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Weekly training review 30th May 2010

By ActionGeek. Posted in Training Log | No Comments »

This week has gone by SO fast!  Only 2 weeks to go to the Plym Valley Challenge though, and today was my last long run before that.  Good job too, since my foot (largest metatarsal on my right foot) is quite sore so I’ll need to rest it up a little this week and do more cycling and less running.

Only 1 swim this week but it felt good, like I’m starting to make progress, so hopefully I can continue to build on that.  I’ve also made good progress with my “one hundred pressup challenge” although I was just too tired after my run today, so I’ve put that off until tomorrow.

This week’s training log

Running : 17 miles (3 sessions, with a long run of 9 miles today)
Cycling : 1 hour (I can start increasing my cycling time now)
Swimming : 1 hour
Plus an hour’s yoga and an hour’s squash

No long run next week, since it’s the week before the Plym Valley Challenge, and also our wedding anniversary so we’ll be doing something special next weekend – hopefully the weather will be decent and we can go for a cycle picnic, and maybe go gliding!  No yoga class this week either (half term) but apparently we’ll be working on handstands next term which is great since I’ve never quite managed to nail that!  So think I’ll work on handstand and forearm stand myself during the week…


Wow this triathlon thing can get expensive!  I’ve been going over my “shopping list” the last couple of days and it’s really starting to add up.   Apart from the actual race entry fees (the Perranporth Triathlon in a few weeks is £40 which isn’t too bad, but the Ironman is £345!) and swimming coaching (£60 per hour) and travel/accommodation expenses, there’s a whole bunch of equipment needed both for training and racing.  It kinda got me thinking – what is the minimum equipment needed, or put another way – how cheaply can someone get into triathlon?

Minimum equipment for triathlon

Now a bunch of this is going to be stuff that a lot of people already have, but quite a bit is fairly triathlon specific and will involve an expense for anyone wanting to get started with the sport, so let’s take a look at each stage in turn:

Equipment for the swim

Well the biggest expense here is going to be the wetsuit, unless you’re lucky enough to live somewhere warm enough that one isn’t needed.  While a lot of active people may well already own a wetsuit it almost certainly won’t be suitable.  Wetsuits for surfing, kayaking or diving for example are too bulky and restrictive for swimming efficiently, so at the very least you’ll probably want to “splash out” on a budget triathlon specific suit.  From doing a little research the budget suits made by Orca look like a good deal for beginners.

After the wetsuit the swim stage isn’t too costly – a decent pair of goggles is essential, but anyone who already swims probably has a pair.  Other than that, you just need a swim suit of some description – while a triathlon specific suit might be ideal for shorter races especially, I see no reason why beginners can’t get away with a normal swim suite or pair of shorts under their wetsuit.

Equipment for the bike

OK, here’s where it gets expensive!  If you’re lucky then you already have a road bike you can use, if not then this is where you’ll need to be spending some real money.  Triathlon bikes can be very expensive, but beginners are recommended normally to start on a normal road bike anyway.  I come from a mountain biking background and have been riding Specialized mountain bikes for years, so I’m intending to get a Specialized Allez.  There also appear to be good budget offerings from Scott, Trek and a few other brands.  I think this is the one piece of equipment that it might be worth checking the second hand market for.  I’ve seen some amazing deals on second hand bikes in the past, so shop around and check places like eBay and the classifieds ads in your local paper.  There are a LOT of options when it comes to the bike though, so I suggest either grabbing the abslute cheapest second hand bike you can find, doing a couple of races, then selling it again and upgrading now you know what you want… or doing some real research before making the investment in a bike that will last.  Apart from the make and model, you need to decide on frame size (get fitted at a local bike shop!), gearing (double, triple or compact chainset, size of cassette etc>) and a whole load of options like brakes etc.  If you’re using clipless pedals then you’ll also need compatible cleated shoes.  Note – when you’re budgeting, remember that most decent bikes won’t come with pedals so you need to include the price of whatever pedals you want in your budget (but many bike shops will give you a deal on the pedals if you ask!)

Apart from the bike itself you’ll need a few extras.  First and most important is a helmet which is compulsory in all races, and essential for all training.  If you already ride a mountain bike you’ll already have one, otherwise head to a local bike shop and try a few on for comfort, but luckily they are relatively low cost these days.

