Archive for July, 2019

Political compass 2019

Tuesday, July 30th, 2019 | Religion & Politics

Left libertarian. Just like I was in 2013 and 2016. You can take the test for yourself on the Political Compass website.

Cricket World Cup

Saturday, July 27th, 2019 | Sport

We won!

I literally know nothing about this. But I need a blog post for my end of year review. Although it seems hard to believe that this is the first time we have won it. We literally invented the sport so that it would be too confusing and boring for any other country to be good at.

Insomnia and placebos

Friday, July 26th, 2019 | Science

One of the major factors that influence insomnia is emotion and expectation. If you think you should be able to sleep, you are going to struggle. If you have little expectation of sleep, you actually find it easier.

Storms and Nisbett demonstrated this in a study where they gave two groups a placebo. The first group were told they had been given caffeine pills while the second group were told they had been given relaxation pills. The first group found it easy to get to sleep while the second group found it harder.

This came up in a group discussion recently where someone suggested a great tactic for being the effect: try to stay awake. She found that if she stopped trying to sleep and started trying to stay awake, she fell asleep pretty quickly. With the results of the above study, perhaps we should not be suprised.

Dad’s first triathlon

Thursday, July 25th, 2019 | Sport

My parents are pretty awesome cheerleaders. They brought their caravan up to The Yorkshireman, for example, so they could cheer me on for the entire 14 hours and 35 minutes. They came to World Triathlon Leeds, too, and at some point during the day, my dad was bitten by the triathlon bug.

As a result, he signed up to a Go Tri with his friend Tim. I want to say, for the record, I did nothing to encourage this. Not that I’m displeased, but I would hate for anyone to blame me for getting them into triathlon when they are halfway through the run and cursing the idea of triathlon. Something I do a lot :D.

Skipton Go Tri is a 200-metre pool swim, 10km bike ride and 2km run. They start it at 7am before the pool opens to the public and the roads get busy, which meant a 4:30am start for them. We decided to drive down and surprise them, giving us a more leisurely start of 5:30.

The swim start was pretty random, which made for mixed abilities. He was soon zooming past the person in front of him. Onto the bike and be clocked 50kph on the downhill sections: clearly a much better descender than me! And finally onto the run around the park.

The result: Tim and my dad came first and second in their age group! Granted it wasn’t a huge age group, but there were a couple of other people and a win is a win. Great effort, team.

Castle Howard Triathlon

Wednesday, July 24th, 2019 | Sport

I have been feeling pretty terrible recently. After my ironman, I did nothing for a week, then a week of light training. Then I smashed 10 minutes of my sprint distance time, while ill, and was ill for another whole week.

So, by the start of week four, I stepped on the turbo trainer and found I couldn’t hold my power. Not even close. I finished the workout at 70% intensity. I’ve never had recovery take this long, but I decided to listen to my body: eat more and take it easy.

All of this meant that I came to Castle Howard with the aim of setting a personal worst time over the standard distance and doing something that other people have called “enjoying myself”. It’s a foreign concept to me, but I decided to take it easy and give that a go.


We arrived on Saturday afternoon, just in time to cheer the HPH relay teams home. The club was well represented with three separate mixed relay teams, all of whom worked hard to put Hyde Park Harriers on the map.

We were originally going to camp, but the weather looked miserable, so we checked into the campsite for our event passes before heading off to a local hotel for the night.

This worked out really well because The Talbot, the hotel in Malton, had a music festival going on in their back yard. It turns out that Venla really likes reggae music, and had a good dance to Levi Roots who was headlining the festival. We had some Chinese takeaway from Tang’s Delight before heading to bed. It took me a bit of time to get to sleep due to the noise coming from the bar, but the large bed was big enough to accommodate all of us.

I got up at 6am, tried and failed to get some breakfast at the hotel, and then made the short drive back to Castle Howard to start the race.

The swim

After a long race briefing in which none of us really understood the swim course, we made our way into the water and started the race. The lake was murky and I ran into weeds with my hands, feet or face with almost every stroke.

The course was a little confusing at times. At World Triathlon Leeds, the colour of the buoy indicated which side you should swim around it. Not so with Castle Howard. They had two colours but some you passed on the left and others you passed on the right.

