Here Comes The Sun – for Mum!

This post is dedicated to the most loyal supporter of my blog, and hitherto the only of you to actually comment on one of my posts so far (hint hint dear readers…). As if it is needed, there is of course another good reason in that today is Mother’s Day. So this one is for you Mum, I hope you enjoy it!

Today is one of the most important days in training for another reason, in that it marks the start of British Summer Time, meaning even more chance to train later into the evenings and hopefully even a bit of sun, as opposed to head down cycling on the turbo in a darkened living room, which seems to have comprised a significant portion of my training so far this year. To mark this momentous occasion, I have just returned from a particularly satisfying 10k part trail run around Bromsgrove, exploring some new routes and enjoying the sunshine.

On that basis, today seems a great opportunity to follow up my recent “Ten Things” blog, with a special edition based on my indoor training experiences of the past few months. So once again, you know you are doing the Chile Challenge in Winter when…

  1. Your wife is not happy that your turbo trainer set up takes up half the lounge and has told you off more than once after stubbing her toe on it.
  2. You have spent inordinate amounts of time worrying about trivial matters such as: how many K’s you should allocate to a combat class by trying to relate to how knackered you feel after the same time running (8k), should cross-training count towards the running target (yes) or rowing to the swim target (no).
  3. You spend so long at the gym your wife assumes you are having some sort of affair, but in reality you are far to busy and the closest you come is the hours spent on the middle stationary by the window.
  4. You always remember too late why you try and avoid the gym on a Saturday morning when you can’t get to your favourite machine as there is some joker sat on it reading the weekend papers.
  5. You actually have a favourite machine at the gym…
  6. You receive confused looks for staring at the guy next to you (in reality wondering where he got his trainers / top / etc  from) and are actively considering shaving your legs to be more aerodynamic on the bike.
  7. You get annoyed that  the car park is particularly rammed on one side with members spending literally ages parking their 4x4s as close to the door as possible (sometimes even half on the curb) despite the other side being empty and about a 30 second longer walk. You are at the gym for xxxx sake; if you can’t traverse the car park this is not the place for you!
  8. You get ill, but then worry more about how many miles being ill will set you back in the Chile Challenge, than the thought of actually being ill itself.
  9. The high point of a week’s work course in London was the onsite gym opening at 6am so you could get there first think to start racking up the miles (just like Stallone in Tango & Cash).
  10. You have nearly fallen off your stationary bike whilst desperately trying to save ideas for your next blog into your phone (in your best Alan Partridge dictating ideas for a second series style).

Gym escalators

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Music of the Month: March

Back to Reality

The other week I picked up a second hand CD (looks like a shiny drinks coaster kids) called Back to Reality, which is full of 80s & early 90s dance tunes. The best name I can apply to it is Old School (I am not cool enough to use a K in that name) and it takes me back to school discos, common rooms and summer holidays. To take things to another level, a week or so later I found myself in a club in London for my sister Lucy’s 30th Birthday (it was literally below a sweet shop – the things you see in the big city…) and to cut a long story short I now have some hazy memories of dancing to Snoop Dogg and other tunes from this era with my Dad whilst drinking jager bombs!

As well as dancing, these songs are also pretty perfect for working out to and it is no coincidence they make up a lot of the playlist for Body Combat, but from a personal view these give me a lot of inspiration and certainly helped me get through my 100 km ride, so I therefore feel it is worth dedicating this month’s blog to the genre. In no particular order, my songs of March are:

  • Ride on Time – Black Box
  • Set You Free – N-Trance
  • Let Me Be Your Fantasy – Baby D
  • Rhythm is a Dancer – Snap!
  • Gonna Make You Sweat – C&C Music Factory
  • Good Vibration – Marky Mark & The Funky Bunch (aka Mark Wahlberg)
  • Can’t Touch This – Mc Hammer
  • Get Ready for This – 2 Unlimited
  • Push It – Salt n Pepa
  • The Bomb – Kenny Dope

A Good Old Brick Session

Brick session

Today I had a great brick session in the gym. Just to explain for those landlubbers reading, this is not something the SAS do whilst running around the Brecon Beacons with a bergen full of breezeblocks and a six pack of Mars Bars, nor one that harks back to my old ninja days involving using my forehead to smash various items of masonry, but a term used by triathletes when doing back to back training sessions in different disciplines. The aim is to get your body used to transitioning between the sports, basically so you do not end up falling apart in the middle of a race… those of you who have already experienced the feeling of coming off a long bike ride and into the run will know what I mean!

