Sunday, 22 December 2013

My gear of the year - 2013

I've been debating long and hard about whether to do this blogpost but decided to do it in the vain hope that some of my favourite products from the last twelve months could help you in your swimbikerun ambitions.

I would like to begin by stating that these reviews / recommendations are my true and honest opinion and I have not received any financial reimbursement or any products for these opinions. I am not sponsored or endorsed by any of the companies mentioned in this blogpost (despite sending out some sponsorship enquiries).

Compressport Triathlon Kit

I bought this kit on the day before Outlaw. I wanted a two piece to make visiting the toilet during my potential 17 hour day easier. I know in my heart that it was stupid to but new kit before my A race but in my head I knew it was the right thing to do in case I suffered gastrointestinal problems. Only having to remove my bottoms would make this more bearable.

As it turned out my nutrition strategy led to no GI issues but thankfully my kit choice proved fruitful in that the longer sleeved top prevented me suffering sunburn in the 34 degree heat. The compression on my quads was also a lifesaver in the latter stages of the run as it really did prevent muscle oscillation.

I also used this kit at The London Triathlon and again it didn't disappoint. Will this be in my arsenal in 2014. You bet it will.

Smoker2Ironman score - 89%

HUUB Archimedes

After completing my two triathlons in 2012 in my hired (but eventually purchased) Foor Classic, I knew a wetsuit upgrade was needed. I decided to #ChooseHUUB as the science behind their products appealed to my analytical brain and I knew there was potential to decrease my swim times while also being more efficient in the water. I knew the 3:5 wetsuits would help eliminate any sinky legs and enable a feeling of swimming downhill.

In my first competitive wear of a 3:5 wetsuit I only just missed out on completing my half iron swim in 30 minutes. Wow.

I followed this up with a 70 minute swim at Outlaw which pleased me as I didn't really settle in to my groove at all that morning.

In London I PB'd the swim by 4 minutes and 27 seconds over my effort in 2012 and I am convinced the swim in 2013 was longer as well.

But the highlights of my season in my HUUB Archimedes was being first out the water in a local aquathlon and then the following day being 5th out the water in an olympic distance triathlon where I completed the swim in 23:46.

Has the Archimedes helped my improve my swimming, you bet it has I am less tired and quicker to boot. It is all to do with the elevated legs that the 3:5 wetsuit gives me. This suit will be in my arsenal until I have to put it in the wetsuit grave and I am thrilled I bought this suit.

S2I score - 92%

Skechers Go Run 2

Given all the problems I have had with trainers this year, I was pleased when the podiatrist told me my running form was a lot better in my Skechers Go Run Ride. I knew I felt more comfortable.

When I went to the expo at London I had some birthday money from my Grandma so decided to visit the Skechers stand. I knew I wanted to try on some Skechers Go Run 2 due to their stripped down lightweight construction. As soon as I tried them on I knew they were the shoe for me. They were so lightweight but so cushioned and responsive. After a quick sprint up and down Excel I was sold and knew I had found my racing flat.

I saved these trainers for my next short distance triathlon which was Brigg Sprint in September and for once I actually felt fast in these shoes. I managed to maintain a pace of 08:45 for miles 1 and 2 which is quick by my standards. I also went sock less for the first time ever. I just felt at home in these trainers.

I also wore these trainers for my recent 5k PB and wore them when I got photographed for Triathlon Plus.

I really am amazed that something so light can provide ample cushioning for me to be able to run given my 15 stone weight.

Who knows what I would feel like running in their new Go Run Ultra trainers which I think would be ideal for next years foray into iron distance?

It should be noted that these trainers are more suited to mid to forefoot strikers rather than heel strikers. They are a neutral trainer and really suit my running style. I start off forefoot striking but when I tire I switch to mid foot striking.

S2I score - 90%

For Goodness Shakes

A friend gave me a bottle of For Goodness Shake earlier in the year for after a long run. Wow. It tastes amazing and is satisfyingly thick. After a long run or ride it is the first thing I consume. Its 3:1 carb to protein ratio really helps replenish those carb levels. Since trying the bottles I bought a tub of powder and now mix it when needed.

