The year of biking and swimming

Training Breakdown Jan To Sept 2011
This year I wanted to focus on biking and swimming in training, as my running was ok and I could make the greatest gains by improving my bike leg in triathlon. I needed to improve my swimming to give myself a chance of catching the leaders on the bike.
Looking at the year so far it has really been bike focussed, and that shows up again in my race results. Last year my bike split positions were way behind my finishing positions, but this year they’re similar. I.e. if I finish 3rd overall, I also have the 2nd, 3rd or 4th fastest bike split of the day. Last year it may have been only the 10th or 12th fastest bike split and a finish of 5th or 6th overall.
Look at the hours spent in the pool though: 105hrs in the water vs only 66hrs of running. The running has really been inconsistent this year because of calf troubles (fingers crossed, touch wood, turn around 3 times & stroke a black cat: my calves seem to be getting stronger now) so that’s really kept the volume down. Within those 66hrs there really isn’t a lot of speed work either. Less time pounding pavement means more time pulling laps in the pool though.
I’ve knocked another 30 seconds off my pool 1000m time trial this year, and had a great swim at Windsor so my swimming is improving. It would improve faster if I swam with a club, or with a regular coach, but that’s not possible given the scheduling of the rest of my life. I’d still like to get in the pool more often though. 6 swims a week may be a target for a portion of next year. I can still probably improve my triathlon results more by getting faster running than swimming, but my swimming needs to keep improving.
Overall I should have knocked out around 700 hours of training this year by December 31st. Hopefully the run volume will have come up a fair bit by then, but only if I’m healthy.

Week 104: the neck

Head and neck
In anatomy today we jumped between different topics in neck anatomy, filling gaps, as it were. This was probably a tougher session than previous weeks, and it might take you a while to get through this week’s learning outcomes. Anatomy will take up a fair amount of your time this year, but it is an important foundation to lay.
We looked at the bones of the neck, and ticked off the manubrium, the 1st rib and the clavicles as marking the inferior border of the neck, and the mandible and inferior parts of the skull as the superior border of the neck. I pointed out the mastoid process, which is part of the temporal bone in the skull. You saw the sternocleidomastoid muscle that was attached here in another anatomy station. We also briefly looked at the hyoid bone, which many of the strap muscles of the neck attach to.
Bones Anatomylab Svw 048
Digging deep looking at illustrations, Google’s body browser (you’ll need Google’s Chrome browser installed for this to work) and plastic models we found the anterior scalene muscle. It has siblings in the middle and posterior scalene muscles, and runs from the transverse processes of the cervical vertebrae (C3 – C6) down to the first rib. This muscle will elevate the ribcage, or flex the neck to either side.
The reason we picked out the anterior scalene muscle is because of other key structures that pass near to it. The brachial plexus and the subclavian artery passes between the anterior and middle scalene muscles, superior to the 1st rib on their way out to the arm. The phrenic nerve lies on the anterior surface of the anterior scalene muscle and then runs down into the thorax. The carotid sheath, containing the internal jugular vein, the common carotid artery and the vagus nerve, runs anterior and medial to the anterior scalene muscle too.
Anterior Scalene Muscle On Model-1
You now have a landmark to relate these important structures to, so you will be able to describe where they run as your knowledge of them develops. This will also help you find them.

We briefly touched on the blood supply to the trachea and upper oesophagus, linking it to the thyroid gland and the thyroid vessels (particularly the inferior thyroid arteries and the plexus of thyroid veins).

