Gloucester Tri. Finished this one!

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Triathlon number 2 of the season went a little better than number 1. Not great, but better.

We had another windy morning, but the rain held off for a day & I had a late start time at 11:41. Very sociable. I screwed up the swim again, which is unusual for a 400m pool swim. This race starts off swimmers every 30 seconds in different lanes, and all are tied to a master time keeper’s clock so you have to go when the man says “go”. Swimmers in each lane have different coloured swim caps so the lap counter can keep track of us all (and a damned good job they did too). Unfortunately the swimmers before me were slow, probably slower than predicted, and I only had seconds to get the discarded swim cap on, then my goggles & get in the water. So in my first 25m my goggles filled with water & I had to overtake 2 swimmers (1 already overtaking the other) & nail the flip turn blind. Great!

The next 200m was spent trying to decide whether to rip my goggles off or sort them out, while vaguely thrashing at where I thought the wall was at tumble turns. My main worry was seeing the lap counter’s “2 laps to go” board so I elected to pause at the shallow end & sort my goggles. Arse. I got chicked in the swim too, & I bet she was swimming beautifully. I don’t know. I couldn’t see a thing for most of my swim. 400m in more than 6 minutes in a 25m pool. Rubbish.

Transition was a lot better this week. Not super fast but clean. The bike was a fight trying to balance effort on a 2 lap course through drags, tailwinds, a long downhill headwind section and a steeper, short climb. I think I got it about right though, trading places on the bike with the eventual winner, only losing 15 seconds to him here and making gains on most other rivals, again on standard road wheels. It hurt.

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T2 was fine, and swapping shoes and using toe covers on the bike made a big difference over last week. Feet were warm and my run shoes went on easily. It seems I’ve got bigger over the winter though and my race top is now too tight. So tight that it was restricting my breathing for the first lap of the run. My legs didn’t feel too bad but my chest was awful. My breathing even got noisy, freaking out other runners that I caught. I barely managed 6 min/mile pace over the 5.7km & the leaders left me standing. Out of the wind on lap 2 movement felt good though, so maybe there’s something there.

Result: 4th overall and I was beaten by 2 vets so I got 2nd place in the open category, which is nice. The big thing for me was that 2nd overall was only 19 seconds faster than me. The winner was 2 and a half minutes clear though. Next year?
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TTG Gloucester Triathlon tomorrow

Another early season race tomorrow, & it’s another local one but local to where I grew up. The new bike course goes past my mum & dad’s house twice & the pool & run course are only a little way down the road. Close enough for me to ride to as I’m staying with them this weekend.

After the fairly disastrous first triathlon of the year last weekend I’m very relaxed for this one. My legs seem to have some form already, I’m not so worried about my calves, and I did well here last year. The weather is looking very windy again, so I’ll check out the bike course this afternoon to feel which way it’s blowing.

It also has a very relaxed start time. The race as a whole kicks off at 9am(!) and I’m not out until 10.41:30. Ish. I won’t need a wetsuit for this swim either. It’s indoors.


TTG Gloucester Triathlon

Llanelli Waterside Triathlon 2011. Oops.



This race didn’t really go as planned. For me or for the organisers.

It was a super windy morning, and as the name of the race suggests, it’s right by the sea so it gets all the wind. Luckily the swim isn’t in the sea, but in the north dock. Even that had a bit of chop in it! The bike was on a 17mile out and back route which was going to get hit by a 25mph head/cross wind on the way out, with gusts of up to 45mph. It was going to be more fun coming back. The run was 2 laps on the path right by the sea, so no hiding from the wind there at all. A tough race in store for 288 boys & girls, with some quality competitors in the mix by all accounts. I think the strong winds probably worked in my favour, despite my little legs. Mentally I’m fine in the wind these days, and the gusty wind meant that no-one was using really deep front wheels, something I haven’t been able to afford. A disk on the back would have been fun though.

