In my hands: Embryology at a Glance

Embryology at a Glance on my coffee table
Rhiannon and I were sent our first, physical copies of our new textbook. It looks pretty good! I daren’t read it as I’ll probably spot typos that will haunt my waking dreams, but it’s always great to see something that you’ve been working on digitally for a long time in its final, printed, page flickable form.
These are our preprint copies. The book will be on the shelves of bookshops both physical and virtual in about 5 or 6 weeks’ time I think. Late August I guess, ready for the new intake of embryology hungry students.
Check out the Amazon links:

Brit AG std distance tri champs (abbrev.)

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A challenging weekend. A big cross country drive through Wales (pretty), camping with kids in the rain (leaky tent), a broken exhaust clamp threatening to dump the back box (noisy), trying to get kids moving (slow), almost no mobile phone signal (middle of nowhere), and a very competitive race (big legs, lots of carbon stuff).
The race itself was probably the only straightforward thing of the weekend. The Shropshire Triathlon is held in Ellesmere, so the swim is in the Mere. A nice, big, somewhat brown, not too cold lake with blue green algae and crocodiles, I was told when I registered. A fast, strong start failed to put me into any space of my own, and hugging a straight line tight to the first line of buoys I was within a group that slowly thinned as distance progressed and others settled into a slower pace. I had a bit of a draft of changing feet, hips and shoulders with a few bashes and splashes and we motored through slower swimmers of the wave that started before us. I had a good line and at the turn to cross the Mere I was in a comfortable rhythm but missing out on a draft in places as the group widened. Draft or direct?
After the second turn back to the shore the swim got a little busier again. Plenty of draft but plenty of slower swimmers too. Tired arms, strong kick, push to shore. Out of the water at about 20:30 by my watch so the swim course was maybe a smidgeon short (but my Garmin says 1.47km so maybe not, maybe I swam really well) but that was a good start considering that I hadn’t been particularly pumped up.
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I’d checked out all my transition routes as usual & it was all a bit muddy after the rain so it wasn’t super fast. Clean wetsuit removal (first time this year?), lid, specs, bike and away. No mucking about with shoes bouncing around. I picked up a few places straight away, not bothering to slip my feet into my shoes until I reached the main road. I got stuck behind an old lady in a similarly aged red Fiesta straight away, and was held up until she pulled aside to let us pass. Almost as soon as I got going again and turned away from Ellesmere I got stuck behind another car and a truck pulling a trailer, who were in turn stuck behind some slower cyclists. Gah! I slipped inside one, then had to wait for the other to pull off at a junction before I could get going again. After that I held a pretty solid effort all the way round, picking up lots of places mostly of the wave before mine, and swapping places with a few guys with big legs. I think I only lost one place on the bike that I didn’t get back and that guy was flying. For much of the ride a big bloke and I challenged each other back and forth, and the headwind and crosswind seemed to be having a go at us no matter which direction we turned in. Around the far point of the course a heavy rain shower drenched us, and the speed and wind made the rain sting. A good job I’m used to that. My shoes filled with water in seconds. With the level of effort I was putting out I stayed warmish.
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I paced my effort by feel, and used my watch to check time and distance but it was very nice to see a fluorescent yellow 10km to go sign followed by more at 1km intervals. The last section was on a closed road too. Very pro. A small group of a few cyclists caught and passed me in the final quarter of the bike leg but didn’t gain much more before transition.
Into T2 I followed the big guy in and caught a fella with a G on his calf (which would put him in the same age group as me, or so I thought). I passed him just before the dismount and we dumped our bikes and came out of T2 to start the run together. I’d had a GlucoJuice on the bike and was trying a new thing of drinking a second at the start of the run on the way out of transition. I’m interested in seeing if the “carbohydrate in your mouth” effect is helpful here.
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Starting the run together I pushed and lost the big guy straight away, sticking with G on the hill. Running hills is good for me; I’m small, light, and my power to weight ratio is good. But after hitting the bike hard with your quads for an hour and then hoping to run hard with your hamstrings, trying to run fast uphill and putting more stress on your quads is tough, tough, tough. Push, push, push.
I lost the G probably after the climb and he started to put a gap out. I focussed on what I was doing, on the skills work I’ve been doing, on driving to that tree, then that thing, then to this bush. It was a hard start but it got better. There was a fair bit of swapping places as I gained on some and others gained on me. The course is almost shaped like an “L” with two out and back sections and the leaders were an impressive distance ahead considering the wave before me only started 30 seconds ahead. There were some committed athletes in there, and I’ve got a lot of work to do!
The run was mostly on narrow lanes with a short muddy section by the Mere. There was a bit of camber and it was always undulating to some degree. The middle part of my run got really tough and I was counting down the km markers and talking myself into it. With a few km to go I could see I was gaining on G and I was feeling good again. Various muscles were trying to fail, hinting at cramp and even more pain but it was all working pretty well. Drive on and I caught G by the final turn with about 2km to go and I drove downhill all the way back to the Mere and the finish. Whoop! There was a fair bit of internal dialogue going on in the run to get the full effort out and I felt that my running was starting to come back to life again.
The finishing shute was great. A good crowd, a nice long corridor lined with British Triathlon banners and a final stagger over the last RFID chip reader. On the run I’d also been tying to talk my legs into getting me in at 2 hours or less but the run was too hilly with my current legs. Next time.
The announcer told us that I was the third placed finisher in my age group, so that’s another bronze medal! Lovely! Looking at the results later there was no G close behind me. I think I had more than two and a half minutes to the next guy in my age group so I don’t know who that mystery G was. Maybe he was an F with some mud in the wrong place. No matter, my effort was well placed. That was a very satisfying result amidst what appeared to be some serious competition.
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The stats make some good reading for future training plans. In the swim I was 49th fastest losing 3:00 minutes to the winner (how the hell do they swim that fast?) In the bike I was 22nd fastest losing 2:06 to the winner, and on the run I was 74th fastest losing 4:12 to the winner. Guess what I’ll be doing a lot of this winter? I was 25th overall I think, over 9 minutes down on the overall winner. There were some serious athletes out there but that’s a big deficit. In other news I was only a minute or so down on the silver and gold medals in my age group.
I hit two of my goals cleanly and the third was close. Kim enjoyed it too and we hung around for the prize giving. There’s a great park beside the Mere that kept the kids happy all day. (Without which the day would have been an even bigger battle). I think the first part of the following week will be easy and I’ve got a bit of travelling to do that will keep my training reigned in. I’ll build again at the end of the week and then start working hard towards the end of the season. One more peak (if I can manage it) and I’ll be done!
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Flickr photos
results (stuweb)
– Garmin data:


