Posts Tagged ‘triathlon’

Garmin Extended Display Mode: not so useful?

Friday, March 29th, 2019 | Reviews, Sport

Garmin Edge computers come with a feature called “Extended Display Mode” that allows you to relay your Forerunner watch data through your bike computer. This sounds super handy for triathlon because you will be tracking the activity through your watch, so relaying the data you are already capturing makes a lot of sense.

In reality, though, it’s not a particularly useful feature.

The data screens are driven by the watch. That means that you can only have a few fields on there. I like to have a tonne of stuff on my display, and at very least I would like to see my speed, power, heart rate and cadence. So, I think I’ll be sticking with running them independently for now.

Shimano TR5 review

Wednesday, March 6th, 2019 | Reviews, Video

The TR5 is a triathlon cycling shoe from Shimano. In this video, I’ll review and it and show you what it looks like while cycling.

What exactly is a triathlon cycling shoe? It’s a lot like a regular bike shoe. But it has some modifications specifically designed for triathlon racing. First, it has a mesh in the bottom to allow water to drain out. They’re also comfier than some bike shoes. This allows you to come straight out of the swim and jump on the bike without having to dry your feet or put socks on.

They come with a loop at the back of the shoe that allows you to rubber band it to the back of the bike, keeping the shoe the correct way up. Finally, the velcro strap opens outwards to allow the shows to remain on the bike without the strap getting caught in the chainring. This does mean the end of the strap can rub against the crank arm so you may have to trim this down once you have worked out how much strap length you need for your foot.

The TR5 is the smaller brother of the high-end TR9. It’s not clear what additional benefits the TR9s provide, though, other than coming in blue. The TR9 is only road cleat compatible, whereas the TR5 supports both road and SPD (mountain bike cleats). They’re not inset, though, so whichever one you choose you will end up walking like a duck. Not a problem if you keep the shoe on the bike in transition, though.

The sole is very stiff, as you would expect from a road-style shoe. There isn’t much weather protection on top, which makes sense given they are built to let water drain out of the bottom. They come with two velcro straps. Once you have the first one dialled in you will probably never need to touch it.

Kitbrix review

Thursday, February 28th, 2019 | Reviews, Video

In this video, I’ll review the Kitbrix kit bag. They’re not your ordinary sports bag: instead, they’re constructed like bricks that can be chained together in a long line for transporting loads of equipment. Is that something you need, though?

They’re really rugged. They come with a rigid bottom that holds the shape of the bag, and the walls are double lined so that they are way more waterproof than an ordinary bag, or even your waterproof coat. They come with three internal pockets, one of which is transparent for holding paper notes. There are a further four mesh pockets on the outside.

The zip is super heavy duty so that it will keep water out and allow you to chain the bags together without fear. This does make it really difficult to use, though. It’s not broken, as far as I can tell, it’s just built to last and this means sacrificing a lot of ease of use.

One of the key features of the Kitbrix is that you can take two of the bags and turn them into a backpack. I’ll show you how to do this in the video. The zip is a bit difficult to do, but otherwise the system works really well and I use this every time I go to a triathlon race.

Overall, the bag system works really well. Every time I go to a race or cycling sportive I take a couple of them so that I can divide my gear into different sections: pre-race, transition bag, post-race recovery and change of clothes. It is expensive, though. And less convenient than the backpacks and transition bags you can buy. So, it might come down to how light you travel. For me, I travel heavy and these work great.

Super League Triathlon

Wednesday, February 27th, 2019 | Distractions, Sport

Last weekend, the Super League Triathlon final took place in Singapore. Katie Zerefes continued her domination of the women’s event while Vincent Luis managed to hang on to his lead, despite picking up a puncture. Jonny Brownlee was the highest placed Brit in third.

It’s a weird system. Vincent Luis won the overall championship because he came first in the final race, but also because the guy in 6th outran the guy in 7th or something like that. Even the commentators didn’t seem to know what was going on. They need to simplify that.

