Archive for August, 2019

Parkrun Day: The Film

Thursday, August 22nd, 2019 | Sport, Video

Last week, when Hyde Park Harriers took on Leeds parkruns, I took my GoPro along to document the trip. Here is the film I made.

Parkrun Day

Wednesday, August 21st, 2019 | Sport

Every year, Hyde Park Harriers try to take on all of the parkuns in Leeds in a single day. This has become more and more of a challenge as new parkruns start. By this year, 2019, there are now nine of them. With two more starting soon, I have no idea what we will do next year. Possibly a multi-day event.

Having so many parkruns means the distance this year was up to 45km. Anything longer than 42.2km is technically an ultramarathon. 45km is pretty much the easiest ultramarathon you can possibly do, especially as you get a break when driving between them. Or so I thought. It turns out that having a break just gives your legs a chance to seize up.

Roundhay

We started bright and early at 7:30am. Ed Sheran had taken over most of the park so we had to forgo the regular parkrun route and do two laps of the lake instead. Nobody was sad to miss the long drag of the hill up to the mansion in favour of a beautiful view of the lake. It was sunny on the near side and rained on the far side.

Potternewton

By Potternewton, I was already feeling it. Bad times only 5km in! I wanted to pace myself so I walked up some of the hills. Meanwhile, Marcos Angel Valero Palacios came sprinting past me to take a course record of 15:59.

Temple Newsam

I had not packed a lot of food as I only decided to come for it at the last minute and had not had a chance to stock up, so by Temple Newsam I was hungry. I grabbed a coke, a sausage roll and a caramel shortbread from the cafe. The sun was out in full force by Temple Newsam, and Amy and Paul made a guest appearance.

Rothwell

The sun continued to beat down at Rothwell so I took a quick break to suncream up. The tarmac was starting to pound my legs by this point, so I was pleased to have grass to run on for most of it. How easy was everyone else taking it? Toby and Rich lapped me at this one.

Middleton Woods

Ah, the sweet shade of the woods. I felt good at Middleton, at least for the first three kilometres. I was still walking up some fo the hills but was running everything else. After the run, we had lunch on the bike cafe. A cheeseburger and chips went down well, accompanied by two bottles of orange juice and another can of coke.

Cross Flatts

It has cooled down a little by Cross Flatts and we dispatched the course without too much trouble. I felt no ill effects from having stuffed my face.

Bramley

By Bramley, I was tired but feeling good. I had finished both my bidons by this point, so we went to the shop to reload. The ground was a bit soggy when I moved off the tarmac and onto the grass.

Armley

This one was always going to be a challenge because it was so deep in but not quite at the end. We took it really steady so it didn’t hurt too much.

Woodhouse Moor

Ah, the end! I was excited to arrive here and we were joined by a few other Harriers. I went hard to try and put in a good time, but the fatigue meant that a “good time” was still 31 minutes. After crossing the finish line, I would say I felt amazing, but I mostly felt sick. That’s pretty standard with anything over three hours, though.

Conclusion

I can’t believe I made it. Eight others also claimed all of the runs, and while Greg missed Roundhay, he did the most work out of all of us as he cycled between each one. Thank you to Toby for organising it and Ellie for keeping me company at the back.

I’ll see you all next year… for one of the parkuns ;).

Resilient website

Tuesday, August 20th, 2019 | News

Last August, I launched the Resilient Running course. My sport psychology course has also been smashing it, earning Udemy’s coverted “highest-rated” badge for being the most well-regarded course on the topic.

It was always the plan that Resilient would be the brand that would link all of my sport and psychology courses together with, and I am pleased to announce that the Resilient website is now live.

So far, it is a sport psychology blog and the first few blog posts are up. My priority at the moment is to get more high-quality content on there and then begin expanding what the website offers.

Getting started with clip-on aero bars

Sunday, August 18th, 2019 | Video

If you are an age-group triathlete or amateur time-trialist, nothing will give you free speed like aero bars. In this video, I will discuss the pros and cons, show you how to get some onto your bike and give you some tips on how to get started with them.

Aero bars, also known as tri bars, allow you to get into a much lower, aerodynamic position. The downside is that your hands are miles away from my brakes, and closer together, so it can be a little intimidating to lose some control. They also take up a lot of space on your handlebars.

Comfort is a mixed bag. Most people struggle to cycle in the aero position. However, I found it about as comfortable as sitting up. If anything, it was slightly easier on my back.

Performance gains

The speed gain is substantial. Between Alltherorpe Classic standard distance triathlon in 2018 and 2019, I improved my bike split by 11:28. Of course, it could be that I was fitter. But comparing Allerthorpe sprint triathlon a month earlier, my power was 20 Watts lower, and yet my average speed was up 5%. So, more speed for less power.

