Hello Skechers

Goodbye Brooks

I’ve had a fairly long term relationship with Brooks. Since deciding to get back into running for my ill fated London Marathon attempt, Brooks were my go to shoe. That appears to be over. Welcome Skechers! More specifically, welcome the Go Run 4 – 2016.

Skechers Go Run 2016
Skechers Go Run 2016

I had looked at them a few times online, mainly due to the awesome colour options! But, i’d ruled them out on the grounds of having a very low, 4mm, drop.  Based on my previous bad experience with low drop shoes, Brooks Pure Flow and Pure Cadence, I had assumed that low drop was bad. I can’t pinpoint when I first started having calf problems but it was around the time I started using the Pure Flow. As a result, I moved to a more cushioned, 12mm drop shoe, the Ghost 8.

During all of this time, I continued to do what I always do, research, research, research. I tried all manor of brands (Saucony, New Balance, Mizuno, Asics to name but a few) and kept coming back to Brooks as the most comfortable. I also kept putting my ongoing calf problems down to other factors.

Calf Problems

My ongoing injury problems are well documented on here. For over 3 years I have suffered with problems in both calfs. I’ve seen physiotherapists, had regular sports massages, tried all manor of exercises and stretches even wearing calf guards semi permanently  but the problem remains.

Since I have started working with a coach I have spent a great deal more time on Strength and Conditioning. Particularly this workout I found on Youtube, she has loads of other great workouts too so I’m sure you’ll find something that works for you!

I am sure that part of my decision is psychological but I feel as though something needs to change, so…

Hello Skechers

Quite by accident, whilst on holiday in Somerset, I found a pair of Skechers reduced to clear in a sports shop. Whilst my wife was buying a few things I decided to try them on. First impressions were almost of disbelief. They are so light, but at the same time so comfortable! (220g vs 290g). I had often noticed a bit of a hard spot on my big toe with the Brooks but hadn’t really taken any notice of it. Clearly Skechers just suit my feet, more so than any other shoe i’ve worn. The cushioning is more inline with the Launch 2 (277g) that I used for races.

I didn’t buy them there and then as I was concerned about the low drop. I discussed it later with coach and we decided on a plan to introduce them steadily. So I went back and bought them the next day, a steal at £40!

It’s early days, but my initial thoughts haven’t changed. They really are crazy light. There is less cushioning than with the Ghosts, but that’s not too surprising. From asking an expert, it seems that the Forza is the shoe I may need to add to my repertoire.

Other things of note, in no particular order; I find them noisier when running though this has eased off since i’ve got more used to them. I love the little ‘Quick Fit’ loop at the back. Did I mention how light they are? The colour is awesome, though I may have to get the latest model too! The knitted front feels literally like a glove. Oh and they’re fast… I’ve only been running short runs at the moment but they feel very quick, they encourage a quick ground transition (Garmin agrees with me!) So things bode well for the future. I even forgot to take my calf guards with me one day and was fine – back to the psychology I guess, do I or don’t I need them!?

I guess in summary. Don’t be afraid to change things but do try every single shoe on, you’ll know when you’ve found the one that fits you. Fingers crossed this really is it this time and I can move on to racing!!!

Lost Mojo, Saved by a Coach!

Lost Mojo

Anyone who’d class themselves as a regular reader of this blog would notice that I’ve not posted in a while. To be frank, I’d lost my mojo. I’ve done two races this year that never got a race report (they went well, thanks for asking). I’ve got a gear review half written for my rather lovely ashmei gear (hopefully coming soon, meanwhile, here’s a picture!)

Awesome Ashmei Gear
Awesome Ashmei Gear

I can put this down to two things: the emotional surroundings to Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire and the consequential ending of my training plan.

I’m sure there’s a fancy word for it but I’ve concluded that I need structure. With nothing nagging me and no future plan I have found myself meandering aimlessly around training sessions. I’ve not really ridden my bike. I’ve done a few runs, but had calf issues again. The only discipline I’ve actually stuck to with any consistency is swimming, predominantly because it’s timetabled at the gym!

BRAT Swim Club
Monday Night BRAT Swim Club – with Steve’s Product Placement

Trainingpeaks

I had a training plan that I purchased from Trainingpeaks and whilst it was a little generic it did at least crack me in to shape.  I was also using their Premium service to get further detail on my sessions. Despite things being against me, I was actually proud of the performance at Staffordshire, particularly as I was self motivated and self trained.