I don’t like it as much as World Series, as sometimes it feels a bit gimmicky, and the racing is over pretty quickly. But it is a fun addition to the triathlon schedule.

Polar H10 review

Sunday, January 6th, 2019 | Reviews

In this video, I review the Polar H10 heart rate monitor. Specifically, I’ll be comparing it to the Garmin HRM-Tri and the Garmin HRM-Swim to see how it stacks up.

The Polar H10 comes with two Bluetooth channels so you can connect it to two different devices at once (fitness trackers, watches, cycling head units, gym equipment, etc), but there is no support for ANT+.

It comes with the Polar strap which is super comfortable when cycling or running but doesn’t offer the same grim while swimming in the pool that other heart rate monitors do.

There are two smartphone apps that go with it, Polar Beat and Polar Flow. Why are there two? It’s not clear and quite frankly, a little confusing.

Ultimately, I like the H10 for the easy connection to my Mac when using Zwift, but it won’t be replacing my Garmin heart rate monitor while doing triathlon.

Ironman World Championship 2018

Sunday, October 21st, 2018 | Distractions, Sport

A full distance triathlon consists of a 3.8km swim, 180km bike and marathon run to finish the race. Ironman is the most famous of the full distance brands, and every year people compete in Ironman races around the world to earn a qualifying spot at the original race in Kona, Hawaii.

I watched it for the first time last year. Patrick Lange took his first victory and set a new course record of 8:01:40 after Cameron Wurf set a new record on the bike course. Meanwhile, in the women’s race, Brit Lucy Charles led for the swim and most of the bike until Daniela Ryf came storming through to take the lead and run her way to a third victory in a row.

This year they were celebrating the 40th anniversary of Ironman and they did so in style: the weather was absolutely perfect. Or, at least, as perfect as you can get on a lava field on a tropical island.

Josh Amburger led out a fairly easy swim for the elite men, coming home in 47:39. You might think that was the fastest swim of the day. But no. Age group athlete Jan Sibbersen smashed the age-group record with a swim of 46:29 while Lucy Charles went on a solo charge and broke the elite women’s record with a time of 48:14.

Things didn’t slow down on the bike. Cameron Wurf, who set a new course record last year with 4:12:54, brought it home in 4:09:06, breaking his own record by nearly four minutes.

Lucy Charles ploughed on on the bike. However, Danielle Ryf was simply unstoppable. After an awful swim due to being stung by a jellyfish and almost pulling out of the race, she finished the bike course in 4:26:07, smashing the women’s record, taking nearly 30 minutes off her time from last year (4:53:10).

Once onto the run, defending champion Patrick Lange finished the marathon in 2:39:58, becoming the first person ever to go sub-eight hours in Kona with a total time of 7:52:39, beating his own course record from last year by nine minutes. Second place Bart Aernouts also finished under eight hours while Britain’s David Mcnamee took the third podium stop for the second year in a row. Other notable finishers included Joe Skipper in 7th (Ironman UK winner) and Tim Don making his return to Kona.

On the women’s side, Daniella Ryf smashed the course record with a time of 8:26:18, giving her her fourth world championship in a row. Lucy Charles made it two for two on the second spot of the podium with Germany’s Anne Haug in third after running the fastest marathon time in the elite women (2:55:20). Four female athletes went under three hours in the marathon and ten went under nine hours.

And to finish it all, Patrick Lange celebrated by proposing to his girlfriend on the finish line. She accepted. He said something about “if I set a course record”, so lucky for her that it was a fast day, I guess!

Brownlee triathlon centre launch

Thursday, October 18th, 2018 | Sport

After my first visit to the Brownlee cycle circuit I found myself back there for the launch of the triathlon centre. It’s not really clear what that was. It looks the same. But, in any case, British Triathlon was providing some free training.

There were three sessions: transition, run and bike. I will be changing the way I do things based on the transition session but it was the bike session that was most useful. It was led by Coach Morg, who runs Blue Lagooners and the Evolve triathlons and really helped me build some confidence with leaning the bike over and taking more speed through the corners.