Getting them on your road bike

You can buy clip-on aero bars for around £30. These bolt onto your handlebars so you can turn a standard road bike into a time trial bike. It is best to use a torque wrench if you can, as clamping them on to the recommended 8-10 Nm can be scary without one. It also helps to wrap some electrical tape around your handlebars to protect them.

Depending on your bars, they will be adjustable in different ways. Typically, you can adjust them by changing the angle and gap between them on the handlebars, by moving the bars themselves backwards and forwards and by changing the rotation of the armrests.

When you are getting started, you want to keep them fairly flat, as having them diagonally upwards in the praying mantis position will make you slightly more aero but will also make it more difficult to control the bike.

Riding on aero bars for the first time

When riding, there are several things you can do to get comfortable cycling with them. One option is to keep one hand on the hoods and put the other on the bars, then gradually lift the hand off the hoods. I am not a big fan of this because it is harder to control with only one point of contact than it is when you have both hands on the bars.

Another option is to find a small hill, say a 1-2% gradient, and go up it. This will allow you to put a lot of power through the bike while still going at a relatively slow speed.

You can also spend some time moving your hands between the hoods and the bars to get used to getting in and out of the aero position. As you get used to them, you will get used to having a little less control: this means sacrificing some of the small adjustments you would normally make in favour of a wider berth and leaning the bike a little more.

Ultimately, though, once I got comfortable, it just clicked. Like learning to ride a bike in the first place, once you “get it”, you should be away. Good luck!

Intelligence and mental health

Saturday, August 17th, 2019 | Science

Many people believe that there is an association between intelligence and mental illness. And there is. But it probably is not the one you think.

The media has often reported on the idea that mental illness is higher among intelligent people. In a way, there is some truth to this. Mental illness does seem to be prevalent among geniuses, for example. One study demonstrated that there were higher rates of mental health issues among Mensa members.

But this is one study and specifically looks at people who are abnormally high on the intelligence scale. It ignores the wider pattern of evidence that says increased intelligence correlates with better mental health. Wikipedia offers a good roundup of the evidence, but I also provide one below.

A 2016 study in the journal Intelligence found that intelligent youths were more likely to receive a dianogsis of depression at age 50, but less likely to have mental health issues on self-report measures.

A 2006 study found that intelligent people were less likely to have PTSD.

A 2008 study found that intelligent people were less likely to have schizophrenia.

A 2018 study found that intelligent people were less likely to have OCD.

And, perhaps most notably, a Swedish study that used over a million participants concluded that:

Lower intelligence is a risk factor for the whole range of mental disorders and for illness severity.

Of course, the biggest predictor of intelligent is individual difference. Struggling with mental illness says nothing about your intelligence. But the idea that having a mental illness is a sign that we are more intelligent is a myth.

Sorry. I was gutted as well.

Knights

Friday, August 16th, 2019 | Distractions

Q: Which knight was famous for sneaking up on his enemies?
A: Sir Prise

Mindfulness for Productivity

Thursday, August 15th, 2019 | Health & Wellbeing, News

I’m pleased to announce my new course is now live! Here is the blurb:

Do you ever feel stressed about how productive you are? Are you hard on yourself for not getting enough done? Do you feel tired and struggle to focus on the more important things?

If so, Mindfulness for Productivity is the course for you. It gives you ten guided mindfulness practices you can follow along with to make you more productive, and maybe even a little happier, too.

It will help you:

  • Feel more motivated about your goals
  • Reduce stress around feeling unproductive
  • Focus on the things that are important
  • Carrying on when obstacles fall in your way
  • Starting and ending your day positively

This course is suitable for all levels: we’ll jump straight into the practice videos that you can follow along with, but we’ll also cover how to mindfully meditate and the science behind it.

You can preview the course on Udemy.

Allerthorpe Classic 2019

Wednesday, August 14th, 2019 | Sport

Allerthorpe Classic is a standard distance triathlon that takes place in York on the first Sunday of August. I I raced it last year and perfectly paced myself for a sub-3 time before discovering the run was 10.5km and I ended up with 3:00:15. I had unfinished business.

Pre-race

This year looked equally hot and sunny. I had some cereal for breakfast and half a Clif bar at the venue. I ran into Dan and Alison before the race. Alison was with the elite swimmers 20 minutes ahead of us, while Dan had a two-minute head start over me.

The swim

I used a mixture of front crawl and breaststroke. I would have been happy slowly paddling around, but I am having some knee pain which messes up my breaststroke. Half the swimmers in my wave hung back, but I didn’t really want to swim an extra twenty metres, so I went to the front. This inevitably meant I was in the middle of the pack jostling for position, but no serious blows were landed.