One of the best things about triathlon is this variety, and each element requires a focus on different muscle groups: the swim relies heavily on your upper body for propulsion, in particular your arms and shoulders, but also your legs whilst kicking, whilst the bike is clearly one for the lower body involving your glutes, quads, hammies and calves. The run also mainly needs a strong lower body, but uses the muscles are used in a different way, so rather than going round and round on the pedals, they are going back and forward to move you ahead. Although a swim to bike brick is possible, most bike bricks tend to be bike to run for obvious reasons. For a good article on this for those who are interested see http://www.220triathlon.com/training/run/run-faster-off-the-bike/5005.html 

In today’s case, I did a 30 km bike ride followed straight away by an 8 km (5 mile) run, which took just over 1 hour 45 mins. As the first specific one of the year it went pretty well (although very hot), with fairly low level of pain in the legs at the start of the run giving a good indication that the training so far this year is paying off. Over the next few months I will  be extending these, and I guess the longer you spend on the bike, the more it  is likely to hurt on foot, although it usually wears off after a few minutes so it is always worthwhile.

The real sign it was a good session was when I got back to the locker room, looking like I had just been washed up on a beach after the 50 year storm, the guy next to me gave me a look I can only describe as part respect and part horror, and asked how long had I been training for to look like I did… so here’s to the next session being even more intense!

Ten signs you may be doing the Chile Challenge

IMG_0652

One aspect of long distance training is that you end up with far too much time to think about things, and it was whilst on a particularly long ride the other day that I came up with today’s blog. So if you find yourself exhibiting a number of the following symptoms, you may well be doing the Chile Challenge yourself…

1. You have a Gold account at Wiggle (online triathlon supplies) and spend your free time collecting ludicrously over-sized boxes from the sorting depot who are apparently incapable of following your instructions to leave them by the front door.

2. Most of your food / clothing / music purchases so far this year have been based around how much they will help with your challenge, with your iPod going straight to the Rocky soundtrack whenever you switch it on (as if by magic).

3. You get laughed at by your wife for wearing strange items of clothing you would otherwise not dare wear in public –  such as compression tights or padded cycling shorts – and your washpile is a never-ending mountain of gym tops, shorts and socks.

4. You spend so much time on your bike you permanently look like you have just walked off the set of Back to the Future Part 3 (ok I was struggling to think of a suitable film metaphor here!)

5. You are frequently still awake at 3am having apparently overdosed on some insanely named caffeine based supplement that is supposed to give you more energy during longer sessions but actually just makes you into an insomniac.

6. You worry about the potential damage a takeaway pizza could do to your 10k time, but have it anyway with the justification you will burn it off the next day. On the other hand, you happily knock back sports nutrition products and consider a three pack of energy gels a reasonable meal substitute…

7. You have subscriptions to most, if not all of the following magazines – Outdoor Fitness, 220 Triathlon, Men’s Running, Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness, which you have justified to yourself not only for the additional motivation, but by the pile of free gifts you have not actually used yet.

8. You are more proud of the spreadsheet you designed to track your mileage and PBs than any of the ones you have made at work, and your colleagues wonder why you always end up taking the stairs to the 3rd floor rather than the lift.

9. Most of the phrases you use in your Spanish homework revolve around ‘triatlón’, ‘natación’ and ‘ciclismo’ (although are usually also totally irrelevant to the actual topic being discussed which confuses your lecturer no end).

10. You worry that despite what some people tell you, the only people who actually read your blog are your wife, your mum & your sister. The only way I would know more is if maybe someone actually commented on one of my posts. We will see…!

Sporting Heroes – March

Brian-ODriscoll

It seems only right that this month’s Sporting Hero is dedicated to one of the best, if not the best rugby player of my generation, who is not only continuing to break records with his 141 international caps, but playing his last match later today.  In fact it is doubly relevant given that it is St Patrick’s weekend (as well as my little sister’s 30th – Happy Birthday Lu!) with a potential Six Nations win for Ireland on the cards as well!