World Triathlon grand final 2018

Wednesday, September 26th, 2018 | Sport

ITU World Triathlon series is the top tier of triathlon racing. There are eight races each year, of which the final one is the grand final. How you win is complicated: you get points depending on where you finish and you can take your top five races, plus the grand final, in which the points are worth more.

The end result was that the women’s title came down to two people: America’s Katie Zaferes and Britain’s Vicky Holland. Zaferes just had the lead, but it was so close (and everyone else was so far behind) that whoever finished first out of the two of them would become world champion.

Holland had an amazing swim, keeping up with the lead pack (normally she has to chase them down later in the race) and the two remained in the lead pack throughout the bike. Holland had an amazing transition and set off on the run in the lead. However, Zaferes gave it everything she had and caught and passed Holland within a kilometre.

Holland was not done, though. She held on at 10 seconds down from Zaferes and Gentle and as the kilometres slowly ticked away, Zaferes was unable to hold the pace and Holland got herself back into the race and passed her, ultimately beating Gentle in a sprint finish.

The men’s race was a little easier to predict. Mario Mola is unbeatable. Even with Kristian Blummenfelt rocketing off the front in the bike and giving himself a minute’s advantage, Mola comfortably ran him down to yet again deny Blummenfelt his first World Triathlon victory.

An impressive Vincent Louis went with Mola and ultimately out-ran him to the line. It’s not often you see someone outrun Mario Mola. But I’m sure becoming a three-time world champion will have been consolation price enough.

The weather was a little chilly on the Gold Coast. As a result, World Triathlon Leeds was officially crowned as the hottest race of the year. It certainly didn’t feel like that when we jumped into the lake at 7am!

Nidderdale sprint triathlon

Sunday, September 16th, 2018 | Sport

Nestled in the far side of the small town of Pateley Bridge is a school and leisure centre. Which, every September, play host to the Nidderdale sprint triathlon. As it is such a beautiful area, I decided it was worth making the effort to race there.

It’s been a long season: this would be my ninth triathlon, making a total of four sprints, four standards and one middle distance, plus a bunch of Go Tris are duathlons. And, if I had known I was doing my first middle distance race the week before, I would have thought twice. But, as I signed up for this one long before, I decided it would make a nice cooldown event to finish to the year.

We decided to make it a family day out. It’s been baking-hot sun for pretty much every race I have done so far. But the first race that Elina and Venla joined me for looked like this…

Still, if we thought we had it bad, the leisure centre staff had to clean all of the grass and mud up after we had gone.

The swim

The swim was 400 metres. This would normally be 16 lengths but the Nidderdale pool is only 20 metres long, making it 20. We were set off at regular intervals and I was just starting a length when the guy behind me set off at pace. He tagged me to get past on his return length.

The only problem was that he couldn’t keep the pace up. Within a few lengths he was struggling and I had caught him. As I only had two lengths left I couldn’t be bothered to tag him back, but the woman behind me did. Let this be a lesson to us all: pace yourself at the start or you’ll find it rather embarrassing when everyone catches you up again.

The bike

Given where Pateley Bridge is, the bike course was surprisingly flat. A few rolling hills and a little climb at the end, but mostly it followed the road along the side of the reservoir, making for beautiful viewing.

It has been raining all day, it was still raining and the roads were covered in surface water. In my mind, that was a good excuse to descent the hills at a sensible pace. Other athletes felt differently though and came screaming down the hills. So, I lost about four places there, despite being a much stronger climber. Towards the end, I took a few places of my own.

Unfortunately, just before the end, my chain dropped and I had to unclip, climb off and put it back on. I got back on the bike and rounded the corner to see I was at the end of the bike leg: almost close enough to just run it in.

My shoes were soaked by the end from all the surface spray. Maybe I should have worn my tri shoes with the holes in the bottom to drain water.

