Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Walk Like An Egyptian........ Scarecrow

The Physical Perils And Pitfalls Of Training For A Long Distance Bike Ride.

When actually, conclusively deciding that I was actually going to go ahead with the #1000in7 challenge there was a distinct danger of breaking myself before I had even had chance to get in the shape that would give me a fighting chance of completing it. I have an extraordinarily high aptitude for doing things in an arse about face manor and going too hard too fast when training. And, true to form on week one I thought I was in trouble!

Ideally, any normal person builds up in a slow progressive manor, allowing the body to adapt correctly. allow muscles to build, efficiency increase and recovery be maximised. But no, I know better than the experts...........


John must have been a cyclist
Throwing caution to the wind I wound up my consumption of the winter turbo trainer to about 250% normal weekly dose. Come Sunday I had realised my mistake (better late than never). Walking like a scarecrow with a rake firmly implanted in his "corn hole" and the perpetual need for one of those rubber rings you sit on if you suffer from piles, I thought there must be a better way

I dialed it back to a level that my body could continuously recover from in the early stages and slowly built up distance/time/intensity with the end game being a finely tuned cycling machine - see Richie Porte. Or at the very least a Peter Sagen. Easy! But even then this sort of training comes with its own specific pitfalls:

The repetitive nature of the training takes its toll on areas of high stress. But they are not necessarily the areas you would expect. Obviously areas such as the knees (especially my inner patella) and thighs take the brunt of the beating when you are smashing out those miles but there are other areas that you may not have considered (or forgotten about) if you have never ventured into long range cycling before.

Remember when you first started cycling? No? me neither (All I remember is that it was Matts fault). But I remember the incessant bum bruising/chaffing that all cyclists become, in time, immune to. But, reader be warned, this immunity is only effective within your "training range". Any sizeable increase in distance on top of that will inevitably end up in a panic induced chamois cream mess in your shorts as you hopelessly try and resurrect your once painless, chaff free buttocks! To this point in my cycling life I famously have never felt the need to "Cream up", not even during 100 mile Sportives or our road trip to Paris. Will #1000in7 be the breaking of me? Watch this (slightly dark and clammy) space. An issue that inspired my latest #1000in7 graphic.

Wrists. Yes legs do 99% of the work when cycling, but you need to direct all that power in a direction else you could end up in the nearest bush (Matt!). To make this possible you have to be holding your handlebars. Your hands, wrists and arms take a beating on long journeys. The unsung heroes of the endurance cyclist. Vibrations travelling through them with each stone, pebble, drain cover and heaven forbid........ Cobble. My wrists are something I have struggled with for the majority of the training for #1000in7, even holding them at certain angles for extended periods of time cause pain and a slight swelling around the joint. (Insert weak wrist joke here - to your level of humour). I figured that it was something that would either a) go away as the wrists got stronger/used to the pummeling, or b) I would have to severely strap up the wrists when it came to #1000in7 for real. (6 weeks into training for #1000in7 and I'm still getting wrist problems - looks like option b) for me..... 

Elastic Sleeve + Thick Cable Strap = Best Solution I have found

Back. I’m lucky that my core strength is naturally pretty good and I haven’t ever had any real problems with back pain in cycling – even when lugging 20kgs on my back all the way to Paris. But that doesn’t stop me worrying. I use a “Foam roller” for post workout massage and without a doubt it significantly helps any, aches, pains or dreaded DOMS. Sadly this doesn’t come without its own pitfalls. In my case it was my wife….. Unavoidably in my case sometimes I find myself in front of the TV warming down and usually that is in the company of my fantastic wife. I say fantastic, but that isn’t taking into account when she posts things like this on social media:



Whilst not technically a problem with the foam roller itself, it is definitely worth noting who’s around you when you are actually doing the deed.

When it comes to lower back pain, I am also a great believer in kinesiology tape. I have mentioned this before, but it’s like a black magic that seems to cure/ease most muscular issues (With me at least). At times I have resembled a funky mummy (Egyptian, not parental) with all the tape I have on me. You won’t find a better tape than Rocktape although pricey is still the best out there, but if you are on a budget give Rea tape a look up on Amazon, solid performance for the price.

