Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Oravaman 2016!

Wow, what an experience, Oravaman delivered on all fronts, it truly has everything that makes an event great from my point of view. I can honestly say I wont forget my week in Slovakia in a hurry. Once in a lifetime comes to mind but hopefully I can go back next year. I hope I can do it justice with this blog and hopefully this will be an race report with a slight difference.


















It was actually around this time, a few days after the race (2015) that I came across the Oravaman triathlon. With over 2400M of ascent on the bike, 1000M on the run, all off road and visiting a mountain top it promised to tick all the boxes for me, it was clearly hard, extreme, possibly the hardest half distance in the world. I then came across a film, I have never seen a film like it from a race before, the love for the event and what it represents for the community in which it takes place was instantly clear and I knew I had to race it.

Check it out, see what you think -



So a quick email to the race director Peter and the date was in the diary, this is where the Oravaman experience began, in the year before arriving in Zuberec I made new friends because I would be taking part in the race, they offered help, advice and we got to know each other. Oravaman was becoming more than just another hard race and when we finally arrived in Slovakia this really began to show.


 The thing with Oravaman is, it truly is a celebration of the beautiful yet challenging landscape in which it takes place, it is a chance for the local communities to welcome visitors from around the world or cheer on friends and local heroes competing and it also brings people together in a way I have never experienced in a race before. Everyone involved just wants to make your day as a competitor as special as possible and they want nothing more than to see a smile on your face. Just watching the event come to life over the days leading up the event was amazing, the sense of community and family grew. This seems to transfer across to the competitors as race day approaches and goes by. Like all good races it is special and has its own unique character that has to be experienced to be believed.


I am going to keep the race day brief but after the last few months of frustration and disappointment, Oravaman was just what I needed to remind me how much I love this sport and what it gives me in return for the efforts in training. Condition's could only be described as epic, wind, rain and cold for race day after a weeks perfect weather in the lead up. The swim had a huge headwind blowing between the middle 2 buoys at the first turn, it was rough to say the least but I had a good swim for me, coming out inside the top 30. I lost time in transition faffing trying to get a top on the headed out onto the bike. The wind and rain continued, it got pretty spooky at times, I had 2 crashes on the descent from Huty, hitting the deck as the road felt like glass due to the surface water, wind and a polished surface. I was relieved to hit the final 12km climb to T2, which also has the steepest part of the course (14%) for the final KM, I felt pretty good and knew I had paced the hills on the bike pretty well as I pulled away from some other competitors, but my quads started to cramp on the last KM. The run felt brutal, but is up there with the best I have done in an XTRI or anything off road. 95% off road with single track, forest trail and a brutal climb underneath a ski slope leading to a fast but rough forest trail descent. My quads screamed but I gave it everything and knew this at the finish.


I had no idea what position I had come in and honestly stopped worrying as soon as I got on the bike, today was about coping with what mother nature threw at us, getting to the finish line in one piece and knowing I gave it everything. It was far from a perfect race but like I said, Oravaman is more than a race, its a celebration and it reminded me the of reasons why I do these races. I felt so alive after the finish it was unreal. For those interested here is a link to the results, all things considered I was happy to come in in 9th position in such a strong field after the day we had had, but if I had come in 50th I would still have been happy.



I had the 3 course home cooked traditional Slovakian post race meal and a pint of Kofola, chatted with other competitors about the day we had just experienced, met up with my new friends and chatted then headed to bed completely spent. The awesome after party with live band carried on till late despite the rain and mud, no one seemed to want to let it stand in the way of a good time but why would they after the conditions on race day? :)

I hope I have done the race some justice with this report but I do not think you can truly appreciate how special it is unless you experience it. With short course and relay options as well as the full distance it is attainable for most, so check it out, I promise you will not regret it!

Bude Ako Nebolo as they say in Slovakia, "Like never Before"! There is plenty more to come this season so stay tuned!

