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

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!

Starting to feel like I can swim…

The Swim in Triathlon

When starting out as a triathlete I wouldn’t say I was particularly skilled in any discipline. Yes, I’d consider myself a good runner, but definitely lacking a lot of fitness and technique after all these years. My cycling was very limited in that I’d been riding a mountain bike for a couple of years but that was it. My swimming was definitely my weakest link, like most I’d learnt to swim when I was young and was perfectly capable, but my time was mostly spent paddling around on holidays and never in any sort of competitive environment.

As any triathlete will know the importance of the swim discipline varies greatly depending on the race distance. Arguably it is at its most significant in the Olympic distance (1500m swim, 40k bike, 10k run) as it becomes more of an endurance element. Technically as the distances are exactly half in the Sprint distance it should carry equal weighting but I don’t see it as so as 750m swimming is more of a well, sprint. In the ‘Ironman’ distances the swim is even more skewed, at Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire next year I have to swim 1900m, bike 90k and run 21k so as you can see most disciplines are double again over an Olympic apart from the swim which is ‘just’ another 400m.

Some History

A little over 12 months ago having just being diagnosed with a hernia, I rocked up at ‘The Pingles’ to meet many new friends at Nuneaton Triathlon Club. The lovely Vanessa took me, like so many before me, under her wing and guided me coughing and spluttering to the other end of the pool. Over the coming weeks I persevered and over time was able to string a few lengths together without stopping for a break, it even at times loosely resembled front crawl!! I starting watching various pro events on TV and as I always do was intrigued to see the speed/times they were swimming. Even now the 1:10 per 100m that the pros do in ITU events seems way out of my abilities and to be fair the fact that in Ironman races they’re doing under 1:30 per 100m for the 3800m is probably also beyond my capabilities 😀.

I didn’t spend much time in open water over the summer but went at least once a week. My biggest issue there is a psychological one, I need to get over my initial fear with the water as it often affected my breathing. Thankfully things were improving as the season ended so fingers crossed we start from where we left off next year!

I now feel like I can swim though… In my first race I swam 9:04 for the 400m pool swim, which is the sort of pace I now do as a warm up at a club session over the same distance or longer. I am now part of the BRAT Club and have a coached session on a Monday evening and through numerous drills, that hurt a lot at the time, I’m really starting to see improvements. As with most things, technique is key and understanding how all of the elements link together has been key. From the angle of arm entry, to the ‘catch’, the position of your ams as they pull through the water, the head position, the roll of the hips, the angle of the leg kick… it’s a lot tot take in when each stroke is over in about 5 seconds! As well as the coached sessions I spend a lot of time doing my own sessions from Sara McLarty’s excellent blog and also watching a lot of videos, particularly the Speedo ones:

At the moment my weakest link is definitely my kick, I’m persevering with the drills using fins, but my word do they hurt! I may be unique in that I am far slower when using fins – I can happily lead the lane doing everything else but drop to the back when we put the fins on – maybe having Size 11 feet and thus huge fins isn’t ideal!?

It’s clearly all working though as on Monday I was overjoyed to set ‘a new PB’ for 100m of 1:37… And that was near the end of a 2k set with lots of leg kicking drills! It may be the shortest discipline of the event and theoretically the least significant for me, but i’m enjoying seeing the improvements.

Scott Plasma 20 – A New Bike!

Guru Fit

Following on from my post earlier this year I have finally taken the plunge and purchased a Triathlon bike. After seeing an article on Bike Radar about a Guru Fit I decided to get in touch with Cycle Studio as they a) carried out the fit in question and b) are just down the road from me.

As may have become clear on here I tend to research things quite a lot and after numerous discussions I decided that before taking the plunge on a bike I wanted to be sure I was getting something that would fit me. The whole process took around 4 hours and Matt, the fitter, was great at talking me through the whole process and explaining to me what we were doing and why. I walked away with a good understanding of the position I could get in to and fortunately a list of bikes that were suitable. Part of the fit involved testing crank arm length and I was quite surprised to come away with a recommendation of 165mm arms; quite short but they difference they made in both feel and cadence/power output was quite surprising.

Thankfully the list of bike choices included a number that were on my previous dream list but based on pricing as a key factor in reality it came down to a Felt B12, Scott Plasma 20 or BMC TM02. The BMC was discounted early on as I seemed to have missed out on the good deals on the 2015 models and the 2016 ones were over my budget. So down to a two horse battle there really wasn’t much to choose between them with the deals available; the discount available on the Scott Plasma 20 from TriUK was too tempting and it literally has my name written all over it, So I present….

Scott Plasma 20 (2015)

Damn she’s sexy!

Scott Plasma 20 - 2015
Scott Plasma 20 – 2015
Syncros RR2.0 Tri Saddle
Syncros RR2.0 Tri Saddle – not very comfy!
Syncros RR2.0 Tri Saddle - Arty Aero Bars
Syncros RR2.0 Tri Saddle – Arty Aero Bars

TriUK were great going through the whole purchase process and I was able to upgrade the standard cranks to 165mm Shimano 105’s with 52/36 chainrings for a small fee. Ultimately I want Rotor INPower in there, but couldn’t justify the cost just at the moment.

