Mumbles Duathlon 2012

Wow, what a morning. What a day. What a weekend! The Mumbles Duathlon is a short, interesting race in a fantastic location, in my back yard and right on my training grounds. The start and finish is at Knab Rock in Mumbles, and the weather (even at 6 in the morning) was fantastic. Blue sky, morning sun, high tide. Great!

There are long and short races, and both start with a 5km flat run by the sea, out and back. The bike follows the sea towards Swansea and then kicks up a hill through Bishopston, kicks through a dip at Kittle, and then out towards Pennard. The short race turns around here and heads back to Mumbles, and the long course takes a right turn out to the Gower. Another dip down through the woods by Three Cliffs Bay takes you to the Gower Heritage Centre and a short steep stab of a climb (1:4 at its steepest) up to the lanes of Lunnon. From here legs recover and take you out to the main diagonal road running between Llanrhidian and Upper Killay, which is mostly a gradual climb. You turn back past the airport, back to Pennard, and back to Mumbles cutting the corner off the route out to give you a fast descent to the coast. The second run goes back out on the flat coastal path and the long race does the 5km again, but the short course does 2.5 or 3km (I forget which).

This was a training race for me at the end of a build block, as all duathlons tend to be, and as I said earlier in the week it’s the sort of race that gives some indication of my form and the results of my training plans, and hopefully gives me confidence for the upcoming season. Racing itself seems to help get the speed back into my legs. And they usually make me smile too.

Around 200 people turned up for this race and some great athletes were amongst them. My plan was to start steady but fast, not at almost 5k pace, then hit the bike hard, and hopefully hang in for the final run. (Hopefully the gaps would be formed on the bike and I wouldn’t be battling in the last run).

A long easy warm up seemed to settle the tightness in my left calf tendons. I didn’t feel awesome, but I was pretty good. From the start I was steady, happy to let people get ahead of me but I found a comfortably fast pace and cadence by the end of the first km. I picked up places and was feeling good. I run this path all the time and even saw the usual suspects that nod to one another when out training here. The sea was gorgeous. As the bay curves you can see all the way round from the start to the turn point and back again.

I came into T1 in a sensible placing, and with a quick transition (ow, ouch, oooh – I’d racked my bike on the lumpy, gravelly side and ran through in socks) a quick bike mount and a fast start I picked up another couple of places including James Nunn from my club before the start of the first hill. Another competitor came around hard early on the hill, a bit too early I thought, and I gave him a gap as we climbed. Nunn was close behind. Partway up the guy’s pace eased so I went around and pushed hard to the top. My aim on this route is to hit the hills hard, each one a little harder than the last, push through the tops and go steady (well, steady fast) on the flatter sections.

The bloke I’d passed stuck to my back wheel like a limpet, & not a legal-draft distance limpet neither. I turned a few times to glare at him to no effect & wondered if he realised this was a no-drafting race. Once I’d pointed that out he apologised, dropped back & then disappeared. Weird, huh? He found me after the race and apologised too.

Legs found a rhythm & effort, my TT position was comfortable & I got on with the job. I rode on my own for the rest of the bike leg, legs weren’t so jellified at the top of the Lunnon climb this year, but the turn into the wind back to Upper Killay was unexpected & tough. I could see the rider ahead & the rider behind in parts & thought I might make up a place but the gap was foreshortened by the wind & the climb. Back past the airport we had a crosswind & my deep front wheel stalled a few times, but generally for most of this route the carbon was an advantage. Back from Pennard I hit the riders in the shorter race & rattled past them, hammering the last kick up to Bishopston & laying it on for the last flat bit on top. Down the hill to the sea was quick & I avoided cars, but got stuck behind a van that was desperately trying to get out of my way but also to safely overtake other cyclists.

Clean dismount into T2 on the line & fast (ooh, ow, ow, ow, hop, ooh!) back to my rack point and my running shoes. Shoes on & I had a gap to close ahead of me & clean Tarmac behind me. I felt better running off the bike than I have in training bricks & picked up a comfy fast pace, but could probably have pushed a bit harder in hindsight. Plenty of pain and effort but I could probably have squeezed more out earlier. I’m still trying to find the best way of using my developing fitness. Out to the turn at 2.5km it was pretty clear there were sizeable gaps ahead of me and I was running out of road, in 5th place. From the turn I turned it up a notch, as planned, & saw Nunny coming the other way with a mild taunt. Plenty of gap, but he’s running better than me at the moment. Good motivation!

