Back in the germ pool

So today I had a few hours spare and a willingness to crack on, time to give the body a shock then.

I booked myself onto an ‘RPM’ spinning class at my gym, it was the first one I’d been to for months so I had to find my rhythm again and the right resistance but sure enough, by the end of, i was a sweaty mess but it felt good to be on a bike again even if it was a static one and always reminds me that it’s my favourite discipline of the three.

Next up was a mile in the pool, not only to cool off but also to improve my swimming overall. That being said, if it wasn’t for my beloved pull buoy I’d still be there floundering around right now. I’ve got heavy legs and quite simply I just sink so that thing is a blessing, it means I can concentrate on getting my breathing and stroke right rather than focus on my legs which I never use when I’m wearing a wetsuit anyway. The pool was fairly quiet yet somehow a guy resembling a hippo still found it necessary to join in right between me and another swimmer with us all clashing arms and legs, etc rather than using the massive empty space at the side, what a tool!

Fortunately a lane opened up so I took advantage of that and did the last half of my swim there. Not too long ago I wouldn’t have dared to swim in a lane as I’m useless but needs must when you’re trying to improve and I can honestly say that every time I get in the pool I feel a little more confident than the previous time and a little bit better so something must be working.

Getting Old

So today I’ve had to come away with work for a couple of days and had planned to bring my running gear with me so that i could go for a little explore in the evening but given that our hotel is trapped between two dual carriageways, a main railway and a waste disposal company’s land (classy i know) i thought better of it. Instead I did the morning school run and set off straight from there glad to finally get going after being stood around in the bitter wind in running gear waiting for the school to open so that our excited son could go in and see his friends again.

Things got off to a slow start when before I’d even hit go on my watch i realised that i needed a wee so risked it and found a hidden bit behind a bush, desperate to not only water the plants but also not be seen by other parents with my tackle out near the gates of a primary school as that would just lead to some ‘interesting’ questions.

Finally the run got going, I’d planned on doing 10k but right from the off my legs felt tired. I’d spent the last two nights on the foam roller in agony trying to move the lactic acid that was pooled in my calves much to the annoyance of my wife.

This is a relatively new issue for me in that throughout my life I’ve been very lucky in terms of injuries but over the last 12-18 months I’ve found that my calves really struggle to recover unless i give them some attention hence the roller, the stretches, the compression socks, etc and i guess it’s just age catching up with me finally in this race called life.

Nevertheless i cracked on with the run having armed myself with a new album filled with nostalgic tracks from the 90s that I’d not listened to in years which gave my mind somewhere to drift off to, so much so that at a junction i took totally the wrong turn and found myself heading off somewhere completely different before getting myself back on track.

As the run progressed i realised that i wasn’t running at my usual 10k pace and so made a conscious effort to just stick at the slightly slower pace rather than risk upping the pace only to suffer an injury, etc later on. The issue with my calves has caused me to really start to listen to my body more than i used to and whilst there are times when I’ll just have to shout ‘shut up legs!’, there are also going to be times when i just have to be sensible and rest or do something different like a swim instead of a run, etc and this is a habit you can only teach yourself as nobody knows your body better than you.

I managed the run and just over 10k and made sure i did some stretches once i finished as the minute I walked through the door i was helping my wife clean the house before getting my stuff together to go to work. The world keeps turning and you’re just a little insignificant dot upon it but no one is going to live your life for you so try and enjoy it as best as you can.

P.s. as i type this my legs are aching like a good’un so it’ll be more stretches later, rest tomorrow and a recovery run the day after.

Laters.

Where we’re going we don’t need roads

A couple of years ago I got roped into a 24 hour team trail run event called the Continental Thunder Run by my brother so in preparation for this I was forced to go off road and in doing so I discovered the delights of trail running. Truth be told I probably prefer this to road running as unless you’re running through some historic town, picturesque village, landmark filled location or chic marina, the chances are that the views are so much better and there is the real possibility of escaping the world and returning to nature.