You’ll also need one or more bottles and cages for carrying drink, a pump, and preferably puncture kit and/or spare tube (and know how to use them!)

For clothing on the bike, you can either keep a tri suit on (if you wore one for the swim) or wear cycle shorts and a jersey.  You’ll also want some gloves/mitts and last but not least some sunglasses to protect your eyes, believe me you don’t want to be flying down a hill and have a bee or a piece of grit from the road hit you in the eye!

Equipment for the run

OK so the major expenses were dealt with for the bike stage, and if you already run you may well have everything you need here.  The most important thing of course is running shoes, and this is one area not to skimp.  If possible visit a specialist shop and get fitted.  Find a pair which are suitable for your foot type, and are comfortable – you’re going to be doing a lot of miles in them and a decent pair of shoes can make the difference between trouble free running and knee/ankle injuries.

Other than the shoes, you can probably get away with whatever you have available – shorts, vest/jersey and keep your sunnies on from the bike stage.  You might also want a hat/visor if you’re running in a sunny climate, and as an optional extra you can go for lace locks which will help you transition faster, rather than wasting time tying shoe laces.  Finally, a race belt might be a useful addition, allowing you to attach your race number and simply clip on rather than messing about with safety pins in transition (and some can attach energy gels too)

Wow  that’s a lot of stuff, and potentially a lot of expense.  Add to this items like energy bars/gels/drinks, magazines and books about the sport, and all manner of extras like heart rate monitors, cycle computers, bike tools and spares, wetsuit lube, muscle rubs, hydration systems and all manner of race and training aids you’ll see for sale in shops and online and you’ll quickly see that this is not the cheapest sport, but I believe it can be done on a budget if you’re careful about what you buy and stick to the basics.

Personally I’m currently looking around for a suitable bike (probably Specialized Allez if I can find one at the right price) and will need to invest in a wetsuit in a few weeks, but other than that I’m just going to use what equipment I already have, and focus on the training (while my wife is helping to satisfy my geeky gadget addiction by buying me a heart rate monitor for my birthday!)





Get your geek on

By ActionGeek. Posted in Geek | 1 Comment »

Today being Geek Pride Day, I thought I’d celebrate by sharing some great geeky goodness from around the interweb!

Happy Geek Pride Day

May 25th was the premiere of Star Wars – A New Hope in 1977, and since 2006 it has been recognised as Geek Pride Day in celebration of geekiness. It also coincides with “Towel Day” in rememberance of the late great Douglas Adams (in Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy a towel was the most useful object in the universe!) and Glorious 25th of May, a holiday in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld.

Anyway, enough of the history, here is some geeky goodness I’m sure you’ll enjoy whether you’re a true geek or not…

The Geek Test – Think you’re a bit geeky? Want to find out for sure?  Take the test and see how you score.  BTW I got 46.12546% which apparently ranks me as a “Super Geek” (anything above 75% ranks as “dysfunctional geek”!

Killer List Of Videogames – Now part of the wider “International Arcade Museum” is the biggest online collection of anything to do with arcade games.  Beware – if names like Outrun, Galaga and R-Type mean anything to you then you could be stuck there for several hours!

Geeky decorations for the home or office – Want to geek up your pad?  These 10 items will brighten up your home and show off your geeky side – I just wish my office was bigger so I could get the Space Invader wall decals – my book cases cover up too much of the walls, and I don’t think my wife would let me put them in the kitchen!

15 of the geekiest tattoos – Had to include these just because I’m a tattoo fan myself.  In fact, the photo on the right shows the Space Invader tattoo on my back!

So, hope you enjoyed the links – what are YOU doing to celebrate geek pride day?





Perranporth Surf Challenge Triathlon

By ActionGeek. Posted in Action | 5 Comments »

2010 will see the Perranporth “extreme” surf triathlon in its 23rd year.  I’ll be honest, when I was searching for the “ideal first triathlon” I was looking at the dates and the distances and not much else.  I wanted to find an event of around sprint distance in late summer, and the 2 events which would have been ideal (The St.Agnes Triathlon and the West Cornwall Sprint distance at Hayle) both happen to be on weekend when I have to attend friend’s weddings!