It really does taste like chocolate milkshake and is really tasty. When I consume it, I also find I am less likely to crash later in the day which is something I used to do before I started taking this after long rides or runs.

Another thing I like about this product os that fact you can buy it pre made in bottles, as powder in sachets (to take to races) and powder in a big tub to mix as and when you need it.

I do find this product helps my recovery and will continue to use it in my training towards Ironman Austria.

S2I score - 86%

Nectar Hydro

This is made by the same company who make For Goodness Shakes and is their electrolyte tablet. For about £7 you get 20 servings of a really tasty electrolyte drink, I find it does not have that same chemically taste of other electrolyte tablets that are available.

For those not in the know electrolyte drinks contain little or zero calories but do contain essential salts which help stave off cramps during exercise. I use electrolyte in combination with energy drinks to rehydrate my body during longer training rides or runs and use them on their own to rehydrate during swimming sessions (which is when I tend to cramp).

They really are tasty and refreshing. Some people swear by SIS, other by High5 but for me it is Nectar Hydro. Surely they've got to be worth a £7 gamble.

S2I score - 75%

Karrimor Running Socks

As I have blogged about a lot this year I have had a lot of issues with blisters. It turns out that despite me trying 4 different brands of socks, part of my solution lied in these superb socks from Karrimor. These socks can be purchased form Sports Direct and are anatomically fitted to your feet. They come in numerous sizes and are available for men and women.

And the best bit they are available for £5.00 for two pairs. I have paid up to £15 a pair for socks to try and cure my blister problem but the solution lied in a pair of £2.50 socks from Sports Direct. Who knew?

S2I score - 91%

Asics Convertible Jacket - Similar to

During a trip to Ashford to see friends, we called into MacArthur Glen and I visited the Asics shop where I purchased a convertible jacket for running. This has revolutionised my autumn and winter running in the fact it is convertible.

I set off running with the sleeves on and then when I warm up I remove the sleeves which leaves me running in a gilet. I would be unable to set off in a gilet as I would be too cold but when I am up to temperature I love being able to remove my sleeves. It saves me overheating. I also love the fact that I can take the sleeves off on the fly. It opens up so many options for running in autumn and winter.

S2I score - 80%

Hoka One One Tarmac Stinson

Following my 7 hour marathon at Outlaw where very step after 13 miles hurt my feet, I decided the problem was to do with lack of cushioning. 15 stone bouncing from one foot to the other repeatedly is bound to have an effect.

I did some research and came across Hoka One One who are company who have developed a neutral low drop running trainer with extra cushioning for people who run ultra marathons. Hang on extra cushioning. Could this be the answer to my marathon problems? I thought so.

I even made a special trip to Kendal to Pete Bland Sports to try some trainers on. They fit like a glove and I hope to use these in my iron distance marathons next year unless I fall in love with some Skechers Go Run Ultra in the meantime. The only downside to these trainers is the fact they are quite weighty when compared to trainers with normal cushioning. And yes I am aware the trainers look like something from an early Spice Girls video.

S2I score - 83%

Planet X 60mm carbon clinchers

I bought these wheels because they were a bargain. At under £500, when I bought them they were a steal. The 60mm section is amazingly aerodynamic and they are really lightweight. Have they contributed to my 6mph increase in average bike speed. You bet they have as they slice through the air.

Was weight a consideration when buying the wheels. Not really. I'm 15 stone. If I wanted something extremely lightweight, it would be cheaper to lose weight but their aerodynamic properties appealed to my scientific brain. they spin up really quickly and seem to hold speed more than my standard wheels. I save these predominantly for racing and am relived by the 11-28 cassette I had fitted to them as it helps with my climbing.

S2I score - 87%

X Lab Super Wing and 2 number Gorilla Cages

I purchased a rear hydration system for my road bike to enable me to keep myself hydrated on longer rides. Quite simply it works, it allows me easy access to numerous bottles when on the bike. It means I can go for longer rides without having to worry about running out of liquid. My bike can hold 4 bottles which is 3l. This was essential for Outlaw where the heat was ridiculous.