I have to say a huge list of thank you's for this one and hope I mention everyone-

Peter Pala, race director for your help, kindness and efforts to make our visit so special.
Mark Wilkie, for welcoming us, showing us around and introducing us to the real Slovakia, legend ;) (Check out Marks chalet, perfect location for a training camp, skiing or just a chilled getaway)
Tina and family for your support out on the course in the pouring wind and rain at the top of the hill!
The staff of Penzion Prebisko for amazing food and accommodation for our stay.
The volunteers of Oravaman, Mountain rescue and the local police service for keeping us safe and making the day so awesome.
All the amazing competitors and new friends I made.
The town of Zuberec and all other locals who lined the streets to cheer us on.
The country of Slovakia for being so amazing!

Monday, 4 July 2016

Taking the rough with the smooth...

Quiet contemplation, Thanks Marie

So at a time when I should have been another race report, I found myself once again cursing the gods of triathlon after a series of bike issues forced a withdrawl from Celtman 2016 after only 110km of the bike. The worst thing about it was the fact I knew there was nothing I could do about it, it was a dose of bad luck right when I did not need it. Maybe I have been lucky not to suffer such misfortune the last 2 years and it was just my turn but it did not make it any easier to accept.

The 110km went something like this- First cattle grid, lose gel bottle at high speed, same at second (I have tested this for 6 weeks on bumpy, rough, lake district roads with no issue, seems it did not like the XL Torridon cattle grids), Chain drops twice, hit pothole at about 60kmhr, front tire blow out (close one), second puncture after another 15min of riding then I hit a bump in the road and the bars dropped (second close one), this took a while to fix as the bolts were hard to access with a water bottle installed. This time I took the hint, it was not going to be my day and worse still I was lucky to be un hurt so far. I think you have to pick your battles and it was clear this one was a lost cause.

I wont lie, it took me 3 days to get over this. After so much hard work over the winter and knowing I had gotten into the best shape of my life it felt like now or never (I know that's not how it is now:)) and I guess after missing Slateman through illness I felt I deserved a good day. My brother had traveled from Bristol to support the bike leg with Jo and a good mate had driven from Ambleside to do the run with me. I felt bad to have dragged them all the way to Torridon for not even half a race.

I am a lucky guy though and have amazing family and friends, many of whom were in Torridon for Celtman and realized there own goals starting, finishing and some not but finding their limits. Although it took me 3 days to get over it the recovery started there.

Check out the picture above that Marie sent me. Its taken about 9pm the night before the race, a bit of quiet time down on the front at Shieldaig. I can sit here just looking out forever, its an awesome view and my point is the journey to the race brought that into my life. That moment I felt calm, happy and am privileged to visit these places doing what I love. I have many, many moments like these, all the time and am lucky enough to have photos and videos to remember them but they are not needed. My life has been enriched by these experiences/friends and continues to be along the way to each race or challenge. The race really is such a small part of why I do this. All the messages of support the last few weeks have been awesome, so thanks everyone for this.

So I quickly got back into training, spotted the local Winderemere Triathlon was taking place the following weekend, entered and won! The Olympic distance is not one I would usually count myself as a contender for but I have been working hard with Blair to change that. I dont like hearing myself giving excuses so try to do something about it ;). A surprisingly good swim for me, fastest bike split of the day (despite a dropped chain!) and a solid run givens me good confidence going into Oravaman in 2 weeks time. I know the competition level will be high but hopefully I will have a good day, if not I guess it will just be another awesome experience along the way! Its an amazing journey whatever,

Lucky guy for sure!!

Thanks again for everyone's support over the last few weeks, it means so much.

Moving forwards, always :) 

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Slateman 2016 Race Report...but noooooo! Stay Positive!!

Its about the time I should be writing another race report, analyzing the performance and looking into how that fits onto the grand plan that kicks off the season proper. However there isn't one to write, near enough 4 days in bed was not part of a new taper I have been perfecting and I did not forget to set the alarm clock for race morning, no, I got sick on the Thursday evening, a nasty virus that has been going around. Its the classic tale of illness in work, me being the third lucky recipient. Its the worst I have felt in years and bizarrely I got through the whole of this winter without any illness, talk about bad timing. Still not feeling 100% now but happy to get any easy swim and run in the last two days, feeling better by the minute.

