Category Archives: Training

A quick link to all posts that are training related, across all disciplines

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.

 

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.

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.

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.

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…

Niggling Injuries

Thankfully, after a bit of a concern that my injury sustained in the Halesowen Triathlon was my Achilles, it turns out that it’s just another one of those niggling injuries. Something I’ve learned since getting back into sport is that I’m not as young as I once was (famous words) and thus the body needs a bit more TLC. I’ve always been fiercely competitive, starting with myself and this often means that little messages from my body are often ignored under the premise of ‘no pain no gain’. 

Training for my two recent events; The London Marathon and my new found love of Triathlon, I had similar issues, both are intensive endurance sports and thus it’s quite normal to hurt during training, but it’s clear that I need to be more sensible. In the run up to the marathon I felt some pain in my right knee that meant I had to walk home from my last long run. Rather than getting it checked out, I stopped running for 3 weeks and then tried to take part. This was a bad decision as I suffered badly with my ITB (iliotibial band – the one on the outside of the knee) to the point that I had to walk the last half of the race. Top tip if you’re having to start a race like this, maybe you shouldn’t be starting it at all….  

Injuries - if you're starting a race like this, think whether you should be starting at all 

Similarly, in the build up to the triathlon I felt a sharp pain in my right calf area during a steady run, this required me to walk home. You can probably guess what I did next… Correct, didn’t see anyone about it and stopped running. At this point I should also remind you all about the fact that I had hurt my shoulder trying on wetsuits at the 220Triathlon Show and hadn’t swum since then either. Hey, at least I was still able to get some decent miles in on the bike! I headed in to the race not what I would call ‘prepared’ and you’ve probably read how that turned out.

Having now discovered a very good local physiotherapist, Anna Curnow, I shall hopefully be more sensible going forward. I had my first appointment with her yesterday, during which I fully expected to be told that I had ruptured my Achilles. Thankfully this was not the case, I have ‘just’ injured my calf. During the consultation, I received a bit of an MOT and Anna is of the belief that my injuries are, in some ways, linked. My right leg is clearly much weaker and much less flexible than my left, whether these issues are cause or effect of the marathon injury, no-one can say. I have come away with a series of strengthening and flexibility exercises to do, targeting my calves and hip flexors. This shouldn’t be too long out of action – hey my shoulder is better as I managed the same time for the swim as my previous time trial, but I will definitely be paying more attention to my body and working just as much on strength, conditioning and now flexibility as I do on swim, bike, run.

220 Triathlon Show, Back to Training and Lapland!

Not too much recent to report other than a recent visit to the 220 Triathlon Show. Thankfully the manflu has finally abated after coming back to haunt me, it was decent enough to stay gone for my trip to Lapland to celebrate my good wife’s birthday though!

Lapland

Mild tangent to report that if you can, make a trip to Lapland, it’s an amazing experience. We booked for a four night stay at the Muotkan Maja Wilderness Lodge where aside from being fortunate enough to witness the Northern Lights, we also went husky sledding, reindeer sleighing, snowmobiling and snow shoe walking. All of the events were fantastic and really enjoyable, even though the temperature dropped to -30 degrees celsius and never got above -4! The staff couldn’t be more friendly or helpful either, a highly recommended trip!

Back to some sort of training…

Back to the more triathlon related stuff, I’ve been slowly getting back into training both on my own and with the club that is at my local gym. I’ve established that I’m currently not very fit, relatively speaking am a slow swimmer but thankfully still seem to have decent running pace in these old legs! The gym sessions are on a Wednesday evening at David Lloyd Worcester and start with either a Bike (Spin) or Run (outside) followed by an hour in the pool. I don’t have my ‘bike legs’ yet but I’m assured these will come, so find some of the bike sessions pretty tough but the running sprints the other day were a little easier for me. I am struggling in the pool though, mostly with getting calf cramp toward the end of the sessions. I was pleased to get a benchmark time for the 400m, even if 9:06 is pretty damn slow!

I finally got to play with my Garmin Edge 1000 too as I had a bike ride planned for Sunday morning. The “Round Trip Route Planning” is excellent, simply select an approximate distance for a ride and you’re presented with up to 3 options with a quick summary of distance and elevation. So off we went, selecting the route and heading off. What I learned here is that you also need to actually start the journey tracking as otherwise it doesn’t log the route, ride, cadence etc…. bit of an oversight on Garmin and my behalf I feel!! Either way, a very enjoyable ride taking in some new areas that we’d not been too and encountering a lot of other cyclists out enjoying the brief bit of dry, if rather windy, weather. This was also my first ride since my bike fit and I’m pleased to report that the bike felt much better, as did I!

