I rocked up to Stafford on the back of what was my heaviest week yet of training in preparation for IM Wales in September. I arrived on Friday which gave me plenty of time to get to know the course so with run and bike routes explored on Friday and Saturday I felt ready albeit already quite stiff. This was largely down to taking ñ the train up as to cut costs which meant I found myself cycling out to T1 which was an adventure to say the least on the Saturday. Having already done 45km earlier in the morning I ended up doing another 22km with some significant climbing and all my T1 gear on my back. Never the less I was race ready. Now this might sound mad for a branded Ironman event which don’t come cheap however this was very much designated as a training race. So as I sat working out what I wanted to achieve on the Sunday night I found myself looking at my previous three attempts at the 70.3 distance. 6:18 was my best and that was in Weymouth back in 2017. In my head I thought that getting anywhere near this would be a decent outing. With the 5am busses to the swim in the morning it was time to get to bed 7:30pm. Now I don’t know if it’s just me but getting to sleep has always been an issue before a big race and this time was no different. I was almost up and ready before my alarm had gone off 4:45. Lucky for me I was only a 10 minute walk to the bus station and like little sheep one by one a Triathletes boarded with very little in the way of small talk. The bus journey was an adventure and a supposed 30min journey ended up being almost an hour. We definitely took a wrong turning and ended up going under a scarily low bridge. I can verify this as was on the top deck, were talking Inches rather than feet. Anyway now to the racing.. But before let’s take a brief pause to dwell on the massive porta-loo shortage which plagues many a mass sporting event. I’ll spare the details but a pre race lol stop made it impossible to get in the starting pen for my predicted time.Now for the swim. Chasewater it’s a lake which isn’t huge however the wind meant that it had quite a decent swell. So as I set off at the back I knew that I had quite a job on my hands. For those of you who know me you’ll know that swimming is probably my weakest discipline of a triathlon. However today the swim all came together and training in the pool definitely paid off. I was out and round before I knew it with little complaint. Next the bike. Now one of the things they say before any race is don’t try anything new (Yes you know what’s coming). I’ve never really raced with a nutrition plan. My philosophy was always eat if your hungry and drink if your thirsty… today was different though and inspired by a recent OxTri post I had gone for some Precision Hydration and had a proper plan. Upon opening the first 30g Carb Bar I realised that it was a gel block and not a flapjack style bar as I normally go for. Anyway I cracked on with it and I have to say mid way through the cycle feeling quite strong this was when I re-evaluated my aims for the day. I knew that if I could get round the bike in as close to 3 hours and the do a sub 2hr marathon then I had a chance. The bike itself was undulating but nothing to bad and with lots of turns and punch hills I found myself with a smile heading into Stafford having completed the 90km.Porta-loo issue no 2 arose at T2. And I had serious contemplations about possibly doing a very much needed wee on the run. Anyway I waited and then I was off onto the run. 1/2 a marathon with 2 climbs up to Stafford Castle meant that it I was running it pretty close to the 2 hour mark. I knew I needed a distraction and the lack of any nutrition plan for the run was really starting to show. I decided to count my steps.. yes you read that right and was well into the thousands when I reached the summit of Stafford Castle for the last time. Knowing that it was pretty much all the way down hill till the finish I was refocused. With a sub two 1/2 marathon still in my grasp I dug deep and gambled on a gel from the last aid station. And that was it the finish line was in sight. I’d pushed hard to the end and went from sheer delight of being on that red carpet to dispare when in front of me I could see that I had missed on on a sub 6hr effort by 44 seconds.I personally blame the porta-loo fiasco however on stepping back and reflecting this was a big step forward in the right direction heading towards doing double the distance in Wales in September. Two big takeaways, first follow a training plan. Until now I had always training as part of a club but with no real structure to my training other than attending as many club sessions as possible. No 2 and although i wouldn’t recommend doing it my way, have some form of nutrition plan and stick to it. Today both of these had a significant and positive impact on my race not just the time but also the way I felt throughout.As a race that it only two hours away from us I can thoroughly recommend it. Perhaps it will be on your list next year.