So, scouring through lists of triathlon events I came across the Perranporth Triathlon, hosted by the Perranporth Surf Lifesaving Club.  The date looked fairly ideal – 12th September which gives me a few months to train (and learn to swim properly!!!) and the distances look acheivable – 800 – 1000m swim (depending on conditions), 35km bike and then 7.5km run – easy!  Well, that’s what I figured when I committed to the event here on the blog yesterday.  Now I know that the north coast can be very unpredicatable, and and there’s a good change it will be a rough swim, but there’s also a chance it will be flat calm so I decided not to worry about that – and I know I can manage the 35km bike OK, and hell it’s not even a 10k run!

“The toughest triathlon in the Southwest”

Well, that was yesterday, and since then I’ve been doing a little research on the race, and I have a little more respect for it now!  Adventure Cornwall called it “the toughest triathlon in the Southwest” which sounded ominous, but then I figured maybe that’s because there aren’t too many tough triathlons down this way!

Then I found an article on the BBC website calling it a “gruelling test of stamina” while the Independant had an article stating it was “one of the toughest UK events” and the author wrote after entering the event in 2007 that he and the other competitors were “so weary that we could barely speak, we all wore a look of dazed, strung-out joy, the kind more regularly associated with hallucinogenic drugs

Oh!  Well look on the bright side, he did use the word “joy” in there!

Finally I stumbled up on this list of the ten toughest triathlons in the UK (according to Scott Bikes and Look) and low and behold there’s the Perranporth Surf Challenge at number 7!

So why does the event have such a fearsome reputation?  Well, as I already mentioned the swim has a lot to do with it.  The Atlantic coast can get pretty rough, even in summer and I’ve lived in the area all my life so I know what the sea can be like.  But it’s not just the swim!

The bike route is 2 laps of a 19 km loop, and being Cornwall it’s fairly hilly.  In particular the first mile or so is a really nasty climb, and you have to do that twice!  One reporter wrote “The 2 lap 40k bike course starts immediately with a 20% climb, has no real flat sections and can be tough in the wind” – nice!

Then if that wasn’t enough, a run of 7.5km might not sound like much, but it’s on sand which means it saps your energy – just want you need at the end of an event like this!

So, I have 16 weeks to prepare myself for this.  It was supposed to be a gentle “dipping my toes” into the sport of Triathlon, but it looks likely to be quite a challenge, and a good taster of what the Ironman might be like next year!  I’ll just keep my fingers crossed for calm water like in this video of the 2006 race:





New goal – My first triathlon!

By ActionGeek. Posted in Action | 1 Comment »

The weeks are really flying by – I can’t believe it’s almost June already!  I really feel like it won’t be long before I’ll realise that there will be less than 12 months to the Ironman 2011, and I’ve not yet done a triathlon of any length.  I’ve been searching for a suitable events to “get my feet wet” but due to bad luck (2 separate weddings we need to attend which both happen to be the same weekend as the 2 most suitable triathons of the summer) I’ve decided to enter the Perranporth Surf Triathlon on 12th September.

The race is a little longer than I wanted for my first event, with a 800 – 1000m swim (rather unspecific!) a 35km bike and then a 7.5km run which puts it somewhere between a sprint and Olympic distance.  The bike and run distances are fine, but the swim is rather daunting, both due to the distance but also that it’s on the north shore and the sea can be pretty rough with sizable waves (precisely why it’s just a popular surf spot!) but with a bit of luck it will be relatively calm that day, and with 16 weeks to train, and some swim coaching booked I’m fairly confident I can enter and complete the course!

So – Perranporth Surf Triathlon 2010 added to my goals list, and I’d better head to the pool and get training!





Weekly training review 23rd May 2010

By ActionGeek. Posted in Training Log | No Comments »

Training has felt good this week, and the weather has helped most days.  Today’s long run felt strong, with no need to walk at all over the 8.4 miles despite the very hot sun.  I didn’t get to the pool this week, so I must make a real effort to get at least one, but preferably 2 swims in over the next 7 days.  I have however found a swimming coach and booked a series of private lessons starting at the end of July.  Jan is a triathlete herself, and was a competetive swimmer at the national level from 1976 to 1989, and competed in the 1988 Olympic trials so she knows a thing of two about swimming and I have high hopes for making some real progress.