Following the bike ride we even threw in a quick brick run so I could start to practise transitions. This needs work as my legs felt like unknown objects below my waste that were doing their own thing. I’m sure it’ll improve with practise but we’ve some way to go yet…

220 Triathlon Show

At the weekend The Tri Nerd and I headed to the 220 Triathlon Show, held at Sandown Park in Surrey. We both had some things to look at; a wetsuit for me and an aero helmet and tri shoes for thetrinerd. Sadly he left empty handed as there were none of the above on display, which seemed a bit of an oversight for a triathlon show! I was more fortunate and spent a great deal of time forcing myself in and out of neoprene. All in all it was a very useful experience and i learned that I’m a different size from all manufacturers and price does not always indicate quality. I walked away with a lovely Zone3 Aspire which was a decent price and they threw in a few goodies too. In a make you feel good moment, I needed the size down from my expected weight too….. The picture below shows the level of delirium that had kicked in, this was the stall before Zone3 though, so ended soon after!

2xu A:1 Wetsuit - 220 Triathlon Show
Hey good lookin’

There weren’t many bikes on display, a Boardman display that had all the tri specific models and a decent offer including a Huub wetsuit… sadly i don’t have the money for a bike just yet and it wouldn’t be the entry level Boardman anyway! What did stand out was the Dassi TT Bike. Started up and run by ex-aerospace engineers with a clear view on how to approach and design an aero product. It’s also designed and built as much as possible in the UK – groupsets being the biggest problem. There were some lovely touches to the design, such as they setup your geometry with an adjustable stem and you then have the option to have a custom carbon stem manufactured to reduce 300g of weight – bit of an issue if you want to change later mind…. The other great thing was that the design and colour is completely unique to you, so whilst it takes about 12 weeks to get your bike, it’s completely to your spec and design. I was quite surprised at the pricing too, the display model had their own aero wheels and cockpit but was running Campagnolo Chorus EPS. So all in all a decent spec but less than £5k as shown. I want one.

Dassi TT Bike - 220 Triathlon Show
Engineer design and built, best looking bike at the show
Dassi TT Bike - Rear - 220 Triathlon Show
Not much for the chasing pack to see…

We spent a great deal of time sampling Protein and Energy bars too. I think we might have been slightly over energised for most of the day but given the lunch options on hand, maybe this wasn’t such a bad thing!! I suddenly have a yearning for a Clif Bar again….

The final thing we did was to have our swimming analysed by Paul Newsome from Swim Smooth. This took the format of an endless pool (want one) and an earpiece over which you could hear the instructions. Whilst we didn’t get ages on this, it was a novel concept and certainly useful! Overall I’d say the show could have done with some better organisation, the website was not particularly helpful and we had to contact Zoggs directly to find out how to book for the swim. As it was we were the first people through the door on the day and the only spaces available were at 5pm, despite the fact that we were told you could only book on the stand. Our only assumption was that people from other days had booked for the Saturday.

One final thing, I did find this beauty hiding downstairs…. at least I’ve realised It’s not ideal. The colour really is yellow as expected and not the green it claims. I view that as £9k saved!

Scott Plasma Team Edition 2015 - 220 Triathlon Show
First one i’ve seen in the flesh…. beautful!

Triathlon Bike Research (manflu content)

I appear to be suffering from a heavy dose of manflu which has stopped me training, it has however lead to plenty of triathlon bike research. Now to be clear, I don’t need a new bike, but everyone knows the n+1 maths for how many bikes you need to own… Additionally, some folks would call me utterly obsessive when it comes to new challenges, and they’d probably be absolutely right. When I get an idea in to my head I can spend hours, days even weeks meticulously researching it before I actually do anything. Next I become a fully fledged ‘all the gear and no idea’ guy and finally I usually get injured. So this time has been interesting for me, but maybe not so much for my wife!

Whilst I’ve been unable to train, which fingers crossed won’t be for much longer if I can just get rid of this cough, sore throat and find my voice again, I’ve been researching proper triathlon bikes again. As you’ll know from reading my blog, yes all 4 of you… I currently have a Trek Madone 2.1 which I have to say is a lovely bike; despite the fact that I keep falling off it due to clipping out issues. Yet, I know that as and when I get more into triathlon I am going to need (read, want) a proper triathlon bike. I am sure there will be numerous ways of justifying this to myself, but ultimately it’s just that they look amazing and genuinely are quicker. In all honesty on Sprint and Standard distance events I probably won’t notice much difference but as I have longer distance plans in mind it seems completely logical to get one now. Doesn’t it?