When it came to planning ahead for the next year I returned to Trainingpeaks. It was then that I took a step back and examined what I was trying to achieve. I had ideas of stepping up to Ironman but feel that I have ‘unfinished business’ with the 70.3 distance. Re-scheduling the plan I already have was another option, but with Ironman 70.3 Weymouth being the targeted ‘A Race’ for the year it would leave me lacking for a while as it’s a 26 week plan. I then considered other races that I may wish to do and looked at adding a Sprint and an Olympic distance training plan and stacking them up.

A Coach

After I reviewed my options, I kept coming back to the idea of something a little more customised. Having done a few shorter events last year, my plan was far from optimised. I also lacked the ability to chat things through, ask questions, review how sessions had been going. When I had reviewed the costs, admittedly the non-coached option was pretty much just one-off payments, there wasn’t too much in it. So the coach hunt began.

Talk about a minefield!

I’ve been looking into this for a while but found that coaches range from some sort of generic online thing for £20 a month, to well over £200 for current pro’s. My budget put me very much nearer the cheaper end. Each have their own peripheral benefits, the more you pay, the more you get – such as Premium Trainingpeaks thrown in.

The biggest difference though seemed to be around communication and frequency of session planning. Most coaches I found offered a multi tier system, the ‘Bronze’ package gets you a monthly plan, a couple of emails a week and a monthly 30 minute Skype chat (or similar). The ‘Gold’ package would get you weekly planning, as many phone calls as you wanted and power based training but was typically twice (or more!) the price of the cheapest package.

After a while, I realised this was silly, I need structure but I also like to understand what I’m doing, why i’m doing it etc. After a bad session, with my fixed plan, that was it, I just had to deal with it. I’d like to be able to chat that through with a coach, but my planned budget covered ‘an email a week with a response in 48 hours’ – do i want to use that to question why i felt like a drowning sea lion?? Easy answer, no.

As it turns out, I needn’t have looked too far. My swim coach also happens to be a BTF Level 3 coach. We chatted about a few things and over the course of a few weeks it became clear that the right choice was literally staring me in the face! We know each other, we get along (he may disagree), we have a laugh, he knows what’s wrong with my swimming (everything). Most importantly, there are no restrictions on communication and he lives locally!

So, here’s to a coached future, fingers crossed it works for me, but welcome on board Coach Keenie! Thanks for having me.

I am (half) an Ironman – Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire

This one’s for you Mum.

Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire

A bitter sweet day. Last week was Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire, keen readers among you will know that this was the race I’ve been training for since mid last year. However, it’s safe to say that the last 12 months haven’t been the best. Injuries are one thing, family tragedies are another. I had been struggling with a niggling calf injury for 18 months. This had greatly affected my running, to the point that I hadn’t run much more than 10k this year. With this in mind the prospect of a Half Marathon was not something to relish!

However recent events put things in to context. Tragically my mother passed away very suddenly a month before the race. Training went out the window as emotionally I had no focus anywhere but the obvious. I was in two minds as to whether or not to do the race given everything that had happened. As Mum had been one of my key supporters though, it was obvious what I should do. So at 7am on 12th June, I lined up with 2286 other folks on an overcast day at Chasewater Reservoir. But first, a quick rewind…

Registration

Registration was available from the Friday but as I was working, I opted to do this on the Saturday before meeting the good lady in the evening to check in to the hotel for the night. Bridgtown Cycles were kindly offering free bike safety checks before the race, so i popped in there on the way.

Afterwards, my first mistake, I headed to Chasewater and it wasn’t until i’d removed my bike from the bike rack and walked part of the way there that I realised that registration was at Shugborough Hall… an hour later, upon arriving at Shugborough things were looking up. Irritatingly due to my own stupidity I had now managed to miss the earlier briefing, meaning that I would have to come back to Shugborough again for the last race briefing. The registration process was very straightforward and as I was now in no rush I took some time to check out the Expo. 2 minutes later I was on my way… I checked my ‘Run Bag’ in since I was there and had the time, then it was back to Chasewater to rack my bike and check in there.

Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire 2016 Registration
I guess this counts as a warm up – right?
Through my own stupidity I’d given myself a pretty good warm up it seems! After finally attending the race briefing I learnt one issue. I had checked and been assured that I was ok to wear my race belt under my wetsuit. The race director said otherwise, thus I’d have to try and gain access to by ‘Bike Bag’ on the morning – one stress I could have done without. As it turns out, it wasn’t an issue at all – phew!

Race Day

Waking up before 5am is never fun but I felt surprisingly calm. On the mantra of nothing new on race day, I had bought my own breakfast along, even though the hotel was offering an early breakfast for competitors. Bringing my own bowl and spoon may have been a bit much mind… I applied my sunscreen, got ready, triple checked I had everything and off we went.