By the second lap, things had calmed down and I had clear water. At the far side of the lake, I could feel my swim cap coming off. Normally, I would stop to put it back on. But I decided I didn’t want to lose time and that it was not my fault that the organisers failed to provide a swim cap for my head shape. So, I let it go and did the rest of the swim without it. Some lose hair, but nothing that got in the way.

As we headed to the swim exit, I just managed to pass someone from the wave in front of ours, mostly thanks to their complete inability to sight. It is incredible how much further people swim because their sighting is terrible.

Best of all, I finally remembered not to fiddle with my watch until I was passed the swim exit photography point.

Transition 1

I managed a fairly speedy T1 (for me), although struggled to get my wetsuit off and had to sit down. I slapped some more sun cream on. Unfortunately, despite putting sun cream on both before the race and here, I still came home sunburnt. There is no way to escape it!

Foolishly, I had not turned my bike computer on before the race, so as I hurried out of T1 I was trying to turn it on and load up the route.

The bike

I knew where the photo point was on the route: just as you start the bike. Before the race, I had visions of getting straight down onto my aero bars and getting an awesome photo of me powering away. Unfortunately, I was still trying to sort my computer out at the time, and so all I got was a photo of my meddling with my head unit.

Worse, in the confusion of trying to sort my bike computer out, I forgot to hit the lap button on my watch. I was 12 minutes into the cycle before I noticed!

Once I had stopped fiddling, I got down to business. And by business, I mean onto the aero bars. This was my first real test on them and I had a little wobble early on that knocked my confidence. But I knew if I didn’t get straight back down on them the fear would grow, so I wasted no time in tucking back in.

I used them for most of the course, occasionally going back to my handlebars to overtake and when I spotted oncoming cars, and occasionally to give my legs a break as it is slightly harder to put out power in the aero position. I wondered how my back would hold up as I usually get quite a lot of lower back pain while racing but, surprisingly, I think I got less than usual.

The results of the aero bars were great. Comparing it to Allerthorpe Sprint last month, I only averaged 197 Watts, compared to the 217 Watts I did last month, and yet my average speed increased from 31.5 kph to 32.9 kph. That means I went 5% faster while using 10% less energy.

Fueling on the bike was difficult as my tri suit does not have any pockets. Instead, I put my gel flask in my top tube bag. It was a bit difficult to get it in and out compared to a back pocket, but it worked.

As we were coming down the final road through Allerthorpe I overtook Dan who was powering away the final few kilometres.

Transition 2

I felt a little light-headed in T2 and was concerned that I had not taken enough carbs so I ripped open my spare energy gel and took a mouthful. Then it was on to the run.

My bike split had been so good that I now had 67 minutes to complete the 10.5km run in order to achieve a sub-3 hour time. Something I think I would struggle to miss if I had tried.

The run

By this point it was midday and the sun was blazing. After about a kilometre I ran into Dan again: apparently, my T2 had been slower than I thought! We had a chat before I picked up the pace. I started out at 5:00 per kilometre before dropping it down to 5:15 per kilometre to make sure I could finish in the heat.

At the second drinks station, I took my caffeine gel and washed it down with some water, the remaining of which went over my head. I walked the final drinks station to get some more water, too.

Unusually, a couple of runners overtook me. The first was a woman who then blew up. I found her walking at 7km. After I had overtaken her she took off again and overtook me, before walking and being overtaken again. She made one final assault and managed to catch me before dropping off permanently. The other two were a man who also blew up, got caught by me, and then took off again into the distance, and another guy who was running at roughly my pace the whole way around.

I cannot blame them for walking. The final three kilometres were so difficult; all I wanted to do was walk. But I told myself that walking was for longer distances: there was no reason to walk for these piddly little ones. I told myself I could walk when I got to 9km if I really needed to. By then I wanted to finish so held it all the way to the end.

The result

My official time was:

2:47:16

And my splits were:

Stage 2019 2018 Diff
Swim 39:34 40:49 -1:15
T1 09:09 03:40 -1:31
Bike 1:09:07 1:20:35 -11:28
T2 02:15 01:49 +0:26
Run 54:09 53:19 +0:50
Total 2:46:16 3:00:15 -12:59

It is by far the fastest standard distance race I have done. The bike is only 38km, and it is a flat and fast course, but the run is slightly longer. My increase in T2 is to be expected as I now cycle without socks and then put my socks on in T2, hence a much faster T1 but slightly slower T2.