Hopefully this will have been of some use to one of the three people that read my blog and I will add to this as I go with more nonsense. If it’s no use, sorry, I’ll just continue with my cathartic ramblings to the i-world in the hope of finding some sort of mental nirvana!
Peace out, James!

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Man-Flu Hoo-Doo


2 Years ago (2014) I was preparing to do the Wiggle Spring Saddle sportive with my good friends Matt and Oli full of vigor and energy, a smile on our face and a  bounce in our step…..

Fast forward almost 2 years. Suffering from Man-flu and under the influence of Beachums flu-plus I lay in bed staring at the ceiling as the 6am alarm went off. Drawing back the curtains did nothing to appease my grim-ness as what I saw was a was a bleak, wet cold “Spring” morning.

Knowing I felt on the wrong side of bad when I went to bed I left the whole thing open ended with a “I’ll see how I feel in the morning attitude”, but I had prepped all of my bits & bobs (Nutrition, clothes, spares, bike etc) and was ready at short notice.

I’ll be honest, if it were not for two factors I would have probably closed the curtains and snuggled up back inside my lovely warm feather filled bed, in all of its comfortable glory. But:
1) I had made plans to meet up with the brother of one of my greatest of friends (Lucy). And I wouldn’t have wanted to let Tom plod round on his lonesome.
2) I wanted to avoid that look of “You wussyboy” from my wife when she woke to find me still in bed the next morning.

In one of the more “man-up-able” moments in my life I made the conscious decision that I was going to get my arse out of bed and go for what was sure to be a “100 mile Shitty bike ride”. The Sportive was based at the July course of the Newmarket racecourse.

Having met up with Tom in the car park we signed in with our respective steeds and made our way through the light drizzle to the start line. Drugged up to the eyeballs with decongestant tablets and Jaffa cakes I started bang on 10am, making our way out of the racecourse and into the rolling landscape of Suffolk. The ride started at a nice sedate pace of around 17/18mph – a string of cyclists just there to have a good time. Wouldn’t it be lovely if it stayed that way……………..

After about an hour of meandering through the B roads that drape over the Suffolk hills we were signed to take what looked like the driveway to one of those “You shall never return” houses in horror films. Despite it actually being a real “road”, it was pencil thin and peppered with the tiny sharp stones they use to top coat any newly laid tarmac. Whilst annoying in a car (Pinging off the interior of your wheel arch) it’s far worse (potentially) on a bike. All of a sudden bikes littered the greenery that flanked this road with a flurry of cursing, inner tubes and tyre levers. Just as Tom and myself seemed to leaving the “black zone”, tsst, tsst, tsst, tsst, tsst, tsst…………………. The unmistakable sound of a rotating wheel with a puncture. The second time in as many years that I had suffered a Spring Saddle Sportive puncture – at least this time wasn’t at 40mph downhill!

Just as Clarkson and Co. preach there shall be no waiting round for downed comrades, so I ushered Tom on and intended to have a quick tube change and catch up with him in a few miles. I unceremoniously dismounted my bike and began fumbling around with my numbed fingers replacing the tube, which is harder than you might think when you are cold and wet, and every time you leant over the bike your head filled with mucus. It felt like an eternity (actually 10 minutes) but I was soon back on my bike. However not for long. A strange vibration had appeared in the front of my bike. And there was me thinking I had done an OK job on the puncture:       
  • Tube replaced
  • Check for holes
  • Check for internal debris
  • Correct tyre rotation
But no.

Turns out I hadn’t seated the valve correctly and it was impeding the tyre lip sitting on the rim.
Initially I felt hard done by, but in retrospect it was my own damn fault. In my Flu-plus haze I had kept my turbo trainer designated tyre on the bike – these are cheap, old and crappy. Just for your information they are stock Bontrager T2 tyres and are the least puncture resistant rubber known to man DO NOT BUY THEM! So all of this could have easily been avoided.

This wasn’t the end of my errors for the day. Far from it. Having caught up with Tom a while later I had that uneasy feeling down below. No, not that one! It was overhydration! Out of nowhere my bladder felt like it was to the point of bursting. Another cycling party foul!