Sunny cycling
Wahey, what a difference a week makes! With the drop off in fatigue and a bit of a lovely taper my reasoning, goals and aims for triathlon in general and the upcoming race have naturally settled and aligned. I had a nice easy spin on the bike on Sunday which allowed me to visualise my performance and the race, and my legs were starting to feel ok. This week has a fairly massive drop off in training load and a bit of sun surely helped.
Mood can be a great indicator. If you can step outside yourself, look at your behaviour and mood, and consider why you’re poorly motivated, or why you can’t really be arsed to talk about it, or why you feel like you need to go to the pub for a couple of pints, or why you’re a grumpy bugger, then you might consider how recent stress or incidents might be affecting you. Emotional stress, physical stress, mental stuff, hassle at work, significant life events, the stress of training, travelling, deadlines, relationships and long term workloads all affect us. As an athlete long term training loads often build and take us towards our physical limits without us really noticing. We crack on with it, we get used to the fatigue, we have a plan and a programme, usually with rest built in, and we keep going. It can be a good sign that you’re hitting your training limits right before you start to ease off and recover, or right before you start to taper for a race.
Of course most of the time we’re too tired and grumpy to give a crap.
With a well deserved rest you’ll see your mood change again, if its cause was training stress & fatigue. I’m looking forward to Sunday. I knew I would. Two more super easy days, hit it hard on race day and then spend the next week recovering.
Although camping in the rain with two kids might quickly change my mood again.
Overtraining? Under-resting? Been there, done that. It’s not an easy point to get to, but it’s not nice, and not easy to get out of.
To be honest I don’t think this is much of an issue for most triathletes (and runners and cyclists and swimmers). Most people don’t get anywhere near the loading required for resting to be a significant issue, but its worth keeping a third eye on.
I’ve still no idea what the hell I’m doing at work though.

