Kärcher OC3 Mobile Outdoor Cleaner

Kärcher OC3 Mobile Outdoor Cleaner – The Perfect Bike Cleaner?

Something slightly left of field for today’s post. A blog about triathlon and a review of a pressure washer is slightly odd I agree. However, I was recently at the London Triathlon Show and spotted the Kärcher OC3 Mobile Outdoor Cleaner at their stand.

I will admit I’m not the most dedicated when it comes to cleaning my bikes. Often due to the fact that if it needs cleaning it’s because it’s been raining and thus muddy. Consequently I’m muddy and want to get inside and get clean and warm. I have dutifully purchased the Muc Off Bike Cleaner Kit and can’t fault it. However it’s more effort than I was looking for.

Enter Kärcher with the OC3 Mobile Cleaner.  At a basic level it’s a lower pressure version of the renowned pressure washers from the brand. The biggest differences being that it’s battery powered and eminently portable. It weighs in at just over 2Kg (without water) and is completely self contained – the hose and water container are integral to the unit.

In the Box

The first test was an impromptu test of the strength of the shipping box. Being a cat, she loves a nice new box… she’s also a fairly hefty breed. The box handled it effortlessly!

Kärcher OC3 Mobile Outdoor Cleaner - Box Strength Test
Kärcher OC3 Mobile Outdoor Cleaner – Box Strength Test
Kärcher OC3 Mobile Outdoor Cleaner - The Box
Kärcher OC3 Mobile Outdoor Cleaner – The Box

Inside the box, is a fully assembled unit.

Kärcher OC3 Mobile Outdoor Cleaner - Inside the Box
Kärcher OC3 Mobile Outdoor Cleaner – Inside the Box

The only additional items further to the packaging are a power supply and an instruction manual – being a man, i’ve no idea what’s in this!

Kärcher OC3 Mobile Outdoor Cleaner - Box Contents
Kärcher OC3 Mobile Outdoor Cleaner – Box Contents

Power & Charging

The power supply is a simple 3 Pin plug, with the transformer built in. It’s a moulded unit though, so each country will have it’s own specific adaptor I assume. What would be handy is a 12v charger for use in cars. Whilst it would remove some portability, it could come in handy in certain use case scenarios. Personally I didn’t find any issues with battery life, managing to clean the bike in the pictures you’ll see below with the power it arrived from the factory with! The unit is unique and not a figure eight lead as it may appear.

Kärcher OC3 Mobile Outdoor Cleaner - The plug
Kärcher OC3 Mobile Outdoor Cleaner – The plug

The plug fits in behind this waterproof seal when charging is required.

Kärcher OC3 Mobile Outdoor Cleaner - Charge socket, behind waterproof seal
Kärcher OC3 Mobile Outdoor Cleaner – Charge socket, behind waterproof seal

The green light indicates that the unit is charging. This could possibly be confusing as there is only one light. In one colour. However it’s unlikely you’d be confused with charging or using the cleaner.

Kärcher OC3 Mobile Outdoor Cleaner - Charging Indicator
Kärcher OC3 Mobile Outdoor Cleaner – Charging Indicator

Details

The unit has a capacity of 4 litres, with handy markers in case for some reason you need an exact quantity. It’s a decent capacity and a full 4 litres is perfect for giving an adult bike a quick hose down after a ride. It needed more for the challenge below.

Kärcher OC3 Mobile Outdoor Cleaner - Capacity Markings
Kärcher OC3 Mobile Outdoor Cleaner – Capacity Markings

I’ve no idea why I figured keys were good for scale. But I couldn’t lay my hands on a ruler. Hopefully it’s a useful indicator for some!

Kärcher OC3 Mobile Outdoor Cleaner - Front On, Keys for Scale
Kärcher OC3 Mobile Outdoor Cleaner – Front On, Keys for Scale

The large rubber section on top is the seal to hold the water in. It’s a bit of a faff to fit, but once you get the hang of it, it’s not a major bother. It fits outside the plastic lip FYI…

Kärcher OC3 Mobile Outdoor Cleaner - Above Keys for Scale
Kärcher OC3 Mobile Outdoor Cleaner – Above Keys for Scale

Below is a short video demonstrating that whilst it may be fiddly, it’s definitely watertight. Hopefully it remains so over time.