Running back by the sea was lovely, and I was still moving ok but I could see the finish line around the curve of the bay and it looked a damned long way away! The last 5k in these things always hurts. With about 1km to go my left Achilles tendon suddenly started to tighten & pull – something I’ve been recovering for a couple of weeks. With about 500m to go I started to die, but strangely I was able to talk my brain out of it and push again. Just push to Verdi’s and then you can jog around the bends to the finish. Great finish, great location, great organisers, great supporters and great fun.

So 5th overall with some really good competitors ahead of me. My first run was better than expected (longer warm up next time should help me find my pace sooner), bike was fine, and my overall performance was good. I might need to trust my endurance more and start faster in future races. I’m glad I got my entry in just in time. Not bad for a guy with white hairs growing out of his ears.
This was the first time I’d used my Sunwise Waterloo glasses in racing. I picked them for this to cut out the glare from the sea (they have polarising lenses), which they did perfectly. They sit in the aero helmet perfectly, and they’re lovely to run in as they’re so light and they sit well. I also took a GlucoJuice on the bike, taped to the top tube with some electrical tape. I’d practiced using them on the tri bike in training and they’re surprisingly easy to use – I make less mess with these than gels. The trick is what to do with the bottle after you’ve drunk from it. Retape it? Too tricky & slow. You can squeeze it into your lycra but that’s not ideal. Dealing with gel packets is easier (they slip into your lycra – shorts or top – and then you can pull them out bin them at water stations). I take a GlucoJuice before the start, so in longer races I could pick one up in T2 but that might be a bit late.

A couple of students from the medicine course were racing too, Leanne got 2nd place in the short course ladies event. She’s hooked now. Adam look tired when he finished!

Chat, mixing, and then coffee & a second breakfast by the sea in a cafe right by the finish area. Lovely. I hung around until it was time to pick my mum up from the train station (she visited for the weekend), taking in the sun & the sea. A great start to a great weekend!

Race data:
As usual my gadgets were cleverer than me. I was racing with my Garmin 305 and I set it to auto-lap whenever I crossed the bike mount line. Smart, eh? You can set these things to auto lap by position as they’re GPS based. So run, hit lap button when entering T1, auto lap with bike leaving T1, auto lap with bike entering T2, hit lap button when running out of T2. (You can’t hit the lap button when you’re running with your bike).
I also set the auto multisport function so that it would automatically switch from run mode, to transition, to bike mode, to transition, and then to run mode with each of those laps. But I forgot to choose “start multisport” when the race started and just hit the start button instead. Oops. So the whole thing was recorded as a bike with laps. Oh well. In the race I didn’t really use it anyway other than to take a look at my heart rate occasionally and time. I mostly use it as a timer during the race and for data analysis after the race. I can’t figure out how to change the laps to run legs after the event. Oh well. Here’s the data:
Mumbles Duathlon Data

Garmin swim data

Look at this, the Garmin 910XT works really well for me in the pool:
Garmin 910Xt Steady Swim
Bang on for number of lengths, distance, and probably strokes per length given the metronomic 23 strokes per length throughout this session. That’s just for one arm though, so you have to double it up for the accepted standard of strokes taken with each arm per 50m. Likewise, the stroke rate (in strokes per minute) does the same thing. I can’t see stroke rate on Garmin Connect anywhere, which is a bit of an omission. You have to go back to the watch to see it.
I didn’t confuse the watch too much with drills, swimming just some single-sided breathing and push phase drills.
Huge amounts of data are presented, so much that it seems to be best to stick to the clock and the lap button when swimming and to look at the data later on the computer. It’s great to have a quick flick through though to see how many strokes you took for the last interval and bits, and see what your efficiency looked like. It seems that I’ll be making use of the stroke rate feature quite a bit given today’s 1km time trial:
Garmin 910Xt 1Km Tt Swim

I failed to improve on previous times. That’s a serious problem. I was feeling good in the pool; strong with a good stroke. My stroke has improved over the last year, and it’s much better balanced, shorter at the front and longer at the back. I feel like I’m catching water better, have a better feel, have better rotation, and swim straighter when I’m swimming hard and breathing to just one side. Yet I’m no faster. Big problem.
I’m guessing the limiter is my inability to increase my stroke rate. I’ll try to chat to people in the know (and that know my stroke) but that looks to be my goal for the next blocks. My stroke rate at race pace is ok at around 60spm, but it should be faster for an open water triathlete.
Collect data, analyse, plan, improve. Thanks Garmin.

