Monday, 30 June 2014

An update on training and few interesting bike sessions

To bring you up to date...

After my Arun Ironman swim I had an easier week planned, which was useful as a nice little taper into another Club event - Sprint Triathlon (750m lake swim, 20K bike, 5K run).

I was delighted to record another PB for this event with decent bike and run splits. Total time was 1:11:24 with the bike and run leg being 32:43 and 22:18 respectively.

Last week was down as 'bike focus' and I recorded nearly 13 hours in the saddle - it consisted of 3 non-standard, albeit interesting, sessions. The first two were part of a Charity ride - Tour de Baker Tilly - networking again! Day 1 was London (a lot of stop and starting), via Bromley, to Tunbridge Wells and then on to Crawley. Day 2 was Crawley to Southampton via Guildford. In total about 250km, mostly easy riding, but with a few nasty hills and fast sections.

The third bike session was part of a 'Stag Event' for a friend at the Club who is getting married. The Best Man decided we should be dressed up as 'Tarts & Vicars'. All the riders made a big effort to dress up and we all had a great laugh. Especially as there was a local triathlon going on at the same time and the spectators didn't know what to think of us. The 'Stag' (Coach Nick Finch) is a very good cyclist and to see him in a knee-high dress with full accessories on his sleek Cervelo S5 was certainly a 'sight to see'. I wouldn't call it 'proper training' as we had to keep stopping to answer questions on route, however like all such events it did become a little competitive and it was mileage nevertheless. Anyway it went on Strava to add to my weekly total:

Otherwise last week was a little light on running and swimming, however I was pleased to complete some faster runs without the recent tendonitis niggles - hopefully just about cleared up.

So what for this week...

I am aiming for around 13 hours with the emphasis on swimming and running. It will include a long run (approx. 2:30 hours), which is likely to be a run into work. I also plan to get back into the lake.

Looking at my training plan I still have 6 weeks of training listed under the 'peak phase' with 3 weeks of tapering but that is going to whizz by. I do not have any more external races with the exception of the 'Brompton World Championships' but will try to compete in the scheduled Club events.

I will leave you with a few pictures of the Tour de Baker Tilly and Stag Ride - some should carry a health warning!

Tour de Baker Tilly - start of Day 2
Tour de Baker Tilly - afternoon stop
My 'French Tart' outfit - Stag event
'Stag' Nick (left) and Chris enjoying some post-ride nutrition
Nice and Aero!

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Equipment Review: Z3ROD Vanguard Black (Stealth) wetsuit

Back when I joined my local Triathlon Club (Horsham Amphibians Triathlon, HAT for short) coming up for 5 years ago now, I purchased a mid-range Orca Apex 2 wetsuit at the TCR Show. There wasn't really much thought that went into my choice for my first wetsuit - at the time I had little to no knowledge of my specific requirements, I suppose the general feel and overall cost were my main criteria. A sales rep at the Orca stand squeezed me into what generally felt to be the right-sized suit and gave me a good deal - sold!

To be honest that original Orca wetsuit has done me well and I have no complaints. OK, over the years it has developed a few nicks but there is still some life in it and I could have quite easily stuck with it for some time yet. The one (big) negative with the Orca wetsuit was that I simply struggled to record good times and was typically slower than when swimming in the pool, despite the buoyancy benefits, that normally helps to improve my swim times. I felt that the main problem was the rotation in the arms, whether from a slightly incorrect sizing or more likely from the thicker rubber used in the arms region.

With this in mind I was interested to try out the new Z3ROD (pronounced 'Zerod') Vanguard wetsuit that had a good reputation for greater flexibility and better arm rotation. Fortunately a good friend and fellow HAT member, Alan Law, who manages The Physio, Fitness and Wellbeing Company, has just started selling Z3ROD wetsuits and kindly offered me a demo suit to try out.

The description on the Company's website is as follows:

Mainly made of high quality Yamamoto 39 neoprene, the VANGUARD is an extremely powerful and performance wetsuit. It features our Elbow 2 Elbow panel to give you the flexibility you need for a natural crawl. It’s as if you are wearing nothing at all! The Z3R0D Air Tech neoprene at the front of the suit will carry you high in the water, leaving you to focus on your stroke. And the Nano CSC coating will ensure you’re as fast as you can be!