The routes are often harder due to the undulating ground and peaks and troughs that naturally occur depending on where you run. I’m very fortunate in that right on my doorstep is some fantastic rolling countryside that is perfect for dog walking, trail running, mountain biking and road biking so I feel like I should make as much use of them as I can.

The event and prep also gave me a taste of trail running at night with a head torch. Now this I love as it turns a run into an adventure as even the most familiar routes become eerie and unpredictable. Many a time I’ve nearly come a cropper as a result of a tree root or stray branch that I’d easily avoid in daylight but because your world essentially shrinks to this little glow in front of you, things come out of nowhere at you including the occasional fox, badger or even deer.

The main benefit to night running though is there’s no real horizon so as you plod along you aren’t tormented by something that you’ll never reach. You just live in a continual cycle of the next few steps which are always achievable.

So after a day of tantrums and mindless games I leapt at the chance to get some fresh air and oh was it fresh as the temperature was dropping as quick as the sun faded, it was 1.5°C when I set off!

The only life forms that I saw on the whole route was a family coming back from walking their dog right near the start wondering who this weirdo was running into the diminishing light and a group of cows huddling together to stay warm. The run went well and the downhill part through the woods that was full of twists and turns was like a mash up between Logan and Blair Witch.

All in all I returned to the car feeling in a much better mood and ready for the bedtime routine.

Game on!

One foot in front of the other

So the end of day one and it’s been a bit of roller coaster. As the title of my blog suggests I’m not some professional athlete with time on my hands and plenty of opportunity to train. I’ve spent the majority of the day doing what most other people at this time of year have been doing, taking the Christmas decorations down, doing the weekly food shop which involved buying something that wasn’t encased in some sort of pastry or mulled in any way as well as looking after our little boy. The cravings for sugar were immense and not helped at all by all the chocolates and cakes, etc that have survived the festive period!

Thankfully my amazing wife came home from work and told me to get my arse in gear and go for a quick run whilst the opportunity presented itself and so i did. It may only have been a few miles of intervals but it’s still keeping my body guessing and ticking over until i get chance to go out for an hour or so.

I’ve also just entered my local GoTri event for the end of this month, this may just be a UK thing but chances are there’s one near you and they usually take place on a Sunday morning. Think of it as the Parkrun for triathletes. The events only cost £5 and give are usually only a few km’s (the one I’ve signed up for is a 2km run, 5km bike, 1km run) but it gives you a chance to practice not only your transitions but also your brick sessions as well as mix with some like minded folk. I’ve (hopefully) included a link to their site below.

Meanwhile it’s back to normality and tidying up, trying to get the dog out for a pee before bed and wondering if I’ll be able to sleep right through without our boy waking us up for some bizarre reason like his teddies going missing or the possibility of a ghost invasion, etc.

https://www.gotri.org/

Laters.

Taking a good hard look myself

Ok firstly, happy new year, as i write this post it is the evening of the first day of January 2019 and as i look ahead i essentially have 7 months to transform this lethargic meatbag that i call a body into the fittest version that has ever existed. In order to track my progress along the way so that i can see if all the punishment is actually doing anything positive besides giving my tear ducts a good workout and helping me to find new ways of swearing at landscape, I’ll be utilising my gyms ‘Boditrax’ machine which gives you a really good insight into not only your weight but also your visceral fat, your water levels and where both the muscle and fat are distributed around your body. Too often people start exercising and wonder why, after the initial drop of weight, things can start to plateau or even go back up. One possibility is that you’re just transforming the way you look and the extra muscle you’re building combined with the fat you’re burning off is resulting in a more athletic physique so right at the start you need to ask yourself, do you just want to weigh less, do you want to look different (i.e. more defined muscle tone or bulk up, etc) or do neither really matter so long as you’re generally fitter? The answer(s) will help you (or a personal trainer/gym instructor) map out your new regime.

