marathon confident I would post a great time. I got to the start in good shape – no injuries, well rested, full of energy and no concerns at all.

The guns fires and we are off.

I settle straight away into my pace – 3.57 mins per km  – and start to slowly pull away from the 3 hour pacer and with what looked like a good group of runners. I was even being smart and using them to shield me from a slight head wind.

Then slowly I noticed my right quad started getting tighter and tighter. Oh shit. I very briefly stopped to try and stretch it off and then ran again……But it got worse and then suddenly it was like I had been shot in the leg! So again I stopped and tried to stretch it out and I saw the 3 hour pacer coming with about 50 runners. So I thought I could maybe run with them for a while, bring my pace down and run it off. Then I could kick and get a decent time.

But it was pointless and my quad just got worse. So as hard as it was I had to make a decision – the Manchester marathon wasn’t an important race to me, it was nothing more than a training run and I didn’t want to do more damage to my quad and try to limp or walk a marathon. So as hard as it was I decided to pull out. Don’t get me wrong I was pissed off and angry as I said at the start of this blog. The spectators close by must have heard every swear word in the English language but as I was a cockney in Manchester I don’t think they could understand me :). But seriously I was not a happy camper as I’ve run hundreds of kilometers over the previous months with no issues.  Then I travel half way around the country and can’t even run 3 mile. The thing that got me the most was watching people just run past me – I hate this more than I can express – but on reflection I know what I can do and have faith in my own ability.

The proof is in the pudding in July at Ironman UK – that’s what matters. That’s the event I’m training for and I now know what caused the problem so I have time to address this before the real race. From talking to my Physio at London rowing club it looks like I have a grade one strain which in the context of injuries isn’t too bad. Basically my gluteus was tight which meant my quads were over activated and went into spasm.

When I woke up in the morning my quad felt okay and the human body never ceases to amaze me as the day before I could hardly walk! So with a little rest from running and a bit more on the ergo and in the boat, I will be able to fit a marathon into my training. I do still want to get an idea of my run fitness before Ironman UK to make any final training calculations – so onwards and upwards.

Thanks for taking the time to read and let me know if you have any questions.

The Real McAvoy Interview

March 7th, 2013 Posted by News No Comment yet

This week I have been answering questions posed by my good friend Terry who is a sports psychologist (see insearchofbrilliance). I hope you enjoy and feel free to ask me anything else in the comments box below.

What is your earliest memory about sport?

My earliest memory of sport was watching the 1994 World Cup. Ireland vs Italy with my Grandad. Ireland won!

Who are your current heroes in life or sporting arenas and why?

James Cracknell is the athlete I most respect as he does not accept mediocrity at all and has very high expectations. He pushes himself mentally and physically more than any other athlete I’ve seen. 

What do you find hardest about training and how do you overcome it? The thing I find hard about training is not pushing it to the limit all the time and having self control. I know there is a process and steps I have to take to constantly keep improving and getting faster.

What do you love most about training and why?

I enjoy the physical element of training a hell of a lot! I find it a kind of mediation and I love watching the progress of my training and seeing results in my program.

What’s your favourite food?

My favourite food has to be blueberries. I eat packs of them a day.

What’s your view on different types of diets? Eg low carb, Paleo, Fruitarian, vegan, etc and what type of diet do you follow?

I think at the moment there is a lot of these faddy diets and quite frankly I think it’s all a lot of crap. Everyone thinks their diet is the right one but I just think eat what you know is good for you like fruit veg nuts etc and stay away from junk like coke, fast food crisps etc. It’s simple. 

What’s a typical days worth of food?

I eat a very high carb diet. Lots of cereals, fruits, veg, nuts and chicken.  

How important do you think mental training is and how do you apply it?

I think mental training is the key to success. You could be the fastest and strongest person in the world at your sport but if you don’t have the mental strength or mental strategies in place to perform it means nothing. I personally don’t build events up in my head and put stuff into perspective in the context of life. So doing ironman or an ultra marathon for 24 hours around a 400m track is nothing to the hardship I’ve experienced in my own life and certainly nothing to what others experience in the world.

What is your biggest strength and your biggest weakness?

My biggest strength is probably my own self confidence. And my biggest weakness is sometimes I can be a little performance driven and blinded by the more human element of sport. 

What’s one piece of “gold nugget” advice you would give to endurance athletes?

Keep it simple and don’t over complicate things. And have belief in yourself. If you’ve trained for a year or six months for a race you’ve banked the training so have confidence in your own ability to race well. 

What do you do to unwind?

I love the cinema and trail running with no Garmin or heart rate monitors 

If you were a superhero which one would you be and why?

Would have to be Batman as I love the car

What’s your favourite film? 

The Wolf of Wall Street

What’s your favourite track?

The Prodigy – Firestarter. I’ve broken many rowing records to that track!