My wife dropped me off as near to Chasewater as she could and went off to park the car. She had ambitions of seeing me through the swim and then trying to catch me at a few pre-arranged points on the bike. This turned out to be nigh on impossible and something I hope they can look into. Closed roads are great for athletes but rubbish for supporters trying to get around. I have suggested some guidance on how to access certain key spectator spots going forward, I shan’t hold my breath though!

I had spoken at length with my coach about nutrition strategy and some general guidelines for the race, so I ran through these in my mind and checked everything was where it needed to be.

I  loaded my nutrition on to my bike, sorted my race belt issue and then set about gathering myself for the morning ahead! This was far and away the largest transition I’ve been in and there was quite a buzz around the place! A perfectly timed visit to the facilities and then on with the wetsuit. I walked down to the start, handed over my ‘End of Race bag’ with my dry clothes in and fortunately bumped into my wife – something we hadn’t planned as we assumed it would be impossible! I also bumped in to a guy I had been chatting to on twitter in the months leading up to the event – good to see you Dan.

The Swim – 35:36

The swim was a rolling start where you placed yourself where you figured your time would be – there were number markers starting from <30 minutes. I estimated between 30 and 35 minutes and placed myself accordingly. My age group (35-39) was first off after the Pro’s, so we got a good spot to watch both Male and Female Pro’s set off. With that, we made our way on to the pontoon and waited an anxious 10 minutes.

As it turned out, despite my position I was somehow quite near the front, not a lot I can do about it now! The hooter went off and we made our way in to the water; straight away I felt what seemed like a wash of people coming past me. My lack of race start experience and slight nervousness in the water maybe to blame? Either way, I didn’t set off very quickly and felt like I was going backwards, I desperately sought some feet to draft off but had no luck.

The course was one single point to point and at the first buoy, turning left, there was a long drag to the next turn. This was a lonely time as I saw no-one, I  caught one guy, but he disappeared again. I stuck to my rhythm and tried to focus on being efficient. At the next turn I had caught a few people up but when I turned I seemed to be alone again. I checked my sighting and noticed that whilst I was heading straight for the next buoy, everyone else seemed to be over to my right. I had already planned to push at this stage so did and I passed quite a few people. The final buoy was a right turn and in to the finish.

I glanced at my watch as I got out and was a little disappointed to have gone over 35 minutes but the distance also read long. Whilst contemplating this my left calf subtly mentioned that it had a small issue with cramp. The veins in my neck in the photo below give some idea as to my thoughts on this. After refusing medical assistance(!?) I stretched it out and went on my way for the rather lengthy trip to T1. It later turned out, I was 67th out of the water, so not too bad.

Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire 2016 Swim Exit
CRRRAAAAAAAAAAAAMMMMMMPPPPPP!

The Bike – 2:35:14

The journey from swim exit to bike mount was a little over 400m and thus my T1 time was a little tardy at 5:50. I was very impressed with the volunteers in the tent though, helpful without being in the way. I got my socks, shoes and helmet on fairly quickly, dumped my bag and ran to my bike. I spotted Hayley yelling at me at the bike mount, I think it was encouragement too!

The first part of the bike course was pretty horrid. In the race briefing they had told us that there was no overtaking and no aero bars due to a poor surface and speed bumps! As you can see below, they weren’t wrong!

Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire 2016 Start of the bike
Just the thing the Triathlon bike was invented for; bunny hopping speed bumps!
I had driven the bike course the previous week so knew that the first 10 miles were fairly technical; narrow lanes, loose gravel and some short, sharp hills. I set off at what I thought was a fairly steady pace and kept an eye on cadence and heart rate, noting that I needed to bring the latter down to the mid 160’s as per my plan.

About half way my lack of experience came back to bite me. Despite thinking I had gone off steady I seemingly hadn’t. (I would later learn I set a new 40k Bike PB of 1:09 – whoops!) My legs started to feel very tired on the hills so whilst my heart rate was good, I felt like I had little to give. I was drinking and taking gels to my pre-prescribed plan but felt a bit flat. I was having some good to and fro moments with a few folks too, until the faster cyclists from the next wave went past like I was on a BMX!

To keep the excitement high it was about this time that the ‘light shower’ that someone had mentioned hit. It seemed a little more like a monsoon though and I found myself struggling to see out of my visor, it also hurt when it hit me! There not being a lot I could do, I soldiered on, wondering at times why on earth I was doing this and remembering the opening lines of the post as I did.

