28 November 2009

H2O Audio Interval Review Part 1

I am a big fool for gadgets and new toys, especially when I hear that it's the latest and greatest blah blah blah... I'm also a big geek for portable audio players.  I've looked over the web for quite a while for underwater music systems that you can actually swim with. There are currently three manufacturers that come to mind at this time that are the most readily available: Speedo, Swimp3, and h2o audio. I realise that the last one manufactures cases, but I did say underwater music systems. After going through all the reviews, I decided to go with the h2o audio solution as I really liked the simple way they put this thing together. Anyway, a more formal write-up will follow once I'm finished reviewing this unit. So let me first just provide a simple blow-by blow in the meantime:

I just received the latest h2o audio Interval model and I find it a pretty sturdy unit. If my cold clears up,  I'll be set to try mine out tomorrow for the first time. Initially, the design for this 3rd gen ipod shuffle case has been well thought out. There's no issue with button alignment as the latest shuffle requires control via the cable itself and this has been transposed to buttons on the housing. It does take a bit of reseating the phone jack in to get both earbuds to talk, but that's just a fiddly bit that is easily sorted. Also, the case makes a satisfying click when you close it up. I've done the soak test and have had the unit underwater for 1/2 an hour and my new shuffle survived! I have found buds that fit perfectly, which is a bonus. The sound quality is the same as ported through standard headphones. I'm thinking that if I use my goggle straps and stick the whole setup under my cap, there shouldn't be an issue with slippage found by other reviewers. The form factor is quite good too as it hits that sweet-spot right under the skull. As with anything, it may take a bit of trial and error before I get the fit and feel right. Once I get it, I'll tell you how it works out.  Anyway, for the time being I think that I will mainly be listening to some of the old speed metal classics tomorrow, so stay out of my lane. 

12 November 2009

Feeling Groovy

Well I finally got the disks from the DVD set that my wife and I did for indoor cycle coaching. These are really good quality! We're actually selling them here: http://www.industrialmultisport.co.uk/products.html .

Anyway, back to the training front... I'm still cranking away. I got in a great 10 mile run in for lunch, so the marathon training is going well. this'll be a nice 50 mile for sure!

Rav out!

09 November 2009

Here we go again!

Well after a few stops and starts over the last few weeks, I'm finally back out there and feeling good. Back up a few steps... I have a 14-month old who attends a nursery... picked up every darned cold, flu, illness, etc.. and she in kind gives it to yours truly and her moma. Isn't she sweet. Surprised Anyway, I'm now on week 3 of my marathon training programme and 15 to go. Yes I know that there's plenty of time to get that weight down and speed up. I guess that it's a case of staying healthy and taking it a day at a time.

Next stop Seville!

02 October 2009

Winter is on the way!

It's been a huge gap between postings. However, all my other social media outlets are pretty up to date. I've had ups and downs throughout the year, but we persevere. IMCH came and didn't happen due to a bout of swineflu. Steelhead 70.3 I sort of went through the motions as I was in recovery mode. What finished off the season well was the Cologne Half where I finished with a 5:10 which was longer than a standard half including an underserved 5 minute penalty. This could have been a sub-5 HIM in real terms. I'll have that I believe. So this leaves me with the rest of the year. Where will it take me? We shall see. All I know is that I shall be doing Nice again and a few 70.3's.

28 May 2009

Barcelona Challenge Half Ironman

I guess mentioning Barcelona here in the UK may be considered a dirty word considering Man U's beating last night, but we're talking triathlon people! Yes it's been yonks since I entered any updates, but I've become a bit of a Twitter junkie lately. Last weekend I took part in the Barcelona Challenge Triathlon on the Costa Brava in Spain (Obviously). This was the first time this event was run by the Challenge team and appeared to have all the quality you'd expect from a Challenge event. I was totally under trained as I've had one cold after another and a bike crash that took me out of action on the bike and swimming for a few weeks. It didn't matter as I was committed to do this event. I went down with a big group from my Triathlon club Tri-Force and it really made this event a real festive one at that. I think that we were about 25 competitors and supporters who went down initially. I brought my wife and our 7-month-old (her first ever flight) which was nice to have around I must say. We spent the first day travelling and checking in. It takes quite a bit of effort getting such a big group on the move... geez. The following days consisted of the obligatory sea swim sessions, bike building and spinning, a run or two, etc. It's really important to try to acclimatise and test out your kit without actually pushing yourself too much. You tend to see people hammering a bit too hard race week as the excitement builds. This is usually a BAD idea. Anyway, to the race itself... The event was straight forward an each discipline was pretty much a one lap affair respectively.