The larger, top handle secures the water reservoir in place. I haven’t tested it yet, but I am confident that with this secured, you could fill the unit and travel happily with it in your car.

Kärcher OC3 Mobile Outdoor Cleaner - Front On, Ready to remove reservoir
Kärcher OC3 Mobile Outdoor Cleaner – Front On, Ready to remove reservoir

It’s also very robust and I’m sure will stand the test of time. It locks down in place with this strong bracket.

Kärcher OC3 Mobile Outdoor Cleaner - Carry Handle Robustness
Kärcher OC3 Mobile Outdoor Cleaner – Carry Handle Robustness
Kärcher OC3 Mobile Outdoor Cleaner - Three Quarter Angle
Kärcher OC3 Mobile Outdoor Cleaner – Three Quarter Angle

Self Contained Unit & Tools

As I said above, everything you need is contained within. The little yellow bit is the nozzle that fits in the end. Personally, I’d rather it was permanently attached as the pressure is non-existent without it. You don’t use it if you have any of the accessories, such as the brush, as they attach directly.

I’d quite like the bike accessory box as it’s a perfect fit for my needs.

Kärcher OC3 Mobile Outdoor Cleaner - Self Contained Tool Storage
Kärcher OC3 Mobile Outdoor Cleaner – Self Contained Tool Storage
Kärcher OC3 Mobile Outdoor Cleaner - Split in two
Kärcher OC3 Mobile Outdoor Cleaner – Split in two

Below is a quick video showing the unit and the accessories contained within.

The Challenge

On the left we have the Kärcher OC3 Mobile Outdoor Cleaner. On the right my current system from Muc Off. I’d like to add that I have no issues with the Muc Off stuff, in fact it’s great. But, as I said above, it takes time and I’m fairly lazy when it comes to cleaning my bike! I still need the chain cleaner and lube etc too!

Kärcher OC3 Mobile Outdoor Cleaner vs Muc Off Bike Cleaner
Kärcher OC3 Mobile Outdoor Cleaner vs Muc Off Bike Cleaner

The extent of the challenge ahead, and my sheer laziness is visible below. In my defence I don’t usually let my bike get this dirty before cleaning it but I was waiting for the unit to arrive before cleaning it. Due to a short delay the bike got dirtier…. I also wanted to demonstrate the cleaning power as there had been some skeptics at the London Show.

Before:

Kärcher OC3 Mobile Outdoor Cleaner - A Filthy Bike!
Kärcher OC3 Mobile Outdoor Cleaner – A Filthy Bike!
Kärcher OC3 Mobile Outdoor Cleaner - A Filthy Bike!
Kärcher OC3 Mobile Outdoor Cleaner – A Filthy Bike!
Kärcher OC3 Mobile Outdoor Cleaner - A Very Dirty Bike - The first challenge
Kärcher OC3 Mobile Outdoor Cleaner – A Very Dirty Bike – The first challenge

After:

Kärcher OC3 Mobile Outdoor Cleaner - Dirty Bike Result
Kärcher OC3 Mobile Outdoor Cleaner – Dirty Bike Result

And below a video demonstrating the power of the cleaner. This is with no detergent or pre-soaking of any sort. Just the cleaner, on the bike from the above pictures. I’m seriously impressed!

I’ve used the cleaner again since and it’s perfect for a quick rinse down after a ride. 4 litres is about perfect to clean it quickly and it takes minutes. I’d love the full bike accessory box as at times a detergent cleaner and brush would be helpful to remove all of the dirt.

To answer my question at the top. I think a qualified yes,  it is the perfect bike cleaner. Combine it with the bike accessory box and it genuinely is. Even as an out and about unit or for a quick rinse down though, it’s so much better than the manual method. I fill it up before I go out so I can rinse the bike down when i’m back. Used as a portable unit for say, Mountain Biking, i think it would be ideal. You could hose the mud off on site and then clean it more thoroughly when you got back.

I heartily recommend it though – go buy one!

RideLondon in support of the British Heart Foundation

After my limited success in gaining ballot entries to significant sporting events in London, I didn’t expect much from my RideLondon application. A group of friends had also applied, with the ill conceived idea of us riding together. As it stands no-one else I know got in, but I did! A huge difference from my success rate with the Marathon!