Wetsuits weren’t compulsory & as it was a 500m swim (I measured it closer to 600m on Google Earth later) I didn’t bother. 286 people wore wetsuits. 2 didn’t. Hmm. The swim was fine sans neoprene, but all my old bad habits seemed to come flooding back under race pressure. I swam straight though, so that’s an improvement on last year. I swam ok but not great & was out 15th in my wave & was in the mid to low 20s overall.

The cold water suggested I might be too skinny for skinny/Lycra dipping when I fumbled to get my race belt on with cold fingers. Then trying to get on my bike was a disaster. A cold brain and legs and numb feet made it impossible to get my feet on top of my shoes (clipped into my pedals). The shoes span & span. I even got off the bike & remounted. At least I didn’t fall on my arse or take anyone else out. Any gains I’d made in the swim disappeared.

Eventually I got going, struggled with cold fingers to get my feet inside my shoes & not get blown off & started pedalling. My legs felt weird, like I was above my lactate threshold effort but my heart rate was low. Arse. I was cold. I took place after place, but couldn’t find my pace. When I got overtaken by a couple of club mates I dropped back, but then the pace felt way too easy. Bugger this. I just turned it on, took those places back & hammered the wind out to the Kidwelly roundabout, & then hammered it back again. My heart rate got to somewhere more sensible & my legs started to feel looser & less lactatey. The water from the dock wasn’t making my stomach feel too good but it stayed in except for the odd docky belch. I got held up by a few cars & had to slow for a roundabout but nothing major happened.

Back into transition & my feet were even colder than when I got out of the water (toe covers got ordered that day). I got off the bike ok (whoop!), racked it, lid & glasses off on automatic, but I struggled to get my right, numb, block of ice into it’s running shoe. The toes catch on the bits of elastic holding the tongue in place. I broke the heel loop forcing my foot in. I even had to sit down to get the left foot in. I’m not racing in those again (I ordered more elastic laces for other shoes that day too).



Wow, running a fast 5km at the end of a triathlon hurts. I forgot how much it hurts. Legs were moving well though, calves were fine, but my chest was straining. Nothing asthmatic, just musculoskeletal. The monster headwind didn’t help. Apparently I was pushing away from those behind, so although my run fitness is not where it should be right now (my fault, stupid boy) maybe my improved economy is getting me through.

It was weird that no runners were running the other way, back to me.

At the dragon roundabout turnaround the marshalls waved me on, forwards. “Aren’t we looping back here?”

“No, that way.”

Ok, they must have changed the route during the race. Maybe it was too windy for the planned loops.

Still no-one was coming back though. I kept pushing & kept picking up places, really looking forward to turning & getting the tailwind. Eventually I could see runners coming back & I wanted to see how far ahead the leaders in my wave were. Those coming back waved to us though. “There’s no turnaround! We’ve gone the wrong way! Turn back!”


288 runners had been sent through the turnaround, instead of back on the correct route. And there were no more marshals after that turnaround, so people kept running. And running. And running. Until they hit Burry Port & had clearly run a lot further than 5km already. Uh-oh.

So I turned back, we all eased up. We chatted. We had the tailwind but weren’t appreciating it. In the lead group we crossed the finish line together, glum and sour faced. The organisers didn’t look too happy either. It was a quiet finish to a race.

I nipped off home as clearly the race was void & Kim had a special karate training course to get to. I’d been pretty psyched for this race, and not just because it was the first race of the season. I wasn’t angry, just disappointed, & sore. I was as disappointed in myself as in the race.

This was a local race, run and marshalled by volunteers. These things happen. If it was a huge profit-making firm I would have been more pissed off, but it was just a local race that failed. I still got a lot out of it: I now appreciate the advantages a wetsuit gives you in the bike, not just in the swim; don’t panic when things go wrong (bike mounting, cold legs); my biking has improved a lot as I had the 6th fastest bike split; triathlon hurts; I can still do it; I’ve still got a lot of work to do.

Ugh. Meh. TTG Gloucester Triathlon next week.