S2I score - 84%

ISM Adamo Prologue

I bought this product after suffering with saddle chafage to my undercarriage during some longer training rides. After a period of adjustment (in which there is mild discomfort) I didn't look back. The dual noses are much more comfortable on longer rides and there is now no discomfort on rides of over 50 miles. This was a godsend on my longer training rides. I can't recommend this saddle enough if you are in any discomfort on your longer rides. It changed my outlook on comfort. Plus how can the current IM world champion be wrong?

S2I score - 88%

TigerTail Muscle Massager -

Following my trip to Mallorca with RG Active where one of the coaches had one of these. I was dumbfounded that something so simple could be so effective. Have you ever wondered how you can get the benefits of a foam roller when on your travels? If so this is the product for you. It is a wonderful product and can help eliminate those aches and pains. Mine lives by my bed in case I wake up with any niggles on the next day. A quick roll on the area and the knots or aches tend to disappear.  The ends of the massager can be used to work any persistent knots.

S2I score - 85%
Product of the Year

Its a bit controversial but my product of the year is……….

DRUMROLL please……………..

Paceline Products Chamois Buttr

Hang on I hear you cry. Where is #Rinnie? (my Planet X Exocet). Well I haven't actually ridden Rinnie outside so she hasn't been used properly and is therefore not valid for the 2013 award.

But how can you pick a chamois butter as you product of the year?

Simple it is my award and this product has allowed me to reach all my goals this year. It has allowed me to run blister free since I came up with the idea of putting it on my feet in an act of pure desperation with the Outlaw looming 13 days away. Now for 90% of my runs I put this on my feet and apart form the very occasional rub I have mostly been blister free since the start of July.

My blister problem had reduced me to tears so to be able to run blister free is an amazing feeling.

I also use this product to moisten my chamois' on longer rides as well and can confirm it has resulted in no chafing there either.

S2I score - 95%

There is also no mention for Jack Oat Bar despite recently becoming an ambassador of theirs and subsequently haven't really used their products before or during racing and as such have been unable to comment on their effectiveness.

If you have any comments, please get in touch.

Thanks for reading,


Sunday, 15 December 2013

Ironman Austria training week 2 - Taking the positives

So another week has passed. Only 28 weeks to go until my date with Klagenfurt.

Has it been a good week with regards training. It's been a bit up and down to be honest but I'll get to that in a minute.

I started the week thinking I would have an enforced two weeks of no running as when I got up on Monday I couldn't walk. I has a severe stabbing pain on the outside of my foot and thought my old friend perineal tendinitis had decided to pay me a visit again. I couldn't bare this pain so booked an appointment with a physio at my new favourite place, Blizard Physio.

After some diagnosis of where the pain was (it was alternating between the outside of my foot and my arch), the physio said it was a problem with a nerve in my back. Hang on the pain is in my foot, how can it be a problem in my back?

This made no sense to me but after it had been explained, it started to. I had a problem with my sciatic nerve which links to my sural and my tibial nerves so the root of the pain was my sciatic nerve. After half an hour of massage and some nerve mobilisation stretches I could walk again. I was blown away.

According to "bible", I should have completed the following training this week 

Monday - Rest day
Tuesday - Track session and swim set number 3
Wednesday - 30 minute bike followed by a 15 minute run
Thursday - GI Tri swim set and 30 minute high cadence spin on the bike
Friday - 45 minute zone 2 run
Saturday - 90 minute bike ride
Sunday - 1 hour zone 1 - 2 run

When I got up on Monday I did think running would be out of the question so any training I managed would be good. I really was in that much pain.

On Monday I had the prescribed rest day apart from the physio appointment.