Given that I already use Look pedals on my road bike and have no bad words to say about them, I opted for their lightweight Carbon Kéo Blade 2 models for this bike… shiny! I have opted for the 12nm tension on the basis that this is what Look recommended for most people – the last thing I want to do is go back to falling off my bike!

Look Kéo Blade 2 Carbon Pedals - 12nm
Look Kéo Blade 2 Carbon Pedals – 12nm

Other things on the list to change are the saddle. As discovered during my investigations I get on quite well with the split nose saddles. I’ve ordered an ISM Prologue as that was used during my fit however, I have a hankering for the Cobb Cycling JOF Fifty Five as I found the nose to be a little narrower. I also like the rear hydration mount and the fact that it is available in Green! I shall however give the ISM a reasonable test first.

The final thing to change will eventually be the wheels, as expected. That will be subject to a whole new post at some stage!

Tri Bike Hydration

I fear this may take over my life. I assumed, somewhat naively that once i’d bought the bike that would be more or less it. I’ve since discovered the minefield that is tri bike hydration!

I think i’ve made my mind up and will be going with a BTA system up front and assuming that I get the Cobb saddle, a dual cage system behind the saddle – with space for tools etc.

The challenge though, is which BTA system! The Speedfil system doesn’t seem to appeal for no logical reason so I find myself deciding between the Torhans Aero ZProfile Design FC35 and XLAB Torpedo 400 systems. There is no clear winner as the Torhans looks the better product to me, but has no integrated system for mounting my Garmin to it. I have decided to add all of them to my Xmas list and I’ll see which one I get!

Bkool

My final purchase has been a Bkool Pro Turbo Trainer/Simulator.

Bkool Pro Trainer + Simulator
Bkool Pro Trainer + Simulator

I’ve liked this from the first time I saw it and having tried a few others out at various shows maintain that it feels the best to use. Something about Tacx didn’t work for me, Wahoo Kickr is too damn expensive and Elite are just changing the range and thus don’t have many options available at the moment.

As you can see, it’s currently still boxed but I intend to make use of it over the winter to get used to the aero position on the new bike whilst hopefully alleviating boredom with the VR elements of it. The recent ANT+ FE-C update is great as it means that I can virtually ride the Ironman 70.3 Staffs bike course in my own lounge! I can also look at Trainerroad and Zwift as other options, although the built in Bkool VR seems to be very similar to Zwift anyway. Trainerroad’s website, as of the time of writing, state that the Bkool is not supported, however I have had email confirmation that it is now supported using ANT+ FE-C.

A Weekend Training with Helen Jenkins

Last weekend I was incredibly lucky to spend a weekend training with Helen Jenkins, it was a competition I won from 220 Triathlon magazine and was facilitated by Science in Sport, so a special thank you to them as well as Marc, Helen’s husband and triathlete himself!

I received an email earlier in the week informing me that I had won and even better that I could take a friend, cue invite to Anth (thetrinerd). The weekend took place in the sunny Welsh town of Porthcawl, home of the only (in my experience) tarmac beach! Even better it was actually sunny pretty much the whole time!

Porthcawl Tarmac Beach
Porthcawl Tarmac Beach

We had arrived early and were a little unsure what to expect but it turned out upon meeting Helen, Marc and Emma (from Science in Sport) that it was going to be a fairly intensive weekend of training but that they would be joining us for everything – including breakfast! We were presented with a nice Science in Sport Endurance Pack and their new Electrolyte Gels to help us get through the weekend too! We were joined by the other competition winners, Heather, Pete, Ashley and Matt.

Our training schedule for the weekend was as follows:

Saturday
9am – Park Run
11.30am – Bike Ride
5.30pm – Sea Swim

Sunday
6.30am – Sea Swim
11am – Recovery Bike Ride
12pm – Brick Session

After all the excitement of the first day we went to bed, ready to do both mine and Anths’ first ever Parkrun in the morning.

Saturday

We were up at 8am to meet in reception at 8.30 for a warm up. It turns out the Helen had found out the course record and being a typical athlete had decided she needed to have a crack at it – go girl! My right calf has still been causing me grief so I wasn’t expecting much from the Parkrun so I had decided to go out steady and see how we felt…. which was fine until we got to a descent with a dead turn at the end. My calf screamed no as I tried to head back up the hill, thus I had to take it even steadier back, but overall i was happy with a debut time of 23:40!

Scott McKenzie - Porthcawl Parkrun August 15th 2015 - Photo Emma Barraclough
Scott McKenzie – Porthcawl Parkrun August 15th 2015 – Photo Emma Barraclough

More importantly is that Helen went out and nailed it, finishing 1st overall and taking the women’s course record in 16:40! Hugely impressive stuff! The prize from Parkrun is probably already in her trophy cabinet…. that’s right, a stick of rock!

