I have considered not publishing this blog.

I’m not a person for deep serious blogs about me preferring to talk about coaching, training and well basically sport but here is a thing.

For all my noise I’m actually quite a private person but I’m troubled by life right now.

Even though not 49 yet I am 50 next year, my daughter is 18 now. I have spent over 2 years in my current contract at work but it even looks like that is coming to an end. 3 years prepping for a sporting event next year and now not sure I want to do it.

Safe to say my private life has not been that smooth since leaving MiniGs mother and although I have tried to “do the right thing” it is safe to say I have largely failed at being a parent, partner or husband. I have paid my way, I have attended a few of my daughters events(said the wrong thing at these on occcasion). I have tried to offer support and see my daughter but the gaps between us all have grown these last few years. Or as she said “we have nothing in common” she has a point I’m sport and she is her mothers daughter and wonderful with animals. To the extent that these last few years I have felt tolerated due to financial support but not really needed beyond that. Her being 18 and leaving school is just part of the equation.

I need to make some big calls in the next few months and as always there will be repercussions.

The questions I am asking myself are these:

Do I want to be a contractor or get a settled role and grow with a company.

Do I want to work in my current environment or finally embrace my love of coaching?

I can honestly say I dont work for money, it has been nice to support the family, I enjoy what I do but it’s not my passion.

The world is now full of coaches, brands, ex pros etc.. I’m not a name and wasnt a great athlete(oh I am solid for sure but not great), my coaching works and I get clients on reputation but is it enough?

In effect the real questions are these:

Who is Mark Shepherd?

Do I like him?

Is he happy?

What makes him happy?

Is his hapiness important enough to risk upsetting others?

Right now I’m sad too often and spent way too much time looking at all the mistakes I have made in the past.

Today I am trying to look forward and see what’s out there but how does a 50 year old man of average sporting ability and intellect completely change direction?

You spend a long time dead at which point it doesnt matter but while I am here I’ve reached a crossroads…..


Yoga – week8 and improvements

Yeap, clear as day I have more hip and hamstring flex than I have had in years.

It’s a funny thing as it doesn’t matter if my legs go pop when racing but I am becoming quite dedicated. Let’s be clear I am not doing 1hour a day and contemplating life but I am engaged enough to be aware when I miss days out.

I am even contemplating going to a class but have discovered this is complicated.

There are different flavours and I dont want a spiritual journey.

More research required.

The next blog on yoga will be an update on if I have attended a class(maybe) 🙂


There have been a number of firsts lately

Seems an apt time for another catchup.

Yoga continues and I have now used a YOGA mat, it’s ORANGE obviously but more on YOGA in another blog.

I did my first road race since my crash and backed that up with my first CRIT race as well. Mentally I am fine which makes the next statement quite understandable.

I WILL BE GOING TO MILTON KEYNES TO DO A CRIT SOON….. I have to, no really! It is safe to MK and I are not the best friends be it road or cross not many things go well there but I refuse to accept I should avoid it and instead I shall embrace the frustration and fight it head on.

Also did my first club TT and first open of the year, eye openingly poor rides on both counts, my 2nd club TT was better but it has told me a few things.

1. I’m not good in TT position yet due to lack of time on the bike and a level of just not being happy on roads in wind in TT position, the left shoulder and elbow are still not as strong as they were

2. I understand why my duathlon power was so low, basically all my power on the TT bike is low as is my cadence. I seem to have turned into a grinder and not a happy one at that.

Just finished the Tour of the Abberleys, a brilliant event and I will be back next year. It did not go well which was very upsetting. Seriously I know what happens.


Prologue – 34 seconds off the lead which is solid, most the damage done on the hill. Maybe I should try harder off the line…

Stage 1  – it’s not flat and normal protocol is people try to get away and there is a bunch. I had decided this year to try not to ruin myself on day 1 so did a few turns on the front and had 2 digs but for me very restrained. Finished in the bunch. Happy and as expected really(note: somewhere in here I did 20 mins avg power more than I rode on the TT bike on Wednesday).