Anyway the reason for writing this no race report is a positive one, in the past something like this could really knock me and leave me feeling very negative for a long time but I have chosen not to let it. Its amazing how much time, effort and passion we invest in things that matter to us so its never easy to deal with when things don't go to plan but that's life, no matter how many hours, how much effort or how great you feel it owes you nothing. It is what it is and the best way forward is to look at what you can do, not what you cant.


  • First thing I did was to remember the bigger picture, I have loads of races I am looking forward to this season, more exciting if I am honest and they are all still there.
  • Secondly, I looked back over my recent training, its been great and all that is in the bank, with a cautious approach to begin training again nothing will be lost.
  • Realistically, this race was 1 training session in the many months of training and racing already done, a drop in the ocean. The light taper week went well, I missed the race day and then would have had 2-3 days off after anyway and hope to get some harder sessions in towards the end of the week. This is still a possible target.
  • If not all the training is not going anywhere and 1 session does not make a successful build.
  • The numbers are great, a result in a race would be nice to confirm that but its not needed, if I was less confident in this I would be questioning stuff more.
  • Get the rubbish luck out the way early, always a good thing!
It does amaze me how much better I am at dealing with this sort of stuff now, essentially triathlon is a game, a hobby but the things you learn can be so useful in all areas of life. Having a good coach always helps in this situation, Blair was super positive as always and in touch, cheers Blair!

That will do for now I think, hope its useful, stay positive and keep your eye on the prize! 4 weeks and change till Celtman ;) 


Thursday, 14 April 2016

Kurio Compression, Totally Bespoke

It seems every big sports brand now offers some form of compression garment, along with a few smaller specialist companies who started out in this market. Its not exactly a new thing though, having been used in treatment by Doctors for many years previously. Its proven to improve circulation and increase blood flow which has to be a great thing for improving an athletes recovery and performance right? I think so, which is why I have tried various forms and brands over the last 8-9 years, looking for something which works for me, with extremely variable success.



Here’s a few of the claimed benefits-

·        Improved venous return (the rate of blood flow back to the heart)
·        Reduced muscle oscillation (vibration)
·        Kinaesthesia (body awareness)
·        Reduction in DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness)
·        Improved posture, body shape and support
·        Changes to blood flow
·        Body moisture wicking
·        Help to prevent swelling and deep vein thrombosis during long periods of travelling




I first tried some compression tops from one of the most well known brands out there, to try and improve performance whilst training for rock climbing. In all honesty the tops just felt like any other Lycra top, stretched horribly and were not actually comfortable in any way. I felt no benefits and quickly the tops got shoved in the draw, I still have them actually but never think I might use them. I have tried a pair of leggings from a different brand but found the same issues. For the last 2 years I have been using Compress-Sport products, which I have found do not stretch out and have been useful for recovery, I’ve practically lived in them between hard sessions and after races. I do believe they helped recovery but always found some drawbacks. I often had slightly cold feet whilst wearing them. However I could never use them during any exercise as my legs quickly went dead and I also suffered with soreness over joints where ligaments etc passed close to the skins surface. I tried the larger sizes but they did not fit over the muscles and were to long and slack in places.



The problem is they just do not fit quite right. Compression needs to be graduated, with less compression the closer you get to the heart and also in the correct place over the muscle group. If it isn’t you are never going to get the full benefits. It also needs to be at the optimal level, too much will lead to poorer circulation, too little and we are back to stretchy tops with no benefits. When you think about it, it’s clear the standard Small-XL sizing is just not going to provide this. The only solution for true performance has to be custom made and quality material choice for the garment is essential.




So I was pretty excited when U.K based company Kurio Compression contacted me and asked if I would like to try a pair of there totally bespoke leggings. They are a driven and passionate team who clearly want to deliver the best possible product to help athletes improve performance and are leaving no stone unturned in order to accomplish this. After a long chat this became clear, they have researched every aspect of their product and this is ongoing. Just check out this link and the research they have had conducted on there own product and others in order to achieve this.


Pure attention to detail! I had 34 measurements taken of my legs and after a week or so 2 pairs of leggings, one for recovery and one for training arrived. Being U.K based for design and production certainly has its advantages, I did not expect it to be that quick!