Getting back to me, the below reading was taken a few days before Christmas and aside from a couple of 5k runs just to help the never ending array of beige food work its way through my intestinal tract I’ve basically just chosen to pick my battles and be realistic, nothing was going to happen until 2nd January so this is my starting block:

The app goes into all the other details and as time goes on i may post those but for starters i thought I’d just stick with the standard stats.

For info i don’t really pay any attention to BMI and chances are, if you speak to the majority of medical professionals these days, neither will they as it’s an outdated means of calculating health but an easy one. Body fat percentage is much more relevant in my opinion as apparently, according to BMI, somebody my height should weigh 9 – 12 stone (126 – 168 lbs or 57 – 76 kgs). The higher end of that scale is doable but let’s be honest, to aim for the lower end is just setting yourself up to fail, especially when my somatotype is generally that of a mesomorph (google it, it may answer why you can’t change your body shape very easily).

My new year’s resolutions are to cut out the alcohol (which is fairly easy for me as i can take or leave the booze) and the sugar. Now this second one is gonna be hard! I’ve done it before and the first couple of weeks are like a drug addict trying to kick their habit, I’ll be thinking about sweet stuff, I’ll be moody as hell, I’ll be trying to busy myself to that my mind doesn’t wander back to it and I’ll be surrounded by temptation every time i pass a vending machine, a work tuck shop, someone bringing cakes or biscuits into work or eating out and the desserts menu being thrust in front of me but there’s no point trying to do anything other than cold turkey otherwise I’ll never get anyway so wish me luck.

Equally if you’ve decided something similar to kick start your new year then good luck to you as we’re all in this battle together!

Until next time.

Kit

Now I’m a firm believer that you need the right tools for the job and if you buy cheap you buy twice. Years of working in a sports retail shop in my youth has given strength to that argument as a lot of the time you do genuinely get what you pay for. Cheaper trainers have less features in terms of cushioning and support, cheaper bikes are heavier and the components not as efficient or (to a certain degree) durable, cheaper goggles let in more water than the titanic, etc. That being said you do reach a point at which you end up paying for a brand or a gimmick rather than the actual product and it’s easy to get lost in all the jargon. These companies pay their marketing departments a hefty sum to come up with fancy names and phrases that draw us in and convince us that it’s worth parting with that hard earned cash for when at the end of the day that running top is basically the same as the free one you got from your last 10k, that new cushioning system on those trainers is just a slightly different name for the foam used on the other brand and the big name international bike brand uses the same carbon fibre and group set as the local start up firm but charges a lot more.

So what do I use and why?

Now let me start by saying that I’m by no means an expert and kit is a very subjective thing.

Trainers

After years of trying different brands I decided to go and get my running gait and pronation type checked at a local running shop. I highly recommend that you do this as just like you’d get your tyres checked for balance and alignment if your car was wobbling about, the same is true for your feet. For the sake of a few minutes on a treadmill with someone who knows what they’re talking about, a whole world of comfort and progression can be unlocked for you.

It turns out that I over pronate (my feet roll inwards) when I run so I needed something that supported me. In the end I went with the ASICS Gel Kayano and these have served me very well over the years.

A few years ago I went against my own advice and better judgement, I bought some trainers that were cheaper than my usual ASICS but sounded amazing and had some of the latest technology, etc. I was excited to try out my new Adidas and had worn them a few times for shorter runs but then came my first 10k event in them. I was flying round to start with but then something didn’t feel right, I thought I was just over thinking things but as soon as I crossed the finish line and slowed down my feet literally ached as if I had cramp through my arches and I had to limp all the way back to the car. I couldn’t run for about two weeks and even when I tried to in them, the pain just came straight back. I decided to go back to my old kayanos and surprise surprise no pain. Now I’m not saying that there was anything wrong with the Adidas, they just weren’t the right shoes for my feet and I paid the price. I put fashion and advertising before function and science and it resulted in injury and having to spend more money by buying another pair of trainers to replace the Adidas.

