Thursday, 24 July 2014

Almost there!

Well, time has flown by unbelievably quickly and we're getting ready to head down to The Outlaw. Just 3 more sleeps and we'll be lining up at the start line on Sunday 27th waiting for the gun to go off at 6 a.m. for the swim start.

I took the kids along to watch the pros do their thing at the Commonwealth Games Triathlon at Strathclyde Country Park today. What a day, amazing weather, fantastic racing and an incredible atmosphere. There was never any doubt that Glasgow (and Scotland as a whole) would rise to the challenge and after day 1 it's safe to say these games will be a total hit.


It was brilliant to get so close to the athletes - just cm away as they flew by on their bikes or stormed past like gazelles up the hill... 

Check these out...


The Brownlees whizzing by


... and this time without their bikes!

Awesome to see Nicola's boyfriends taking gold and silver too   ;-)

The nerves are beginning to kicking in now and it all seems VERY real when you lay out all the kit you need for the race. We're going on the idea that we can stuff everything in the car and that if we suddenly remember that do-hicky we need, we'll have it in the boot... hopefully it will actually fit ;-)

The training is all done, I've stuck to the plan that Gary at Dig Deep has developed and now I've *just* got to put it into action on the day.... eek


So, for you stat lovers, the scores on the doors are...

Since the start of training on 1st August 2013;

622 sessions
covering 8,725.5 km
elevation of 50,154m
exercised for 559 hours, 51 minutes and 51 seconds
burned 334,749 kCalories.

This breaks down as:

Swim: 82 sessions, 180.3km, 63 hours, 33 mins, 37 seconds

Bike: 176 sessions, 7208.7km, 263 hours, 54 mins and 9 seconds

Run: 163 sessions, 1325km, 157 hours, 45 mins and 36 seconds

Weights / stretches: 199 sessions, 70 hours, 7 minutes and 31 seconds.



A number of people have asked whether or not I'm raising for charity this year. I decided after last year when everyone was incredibly generous that I'd not come round shaking the collection tin.

If, however, you think this madness is deserving of a small donation to a worthy cause, you could donate to the UNICEF appeal launched yesterday at The Commonwealth Games opening ceremony:

Simply text FIRST to 70333 to donate £5 via your phone - simples!



So, I'll sign off for now and update you next week after *hopefully* a successful race at The Outlaw.

You can track me and the rest of the ATHelite team online on the Outlaw website on Sunday 27th July.

Tracking numbers for Team ATHelite: Gav (625), Lorna (141), Alan Stirling (363), Alan Robertson (510), John McManus (715), John Young (1010), Derek Boyd (1028), Graeme Scott (1098), Tony Marlow (1132)


Monday, 14 July 2014

It's all in the numbers...

It's been a couple of weeks since I've updated so this is likely to be a long post... get a coffee / tea and some biscuits and sit in an uncomfortable chair...

Well, less than 2 weeks to go and I'm beginning to get excited / nervous about the race. I've now completed the peak phase of my training and I'm now officially in taper :-)

The last 2 weeks have been pretty full on and I'm looking forward to the reduced workload in the run up to the race.

The first week of July was my biggest training week to date: 21 hours 48 minutes, covering 332km and burning 10,729 kCalories. Last week was less intense, only 15 hours and 55 minutes, covering 177km burning 9,044 kCalories in the process. This week I'll cut down to 11 hours or so and only 5 in the week running up to the Outlaw. All this time on my hands, what will I get up to?! (N6 Physics - woohoo)

We've been using Pinkston Watersports centre in central Glasgow for our open water swimming sessions. It's a 140m x 28m bowl, around 1.7m deep with really clean water just minutes off junction 16 of the M8 - i.e. really easy to get to.



From the Garmin GPS trace it looks like I spent most of the time crawling around the edges of the centre rather than in the water... I know my technique isn't that great but I promise I spent all the time in the water! Hopefully the overall distance I covered was pretty close to the real value - if so I may be able to shave a little time off last year's swim time...