On Tuesday I went along to the track session with a slight sense of trepidation as I didn't know if I was able to run following my issue from Monday. The set was 1 lot of 1600m followed by 10 lots of 600m. I set off on the 1600m but after 700m my shoe lace came undone. I stopped to tie it and was annoyed that I hadn't managed to complete the first part of the set. I set off again but only complete 3 of the 4 laps. I then started the 600's and was holding a good pace through the first two reps but my back felt really tight. I missed the third rep as a result. I completed another two reps before my back troubled me again. After another two reps, the quicker runners had completed their prescribed set so it was time for a cool down.

I was a little disheartened with my performance at track but taking the positives form it, I didn't think I'd be running at all so that fact I ran over 10km including the warm up and cool down is a massive result.

On Wednesday I went to the GI Tri swim set as exercising on Thursday was out of the question as it was my 3rd wedding anniversary. This was the first time I had swum since my rotator cuff injury so another positive was I could swim again. I even attempted one armed swimming and managed two lengths of right arm swimming without incident. In total I swam over 1.2 miles and felt really relaxed. It really is good to be back swimming.

Thursday was a rest day.

On Friday I had the day off work and after completing some necessary "life admin" I managed to have 40 minutes on the turbo followed by a 30 minute zone 2 run. During the 40 turbo session, I was tinkering with my saddle position on #Rinnie and think I have finally cracked this. After moving the saddle back about 40mm and making sure the saddle is nearly level I am almost comfortable. This is another huge relief as I could not get comfy before. I can't wait for some good weather so I can take #Rinnie out for her maiden ride.

On Saturday I went to a timed 5km run with the aim of setting a new PB, I blogged about this here. I successfully set a new PB for 5km which I was over the moon with.

Today I went for the prescribed 1 hour zone 1-2 run but my HR seemed fixed in zone 1 today. I completed 5.7 miles in the one hour but my HR rarely left zone 1 which was a novelty as it usually spikes. I felt really strong but there was some pain in my legs from yesterdays efforts. I could have gone further but decided to stick to my plan. No point risking injury on week 2.
My HR graph from todays run
Like I said it's been a bit up and down but taking the positives. I didn't think I would manage any running so to have completed 21 miles in a week was a real confidence boost. And I set a new PB for 5km so despite the setbacks it has been a really good week.

So far December is proving to be a good month for mileage completed on my feet and is already my third best total mileage in 2013 and I still have another 16 days to go. In fact this weeks mileage of 21 miles is my 4th best total weekly run milage of 2013 and it is only week 2 of my training plan. Who knows maybe I am a runner. In fact AM A RUNNER.

Also this week I finally got my hands on some Jack Oatbars after seeing a lot about them on Twitter and I can confirm they are really tasty. They are a really nice consistency as well and quite filling. In fact I had one for my breakfast on Saturday before my PB run. I don't know if the two are connected but I'm sure the folks at jackoatbar would claim they are.

Thanks for reading,


Saturday, 14 December 2013

Nearly a serious runner

In 2012 there was an article in Runner's World which said and I quote.

"Busting the 25 minute (5k) barrier marks you as a serious runner. It requires a commitment to more mileage and focused workouts, and can take years to achieve."

Now I know a lot of you out there will look at this statement and view it with some disdain as you will have been able to run sub 25 for what seems like forever.

But for someone like me who is not a runner and up until this January was chasing the elusive sub 30, it was a carrot. A carrot which I have half been half chasing in my quest for my body to "be the best it can be"

Following my lactate threshold test at Blizard Physio, we set a target of going sub 24 for 5km as my body should be able to complete this given the results that were achieved. It won't be easy but with the right training should be achievable.

A sub 25 minute 5km equates to an average speed of 8:02 / mile.

So today as I had a rare spare Saturday morning I tootled over to Bircotes for the Blizard Physio breakfast run. Their breakfast run is a free timed 5km run which is held on roads near their clinic with a free breakfast afterwards.

I had made a conscious decision yesterday to go on the hunt of a new PB for 5km. My PB currently stands at 26:48 and I set this during the Doncaster 5km race in July this year.

So I should have prepared correctly and had an early night last night, right?

Well erm yes I should but it was my Wife's Christmas party in Leeds so I went to Leeds and had 7 beers and then the train home was delayed and I didn't get in until 00:30.