Photos from the Cosmeston Sprint Triathlon 2012

For the last couple of years I’ve been racing at Windsor on the weekend of the Cardiff Tri club’s summer race – the Cosmeston Sprint Triathlon. This year I missed out on my entry (probably a good thing as the river was flowing too fast & they cancelled the swim part of the race) so I was able to take snaps at the Cosmeston race. The winner was a very fast junior, who also set a course record. Fast!
Flickr: Cosmeston Triathlon 2012
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Cycling on the Gower
I’m lost. Or at least, I feel lost. It happens every now and then, and I usually tell Jack that getting lost isn’t a bad thing. It’s a form of exploring.
It’s only June and I’ve already hit some big goals for sixes. For most triathletes the season is just gearing up as summer hits and the big open water events kick off (woah, too many sporting analogies in a sporting blog article). Everyone’s excited, motivation is high. The win the other week in the Gloucester Triathlon was great, and a big effort, and was something I’d kind of eyed up in the preparation for the 2012 season. I think I was a bit wary of my first triathlon win though, after waiting (what felt like) a long time for my first bike race win back when I was a junior and the subsequent troubles trying to replicate that high. It was a big goal, and then an awesome feeling to obtain, and after that I struggled a little working out where to go next and what to do. An opportunity or two arose and I piled headlong into even greater training efforts, burning myself out and missing out. It’s an experience I’d like to avoid. Am I a more experienced athlete now? Dunno.
I’ve got a bunch of races lined up through until September and a number of things that I’m aiming for. But I’m not sure what I’m trying to do. On the simplest levels this is what I do now, and in racing terms when the horn sounds I just go fast. There’s not that much thinking. My body just goes fast and the preparation I’ve done up to that point pretty much determines what happens. Race day is like exam day. If you’ve done the work, you’ll get the result.
So do I just go through the motions? Do I set new targets? Who am I trying to impress? Myself?
I’ve got long term goals. Or maybe even very long term goals. I guess some of them are extremely long term goals. I’ve got years of work in mind, and levels of fitness and ability that come with 1000s of hours of consistent training. Like I said, it’s just what I do. Those goals keep me going on a day to day, week to week, month to month and year to year basis. What I do is fun, and I’d struggle to stop if I wanted to.
But how to endure? Much of racing is a test of who can suffer the most. Some of that comes with training, some with racing experience, and some because you want something enough. So what do I want?
Bike & GB flag
Maybe that will appear on race day, but I think I need to work out what I want to get out of the rest of the season. I could just settle back and say that I just want to get a good, solid season of race experience and fitness development that will serve me well in the future. That’s a good goal in itself. Long term. The experiences of racing, going to new places, looking forward to travelling and seeing the guys from the club are often reward enough, but not an immediate drive to suffer. Do I want more wins? Yes, sure, but much of that depends on who turns up on the day as there will always be someone out there faster than you. What about specific times, placings, and other rewards? Time goals can be awkward in triathlon as courses vary so much, and weather conditions can blow plans away. Consistent placings are always a good driving motivator. A natural competitor always struggles to not race hard. Maybe that’s enough?
Training goals remain, of certain consistency targets, a particular volume target for this training year, and test performances. You’d think it would be tough to push it hard in training when you’re struggling for race motivation but funnily enough when I’ve got the bit between my teeth the wattage, pace or effort gets pushed out.
Hmm. I’m racing in the Shropshire Triathlon next Sunday (British Age Group Standard Distance Triathlon Champs – quite a mouthful) so I’d better get it sorted out I guess. Tiptoeing the edge of the overtraining cliff affects mood, so maybe a lovely taper will help.
Running on the beach

Open water/very large pool swim

I was having a bit of a busy day and struggling to work out how to fit a short swim into yesterday’s schedule. In the evening I had to take Jack out to Llanelli for some Cub Scouts preparation for a sandcastle building competition. Aha – there’s a large outdoor lido (kinda) right by the car park. So wetsuit in the boot:

I should swim here more often. Warm, not very salty, no currents, and you can touch the bottom in many places. Lovely.