A new training partner

Check me out, with my state of the art gadge! My longest running sponsors, mum & dad (& my brother & sister), bought me the brand new Garmin 910XT multisport watch for my birthday! Thanks everybody!

As I train on my own and often these things are my constant and primary companions. Sometimes you set them running & forget about them until you analyse the data at home, and sometimes you’re watching the numbers almost constantly, trying to maintain a pace or effort gasping for air.

So what’s special about the new Garmin? If you’re a triathlete it does the business. At last.
In May last year I wrote a blog entry asking Garmin to make a watch that would do a bunch of things for me the triathlete. A little while later they announced the 910xt in development and it pretty much ticked everything on that list. Great!

The new 910xt will do everything my old red 305 will do, which is great. The stuff like GPS tracking your route, measuring your distance travelled, speed, time, and heart rate is all still in there. You might have seen how I use the Virtual Partner function to take data from old rides and race myself a year later. That’s in there with some little tweaks to make it even easier to use. Auto-lapping by distance or location (great for marking the exit from transition in a multisport race while running with your bike and not having to try and press a button) is still in there, as is the ability to swap the sport mode from biking to running.

So what’s new? The major change is that the 910xt is now properly waterproof. I used to stick my 305 in a ziplock bag under my swim hat for open water swims, which works great but you can’t see any of the numbers while you’re bobbing in the sea having a rest. Because its under your hat. The 910xt, with waterproofing and some clever software that takes care of the problems of dunking the watch in the sea every other second, will measure your distance while swimming and show you your speed and time, and whatnot (like your stroke rate and number of strokes). Very clever. If its strapped to my wrist I’m a little less likely to lose it to Davy Jones’ locker too.
Most of us train regularly in the pool though. The 910xt uses accelerometers to note when you’re swinging your arms around and when you stop and turn at the end of the pool. Tell it how long the pool is and it’ll count the number of laps and tell you how far you’ve swum. And how fast, with what stroke rate, how efficient you were, what stokes you swam with, and so on. It’s clever, but it’s not perfect. You can confuse it by swimming drills (not a normal stroke) or by pausing partway along a length or by changing stroke. The lap button seems to help with getting the number of lengths right, but it’s important not to change your swim drills to match the watch! Hopefully Garmin will work out how we can edit out these problems when we’ve downloaded the data for analysis.

One other thing the 910xt does that the 305 doesn’t, is pick up power from Ant+ compatible power meters. It ain’t getting nuffink from my iBike though, so no doubt it needs some sort of firmware upgrade to enable this, even though if you buy the same model now it has this function built in, and mine already works with Garmin speed, cadence and hear rate sensors. I’ll have a chat with the iBike people to see what’s up here.

No doubt you’ll be hearing more about this here as time goes on. You can also follow the data it delivers at Garmin Connect and the RSS feed in the bar on the right hand side. It was great on the bike yesterday; buttons seems to be in slightly better places, the vibration warnings are great (very clear), and the screen is very clear. I like the blue backlit display, but then, I like the green backlight of the 305 too. I tried it in the pool today too, and I’ll need to modify what I do a little (mostly pressing the lap button a little more often – I normally use a nice, clean, simple old Garmin 50 for recording times in the pool) but I was happily shocked by the new types of data available to me. I had an idea of the number of strokes I take per length, but I had no idea of my stroke rate, or how my stroke rate changes with pace, how my pace changes with longer intervals, or how my efficiency changes when I get tired. Lots of data to come. Lovely. It’ll be interesting to see what Training Peaks makes of the data.

(I love the fact that Garmin Connect works on the iPad now too, and the lack of Flash seems to cut the number of browser problems on my Mac too).

Time for a cold bath

I’m back from this morning’s race (the Mumbles duathlon – I’ll write up a thing later) and I eventually got myself into a cold bath, and then a hot shower. Ideally it would be an ice bath and a hot bath, but this is the routine that is the best mix of convenience and effective recovery for my situation.

I thought I’d mention the importance of distraction. A cold bath is pretty unpleasant. I stood in the sea after the race this morning and that was cold, cold, but a full cold bath feels cold, cold, cold. Cold. If you get in and think about it, you don’t stay in for long. And you should wiggle your legs every now and then to bring freshly cold water back to your skin as the surrounding water warms up. So I grab my iPad or iPhone (risky I know, but worth it) and play games. Angry Birds is always good, but today I went back to an old game called Godfinger All-Stars. Anything that focuses your mind on the game and not the tingling in your legs, the sharp stabs, the developing pinkness, or the shivering. Actually, when you start shivering that’s probably the time to get out. Some people wear down jackets so that they can stay in longer. Not tried that myself.