Had a couple of good long runs last week, covering 29km in 2:31:15 on one occasion, having covered 30km in 3:01:00 the week before... oh to be able to hold that pace for a marathon!

The Tour de France came to Yorkshire and the first 2 days were spectacular. Amazing crowds, great scenery and excellent racing. Unfortunately Cav dislocated his shoulder on the final sprint on Stage 1 so no fairytale ending for him. Jens Voigt won the King of the Mountains stage - not bad for a 42 year old (there may be hope for me yet!). I watched the first stage on my turbo trainer, pedalling away for 150 minutes - less than half the time the pros were riding and easily less than half the power they produce.

I spent Sunday 6th as my last long ride, around 4.5 hours battering into headwinds and dealing with the changeable weather conditions (horizontal rain / sun splitting sky) that is the Scottish summer. It's so much easier cycling with other people and that is one of the great reasons to be part of the ATHelite team but there's no drafting in the Outlaw so I rode on my own to build up mental stamina as well as physical. Most folk would say I'm mental enough already...


Boil in the bag wet weather gear... just as the sun splits the sky!

At the base of Tinto hill


I've been struggling for comfort on my new TT bike - unable to hold the aero position for any longer than 5 minutes before my neck and shoulders seized up. Sam (from Sam's massage therapy - 07818 477858) has been doing a great job keeping my muscles from knotting like a kitten with a ball of wool, but given the race is going to be in excess of 5 hours I knew I needed a second opinion on the bike fit.

I booked in to see John Dargie at Dales Cycles for a Specialized Body Geometry fit session.  Now, I've had a couple of RETUL fits previously and I know what a difference a good bike fit can make. This was the best fitting session to date. The first hour was spent looking at physiological testing i.e. my flexibility and strength and then this provided the data for my bike fit to be truly personalised. I've changed saddle which has stopped my hips rocking - a cause of lower back and hip flexor pain and sorted out a couple of issues with my shoes. It turned out that my aero bars were way too close together, causing the pain in my shoulders and deltoids. The good news was Zipp make extenders to move the bars apart - the bad news was the lead-time was 90 days!

After much searching on t'internet I managed to buy a second hand pair on eBay. Now fitted and the bike is a total revelation! I tried these out yesterday on a long cycle and they were great - no shoulder pain and much easier to hold aero position (= less air resistance = more speed for the same power). Unfortunately I had 2 punctures in the front wheel (and only one spare tubular tyre) so my ride was cut short and I had a taxi ride home from East Kilbride! As long as this doesn't happen in the race I'm happy. Michael has pointed me towards some (hopefully) indestructible tyres that I'll fit prior to race day to minimise the risk of puncturing - although I'll still probably carry everything (including the kitchen sink) to fix any mechanicals on the day.


Moving the bars out an additional 20mm meant bike has moved from an instrument of torture to a speed weapon!


On the 9th of July I found out my Outlaw number: 625

Now, I'm in no way superstitious and I don't normally get overly excited about numbers but it turns out that 625 was my Dad's squadron during WW2. He was a navigator in Lancaster bombers and was in 625 before moving to 550 squadron late in 1944. I performed a quick Google search and found this photo of him (second from the left) that I'd never seen before:




Amazing what you can find online these days.  :-)

One of my friends came up with a lovely idea to draw a wee RAF roundel on my hand so I could use it for an energy boost during the race - thanks Angela!  I've already added a roundel to my bike name tag:



Hopefully I'll be flying on this on race day. :-)

The Outlaw medal this year is especially cool... I'm looking forward to the first beer opened after finishing with this...



Sunday, 29 June 2014

1 month to go!

I'm sitting in my study listening to the ATHelite committee chatting on in the kitchen. It seems a certain Derek forgot about the meeting and his office was closed!!!

HUGE congratulations to David Arthur who has just finished Ironman Nice in a brilliant time of 12:47:26, beating last year's time of 12:54:36 over a very difficult (read hilly!) course.