My left knee was hurting and I resorted to switching to front crawl repeatedly to get some respite. I’m still nervous about cramping up, so I took it pretty steady. It was a two-lap course with the next wave starting 30 minutes after us. I almost made it to the turnaround point on my second lap before I heard the whistle go and decided to speed up to stay ahead of them.

This, it turns out, was a mistake. The burst made me feel a bit dizzy and disorientated and I think I started to have a little panic attack. I slowed down and used some of my best self talk to bring my anxiety and my breathing under control and then managed to beat out a steady breaststroke around the final buoy where I felt more confident again and put in some more front crawl.

As I got to the finish, the lake became too shallow and I stood up, only to find my feet in thick mud. I waded over to the site to grab the fencing and eventually managed to unstick my feet enough to make it up to the swim exit.

After that, it was simply a matter of running the 600 metres up the hill to transition. Thankfully, the club was there to cheer me on, and remind me to remove my neck protector before getting on the bike this time!

Transition 1

I cycle without socks now, which is a big time saver as I can just throw my triathlon shoes on and set off. Although, on this occasion, I also did an energy gel.

I usually take a gel flask that I keep in my back pocket. I can operate this with one hand, so I can take all of my gels on the bike. However, I wanted to represent the club in my tri suit and the tri suit does not have a back pocket. In the end, I decided it was more important to represent the club, and so had to rework my nutrition strategy so that I could do individual gel sachets.

The cycle

Because they use the same cycle route for the standard in the middle distance race, it was a 45km route. However, emergency gas works had added a 5km detour, so that meant the 40km cycle was now a 50km cycle.

And hilly. Really hilly. Most triathlon courses are pretty flat but this one was like riding the Tour de Yorkshire. Regular 8% climbs, with some as high as 11%, and a lot of false flats that were hard work, too.

I kept overtaking one guy in the climbs, who would then overtake me on the descents. I thought I had left him behind after one of the long climbs but he appeared again half an hour later. And I caught him back up half an hour later after that, on the flat of all places.

I stopped at the feed stop to do one of the gels I had tucked into my race belt (another victim of the lack of a pocket for my flask), and because my back needed a good stretch by this point, too.

Shortly after, I almost got taken out by a car. They were turning onto a side road and not looking where they were going. When they saw me, they slammed on and managed to finish with their bonnet halfway across my lane. Luckily, I was to the left and did not need to make a course adjustment. But my heart was definitely in my mouth.

As we got back to Castle Howard, up another large hill, the club was once again there to cheer me on. As we got to the roundabout, the sign said left, so I made a move to go left. It turned out the roundabout was still live to traffic and I needed to go around it as normal, but luckily the marshall’s shouts were in time and I quickly corrected my course.

Transition 2

No problems here. Another gel down the neck and my trainers on.

The run

The run started with a long downhill and my knee was really giving me some grief. After the first few kilometres, it eased off into a general ache, possibly because I showed down. The course was on trail with some narrow bits that involved dodging around people and some steep hills that held mud steps dug into them.

Although some of the triathletes on the course were faster than me, a lot of the runners were slower and I got a bit of a boost from seeing that most people were struggling and I was able to keep running, albeit at a pretty slow pace.

At the second water point, I took a caffeine gel to tide me over to the finish. I had a brief walk after the feed station, while I munched two jelly babies. After that, it was a metaphorical sprint for home.

Returning to the grounds was lovely. It was scenic most of the way, but running between all of the visitors and spectators and along the side of the house was cool. The closer we got to the finish, the more supporters there were cheering, including the club yet again! I went in for some high fives before crossing the line.

The result

I finished in:


And my splits were:

Section Time
Swim 41:59
T1 4:12
Bike 1:58:51
T2 2:20
Run 58:41

I am happy with all of that. I said I did not want to push it too hard, and I did manage to take it easy, or at least “easier”. I had some time to look around and enjoy myself in parts. The extra distance added probably 25 minutes on to the cycle, and the hills and an easy-paced run accounted for the remaining difference to a more usual time.

Event organisation

The event organisation was mixed.

They closed the rounds from 2pm to 5pm on Saturday for the junior event. However, they said the campsite would still be open. The diversion took us the wrong way, though, and when we stopped to ask the marshalls, they had not been told anything about what was going on. In the end, we did a loop three-quarters of the way around Castle Howard before finding the road in.

When we got there, we found nobody manning the campsite desk. We drove around for half an hour and tried to call the campsite manager, but it just dropped to voicemail. In the end, we managed to get through and get everything sorted.