Finally we continued on from last week, where we looked at the arch of the aorta and the descending aorta in relation to the lungs. From the aortic arch 3 major blood vessels branch. The first branch is the brachiocephalic trunk. “Brachium” refers to the arm, and “cephalic” refers to the head, so this artery will supply blood to the arm and the head. It crosses across to the right side of the thorax behind the manubrium, and splits into the right subclavian and right common carotid arteries. The next branch from the arch of the aorta is the left common carotid artery (which is in the appropriate spot to be able to ascend directly up the neck because the aorta has already arched over to the left), and the third branch is the left subclavian artery.
Branches Of The Arch Of The Aorta
Take a look at the torso models in the lab – some have the scalene muscles and blood vessels, some have the scalene muscles and nerves. Take a good look at how the arch of the aorta not only arches to the left, but also arches posteriorly to reach back to the posterior wall of the thorax. This is something that is often missed when just looking at in images in textbooks.
One of our models has a major flaw in the great vessels of the thorax and neck. if you didn’t find it on Monday have a good look at all of the torso models and see if you can find it.
Blood vessels of the neck

Bala Standard Distance Triathlon, 2011

Running at Bala

How windy was North Wales for the Bala weekend? (How windy was the whole UK?) It was a wee bit breezy up there (25-30mph), and it was a south-westerly, blowing the length of the south-westerly lying lake and its parallel bike and run courses. Sheeesh. If you can’t race in the wind your race was over before it started.
I’d sorted my head out in the week before for the expected weather and had reconnoitred the wind on the bike course to help with wheel choices and pacing strategy. Camping the night before the wind hadn’t seemed too bad, although it was very wet. The lake looked ok too. A bit choppy, but nothing too nasty.
Before the start my heart rate was unusually low. It’s usually a bit elevated as I’m chomping to get into the water and my body is ready for 2 hours of hard work, so maybe I wasn’t too excited about the weather. It was bright though. Just windy with some showers expected to come up the valley.
I got in the water lateish to avoid getting too chilled. With the horn the plan was to go out fast & get on some fast feet for a quick swim, but when we charged off it was clear that it was more of a survival swim than a nice, clean, techniquey swim. I was finding feet and shoulders, but we were all getting so bashed by the waves that we were getting pushed off line and any rhythm was broken after 5 or 6 strokes. Rubbish. Waves were hitting in pairs, so you’d miss a breath or half grab one as you got hit by one wave, and then get smashed by the next one as you were gasping. Cracking stuff. It was a long way out in the headwind to the turn buoy. Kim said that at least one kayak capsized and swimmers were pulling out in the first 100m. Not a bad call. The one word in my head for the whole swim was, “brutal”.
At the far buoy we turned 90 degrees to the wind and at last had some respite, but when we turned back to shore the tailwind was as bad as the headwind. Pairs of waves would lift you, dump you, and then catch you again. I got into some sort of rhythm coming back but it wasn’t quick and it wasn’t pretty. I was content that everyone else was suffering too (although I’m damned impressed by the leaders who charged through the 1500m in 20 minutes).

Out of the water

The marshals at the shore were great in giving us a hand out as we were a bit wobbly, and grabbing our wetsuit zip pulls out for us. I was very happy to get out of the water and to run into transition, but the swim was strangely satisfying. It was challenging mentally and physically, I suppose.
I ran past my bike (lots of bikes) and had a bit of a wander back until I found it. I’d stuck the disk and the deep front wheel on it and was glad it hadn’t blow away. Wetsuit off, lid on, grab the bike, run out and cleanly mounted, getting up to speed without putting my feet in my shoes until I hit a little downslope as I knew my hands would be cold. That was pretty good – I haven’t raced since the beginning of July and hadn’t practiced T1 because of the poor weather so I seem to have got that wired now.
Legs were a bit chilly and as they warmed up it became easier to feel the pace. The wheel set was the right choice for me, despite warnings and an almost ban of disk wheels because of the wind. As we were blasting out into a direct headwind and much of the road is sheltered by trees and walls the bike handled fine. The road is closed, so there are no gusts from traffic, and in the top 20 we were well spaced out so we were unlikely to get blown into one another. The headwind meant that being able to run a disk and deep front were even more important to aerodynamics. It got a little boisterous on more open sections, but no worse than I’m used to in training, and the only time I came out of the aero position was on a couple of overtakes on downhill bends just to be safe, and on a couple of climbs. Other than that my upper body was relaxed and I was comfortable.
I think it took me around 33 minutes to get to the turnaround point, and then 27 minutes to get back. Windy! Pacing seemed good, I picked up more places coming back, and my legs felt dead for the last drag but I pushed them over the top. A wet and windy day in Wales, and I enjoyed the bike leg a lot. Fun! The weather must be getting into my bones.