The run

I felt good on the run. Nobody passed me and I overtook plenty. One marshall even commented about how fast I had come back, which is not unusual for me because my swim and bike times mean I am started with the slower athletes, but once I hit the run I am in my element.

The results

I was 74th overall, out of a field of 167. My total time was:

1:26:23

The winner was 1:02:15. My splits were 12:42 for the swim, 2:02 for T1, 46:23 for the bike, 2:08 for T2 and 23:07 for the run. All of that is pretty good, especially for a race where I was taking it easy.

12:42 for the swim doesn’t really represent my actual time as you come out of the pool and into the sports hall, where you can put your shoes on, before crossing the timing matt and going into transition. So my swim time was really sub-10.

The bike time would have been a bit faster if I hadn’t dropped my chain and my 5km PB race time is 22:39, so to be only 30 seconds behind that feels like a great result.

The aftermath

The season is over and I never have to ride my bike again.

I probably will, of course. But I’m looking forward to taking a break from training and being a bit more flexible in what I do and when I do it. And, of course, having done nine races, a bunch of Go Tris and half a dozen sportives, too, if I do continue it would now be entirely justifiable to do so on a new, fancier bike.

But for now I’m looking forward to sitting on the sofa all winter and getting fat.

Sundowner Triathlon: My first middle distance race

Wednesday, September 5th, 2018 | Sport

A middle distance triathlon is a 1,900 metre swim, 90 km bike and 21 km run (half marathon). In old money, that’s 1.2 miles in the water, 56 miles on the bike and a 13-mile jog. It’s the thing that Alister Brownlee is moving up to. And, in a moment of madness over the summer, what I signed up to, too.

Preparation

Even though it is my first year doing triathlon, I feel pretty well versed. I had already done three sprint distance and four standard distance races, so I knew what to expect. My August was full of big sessions: 100 km bike rides, 30 km runs and one never-ending day when I cycled to Bolton Abbey and back before doing a 10 km run.

The preparation was more than just physical training. I upgraded my bike to clipless pedals, something which I had been meaning to do anything but this gave me the push. Wiggle delivered palettes of nutrition to my house so that I had enough gels to get me through the training sessions and the race itself. I revised my own sport psychology course.

A week before the race, it looked like disaster had struck. In my final training run, a 36 km slog, my calf muscle began playing up and eventually left me limping. I should have stopped, but I didn’t because it had gradually come on. If something goes pop, you know you’ve done real damage. But if something just hurts more and more, it’s often fine. As it happens, it wasn’t fine and kept hurting all weekend.

So, I had a decision to make. Did I try to race on it or not? If it had been the start of the season, then probably not. But, as it was the end, I decided I would try and get back to training and see how it felt. I got back in the pool on Tuesday, back on the bike on Wednesday and went for a short run on Thursday. It held up fine. Between rest, strength exercises and a physio session, I had got lucky. The big day arrived…

The day itself

Sundowner starts at noon. You have eight hours to beat the cut-off time, so it’s designed to coincide with the sun going down, hence the name. This is a much more civilized time to start a triathlon. Not only did it mean I could get up at 7am, rather than 5am, but it also meant that instead of starting the run in the noonday sun, we started it at 4-5pm when the heat of the day was starting to pass.

I arrived in Allerthorpe just after 10am, where I met up with the Hyde Park Harriers who had just completed the Sundowner Sprint Triathlon. Registration and racking my bike were uneventful.

The swim

Things were eventful from the start. About 100 metres into the swim one of my fellow competitors had a panic attack, so I had to stop and summon help for him. This meant I had lost of the feet of the large swim in front of me and it was a hard chase to get back on.

Things were quiet after that until the last few hundred metres of the swim when the pack of faster swimmers from the wave behind me caught up. There was nowhere to hide: there were dozens and dozens of them everywhere you swam. You couldn’t help but accidentally kick people as they groped me from behind.

Despite stopping at the start, I clocked in at 50:20, which was right on target.