Main Body + Upper : 5mm Yamamoto Aerodome
Lower Legs : 3mm Yamamoto 39
Arms & Shoulders : 1,5 mm Yamamoto 39
Back: 3mm Z3R0D Yamamoto 39
Coating : SCS Yamamoto

I am just over 5 foot 11 inches tall and currently weigh around 76kg (a little over my ideal race weight) and the standard medium size fitted me like a glove. It was slightly easier to get on than my Orca wetsuit (less tight) although I took my time because I was a bit worried about tearing the rubber, which was considerably thinner on the arms than my existing wetsuit.

The specific suit that Alan had available for a demo was the all-black 'Stealth' limited edition. I wasn't worried about graphics or not, however it was quite nice to know that it was a limited edition - quite low profile but very sleek.

My first swim in the Vanguard was at the 50m outdoor pool in Lewes (Pells Pool), an ideal location for testing it in a nice, safe controlled environment. I did need a little help doing up the wetsuit as unlike my Orca it zips from the top down. The main advantage for this is that in race conditions if any competitor got a hold of the zip cord and pulled down they could not unzip the suit. This is always a risk in the Orca, albeit it has never happened to me to date.

The buoyancy was excellent but not all that different from the Orca. The main difference was the arm rotation, it was that good I didn't even feel that I had a wetsuit on. It all felt very nice and most importantly, faster! The arms have some ribbed regions for aiding with 'grabbing the water' - a nice touch.

After about 500m of swimming in Pells Pool I switched to my Orca wetsuit - the arm rotation was like 'chalk and cheese' - it was definitely harder work to turnover the arms and I expect over the longer distance would produce greater arm fatigue.

In a way I didn't want to like it because it was a higher-end wetsuit that was slightly out of my price range (RRP £455), however there was no doubt that it offered an advantage over my Orca and sorted the main issue I had.

Fortunately Alan was able to let me have the demo suit for a very fair discount so with a contribution from my family (Father's day present) I am now the proud owner of the Z3ROD Vanguard Stealth wetsuit - sweet!

It's first official outing was the River Arun Ironman swim 2014, which I was down for competing in this weekend just gone. This is a fantastic event put on by the nice people at Raw Energy Pursuits and one that I have completed in previous years. My PB was 1:04 so I was out to beat that time.

This is normally a very fast race, mainly because it is a tidal river and one of the fastest flowing in the UK. Unfortunately, on this occasion the organisers slightly mistimed the start of the race (very hard to get exactly right) and there were no PBs from me or most of the other swimmers. I did however feel that I swam the 3.8km distance better than on any previous occasion and I simply put this down to my new Vanguard Stealth. My time was a respectable 1:12 on the day - 161st out of a total field of 351 swimmers that completed the distance.

I must get some 'Bodyglide' and remember to apply liberally before using the wetsuit for another long distance swim as I did get a small amount of rubbing in the neck area, nothing major and probably down to me for not taking enough time to prepare for the race - lesson learnt!

I have included a few pictures of the River Arun Ironman Swim 2014 and another pictured at Southwater Like with Sarah and Matt who also purchased Z3ROD wetsuits. Matt looking extremely 'Batman-like' with the top of the range 'V-Flex'.

Me, Sarah and Matt at Southwater Country Park - sporting our new Z3ROD wetsuits
Team photo - River Arun Ironman Swim 2014
HAT Club swimmers, Alan in the middle, sporting the top of the range V-Flex

Walking to the start of the race - Stealth-like

Job done - graceful exit (not so Stealth-like)

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Run & Swim Focus

Following my long 115 mile 'King of the Downs' sportive, Monday was taken as my recovery day.

However, I had big plans for the rest of the week...

As this is now my 'peak phase' of training my goal is to try and put the quality and quantity together in a series of 3-week blocks. The first week is run/swim focus, the second it's all about the bike, and the third is a slightly easier week to ensure I do not burn out / overtrain / get injured.