Cycling

If you’re already into cycling you’ll know that it’s one of the fastest ways to spend money in the world but if you’re just getting into it then do your research and visit your local bike shop. Sure you could go to your local big bike shop and get a good deal on a bike and all will be well with the world but please consider the local ones as well. Often they have been set up by people who started off in the big chains but wanted to deliver a better product and service and so risked it all to go it alone against the more established names. The staff there are usually very knowledgeable, passionate and can often strike a great deal as they are their own boss.

In my youth i used to cycle all over the place on my mountain bike to go and see my friends and then i got my driving licence and it’s as if i left the humble bike in my past as it wasn’t until one day at work many years later when i saw the advert for the ‘cycle to work’ scheme. By that point I’d moved house to what was a relatively acceptable commuting distance on a bike (about 13 miles each way) and when i saw that the deal let you pay monthly and save on the tax, etc then i decided now was the time to get back on a bike. I still remember picking up my hybrid and riding it the 10 miles home. I had a massive grin on my face and felt like a kid on Christmas Day all over again, I’d rediscovered the joys of cycling. A change of role at work brought me even closer to home by a few miles and so (often in the company of a friend who i worked with) i cycled to and from work at all hours of the day and night (due to shift work) and in all weathers. If anything it was better cycling in winter when everyone else was jammed in their cars in traffic queueing to get home and I’d just whizz by in my winter bibs and beat them home.

Then came the step up from hybrid to full on road bike (or racer as they were known in my youth). I spent literally months and months scouring the net looking for one with the right spec for me, I’d budgeted myself about £1000 and had got a new 0% credit card to whack it on. I finally narrowed it down and convinced myself that i wanted a Ribble R872, i was all set to place an order when one day at work i walked by this vision of loveliness all dripping in carbon and sleek lines. What the hell is that!? I thought before having a closer look and noting the ‘Planet X’ logo. Well that changed everything and my research began again. It appeared that Planet X was basically Yorkshire’s version of Ribble and so being the proud Yorkshireman that i am I couldn’t very well go and buy something from a Lancashire firm when i could save myself a drive and pop down t’road and buy local.

I ended up with a Planet X Pro Carbon SRAM Rival 22 which i still have and use to this day. I’ve upgraded the wheels with some Mavic Cosmic Carbons and keep tweaking with the saddle as I apparently have the most sensitive arse known to man but the bike still does me proud.

I went with SRAM over Shimano as it was apparently lighter and you soon find that in the world of cycling the term ‘marginal gains’ is bounded around all over the place. This was my attempt at trying to start off on the right foot as I knew that otherwise I’d just buy a cheaper bike that would last me a year and then I’d want to upgrade the whole thing so it would cost me more in the long run.

Swimming

Now this is still a weird and mysterious world to me in that I’m so naive I couldn’t really say what is good and what isn’t. All I know is that when it comes to swimming, my ‘style’ is essentially based on me fighting with the water to prevent my death until I reach the other side or complete the lap. It’s by far and away my worst discipline but it’s the reason I signed up to an Ironman so that I would have to force myself to become a better swimmer. I don’t naturally float unlike the majority of the population and so I’ve come to love my pull buoy in the pool and my wetsuit in the open water for affording me that extra bit of buoyancy which in turn allows me to focus on improving my breathing or my stroke, etc. Wetsuits are a minefield of marketing speech like everything else but I was fortunate enough to be given one as a birthday present a couple of years ago and it’s been great for me. A lot of people buy them second hand to start with and equally you can grab some bargains from many of the usual websites. Essentially the thicker the neoprene the more buoyant the suit is in that part as most will have differing thicknesses throughout the suit so read the text that’s with it along with the questions about it and the reviews before you commit.

Those are the major pieces of kit but there are many smaller ones that I will discuss as I complete further posts.

Until then, happy shopping.