I’m also 2 weeks into my hundred press up challenge and I think I’m making a little progress.  I did 80 yesterday, over 5 sets and was struggling for the last few but I think another 4 weeks and I should be able to manage 100 straight!

This week’s training log

Running : 16.1 miles (3 sessions – nice increase on last week and felt strong)
Cycling : 1 hour (must increase that this week)
Swimming : NA
Plus an hour’s yoga and an hour’s squash

This coming week will include 17 miles of running, including a 9 mile long run on Sunday which will be my longest week before the Plym Valley Challenge in 3 weeks time.  Apart from that, the plan is just to get out on the bike a little more and make sure I get at least one or two swims in!





The hardest part of training

By ActionGeek. Posted in Action, Inspiration | 3 Comments »

Some mornings I jump out of bed, pull on my running shoes and I’m out of the door like a rocket. Other days, like today, I look out of the window to see the grey skies and mist and procrastinate.  I missed yesterday’s run due to a head cold, so today is a catch up, and even though I’m feeling much better it was still hard to get out the door.

For me, actually getting out of the door and taking the first step is the hardest part of training – once I’m going I’m usually fine, but I guess it’s just human nature to put things off.  I catch myself checking Wired or LifeHacker for the 3rd time, or logging onto Twitter or Facebook when I know what I should be doing is starting my run.

So it got me thinking – I can’t be the only one like this, so what tricks do other people use to get that spark of motivation and kickstart their day’s training?

Well, a quick Google search showed me I’m certainly NOT the only one!  In fact, if you search for “hardest part of running” you’ll soon find that most people do seem to find “getting out the door” by far the hardest thing.  I found loads of blogs and articles on the subject (and before you ask – I did do this after my run!) and here are some of the best tips I could find:

Tips to get you “out of the door” for your morning run

  • Learn to recognise the difference between apathy and real tiredness.  There’s no shame in taking a rest day if you really are overly tired but don’t confuse that with just wanting to stay in the warm rather than getting your training done.
  • Tell yourself that you’ll only do half the scheduled run. If you really are tired, then you’ll be able to tell in the first few minutes, after which you should go home. If you stay apathetic, maybe you’ll do the half run, which is better than no run. Most likely you’ll end up doing your scheduled run.
  • Mix up your routes.  Running the same 5 mile loop every morning gets tedious, so plan some more interesting routes that will inspire you and you’ll want to get out and enjoy the scenery.  A 5 minute drive to a local beach or woods might take up a little more of your day, but the run will be much nicer!
  • Pump up the volume!  Load your iPod up with your favourite running songs, and listen to a couple of tunes while you’re getting your running gear on – that should give you a little motivation and get you “in the mood”.
  • Have a goal.  This is the big one for me, if I don’t have a goal I can’t seem to get the miles in, but if I’m working towards something specific that I want to achieve then it’s much easier.  It doesn’t matter if it’s entering your first 10, doing the Ironman, or losing a few pounds, just make sure that it’s specific and has a time element (i.e. don’t just say “I want to run a marathon”, say “I want to run the London Marathon 2011 in 3:15″ – that’s specific and timely, and should help to get you out of the door in the mornings!

Any suggestions?  If you have a tip for getting motivated and taking that first step then leave a comment!





Perfect Music For Training

By ActionGeek. Posted in Geek | 3 Comments »

I’ve always listened to music while running or cycling.  Say what you want about iPod zombie cyclists, but so long as you keep the volume level reasonable and pay attention to the road and the traffic I don’t see a problem.

For a long time I was using an iPod Nano (and before that a minidisc player!) but just recently I’ve been borrowing my wife’s iPod shuffle which I absolutely love.  If you’re not familiar with the shuffle, it’s the smallest and most basic of all the iPod models (opposite end of the line to the iPod touch) which comes in 2Gb or 4Gb versions.  The unit itself is not much bigger than a postage stamp, no screen or fancy features – just plug and play!

The shuffle has a built in clip, so you can clip it onto your shorts waistband, or even the peak of a cap and you hardly know it’s there!

Now, while a shuffle might be the perfect music player for running or cycling, it’s nothing without the right choice of music, so I wanted to find out what other people like to listen to on the bike or on a run.  Here are some of my top picks, leave a comment or Tweet in with some of your own favourites!