The Swim 1.9 km

There was a big swell in the water at about 3-4 meters. I was in the first wave (fast guys, fire/police championship, pros) and got the heck kicked out of me. I held on to a steady pace as well as some speedy toes. The field broke up quite quickly due to the swell. At the turn around point I was doing quite well. Unfortunately, I got pushed by the current towards the shoreline and had to make about 300-350 up to get back to the final buoy. So my swim was closer to a 2250 swim... not nice. Probably the worst swim time of my life, but at least I didn't cheat. I heard later that 100's of my fellow competitors actually skipped that final buoy, cutting out some serious distance off the swim.

Swim time - 43:23 Ouch!

Silly time taken in transition - 5:05

The Bike 91 km

This was a mostly flat bike with a short'ish 11 km climb (out and back) stuck in the middle of the ride. There was an incredible tail wind all along the coastal road bringing up my speed to about 40-45 kph. Sweet! Anyway, even though the swim was a wave start, the bunches started forming after the hill. By the final turn around point at 58 km, it was a "Draft Fest". Now I've done events all over the world, but this was the first time I've ever seen anything like this. There were about 8 peletons formed up as I headed to that final turn. And it's really odd that this occurred as the the very wind that brought us out to this point miraculously shifted in our favour. This sort of negated the survival draft that a lot of people find themselves in when fighting heavy wind. Nevertheless, a pack built around me. So what do you do in this case? Allow the pack to pass you only to be spat out by the following group and the next? Sit back and enjoy it? Fight it out? I tried to jump ahead of the group that formed up around me. At the same time, the race referees tried to break us up. I got in the lead and ended up pretty much dragging along 50+ riders for about 8 km. It's funny actually as when I got tired and slowed down, so did the pack. When I pushed the pace, the whole group fought to keep up. I finally had enough and sat back for the rest of the ride. I know, but there wasn't much of a choice in the matter. Consequently, we found out later that about 250 cyclists were DQ'ed and it wasn't officially announced until the race actually finished! So no draft penalties handed out at all! Automatic disqualification. Un'ffing believable. So finally I ended up dropping the group in the final kilometers of the bike portion of the event and finished strong! Bike time - 2:35:16 Cool!

Yet more silly time taken in transition - 5:38! Grabbed the wrong run bag and had to run back and get mine. Aren't those bag hooks always too close together?

The Run - 21 km

Once out of transition, I certainly did not feel my usual speedy self. Nevertheless, I managed a cruising 11.5-12 kph. With my trusty Garmin I proceeded in hammering out the run. The nice thing about a an out and back course is that it gives you a chance to see the Pro's hammering it out. Man, Paul Ambrose was looking great out there as was Timo Bracht. There was just no beating Clemente Alanso as there was some heavy daylight between he and Timo and Paul. Anywho, we had a headwind out to the main turn around point with a lot of sun. I just knew that the last 10 km was going to be hot and testing without that cooling wind. Consequently, it was steamy out there with very little protection from the sun! There were loads of holiday makers out there eating pizza, drinking beer, and cooling off at various pools and beach areas (b@sta@rds). And to make matters worse, my Garmin died (freakin batteries!) at about 14 km..... I dropped my pace a bit here and started treating the aid stations like moving feasts. Not really, but I started walking them a bit dumping copious amounts of water on myself as I really started to heat up. The running surface throughout this event was so varied; sand, wooden slats, cement, ashphalt, etc. It kept things interesting. One last turn at about 19.5 km and we were heading into town to the finish. The organisers put a brutal little hill in there to finish up at the sports stadium. It was like a little Tour de France climb with spectators closing in on all sides. I walked for a couple seconds, but was finally pushed up that hill with such great support from the crowd. Then finally, we hit the stadium with just a half lap to finish. Run time - 1:56:28

I crossed the finish line with a total - 5:25:47
. Way off target, but I'll take it!

The Barcelona Challenge was a good way to start the season in anger. There were some serious organisational issues that need to be worked out (as there's a full distance event in October). These were numerou
s; we needed a better race briefing (wasn't worth attending), a start gun perhaps (didn't hear anything and went with the flow), resolve the drafting issue(TDF - course change?), course marking for the bike (almost non-existent - rubbish spray paint on the run) and proper/professional refereeing (no Draft penalties? Only DQ's). Nevertheless, I had a safe and enjoyable event. If they resolve these issues, I might come back.