I knew in advance that there was an evil hill at Cannock Chase, not too steep but a long steady drag of around 10km. The support from locals at this point was fantastic though and it gave me a good dose of encouragement though sadly not speed. My legs hadn’t come back to me and I pushed as best I could but was passed by a handful of riders.

Thankfully at the turnaround something clicked back in to place and I was able to push on the last 6 or so miles to Shugborough. One thing I wasn’t too pleased with was the number of 90 degree bends placed at the bottom of steep descents, this was exacerbated by the weather but still…

The ride into T2 was great as well, most of the supporters had gathered here, not bothering to venture out on the bike course. The volume of support as we arrived was fantastic. Thankfully I had no issues with cramp as I jumped off the bike. I think the fairly long run in from the dismount line may have helped as well as coach telling me to up the cadence on the last part of the bike. T2 was also a bit more respectable at 2:45, again fantastic support from volunteers but still a long run through it!

This was the first time i’ve really ridden my Tri bike in anger too and I have to say, I loved it. I think I might be after a new saddle though – ouch! I was due to go back for another bike fit leading up to the race but due to events that occurred I never made it. I think I have work to do to get more aero!

Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire 2016 Out on the bike
Out and about on the bike – thankfully dry at this point!

Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire 2016 Front on on the bike
Suffering on the bike!

The Run – 1:48:54

As I may have mentioned already, due to injuries I haven’t run very far this year. In fact I haven’t run more than 6 miles! So it was with some trepidation I left T2 with a Half Marathon looming… I had run the course the previous week so knew what to expect. The mix of terrain was loose gravel, tarmac and trail and the rain had done us no favours! The gravel ended up with large puddles and the trails were more like a cross country course. The support however was fantastic, everywhere you went there were people cheering you on.

There was one large hill on the course, thankfully on tarmac, but with 3 laps of the course not something to look forward to. I set off at a reasonable speed but trying to be steady. I had planned to do 8 minute miles (thus a 1:45 race) but as time went on, I slowed a little. The weather continued to be horrid but I stuck to my plan and waded through.

Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire 2016 A wet first lap of the run
A wet first lap of the run!

Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire 2016 Still wet, but on to Lap 2
Still wet, but on to Lap 2!
I finally saw Hayley again as I started my final lap (just to my right in the pictures above) and I found this very emotional as she hadn’t managed to get to see me on the bike. Having had another chat to myself and my mum it gave me a boost to finish as strongly as I could. So the last lap was about giving the last my legs could.

I was passed in the last mile and knew that I didn’t have a sprint finish in me so opted to finish with the chute to myself. It was at this point that emotion hit me. I knew I would cry at the finish but the sheer relief of finishing and what I had used to channel myself there hit me pretty hard. No glory photos for me, arms aloft…

I must apologise to coach too, my run form was horrendous!

Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire Run to the Finish
Note the excellent form in the run to the finish!

Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire Finish Line
An emotional finish to Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire
Hayley was there to greet me, I’m not sure she quite expected the emotional mess that I was but seeing her fuelled the fire a bit more. Thanks for being there as always….

Overall Finish Time – 5:28:19

Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire Run 2016 Support Crew Hug
A much needed hug at the finish!

In Summary

At the finish I was disappointed. I had always wanted to go Sub 5 hours. In the build up I knew this wasn’t going to happen but I couldn’t help feeling as I did.

It didn’t take long to realise that I was happy with my result. It was never going to be the best day  but I had thoroughly enjoyed myself, somehow! Despite entering T2 and offering my bike to anyone who had £50 it didn’t take long to casually check what other Ironman 70.3 events were upcoming… I urge anyone who thinks they might like to, to enter one.

It’s wonderfully horrific!

Some stats from the day (official link):

343rd out of 2287
316th Male
53rd in Age Group

I have now amassed 2503 ‘2017 IRONMAN All World Athlete Status Points’ too – whatever they are!

New Garmin Edge 820

Garmin Edge 820 Confirmed!

And now it is official – see the full spec of the Edge 820 on Garmin’s website. Best news is, it’s shipping now! It seems that Evans may have the UK exclusive this time round.

As more or less expected it squeezes an Edge 1000 into an Edge 520 chassis and merges some features. Rather than me re-hashing the reviews, head on over to good old DCRainmaker. However, in summary:

Compared to the Edge 1000:

  • Smaller Screen
  • Adds incident detection
  • Adds ‘Stress Score’
  • Battery Save Mode
  • Group Tracking (coming later this year)
  • It doesn’t work in Landscape More (at this point i’ll note that I didn’t know my Edge 1000 did either!)
  • No Micro-SD Slot
  • Otherwise it’s an Edge 1000 in a smaller box!