I have found myself trawling all over the place, do I want mechanical, probably SRAM Red22 or electronic, definitely Ultegra Di2? Or do I wait to see what the new SRAM Wireless stuff is going to bring to the table? After that I obviously need something that fits into the colour scheme. And finally I don’t want a Cervelo. That latter point is based solely on the fact that I don’t like to follow the crowd whilst acknowledging the fact it’s probably the best choice, I just don’t want one. It’s arguably the same reason I actively avoid BMW’s, that and the atrocious build quality.

Dream League Triathlon Bikes

Like everyone else in the world of triathlon bikes we all have dreams, I’d love a Scott Plasma Team, but at £8499 it’s a touch pricey. Additionally the Cannonade Slice Black is rather lovely but that’s about the same price. I’ve spent quite a bit of time on the Trek Project One website too and that’s also rather silly money, but the colour scheme issue is dealt with. We’re talking about £7k for what I want from them… Probably top of the dream list is the Wilier Twin Blade, but the price is more than the others…..

Scott Plasma Team Edition Triathlon Bike
Scott Plasma Team Edition
Cannondale Slice Black Inc Triathlon Bike
Cannondale Slice Black Inc
Trek Speed Concept 7 Project One Triathlon Bike
Trek Speed Concept 7 Project One
Wilier Twin Blade Triathlon Bike
Wilier Twin Blade

Mid Table Triathlon Bikes

Next up we have the mid priced options, Cannonade do a ‘lesser’ version of the team which has Ultegra Di2 but as always with triathlon bikes comes with crappy wheels, so at £3999 it’s not too crazy, but you need to budget at least £1500 for some decent aero wheels. Equally Scott also do a cheaper variant but they come with no electronic options so whilst they look cheaper, assuming the standard cost for aero wheels again, we’re still talking around £4500! At this point the Specialised Shiv becomes an option, the bike (with crap wheels) is around £2500 so all in we’re at about £4000…. still got fairly mediocre gears though with 105’s fitted now!

Cannondale Slice Ultegra Di2 Triathlon Bike
Cannondale Slice Ultegra Di2
Scott Plasma 10 Triathlon Bike
Scott Plasma 10
Specialized Shiv Elite Triathlon Bike
Specialized Shiv Elite

Vaguely Realistic Triathlon Bikes

So finally, to where I think i’ll be starting, I think we’re down to either the slightly cheaper version of the Shiv, or waiting until it’s on a blowout deal (the local Specialized Concept Store recently sold an ex demo Pro version with the fancy wheels for £3000, so that’s worth a look!) or either of the BMC Time Machine TM02 which appeals for some quirky reason, but it’s still £2300. Or finally the Fuji Norcom Straight 2.5, it’s a base spec in terms of components but so are the prices to replace them… at £1600 it’s almost a bargain!

I guess I’ll need to go ride them when I can, which leads on to the next rant, finding a store that has them. Locally I have Epic Cycles who stock Cannondale and Scott. The Specialized Concept Store is in Birmingham and then Evans Cycles are the sole carrier of BMC and Fuji in the UK but they’ve only got stock of both models at their central warehouse in Gatwick!

BMC Timemachine TM02 Triathlon Bike
BMC Timemachine TM02
Fuji Norcom Straight 2.5 Triathlon Bike
Fuji Norcom Straight 2.5

And after I got home, a couple of late entries to the field. I present the Merida Warp Tri 500, which scores very highly on the colour scheme and not too bad on the components – the wheels could actually be useful without needing to be replaced immediately. The same can be said of the Felt B12 which has top end Dura Ace components, slightly let down by the front shifters and crank but hey… the best bit about these is they are £2600 and £1999 respectively. Even better news is I seem to have stumbled across a dealer who carries the majority of the above bikes that I like – welcome Tredz Bikes who carry Scott, Cannonade, Specialized, Felt and Merida, thus I could try all of the realistic options except for the BMC and the Fuji.

Felt Bicycles B12 Triathlon Bike
Felt Bicycles B12
Merida Warp Tri 5000 Triathlon Bike
Merida Warp Tri 5000

Even later entries, i’d forgotten the direct supply options, both of which offer amazing back for buck. The Dolan is just over £2000 in the spec I like (Ultegra mechanical) but comes with genuinely usable aero wheels, even though they’re alloy braking. The Canyon is even better value based on the complete spec of Ultegra Di2, full carbon aero wheels etc… but it is £3999!

Dolan Scala Triathlon Bike
Dolan Scala
Canyon Speedmax CF Triathlon Bike
Canyon Speedmax CF

Of course I could just buy a frames and build my own…. oh god, help me!