Monday, 12 September 2016

Still Getting faster!

"you know the cycle is going well, when you can admire the bikes that you overtake"

I'm have the odd concern that I've peaked, that's it.  I started triathlon too late in life, I've had some good races in some amazing places, but age is creeping up, and the back of the line of finishers is where I'm heading.

I completed the Leeds triathlon this weekend, not the WTS one, the other one:

I managed a pb for the overall race (2:33:16) and was faster in T1, cycling, and the run.  In itself this proves that I'm not past my best yet... but more importantly, on parts of the bike course I could feel that I could have gone faster (up hills) had I trained a bit more.  I don't live near any good hills, but I should be able to factor this into next years training.

So suddenly I'm feeling optimistic for next years racing!

Monday, 16 September 2013

Review of 2013... Coming soon

This is a place holder really... in my attempt to blog more often!

I'm only done two races this year, but upped my distance to a middle distance race.  Inspired by a friends blog of the middle distance race (Eirias), I'm going to try to do the event justice by giving it a full post.

I'm also at the stage where I need to decide what to enter and train for next year.  I love the idea of completing either the Eirias (middle) or Slateman (standard) again... but it's too early to commit to anything at this stage.  I will be competing in the Leeds triathlon again; and hoping to improve on this years time.

Things only a parent would know

Chains need looking after... cleaning and lubing.  After four years of bike commuting, in my opinion this is a 50/50 split (if you want the chain to last).

There is a whole assortment of cleaning devices... and in the last 20 odd years I've bought a number of the clip on machines; and always been disappointed (bits fall off, degreaser leaks, the chain never gets really clean).

So as part of my chain nightmares over the last few snowy winters I started using the same technique I use for my motorcycle chain:

  • Spray with WD40 (or the green version of Gunk)
  • Use old T-shirt to wipe of... removing oil and grit
  • Lube 
This works but takes time and is still messy.  I now use baby wipes (fragrance free, but that's just old habits)...

  • Use wipes to rub the chain on the largest chain wheel, wiping top/sides and rolling the links to clean these two
  • Move chain around a bit and repeat
This normally uses three wipes in total, and is very quick.  Then remember to lube when done.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Review of 2012

As a triathlete, my year ends in September... that's when the racing is done and I need to start planning for next year.  So, the end of my third year - how's it gone?

My biggest concerns for the year were:

  • Have I bitten off more than I can chew (Snowdonia Slateman Triathlon)
  • Have I reach my maximum speed... 2011 felt like a good year, and I didn't feel any fitter/faster now then I did then
Snowdonia Slateman
This was one of those races that inspires them moment you hear of it, so although I didn't sign up until Jan 2012, I was committed to do it from early 2011.

So why the concern?  The race has an immense run up a mountain... this section of the race is so iconic that the picture appears on all of their literature.  Despite being from Yorkshire, I don't live near any mountains, and the few steep hills I'm aware of don't really come close to mountain (fell?) running.  I admit that I had a host of ideas that would take me to some mountains to train on, but it never happened... running at lunch is easy, but taking a day away from the kids to find some mountains is a bit selfish.

The feeling of poor preparation was made worse when they sent through the race pack.  This made the cycle rout sound too hard too... with descriptions of sever descents followed by technical corners.  This sounded way out of my skill set.

Finally, all the reviews of the previous years race centre on the horrific weather... as the race is set amongst the mountains, it seemed feasible that I could expect the same this year.

So I was please to find that the weekend was warn and sunny, the ride wasn't anything like as bad as the literature had me believing, and despite having to walk up segments of the run (I swore I wouldn't, but when people were walking at my running pace I gave in) the run was really enjoyable, and left me wanting to run up more mountains; and of course to do the same race next year.

Finish time 03:02:45

Had I peaked

Lets face it, when you take up a sport in your mid thirties you know that age is against you.  That, combined with the fact that I hadn't noticed any significant breakthroughs in training (my running didn't recover to pre-winter pace until August, after a piriformis strain).  So I was overjoyed to find that all my repeat races (Tadcaster Sprint, Leeds Xpress (sprint) and the Leeds Triathlon (standard) were all faster than last year.

So is there any more speed in me before I start falling apart?  On my last race I was faster in everything apart from cycling... that includes both transitions.  The run felt comfortable... and I'm sure I could give a bit more.  The cycle shouldn't have been that slow, so could be better (I was slowed by a red light a bus and a lorry).  The main breakthrough though was the swim...

I set off with a crowed instead of starting near the pack and I held my own swimming shoulder to shoulder (on both sides) with other racers.  Yet half way to the first bouy I had a panic attack, started treading water and looking at the safety crafts waiting for a rescue and picturing abandoning the race at this stage.

Well the kayaker didn't come to save me, so after what felt like an age I tried again.  This time reverting to breaststroke to get moving... even this was hard.  Despite feeling like an imminent  promise, I didn't drown and after the first bouy I was back to freestyle and feeling like my usual self.