On Tuesday evening it was out with my fold-up Brompton for an easy spin / commute home. With my car left at work I was all set to run into work on the Wednesday morning. The weather had turned nasty overnight by fortunately it was only light rain when I left the house for the 28km journey. I ran at Ionman pace (just under 6mins per km) - nice and easy.

Wednesday evening I was in the pool for the long weekly Club session. Thursday was another recovery day with a minimal amount of stretching (had planned to do more). Friday was cool - I met a large group of local professionals at Stamner Park in Brighton for a corporate MTB morning - networking at its finest! The pace was relatively slow to cater for all abilities but there was a couple of really tough climbs and the weather / views were amazing.

Saturday was back in the pool and then a short run set in the afternoon. One steady loop of the village and then one fast, not leaving much in the tank at the end.

I am writing this blog after another decent length run up on the hills after being inspired by seeing my Club's South Downs Relay Team the day before. So what is the plan for the rest of the day:

- Gardening
- Barbecue and time with family
- Swim in the lake (test out new wetsuit)
- Bike Turbo set (possibly)

Next week I need to get in 2-3x cycle commutes and a long weekend bike. I am also competing in the River Arun 3.8km Ironman swim - nice to get a PB there.

Back soon with a review of my wetsuit. Meanwhile, I will leave you with a few pics of my beautiful South Downs run this morning.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Race reports and back on track

So a good week of training and it looks like I am back on track as I enter the all-important 'peak' phase.

The highlights last week must be the Club Handicap race and then the 'King of the Downs' 115 mile sportive.

On Friday evening I managed to escape from work to be up at Southwater Country Park by 7pm. My handicap of 10mins, felt a little severe but I was just happy to have an opportunity to race and wasn't too worried about getting a top 5 spot and potential cash prize.

I started with two other triathletes that were certainly faster than me on the open-water swim so my goal was simply to tuck in behind them to benefit from a draft. After about 100m they pulled slightly ahead so my focus went to sighting properly to try and execute a straight swim across the lake. I was pleasantly surprised with my speed and direction and as I pulled myself up on the pontoon I was not too far behind the other swimmers.

My transition was relatively good, deciding to exclude socks as it was such a short race (supersprint distance), however I had a bit of fun and games clipping in. The bike leg was decent and I managed to pass a number of fellow Club mates. There was a bit of healthy competition from Sarah, who is one of the strongest female cyclists in the Club.

Another quick transition and I flew into the run secion at full speed. During the 2 laps I maintained a sub 4 min per km pace and was able to pass a few more people. I sprinted to the line to receive a third position place and a cash prize of £6 - result!

After my success on Friday evening my attention turned towards the long and hilly sportive on Sunday, which started at Evans Cycles head office in Crawley.

Six HAT Club members met for an early start and by around 7:30am we were in the saddle for a loop of the North Downs to include Leith, Pitch and Box Hill. Over the full 115 mile distance we were expecting 9,000 feet of climbing. The pace was respectable although we were very wary of the distance and the thought of over 10 massive climbs. The food stops were very welcome and I almost felt guilty for eating so much, however it was going to be a long day.

The 2nd half of the ride started again near Crawley and headed out towards Ashdown Forest. This was my first time cycling in this region but I aim to go back. It was very picturesque although the hills kept on getting steeper, so much so that a number of cyclists were getting off their bikes and walking to the top of a few. I was fortunate to have a 29 cog on my rear cassette, which helped me to make it up the steepest of ascents.

The distance from the half-way point to the 3rd stop (approx. 90km to 145km) seemed to go on forever and ended on one of the steepest climbs I have ever had to get up. From there our part re-grouped and we tried to spin out the remaining 40km to the finish to log near 8 hours in the saddle.

All in all a great event, very reasonable priced, good food and re-fueling stops, albeit hard on the legs.

Monday will defintely be a recovery day.

New running shoes and new SwimRun kit on its way

I decided to upgrade my trusty ASICS GT-2000 Series 7 to the new Series 8. I had run about 600km in my old shoes but had started to get some...