Triathlon no. 1, 2011

I’m racing my first triathlon of the 2011 season tomorrow morning at Llanelli. It’s a sprint distance race with a short open water swim that I entered for fun, because it’s local, as a test, and as preparation for Windsor next month. The funny thing is how different this feels to last year.

Last year was my first triathlon season, and I broke my foot. Everything was new, I didn’t feel that I could call myself a “triathlete” yet, and didn’t expect much of myself so was very pleased with my results. As the good results came in I probably expected more of myself, but I was still very successful in meeting my goals. This year I expect to be faster than last year. That’s tough, but makes sense physiologically. Right now I should be able to get faster every year, and if I don’t I need to reconsider my training methods. I got used to the good results last year and expect to be able to get better results this year. This makes me put pressure on myself, which is usually a good thing; I perform better under pressure. Will it take some of the fun out of it though?

But what is a good result? How do I gauge if I performed well? How do others perceive my performance? (Is that relevant or important?)

The finishing placing overall and within my age group is at the core of racing, so that’s important, but it’s dependant on the size of the field and the quality of the field. I can’t control anybody else’s race other than my own. But racing for a place is a good motivator for me, so it’s often one of my goals for any particular event. I like to compare my performance with that of others more than I like to compare my own performance between different races or seasons. That’s competition. It is really difficult to predict where you might finish though.

A good swim time, bike time or run time may also be a good result in itself. Last year I had run goals in races and this year I have bike goals, as my focus on improvement has shifted to that discipline. I’m also very interested to see how my swimming will perform tomorrow as I’ve spent a lot more time swimming than running this year. So a good bike result or a good swim result would be good for me too.

I try to race with a positive attitude, but this may be harder to keep hold of this year as I expect so much of myself. Setting overall time goals can also give good results and eliminates concerns about the rest of the competition. Triathlon is a time trial after the swim, so this is a sensible target result to go after. Looking at the results sheets for previous years can help set time goals, but you need to bear in mind changing conditions (it’s going to be very windy tomorrow) and alterations to the course. Setting time targets has links with running races, where runners typically go for time targets and personal best times over placings. It’s harder to have a triathlon PB though, as courses vary so much in style and distance. Nonetheless, racing with a target time in your head can really help you push hard. If you meet that time goal but miss the overall placing goal you still feel good. It suggests you raced as well as you could, and maybe next year you’ll beat those faster guys.

I haven’t really set my targets for tomorrow’s race yet. I have some ideas but they’re a little woolly. I may just settle back into the simple, old, standard target: GO FAST.

I hate cyclepaths. Sometimes.

I use cyclepaths every day when I ride to work, I support & regularly donate cash to Sustrans, the awesome organisation that has created thousands of miles of cyclepath in the UK and continues to drive new paths across the country, and I am cheered whenever I see one of those little blue and white cycle signs with the number of the path on it. But sometimes they cause me problems.
When I’m riding to work I pootle along easily, waving to other cyclists, calling out “good morning” to the walkers and happily slowing to avoid errant dogs. I listen to the birds, I note the new flowers and how the trees are changing. I use a cycle path for 99% of the distance, and since I moved and have been able to use the route 4 cyclepath I’ve cut my car collision rate from 1/year to 0/year (and yes, every collision was the fault of the car driver, not mine).
When I’m training on the bike I need to be able to put out a certain amount of power for a certain amount of time. If riding at an easy to steady pace this means I need to consistently travel at around 30kph on flat roads. If I’m riding harder I need to go faster. I can’t do this on cyclepaths. They’re too narrow, too bumpy, and they have dogs and walkers on them too. I need to use the roads when I train. I plan my training routes and times to avoid traffic as much as possible. It’s more pleasant for me, and I avoid holding people up. I’m also likely to live longer and to be able to train more consistently by avoiding collisions with vehicles.
So it pisses me off when I’m training and for the very short sections of my rides when I’m near a cyclepath a car driver that has taken an extra 5 seconds of their journey to overtake me then shouts at me through an open window to “get on the cyclepath!” (By the way, half the time cyclists can’t even hear whatever the hell people in cars are shouting).
It’s incredibly rude to assume you know better than someone else and to then shout at them giving no chance at reply or recourse other than the middle finger. I could explain as above why I’m on the road. I could tell you that I really try to stay out of your way, but for this 200m of road where there is a cyclepath I really need to stay on the road. I could argue that there is currently no legislation that says a cyclist should use a cyclepath rather than the road. I could describe the dangers of my hurtling along a narrow path at 20mph and the risk to pedestrians, animals and me. I could complain about how long it takes to cross road junctions using cyclepath traffic light controlled crossings that give priority to vehicles over cyclists and pedestrians. I could argue that I really haven’t slowed you down by much, and ask you to respect other road users and consider that their use of the road is as important as yours. I could remind you that we’re all on a journey and the aim is to get there safely, not quickly. I could be condescending and advise you to get your lazy arse out of bed earlier tomorrow so that you’re not rushing to work late.
But I don’t get a chance, unless I catch you at the lights. And then you tend to have your windows raised up all of a sudden, and you are very keen to speed away as soon as the lights change.