The bike

90 km is a long way to cycle. The nice thing about York is that it is pan flat. Even compared to the Flat n Fast 100 it is super-flat. No wonder the entire place floods.

The downside is that there are no hills to break up the wind. So, while it was an easier bike than the Tour de Yorkshire, there were some tough stretches when you were battling a headwind and the tailwind that I assume we got at some point did not compensate.

Most of all, though, it was the sheer length of the bike that made it hard. I counted down in 10 km increments, which is when I took my feeds. But, to reduce the monotony, I also counted down in 10%s (81 km, 72 km, 63 km, etc) as well as quarters, thirds and halves. That way, I was never more than 9 km away from my next milestone and usually a lot less.

By the end of the bike, I was uncomfortable. My back was aching, my bottom was sore and I was fed up with being on a bike. Unfortunately, I had budgeted for a bike fit, but only at the end of the year, so my position is not yet ideal.

I finished the bike in 3:34:01. Not a great time but safely within the cut-off.

I’m not sure why I look like a giant in this photograph.

The run

Finally came the half marathon to finish things off. This is what I was most nervous about because I thought if my leg was going to give up anywhere, it would probably be the run. And that would have been a lot of suffering for nothing.

I was pretty tired by this point, so I decided that I would walk past the aid stations as I took on food and drink, and then run all of the rest. This tactic worked well although the definition of where an aid station started and finished gradually got longer as the race went on.

I wasn’t sure whether I should keep running or not. Part of me wanted to be able to say I had run the whole thing. But another part of me wanted to say that I had been strong enough to recognise when there is a time for compassion and allow myself to walk.

In the end, my pace calculations settled the debate. As each kilometre ticked by, I worked out how fast I had to run to be within my target time of below seven hours. By 19.5 kilometres I had still had over 20 minutes to do the last mile. So, I allowed myself to walk the next 500 metres before running the final kilometre.

I finished the run in 2:08:54, which felt good given my half marathon PB is 1:52:24.

The finish

Official time:

6:48:13

I want to tell you that the finish was amazing and worth the endless hours of training and seven hours of hell that I had put myself through. And, for a split second, it did feel amazing.

But the truth is that triathlons, like marathons, don’t feel amazing at the end. Parkruns feel amazing. You’ve been working your cardio system hard for half an hour, and then you stop and the pain instantly goes away. Endurance events aren’t like that. Your muscles don’t stop aching when you stop moving. That’s not to say it isn’t worth doing. But the real reward comes when you wake up the next day, and every day, and get to think “wow, I actually did that.”

What I mostly felt after the race was thirsty. Within the first hour, I had downed four drinks: two J2Os, a can of Red Bull and a Lucozade Energy. A did a 500ml bottle o Coke on the drive back and two litre-sizes bottles of juice when I got home.

Not much else was going on. As a competitor, I got a hog roast sandwich and a dessert as part of my registration fee, at the afterparty. I made it halfway through the sandwich before I had to give up. It was heartbreaking to see good pork to go to waste but what else could I do?

The future

So, what’s next? I genuinely have no idea.

A full distance Ironman? Not yet. I am sick of training, sick of being on a bike, and sick of triathlon. I mean, not sick enough to not race Nidderdale next week. But sick enough to be glad that the season is coming to an end. And while I might be willing to do it all again next year, doing a full distance race would have to involve me doubling my training load. Middle distance is easy: I swim 2,000 metres in the pool, I might bike 100 km at a sportive and I like the half marathon distance. But I haven’t done any of the full distance even individually.

Another middle distance? Maybe. For the first 24 hours, I genuinely felt like I didn’t want to ever do that again. But like a mother who had slowly forgotten the pain of childbirth, I’m starting to think it might be okay to do another.

But right now we’re heading into the off-season. I’m going to do some running, but mostly I’m going to sit on my sofa eating Ben & Jerry’s and getting fat. And dream of the good old glory days when I beat the sun going down.