Stage 2 – this has 5 laps of the prologue climb, there is usually a point where I struggle and this time it was lap 3 and not sure how but it went very wrong and 3 of us got back on eventually. This meant on lap 4 I didn’t want a repeat so went full gas to hang on which I achieved but when we came round for lap5 I had nothing and crawled up the climb. I was devastated really as thought I was stronger this year. It did not bode well for day3 that is for sure(note: somewhere in here I did 20 mins avg power more than I rode on the TT bike on Wednesday).

Stage 3 – the day this race is about really, I thought I would be smart and put on a 34 cassette as I have a mech that is designed for it. Haha, oops you muppet, mechanical issues from the off(found out later I had dropped a spacer so I caused the issues). I was in trouble from the start with the bike and my legs. The pace was mental from the gun but I was there or there abouts. Every so often having little issues with the gears. I was just on the back as we hit the climb, couple of slips and a grind and I was out the back, reached the top and the bike would not change gear. Released it and set off but my head had gone, after the 2nd climb and 2nd dismount to release the gears I worked out what I could use. Was caught by the front of the CD etc… race and rode the climb with them pushing a bigger gear that was holding and stayed on the back until the 2nd climb when I needed another gear. Head now totally gone and rolling to the line I was caught by other CD etc….

I couldn’t be anymore disappointed with my ride or my incompetance as it turns out but as I always I will be back. This was not a focus event for me this year but I did think I had solid enough bike legs, I was wrong but will make some changes for next year and try again.

Finally on this list of firsts, lets talk stupidity, Arrived in Chanaz to see my friend Laurent from Paris and instead of an easy ride we decided to climb Colombier up a side that had multiple KMS at 10 to 13% average per km. This was silly and as soon as I saw Z4 I turned and went back. First time I have bailed on a climb but I just didnt want to suffer.

So as you can see I am a month into road season and it is a pile of POOH actually. Major concerns are around recovery and my weight. I don’t seem to recovery as well as I used to and I am fat, no other way to put it. I relaxed and didnt think right now it would be fatal but there is no doubt I need to be lighter to race.

Bright sides, it is a long season and to be fair on me I put a lot into being ready for the duathlons. They are basically a 1 hour smack fest and there is no doubt I can go very deep and stupid for an hour.

Specificity is the word and I wanted something, right now I have realised just how much I focused on being good for 1 hour!!




So here it is the hater of YOGA, PILATES and BODY BALANCE

Oh yeah, it is the start of week 4 so thought I better finally address this.

Firstly HATER used by me above is too strong a word, I never hated it I just didn’t enjoy it or think it helped when I did Body Balance and Pilates before(seems I may have been wrong) and YOGA always seemed too “Spiritual” for me.

Anyone who has known me a while may be aware that all the way back to my Ultra days I have had trouble with my hamstrings and my calfs, spasms cramps, complete lock ups. Call it what you like but it has ruined a lot of races.

Through my running career I looked at all the salt options,  nutrition, supplements, stretching(Body Balance and Pilates) and pure volume to try to understand what was wrong. Hell, I would have tried VOODOO at points if I thought it would work. In the end pure volume delayed the breakdowns longer and longer but then my running career ended and I discovered that along with the ankle issue I have the L4/L5 issue that will one day need surgery.(I looked up the surgery and I don’t want it, so when the doc said don’t get fat if it feels better and come back when you can’t lift your left leg I went for that option).

Sadly the last few years have seen more and more breakdowns in events and being light and doing a little stretching wasn’t cutting it and I cant do the run volume to fight it off so after the nationals this year I nearly quit all duathlons.

I did a lot of soul searching, plus research and had to listen to people tell me about salts, hydration etc. all over again. While this was going on I spent some time(a lot of time) doing research and of all the things to allegedly offer non surgery relief to my lower back and therefore my hamstrings turned out to be YOGA, not really want I wanted to read but all other avenues have failed and deep down I know I can win if I can run all the way in.

So I have found a little session for inflexible people that I can do at home until I have the confidence to go to a class, yes confidence. Lets get something clear I am not getting an aerobic workout here but I am straining while hardly moving and frankly a class would be embarrassing. I have also found a few other little drills for my hamstrings and hips and have a little session I struggle through most days. It has really highlighted how stiff I have become(always been a maintenance stretcher but no real development) and shows me how strong (isometric maybe but strong) people who do YOGA are. I get really shakes and strains.