RideLondon Success
RideLondon Success

So, on Sunday 30th July 2017, i’ll be lining up with a plethora of other Lycra clad folk for a lengthy jaunt around London and Surrey! I’m sure this will come in handy as useful endurance training for Weymouth too. Fortunately it turns out that one friend is taking part as she has a deferred place, so I may not be totally alone.

From everything I’ve read and heard, it sounds like quite an event. Fairly flat and fast to start, lumpy in Surrey and a steady descent back into London to finish.

The British Heart Foundation

As you may recall, my mother tragically passed away just before Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire last year. We now know the cause of this to be a heart attack. As a result I am raising money for the British Heart Foundation. By supporting the life saving research that they do, I hope can prevent others having to go through the pain my family felt last year.

I have set up a JustGiving page where hopefully many of you will be willing to make a donation.

JustGiving sends your donation straight to British Heart Foundation and automatically reclaims Gift Aid if you are a UK taxpayer, so your donation is worth even more.

 

A blog neglected!

Apologies dear reader(s), I feel like i’ve neglected my blog for a while… and for no particular reason! When I started this it was initially a bit of a training log to myself but I’ve since tried to make it into a bit more than that. The sad reality of the last few months is that I’ve just not been up to that much other than training!

I figured that whilst I haven’t done much worthy of its own post, I have at least been up to a few things of note:

ashmei ambassador

It’s that time of year where all things are crossed as I’ve applied to become an ambassador for my much loved ashmei brand. Selection is taking place now, with the ambassador day taking place on the 25th. Hopefully i’ll be successful this time, as the new gear is looking very impressive!

ashmei bib shorts v3 - new squishy padding!
ashmei bib shorts v3 – new squishy padding!

Resolution Run

Having not taken part in a run for a while, when thetrinerd spotted this and suggested that we might want to do it, I agreed. It was a local charity event for the Stroke Association, taking place at Hagley Hall; with distances of 5, 10 or 15k. Obviously, we went for the 15k option. There was no information online so we were in the dark as to what to expect other than it was off road and ‘tough’. Naturally being the brave souls we are, we scoffed at this.

Oh how wrong we were.

Hagley Resolution Run
Hagley Resolution Run

 

It was very muddy, initially very rainy, and as can be seen from the above, a touch on the hilly side! Probably one of the toughest courses I’ve run. It also showed that whilst I’ve made big improvements in my running, my calfs are still not quite the solid objects I would like. Unfortunately part way round Lap 2, I felt a sharp twinge in my right calf. With my sensible head on, I stopped and we walked back and called it quits at 10k. It was a shame as whilst it was tough, I was enjoying it and we were right at the front.

Footwear was clearly an interesting choice too – many competitors were wearing standard trainers, I’ve no idea how they got up the hills! I was wearing my Merrell All Out Charge that I purchased for the ashmei day. They just about held up, but thetrinerd’s newly purchased Inov-8 X-Talon 200’s were significantly better in the muddy stuff!

Fingers crossed it’s not too serious an injury and I can be back to normal running soon. I clearly need to incorporate more off road running though, and some serious hill work – both up and down!

SRAM Red eTap

Quite excited about this one, and something that predates many blog posts! When I bought my Scott Plasma, it was always my intention to upgrade from the base model. The wheels were changed quite quickly, the gears had to wait. Finally, after placing an order in September last year, my eTap finally arrived a couple of weeks ago.

I weighed up my options, and am aware how solid and reliable Di2 is, something about eTap just appealed more. Certainly the ease of install and thus re-assembly when travelling was a big appeal, but everything just excites me about eTap!

Next challenge is fitting it… hopefully in time for my first race!

SRAM Red eTap - TT Groupset
SRAM Red eTap – TT Groupset

The London Triathlon Show

In continued tradition, we once again acquired free tickets for a Triathlon Show. This year, 220 Triathlon, had opted to become title sponsor to the London Triathlon show rather than to host their own. Tickets included entry to the Cycle show and Outdoor Show also. It was hard to differentiate between the Triathlon and Cycle parts, unsurprisingly, but the Outdoor Show was a bit of a non-event!