Another couple of local triathlon club members who have trained alongside us in Strathclyde loch over the last few weeks have also done incredibly well. Paolo Leite finishing (his first I believe) IM in 12:24:24 and Gerry Seenan in a blistering time of 11:21:18 - his marathon time at the end of the IM was 3:27:28 - amazing!!!

Bobby Ferguson also conquered the fearsome Celtman extreme triathlon yesterday - not one to do anything by half, this was Bobby's 1st IM distance event. 3.8km swim in Loch Shieldaig, followed by 202km bike (because 180km isn't far enough!) and then run 42km over the top of 2 munros. Respect!

As I am writing, 2 of our international ATHelite team (the founder members no less) Colin and Genevieve Freeman are racing IM Coeur D'Alene... GOOD LUCK guys!

It's great to see my fellow triathletes doing well - all the hours of training have paid off and I am sure they will be celebrating tonight... any more than 2 beers and I'll be equally amazed!!!

For the Outlaws within ATHelite, we're now on the final countdown. Only 1 month to go! Eeeeek!

I've managed another really solid month of training and only have 2 more weeks of 'peak' training followed by 2 weeks of taper to the event.



Month totals:
63 actvities
covered 970km
trained for 71 hours and 27 minutes
burned 43,371 kCalories

I've found out to my cost on a couple of occasions that the 4th discipline of triathlon (nutrition) needs a little more work. When I've been rested and well fuelled I've put in some strong times on the bike and run, when I've missed out on the nutrition, not surprisingly, I've struggled. It's been really useful to make these mistakes in training - now I can avoid making the mistakes on the day of the race!


Sunday, 8 June 2014

Chi running - part 3


Our good pal Nick Constantine from www.soulinmotion.co.uk came up for a special ATHelite session today in Hamilton.

It was great to revisit the theory behind the Chi running technique and of course have Nick's excellent commentary and feedback on how we were doing.

This is the third time I've attended one of Nick's courses and there is always something new to learn. Like golf, swimming or even a bike fit, the difference a few cm in the position of your body can make a dramatic difference - going from arrrrrggggghhhh to eureka in a few moments!

It was great seeing the rest of the ATHelite team progress throughout the day and we've got some great new ideas for group sessions to keep the chi flowing! I see many p.b.s on the horizon!



Bethany Sportive

Saturday morning and the alarm clock went off at 5:45 a.m. Not really what I had in mind but we were off to do a long day on the bike, south of Edinburgh, starting in Lasswade near Bonnyrigg.

The Bethany Sportive, according to John, was 'a bit lumpy'. Lorna had a few other descriptions for it but this is a family blog so I'll just say she reckoned it was a little on the tough side!

We got there early, registered and met up with the rest of the ATHelite team. We knew the weather was going to worsen as the day wore on so ensured we were one of the first teams out. It was brilliant working as a chain gang and we were keeping up a great pace as we flew through the valley. Then 'pop', 'hisssssss', and 'puncture, pull over' were heard from the front of our peloton...

It was a sound we'd here again, several times during the day, and they all happened to John! Four punctures and one exploding inner tube later and it was game over. Thankfully on sportive events there are support cars roaming the route and John and his infamous Continental Supersonic GP tyre were loaded up and ferried back to the finish line.

To be honest, at that point in the race I could quite happily have got a lift home. I've decided that hills don't like me and after 2000m of climbing I was pretty ready to throw in the towel. I'd fuelled pretty well during the day and had worked well with the rest of the gang to keep the pace going but every time I hit a hill the rest of the team disappeared into the distance. After several one-man time trial efforts I'd then catch them up, put in a stint at the front of the group then drop off again as the hill turned skywards!

At one food stop I left early as I knew they'd be the fox to my hare and sure enough after 10-15 mins they caught and passed me, on yet another hill. I have to say a big thank you to all the volunteers, especially for their home baking. The chocolate brownies on the course were amazing!!!

I was keeping a close eye on my Powermeter and I was looking at well over 250+W whenever the tarmac began to rise. I'm hoping to put down a constant 200W for the Outlaw which seems a bit easier than the constant interval session on the sawtooth shaped landscape of the border hills. 