Now I'm just in recovery mode, doing a bit of training this week. I have a self-supported century planned for Sunday as I couldn't get into the Chiltern 100 (left it too late). Six weeks from now I've got Ironman Switzerland. I'm hoping for a PB and go under 11 hours, but as I've proven time and again anything can happen during an Ironman. ;)

03 February 2009

Tring to Town

Tring to Town was my first Ultramarathon. It's basically a point to point marathon on the Grand Union Canal between Brentford and Tring here in the UK. It's roughly 40 miles end to end and is run two days consecutively. I decided to do one day and I think it was enough for me for my firs foray into ultra running. Anyway, I'm not that crazed... yet!

We got to the race HQ at the hotel in Brentford the night before to pick up my number, map, and have them inspect the required kit I had in my running pack. The first thing I noticed was how low key the whole event seemed. Don't get me wrong, Ambition is a professional team that hosts events worldwide. They know what they're doing. So they checked to see that I had all the essential stuff for the race. Everyone was required to have the same things kept in their bags throughout the whole of the event (food, compass, space blanket, lamp, etc.)

The first bit of good news was that we were going to start an hour later in the morning, which meant a 9:00 start. That's great. I have been sleeping in lately and early mornings do not suit me these days. The next thing was that we would be starting from the hotel itself.This meant that S and the baby would be able to see us off and still remain warm.

We arranged to stay with friends close by which was fantastic. We were treated to the obligatory carbo-loading session with pasta, chicken with green pest, topped off with a very generous apple crumble! Whew... that was a lot of food. Thanks Rob and Fi! Relatively early to bed and early to rise. For breakfast, I decided to go very conservatively with the amount of food I took in and stuck with a carb drink, a bagel, and some coffee. That hit the spot and we were off to the hotel.

The race briefing area in the hotel was full of runners already kitted up by the time we got there. A few minutes to spare for a few nonsensical questions and we were about ready to go. S took a few photos pre-start and we were off!

Race Start
We had about a half mile before we hit the canal and ran as a group. At this time I realised that my Camelback drink bottles were leaking like hell! Not a good choice for ultra running (lesson learned). Anyway, it really felt like a festive atmosphere as we all seemed to be taking it easy. The fast boys didn't take long before they started putting the hammer down. After about 2-3 miles, they were gone! I think that was a pack of 5-6 runners. I decided to run conservatively and kept an even pace for a while. This is when I met Mimi Anderson and a couple others. We kept to together picking up a few runners who slowed a bit. By the time we hit about 14 miles, we had 7 people in our group. It was really nice. We were trading off stories about events and races. It was a really nice time we were having. Every once in a while we traded off the lead pace until I took it. I knew this section of the canal well and put the pace up a bit. This was the section near Harefield between Uxbridge and Rickmansworth. It' a nice long stretch full of green and the occasional canal boat.By the time I hit check point 2 at about 20 miles, I was all alone. Oops! Well at this point I felt good, I was well hydrated and was taking in gels frequently. I was maintaining low 8:15 miles or thereabouts. It wasn't until I hit the marathon distance did I regret this. I managed 3:48 at that point. This isn't my race pace for marathon, but it's not shabby considering the terrain (stoney, ruts, muddy). One of the group I was with caught up to me, gave me a few words of encouragement and continued on. I caught back up with him at CP3 which was at 30 miles. I stopped for some water and jelly babies. I got passed by another one from that original group. That was a great pick me up as I ended up pacing with that guy for a while. We had a chat about what to do at this point of the event. You really need to watch your footing as mistakes can be made easily! I suddenly had to drop back as my energy levels started flagging again. I had 5 miles to go and realise that my speed had dropped to 11 minute miles! My quads were really going at this point. Every lock or incline was a serious drain on me and hit my pain threshold. I got passed by a few more people including Mimi. She just flew past me and the guy in front of me (little did I know that she actually missed the exit off the canal and ran an extra 7 miles!). I finally got to the ramp off the canal to the hotel finish. I got to the top of the bridge and the signs didn't really point anywhere. Time to consult the map! By the time I got it out S was arriving in the car. Funny coincidence as I could've been at that T-junction an hour later. She told me to follow her! Right! She told me that the GPS in the car said 1/2 mile to destination. I put down the hammer and followed. I finally got to the finish at beautiful Pendley Manor in ummm I think 5:54. I made it under my targeted time, in about 13th place, got my medal, and the t-shirt!