Gloucester Triathlon 2012

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I’ve raced in the TTG Gloucester triathlon for the last 2 years (this is my 3rd season in triathlon). It’s a pool swim, so has 1 minute or 30 second staggered starts. It’s a proper time trial from start to finish, you never really know who’s doing what behind you, or what’s happening up front. The top handful of places are often separated by handfuls of seconds, meaning you have to get it all right or risk missing out. And it’s full gas to the line. I’d been struggling all week to recover from the last block of training that ended with the race at Llanelli, but Gareth at Swansea Health Solutions worked on my legs on Wednesday evening and they were starting to come back a little by Saturday. The swimming didn’t start to feel good until Friday, and I hadn’t even tried to complete Wednesday’s session. Very unusual for me.
Kim and her dad came to watch, which was very nice, and it was her birthday. The bike course goes past my mum and dad’s house twice, so my kids and much of my family and some friends were camped out there too. A great home race for me! On top of that one of my clubmates had also decided to race after I’d mentioned it last week (his parents don’t live far from Gloucester), and a couple of med students that I’ve taught were also racing.
The swim start was much better for me this year, and Alistair (med student) and I were the only 2 in a lane at the end of the start list. Last year the swim was really busy and I got slowed down by a couple of things. The first thing I did wrong was slip and fall in the pool just before my start time. It was a bit slippy. Oops.
I didn’t crack my noggin on the side though, so I survived and had a pretty good swim. A little steady, and in hindsight I hadn’t swum in that top without a wetsuit before and it was very draggy. The small 2XU tops are too tight around the top, and the medium tops are too baggy around the waist. Time to switch brands and to a single piece trisuit I think. Alistair swam well too, and made it look easy.
A slow walk from the pool (mandatory) and then a very fast run to my bike, transition was fine but there was a long, long run to the mount line. My shoes were on the bike and were skipping around, and started to unship the chain. Luckily I was paying attention and paused to roll the chain back on to the big ring. Not perfect though.
The strategy for the race was fast transitions with fast runs (because they were long), bike hard, and hit the little climb almost as hard as possible. I started ok, then got stuck behind a tractor pulling a hay trailer that was stuck behind a slower cyclist. The start was pretty late in the day (11.41am) and it was a sunny Sunday so there was a lot of traffic. I got held up on roundabouts and all sorts. Oh well. More reason to ride hard. It turns out that I biked pretty well as I had the fastest bike split for the day and picked up all the Strava segments on the route on the first lap, and then again on the second lap. It was a pretty big effort, and if you compare my average heart rate at Gloucester (178bpm) with Llanelli (167bpm) the week before you get an idea of the difference. Gloucester was probably warmer too. I did this all on feel though, and the data was just collected for later analysis.
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It was a good sign that no-one overtook me on the bike, but unfortunately I had to hit the run hard too. I eased up a touch on the way into transition to try to freshen the legs up a teensy bit. After the dismount there was another long run to the racking, and this time my right shoe pinged away, out of the pedal in a bid to slow me down. I had to turn around, recover the shoe, and somehow leg it to the racking with my bike and a loose shoe, lifting my bike over curbs. Sheesh. I think I’ll tighten up my pedal clip out tension and go back to elastic bands to keep the shoes level for long transition runs in future. The backs of my shoes could probably do with some duct tape too as the posh, expensive carbon soles really get worn away with these things.
Dump lid, shoes on, stick glasses back on face, grab GlucoJuice, run. The GlucoJuice had been sat in the sun so was really, really warm but it was still welcome. I’d put a bottle on the bike too as it was going to be a warm day. I don’t normally bother for a sprint triathlon but I reckon the horizontal bottle between the tri bars is more aerodynamic, and the water was welcome. A GlucoJuice at the start of the run, even a short one that starts super fast, seems to be working for me.
As usual the run was all about pain, effort, suffering and driving on. I had little idea what anyone else was doing and there was no chance to take it easy. A fella that started ahead of me that I had caught on the bike overtook me at the start of the second lap. I wasn’t sure if he had started 30 seconds before me or 1 minute so I needed to keep close to him, but my legs didn’t have enough speed to stay on his heels. Towards the end of the run I counted a 21 second gap to a lamppost and hit the final climb back to the finish as hard as I could. He later said he struggled a bit there so I think my pacing was ok. I drove all the way to the line, and died right on it.
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A couple of guys that had raced and been watching the results started chatting to me and told me I was in the lead with just a few more people to finish, but to be honest I barely knew where I was let alone who I was or what I was doing there. Proper, full on, lie on the floor and breathe or die. I struggled to think, answer questions, speak like a human or raise my head. Good effort then!
I found the water station and soaked my head with water (I’d done this on the run too), Kim found me and looked after me and I told her my placing. She kept an eye on it on the timings computer for me, and after 5 minutes or so it was clear that I’d won the race. Kim and I celebrate our anniversary on her birthday, and this time we celebrated 20 years together. That, and that it was her birthday were certainly in the back of my mind when I was pushing hard. I thought it would be cool to win on that day, and I know Kim gets as much of a kick out of a good result as I do. It was great to have her dad there too, to see what I get up to. Jack was pretty impressed at how fast I cycled past my parents’ house too! (Better than any Strava segment).
Alistair finished 10th overall, I think Steff was in the only relay team (I didn’t see the results for the teams), and Andy won the vets category race too. A good day for results! There was only a 5 second gap between 2nd and 3rd place, again showing how close this race can be. Pretty satisfying.
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Garmin data
Flickr photos
TTG Gloucester Triathlon 2012 results (& pro photos)