As you can understand this isn't ideal preparation and when my alarm went off at 06:45 I nearly had second thoughts about going along.

So lets get this right.

I had 6 hours sleep, 7 beers and I was going to attempt to run 5km quicker than I ever thad previously.

Yup. Not my wisest decision.

My tweet from before the run
I drove over to Bricotes for the 08:30 start and got chatting to a few of the regulars. We then set off on a 1.2 mile run to the start line. This was completed at an easy pace and was a superb warm up.

During the plod over, Jay (who I know from track) asked one of the other runners what time they were going for today. After they said 8 minute miles, it was decided that Dave would pace me round the 5km and as long as I stuck with him I would get close to the elusive 25:00.

The course is a three lap course near Bircotes and each lap is just under one mile in length. There is a hill on the first part of each lap but then it gently rolls back down over the remaining 2/3 of the lap.

So we set off, me on Dave's heels. The first hill really elevated my HR quickly and I was quickly in zone 3. I had had a discussion with David Tune over which zone to attempt the PB at and he said zone 3 which meant my HR needed to be between 169 - 186 bpm for the entire run. I have never tried to stay in my tempo zone for this amount of time and knew I would struggle to maintain this amount of effort.

I had made a decision to not chase the PB and had deleted all data field from my watches view except HR and HR zone so that I couldn't get either too excited or depressed with my time or speed.

The first lap flew by and after we passed the starter she read out our time which was 7:57. Wow we were only just off the pace and I felt fine. On the second lap I pushed too hard up the hill and suffered for the rest of this lap with a higher HR (178 instead of 171). Wow those 7bpm made a real difference to the sustainability of my effort.

I shortened my stride on the third ascent of the hill and my HR didn't spike too much. I was really struggling to maintain my effort and nearly gave up but then I though MTFU there is only 1 mile to go. You've done the hard work, now finish this.

I didn't enjoy that hill. I was really struggling on ascent 3.
After my moment of MTFU, I felt fine for the rest of the third lap (apart from being exhausted) and after we turned the final corner I decided to kick on as I knew I wold be on for a PB. So kick on I did. I pushed up the final ascent of the hill and everyone who had already finished was cheering me on.

It is so encouraging being told to push on and that you can do it. With the encouragement I really kicked on and sprinted for the finish line. My HR rocketed up to 190 BPM during my sprint for the line which is the highest I have seen it when running.

No one can deny that I worked for this PB.
I think this would win at the World Gurning Championships
But both feet are off the floor and blades hands make an appearance.
My time for the run was 26 minutes but the distance was 3.14miles which is 5.05km. So what was my 5km time?

Well according to Endomondo it was 25:44 which is a 64 seconds improvement over my previous PB of 26:48.

WOW! A new PB and with poor preparation. I wonder what I could achieve with proper preparation?

Well I was aiming for a zone 3 run, I think I succeeded.
Now all I need to do is find 45 seconds improvement and I will be a "serious runner".

Thanks to David (the coach), Dave (the pacer) and the rest of the team at Blizard Physio who have helped me improve as a runner. I'll definitely be back at the Breakfast Run aiming for more PB's but after I have put in some more training.  Also thanks for the photos.

Thanks for reading,

Michael (AKA the Blogger by those at Blizard)

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Ironman Austria training week 1 - T-30 weeks

Where to begin?

Week one has officially arrived. That means it less than 210 days until my date with the water and roads surrounding Klagenfurt.

Week one called for the following training according to "Be Iron Fit by Don Fink" or as I will be referring to it for the next 30 weeks "The Bible".

The Bible
  • Monday - Rest
  • Tuesday - Swim set #1 and a 30 min Z2 run
  • Wednesday - 30min Z2 bike and 15 min Z2 run
  • Thursday - Swim set #2 and a 30 min Z1 bike
  • Friday - 30 min Z2 run
  • Saturday - 1 hour Z2 bike
  • Sunday - 45min Z2 run

Not too bad for the first week, in fact easily manageable apart from a few issues.