Helen Jenkins - Porthcawl Parkrun August 15th 2015 - Photo Emma Barraclough
Helen Jenkins – Porthcawl Parkrun August 15th 2015 – Photo Marc Jenkins
Helen and Marc Jenkins - Parkrun Award Ceremony
Helen and Marc Jenkins – Parkrun Award Ceremony

After the run we headed back to the hotel for a highly nutritious breakfast, a fried breakfast! Following that we had a short break before meeting downstairs for our cycle ride. The original schedule had alluded to a 2 hour ride, what we ended up with was a little different. A 3+ hour out and back 78km ride through some beautiful countryside, culminating in a climb up a local legend of a hill called the Bwlch. It was a bit of a beast and I was lacking energy… still it was a cracking climb and although I got dropped, who cares, i’d spent large portions of the ride chatting with a double World Champion – the sort of thing you have to pinch yourself for! We were also joined by a friend of Marc and Helen’s, Darren, owner of PedalCover

220 Triathlon Competition Winners - A Weekend Training with Helen Jenkins - Photo Credit Emma Barraclough
220 Triathlon Competition Winners – A Weekend Training with Helen Jenkins – Photo Credit Emma Barraclough
220 Triathlon Competition Winners - A Weekend Training with Helen Jenkins - Photo Credit Marc Jenkins
220 Triathlon Competition Winners – A Weekend Training with Helen Jenkins – Photo Credit Emma Barraclough
On the bike with Helen Jenkins - Photo Courtesy of Emma Barraclough
On the bike with Helen Jenkins – Photo Courtesy of Marc Jenkins
On the bike with Helen Jenkins - Photo Courtesy of Emma Barraclough
On the bike with Helen Jenkins – Photo Courtesy of Marc Jenkins
The top of the Blwch with Helen Jenkins and the other 220 Triathlon Competition Winners - A Weekend Training with Helen Jenkins - Photo Credit Marc Jenkins
The top of the Blwch with Helen Jenkins and the other 220 Triathlon Competition Winners – A Weekend Training with Helen Jenkins – Photo Credit Marc Jenkins

After the epic ride we had a stretching session with Helen (we got some very odd looks lying on the restaurant floor!) some lunch and a bit of a rest before heading to the sea front for my first ever ocean swim, and indeed the first ever open water swim for a couple of folks!

First Ocean Swim with Helen Jenkins - Photo Courtesy of Emma Barraclough
First Ocean Swim with Helen Jenkins – Photo Courtesy of Emma Barraclough

Things were a little interrupted as, as we were entering the sea via the lifeboat launch, they got called out. A minor disruption but slightly exciting! This was my first time swimming in the sea for any reason other than a holiday paddle. I found it very different to a wetsuit swim in a lake, the salt water tasted awful of course but I felt the extra buoyancy it offered. I also learned that the currents play havoc with my inability to swim in a straight line… something I need to work on and also something that Marc and Helen gave me some guidance on!

After the swim it was back to the hotel for dinner and some well deserved sleep, I was knackered!

Sunday

Up very early as we were meeting on the beach at 6.30am for our second sea swim, getting into a damp wetsuit is not fun! We were entering the sea from the beach this time which gave us an opportunity to practice beach starts and mid swim beach exits too. Such a shame that I hate sand between my toes!!!! This time I had some time with Marc, Helen and another friend of theirs (sorry i forgot your name!) who were all helping with my sighting issue – it seemed I was able to swim, breathe and sight, just sadly not all at the same time! It also transpired that we were there early as there was a local sprint triathlon on at the same time.

Second Ocean Swim
Second Ocean Swim
220 Triathlon Competition Winners - Porthcawl Beach with Helen Jenkins
220 Triathlon Competition Winners – Porthcawl Beach with Helen Jenkins
I beat Helen Jenkins out the sea!
I beat Helen Jenkins out the sea!
Second Ocean Swim
Second Ocean Swim

After a well deserved breakfast (another fry up!) and a short rest we were setting off on a gentle recovery ride, that turned out to be the same route the triathlon had taken earlier that day. This was a more relaxed affair but still enjoyable. We had planned a sort of brick session for when we got back, but my calf was still sore from the run the day before and I only managed a very short one before it was too painful.

We all re-convened back at the hotel, with the others going for much longer runs than I! We then sat around and had a really casual chat. Such a surreal environment but it never felt anything other than normal and great fun, Helen and Marc are two of the nicest and most genuine people you could meet. Emma was lovely too – don’t want her feeling left out! Thanks all for such a great weekend!

Me with Helen Jenkins - Excuse the Hair!
Me with Helen Jenkins – Excuse the Hair!

And in other news….

I appear to have signed up to compete in Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire next year. Shit. Best get training! Maybe it’s a good excuse to revisit this topic though…

(not) just another triathlon site