Archive for the ‘Sport’ Category

Why do video assistant referees wear full uniform?

Wednesday, June 27th, 2018 | Sport, Thoughts

If you’ve been watching the World Cup, you may well have seen inside FIFA’s VAR (video assistance referee) control centre. Here a team of officials sit watching computer monitors so that they can double-check the on-pitch referee’s decisions in case they have missed something obvious.

You may have also noticed they are wearing full referee’s kit.

Why? You could argue that as they are set in a control centre in Moscow, sometimes 1,000 kilometres away from where the game is happening, there is little need for a dress code. Or, at least, little need for one that stipulates the traditional outfit of a referee.

But here are two reasons why it is better to wear the kit.

First, it puts them in the right frame of mind. Refereeing is a difficult job. You have to be impartial and fair. You have to make decisions that are difficult: did he use his arm to his advantage or was it a genuine accident that the ball struck him there? Is that fair wrestling for the ball or a foul? These are grey areas that often have no obvious correct answer.

In sport psychology, we talk about getting in the right mindset. When you are doing mental imagery/visualisation exercises, for example, the best thing to do is get the athlete to put their kit on and go to the field where they will play. It makes it more real.

If you want to make a VAR feel like they are on the pitch, making real game decisions, which they are, stipulating that they wear their usual refereeing kit is a great place to start.

Second, it gives them legitimacy. Systems like VAR are always going to get criticised for the mistakes they make and ignored for the many times they get things correct. It is easy for fans to look at them as bureaucrats tucked away in a tiny box, thousands of miles away from the action, and vilify them for any decisions they don’t like.

This concern is why they replay the footage that the VAR officials are watching and the superimposed lines showing how they make decisions about whether someone is offside or not.

Similarly, by putting the officials in full kit, it shows the fans that these are real referees doing a legitimate refereeing job. Thus, it makes it easier for fans to accept adverse decisions.

Rothwell Parkrun

Monday, June 25th, 2018 | Sport

Last Saturday, I headed over to Rothwell for the Parkrun. It’s been running since last summer, making it the baby of the Leeds Parkruns. Or at least it was until Middleton Woods launched in April. And another launching soon. But who’s counting?

I had a triathlon the day after so I decided to drive to one rather than run there. Given I was already in the car, driving somewhere else for a change of scenery is my prefered option. And, a hadn’t done Rothwell, it seemed like an excellent choice.

I liked it. First, it’s flat. One slight hill, probably a smaller rise than Woodhouse Moor. If that is the case, that would make it the flattest Parkrun in Leeds which are, on the whole, all on hills.

Second, a lot of it is on grass. Not great for speed, arguably, and not so nice in the wet. But kinder on the body.

Third, it is fairly small. 188 runners in the field on the day I did it. At Woodhouse Moor, which regularly attracts 400-500 people, even running a sub-24 is unlikely to put you in the top 100. At Rothwell, my 23:28 gave me a position of 27th, and second in my age category of male 30-34.

The only thing that didn’t go too well was the pace. I was aiming for 24-25 minutes so that it would be a nice easy run. Something I nailed in Skipton. But I got a bit carried away in the final kilometre and sped up.

The other issue with Rothwell is there is limited parking. But given there seems to be a huge amount of on-street parking all around the park, it doesn’t seem like the big issue that the website made it out to be.

World Triathlon Leeds elite races

Saturday, June 23rd, 2018 | Sport

Long after us age groupers had packed up and gone home, they gave the elite racers a chance to race the same course at World Triathlon Leeds.

It’s a very spectator friendly course in Leeds because they make them do seven loops of the course on the bikes and then four loops of the same course on the run. So, if you can get a good spot, you can see everyone come past eleven times.

Many people opted to view from The Headrow where they could enjoy the sunshine while watching the race. We’re from Yorkshire and Finland, and we have a Yorkshire-Finn baby, so we chose Greek Street, which was firmly in the shade for the entire day.

The barriers they put up are brilliant. I wish they were there all of the time. We could let Venla run around as much as she wanted without fear that she would run out into the middle of the road and get knocked over by a car (or in this case a bike, or a runner).