I spotted a picture a while ago on the Garmin website but wasn’t sure what it was. My initial thoughts were a dumbed down version of the Edge 520. It now appears that this is the new Garmin Edge 820. I can’t find any other useful information at this stage, but the product code for those that want to go hunting is 010-01626-00.

There isn’t a great deal of information to report on this as yet but following a few rumours that have appeared it seems that Garmin are indeed working on an updated Edge 820 bike computer. As usual there are a number of images appearing on the Garmin site which i’ve linked to below.

Garmin Edge 820 Start Screen

Garmin Edge 820 Slightly Chunkier - Good battery life we hope!?

It looks as though it combines features of the Edge Explore and Edge 520 with such functionality as Emergency Contact alerts, or ‘Incident Detection’ as Garmin call it.

Garmin Edge 820 Incident Detection

A lot of the other spec does appear to be on par with the Edge 520, certainly better quality graphics for the maps though! Though notably they appear different to those on the Edge 1000 and Edge Explore.

Garmin Edge 820 Vector Power Meter Screens

Garmin Edge 820 Updated Navigation Graphics

Compatibility with Varia Radar and Strava segments Integration as expected.

Garmin Edge 820 Varia Radar compatibility

Garmin Edge 820 Strava Segments Integration

The ‘hard’ buttons are located on the underside rather than the top. I assume this explains the slightly thicker body also.

Garmin Edge 820 Hard Buttons

Garmin Edge 820 Side On

Garmin Edge 820 Top View

ashmei Run gear review

ashmei Run gear

After my first attempt at becoming an ashmei ambassador was unfortunately unsuccessful, I walked away impressed enough with what I’d seen to put my hand in my pocket and purchase some of the gear.

My first choice of running gear was the short sleeve classic jersey, however they didn’t have it in my size in my preferred grey marl colour. Instead I opted for the vest and 2 in 1 short. I was given a pair of their merino socks as a gift on the ambassador day, also visible in the picture.

EDIT: The range has recently been updated with a number of new items, hopefully Santa thinks i’ve been good this year…

Awesome Ashmei Gear
Awesome Ashmei Gear

I used the outfit many times during the spring and summer months, in fact I’m still wearing the shorts now in this crazily mild December we’re having. I have used the vest as base layer for cycling too!

One of the biggest promises from ashmei is that the material used, merino wool, is anti bacterial and thus won’t smell during or after exercise. Whilst I won’t advocate not washing your running gear regularly, ashmei are true to their word. Due to a persistent injury I wasn’t running much for long periods of the summer. During a steady 20 minute run, yes i’d get a bit sweaty, but with any other gear I’d also have to wash everything afterwards, not so with the ashmei gear. I could happily wait a week (3 runs) and wash when I wanted to.

vest

There isn’t a great deal I can say about a vest. It fits me very well in a medium, it isn’t itchy, again a promise from ashmei. This last point being key for me, I find ‘normal’ wool to be incredibly itchy and I borderline have an allergy to it.

A major plus is that the material is very light but unlike synthetic vests, it doesn’t wish wash around when you’re moving, staying quite still as you run. Hey, i guess that even makes it aerodynamic!

2 in 1 shorts

Fortunately there is more I can say about these! The material is slightly strange on the outside and can be a bit noisy as you run, but if you’re listening to your shorts maybe you’ve got other issues!

The inner liner claims to be compressive, it’s nothing like other compression material but is a nice snug fit. There are no seams on anything that contacts your skin so i’ve not found chaffing to be an issue. Again, the fit is excellent, the waist feeling almost tailor made.

The single best part of the shorts is the pocket. This may sound odd and for many will be utterly irrelevant but it’s a huge plus for me. In fact it’s the thing i’m missing the most now its got colder!

The things I love are:

  • It’s high on the shorts and thus fits near the small of your back. This means zero movement when you’re running. It also means that I have very few dropouts from my Bluetooth headphones.
  • It fits an iPhone 7 in, with the official leather case on. (The Plus is too large, but if you’re running with an iPhone Plus, you need to rethink things…)
  • The little separation liner so your key doesn’t make contact with your phone and scratch it.
iPhone 7 in case fits in pocket
iPhone 7 in case fits in pocket
ashmei 2 in 1 short - Separate key pocket
ashmei 2 in 1 short – Separate key pocket

I have a number of other items too, mostly cycling, but as it stands my absolute favourite is the shorts – they’re that good!

A swimming improver – 400m Swim PB!

