Well, its almost March. The sun is out again today, last weekend was gorgeous for training by the sea, and the first race of the early or pre-triathlon season is coming up on Sunday. It’s starting to feel like spring already! We’ve had a fairly mild winter out by the Gower but I’ll still be glad to be coming out of it.

On Sunday I’ll be running in the Llanelli half-marathon which goes out and back, and then out and back the other way by the sea. It’s fairly flat, but a bit windy as a rule, and usually has a good field of proper runners from the South Wales area. I struggled with injured calves last year but this week I’m fit and strong so it’ll be good to see what I can do. My main aim will be linked to pacing though, and ensuring a negative split. I love racing and can’t wait until Sunday, but I need to temper my starting efforts.

Are any of you racing this week? forced backend upgrades

Mambo Screenshot
My hosting company upgraded the version of PHP on my servers to 5.3 last night. Unfortunately I use old versions of Mambo as the content management system for, and it doesn’t work properly with PHP 5.3. As I found out this morning.
So I have to backup my SQL databases, backup my server files, upgrade incrementally to a slightly less old version of Mambo, and then to a “new” version of Mambo, and cross my fingers that I don’t lose any data and that all the bits and pieces work nicely together. I have a feeling I’m going to come across new problems for components and mambos as I go.
When I’ve done all that and got those to work, then I have to repeat the exercise for a couple of other websites that I look after that have the same problem. No fun!
The positive spin on this is that I’ve been slowly working on upgrade plans for for a little while now. This is a push to upgrade the backend, and should help me jump to Joomla. If I keep the momentum going I might be able to implement the front end changes I’ve been scribbling too (i.e. change the way the website looks and behaves). With all this I can then add some extra features that users have been requesting for ages.

Build block fatigue

I’m in the third week of my first build block for 2012 & the fatigue is hitting me nicely. I’m ready & recovered for each hard session but afterwards I’m sleepy & knackered. Dropping the volume & increasing the intensity is tiring me out. Zzzzz.

Next week will be an easy week, and I’ve already seen gains over the last few weeks, but hopefully after a good handful of days of solid recovery my fitness will bounce on again.

I’ll keep an eye on my training stress numbers on & see how they move around. My TSS seems to be staying higher than last year after the base training phase, probably because I couldn’t run much in 2011.

Talking of recovery & being tired, I got home from work today & I couldn’t even lie on the sofa as Annabel had wee’d on it!


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One of the worst jobs to do on the bike is swapping the bottom bracket. Its not that bad a job, if it goes well. But it’s in an area of the bike that gets a lot of filth and a lot of stress. The result of that, after a year or two of pedalling at 1,000s miles a year, is parts that can be tough to shift.
The bottom bracket on my training bike has worn out (grindy, noisy at times, some side to side movement) so it was time to swap it out. A cheap job, and a lot easier nowadays with sealed units and all that. Yeah, right.
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My crank extractor stripped the threads out of my chainset instead of popping it off the axle. Uh oh. The other side came off fine. I worked around it and replaced the bottom bracket itself, with the chainset still attached to the old axle. Whatever I tried I could not get the chainset off the old bottom bracket axle. And I tried a club hammer. And I tried heating it up. And yes, lots of lube. It didn’t shift. Because of the tapered nature of the axle, if it shifts a tiny bit it should start to pop off. It wouldn’t budge. The only thing that I managed to successfully split apart was my thumb. With the hammer.
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I think this might end up being a King Arthur-like sword in the stone thing in my garage. Whoever can pull the crank from the axle will inherit my kingdom of boxes of second hand bike bits!
So, a cheap and simple job has changed to an expensive job. A new chainset, and as you can’t really get square taper fit cranks any more, new bottom bracket cups too. Great. After all these years you’d think I’d be getting used to this. I did kind of predict it, I guess.
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And sorry, I cheated with the photos. They’re from a previous BB swap (that went well). Except for the thumb injury.

Puncture, what puncture?