Gareth, who looks after my legs, recommends getting a big wheelie bin to fill with cold water and ice next to your hot bath. That way you can get into the wheelie bin, then the bath, then the wheelie bin, then the bath, and so on. That’s probably the most effective way to use this technique, but a single cycle of cold and then hot is much, much better than other (non-water) forms of recovery for me.

So why do we use cold water for recovery anyway? As I understand it, with intense exercise cell membranes and connective tissues within the muscles tear, leaking fluid into the surrounding spaces. Interstitial fluid pressure builds, meaning that it’s harder for arterial blood to enter the muscle. Cold water immersion causes vasoconstriction (of the blood vessels in your legs) helping push out fluid from the muscles. Warm water immersion causes vasodilation, helping blood flow back into your muscles. You can see why repeated hot and cold cycles would be preferred to aid recovery. Nonetheless a single cycle seems to be very effective at reducing some of that post-exercise interstitial fluid pressure which kicks off subsequent improved recovery.

Nice, huh? But don’t forget the distraction.


Here’s a link to a Peak Performance Online article about recovery strategies: Recovery training is vital for achieving maximal physiological adaptation as well as for reducing the risk of illness and injury

Early season races

The first races of the season can be the most nervy. Right now I’ve got a lot of, erm, anticipation for a fairly minor race in my overall season. It’s a good thing. I love feeling like this.

I guess it’s a bit like the first night of a new play that you’ve been working on for months. You think it’s good, you’ve worked long and hard, it’s been fun but you don’t know how the first night will go or how the audience will react. What if they hate it? Have I thought of everything? What if? After the first night it gets a bit easier.

Maybe it’s like writing music, a book (yeah, I can vouch that it is like that for me – I’m doing both), or preparing for an exam. You think you’ve produced something very, very good, but you never really know until you put it out there. All the testing data in the world will only inform you about one thing: how well you do in tests. You never really know how well you perform in competition until you’ve competed.

Love it!

Pre-Mumbles Duathlon

Sunny spring cycling
Aha – I just got my entry into the Mumbles Duathlon in time. The latest email says over 200 people will be at Knab Rock for the 7.30am start on Saturday morning. I’m guessing that will spell the end of the good weather…
The “long” course is a 5km run with a 32km bike and a 5km run. I think the course will be the same as for the Mumbles Triathlon, but I’ll find out for sure when I register (I can’t see it on the websites). The run was on the flat seafront path, and the bike was on a course with a number of short sharp climbs. Lovely.
It should be an indicator of my multisport fitness. And my ability to get up early in the morning and put everything in the right place for a multisport race.
I found the routes.

Still hungry

I’ve almost finished my fifth block of training in preparation for the 2012 triathlon season and I’m still looking forward to getting out on my bike and loving the early morning runs. Not bad, eh? The recent sunny weather and strong fitness probably help, but loving the training is a great sign.

Ok, the hill reps are getting a little wearing, and swimming can be a fight, but once I get into it I’m there, I’m in it, I’m banging out the reps and enjoying the effort. It never gets easier, you just get faster.

My left Achilles tendon got a little sore in the week after the half-marathon. I recovered well from the race but the overall load by the end of the week was too much. I felt the load building too, and discussed it in a gym session. The next day in a long run with tempo segments the soreness popped up. I should listen to my body and adjust. We all struggle with this but I’ll file this away for future use. Gareth had a look at the tendon and worked on my feet and calves, I adjusted my running schedule and it’s getting better. I’m able to pretty much maintain running volume cutting out the high effort stuff. Overall training load remains roughly where it should be.

Running in the morning. Lovely.

That runner

That last post wasn’t supposed to feel negative – it was part of a plan and a look to the future. A positive thing. And that was the fastest I’ve run that particular half-marathon too.

Anyhoo, if you’ve not seen this yet:

Run, run, run

I’m not impressed by my running. I was impressed by my first year of running (3 seasons ago), by my progression and the times I set in that year, but I’ve struggled since then. Two seasons ago I broke my foot. Last season I made a concerted effort to significantly improve and injured myself with excess enthusiasm, running few miles with breaks for healing.

I need to get lighter. I’ve still got fat to lose & to be seriously competitive in a power to weight ratio dominant sport I need to be lighter and more efficient. Easier said than done when you’re trying to fuel yourself for high load, high quality training sessions. It can be done though.