As per my post of a few months back I’m now firmly putting myself in the category of a swimming improver. As I noted in the last post, I’ve been working hard on various drills throughout my training and have definitely been getting quicker over the months. My coaches would say that a lot of this is down to brute strength as my stroke has been labelled ‘horrible’ and much worse! I still have major leg sinking problems, very rigid ankles and cross my arms. I’ve been concentrating on trying to lengthen my stroke and keep my arms wide. I’ve also having some tailored advice as to specific drills to work on.

To help with the leg sinking I’ve purchased a Finis Axis Buoy as it can lock my ankles and keep them afloat. Next up are some Finis Freestyler Paddles as if your stroke is wrong on entry, they fall off! Finally a Finis Tempo Trainer Pro to help with my pacing. After that it’s down to me and thinking about my stroke!

I’ve decided to add an additional session in to my current hectic schedule. Thursdays were a rest day, but now they will have an easy swim technique session coupled with some strength and conditioning. I desperately need to work on core strength following the hernia and have never fitted it in.

Anyway, to the exciting part. Monday nights swim session involved a 400m Time Trial. The last time I swam one was in the Halesowen Triathlon. I’ve gone from a PB of 9:08 to a slightly more respectable 6:41. I’m fully aware this isn’t breathtaking but I’m really pleased with the progress. Next psychological barrier is to break 1:30 for a 100m… The journey continues!

Ashmei Ambassador Day – 5th March 2016

Ashmei Ambassador Day

So, today was the day. For those with short term memory issues, I recently received an invite to the ashmei ambassador day. I completed my homework and my final Polaroids I chose for the day were:

Ashmei Ambassador Day - My Polaroids
Ashmei Ambassador Day – My Polaroids

Earlier this week, things got off to an interesting start. First we received the itinerary:

Ashmei Ambassador Day - Itinerary
Ashmei Ambassador Day – Itinerary

They seemed really keen on these trail shoes… then they posted this leading up to the day.


So it seemed there was little to do but order some trail shoes. These are new to me, whilst i ran Cross Country at school, trail shoes are a new entity. Given how little time I had I was rather restricted on choice. My usual Brooks preference was out as nowhere local had their Cascadia 11 in my size. I was also a little wary of spending so much, just in case. Thus, I resorted to old faithful, Amazon. After much searching I had narrowed it down to, well, one pair of shoes that was the right size, could be delivered in time and wasn’t too expensive. The Merrell All Out Charge.

Merrell All Out Charge - Ashmei Ambassador Day - BEFORE
Merrell All Out Charge – Ashmei Ambassador Day – BEFORE

Then on the morning of the event, we see this. Hmm… glad I bought those shoes!

I had a couple of folks to collect from the local station and from there we headed to Ashmei HQ. We met the folks informally and then at 10am had a proper briefing. Stuart, the founder of Ashmei, gave an outline of the company, what they stand for, why they do what they do and what they expect from an ambassador. Not just plugging the brand everywhere (although feel free!) but more about a combined journey. Refreshing. In terms of the gear, their ‘mission statement’ says it all, ‘outperform the best’. Fascinating stuff; prioritising the performance of the garments over everything else.

Stuart Brooke, Founder - Ashmei. Ashmei Ambassador Day
Stuart Brooke, Founder – Ashmei. Ashmei Ambassador Day

We also met the ‘winners’ from last years ambassador day; they gave a brief outline as to what it had meant to them over the years. Louise Croxson – a triathlete of pretty impressive pedigree. Owain Williams – A runner.  Simon Green (fellmonkey) – a fell runner with a penchant for video. He showed the below during the introduction which was pretty stunning: ASHMEI Running in Winter from Simon Green on Vimeo.

After meeting the current ambassadors, three people were chosen from their photos to tell ‘their story’. Tales of epic adventures in the Marathon Des Sables, broken collar bones leading to appearances at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship. And me. Eeek! Fortunately my story is an easy one, and hopefully familiar to you readers of my blog. I bought it up to date with my entry into Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire later this year, though I completely forgot to mention the onward plan of completing a full Ironman next year. Afterwards we headed out for the run on the local trails. The route was stunning and I was very jealous of such awesome running on their doorstep! It was a great opportunity to meet the other shortlisted folks and chat with them as well as the ashmei staff. I had a great chat with a lot of folks, including Jess Gray who had a pretty similar outcome to the London Marathon as I did, even down to the point at which she started walking!

The shoes are no longer quite as clean… but I am also really pleased to report that they were very comfortable, pretty grippy and I had no calf pain. Admittedly, I was wearing my calf guards this time which may have contributed but I think trail running may be added to my repertoire! I loved it!