My front tyre was a bit soft on the bike yesterday but I didn’t realise how soft until I pumped the tyres up today. It looks like I had a hole that the Slime in the inner tube fixed automatically. Some of the green slime was oozing out through pores in the sidewall as I added pressure.

I must have had a puncture at some stage but I didn’t even notice. Its bloody wonderful not to have to stop and get all mucky changing tubes at this time of year. Good job, Slime!

Mental challenge

Preparing for an international race like the European Triathlon Championships (my first race overseas, other than Ireland) has been tougher than maybe I had considered. Physically it’s tough, but it’s fine. Mentally it’s tough, but along with the usual things like fear of failure, of injury, the focus on a single event, and putting yourself up against strong, fast (largely unknown) opposition, I’m finding that adding on the logistics of travelling with racing stuff and financing travel, hotel and other stuff to be a real challenge.

It’s not exactly a jolly. This is something I really want to do. I’ve got 2 seasons left as an athlete in the open or seniors category and then I enter the veteran ranks. Vet! Me?! So I really want to try and do something special this year and next, as long as those experiences are fun, challenging, and rewarding. If I fail it’s ok. If I didn’t try I’d be gutted.

But then again, it is a jolly. I’m prancing off to a sunny foreign land for a dip in the sea, some biking and running, and lounging around a pool. So the first rule was that I couldn’t go if I didn’t get support (i.e. sponsorship). I’m funding this trip with extra work building and looking after websites, and with the support of my sponsors that is offsetting my annual costs of racing and training (thanks guys!). In this way I’m hoping to minimise the financial effects on my family.

But the worries of paying for this expensive luxury at a time of rising costs and limited income growth are hard. If I wasn’t paying for all this we could…

So this is my unexpected challenge. I knew paying for it would be a challenge but I did the maths. The unexpected part is in struggling to keep a focus on the event itself. In trying to visualise the start of the race, the swim pace, the route, gliding through T1, hammering the bike, banging through T2 and smashing the run. Hey, I guess writing that sentence helped!

Visualise the race, plan for what you can plan for, expect the unexpected but don’t dwell on it. Trust in organisation and training. If it all goes wrong, enjoy the view. If it all goes well, grin like a madman.