So here it is written down

There will be other changes to my training this winter but added to that, YOGA will get a year and if all to plan the sessions will get longer and I will YOGA in public.

I will try to blog about my YOGA JOURNEY every 4 weeks.

Right now, it just feels hard and I feel bad doing it, I do not enjoy it but it is not swimming bad so it has a chance.

I will race at the National Age Group Duathlon champs next year, if I race and nothing goes wrong I will be the biggest YOGA convert EVER !!!!

For the curious 5hours done in the first 3 weeks but no confidence yet to be in front of anyone else.

Watch this space as it could be an interesting year.



That’s a wrap on Duathlon season

In effect this is a 4 month blog so I shall start at the beginning.

Target was to qualify for the 2020 ITU and ETU Age Group Sprint Duathlon Championships and win a medal at the British Standard Distance Champs.

I have been back racing qualifiers for the last 2 years to prep so as far as sprints go I did go into this year with some confidence, the only problems I could foresee were

  1. I would have a mechanical
  2. my legs would play up

The first event in my master plan was the ITU qualifier at Ashridge, TT bikes to qualify for a draft legal event, okay I can live with it. Got the rig out and did some training, went along and it was bloody cold but the first the run went ok before a puncture 3 miles into the bike saw me DNF.

Put a little side relief into my duathlon season with an MTB event, this was fun but also totally brutal 4kms up and down hill for both runs with 48 mins worth of suffering on the bike, around this time I learned about cross duathlon so thinking about doing that as well. I came 5th overall with 2 solid runs and a top 10 bike.

It’s a funny thing but when there is a road bike involved I look like a cyclist who runs a bit, make it an off-road event and I look like a runner who rides a bit.

So March saw me enter two events, a fun event down in Kent where I had hoped to me Yiannis. Basically a smash fest where I went hard and came 2nd overall. The more important event was the tactical entry into Bedford Sprint, another Qualifier for a draft legal event that was non drafting, this time ETU. Given the national is at the same location this is actually a big win as it is TT bike on the same course. I had a good day out here with 17th overall and the Age Group win. No issues at all with my legs or the bike and confidence that the leg problems of previous years were behind me.

April the 7th and the year anniversary of my crash saw me line up for the national champs. After last years issues getting off the bike I decided that I would just do a normal dismount and remove my shoes at the rack.  Beyond that I lined up feeling largely OK, the first run was steady rather than fast and there was no doubt I was not happy at the mid point but around 7 or 8kms I was feeling pretty calm and in control, coming into T1 in a similar time to last year but for less effort. I took gels at 5 and 10km as I wanted to ensure fueling was not an issue. The bike was windy but much better than March and yet with all the prep within 4 laps I was getting twinges in my calf that meant I spent the next 4 laps being aware and cautions but riding solidly, I even drank nearly 500ml of drink on the bike so coming into T2 I was cautious but calm. Got off the bike and jogged to the rack and even though not great I ran out of T2 aware my calfs were sore but not cramped. First  KM came up in 4 mins but it was the only KM as shortly afterwards the left hamstring went POP, only way to explain is it feels 1 inch wide and 2 inches long yet stretch 12 inches. As I went to stretch it I got a first, my abdominal cramped and there I was stood still unable to move. As I watched runners go by even as it finally loosened I knew my day was done. I have no desire to complete things I’m a racer.  No medal for me on this day and I can’t explain how disappointed I was.

Now due to the January puncture I was forced to accept I needed to go to Stockton Duathlon which happened to be today , now the pluses here are a draft legal race and a short 2nd run.

Given the stressing I have done these past 7 days even with these things in my favour I was  not convinced I would be able to race. I ran a few times this week and I rode my bike but there was nothing you could really call proper training. I also started Yoga, yes I did write YOGA. This is a  one year plan, research says this is the only option beyond surgery that may help my back mobilise and save my legs from what I go through. I will also look at doing more longer brick sessions, I thought I didn’t really need these but it seems I may be wrong.