Perfect running and cycling music

The Prodigy -Music for the Jilted Generation and Experience
The KillersHot Fuss
Blink 182Blink 182
Greenday - Dookie and American Idiot
Muse - Black Holes and Revelations
Carter USM30 something

OK so that’s a few of the albums I’ve been listening to while training recently – what are your favourites?





The Perfect Breakfast

By ActionGeek. Posted in Nutrition | 1 Comment »

The ideal breakfast needs to be quick and easy, nutritious, and tasty.  It should give a good balance of carbs and protein, and fill you up enough for your run/cycle/swim/work/whatever you’ll be doing for the rest of the morning!

Now on a weekend I like to have eggs, preferably poached but scrambled will do, on wholemeal toast.  That’s all well and good, but I just don’t have time for messing around like that during the week – I need something I can eat quickly while I’m checking my emails, and will give me the energy I need for my morning workout without feeling like a lead weight in my belly!

So for a long time I’ve been eating cereals – specifically porridge or muesli, but over time I’ve come to realise that not all mueslis are created equal – by a long way!

Going on pure taste, something like Quaker Oats Granola comes right at the top of the list, but checking the label sees it contains a massive 26b sugar (per 100g!) and 2.8 g of saturated fat.  So while it might be tasty, and certainly has the calories to fill you up it’s not quite as healthy as you might expect (it also makes your jaw sore if you try to eat it too fast!) so I gave up eating Quaker Granola in search of something a little healthier, but still tasty…

And what I found, was that most brands contain a LOT of fat, sugar and salt.  Even the so called “healthy options” brands were far from ideal.  Take Tesco’s own  ”Healthy Living Muesli” for example – the fat content wasn’t bad, but 24.5g of sugar is pretty high, and the ingredients include such delicious sounding additives as polydextrose, humuctant, sulphur dioxide! (by the way – go for the “Tesco Value” version and the amount of sugar increases again, and they add a load of salt too!)

Many of the other brands were no better, but I have finally found a solution which is very healthy, and so tasty it’s almost addictive!  It’s Jordan’s Natural Muesli which has no added sugar, salt or artificial flavourings, colourings or preservatives of any kind.  In fact, a quick look at the ingredients shows that it’s purely wholegrain wheat flakes, wholegrain oat flakes, barley flakes, sultanas, raisins, chopped dates, sliced Brazil nuts and roasted hazelnuts.

Now that, just served with semi-skimmed milk is damn good on its own, but mix in a few whole almonds and add a sliced banana on top and you have what I consider the (almost)perfect breakfast!

Want a couple of variations to keep things interesting?

  • Mixing in a handful of oatbran will increase the amount of fibre and protein, but it does make the texture somewhat grainy
  • Add a handful of mixed berries, you can use frozen ones if you can wait 30 minutes for them to defrost!
  • Heat it up in a saucepan on a cold morning to keep you warm and toasty out on a run
  • Got a sweet tooth?  Drizzle a little honey over for a healthier option to refined sugar

Got any more suggestions?  Leave me a comment about your favourite breakfasts!





Yungas Road (Death Road) in Bolivia

By ActionGeek. Posted in Action, The List | No Comments »

Death Road - Bolivia

I read an article on BBC news today about “The Worlds Most Dangerous Road” in Bolivia, and instantly had to add mountain biking it to my list!

The Yungas Road (known as Death Road, Grove’s Road, or Camino de las Yungas) is a stretch of road in Bolivia which is known as the worlds most dangerous road. It was built in the 1930s by Paraguayan prisinors during the Chaco war. The road is a dirt track in the mountains, a huge portion of which is downhill, and had vertical cliffs and severe drops along both sides in many places. Combine that with hairpin bends, and breathtaking scenery and it’s easy to see why it has become a mecca for mountain bikers.

The main downhill section drops 11,800 feet over 40 miles making for what looks like a truly awesome days mountain biking. Wikipedia reports that at least 18 cyclists have died on the road in recent years, but before the La Paz-Coroico highroad, when the Yungas road was the only route, there were reportedly 200 – 300 deaths on the road annually.

The picture above is taken from Wikipedia and shows an example of the vertical cliffs and no crash barriers, but a quick search on Google Images shows just how scary the road can be, and how awesome it would be to ride!