Similarly, I’m not too worried about the increase in my run time. In last year’s race, I was sprinting my heart out to get under three hours. There was no need to try and kill myself this year as I knew I would be comfortably under.

Almost all of the improvement came on the bike. Given I only improved slightly at the sprint race last month, I can only attribute that to the aero bars, possibly including some placebo effect from having them on my bike.

I was 146th out of 306 finishers, so just in the top half, which is great! My position splits were 276 (swim), 150 (T1), 94 (bike), 264 (T2) and 110 (run). I have never placed higher in the bike than the run before: normally my run is far ahead of everything else, so this was a new experience for me.

After the race, we cooled off in the lake before I stuffed my face with recovery carbs and protein, and had a massage.

Conclusion

I have done so many races at Allerthorpe now that it feels like a second home. I am very pleased with my bike time and now feel completely justified in buying a triathlon bike. Hopefully, it will be a little cooler next year!

Redcar Sprint Triathlon

Monday, August 5th, 2019 | Sport

A sea swim? Closed roads? Draft legal? Who could say no?!? Cat, Greg, myself and nearly 200 other athletes could not.

Pre-race

Thanks to Greg to booking ahead, we had an HPH table in the club zone. This was super useful for having somewhere to dump all of my stuff and go rooting through my bags. Luckily, there was no rain, but it was nice to have some indoor space anyway.

The swim

We walked down to the beach and had five minutes to wade into the sea and have a swim to warm up. After that, we waded back to the shore and lined up on the start line. When the whistle went, the fastest swimmers charged into the water while the rest of us waded in a little more slowly.

The water was choppy. As the waves came and went we bobbed up and down. I swallowed a lot of seawater. It was fun to be back in the sea at first, but the more I swam, the saltier my mouth became until it started to burn my throat.

Once we are out past the first buoy, we turned to swim parallel with the shore. This made it easier than swimming directly into the waves. In some ways, the waves made it easier to do front crawl than breaststroke, although you did get a sensation of falling when your hand came down into the water in front of you.

After the final buoy, I turned towards the shore. The waves pushed me forward but then seemed to drag me back. It felt frustrating and I had to use markers to test that I was still moving forward, which I was.

My total swim time was 22 minutes including getting off the beach. This is pretty typical for me; slightly slower because of the beach run and challenge of swimming in the sea.

Transition 1

The water became shallow a fair distance out and it made for a slow wade to the beach. We then ran up in it and into T1. I had brought a bottle of water to wash the sand off my feet before giving them a quick dry and throwing my bike shoes on.

The bike

The bike course was on closed roads, mostly along the seafront. It was also draft legal, although you could only draft with people of the same gender. The closest roads made for fun racing as you could go around a corner without worrying about oncoming traffic: although you did have to watch out for parked cars on some roads!

The first lap was lonely. As I am a slow swimmer, I was mostly on my own. At the second lap, I began to find people to draft. I assumed I had caught people up as we were quite well matched on the bike. I followed a couple of people’s wheels, although nobody ever seemed to follow mine.

At the end of the third lap, most of the athletes I was cycling with peeled off into T2. It turns out they were a lap ahead of me, which I was surprised at as they clearly could not out-bike me. This made for a lonely final lap. Drafting made it a lot easier and I was regularly doing 35 kph without too much effort.

There were supporters all around transition, and, at the far end of the course, a church group outside of their building. I decided to give them a wave on my final lap and got an extra loud cheer.

Transition 2

Nothing much to report here. I pulled my shoes and socks on and set off on the run.

The run

The run route took us along the promenade and back again, followed by a quick loop around the boating lake to complete the lap. There were three in total. I almost followed someone going the wrong way at the turnaround point but managed to correct just in time.

I saw Cat coming the other way, and Greg up ahead, almost I suspected (quite correctly) that he was a lap ahead of me.

As I came towards the last half of the final lap I could see that I wasn’t quite going to be able to squeeze it under 90 minutes, so I decided not to push too hard and enjoy it instead, walking across the line in celebration.

As I crossed the line, my sister and brother-in-law had turned up to cheer me on (I completely missed them) and Elina and Venla were also there (I completely missed them, too), but did see the rest of the Harriers cheering me on. What we can learn from this is that if you want to be seen, at a minimum, you need to be wearing a Harriers jersey.

The result

My overall time was:

1:30:27

And my splits were:

Section Time
Swim 23:50
T1 01:41
Bike 37:47
T2 01:28
Run 25:39

I am satisfied with those times. The swim was more like 22 minutes plus extra time to wade up the beach. And the run was pretty speedy given it was 5.5km.

Conclusion

I would highly recommend Redcar sprint triathlon. The sea swim adds an extra challenge and the closed roads make the bike section a lot of fun.