My hotel was 6 miles from the HQ so I decided I would warm up by riding to the start, I got there but was not warm :¬) I stretched off and stayed wrapped up as long as possible but 15 mins before I had to be on the start line. Kept my gloves on and a base layer but shivered on the start line right until go. Within a km I had unzipped my front and race head had arrived. By 2kms I was moving through the field and came into T1 inside the top 30 and a little quicker than expected.

Run 1 – 18.01

T1 – the system worked well and a 43 second turn around

Pegged it out and flying mounted the bike moving smoothly up to the first turn and passed 2 people, grabbed a drink early and got my head down. There was a nervous early moment as my hips felts a little tight but it soon passed. Thinking I was going well I was shocked to be passed by 2 riders so jumped on the wheels and wow they were strong. A group of us basically ripped through the field, I didn’t do as many turns on the front as I wanted but more because I couldn’t get to the front than laziness.  In the end a small group of us broke clear so I risked the feet out the shoes as I knew I was racing,(no issues) dismounted and ran into T2.

Bike 29.14

T2 – again really smooth and out in 33 seconds !!!!

Out of T2 and I was nervous, tight but not cramping but memories of last week were there. After a cautious first KM I settled in and held my place in the line, not catching but also not being caught either. At no point did I spasm but I did feel like my stride was short. Crossing the last bridge I lost a single place and I admit that I didn’t risk everything as I knew I was well placed overall and the objective was to finish.

11th overall – 58.28 – 2nd V45, the winner was in my age group 1min 45 up the road and this tells me I have work to do if I want to be the best.

The level of detail on yesterdays race tells me I need to get back into the habit of doing my write ups after every race as they are useful when you look back.

To be the best I need a body to work and so I shall review my training, doing more testing, spending time talking and planning with Gary from Sportstest, add the yoga and make some changes where we feel they may help. I may even race some of the late season events just to check how I am progressing but for now Duathlon season is over and I hit 2 out of 3 targets.

Largely a good season where true to form I was either on the Podium or don’t finish.

As I told Josie Perry, I believe in my training and have the confidence that I can overcome most things, just the nagging doubt about my back to manage.

Yoga has 12 months so watch this space for reports on my training and I am sure some comments on my Yoga Journey.





After the 2018 season, my crash and just thinking about what I want from sport I spent a lot of the off-season trying to decide on clubs for 2019. After many years riding for a Shop Team I found the transition to club member quite difficult.

I chatted to a few people in various other clubs and look at a few race teams but one organisation stood out for me as it was something I believe in so in 2019 I will be riding for Sportstest.

I have known Gary at Sportstest for a number of years and he is the man I talk to when I want real numbers to see where my training is. I have also in the past sent people I coach to see Gary.

My target is still to represent Great Britain in my Age Group Duathlon at the Worlds and Europeans Duathlon Championships in 2020 and I hope that this change and the support from Gary will help me raise my game a little as lets be honest I don’t just want to take part.

I’m still self coached but with the data and a little advice I have the power to shape my training.  Check out https://www.sportstest.co.uk/ for a full run down on the services Gary has.

Look out for more pictures of me in my new kit and hopefully a blog post about my follow up test sometime in late April or May.

Exciting times ahead and I look forward to representing Sportstest through 2019.


Epic fail

It seems I have forgotten to do my end of year blog with my goals for 2019.

Here it is, much shorter but you will get the picture.

Did some duathlons early season and had more leg issues. Did get another Bronze at the duathlon champs.

First Crit of the year and season over after a bad crash. No complaints as that is racing.

Rehab – happened well and my road bike numbers were solid, I also became a leg training junkie.

Recovered – rode a 22.xx on the K41, ran a 17.11 5km, won an offroad duathlon overall and won my AG at Oulton. Went to America for a hill climb race. Took part in 3 CX races without my calf packing in.

Blogs are available so I won’t bore you.

2019 and my plans still involve qualifying for worlds and euros at duathlon but I am not sure if I will race. Talking to people the racing may not be what I am looking for and I won’t be that excited by the AG Trisuit. I just like hard racing.

With that I am looking at powerman and mixed terrain events oh and looking at getting back on the running track.

Let’s go then….


June 2019
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The Dark Lord Speaks