New sponsor: GlucoTabs and GlucoJuice

Gluco Logos
Yep, I’ve got another sponsor to help me in 2012! I’ve been talking with these guys for a little while and was waiting for the logos before blogging about our new association.
BBI Healthcare have a base in South Wales nearby, in Pencoed. They make a couple of products right now that are pretty interesting to the endurance athlete: GlucoTabs and GlucoJuice. These are simple, glucose based products in a tablet form and a liquid form.
The GlucoTabs have 4g of glucose per tablet, which adds up to about 16 calories. There are 10 in a handy tube, and I find 3 tubes are a nice fit in a jersey pocket on the bike on long rides. For shorter rides I’ll usually just carry 1 tube. So that’s 160 calories per tube, or 40g glucose. They come in orange and berry flavours, and I’ve been favouring the orange. They’re pretty sweet, kind of too sweet at the start of a ride but I find I crave the sweetness after a couple of hours. On long rides I eat around a tube of GlucoTabs each hour after the first hour, which adds up about right for a rider of my weight. They’ve been enough for me for 4 and 5 hours on the bike, staving off the bonk no problem with nothing other than a bottle of water. GlucoTabs are great at this time of year as its cold so I don’t drink much. If I have a carbohydrate drink in the winter I have to drink too often (and stop to pee too often). The GlucoTabs are good to chew too, an important thing on the bike for me (I find I chew my bottles if I just have carbohydrate drinks) and they have that nice dissolving sensation like other dextrose tablets. If you’ve eaten other tablets you’ll know what I mean.
They act really quickly too. I was almost home and getting a bit tired on the climb up through Morriston after hours of riding and lots of hills. I snaffled a bunch of tablets when it flattened out a bit and felt better within minutes (and had another hill to drag myself up too).
I find I can open the GlucoTabs tubes fine with big gloves on (and with huge lobster mitts on too), but it helps to have broken the seal before you leave to cut out any faff while riding along. Another top tip is to keep the full tubes upright in your pocket and turn the empty ones upside down when you’ve finished them. It’s difficult to tell when a tube is full or empty – if they’re part full they rattle. So putting the empty ones upside down means I only pull out a tube with tablets in it.
The GlucoJuice I like for running. When cycling I like to chew, but when running I don’t want to chew. I like breathing. GlucoJuice is a sweet, watery bottle with 15g of glucose (i.e. of carbohydrate, or around 60 calories). Check out the website for recommended use , but I’ll usually carry 1 or 2 GlucoJuice bottles with me on longer runs. Unlike gels you don’t need to drink water with them, and they don’t get stuck in your teeth, so they’re really good to carry and simple too. I can stick 1 or 2 of them down the back of my shorts (as long as the waist is tied!) and there’s no discomfort and nothing extra to carry. They’re a bit warm when I get round to drinking them though…
Again, GlucoJuice is really fast acting. Some of this effect may be because of the link between carbohydrate in the mouth and the brain, but mainly this is a simple glucose drink that is rapidly digested.
The Gluco guys are looking at other products for us endurance athletes, and I’m really looking forward to finding out what they come up with and testing it out. I might be able to give you lot an inside look at what they do and how they do it.
So, specific examples. The last couple of weeks of my final block of base training had some long rides (for a triathlete!) One ride was a 100km flat ride at zone 2 effort all the way round, that turned into an ill prepared ride of strong winds, cold rain and misery. The weather forecast hadn’t predicted the rain so I wasn’t wearing the right kit. My heart rate and effort were ok (my power meter failed in the rain again) but average speed was well down thanks to the weather and the solo nature of the ride. Nonetheless, squash in my bottle and GlucoTabs in my back pocket got me round just fine.
The other weekend was a nice big, hilly ride taking in some of the classic sights of South Wales. I rode out up the Neath valley to the Rhigos, and climbed that and the Bwlch to get in around 1500m of climbing. A cracking ride on a cold day, only drinking a single bottle, but munching on GlucoTabs most of the way round to finish strongly and follow the ride with a short bricked run (after swigging a bottle of GlucoJuice in “transition”). Great stuff!
So that’s an introduction to GlucoTabs and GlucoJuice. Try it!

Base training done, speedy stuff next

That’s 98 days of training done in preparation for the 2012 triathlon season, and so far so good. I’ve been testing again this week, and results were a bit weird on the running track (maybe too much coffee…) but the final 200m was the fastest I’ve ever run in that test, my 1000m swim time is only a handful of seconds off my personal best time of last year, and I pushed up my functional threshold power figure on the bike again this morning to a new all time best value. It’s all looking good, but I’m feeling the strains of all this training and will have to be extra careful in the next blocks, as the intensity starts to go through the roof.
Training sessions for the next couple of months will be a mix of mostly very hard and very easy sessions. The risk here for me is in the running side of things again. I’m hoping to push on with speed work, but I don’t know if my legs can handle it yet. My main aim must be to stay healthy over pushing too hard. Easier said than done!
Take a look at how my training has balanced out as I’ve been able to run regularly again. Here’s the breakdown of time spent in each sport in the whole of my training and racing season for 2011:
Training Breakdown Jan To Sept 2011
And here’s the breakdown of time spent in each sport in the first 3 blocks (roughly 3 months) of training for the 2012 season:
Sports Duration At End Of Base Blocks
Very different!
Time spent in the gym (strength training) will ease off later this season, and you can see how run volume has pushed back bike volume a little. Let’s hope this continues!
For fun let’s compare this to my off season time:
Off-Season Multisport Training By Hours
I was really, really, really (no, really) tired at the beginning of this week and it took a few days to start to clear. I had the same issue at the same stage last year. Yowch, it’s awful, and highlights the need for proper, full recovery weeks. Today and yesterday I’ve been feeling better, and felt pretty good on the bike today.
Next block, bring it on! My first race will be at the end of the next block at the Llanelli half-marathon. That’ll be a test in itself!
Preparing to train