Sunday, 27 October 2013

OK I admit it - I am beginning to become a bit of a fan of Bromptons

Probably not something an Ironman triathlete should admit too, however I am beginning to become a bit of a fan of Bromptons!

For those who don't know a Brompton is a famous brand of compact folding bikes that are handmade in West London.

The attractions to me are as follows:
  • Build quality is exceptional - this bike will last a lifetime
  • The fold is more compact than any other folding bike out there
  • The appeal of taking the bike anywhere, stick it in the boot of your car, plane, train, etc.
  • Although a slightly more 'twitchy' ride (small wheels) they can be quite nippy
  • Classic design and great accessories - expensive but very functional (the 'Apple' of the folding bike world)
  • I would love to enter the Brompton World Championships events that are held around the world
  • Not just used for a 5km commute. Many Brompton lovers take them touring and complete 1,000km+ a year
As I expect you have noticed it sounds like I am hooked. To be honest I haven't ridden one yet and given the cost (£850 - £1,500) I need to before making a firm decision. If I did love it, my thought would be to sell my singlespeed commuter bike and finance the balance with the Ride2Work scheme, which is fortunately available though my Company. The demand is currently so great that to get a new 'Bespoke Brompton' you are looking at anywhere from a 6-10 week build. You can buy them through a number of cycle retailers, Evans Cycles probably being the biggest, however they only keep a limited stock and there are so many colours and types to chose from. Even the second-hand Brompton bikes are typically fetching £350-£800 on eBay, subject to their condition and type, the titanium version even higher.

The best ways to try out a Brompton is either to use a 'Demonstrator' bike, sometimes available via your local bike shop (if they are a dealer). Alternatively, there is an interesting website offering Brompton bikes for hire (similar to Boris bikes in London) - check out:

If, like me, you want to know more about these great bikes then I recommend you take a look at the official Brompton website:

Be sure to check out the video for the Brompton World Championship 2013 (held at the Goodwood race track circuit):

Finally I would highly recommend you check out this great blog:

The most recent post, My Orange Brompton travels to Brighton and cycles one of my favourite routes - Undercliff pass and visits Shoreham airport (another one of my favourite places).

My Orange Brompton - great blog

Compact folding bike
I will keep you informed whether I am still as keen once I have taken one for a test ride.

Check me out on Strava

Top of my list of 'training toys' is the Garmin 910XT watch. Although I do not analyse every workout I religiously download the data to Garmin Connect, mostly to track the volume and range of monthly activities. Over the coming weeks I have been experimenting with different ways of making this training data more social, opening some up to the public and creating Club pages.

However, I have noticed at bit of a shift to the use of other social platforms like Strava, which have become very popular, especially amongst athletes that like to compare training performance and favourites routes. In addition there is definitely something to be said for claiming a 'Personal Best' (PB) or 'Top spot' for a specific ride or run.

I knew of the existence of Strava and got the free download to my iPhone some time ago, however ignorantly thought I always had to record training with my iPhone, which I personally find is slightly less accurate and convenient than using my Garmin 910XT. It was only recently when one of my Club buddies pointed out that you can download the Garmin data to Strava - now I can benefit from the best training tool (in my mind) and the best social platform (at least currently).

So over the last fortnight all my training data has found its way to Strava and now is in the public domain. This includes my long IOW cycle trip last Saturday.

I certainly do not get any prizes for being quick at the moment - most of my training has been easy to steady, however I do appear to be holding my own when it comes to training volume. 13 plus hours last week and about 8 this week. Hardly outstanding but a good foundation to structure some proper base training over the coming months and with my long-term sights set on achieving a PB for my next ironman distance event - Challenge Vichy at the end of August 2014.

I have already made some enquiries about getting some help and guidance on planning my training in preparation for Challenge Vichy and I look forward to sharing that information on my blog in future posts.

Strava link to this morning's easy trail run:

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Nice morning run - no Achilles tendonitis issues (finally!)