They also had not prepared enough racking for all the events they were running. Even before people had finished the standard distance, they were begging people to collect their bikes from transition so that they could free up space for the junior races.

And everyone ran out of bacon on Saturday.

Beyond that, though, the event looked well put together. They had activities for children, including a bouncy castle (they had two, but one of them was broken), a large event village and plenty of marshalls out on the course.


Well done to everyone who raced over the weekend! It is great to see the club continuing to grow and develop and the Castle Howard weekend is a great example of that. I would race at Castle Howard again.

Masters graduation

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2019 | Life

I finished my masters degree last year (with a distinction and 82% in my final project, thanks for asking :D). Because it takes the exam board a few months to award the degree, and then you have to wait for the next set of graduation ceremonies, that meant nearly a year’s wait.

Earlier this month, the day finally arrived.

Beckett is currently holding their degree ceremonies at the Leeds Arena. This is not as pretty as the Headingley campus but did mean there were enough seats for everyone. This was critical as it meant I could take Elina and not have to decide which one of my parents I loved the most.

The ceremony itself was long and dull. There were 1,000 students graduating in the same ceremony. Some in absentia, but that still a lot of people. And, because of the way they lay things out, I was almost last. Literally, I was sat next to the three PhD graduands whose presentations are reserved for the end. However, the vice-chancellor did give a good speech at the end.

After the ceremony, we headed over to the Rose Bowl where they had turned the car park into a reception area with some food and drink stalls and places to take photos.

All in all, a nice ceremony, but not a patch on Leeds University. When I graduated for my bachelors, the whole school got together and put on refreshments and all the staff were there to congratulate us. This was very different. It was all run centrally, very busy, expensive, I saw almost nobody from my course because of the size of the group and there was no school-specific stuff or any of the faculty there.

I did get a video, though, including a slow-motion relay:

Women’s World Cup 2019

Monday, July 22nd, 2019 | Sport

After our third-place finish at the 2015 World Cup, it was looking good for England in 2019. But yet again it was going to be heartbreak.

We made it as far as the semi-final, where we faced a top-ranked United States team. And, to be fair, we gave them a great game. If it hadn’t have been for the penalty we missed, or the goal disallowed, we could easily have beaten them. As it was, they won and went on to beat the Netherlands in the final.

Still, it would not be a proper World Cup without some England heartbreak.

4 ways to stay ethical while keeping healthy

Thursday, July 18th, 2019 | Life

Keeping fit and healthy is important for us in our daily lives, but how can we be certain we aren’t supporting unethical practices when we purchase things to help us stay healthy? One of the things you need when exercising is activewear that is designed to be light, stretchy and able to wick away the sweat.

But many of the clothes that are produced for this market use less-than-ethical practices including modern slavery in their production, and it can be extremely hard to find garments that are made from sustainable materials like organic cotton or bamboo. Similarly, buying healthy food is important, but you don’t know how that food is farmed and many food products are needlessly packaged in single-use plastic packets that aren’t recyclable and don’t biodegrade.

To address these issues, let’s look at four things you can do to stay ethical while keeping yourself healthy:

1. Buy activewear from brands that are against modern slavery

As shocking as it may seem, as many as 20.9 million people are directly affected by modern slavery every single day, so it’s important to buy from responsible brands to ensure you aren’t inadvertently supporting this. Forward-thinking brands have a far more transparent supply chain than ever before, enabling consumers to see how the garments and other items were produced and feel confident they are not giving their money to anyone engaging in modern slavery practices. Take the time to learn about brands and the garments they sell when you make purchases for your runs, swims, cycling and gym sessions.

2. Buy workout wear made from sustainable materials

There is a common misconception that only artificial materials can deliver the light, flexible, sweat-reducing properties needed from workout clothing. This is simply not true, as garments made from organic cotton, linen and bamboo can be specially designed to have the right properties for the job. It can be harder to find these types of garments since activewear made from Lycra and similar materials is cheap and easy to produce, but if you put your mind to it you will find ethical alternatives. And you’ll be glad you did since these types of clothing are typically higher quality and will last you longer as you put them through their paces working up a sweat.