Garmin Forerunner 610. It’s getting there.

Look at this thing. It’s almost the perfect triathlon watch. Slim(ish), GPS based speed and route logging stuff, heart rate monitoring, cadence & speed sensors for the bike, touch screen, stick all your intervals on it, a bit of navigation, and Ant+. It’s almost great for triathlon.
All Garmin need to do for me is:
– make it properly waterproof so I can swim with it
– while you’re at it license some tech so it’ll record my pace and stroke rate in the pool like the PoolMate gizmo
– make it pick up my power output from whichever Ant+ power meter I’ve got on my bike
– that thing that Polar used to do so you could mark a lap when you brought the watch to your chest was cool (great for marking transitions)
– keep the breadcrumb navigation thingy I have on my 305 (courses). It’s great for those long rides with lots of lanes.
– does it do the elevation graphs with the virtual partner so I can see when this monstrous hill is going to end?
Great, thanks!

Moti Gower Duathlon 2011

Gower Duathlon, Rhossili 2011
My excitement building up to the first multisport race of the season was fairly well deserved. It was a windy, early start on the western tip of the Gower peninsula at Rhossili, but the forecast rain didn’t really bother anyone too much. The wind had died down a touch from the projected 20mph+ too.
Warming up my right calf was immediately painful, which wasn’t a great start, and I didn’t give the time to a thorough warm up that I’d meant to (it was a 5.30am alarm & 6am get out of the house, and I still didn’t have time for a proper warm up). I started the race steadily at the back of the pack, and breezed through it on the downhill sections. There was a lot of pain in the calf in the first km and I thought my race was going to finish before completing the first lap. By the time we’d followed the gravel path and sheep-trimmed grass out to the hut on the point muscles were softening, and the climb back up to the start area went ok. Great! I settled into a steady tempo pace for the 4 laps, picking up places and increasing gaps with each downhill section. I think I was in 6th position by the time I got to the bike.
I really hadn’t thought that I’d make it to the bike, so I was pretty chuffed and had to remind myself on the run what to do in transtion. On the bike my calves would be ok, and my sole aim for this race was to bike faster than last year, no matter what the conditions were like (last year they were beautiful, cold, sunny and fast). I also recorded the quickest transition times for T1 and T2, so I did something right!
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I had a cracking start out on the bike with feet on tops of shoes until it flattened out, and picked up a couple of places right at the start. I pushed the pace hard most of the way round, aiming to find my limit and my optimal pace over 40ishkm for future races this year. I probably pushed a bit hard in the first half, and the climb and descent over Cefn Bryn were both nice and tough into the strong ESE head/cross wind. I got myself into second place on the road a little after Cefn Bryn and probably eased up a bit too much when I turned back with the tailwind. I had a few issues with gear indexing (even though I’d adjusted & tested it all the day before) and covered my gear levers in gel when I squeezed the packet too hard, but nothing that caused any major problems.
In 2010 my legs died coming up the last climb out of the Three Cliffs valley as I hadn’t been out of plaster long, and this year I was strong but got caught a little after the top by a fella with big legs. Fair enough. Pushing my effort I got caught again a little before we got back to transition, and my calves were beginning to cramp. Worried that when I got my running shoes on those troublesome calf muscles would fail and leave me only able to hobble I gave them a little stretch on the downhill sections (there ain’t a lot of flat on this bike course). Bizarrely when I blasted through T2 I had no calf tightness at all. The final run was not fast, but my calves were working pretty well. Great! The lack of running this year showed though & I couldn’t catch the lad in front, and I was caught and overtaken by the fella in 5th place as he moved through all of us to get 2nd by the time he hit the finishing line. Awesome running!