A nice run this morning with a focus on a negative split - the return leg successfully completed at a faster pace.

The good news is that, finally, no Achilles tendonitis pain that has been boring me for at least 3 months now. I will continue with the calf raises and stretches for a little longer yet but hopefully that it is! 

Now I can build in some longer runs and increase the intensity.

Nice morning

A decent week of training and a good Club ride

I was hoping for at least 10 hours of training last week and was pleased that I ended up logging over 13 hous in total.

Most was on the bike - in addition to about 5 hours of commuting / local training I enjoyed a longer 5 hour ride on Saturday with the boys from the Club.

We met at Portsmouth harbour at around 8:30am and caught the Catamaran to the Isle of Wight for a tour of the rugged coastline. Although I had visited the IOW on a number of occasions I was surprised on how hilly the coastal route was. There was a lot of ups and downs!

There were only 6 riders including me. Within the group were some of the most strongest and experienced cyclists in the Club so I knew it was going to be a struggle to keep up. As always the top guys were quite comfortable holding back the pace a little or waiting for the slower riders (Gareth and I) to catch up. I love these types of Club rides, although quite challenging there is always a healthy bit of banter going on, which makes them so enjoyable.

We were certainly ready for a lunch stop after about 70km of very hilly terrain, a couple of punctures, a spot of heavy rain, a few sprint sets and as you may expect some healthy competition. Fortunately as we dried out in a pub in Yarmouth, which served some really good nosh, and rested our weary legs the sun did come out, which made the afternoon cycling (another 40km) that much more enjoyable.

The hilly sections, although not too difficult, continued throughout the rest of the day. I was pleased that at the end I was not the only one with some weary legs. Even the strongest of the group had felt some leg burn during the five hours in the saddle. So the day ended with the crossing back to Portsmouth (this time we sat on the top deck) and there on the journey home.

I have just started downloading my training sessions to Strava, via Garmin Connect, which are public to view. You are welcome to follow me on Strava and check out the routes and my stats.

Friday, 18 October 2013

So far so good - planning for IOW trip

So a brief update this week and it is very much... so far so good!

Legs were a little fatigued on Monday (rest day) after the 25km trail run the day before. A swim would have been great, which I always find helpful after a long run, however the Monday Club pool session is still eluding me.

So Tuesday it was on the bike using my work commute to get some training done - I headed for Devils Dyke and some decent hill work. A relatively easy return but a bit of speed work and some 'fun & games' riding along (against) some other commuters on their road bikes.

Wednesday was a 11.5km run with some tempo work, only a slight niggle with the Achilles but with every run the injury seems to be improving and becoming less of a worry. The evening Club swim was interesting with the focus again on bi-lateral breathing, which I am really making an effort to keep to, plus a number of faster pyramid sets using the width of the pool.

Thursday was back on the bike, an interval set in the morning: 10min warm up, 8x sets of 1min all-out and 4mins steady, followed by 10mins cool down. An easy return last night but unfortunatley I got a puncture and my heart didn't seem to be in it, so my normal hour commute turned into a 1:30 ride (including 15mins to sort out the puncture).

This morning, a strength set around Preston Park - warm up and then 4x (10x push ups, dips, lunges, squats and step ups) in between some easy / hard run sets, followed by 6x strides (30 secs all-out and 30 secs rest).

So my ferry tickets are booked for the Isle of Wight and Saturday morning I am meeting a number of Club members in Portsmouth for the journey over. Thereafter the plan is to cycle one loop of the island (I understand around 60 miles) and grab some lunch on route - should be fun. I will report back in my next blog.

Have a great weekend and enjoy your training!

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

The week ahead - more focus on training plan

Now that I have an 'A' race in my diary for next year it is amazing how your mind immediately starts to focus on the task ahead, even though in my case the event is over 10 months away.

Most training programs, either developed by a professional coach on a bespoke basis or something out of a book are around 20-30 weeks so I have a bit of time to research.