The past – where I’ve come from

Ok so before I start going on about what I’m doing now and where I’m aiming to get to I thought it would be worthwhile covering a bit of back story as everything needs to start somewhere. After all, A Christmas Carol wouldn’t be the same with only two ghosts now would it!? Oh and by the way I prefer the muppets version, especially on Christmas Eve.

I’ve always been sporty as far back as I can remember and always willing to try a new sport or activity a go. This probably stems from my father having a sporty background so much so that even an accident which cost him half a leg didn’t slow him down as he simply altered his focus and went on to become a Paralympian as well as being involved in several disabled sports organisations helping people around the world enjoy sports that they previously may have thought were too difficult to do. It is his example that, when I feel too tired to go to the gym or it starts to rain just before my run or my legs ache before I even get the bike out of the shed, makes me realise that in the grand scheme of things I’ve not much really to complain about and I just need to give my head a shake, my arse a kick and crack on with stuff.

I also owe thanks to my older brother as I’m pretty sure that it is because of him and the standard sibling rivalry that I have a competitive streak running through me which is both a help and a hindrance at times. It drives my wife crazy and to her I apologise but to everyone else it’s basically a case of ‘game on’. Many a run or a ride have included a point where I spot someone ahead of me travelling in the same direction and no matter how tired I am the chase is on and the game is afoot! This poor innocent stranger out on their workout has suddenly been transformed into my adversary, my greatest enemy who I must defeat, they are the Foreman to my Ali, the Nadal to my Federer, the Ronaldo to my Messi, the Flanders to my Homer. Now I’m aware that I’ve just compared myself to some legends there but it’s my blog so I’m having it. I will kick it up a notch and push myself (despite probably having miles left to go) to get by them and will not ease up until they’re out of sight or changed direction (at which point I may well double up with a stitch breathing heavier than a woman in labour) as the only thing worse than being overtaken is being overtaken by the person you’ve just passed!

I also owe thanks to my brother (through gritted teeth) for encouraging me to take my first steps into distance running as generally my sporting interests revolves around sprinting and field sports such as rugby and football but a few years ago he decided to start running and asked me if I’d like to take part in the local 10k that he’d entered. Of course I agreed as I couldn’t let him beat me and so it began.

Now let me make one thing clear, I hate running! It’s boring, it’s hard and it seems to take forever. That being said I do love to challenge myself and push my boundaries and if that happens to be through running or any other event then pass me my trainers and let’s get on with it.

I’ll go deeper into some of my previous events in future posts as there are some amusing stories that I think are worth telling but for now I’ll keep it vague.

That year my brother and I took part in several 10k events and I started to get a bit of a buzz for them as I was normally used to running on my own or with my brother but the crowds, the large number of entrants and the different routes just made it more bearable and, dare I say it, appealing. This led to us entering our first half marathon (the Great North Run) in Newcastle which I still maintain is a fantastic event and well worth trying as the support and organisation are second to none.

My brother has since gone on to join a running club and completed several marathons but I’d always said that the only one that I was interested in was the London marathon but I’ve yet to get a place in the ballot and because of that I fear I may have to change my plans but more to come on that later.

I discovered cycling in a big way about 4 years ago having spent the previous year biking to work on my cycle to work scheme hybrid and realising what fun could be had on a bike. I did my research over many months and then ordered my new road bike (I’d never had a ‘racer’ growing up as they were always mountain type bikes) and started cycling. I intend to do a post entirely on kit so as before I’ll keep it vague for the time being. Now living in Yorkshire (I’m extremely proud to be from this great county and probably more so than being British if I’m honest) I’m lucky to have some great cycling routes both on my doorstep and within a reasonable travelling distance. Just look at how popular the Tour de Yorkshire has become over the last few years and you’ll understand. These routes have taken up many an hour and caused many a swear word to leave my mouth because of an incline or a smile to cross my face as I surge along a descent. Some of the lads I work(ed) with soon joined me in this hobby and our little peloton was formed. I really enjoy the social aspect to cycling from being able to chat whilst riding and spur each other on to finding a great little cafe and treating yourself to that flapjack or cake because you made it that far. It’s great bumping into other groups and comparing routes whilst quietly seething over how much better their bike or kit seems compared to yours. I like it even more when you see a fellow cyclist travelling the opposite direction and you exchange a friendly nod as you pass each other knowing that they understand you on some level. That being said those ignorant tools that just look at you and don’t even so much as say ‘hi’ can ram their carbon frame up their arse!