James Manson coming into T2

It was wet going into T2 and great marshalling looked after us and made sure we went in safely. Clean and out with a big grin on my face for some reason, the start to the run was tough as ever and the first couple of miles were slow into the wind. Glad to see the big tree that was the turn point I pushed the suffering up to max and made note of placings and competitors as we passed each other on the out and back course with cheery waves to other Cardiff Triathletes. As wet and windy as it was, I still poured a cup of water over my head & down my back at the aid station as I was so hot.
Push, push, push, on the limit and counting down the mile markers it was an awesome feeling to see the crowd at the turn to the finish by the lake. A big gap ahead and a big gap behind meant I could ease up a little around the final short muddy loop to the finish line. I found 2 guys that had passed me on the run and gave them both a slap and congratulated them on their excellent running. We’d all done well.
19th place for me meant a tidy improvement over last year. The swim was, funnily enough, slower, the bike was faster by 46 seconds even with the wind, and the run was faster too, if only by 4 seconds. That made me very happy as my running hasn’t been as consistent as I’d like this year.
Given the conditions the experience of the organisers and the marshals at the race was important. They allowed us to use our experience to choose the right kit for the weather and our abilities, and they didn’t shorten the swim but gave maximum support and focused on safety. I guess it would have been easier for them and less scary to have cut the race down, so thanks to them for sticking with it.
Mentally I performed better than last year, and physically I did OK too. I’m keen to come back for another crack next year. I’ll keep working to keep moving up.
The following week I was battered. I managed a 15 minute swim, but was knackered after 10 minutes, and my body didn’t really like jogging until the following Sunday. Pootling to work and back on the fixie was as much cycling as I was up for. Bala was the final peak for the year, so now I’m taking it easy, eating junk food, putting on weight and playing games. I’m sick of chocolate already, but my addiction to Coca Cola may well have returned.
On a related note, I laid down my tenner with the BTF before Bala to make myself eligible to qualify for the European Triathlon Championships next year, and qualify I did. My placing at Bala means that I can race as a GB age grouper in Israel in April 2012, which sounds like fun. I could bloody do with some sunny racing.
So my winter challenge will be to work out how the hell I can fund the travel to an international race.
Bala Tri 2011 photo gallery (Flickr)
Bala Triathlon results 2011

Bala Triathlon results 2010

Back from a windy Bala

Bala Standard Triathlon 2011
Wow, North Wales was windy! I can’t really explain why but I loved Sunday’s race at the Bala standard distance triathlon. It was crazy windy, and blowing the length of the lake making the swim brutal, but I had a big grin on my face for much of the run and the bike. Lots and lots of suffering to end the season. My run was a teensy bit faster than last year – surprising given the little running I’ve done this year, the injuries and the wind. Swim was slow (amazed at the top guys covering 1500m in those conditions in 20 minutes) and bike was great.
I’ll write up a report when I get a chance, but I’m chuffed to have got inside the top 20 with 19th place overall and what looks like 14th in the male senior category (there were some very fast juniors out there)!
So that’s it. My triathlon season is over. I’m looking forward to easing into some easy autumnal running for the next 6 weeks now.
Results here:
Stuweb – results Bala Standard Distance Triathlon 2011