               

A quick pit stop later and I was again chasing after Tom for another hour. After this (the latest push) my Man-flu quashing meds began to show signs of dissipating. Basically every vibration and cold wind (of which there were lots) resulted in a “head in a blender” feeling – Nice.

We were now at the furthest point of the course so there would be no turning back, but made the decision to get it over and done with as soon as I possibly could. Having again made my apologies to Tom (I did actually spend quite some time with him, despite how this is written), and pushed on.
A short while after parting ways the final food stop was upon us.

             

Taking 5 minutes to let my head clear and fill up on free food I pulled over. This was when things began to take a turn for the worse…….

Just minutes after restarting (Crossing paths with Tom at the stop) the temperature plummeted. The already windy conditions picked up and the heavens opened! This was just what I didn’t want or need. A rye smile to myself was quickly followed by a frown, a grimace and then a groan. As the rain pelted down on my cold saddened face, it made me wonder if I had indeed made the right choice peeling myself out of bed that morning???

Basically my view for 90 minutes.
An hour of hills, rain, wind and fogging up glasses (Which later manifested as a river inside of the lenses) and the pain was almost over. The rain had subsided  and the sun had made a belated appearance to the day.

One short sharp climb was all that was left behind myself and the nice, flat, sheltered run in. The climb was a little too severe for some at the end of their respective distances. As I dropped to a small ring and dropped down the gears I passed two women and a guy who had adopted the Chris Froome run/walk technique. But  will take NOTHING away from their achievements that day, they were out there, on the road giving it their all. On another day I could have been in bed.

                

As I crested the hill there was a huge internal sigh and coasted to the finish at the Newmarket racecourse. And although I felt like the grim reapers toilet bowl, it had been worth it. Had I not bowed to my wife’s peer pressure to “man up” I would have one less life experience to look back on with a certain type of pride.

She may have been right, but we’ll keep that between you and me...........

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Jaybird - Wireless Headphones "The Review"

OK, so it has been a while since I last did a gear review. Therefore I thought I would spread my less than vast knowledge upon my adoring masses (all 3 of them).

As so many others do, I like to motivate myself though workouts/training sessions with music. What music I hear you say? Well it’s all about horses for courses with me:
·        Running/Cycling (On turbo trainer – You should never road cycle plugged in!)
= Rock or Dub-step i.e Guns n Roses or Hadouken!
·        Weights/Circuit Training
= Hip-Hop/Rap
·        Warm up/Warm Down
= Hanson or Jason Derulo



So what better way to fire myself through the day to day grind of a workout than a funky new pair of Bluetooth headphones. After much thought and deliberation I decided to take a punt on the Jaybird Sports band II (In "Candy apple red").



Aesthetics/Build: The SB2’s (Sports Band 2) are a well fitted solid construction (Fits fairly flush to an average human head), with slightly pivoting ear pieces to allow a parallel fit to the ear. I opted for the slightly different “Apple Red” which seem to bring a little fun out of the minimalist/basic 80’s strap design.

Sound: The quality of the sound is of a good standard (As good as you need in the gym setting), although the signal can further be improved by using the inbuilt apt-x technology via a special dongle (Purchased separately), this seems to smooth out the signal somewhat and gives a much deeper, rich sound. *Warning – Apt-X dongle seriously reduces phone battery time.*

Comfort/Fitment: For 1-2 hours at a time these headphones are great, past that point it can sometimes cause irritation (on my ears at least) where the foam of the earpieces begin to rub. If you are looking for an all-day headphone or are an Ironman looking for 12hr tunes, look elsewhere. For your normal gym Joe, these are fine!

Battery: I have had the these headphones now for 12 months and the internal battery doesn’t seem to have degraded much at all and still get a good 7-8 hours of play time out of a single charge whilst recharge itself takes about an hour.


Connectivity: I use the headphones with an Iphone 6S (previously 5s) and it connects first time, every time with no issues with pairing or un-pairing. It can also be used to answer phone calls (Has a built in mic), although I have only used that function once when accidentally dialing up my local Kebab house mid workout – obviously I had to follow it through and order one though.