Unboxing the leggings are well packed and come with a letter with care instructions etc, hand signed which I thought was a very nice touch and shows the care and attention to detail taken to produce them.





 I am now living in these and have to say I am initially blown away with the performance. Perfect fit, no more cold feet in the recovery tights and my legs just feel slightly warm whilst wearing them, a good sign of increased blood flow. Recovery has been excellent and I have suffered no DOMS after wearing the tights, plus my legs feel fresher going into the next session. I also wore them on the flight for a recent trip to race in Malta and had fresh legs the other side. In the leggings for training I have found a pair that I can exercise in with no ill effects and they certainly feel supportive whilst being comfortable to wear. It’s difficult to quantify if they lead to an increase in performance but I will give opinion on this after more testing. So far so good, I will post another review to update on the long term performance, durability etc and will certainly be putting them to the test over the coming months training and racing.

I will post an update once they have had a good thrashing! Be cool to hear what people think about compression and Kurio. 


Thursday, 7 April 2016

Xterra Malta Race Report

If you are looking for an early season triathlon opener, some sunshine, perfect racing temps and an awesome country to visit, look no further than Xterra Malta. Deidre, Nathan and the rest of the crew will make sure you are welcomed, well looked after and provide a challenging but fast course for racing.

Nice setting for a race! Swim and run route visible :) 


I have been meaning to try out the Xterra series for the last two seasons but the UK event always clashed with something else so this season I decided to make it happen. This event had been recommended to me by a few friends who really rated it and there are quite a few cool videos about so it seemed an obvious choice for an early season fitness test.

I travelled to Malta on the Friday morning, feeling healthy, fit and well rested but did not really know what to expect standard wise at the race. I thought I might be able to make the age group podium and that was a loose goal I had set myself, it was not a target race or a seasons goal but its good to have something to aim for. Friday afternoon I went for a nice swim in sea, it was clear, warm but choppy and I practised Australian exits and diving in to get past the waves. The excitement about the race started to build!


On Saturday morning I took a trip round the bike course with Mat Stephenson, another UK athlete taking part, there were also a load of athletes out doing the same. One of the things I loved about the event was the relaxed atmosphere before the race, no one seemed to be taking it too seriously and I had a good laugh with Mat on the way round. The course was tamer than I am used to in the Lakes but had plenty of technical interest, one longish climb over varied terrain, from wooded twist single track to rough gulleys and fast flat trail. I left the run recce out to save the legs but Mat assured me it was fairly challenging. My hotel was only 4km from the start in the town of Meiliha, another bonus that makes this race so accessible and easy. I felt really relaxed in the evening but excited to race. I think all the winter racing helped here, getting the pre race rituals dialled in, all those learning experiences help to settle things down. I knew what I had to do, did it and that just left turning up to race in the morning. Blair has really helped with this side of things, along with Chris Francis from Eleven Sprocket, its certainly an improvement from the faff, unfocused worry of last year.

                               Evening stroll Meliha

Popeye's Village!

It was super nice to wake up on race morning and just take an easy 15min spin down to the race venue to get set up and sorted out. That friendly relaxed vibe was still present and I had left plenty of time to get ready. Auto pilot kicked in again and I knew I had nothing to worry about in transition. The bike was sorted, bolts tightened, everything in place and I had loads of time to get the wetsuit on ready to race. Unusually for me the water temp was ideal for a pre race swim warm up, a real novelty and not the sort of thing I would advise at Celtman or Norseman! I was pretty excited to be racing in my new Zone 3 Vanquish, redesigned and tweaked for this year, it feels unreal, so flexible and comfortable but super buoyant.

I knew I would not be super fast out of the water so just relaxed and found a rhythm, it was a 2 loop circuit with an Australian exit and short beach run halfway. I made steady progress though, overtaking and catching groups all the way from the first buoy and defiantly did not feel the swim had taken much out of me. No splits yet but I don't think it was a bad swim for me at all. Transition went smooth and it was time to go to work on the bike.