It was awesome to see Vicky Holland and Georgia Taylor-Brown take a one-two for Team GB. Not quite as perfect as if Jessica Learmonth had won it, given she is the local girl, but still a superb result.

In the men’s race, both Tom Bishop and Marc Austin ran awesome races. Bishop came home in 6th, which I think is his best ever result in ITU.

Unfortunately, Johnnie Brownlee had to pull out with stomach issues. In fact, a lot of athletes who had swum in the River Trent in Nottingham on Thursday had the same thing. It struck a chord with me because I assumed I had food poisoning last month. But it was only a day or two after I had done Wetherby Triathlon in the River Aire.

World Triathlon Leeds

Friday, June 22nd, 2018 | Sport

Back in November last year I was wondering whether multisport might be for me. So, I took part in the inaugural GO TRI Temple Newsam duathlon and decided it was fun enough to register for the World Triathlon Series event that was taking place in Leeds next summer.

Since then, I’ve been busy. I’ve done a bunch of GO TRI events, Skipton, Evolve and Wetherby triathlon, so I had already hit my goal of completing an Olympic distance triathlon. But it was gratifying to reach the race I had targetted for almost a year.

With it being an ITU World Series event, it was big. There was 2,000 of us doing the standard distance alone, plus many more people doing the sprint distance and GO TRI events that ran the day before. So big, in fact, that we had to go check out bikes into transition the day before the race.

You also had the chance to do a familiarisation swim on Saturday while checking your bike in. This was fairly relaxed: there were no rules, you could swim wherever you liked. I did two laps of the 750m course.

On the day itself there was mist on the lake, so they cut the men’s age group swim to a single lap of 750 metres. This was a little disappointing as I was ready for the full thing. But did mean that I only got caught by one of the waves setting off after me, which were spaced five minutes apart. So, at least I didn’t have a bunch of people swimming over me. The mist cleared up soon after and the women, who set off an hour later, got to do the full distance.

Tragedy struck at transition one, though I didn’t know it at the time. My timing chip bracelet fell off my ankle, so I don’t have an official time after crossing the swim exit map.

The bike went well. I managed to maintain an average speed of 26.5 kph. This is slightly slower than the 27 kph I averaged at Wetherby, but I am more than happy with that because Wetherby was flat. In contrast, I thought the drag up Stonegate Road would slow me down a lot.

Nobody was laughing at my low-geared cross bike as we hit the 8% section. Nobody laughed at any point; everyone was very friendly. Even the officials in transition were firm but fair when someone unracked their bike without their helmet on. No DQ, but he had to take his bike back, re-rack it, put his helmet on and start again.

I saw two or three mountain bikes on the course, so I wasn’t the only person there without a £5,000 tri bike.

I felt pretty crab when starting the run and I was glad that I had an additional gel flask to take with me. More aid stations on the run would have been nicer. The city centre run was cool: not huge crowds, but enough people cheering that it gave you a bit of a boost. Including Julie & Tim.

Thanks to the shortened swim, I made it home in:

2:43:00

This was comparable to Wetherby. 20 minutes faster, but then I saved 20 minutes on the shorter swim. The bike was also 4km shorter, but it was hillier and there was about a kilometre of running inside transition that added quite a lot of time.

More importantly, I finished more than seven hours before the so-called “winner” of the men’s race, Richard Murray. Sure, the elite race had a later start time, but in my defence, I did ask if I could switch to the elite race so that I wouldn’t have to get up so early.

Flat n Fast 100

Wednesday, June 6th, 2018 | Sport

Last week, I completed the Flat n Fast sportive in Thorne, South Yorkshire. As you may guess from the name, it is about completely a century in either kilometres or miles. I went for the slightly easier route, which totalled to 106km.

It was the farthest ride I’ve ever done. That said, it really is flat. There were less than 250 metres of climbing over the entire distance. Compare that to the more than 1,300 metres in my 90km Tour de Yorkshire ride. So, by comparison, this one should have been slightly easier.

I felt good for most of it, although the constant rain did gradually sock my feet. By the last 10-15km I was starting to feel the fatigue and that is the point we ran into a headwind. Luckily, I was riding with Bogdan so we could take it in turns to sit on the front.