I was pleased to see that the Challenge series offer training plans to all athletes that enter one of their events, which I understand is distributed via a regular newsletter. My initial thought is to take information from a couple of great books I have read on the subject (Joe Friel - The Triathlete's Training Bible and Don Fink - Be Iron Fit) and amalgamate with the plan provided to me in 2012 by Coach Tickner (when I entered IM Austria) and finally cross-check with any useful recommendations from Challenge.

I will aim to increase the hours per week steadily for a three-week cycle and then take one week slightly easier. Most weeks I expect to take one rest day. The plan will be to include a greater amount of strength work, to help with injury prevention, and more brick sessions for specificity benefits.

The main benefits of being in control of my plan is that it can be totally flexible. The clear disadvantages are my lack of experience, compared to a professional Coach, and simply not pushing myself hard enough or the opposite and worry about overtraining.

Over the coming weeks I will allocate more time and further blog space to covering this important planning stage. I also hope to get together with a couple of my fellow Club members who are competing in the same race to get their views.

Meanwhile, the plan for the week is as follows:

Mon - rest day (following long 25km trail run)
Tue - 2:00 bike commute (Hill work / easy return)
Wed - 1:00 tempo run + 1:30 Club swim
Thu - 2:00 bike commute (Interval set / easy return)
Fri - 0:45 strength / strides run set
Sat - 4:00 Club ride (Isle of Wight tour - to be confirmed) - probably easy pace
Sun - 1:00 easy run or brick session (rollers / run) - subject to Sat training

I will aim for 10 hours, which is a realistic goal, but a decent step up from the average 8 hours that I have been logging since the end of August.

Let's see how it goes!

Monday, 14 October 2013

Challenge Vichy - my ironman distance 'A' race for 2014

I have come back for more and entered my second ironman distance race - Challenge Vichy - scheduled for 31st August 2014.

This was straight off my bucket list -

It was mentioned as a possible venue a few months ago and now there is at least 5-6 club members from Horsham Amphibians Triathlon who have either entered the full or half ironman distance events. Hopefully more will follow, making this very much the main Club 'A' race for next year.

I am hoping this challenging goal will inspire me to put in place a more structured plan over the coming months that I can share with followers of this blog.

Challenge Vichy - My 'A' race for 2014

Let's start with 20 reasons not to miss Challenge Vichy, straight from the race website:

Challenge Vichy has ensured everything is in place to ensure the ultimate experience for atheltes and their families at this exciting new five-day sporting event.