3. Use your car less

This one is simple, but it is a great way to both stay healthy and be ethical. With more cars in the world than people, we are polluting the planet on an unprecedented scale through the overuse of our vehicles. So often, we use them for convenience for journeys that could easily be made another way. And if you choose to walk, run or cycle instead of using your car, you are also being healthy, so it’s a no-brainer. So don’t take the car for your next trip to the gym; try cycling or jogging there, or better yet just work-out at home – that way you’ll have a healthier bank balance, as well as a healthier body.

4. Choose healthy foods that aren’t wrapped in plastic

Our awareness of the damage that plastic does to our environment has grown significantly in recent years. If you take a trip to your local supermarket, you’ll see the astonishing prevalence of single-use plastic. In fact, items packaged in plastic are often cheaper than the ones sold loose, which seems counter-intuitive.

Instead of giving your money to supermarkets and accumulating more and more plastic in your home, start looking for alternatives that involve little or no plastic at all. Try greengrocers, reusable coffee cups and bamboo toothbrushes – the alternatives are there to be found, it just takes a concerted effort on your part to make the changes. You can eat healthily and go plastic free!

There it is – four simple things you can do to improve your ethical fitness while working on your physical fitness. Everyone should be making the effort to stop supporting unethical practices that are harming people, animals and the environment. Keeping fit is a noble pursuit, but only if you are making sure that your efforts aren’t doing harm elsewhere. Don’t be that person who closes their eyes while they contribute to global problems – make the effort, and make those changes.

Allerthorpe Sprint Triathlon 2019

Sunday, July 7th, 2019 | Sport

I completed Allerthorpe Sprint Triathlon last year in a time of 1:30:17. This year, I dragged Elina and Venla along, thinking they could enjoy the sunshine and paddle in the lake. As it turns out, the day was cool and overcast: perfect for racing.

I had come down ill on Friday and still felt pretty rough. The combination of having a toddler and a compromised immune system from a training load designed for ironman hasn’t been working out well for me: I had a cold for Driffield and World Triathlon Leeds, too. However, I decided to power through and race anyway, especially as I set a great time at Leeds.

The swim

The swim went well. I was in the last of three waves setting off five minutes apart. I mostly used breaststroke with some front crawl to try and say on the feet of other people when I needed to speed up. Just at the end, I managed to overtake one of the slower swimmers from the wave in front of us!

Having cramped up in my ironman swim, and in one of the long prep swims, I was a bit nervous of it happening again. This was irrational because I only cramp after over an hour in the water. But it still played on my mind and I had to back off once or twice.

The bike

I had decided to go without socks on the bike, so as I entered into T1 I just had to pull my wetsuit off and pull my tri shoes on. This made for a T1 time of just over two minutes: a far cry from the 16 minutes at The Yorkshireman or eight minutes in Leeds. I forgot to take my neck protector off, though and had to do the entire bike with a giant piece of rubber around my neck.

The bike felt pretty fast and I tried to keep my watts around 220. My swim was a bit faster this time which meant there was an uber biker that was a slower swimmer than me. Baring that overtake, though, it was business as usual with me gaining places consistently throughout the bike and run.

The run

In T2, I pulled on my flat cap and headed out for the 5km. I went out a little too fast on the run, but nothing I could not handle. After the first kilometre, I settled down into a sensible face and held that to the end. I managed a sprint finish, hence the look on my face as I came through the finish gate.

The result

My official time was:


It’s a shame it wasn’t 11 seconds faster. I was 17 seconds over 1:30:00 last year, and I just missed three hours by 15 seconds at Allerthorpe Classic. But that was somewhat intended: I didn’t look at the overall time on my watch because I knew if I was around the 1:20:00 mark, I would push myself harder than I wanted while I was ill.

Splits were as follows:

Stage 2019 2018 Diff
Swim 18:21 22:01 -3:40
T1 01:52 04:39 -2:47
Bike 35:55 37:10 -1:15
T2 01:43 1:27 +0:16
Run 22:17 25:01 -2:44
Total 1:20:10 1:30:17 -10:07

Pleased with almost everything there. A sub-20 swim is a great swim for me. Maybe a bit disappointed by the bike time as I’m now riding a super aero ride bike with aero wheels on, too. That is a lot of cash for very little extra speed. T2 was slightly slower because I put my socks on in T2 rather than T1. 22:17 is a super 5km run time: only 11 seconds slower than my all-time 5km PB.

I came 75th overall, out of a field of 166 finishers. 11th in my age group.

It was also my first race in my club tri suit. Does that account for the 10 minutes knocked off my time? Maybe so!