The event organisation was so-so. It was well organised in terms they had a venue, signposts and marshalls. But the route was a bit rubbish. There were lots of industrial estates and busy roads. Maybe it is difficult to avoid them if you want flat ground but it doesn’t match up to the quiet roads and country views of previous events. There was one feed stop and one “tea, coffee and biscuits” stop. There was a big queue to get started, but that seems to be the case at all sportives.

Plus, two local residents had a go at me for being there. Apparently, they don’t like the event. “You can shove that bike race up your arse; waking us up at this time in the morning” one woman yelled. Because what human being is up at 8am on a Saturday morning?

Overall, I enjoyed the event. Sportive HQ make their events pretty affordable.

Nutrition: Recovery

Tuesday, June 5th, 2018 | Sport

In my final blog post in my series on nutrition I’m writing about what I do after a race or training session. See the previous posts on hydration, gels and solid food for the rest of the story.

When I’m home

The first question is am I at home and do I have milk in the fridge? If so, recovery shake.

The Tribe recovery shakes contain about 20g of protein.

If I am in the mood for a change, I sometimes buy one of the ready-to-drink shakes from Tesco. These contain 22g of protein, but that is less than Tribe once you factor in that I mix the Tribe shake powder with milk, which has its own protein.

When I’m not home

If I am at a race or at the pool, I go for a protein bar instead. I use the Tribe 10 bars which are named so because they contain 10g of protein. I get them in four different flavours and rotate around them.

After a race

Post-race is one of the few times I allow myself to indulge in a bag of crisps. Delicious salty crisps.

Nutrition: Fuelling

Monday, June 4th, 2018 | Sport

In my previous posts on nutrition, I talked about hydration and energy gels. In part three of my series on race nutrition, I’m talking about what I use for energy before and during a race. In short: energy bars and solid food.

Breakfast

On race day, I try to put some carbs in my body. Typically toast, but maybe cereal, and avoiding high protein things like yoghurt and meat. Sometimes I’ll have an apple, too.

If I’m travelling to a race I will then have an energy bar when I get there.

On training days, I’m lazy and have something small or maybe even nothing at all.

During workouts

In races, I only use energy gels. See my previous post on those here.

In sportives and training sessions, I might have an energy bar half way around instead to break up the monotony.

Brands

I started off with Trek because that was what Sainsbury’s had in stock. Their cocoa chaos is reasonably tasty and the cranberry kick bites and okay, too.

Now I mostly use Tribe as they do a bunch of different flavours. The orange and cocoa bar is almost like eating cake. All of the Blaze bars are good and the caramel and sea salt Infiniti bar is edible.

I’ve recently been put onto the stuff Veloforte make. Their cocoa bar is also like eating cake and the classico is tasty, too. I was a bit worried because I’m not a big nut fan but it tasted great. The red berry one was a bit too moist to my taste. The downside: only three flavours and they’re very expensive compared to the competition.

Nutrition: Energy gels

Sunday, June 3rd, 2018 | Sport

In my previous blog post, I talked about my hydration strategy. In this post, the second in the series, I am going to talk about energy gels.

Strategy

I only use gels during a race or training session; I don’t use them pre or post race.

I use them for races that take longer than 90 minutes. So, for a 10km I take nothing. For a half marathon, I will take an energy gel an hour in. I haven’t used them so far for sprint triathlon but I think I will in future.

I use them a lot in sportives and standard distance triathlon. On the bike, I fuel by numbers so historically this has been every 30 minutes in training or every 10km in a race.

Brands

I use High5 plus caffeine gels. They do them in raspberry and orange flavour. They taste good. The downside to them is that they are very, very sticky. Your hands end up really sticky and it is annoying.

I have also tried SiS. They come in a lot more flavours but they are a lot bigger (for the same quantity of energy) and taste like Calpol. You can consume them without getting sticky, though.

Gel flasks

To avoid getting sticky, I use a gel flask. These are pouches that allow you to fill them with lots of gel and take as much as you need before resealing each time.

I use the Gu flask. It claims to hold five gels, but that is Gu branded ones, I find High5 is more like four gels. It works well and you can open it with your teeth, making it a one-handed operation.

I fill mine the day before a race and chill it in the fridge overnight.