1) Ideally timed on September 1rst, it allows athletes time to prepare for a full distance and enjoy the beautiful French summer days
2) Vichy is in central France, 3 hours from Paris, 2h30 from Lyon, Montpellier 4 hours, 3 hours from Bordeaux.
3) It is an "easy" full distance  compared to other French long distances such as Nice, Embrun, Gerardmer, Alpe d'Huez, Altriman. Ideal for beginners and for athletes who want to go for a PB.
4) Everything is located at the Centre Omnisports Pierre Coulon - registration, the expo, the transition area, the pasta party, the awards ceremony, the swim start, the finish line, the food court ... Ideal for the spectators.
5) Most of the hotels in Vichy are located within a 3km radius of the main race site
6) A village expo with about 30 exhibition booths will be set up also featuring activities for kids and regional speciality food tasting
7) An outdoor eating area adjoining the village expo, close to the finish line will allow spectators to enjoy the shady parks Centre Omnisports Pierre Coulon
8) A U-shaped stadium finish with 3 platforms that can accommodate over 800 people seated + 1500 standing will be build and with up-to-the-minute commentary . At each of their running laps, triathletes will pass the stadium finish. There, spectators and families can go and see their athlete and not miss the many emotional moments of the competitors passing the finish line and led by two rampaging speackers (Hervé and Eric Demougeot AMATTEIS) and 1 DJ (DJ Matt)..
9) A bike hotspot with live commentary will be set up in the main street of Bellerive sur Allier, a climb  2kms from the finish area. Crowds will stretch from the hotspot to transition, giving the athletes a welcome boost in the final kilometres
10) the Pasta-party, the awards ceremony and the athlete garden will be prepared  by a restaurateur-triathlete Laurent Ferreira, who has completed more than 10 full distance triathlons.
11) The triathletes will be pampered: backpack, visor cap, silicone swim caps , finisher t-shirts, finisher medal
12) On each aid station (every 18km in bike and every 2 km on the marathon), energy products will be available through HIGH5 (gels, bars, energy drinks).
13) A coach will prepare  training tips from 10 to 15h per week that are sent each months  by newsletter to all registered athletes.
14) During the race, one member of your family will receive by phone 5 text messages for Challenge Vichy and 3 for Half Vichy with the split times of the triathlete.
15) live internet will be established.
16) 10 laps will be broadcast in real time by the timekeeper ChronoRace.
17) To ensure the ultimate the physical condition of triathletes in the last week, some  swim training in lakes and swimming pool are planned. Every morning from 8am to 10am, Lake Allier will be reserved for the training with life guards. For those wishing to swim in the pool, Vichy Val d'Allier open its 50m outdoor pool,  open for free from  11am to 7pm.
18) On the swim course you'll feel like you're on an F1 track: the start will be given with bi-color  lights and you will follow buoys every 10 meters. All 500m, biggest buoys  will indicate you how far you've swan (500m, 1000m, 1500m, 2000m, 2500m, 3000m and 3500m)
19) To maximize recovery, physical therapists and spas / hot tubs will be in the recovery area to help recuperate weary limbs.
20) A Triathlete's Guide is downloadable from the website in English, German, French or Spanish

Swim Start - 'the washing machine'

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Product Test: Lezyne Zecto Drive LED Rear light

With the darker mornings / nights and heavy local traffic cycle lights are essential - my personal thoughts are you can't have enough and if you plan to ride in the dark best go out lit up like a Christmas tree.

Up to now I have ridden with an USE Exposure Flare at the rear, generally a good bit of kit, however a little annoying and costly to replace the CR123A batteries on a regular basis. I now understand USE do a rechargeable pack for the unit for around £20 but meanwhile each battery costs between £4-£8.

I wanted to buy another LED rear light to complement the Flare and headed over to Upgrade Bikes' great website and friendly and professional service.

The Zecto retails around £30. I am always impressed by the build quality of Lezyne products (seems like they have had lessons from Apple). The battery recharging is done via a USB style cable, which is ideal for me - opportunity to charge at home / work. I also like the range of flashing options and the battery charge indicator - all very slick, as I have come to expect from Lezyne.

As for the performance - it certainly appeared to be as bright as the slightly more expensive Flare, with more flashing modes to choose from.

Most quality retail outlets now stock Lezyne products, Upgrade Bikes being the exclusive distributor in the UK and run by my good friend and fellow triathlete, Matt Ryley.

Upgrade bikes also distribute the Kinesis brand, amongst others, and I am loving their new range of titanium frames. Certainly worth considering when I can afford to upgrade by Ribble frame.

Lezyne Zecto Drive

Lezyne Vecto Drive LED Rear Light - detailed specification
Commute / Road / MTB rechargable safety rear light.

ZECTO rear sets the new standard in rechargable, high-visibility lighting and brings added safety to every cyclist at an affordable price.

Three high intensity red LEDs are mounted in custom "MOR" lens for increased output efficiency.

180 degrees of visibilty with multiple side LEDs with double as charge and power indicator.

Compact size (40mmx40mm x 35mm).

Composite body with engineered alloy bezel.

Lightweight (52g with strap) and tough.

Six modes: Three flash modes, Economy and Blast solid modes plus "Daytime Flash" mode.

Waterproof (FL1 standard) rubber button and charge port seal.