I need to run consistently for a long time. Not a long time in hours, but a long time in years. This means a long term view to the sport (tick), long term goals (tick), natural enjoyment (tick) and no injuries. Keep running, run intelligently, be patient. That’ll work, right? See if I can get faster before I get old. Many veteran runners can and do.

I love running, and it’s rarely a chore. If you can do that, you’re on the right road.

Llanelli Half-marathon 2012

Early season races are all about learning. So what did I learn today?

1. Put your timing chip on your shoe the night before the race (almost a big oops).
2. Find another way of carrying Glucojuice bottles (mine wasn’t there when I went for it).
3. Slow down to grab drinks when wearing gloves (splash).
4. I can be disciplined about my pacing.
5. Check the camera the night before the race, not at the race (Kim couldn’t take any photos because of a dodgily formatted CF card).

The big rainstorm blew through before we left for the race this morning, which was great! The wind was a bit weird, coming from the north or north-west I think. Usually it blows in your face (from the west) on the way out from the start. Today, as usual for this race it paid to run in a group to hide from the wind and share the load rather than trying to run on your own at your own pace.

Nonetheless, I ran the first mile at target pace. Very unusual but good, because that was one of my main aims. Start steady and negative split the race. It was good to see Chris on the mic, and to see some Cardiff Tri vests on the start line. Dan is preparing for the Paris marathon, and James is running well as ever and I think they both had good races. I think Dan ran a PB, which is a great sign for 2012 with the wind of today.

The run out was fine, with some crosswinds that changed to in your face winds and then to your back around the roundabout circuit of Burry Port. The group I was with kicked a little early for me as we got back to the path so I let them go with the wind behind me. I needed to run the first 7 miles steady to be able to run the second half faster.

Perceived effort picked up, and when I went to my back pocket for my GlucoJuice at around 45 minutes it had gone! Darn. Maybe I should have stuck with the race belt method I had practiced. I caught my third attempt at a bottle at 8 miles as we ran past the main crowds at the start/finish area and on over the Teletubby hill to the final section.

With the wind behind I tried to push hard, but the turns and changing surfaces of this section make it a little slow. It’s funny how when you run around here in training you can’t take your eyes off the sea, the views of the Gower, the hills, the sandy beach sections and the harbours and bays. It’s really lovely. When you’re racing all you can see is the surface below your feet and the vest you’re chasing. I hope people come back to jog around here and take in the sights! The weather gave some nice displays this morning with mixes of sun through clouds, dark masses and blue patches. Very pretty.

I don’t think I took great advantage of the wind and had to stay focussed to keep pushing. It’s easy to settle off the pace later in the race when you keep slowing for turns, it’s all really starting to hurt, and the central governor is trying to tell you that you’re tired. Mental over physical.
The turn back into the wind was a bit of a shock. It was strong! Push, push, push. Hammer, hammer, hammer! I took one place back and was closing on two other vests so I reckon my pacing physiologically had been good. I was able to push hard, but my pace dropped right off. I was losing 20 seconds per kilometre. I hope all the runners behind me weren’t too demoralised by the strong wind. It’s really hard to keep driving when you’re tired at the end of a very long run and the wind’s blowing you back and slowing you down.

Back over the Teletubby hill, hard, long strides down the other side and it was clear on my watch that I wasn’t going to hit my target. I pushed hard to the line as it looked like every second would count, and by my watch I finished at 1:21:00. Damn! If I’d been a couple of seconds faster…
My legs seized up straight away. They’re not as used to running as they were a few years ago, but hey, they probably did the same thing back then. The winner, Mark Roberts, was bouncing around, jogging back to the staging area after getting changed at his car. No problems there!

Great fun, great race, extremely well organised, a good feel all around, and the first race with my sponsors’ logos. A bit disappointing but I always get faster as the year goes on. It was nice that Kim, Annabel and Jack came to watch too. There’s quite a bit of hanging around at races like this but the kids had big smiles and gave me big waves. I’m hoping Jack will want to run the children’s race at the Llanelli 10k this year again (for fun).

See you there next year. Faster next year.

Race data:


Results & stuff are in & up. My gun time for the race was 1:20:59 & my chip time was 1:21:00. Talk about going on the “b” of the bang! False start in a 13.1 mile race shocker? Nah, I was well behind the start line. The second difference must show a split second rounded up & down. Run for every second! Or sometimes for just a split second. (34th, 2500 entered I think).

Results are here on the Human Being Active website.

Photos are also up on sportysnaps. See some finishing pain!