Merrell All Out Charge - Ashmei Ambassador Day - AFTER
Merrell All Out Charge – Ashmei Ambassador Day – AFTER

The best bit though, all the awesome home baked cakes that we had when we got back. I loved these, in ashmei colours and personalised to each sport. Obviously I chose this one:

Ashmei Cakes - Ashmei Ambassador Day
Ashmei Cakes – Ashmei Ambassador Day

In summary, a great day. Lovely people, a lovely run, lovely gear and I have everything crossed as I’d love to work with the team going forward.

#ashmeiambassador

#ashmeiambassador – It might seem an odd word, but it’s a very exciting one for me. I recently filled out a form having seen that ashmei were looking for new brand ambassadors. As someone who enjoys writing about my sporting endeavours and is a self confessed serial researcher it was my kind of thing. So I applied.

Imagine my excitement  when somewhat out of the blue (or grey, red, white and black) an email with the subject “ashmei – CONGRATULATIONS you have been shortlisted” appears in my inbox, with the following content:

#ashmeiambassador - shortlisted!
#ashmeiambassador – shortlisted!

So we have to head down to visit them, meet the folks behind the brand, go for a little run. Then, the scary part. Homework. Now I haven’t homework since school, which was a ‘few’ years ago…. this could be interesting!

So the first part is I have to create some polaroids of myself, my sport – anything goes, except nudity – which is probably for the best!!! I need two, I can’t decide between three…

#ashmeiambassador - why I tritriagain...
#ashmeiambassador – why I tritriagain…
#ashmeiambassador - a Sunday Social ride with the BRATs
#ashmeiambassador – a Sunday Social ride with the BRATs. Photo Credit – Paul Tanner
#ashmeiambassador - a tritriagain self-portrait
#ashmeiambassador – a tritriagain self-portrait. Photo Credit – Aniko Towers

Now, all three fulfil the brief:

The first one, is a sad and pitiful affair but is actually the whole reason why I got into triathlon in the first place. After countless unsuccessful attempts to gain entry to the London Marathon, I finally succeeded. Sadly a training niggle two weeks out turned into something much more. Not wanting to be defeated, I went anyway. Things were fine until about half way and then the niggle turned into a full on injury. Obviously the sensible thing to do here was to pull out and prevent anything further. So naturally I limped along, looking all sad and forlorn. The main thing though, I didn’t quit. I finished the race in a hopefully easy to beat PB of 6:31.50 – thanks for the seconds London, not really necessary at this point. It lead to the title of the blog too – to this day I’ve only ever quit one race in my entire life (an 800m at school when my hamstring pinged – in case you were interested).

The second is me, on a recent Sunday social bike ride with my local triathlon club – the BRATs. This is one of the events I look forward to the most in the weekly training regime. It’s still a good, solid endurance workout but it’s also a lot of fun. Something that’s hard work doesn’t have to be all pain, punishment and sweat. Enjoy it and it’ll be much easier!

The third picture is just one I love. Taken by a friends‘ wife, the rather fantastic Aniko, it was taken whilst supporting her husband at the Nottingham Sprint triathlon last year. I love it as I actually don’t have a stupid grin on my first – which is very rare!

So, over to you lovely readers – from whatever source. I need two of the three…. which should they be?

 

 

My First 100Km Ride

A minor milestone in a cyclists life, today was my first 100km ride. It was a fairly leisurely affair with Anth and Andrew from the BRAT Club. Before we set off Andrew had mentioned that there was just the one hill. What he had failed to mention was the full extent of the hill, I have enclosed below an overall Elevation map of the route. Can you spot the hill?

Just the one hill on my first 100km ride
Can you spot the hill?

 

I saw gradients has high as 16% on my Garmin as I went up, so certainly not for the faint of heart. I encountered a classic cyclist on the way too, struggling up the hill until I drew level and then felt the need to demonstrate his prowess by powering away. Fair enough he left me on the less steep bits but had nothing when the gradient hit double figures. Bizarre attitude but hey…

A very pleasant ride out overall, it was uncharacteristicly warm for the time of year, never dropping into single digits. It was also a touch on the muddy side, once more highlighting my need for some mudguards!!!

Muddy Bike after my first 100km ride
Muddy Bike after my first 100km ride
Muddy Bike after my first 100km ride
Muddy Bike after my first 100km ride
Muddy Bike after my first 100km ride
Muddy Bike after my first 100km ride
I really need a mudguard
I really need a mudguard

All of my recent training appeared to have helped too (thankfully!) as my legs felt pretty good throughout, even when the hill just kept on going! I was even happier as I’ve only been riding my bike for just over a year!