The 1500m swim and run to transition took me 30min 27 seconds... my fastest yet.  So, assuming I can swim without panic next time; I expecting a 25 min swim potential... which'll make a huge difference to my finish time.

Here's to a faster 2013!

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

How to run

The complexities of running perplexed me as I prepared for my first run.  A lot of the people I spoke to believed that running was something that you just did (after buying some running shoes) but I felt that I had to learn to run.
I was swayed towards barefoot running techniques and related shoes after seeing slow motion images of runners running barefoot compared to runners running with supported shoes.  It’s easy to be swayed by barefoot running - as the people who are into it are passionate and the arguments are very convincing.  Admittedly the passion could be just that this is new, where as people have been running with a heel strike in supportive shoes since the 70s.
At the time that I started, barefoot style shoes were limited to Vibram Five Fingers (VFF) and the Nike Free.  I like what the VFF are doing, but was concerned about the price and sizing of something that I could only buy online... and everywhere seemed to be warning of fakes.  I ended up with Nike Free 3.0, the most flexible of the Nike range.
The sites all state that I’ll feel some discomfort as I adjust to a new way of running - however as I had never run in a supportive shoe, this was never a problem.  My instinctive technique for these shoes was a mid-foot strike.  Not what I wanted (as I was aiming for a fore-foot strike, as this feels more natural when I’m not waring shoes).  As I had to get used to running for my first Triathlons, I ignored the technique so that I could focus on covering the distance.  
After my last triathlon of 2010, I focused on my technique, running solely on my forefoot.  This increased my speed dramatically; but by winter I was having pain in my Achilles tendon.  After a few months of problems, I blamed my worn shoes (the Nike have a sole that still provides cushioning, so deteriorates with wear, and I had done a lot of miles).  The solution was to run without shoes (as this was the cheep way to pinpoint the problem without spending any money!).  I started each run wearing shoes, and when I got out of the city centre I took them off and carried them.  The routes were usually icy with temperatures  struggling to get above 0C... which meant that I didn’t encounter many people.
Running with no shoes felt fantastic, however the pain continued.  After several months, I researched footage of runners who wore no shoes, and discovered my error... although I should strike the ground with my forefoot, the heel touches the ground before the leg pushes you forward.  This made a massive difference to my running, and I was able to aid my tendon recovery with Glucosamine and Fish Oil supplements, and massaging daily with ‘Dog Oil’ 
So - should I wear shoes?  The answer is yes... I discovered this after a 10 mile run on the canal... 10 miles of almost constant sharp stones.  I now run in Merrill’s Trail Gloves... these allow the technique and flexibility as running with no shoes, but I can spend more time looking ahead instead of looking at the ground!  Using these the only area of my legs that seemed unprepared was my soleus (the deep calf muscle)... this comes with time.  The furthest I’ve run is a half marathon, and the run was still enjoyable.
In summary, the Nikes appeared to have developed my foot strength, as I had no aching foot muscles when I ditched the shoes.  However the feel of the run was not the same as true ‘barefoot’ styled shoes (or true barefoot running).  

Friday, 29 April 2011

How practical is a Tri specific bike?

This winter (2010) I decided that I wanted a more road biased bike for competing on.  My biggest concern was that my training is my commute to work, so I was concerned that a triathlon specific bike may be unsuitable for commuting.  I checked a few websites, but the standard view was that I should go for a road bike.

I decided that I'd go for it, and build a tri specific bike.  I based it around the Planet X Stealth Pro Carbon frame-set.

Is it any good for commuting? - Although it took a few rides to get used to something other than a XC bike, the bike works well for commuting.  I carry my work clothes, shower gear, bike repair kit and a heavy duty lock in my rucksack - and I've really enjoyed the experience.

So if like me you want a bike for Triathlons, but will use it as a daily ride - you should still consider a tri specific bike.

Are there any downsides? - these are below, but nothing that can't be dealt with:

  • Brakes... compared to the hydraulic disc brakes that I'm used to, road bike brakes aren't that good. This isn't a tri-bike issue, but it feels wrong that I can be doing 40mph, and then struggle to stop when the lights change.
  • Lights... I haven't yet found lights that will fit on the bike, due to the shape of the frame.  However, there is a guy at work who has some very tiny lights... I don't know what they are yet, but they look like a good option.
  • Finally, I haven't got over the new bike thing yet - so I'm very cautious about where I leave it.  At work I have access to the secure-ish car park... I haven't risked leaving it at the pool yet!


One of my concerns when training for my first triathlon was would my bike be suitable... I was riding a slightly modified Charge Duster, which after a year of commuting now had semi-slick tyres, higher gear ratio (front large cog up from 42T to 48T) and bar ends to help climbing.

I needn't have worried... my first Tri was a sprint, and there were around 10 other mountain bikes... and half of them still had full off road tyres.  This first triathlon showed me that it really didn't matter what bike you road.

For my standard distance race, there were only two other mountain bikes (that I noticed), however I overtook a lot of road bikes during the event.  If there is a lesson, it's that the training is more important than the bike