The bike starts off with a slight climb on bumpy, fairly technical terrain, you have to be efficient and pick a good line, hover over the saddle or stand up to smooth it out. I spent most of the first lap of the bike passing people, settling in and riding steady to pick things up on the second lap. I always felt I held back a bit but still made steady progress through the field, good signs that the time on the turbo over the winter was ready to be put use this season. Xterra allows drafting on the bike so it was interesting to ride in a group, take turns on the front and just try to hold wheels on climbs etc. It adds an interesting dimension to the race, again its a more social friendly style than the lone TT efforts of long distance races, I enjoyed this. The course was littered with water bottles, its bumpy, if you race bear this in mind! No bike issues for me though, I came into transition in one piece and feeling reasonably fresh considering.

Stem....


Another smooth transition out onto the run, an 11km that can be broken down into a fast flat start, steep to draggy climb and a fast but technical downhill blast over 2 loops. I aimed to run as close to even splits as possible for the two loops. I hit a pace that felt maintainable but hurt, passing a 3 or 4 athletes on the first lap but one guy just blew past me, he ended up finishing 3rd in our age group and clearly was a superb runner. On lap 2 it started to bite but I still ran every step of the climb apart from a short step you had to climb over, that even split goal driving me on. I nailed the descent, it really started to hurt now and made up one more place before hitting the flat road to the finish. It was so nice to finish the race with no issues and such a smooth day. I could not have gone any faster and feel I paced it well. In the end I finished in 2hrs45mins, 3mins of the age group podium in 5th and 35th overall including the Pro field. Not a bad first effort at Xterra and I will certainly be racing more in the future with a bit more focus. I really need to get my swim time down to be competitive at these shorter races but it will come.

The flat finsh
So a final assessment of my performance. Things could not have gone any smoother during the race, it feels good and shows winter work has paid off in this aspect, its even more important for longer races so all good. Without seeing the race splits its difficult to assess the 3 legs but I know I had a strong bike and a decent run, not enough to make the podium but 3mins down and 5mins to second is not a disaster, its important to remember the main goal is a faster race at Celtman and a good show at Oravaman so training is geared towards this. I am pretty sure last year I would have been a bit further back, I also know longer races are where I tend to shine, so its a good start to the season and always a good motivator to keep moving forward and bridge the gap. Slateman at the end of May will be telling.

Results link here

3 days off after the race and its now back to training, Blair has put a few sessions up on Training Peaks for me this week, no let up on the bike I see! Thanks as always to Zone3Wetsuits, TrecNutrition, LyonEquipment, CurranzHealth and ElevenSprocket for the support.


Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Xterra Malta and update

So its been a while since the last blog, fortunately training and racing have not been as inconsistent so its time for an update and a race report from the excellent Xterra Malta. The last 2 months racing have certainly had ups and downs but a slow, consistent upwards trend has been set. I've been out of my comfort zone, trying new things and I would be lying if I said doubts do not creep in from time to time and confidence ebbs and flows more than usual. It takes a bit of trust, faith and learning to put the ego away but I am certain its something worth going through. No one ever said the road to your goals and dreams would be easy.

Winter Racing Highlights and Lowlights

Cyclocross!



For the first time ever I have raced all through winter, trying out a couple of Cyclocross races, the amazing Durty Events Bowhill Winter Duathlon series and the High Terrain Events Duathlon series. All part of the plan worked out with Blair to turbo charge the engine. Usually I go into winter mileage and suffering mode, riding about in all weathers and running up and down hills. As I've said it brought me results the last few years in longer races but it was time to change. On paper results have been mediocre to bad, there have been plenty of mechanical issues, crashes and a few minor niggles along the way but man have I learnt a lot! I had a few epic crashes at Bowhill, a 3 inch slipped saddle at Kielder and failed to start Whinlater due to a minor niggle. The last two races have been different though, I feel sharper, certainly faster and the race prep is getting dialed into auto pilot. Best thing is I feel strong at the end of races and my recovery is fantastic. Racing conditions have varied from ice, snow, mud and a bit of sunshine and all the races have been short, from 40mins to 2hrs30 so easy to recover from and no effect on training consistently. Best thing is I feel strong at the end of races and my recovery is fantastic. So no long races yet but I am confident it has been worth it.