Another first was my discovery of the base layer. I’ve usually ridden with another cycling jersey underneath my jacket but having recently picked up a Gore long sleeved base layerand I’m converted! I felt the perfect temperature throughout the ride and never sweaty or clammy.

A final important note for all, the Carrot Cake from the cafe at Broadway Tower was excellent – a good sized portion too which was very much required after the hill!! Apparently the Coffee and Walnut is also worth a look too….

Training peaks and plans

Training peaks and plans

As I have signed up for Ironman Staffordshire 70.3 later this year I figured that I needed some sort of plan. It’s fair to say that my first year in triathlon wasn’t the greatest ever due to injury problems and learning the ropes. Knowing that I had plenty of time until the race I started researching early. It was clear that a large part of my base training would take place in the winter months and thus I wanted some sort of training plan that started early enough to give me this. I was also aware that winter and cycling aren’t necessarily the best of friends. My final area of concern was the persistent running niggles, were they a thing of the past?

I had researched a huge number of coaching and training options. I ruled out a full on coach as it seems that you get what you pay for and realistically, over a hundred pounds a month was required. Some coaches offer hybrid systems, or limited contact options but again I wasn’t convinced. I decided that a training plan was my best course of action. I need structure to motivate me and thus generic systems that are often supplied free in magazines whilst suitable for some wouldn’t work for me. All avenues pointed to Trainingpeaks as the place to go and after even more research I settled on this plan. It started at the right time, gave a good steady build up, wasn’t too expensive and as a bonus offers email support to the coach – a BTF Level 3 coach. I’ll see how things go, so far so good, but may come back to a coach in the future as I am aware of certain areas where a rigid plan struggles – like where I was supposed to swim on Christmas Day!

The plan is delivered in a very clear and concise way, either web based or via an iPhone app. Irritatingly the one feature i’d love is iCal sync so I can quickly see in my calendar when I have a workout scheduled, but it’s part of the Premium package which is $100 a year. I’ve had some trials of the package and the graphs showing fatigue, fitness and stress are good but I don’t fully understand them enough yet to warrant the expenditure!

Ironman Staffordshire 70.3 - Training Peaks Schedule
Ironman Staffordshire 70.3 – Training Peaks Schedule

Training Aids

Given the need to cycle indoors due to the lovely British weather I am dividing my time between the Wattbikes at the gym and my own ‘smart trainer’. Another gadget involved more research and I settled on a Bkool Pro Turbo Trainer, it gets pretty good reviews and I picked it up for a bargain price at the Cycle Show.

Bkool Pro Trainer + Simulator
Bkool Pro Trainer + Simulator

One of the main reasons for choosing it is that it has virtual reality rides included in the subscription for £8 a month (it came with 3 months free too!) This means that if i’m not watching TV I can pretend i’m in Sydney or somewhere exotic and watch a little video. It’s a bit of a gimmick but it does help on the longer rides. Of course the real reason for choosing it is that being a smart trainer the resistance can be controlled by the software you choose to use, thus meaning a ride is as varied as the real world. To be honest given that most of the time I am watching TV, I may not continue with the subscription as the new ANT+ FE-C protocol means that I can control it from my Garmin – pick a route from the unit and it controls the trainer, I watch TV. If I can get Zwift to work properly (it crashes when I finish the ride and loses all the data!) then the advantage of structured workouts might tempt me that way too.

Turbo time (with TV time)
Turbo time (with TV time)

 

Shiny Bike Bits

In preparation for the time in the saddle, I replaced the standard one as quickly as possible – it was horrid. My first purchase was an ISM Prologue, on the basis that it was the one used in my bike fit. After a few months use, i’ve decided that I don’t like it – it pinches at times and crushes parts I don’t want crushed. I have arranged to borrow a Fizik Tritone 5.5 (the integrated storage system intrigues me) and a Fabric Tri (the price impresses me!) from The Cycle Studio when the Fabric one is in stock.

I also decided that an end of year sale, factoring in the money saved on the bike purchase meant that some carbon wheels were a necessity. Again, cue plenty of research, but ultimately it was impossible to ignore the SwissSide Hadron series. Research, expertise and results to back up the fact that a complete set was £700 was a fairly easy decision. I just need the weather to improve enough to fit them to the bike.

SwissSide Hadron 625/800+ Wheels
My box fresh SwissSide Hadron wheels. A 625 front and an 800+ for the rear.

All that said, i’m off for the next part of the training plan… a swim! Hopefully more to report soon but at the moment i’m too busy training!

(not) just another triathlon site