Monday, August 24, 2009


Last week I was in Cornwall, Bodmin Moor to be specific, on holiday for a week with the family. As always I took my running shoes and kit with the hope of getting out at least a couple of times.

I managed a couple of runs, I always do - if it means getting up a little earlier that is fine by me. I try not to impact the day too much. The interesting thing was that out on the roads of Bodmin Moor first thing in the morning (around 7:30) there is no traffic. There was actually no artificial noise. You can just plod along with your thoughts and the sound of your feet for company. It's metronomic and feels like I imagine meditation would. There are animals and it was a treat to see so many wild ponies on the moor.

It was on a run across the moor that I started thinking about spirituality and the connection to god and religion. There was a point where at the turnaround point (I was doing a 30 minute out and 30 minute back run) there was a path leading up a lane lined with impressively tall trees. I took a detour to check it out and was rewarded with the most amazing view across Bodmin Moor. Stood there in the cool morning looking across was a truly simple and spectacular experience. With nothing modern in view you could almost imagine that the view had not altered much in 100, 200 or maybe even a 1,000 years.

I headed back across the moor and my mind wandered back to 2008 and our holiday in Majorca. On this holiday I raised the stakes a little and hired a road bike from Pro Cycle Hire Majorca for a week (we were away for two). It was a Giant OCR in the old T-Mobile colours. Bright pink and black!

Cycling in Majorca was simply the best cycling ever, the roads were clear, the drivers accommodating and the tarmac pristine! Not at all like the pot-holed roads around Cheltenham. On one of my rides I cycled up the
View Larger Map">MA-5018 at Randa where at the top is an old monastery
From Majorca 2008 - Monastery Nr. Randa
and a not so old communications centre.

As I made my way up the winding road the views across Majorca were amazing. The sea in one direction then round the bend to see the vast expanse of flat land leading to hills on the horizon.
From Majorca 2008 - Monastery Nr. Randa

It was early morning and there was some mist dispersing as the sun was rising. There were no cars and no other people that I saw as I made my way up.

At the top I made my way to the Monastery which sits at the peak and on the edge of the mountain. The end of the monastery is a drop-off the cliff! The sun was gaining height, despite the increasing temperatures the mist was loitering in parts and looking across I could understand why the monks believed in god. As someone who is not religious and did not consider myself capable of such thinking I was quite moved.

Back to Bodmin Moor and as I made my way back to the cottage I started thinking a little further about the activity of running, the environment that we run in and the kit that we have. Incredibly technical fabrics, structured shoes, custom orthotics, KT Tape, compression clothing, Goretex the list is endless and judging by the product review sections in magazines grows each month. The days of a pair of trainers, shorts and t-shirt seemingly confined to history. There is another piece of kit that is missing from this list which is entirely optional and that is the MP3 player. A lot of runners I see when running at home use MP3 players. Strapped to the arm or held in the hand as they run. I have used portable radio’s and MP3 players while running and went through a phase of using it every time. This is something I have stopped using and it has now been years. Even though I train on my own largely I like having clarity of thought and being able to experience my surroundings. Sure sometimes a song pops in and rattles around my head (I pretty much completed the Windsor Triathlon bike leg with the chorus of Lilly Allen ‘It’s not Fair’ rattling in my head!) but that’s different. It’s just another thought rather than something put in your head artificially. This links also to the zen approach to things which I guess can be summed up by saying that when you are running, run. That means just run, focus on one thing, enjoy that one thing and do not spoil or taint it by turning it into a multi-tasking opportunity.

Whilst still a non-believer in the religious sense as I get older I am more appreciative of my surroundings. I run for my enjoyment and for my physical well being but also to have time with no input. In theses days of iPhone apps, Twitter, Facebook, email, text messaging, online everything etc it is rare to just do one thing that really doesn’t actually involve much thought.

Almost like a mind-reboot and we can all use one of those every once in a while...

What have i become?

I was driving home this evening and talking to a good friend who has recently embarked on his own triathlon odyssey! His blog is online here We were talking about training and his session this Sunday just gone - we then started on blogs and twitter accounts etc...when i uttered the sentence "...there's a widget to publish your twitter posts directly to your blog..."

I have slipped from cool to geek! (I may not have ever been cool either before you say it!)

Monday, August 3, 2009

Mazda London Triathlon - 2nd August 2009

With a midday race start it was a leisurely Sunday morning start to a race day. Something not normal with race starts normally at the crack of dawn.

On opening the curtains it was a glorious day and exactly as the weather forecast had predicted. Considering the rain of the previous day this was very welcome! Bright sunshine and temperatures of 23C were forecast.

With racers already on the bike course and looking out to the dock the swim course laid out the first stop was breakfast! Reining it at the hotel buffet breakfast was the first challenge met easily! A light breakfast of coffee, eggs, bread roll, cereal and yoghurt was the order of the day. As we were eating Stuart Hayes walked through with his bike, the male pro-race starting at 10:45.

After breakfast there was time for a short walk to check out the swim course and the edge of the bike course to watch the early starters. The swim course was an incredible sight. Being in a dock it was just like an enormous swimming pool. The route was a straight up and back, basically 750m up a turn then the same back. Looking down course from where we were stood the course was framed between the ExCel on the right, cranes on the left and with a stunning backdrop of Canary Wharf.

Up on the bike course there were riders of all shapes and sizes coming past on all sorts of machines. Mountain, hybrid and race bikes were interspersed with the low hum of disc wheels as TT bikes came flying past.

It was time to get to the start, we used the park and ride bus to the ExCel. What a buzz when we got there!

We made our way into the ExCel and met with the Stoddy crew! There was an hour and a half until race start so we took the kids to the expo where they collared as much free stuff as they could! Yakults, ASICS bags and pens and those inflatable bangers seemed the most popular!