Late edition – Pembrokeshire Coast Triathlon 2011

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As I’m coming up to my final A race of the year (and probably final triathlon of 2011) I thought I’d better try to write up what I remember of the last race I did back in the first weekend in July. The only race this year that wasn’t wet and windy.
The forecast for the weekend was great, and Broad Haven is a lovely place so we thought we’d take the kids camping for race weekend. The race was on Saturday morning, fairly early, so we drove up Friday evening and stayed through until Sunday. Nice. I’m not sure camping and racing go together very well. I’m not sure camping with kids and racing go together well at all, but it was good fun and the kids loved it.
I didn’t get a lot of sleep sharing a tent with Jack so we were up in plenty of time for breakfast and to get down to the beach. I’d forgotten my waterbottles and High5, so had to improvise with a bottle Kim had with some squash in it, and a load of tape to thicken it up and try to get it to stay in my horizontal bottle cage. Racking my bike I found the bottle was dripping all over my new Hed 90 carbon front wheel (first race with carbon wheels!) so had to leave it standing on my towel. An extra step in T1 to trip me up. It was going to be a hot day though, so better half a bottle than nowt.
Everyone except us front guys toeing the waterline seemed to be caught out by the starting horn. It was a beach start, and living near the sea this is something I practice, but I still managed to wash my goggles off my face dolphining through the shallow water. I got them back on, still moving forward so no biggy.
The water was spectacularly clear, and swimming out to the first turn buoy we could see all the way to the sandy bottom way below us at high tide. I got on some good feet and picked up a good draft for almost the entire swim. This was probably the best swim I’ve had, with a flat sea, on the toes and hips of fast swimmers and with a gorgeous view under the water. We could have done with a few fish but I guess they were keeping out of our way. On the way back the group I was with started to aim away from the final turn buoy and I decided to take the direct line alone rather than stay with the draft as I was feeling good. This wasn’t a great idea as I didn’t make up any places but had to raise my effort.
Round the buoy and kicking hard for the shore I left the water in the group, well up in the field (for my swimming ability). T1 was fine, with the extra step of squidging the bottle into the cage on my tri bars. I spent most of the bike leg pushing the bottle back in as it kept trying to jump forward and out of the cage.
The bike route is a hilly one. I like the hills and the bike felt good, and I picked up places one by one. I traded places with a guy doing the bike leg for a relay team, but on everyone else except the leading two I think I made up time here. The biking is getting better (the carbon probably helped) and should continue to improve over the next few years. I think I pushed quite hard in the later parts of the bike leg, trying to catch the guy up front, but I wasn’t really making any inroads. I probably had to ride well to keep the gap consistent.
Glad to see the bend that signalled the descent to the beach I sorted myself out but dumped the chain bouncing into T2 so carried the bike & ran through. I missed my row though (I’d remembered that if I ran to the bins I’d gone too far) skipped back and found my stuff. Shoes on and off down the beach.
It’s great to run the length of a beach on race day, under the sun and blue sky with a crowd. It’s a great start to the run of this event, but at the end of the beach you’re out on the Pembrokeshire coastal path – a narrow, steepish, off road climb that twists a little with gates and stiles (mostly cleared or removed for the race). A little bit of dodgy route finding (I had a chat with the race organiser later about this) thanks to my memory of the race route map (I like maps – if the race has a route map it usually goes into my brain) and I got to the top and the road section. There’s a water station here and I called for one for my head and one for my mouth. Marvellous.
By the road I’d caught up with the runner of the relay team and the guy in second place, but he pushed again on the road and dropped me. The run up the hill was tough, and I’d found a pace on the road I could suffer but couldn’t push harder. With time my right calf started to shout out some nasty pain low down, unlike the previous calf pain and tightening I’d had this season. I was racing for 2nd or 3rd place by this stage so the pain was ignored. Push, push, push, and I overtook the guy and found a rhythm. I’m good at running downhill so I wanted to be in front so I could push away on the little drops.
We were both caught by a guy in blue who flew past us with some awesome running and disappeared off into the distance. OK. Racing for 3rd now. 3rd is good. I want 3rd. I was really, really suffering now. My running was not great, and my right calf was hobbling me but we all love a good suffer, eh?
A sign saying, “water ahead” cheered me up, but when we got to the water station there was no-one there yet! Onward and upward. I was pulling away by now I think, and was running to the side of the road with the most shade. Summer in Wales!
I took advantage of the steep dip, pushed, and lengthened my stride (freaking ow!), remembering the short steep upslope before the final run down to the beach. Again I stretched it out, leaning forward in the run down to the beach. I turned at the wrong turn (oops, hadn’t recce’d that), asked the marshal which way to go, turned back the way I’d come, continued running to the proper end of the beach, and then dropped down to the sand. With that turn I could see I had a fair gap (thank crap – no sprint finish) and ran the first half of the beach at 10k pace and then eased up a tad for the finish. Woo! Good to finish. 3rd overall and 2nd in the open or senior category as the runner that had overtaken me was in the vet category. Oliver Simon schooled us yet again in how it’s supposed to be done. He also showed us how good he is by shelling out for his pro license and finishing 5th at Ironman UK later this year. Awesome stuff.
Thanks to TriExercise for supporting the event and providing some top prizes. We (Cardiff Tri) missed out on the team prize, beaten by the Pembrokeshire Tri club on time.
I hobbled for the next couple of days, having ripped my right flexor hallucis longus muscle to bits, as you may have read about in this blog. He-who-looks-after-my-legs twisted his knee that week, tearing part of his meniscus that got repaired by surgery (!) so I didn’t get any treatment for a couple of weeks. 9-and-a-half weeks (ooer) later I’m still rehabilitating the damn thing. It’s pretty good now, but it took a long time. I skipped all the other races I’d planned this summer partly because of that, but mostly because of serious family illness.
Off to Bala this weekend for the standard distance race.
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Normally the taper week before a big race is a happy week. Ok, the second A race at the end of the season can be tougher because you’re tired, you’ve had enough, and you’ve either hit your goals already this season or you’ve missed them, putting more pressure on yourself for this final race.