Rant over.

Swimming? Well now that’s a different story. Me and water have an interesting relationship in that previously when I swam it was more a case of I got in a pool, fought the water with all my limbs, swallowed my body weight in liquid and essentially tried to survive until the end. There was nothing graceful or majestic about my style and certainly nothing sporting. It is by far my worst discipline and the one that I have to work hardest at. Until I got into triathlon I never really swam much apart from the occasional trip to the local pool with the family or a water park and I sure as hell never dared to venture into the lanes as that was forbidden water in my eyes and only for those who wore proper Speedo’s and nose clips, etc.

In terms of triathlon I first got into it a few years ago when I took part in the local super sprint tri that was based at the school near me. I was part of a relay team where I’d decided to do the swim so that I could see what it was like before a friend of mine did the cycling part and then handed over to my brother to complete the run. The swim was a 400m pool swim and it nearly killed me but I got through it and soon after the event I signed up another sprint tri but this time I was going to complete the whole thing on my own. Since then I’ve done a few sprints and then this year I completed both my first Olympic distance and half iron distance within the space of a month but again more on those later.

I have to say that since starting triathlons it puts into perspective many things such as how dull just running really is when it’s not the final discipline in a event you’ve really pushed yourself in and the sheer athleticism that the likes of Alastair and Jonny Brownlee (fellow Yorkshire men) possess when you compare their split times with other athletes of single events.

Now I’ve prattled on for quite some time now so I’ll draw this to a close for the night but I’ll leave you with some thoughts:

At times your training may feel a lot like this, a long relatively barren road that stretches out ahead of you for miles but all you have to do is keep putting one foot in front of the other, keep turning those peddles round and putting those arms into the water ahead of you as things will get better:

The view will improve and your mood will lift and bit by bit you’ll get closer to home. I’ll often be heard saying to myself “Just get it done, get the miles done” etc to push my on knowing that at the end of it all I’ll be a little bit fitter, a little bit healthier, a little bit closer to my goal and a little bit more prepared than when I first set off.

That or I’ll just offset all the hard work with a massive bit of rocky road, etc. Either way works really.

Until next time, laters.

The Journey Begins

Thanks for joining me!

Hi there and welcome to my blog. I’ve never done one of these before so keep that in mind when you start wondering what sort of dross will appear next or why you wasted several minutes of your busy life reading this when you could’ve been laughing at that meme your friend just sent you.

So what’s the blog about?

Basically I’ve signed up to an Ironman in 2019 and this blog will hopefully chronicle the highs, the lows and the in betweens when it comes to the training, the dieting and the general prep leading up to the big day.

What makes it different to all the other blogs?

Honestly? Probably not a lot but then again maybe quite a bit. I intend it to be a ‘warts and all’ write up with down to earth language. I’m not being sponsored by any one nor am I expecting to walk away from this having made any money. My only motivation is to share my experience in the hope that it shows other people that anyone can do a triathlon and maybe even inspire the odd one or two to give it a go.

So who the hell am I and what makes me so damn special?

In short, nothing. Not a damn thing. I’m not a fantastic athlete, I’m just a regular thirty something bloke who has a wife and a 5 year old son, I work shifts, i have asthma, I’m short and I run like a fat kid in flippers chasing an ice cream van. I like to exercise and challenge myself but I like to eat more so they both kind of cancel each other out.

I’ll try and update this blog as often as I can but equally I’ll only put something on here if it’s worth a read (in my opinion) so you’re not bored to tears trying to decipher my waffle.

Until the next time, thanks very much.

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

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