Nigel and i then said our goodbyes to our loyal supporters and made our way into transition to set up and get the wetsuits on.

Our start time was 12:10 and this was the first time that we had started together. Due to a slight age difference we find ourselves in different waves. A lot of the email banter on the lead up to this race was around who would come out on top when we start together. The smart money was on Nigel and i have to say that i was one of them. Without getting boring, the bike leg is my weakest and the one where Nigel is probably strongest - i always assume that this is where it's won and lost.

In the water, after the familiar and irritating "oggy-oggy-oggies" the horn sounded and we were off. I positioned myself close to the front of the swim as based on Blenheim and Windsor was not keen on getting stuck in a brawl. This tactic sort of worked well in that i got clear pretty easily but due to the numbers in the wave it was a pretty much fight all the way through to the end. At half way i was still swimming over and indeed being swum over by other competitors. It made it distracting from the swim itself but meant that my stroke was not as efficient as rather than trying to keep it long i was protecting my head.

Approaching the finish of the swim i was close to the ropes and there was a lady from the previous wave (pink hat) that i never saw and just ploughed into. I feel really bad about it but did not see her. I must have pretty much punched her in the face :(

The swim exit was onto a submerged platform, then through the spray and onto a platform where there were helpers with bags. Wetsuits had to be removed and bagged before entering transition. I have never managed to get my wetsuit off so quickly - thank you bodyglide! It was then past my supporters (positioned perfectly) up the stairs and into T1. It was a long run around to the bike but even longer out to the bike course!

I changed quickly and transition felt quick as i didn't have to sit down (normally for some reason i do!!) i grabbed my bike and started for the course. As i was getting changed Stoddy came in. I made to the bike start, overtaking a couple of people on the run. It was then onto the bike and down the hill for the start.

The bike course was two laps of what was a fast course. There a couple of more technical sections with twists around roundabouts but the long straights with excellent visibility made it a great route. the highlight for me was going through the Limehouse Tunnel . A steep slope down into a wind free section. After the first blast through my strategy was to hang on outside (where it was windy) and to nail it in the tunnel.

At the first turn point it was my opportunity to see where Nigel was. He was not far behind me. I wanted to hang on for at least a lap to minimize my losses fully expecting him to come past me. I am happy to say it did not happen.

On the second lap i nearly undid my good work. Coming up a slight hill there was a sharp left hand turn. for some reason i thought it was straight on and so out of the saddle put some power down only to realise i was aiming for spectators. I realised just quickly enough braking and turning and missing the kerb and what would have been a wipeout by less than a centimetre i am sure.

The rest of the bike course was uneventful (!) and my confidence was high with Nigel not having passed me.

Into T2 and it was a long run through back to the racks. Change of shoes and head gear and out for 10km.

Since Windsor and Belenheim i have really focused on my running doing long runs of around 20km mixed with fast 8km sessions. What i was lacking was a change of pace or an ability to up the run from a jog to a run. Mindful of where Nigel was there was an early opportunity for assessment at the first turn less than 500m into the run. At the turn Nigel was probably a minute maybe minute and half behind me. I knew he could pull it out like he did at Windsor so felt some pressure. So much so that i avoided drink stations as drinking from a cup while running is pretty difficult. The next turn was about 3km out and i saw that i had extended the distance but was still not comfortable with it.

Going through to complete the first lap i got some cramp in my quads and thought it was over. I reduced my stride length and at the turn looked for Nigel, confident that the gap was growing i stopped for water and gatorade at the next 3 stations. Lifted by the drinks and also knowing that i had Nigel beaten i relaxed and the second lap felt great. There was a great moment where i was running alongside an Aussie who was breathing hard but keeping a good pace. We exchanged positions a couple of times each time he came back trying to get away from me. I stopped for Gatorade and he continued, after the drink and with 3'ish KM to go i increased the speed. Caught him up, he looked around an saw it was me again, this time i pushed past him and he said "christ you look a strong runner" that was it - i pushed on and actually offered an apology that looking back was partronising but was not meant to be!

I came round the final bend up the bridge and into the finish - Luca was on the barriers shouting that i had beaten Nigel and he started running with me although on the other side of the barrier! I put a sprint on and caught a guy at the finish line. Apparently the announcer did call my name out a couple time but i never heard him! I glanced at the clock as i crossed the line and it was 2:32, that would have given me a time of 2hr 22min (dreamland!)

I'm not going to deny that beating Nigel was a great feeling but actually this was beyond that. Much like my motivation for doing Windsor for the third year i felt that i had nailed this course. I hadn't really struggled and had pushed hard.

Nigel crossed the line a couple of minutes later posting what i think will be a PB in the process.

Driving home my time was texted through -
Swim (1500m) 29:10
Bike (40km) 01:08:03
Run (10km) 00:38:34

I am really pleased with that run time! Proves the hard work out on the road and on the treadmill was worth it.

This is a great sport but more than that it's a lifestyle.

I am now on a triathlon sabbatical with new challenges to come. This was a fine way to hit the pause button on triathlon......

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Pre race briefing (London triathlon)

So here we are, the Ramada hotel in the docklands and race day tomorrow!

The scale of this triathlon is immense. There's a huge indoor
transition and the bike leg includes an indoor uphill section!

I am racked, I am hydrated, I am tired and ready to go. Pasta and
mineral water for dinner and day spent mostly in the car mean physical
prep is ok even if in the last two weeks work has meant I have hardly

I have a race strategy in mind and building on experience of two tris
already this year need to kick in the run. I have not had a change of
pace and considering I am nominally a runner that's a little depressing.

Stoddy has just textedit me and apparently has had a couple of beets
tonight. Excellent, hopefully that combined with the skinful and
hangover from last weekend will slow him down.

Or will I rue those words!