New "hipster" easy-fit bracket with patented durable rubber strap fits the bike, your belt, clothing, bags, seatpack, just about anywhere you like.

Zecto is supplied with MicroUSB to USB cable and easily charged from any USB plug.

Charging indicators built into side LEDs.

Intelligent power indicator fuel gauge LEDs double as side illumination.

Highest qualtiy Lithium Polymer battery built in.

2 year warranty.

Rear Output rating: Economy Flash modes 10lm; Economy 5lm; Blast 10lm; Daytime Flash 20lm.

Burn times: 2hr45min - 7hr depending on mode.

Day or night...Ride safe, always be seen!

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Photos of off-road ride

A beautiful Sunday morning to be up on the trails of the South Downs. Here is a collection of pictures:

Nearly at the top
Views over Storrington
Views of Arundel Castle
The trail ahead
Top of Amberley Mount
The way down - the fun bit!
I bear left over the hillocks and down - proper off-road cycling
My muddy bike - Ellsworth Epiphany - still a good looker!
Muddy rider - not such a good looker!

Friday, 4 October 2013

An interesting off-road night ride with a bit of drama

To bring you up to date on my training over the last week:

Sat - Swim: Club session (1:00)
Sun - easy off-road run with plenty of hills 17km (1:50)
Mon - Cycle: one-way commute - easy incl. 15min tempo (1:10)
Tue - Run: 8km tempo set (0:40)
Wed - Run: strides set (0:30) / Cycle: off-road night ride (1:25)
Thu - Cycle: 20km fartlek - easy, hill-work, fast sections (0:50)
Fri - rest day

Every day I have performed between 30-100 calf raises, which seems to be helping with the ongoing Achilles tendonitis.

Wednesday was a little different - I decided to miss the normal Club swim session so I could attend South Downs Cycles monthly off-road night ride (first Wednesday of the month - starting at 6:30pm at the Storrington store). I hadn't ridden with the guys from South Downs Cycles for well over a year. I used to be really in to off-road cycling and one of the main reasons for getting involved with triathlon was to get fitter so I could keep up with the guys I would ride with each month, normally 8-15 pretty hard-core mountain bikers.

I was amazed how the event has grown - close on 70 riders took off in 3 groups. I chose the middle group with 4 of the guys (total group of around 25) I used to originally ride with. Once we got to the top of the South Downs via Kithurst Hill, it was pitch black so a good set of lights was essential. Many of the mountain bikers were using USE Exposure lights as they organised a demo of their kit for the evening ride. I use a 3 LED Exposure light, pumping out 700+ lumens, which I purchased 2-3 years back and is still going strong - a quality bit of essential kit if you plan to cycle at night. The new Exposure lights are even better - up to 6 LEDs and 2,000 lumens - very nice, albeit not cheap (£350-£400).

Within 10mins of getting to the top we were picking up speed down some decent single track and proper off-road terrain. Unfortunately before we knew it the lead rider, a very experienced biker and one of the best road cyclists in the Sussex area, had a nasty fall, landing on his shoulder. He seemed in a lot of pain and it was obvious he had done some serious damage to his shoulder or collar bone. The next 30 mins involved the Group sorting out a solution to move the injured rider off the Downs to the ambulance that was called to the road about a mile below. Fortunately a farmer with a 4x4 came to our rescue. 

After all that drama there was at least 2 puncture incidents that split the group further and a pretty dangerous decent that made me think I certainly needed a bit more practice on my mountain bike (Ellsworth Ephiphany) before I commit to another night ride, or am I simply getting old - self-preservation becoming more important!

Anyway, still a good night on the bike and nice to be back on the old mountain bike. I might try that downhill again on Sunday morning, this time in the light.

Thanks for checking in and reading my blog - 'Keep the rubber side down'

E-Bike adventure

I know, you must be thinking 'E-Bike adventure'.... that's it, he has finally given in to old age, no more 'Tri Hard Dave...