It was the largest show we’ve been to and undoubtedly one of the best. There were a lot of brands represented, though oddly not Garmin; which was frustrating as I wanted to see the new Fenix 5S seen as I have pre-ordered one! Or Skechers 🙁

It was good to meet up with Darren from Pedalcover, who we met on our outing to meet Helen Jenkins last year. It was through them that we actually got the tickets too – thanks Darren! We spent a fair amount of time on their stand, from blending smoothies on a static bike, to meeting Triathlon royalty; present and future! We even bumped in to the lovely Helen, Editor of 220 Triathlon.

Smoothie Blending on a Bike!
Smoothie Blending on a Bike – I’ll take that position!
Some editor type woman...
Some editor type woman…
Two lovely ladies - Heather Sellars and Vicky Holland
Two lovely ladies – Heather Sellars and Vicky Holland

I also spotted a couple of bikes that for some reason appealed… odd that despite the fact my Tri Bike is a 56cm, upon checking, I’d need a 54cm in the road bike range. Oh well, good to know! Having sat on them briefly, i’m erring toward the Foil too #aero.

Scott Foil and Addict Team Edition
Scott Foil and Addict Team Edition

Season Race Plan

Finally, I’ve been making a plan for the season. Which consists of the following (at the moment):

Ironman 70.3 Weymouth. This is my A Race and everything is geared up to a good performance here. Fingers crossed.

Cotswold113. I’ve marshalled at the Full Distance event a couple of times and as a result pretty much got free entry! It gets great reviews, the course is flat and thus should be a form tester.

Halesowen. The first race I did and one I come back to every year. It’s a tough little course, but quite enjoyable. This year, I’m planning to try it on my Tri bike…

Being Coached – A Review

Coach Review

As you know, I have been a coached athlete since October last year. This has been an enlightening period for me and I felt it was time for a bit of a review. One of the biggest issues I faced when following a generic plan was that of exhaustion. I blindly followed the instructions and constantly found myself very tired. With no-one to talk to, it’s hard to understand why and what you should do about it.

Since having a coach, one of the biggest benefits has been having someone to discuss minutiae with. How a session went, what you should do if you’re just not feeling it etc. It’s been very refreshing! Secondly I’ve also found that whilst I am working very hard, the gains have been significant; across all aspects. I’m tired, as the sessions are hard, but with the structure of someone who knows what they’re doing, I rarely find myself beyond the brink. If I do, we talk and we adapt. Simples!

Swimming Improvements

I’ve always been a fairly strong swimmer, but it’s fair to say also a little lacking in technique. I’m fairly resigned to the fact that I will never have a decent kick, but hey it’s something to work on. I’ve seen huge progress in the past few months, with times (for all they matter in training) tumbling down. Shaving 10 seconds off a 400m PB AFTER a 1900m set was a highlight. Equally, almost a year apart to the day I did a 20 x 100m set and each 100m was 15 seconds quicker. Fingers crossed this form continues over to the outdoor stuff!

Running Improvements

The single biggest area of progress in my mind has been in my running. Since changing my shoes I have seen massive gains in my running performance. I still don’t know if it’s psychological or a genuine change from natural running, but it’s working. I am now comfortably running in excess of 10k in every training session, from easy runs through to tempo sessions. Most importantly I’m able to run faster and further with it.

Running Improvements
Running Improvements

Cycling Improvements

These are harder to measure. Most of my work over the winter has been, like many, on the turbo. I’ve done a few rides outdoors and initially didn’t feel like much had changed, probably due to the point in the training block. Recently i’ve done a couple of solo rides where things have just clicked. I was able to zip along at speeds that previously were only really done when in a large group on a fine day; rather than alone in a hurricane! Time will tell with this one, but things are looking good!

One thing I did try recently was some different nutrition products. I’ve been a Science in Sport user for some time and figured that the off season was a chance to experiment. I won some Ucan at a show last year but hadn’t got round to trying it. First impressions were that whilst it seemed good from an energy point of view, (although tricky to tell off one ride with so much else that has changed), the consistency isn’t great. It was reminiscent of certain gels, I felt like I needed some  water to wash it down. Not ideal from the hydration element of your fuelling strategy! So things aren’t looking good for our relationship!

Ucan - it's thick!
Ucan – it’s thick!

 

 

 

We’ve recently entered another level of training, so we’ll see how that goes. But fingers crossed, things are looking good for the season aims.

 

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!

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