This was a great event one of which I would recommend to people considering doing as their first ultra. I'll definitely have a go in the future and see how fast I could run it or maybe do both days. Consequently, I'm currently recuperating from this effort and am having a nice active rest this week. Then it's back on with Ironman training!

30 January 2009

It's Go time

Tomorrow I'll be doing my first ultramarathon the Tring to Town. I am completely jumping around the house! I know that it should be taken as an event and not really a race, but I can't help myself. We're going to go register tonight at the race HQ in Brentford (how exotic) and then stay with some friends close by. The forecast looks good and we are good to go. Full report follows!

25 January 2009

Week in Review 25/01/09

Scores are on the doors. This week is the first week taper before my Ultramarathon. So here are my results for the week:

M - 10.21 miles 1:24 Steady Run
T - Off
W - 14.2 miles (am) 2:00 Ultra Pace Run, 5.86 mile (pm) 0:53 Easy Run
Th - Core/Stretching 1:00
F - 5.51 mile 0:48 steady Run
S - 10.03 Tempo Run 1:13, 2500m Technique Swim 1:00
S - 15 mile 2:09 Ultra Pace Run

Back in it next week! Woohoo!!

24 January 2009

One week to go!

I feel great today. I just had a stonking good run this morning and I can't say how great this makes me feel. I did a 10 miler that should have been at a cruising pace, but after the 1st mile warm-up, I just had to up the tempo... and again...and again. My last mile was a 6:30 split (race pace). I felt awesome and I had much more left in the tank!

As some of you know, I've been training for T2T which is on the 31st. It's so close I can taste it. Funny thing is that it's not even an A race for me. I just always wanted to do an ultramarathon. Honestly, I can say that it's actually been easier than training for an Ironman triathlon that's for sure. The amount of time is the same, it's just the ratio of training has shifted, drastically. I normally do about 40-45 mile running weeks as a maximum and concentrate mainly on cycling and swimming at this time of year, but obviously I've had to shift this. The long runs of 4-5 hours don't even feel any worse than being on the bike. Actually, I sometimes prefer these long runs over a long bike. I tend to hit a plateau at about 4 hours and then I feel like I can go further. Having done a maximum in training of 32 miles, the extra 8 required for T2T doesn't seem unreasonable. Anyway, one last long run of 15-20 miles tomorrow and I'm shutting down for the following Saturday. We are go!

21 January 2009

Tick Tock!

Ten days to go before the next big event! The Tring to Town race feels more real as I get closer to it. I'm currently on a two-week taper phase, but it is definitely harder than last week. I had a bit of a low week with no long run. I suspect that my rest phase between 30+ mile runs is 10 days and not 7 days. Glad I skipped that last 45 km run. Instead, I've done a series of 10 mile runs and am in the process of a 2 run day today. I got in 14.5 miles for lunch and will hit the roads this evening to round this out to 20 miles. One more longish run on Sunday at 14-15 miles and I'll be on a light week before the event on the 31st. My legs feel like they are going to make it.

Ultras take a bit more planning than Ironman races for some odd reason. However, running is so simple... you just need a pair of shoes. I believe that I will do another one next year.... but which one? Anyone? Comments would be appreciated. I'm thinking of the Western States 100.

12 January 2009

Off Road Running Shoes - Saucony ProGrid Xodus

I know that I've been saying that I would start doing product reviews on my blog, so here we go!

Hello. My name is Rav and I am a running shoe junkie. I've run in everything from track spikes to paper thin racing flats. This season, I've been doing various events on a pair of Nike Vomero+3 shoes. I love them so much as they are really comfortable to run in. I'm currently training for an ultradistance marathon that is purely off-road, so I needed something more specific to multi-surface running. I already have some off-road shoes, but they are flat and uncushioned. After about 10 km you'd be hard pushed to go any further. About 10 days ago I ran some of the Grand Union Canal with road shoes and found that they really didn't really suit the surface conditions as they were just too soft. So I decided to go out and get some new shoes...

I did some shopping around and decided to go for a pair of Saucony ProGrid Xodus shoes. My first impression of them was whoa look at those shiny things! Saucony has really started to design some nice looking shoes. I got the grey and yellow ones from my local running shop Up and Running in Watford. They are surprisingly light when you pick them up, but they are made of some seriously durable materials. With the ripstop material on the top and the Vibram soles, these things really looked the business. Ryan at the shop (who happens to be a very accomplished trail and ultra-distance runner himself), offered these up as I told him that the GUC (Grand Union Canal)really tore up my legs whilst wearing road shoes. The Xodus seemed to suit my requirements as they are neutral and cushioned while at the same time stable enough for uneven multi-surface running. I decided to take them out on my run the very same day as I wanted to break them in a bit before my long run on Sunday.