Those being working on Saturday and my injured shoulder.

I have amended my training plan to include the Blizard Physio track session on a Tuesday night and the GI Tri swim on a Thursday.

This week I managed to complete the following training

  • Monday - Rest. Phew that was hard work.
  • Tuesday - Track session with Blizard Physio consisting of 1 x 1600m with a 2 min rest followed by 11 x 400 with a 45 second rest between each rep. This was preceded by a 1.2 mile warm up run and followed by a 2 mile cool down run at Z1
  • Wednesday - 30 min bike ride followed by a 15 min Z2 run. Wow were my legs tired on the run after the track session.
  • Thursday - Due to being unable to swim I had an extra rest day.
  • Friday - I had to drop my Dad back off at his hime after work as he has been staying with us recuperating from his broken arm.
  • Saturday - I worked all day so didn't manage to train.
  • Sunday - I managed a 9 mile run with 90% of my running time being in the right zone (156 - 168bpm)

Given the injury to my shoulder I am pleased with the first weeks training. I am over the moon with the fact that I completed a 9 mile run which is the my 6th longest run EVER and it is only week one of 30.

It took me until week 5 of my Outlaw training before I managed to amass this sort of mileage. This is week one. The last time I managed a 9 mile run it took me 1:46. Today it took me 1:36 which is a 10 minute improvement and I wasn't even trying for time. I was running to my prescribed HR zones.

I really am starting to enjoy running. It was also nice that my wife came along on her bike to keep me company.

In other news. I hope to be back swimming this week as my shoulder is starting to feel better.

Oh yeah and I am now a qualified triathlon coach. Me the former sedentary smoker, now a bonafide triathlon coach.

I have already put this qualification to use by coaching some GI Tri swimming sessions and I really enjoy passing on my swimming knowledge. The feedback I have received from my athletes has been positive as well.

Thanks triathlon you really have turned my life around.

That's all from me for now.

Thanks for reading,


Sunday, 1 December 2013

Running to HR

After my lactate test at Blizard Physio (, I was given a training plan which was loosely based aorund the Don Fink 30 week plan. I was to follow this plan for the next 6 weeks.

Given my 30 week plan is due to commence on Monday 2nd December I have taken a bit of a rest since my lactate test.

I have still been completing the track sessions on a Tuesday as these will be most beneficial to my "need for speed" and I have been completing the swim sessions with GI Tri (when I could, but that another story involving an aggravated rotator cuff in my right shoulder) but other than that I have been doing very little. But I will be starting in earnest for the first 6 weeks of Don Fink's plan.

Thus imagine my surprise when I ran Parkrun on the 23rd Novemebr and set a new PB by over a minute. I ran to the HR zones as prescribed in my lactate test and completed the 3 miles (not 5km as it should be) in 27:28 which I was thrilled with as I genuinely didn't feel like I had worked that hard for the duration of the race. Below is a screen grab of the time spent in each HR zone.

Today as I had a bit more time than I thought I would have. I decided to go on a little leg stretching run and see how I coped on a longer run when running to HR.

In total I managed to complete 6.6 miles in 1:08 but more importantly I managed to complete 10km in 1:04:34  without struggling at all.  This is my third quickest 10km EVER! and I found it really easy. In previous runs I have been chasing speed and exhausting myself.

Today I had to restrain myself to stay in Zone 2 (156 - 168 BPM) for most of the run but this is one of the challenges when training to HR. I can't wait for the time when Dave of Blizard Physio allows me to open my body up to a threshold (zone 3) run and see what I can do over 5 and 10km.

But building my base is key at the moment as I have been training all over the place with regards to HR. I will remain patient and trust in Dave's vast knowledge.

Below is a screen grab from todays run and as you can see I nailed staying in zone 2.

If you are struggling with running I can not recommend a lactate threshold test enough and thats only off the back of two runs. One PB and one longer run which I found easy.

And I never thought I would ever say that I found running easy.

Thanks Dave and Blizard Physio. You may make a runner out of me yet.

Cheers for reading,