I have been watching the 5/6 Nations since the 8o’s, and to be honest I can’t really remember Brian O’Driscoll not being involved and at the forefront of the tournament. He has always been a very skilled player, but also seems a genuinely nice guy too, well spoken in interviews and passionate about the game. It helps that Ireland also have my favourite anthem (the brilliant Ireland’s Call, which should really be on my playlist), and the emotion you could feel last weekend in his final home game was truly inspiring.

My personal favourite memories of this sporting legend (and I really mean that) were his leading Ireland to their first Grand Slam in 60 odd years in 2009, as well as his awesome try for the Lions in 2001,  and were it not for injury (let’s not go into reasons) I am sure he would have had even more on the board. The thing with rugby is that although the tries are obvious stand out moments, it is not all about that, and the extra subtleties such as handling skill, tackling technique, fitness and leadership are also massively important, and Brian has always been exemplary in this area.

So as much as I would like to see England come out on top by the end of today, it seems fairly fitting for Ireland to go out on a high, and for once I will be hoping they manage it! Brian, you will be genuinely missed.

100 km Beaten!

100 km

As I have said before, I don’t really want to be reporting on every session I do this year as it won’t make for the most exciting reading, but I had to put a special note after today’s – a full on 100 km bike ride – a new PB and also the furthest of this year yet by some way.

I may have mentioned earlier I now have a bit of a tradition to smash it on the bike during the Six Nations games, whilst we are still waiting for the weather to pick up, and today was no exception. Setting off just before the Ireland Italy match (featuring the legendary Brian O’Driscoll who will be featuring in this blog shortly) it took me all the way through to half time in the Scotland France game.

Yes, it was training indoors and I am keen to get out when I can, but this is a great way to prepare for the longer events coming up this year without having to put my life into someone else’s hands on the Birmingham roads. I was pretty happy with the whole thing, having done this once at about the same time last year, it went a lot better this time and showed the training so far this year was worth it. A few facts for those who are interested:

  • Distance – 100 km
  • Time – 3 hours 27 mins (PB)
  • Equivalent Distance – Bromsgrove to Bristol or Santiago to Valparaiso
  • Percentage Monthly Target – 28%
  • Calories Burned – Approx 2000 kcal
  • Fast Food Index – 4 x Big Macs
  • Nutrition Strategy – 4 x 500 ml bottles carb drinks; 4 x energy gels; 1 x FGS milkshake (more on these in another blog)

So there you go, a great session, here’s to more to come during the year!

February Round Up: 373 km

Bienvenido Torres Del Paine

So despite this being the shortest month of the challenge, I thought I would push things and leave my monthly target the same, and you know what? I have only gone and beaten it! 373 km completed against a target of 356 – 104.9% of my goal (incidentally the same as the frequency of my favourite radio station XFM) – which makes up for the slight shortfall last month.

Into the serious breakdown bit: I managed 312 km on the bike (30% more than January) with the longest being a 60 km session, which I am looking to push towards the big 100 km as the year goes on. Running was also up at 28 km, and hopefully as the weather starts to pick up, so will my ability to get out without some sort of monsoon as a distraction. Swimming was unfortunately only 1 km, a poor showing, thwarted somewhat by the pool being packed every time I tried, but again, this should pick up once the outdoor pool opens in the next month or so.

In terms of progress, this puts me at 665 km of the challenge completed, around 15%, and lands me bang in the middle of the Torres del Paine national park, having passed through the city of Puerto Natales on the way. In terms of getting around here, it would theoretically be possible, but a hell of a journey through ice fjords and glaciers, and I think even with my trusty Orca wetsuit the sea temperature would probably be a bit chilly.

The park itself is one of the most famous in Patagonia (think Snowdonia) and your running partners could be anything from guanacos to pumas. The place is a stunner being voted in the top five most beautiful places in the world by National Geographic last year. A truly amazing location, and somewhere I really hope to be able to see myself one day.

Patagonia_Map2