Downsides to the Gu flask: it is hard to get the final bits out so you waste some gel. Also, it’s difficult to get the top off when you’re washing up. Both minor problems.

Over a standard distance triathlon, I find I use more than one flask, so I’m thinking of moving to a two flask system.

Nutrition: Hydration

Saturday, June 2nd, 2018 | Sport

In an upcoming set of blog posts, I am going to talk about my nutrition strategy during training and racing. Possibly because it will help others but mostly because you’ll be able to say “that’s a terrible way to do it, here is why” and I’ll learn something new.

I’m not going to cover the wider issue of diet and eating healthy. I love to cover that stuff on my blog, but this series is just looking at sport-specific stuff.

To start with, I’m going to talk about hydration.

Timing

One thing I picked up from the physiology textbooks is to drink as much as possible two hours before a race. That gives your body time to get all the liquid it needs and wee the rest out before the start of the race.

Water

Obviously, water is the main source of hydration. I don’t use anything special water because tap water is great.

Pre-race

I fill all of my bidons the night before and chill them in the fridge overnight. I then drop a couple of ice cubes into them in the morning, just before I set off.

During a race

I drink a lot of Lucozade Sport. When I first started, I used Lucozade Energy. However, it’s fizzy, which isn’t as easy on the stomach. It does have the advantage of caffeine, but I get this from my energy gels.

I fuel by numbers on the bike, so I’ll often drink every 5km to make sure I don’t forget. On the run, I am more laid back: drink when I feel like it, usually water.

I don’t have to worry about it in the swim because of the amount of pool/lake/river water I drink.

Post-race

On race day I like to have a bottle of full-fat Coke to hand to get some sugar in me.

After training, I will often have a recovery shake instead. These are great for giving you lots of protein. I use the Tribe shake mix, which I combine with milk though you can also use water. They’re a bit gritty even after a good shake but otherwise taste pretty good. Flavour preference, in order: raspberry, cocoa, vanilla.

Bottles

I use the clear Nike Big mouth bottles. They’re okay. I had some problem with leaking in my bag but I’ve since realised it was probably me not fully sealing the top and since then Ali haven’t had any problems. They are clear so you can see at a glance how much is left in them.

I take two bottles mounted on the inside of the triangle in my bike (the usual places). When I’m running, I don’t take any bottles with me.

Wetherby Triathlon

Friday, June 1st, 2018 | Sport

Last week, I completed my first standard distance triathlon. Standard distance is 1500 metres swimming, 40km bike and 10km run. This is the distance then use in the Olympics and one of the distances they use in the World Triathlon Series, alongside the shorter sprint distance.

It starts in Wetherby with a swim in the River Aire. Luckily, we didn’t have to tackle the weir. The course goes upstream, then down, then up again. The current didn’t seem to make any difference as I couldn’t tell it was flowing.

It was lovely and warm compared to the lakes I’ve been swimming in. It was clocked at 18 degrees the evening before and while it might have go down overnight, it felt warmer than the 16 degrees at the Evolve sprint race.

The bike was an out and back course to Boroughbridge. It was very flat with a headwind on the way out and a tailwind on the way back. This made for easy riding: I managed an average speed of 27.3 kph, which is faster than I went at Evolve. Finally, the run went down the Sustrans route that runs through Wetherby.

There were two or three people behind me at the end of the swim, it was all even on the bike and I passed five people on the run. With it being my first standard distance I assumed I would be somewhere in the 3:30-4:00 range. But I was a lot faster. My time was:

3:02:18

I couldn’t believe it when they gave me the printout. Everyone seemed to make it home faster than previous years so maybe it was just a fast year. But, importantly, I managed to avoid being the lanterne rouge, which was a very real threat based on my initial estimates and previous year’s results.

I’m clearly a runner pretending to be a triathlete. If you compare what place I was for each section:

Swim: 98/102
T1:   96/102
Bike: 94/102
T2:   96/102
Run:  64/102

I’m one of the slowest people in most sections, until the run, when I vastly move up the rankings.

My next triathlon is ITU World Series Leeds, where I’m hoping there will be a much wider range of abilities so I’m not at the back for the entire race.