Bowhill Duathlon













Bowhill Duathlon























Onwards and upwards, fast forward to the last 4 weeks. The days are getting longer, the sun is shining a bit more (especially in Malta ;)) and things are starting to come together. In the last race of the series at Grizedale duathlon, a race finally came together without major incidents or poor form and I felt stronger on the bike than last year and put together a good run off the bike to finish 3rd, less than 3 mins to 2nd but 1st was a long way off. Good signs and a little confidence boost for the trip to Malta 2 weeks after. I certainly don't feel like I have cracked shorter races yet but I know I am making progress, my determination to stop myself making the excuse 'its a bit too short for me' remains undeterred. Looking back its actually been a pretty awesome learning experience over winter!

Grizedale in the sun!

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Extracts from the training diary

February already!! Time is flying this winter, it will soon be time for the race season to begin, starting with Xterra Malta 1st April and a block of races leading up to Celtman and Oravaman in June/July. Its a good time to look back on the training so far, its easy to forget and get panicky about fitness this time of year but looking back I have been making slow but consistent gains. No reason this should not continue!

Things have been a little different to last year so far, with less long training sessions at low intensity on the roads or in the mountains and more time on the turbo trainer with faster sessions running on the tarmac. Certainly quality over quantity, zero junk miles and a total change from last year. I've been making sacrifices on the things I love to reap the rewards in the Spring when its time to race. Sometimes its hard to stick to the plan and resist a long run in the snow for 15x1min max efforts on the tarmac but I just keep reminding myself of the steps toward my ambitions for the season and dreams long term. The Celtman race splits are pinned to the beam in the garage, next to the little Norseman picture, its much easier to hit and hold those intervals then.

LakeDistrict Images


I thought I would share a few sessions I have been doing over the last few months, kindly or mostly not too kindly set by Blair Davies for my enjoyment :)

Running-

A staple has been, 15x1min max efforts with 1min30 recovery. The first 5 usually feel ok, too much rest even but it soon starts to bite! Its simple but effective for increasing speed, cadence and maintaining form. I now travel further and hold pace over the efforts way better than when we started and my cadence has increased across all runs.


wansfelb47's 1:16 h Running Move #SuuntoRun: 21.1.2016 - 1:16 h 12.27 km, Running Move

Threshold hills, yes, I get to do this one on the fells, sort of...I use a good surface bridal way, about 10% Avg grade that undulates slightly. 3x5min threshold efforts with the jog back to start as recovery (5mins). I have really felt the benefits of increased cadence on these sessions, you can really run hard and fast on this gradient compared to the steep reps or long efforts I used last year.

wansfelb47's 1:04 h Running Move #SuuntoRun: 14.12.2015 - 1:04 h 10.91 km, Running Move

Cycling-

Turbo, turbo, turbo. Oh yes, Power Meter and Rotor Q Rings too! I have been using a Rotor InPower unit, its not skipped a beat, great price, some really interesting features and can be fitted to almost any bike with minimal fuss. If you need any more info give me a shout or better still contact the experts at VeloTech Services.

Lots of tempo work, Z3/4 with alternating cadence and resistance. Bottom line is I have put 22 Watts on my FTP a quite a few BPM on heart rate in about 10 weeks and we are still just getting going. Already ahead of my bests last season too. The turbo and structure works! Using a combo of HR, RPE and Power to guide the efforts.

So, 2x20min at Tempo, 100RPM aim for each block. Feeling way more comfortable at higher cadences now, in turn I feel that higher cadence transferring to brick sessions when I run off the bike.




3x30min tempo, but never sitting at a comfortable cadence, spin or grind, cadence or muscular endurance, this felt like hell this time round but its all getting easier! Slowly :)




Ok, I got to ride outside on this one, my old favorite the struggle (click link for the video:)), but forgot to get the 28 cassette back on. Ouch! 5x6mins at threshold, should have been fully seated but no chance at up to 20% and a 25!



So there we have a brief insight into a few key sessions. Any questions feel free to ask, just use the contact form! Train hard, make a few sacrifices and reap the rewards! :)

With all this training, we also need recovery and fueling, so huge thanks to TrecNutrition, Vitamin ShopCurraNZ Health and Stript Snacks for keeping me going and awesome support! Again, any questions just use the contact form.