The weather we were expecting arrived and the rain began to fall more heavily and the wind picked up, so much so that I was pushing 250W pedalling downhill into a headwind on the final 20 miles of the route in an attempt to get to the finish line ASAP. I downed half a bottle of water and within a few minutes started to full human again - I suspect I was dehydrated, even though I wasn't at all thirsty, and by that stage had drunk probably 2.4 litres of water during the ride.

I also discovered that spinning in the little ring at 90 rpm (~140W) versus the big ring at 90 rpm (~220W) didn't really put any additional strain on the CV system, but meant I was going noticeably quicker.

Eventually, after 6 hours and 31 minutes of cycling, I crossed the finish line, notching up another century ride.

Lorna and I were supposed to do a 10km run after the bike and as she wheeled in as I put the bike in the car I could tell (thankfully) that we wouldn't be doing one! It was absolutely bouncing down at this stage so we opted to get dried off and have coffee and cake with the rest of the ATHelite team!

So, whilst this was a really tough event, there were several positives to take out of the day. Another great social event for the ATHelite team, another good training ride and ideas on how to improve my performance in the longer events. Those hills may have won the battle but they've yet to defeat me!


Time (trial) and error

Took the new Wilier twin blade out for its first outdoor session on Friday.

I'd warmed up by taking out the S-Works Tarmac for a short blast, checking to see that the guys at V44 had fixed the clicking noise that I'd noticed when putting full power through the cranks. Thankfully it seems to have (almost) disappeared so I can now make a little stealthier progress on the bike ;-)

The twin blade feels great, very much like a road bike at the back, stiff but not harsh. You can really feel putting down the power is transferring into forward movement and when the Zipps were spinning there was a satisfying 'clack-clack-clack' from the bearings in the hubs as they span round. 

I managed to get a couple of decent runs around the block and the Strava results looked good - a second place and a 7th place for a couple of segments. I still don't feel 100% comfortable in the time trial position but I think this is more down to time on the bike rather than any (drastic) set up changes required at this stage. By this time last year I'd logged countless hours on the Boardman in the TT position so could hold the aero position for long sustained periods. I know the Outlaw course is reasonably flat so this is something that I'll need to work on in the coming weeks to bring down the bike time and do justice to the super bike I've got my hands on!

Leaving the pool behind

Normally on a Friday afternoon I'd leave work and spend an hour and 20 minutes (or so) endlessly swimming up and down the pool at Virgin Active in Hamilton. This is great training on 2 counts... I need the swim fitness to get me through the first part of the triathlon and secondly, training the mind to deal with the monotony of endurance events is useful. It's often a great stress reliever forcing the brain to turn off from daily events and focus on simple (important) things like breathing!

Over the last 2 Fridays we've been lucky enough to have good weather and the Commonwealth Games' triathlon venue on our doorstep, so a number of the ATHelite team have been going to the loch in Strathclyde Park to open water swim. Now, if you've been reading this blog for some time you'll know that I have a love-hate relationship with open water swimming. I hate doing it and love it when it's all finished!

All this changed on Friday 30th May. I tentatively donned the wetsuit after finishing a running session in the gym with the kids and joined Lorna in the loch (she'd already done 1 lap of the course). I think the fact that I was late getting there gave me less time to worry about what I was about to do, so I jumped in and just swam. 

The water was cold but clear and I was soon focusing on trying to swim straight (not that easy when there are no pool markings!) by sighting on the large orange buoys we'd swim round. Instead of mindlessly ploughing up and down the same lane now the mind had to course-correct, avoid other swimmers, remember to breathe, check swimming technique and dodge the occasional swan. The time flew by and after 32 mins I'd covered 4 loops (approx 1800m) and it was time to get out for Fish and Chips (and ice cream) from Equi's. Yum!

Last Friday we got there on time and decided no stopping on the beach! We did 8 loops - approximately 3600m (or nearly full IM swim distance) and the time flew by. I loved it. No more Fridays in the pool for me for some thine I think!

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