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The final run takes you around the tops of the cliffs to Fall Bay, which is lovely if you’re not just looking at your feet, rocks and grass the whole time. There are some steep sections that I was a little precious on, not wanting to stretch, strain or tear anything given my recent ‘injuries’. Cramp in my quads, hamstrings and calves (but the good cramp in the calves, not the tetanic, muscle killing, massive medial gastrocnemius pain I’d been getting recently) and a good gap behind of some minutes to 6th place meant I could ease a little to the finish line. 5th place and almost 2 minutes quicker than last year, on a windy, windy day. I’ll take that.
So I met my aim of biking faster than 2010, but only by 30 seconds. With the conditions of the day I’m happy with that. My running was actually quite good, considering. I finished too, which I really wasn’t expecting, so 5th place is a good spot. There were some fast boys out, and Oliver Simon squarely schooled us in how it’s supposed to be done, going ahead in the run and then off into the distance on the bike. I don’t think I even saw him coming back on the 2nd run and he won by 5 minutes. In comparison there was only 1 minute and 10 seconds between 2nd place and 5th, after 2:12 of racing. Nice!
Thanks to Tri & Enter and DB Max for a good morning out. It was much, much pain this year.
DB Max Moti Gower Duathlon 2011 results:

Thalamus: Netter’s Concise Neuroanatomy

Elsevier have a sample chapter of Netter’s Concise Neuroanatomy available for the thalamus, which I talked about today. It’s very nice, with the excellent illustrations that we’re used to and much of the relevant information about the thalamic nuclei and their motor, sensory and limbic system links summarised in tables.
Have a look at the sample chapter here.

Testing times

Rhossili beach, Gower
Tomorrow is the first multisport race of the season for me, and will be quickly followed by another two this month. They’re training races, getting me prepared for the summer, but they’re also great fun and it’s fairly important to perform well in them. Tomorrow starts early with the Gower Duathlon, running from one of the greatest scenic views in the world at Rhossili on the Gower. The weather is predicted to be windy with heavy rain showers, which is a little more typical of the area than the sunshine we’ve been having recently.
My goals for the race are simple, but the real test will be in my calves. Will my calf muscles survive the first 10km without locking up? Will I get to the bike? When do I stop if they start to tighten? Right now they’re feeling good. Rest from running, work from my sports therapist, foam roller work, and specific stretches hitting the problematic muscles have all helped them recover well. They’re a bit tight after a hard set in the pool this afternoon so I’ll work on them again tonight, and then again lightly in the morning before driving to the start. No-one knows if they’ll cope with the pressure of the terrain and the speed, but in the past they’ve been better running fast than running slow. In the past they’ve also locked up without warning.
So it’s a test. Not of endurance, not of finishing or placing, but of muscle repair in time for the new season. Wish me luck.

Getting ready for the weekend


A fun part of racing (for me) is getting all my crap together, physically & mentally. I’m digging kit out that was put away at the end of last year, checking it over, tweaking it all, putting new tyres on and so on.


Thinking about all this means you can’t stress about work (we’ve started redrafting the Embryology at a Glance manuscript for it’s final, print version)!