On my first run (the maiden voyage) I took them out on a short circuit of 6 km though local trails and they seem to respond well to the twists and turns that this particular loop consisted of. On my second run I kept mostly to the trails and did my hill session in them. The hill repeats were actually on a paved section close to the Arsenal training grounds. The cushioning in these shoes were certainly adequate for paved downhill running as I didn't feel too sore afterwards. This is important as I've had offroad shoes that really don't have enough cushioning to do very much on the road. Finally, I took them out on my long run on the GUC, which consisted of a 52 km out and back run along the footpath that runs along the canal. Unfortunately, as the surface was still frozen in the early hours of the morning, it was a hard and uneven slog to get the first 32 km in. This absolutely tore up my legs. I don't think that it would have mattered what shoes I was wearing at that time. As the sun came up and the temperature rose, the frozen mud on the footpath actually started getting mushy. It was like the difference between night and day. After about another 10 km or so, my legs started feeling better, but not great. I finished about 10 minutes faster at 50 km than 10 days before, so that's a good thing. In order to tell if these are the right shoes for long distance trail running is still up in the air, but it's certainly looking positive. I'll be back in a few posts to give you a more definitive review of these shoes...

11 January 2009

Another week in the bank

I don't usually do training updates, but I thought that I'd do one this week for a change. I'm currently training for an ultramarathon this winter which kicks off on the 31st of the month. Anyway, here's my week:

Monday - 10km - straight run, 2400m - aerobic swim
Tuesday - 11km - interval session
Wednesday - 6km - steady run, 2600m - speed swim, weights session
Thursday - 11.5km, 30km indoor cycling
Friday - 6.5km - steady run
Saturday - 17km hill session, 3400m - long set swim
Sunday - 52km - canal run, 35km - indoor cycling

Scores on the doors: 8400m swim, 65km cycle, 114km run (woot), weights x 1

It was a good week indeed. I came up short on missing a weights session, but made up with an additional swim and a few extra runs. I'm really pleased with hitting 70 miles this week even with the weekend being a bit bottom heavy. My run today was awesome! It hurt, but it puts me in the right place physically for the run in a few weeks. I'm also getting in good shape for my triathlon base training. I'm a bit concerned about the lack of cycle training, but I should be fine come the end of February.

05 January 2009

Week in Review

I managed about 70 miles last week which is pretty good for me. This is going up yet again with a long run of 33-35 miles! I'm pretty confident that I should make it through ok on this as the 50 km I ran last week was after NYE and little sleep.. Fingers crossed. Keep up the good training all!

Event List for 2009

I've so far decided upon the following triathlons and road races for 2009:

Tring to Town (40 mile ultra)
Reading Half Marathon
Barcelona Challenge
Ironman 70.3 UK
Ironman Switzerland
Ironman 70.3 Steelhead
Ironman 70.3 Monaco (Potentially)
Dublin Marathon (Possible)
And a number of local triathlons and running races..

01 January 2009

Now we're getting somewhere

To ring in the New Year I decided to go for my long run for the week today. I finally got down to the Grand Union Canal to do a bit of a simulation in preparation for Tring to Town. The weather was perfect today (grey, cold, but dry). Doing a run after a late NYE was a challenge to begin with. Doing 50 km is another thing. So at about 11 am I drove over to Watford and got running. I went south towards Heathrow. I was aiming for two 12 km out and back runs, but I decided to go for it and run out 25 km to my turn around point. Erm.... a slight mistake that! Once I got to about 32 km I started to fall to pieces! You see almost all my long runs have been on the road with no issues. On the canal the surface is somewhat uneven and it really kills the legs after a while. Compound that after a few hours and ouch! Anyway, the last 18 km was a bit tortuous to say the least! Once I hit 42 km I started to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Then some of my fave tunes started playing on my iPod. A bit of Rammstein.... some Sonic Youth.....Linkin Park. This really helped. The final 5 km just went by like a dream! Nice. Job done! I have hit 50 km and my first ultradistance in 4:56! I'll check in later with some observations and tips on how I could've done this with less pain and a bit more speed.