This week the weather is hitting hard. Is this the leftovers of the hurricane spinning out across the Atlantic? Heavy rain, and strong, gusty, arsey winds. Instead of looking forward to tomorrow morning’s taper reps brick I’m dreading fighting the bitchy headwind out west in my warm up, getting soaked on the way back & pulling off sopping wet kit for the run.

The weekend’s race is now looking windy, gusty & showery.

Time to sort my head out.

Everyone will have the same conditions (ish – multiple waves). If its super windy I’ll dump the deep front wheel & stick an alloy on. I have some spare race tyres so I can sort those before I go. Rear disk should be fine. I’ve got donkey’s years of biking behind me so I’m comfy bouncing off the wind on the bike, even in an aero tuck. No bother. If it gets cold I’ll just have to pedal harder to get warmer, eh?

Swimming open water in the wind & rain is just fun. I live in Wales. I love a bit of chop.

By the time I hit the run I’ll be glad to get warm. I’m experienced at running on numb feet & getting run shoes on with frozen hands & feet. Run time is getting warm time. Hammer time.

I’ve camped in all conditions so I’ve no fears there either. I’ve spent tons of time in tents wild & in campsites, in gale force winds & days of rain, waiting for the crags to clear. Wet & windy the day before the race would be fine – time to chill in my down sleeping bag with a good book & a constant supply of hot tea. Resting up before a big effort on Sunday.

Rain? Wind? Bring it!

Autumn term, 2011

Smart board
Summer is over, students are back, and they’re looking a lot more eager and fresh faced than I feel. I’m starting year 2 off with the otic ganglion this afternoon, so that should break them down a little (sorry guys)!
With the start of teaching I’m hitting the end of training. I’m in a taper week before Bala triathlon, and after that I’ll do just a little of what I feel like, plus some running as I’ve entered the Swansea Bay 10k at the end of September as a little tester.
I hope the wind & rain blows through this week before the weekend. I’d really like a good, clean, dryish blast up at Bala on Sunday. Keeping my tent on the ground would be a bonus too.
Anything to get distracted. Righto, back to head and neck anatomy. If I haven’t already blogged it in the past you may get to read all about it later in the week.