Durability: I use these day in/day out in the gym and they have never let me down with regards to function (I sometimes do not heed the low battery warning and pay for it the next session). As a side note, one of the main reasons I chose the Jaybird brand was the lifetime sweat warranty – luckily due to the high build quality I haven’t had to invoke that clause yet! That being said the foam ear pieces do tend to soak up sweat and by the end of a hard session they are pretty damp…… well, wet.

Conclusion: Without the use of the apt-x additional dongle the majority of the cost of these headphones is for style over substance. But if you are looking for high fidelity in your gym workouts then the for the extra outlay of the dongle you can have the best of both worlds!

But…… What is better than one pair of headphones???? Yes, TWO! I recently tore the wire out of my headphones I use for running in a whirl of flailing limbs - whilst jumping over a field sty (These headphones connected to a diddly little Iphone shuffle). But being a new convert to the marvels of streaming and Spotify (late to the party as always) it seemed more sensible to be able to connect to my phone wirelessly, as I have a phone with me anyway (in case of emergency).

Given my good experience with Jaybirds as a brand previously I opted to go with the Bluebuds X2 by Jaybird – luckily I held out long enough for #BlackFriday to aid in the cost of these exorbitantly priced buds.


Straight out of the box it looks promising. the X2 package is pretty comprehensive, to allow the perfect fit for any user:
  • "Comply" Premium Sport Memory Foam Ear Tips
  • Patented Secure-Fit Ear Fins
  • Friction-Fit Silicone Sport Carrying Case
  • Silicone Ear Tips
  • Charging Cable
  • Cord Management Clips.

Now, obviously I haven’t had the BBX2’s for anywhere near as long, but I use them an equal amount to my SB2’s, and feel able to give an accurate representation of what they are like.

Aesthetics/Build: The build of the BBX2’s is a minimal, sleek, basic design of a wire and two earpieces, no surprises there. The buttons are mounted on an unobtrusive inline control box, and the charge point cleverly hidden in the rear end of one of the slightly oversized speaker drivers. Everything is well put together and thought out,  perhaps with the exception of the “ear fin” fitment *see comfort*

Sound: Where the SB2’s slightly failed on sound the BBX2’s make up for it. A great sound is produced from the large speaker driver, giving a deep, clear sound. I don’t move any further than 10m from my phone during workout (Often its strapped to me) but I have not seen any signal loss over that short distance – inside or out.

Comfort/Fitment: The BBX2’s are supplied with two different types of earphone fitting (Silicone and “comply” memory foam), each type come in three different sizes, so it should fit ears of all sizes and preferences. Personally I didn’t get on with the memory foam as they irritated my ears after a period of sweaty puffing and panting. But I find the silicon tips to be great – great comfort with a decent ability to keep out the majority of external environmental sound. The ear fins are a bit fidly and tend to fall out of alignment with the driver body (ideally there would be a slightly deeper location groove), these are made to fit firmly in your ear to stop popping out, and whilst if you are a perfect fit for one of the three sizes, ace. If not it is making the best of an awkward situation (this is the category that I fall into). Having said that, all it requires if a bit of patience in getting the set-up right for you. I highly recommend the “Over-ear” set-up for runners to keep the buds firmly in place.

Battery: I have no problems or qualms with the battery and more than meets the quoted 8 hours charge life, and is easily charged within 90 minutes via the cleverly disguised mini USB port in the posterior of the driver (Right). 

Connectivity: I have had a couple of incidents recently where the headphones couldn't find my iPhone automatically from the "Paired list". However this is easily rectified by "Forgetting" the connection then re-pairing. Annoying - Yes, critical issue - No.

Durability: 6 months down the road, the earphones have fared well. The build quality and general finish of the product is great. I have caught the wires numerous times on gym equipment whilst wearing them and they still look/operate in mint condition.

Conclusion: If not for the slight ear fin location issue and a bit more high frequency clarity these headphones would be perfect (For my use at least).

I will continue to put these things through their paces and should any issues or problems raise their ugly uninvited head, I will update this blog to give the most accurate feedback I can.


Monday, 11 April 2016

Playing Away From Home

For an active person that has to “Go away with work” a lot, it can often mean a break in routine and a few days trapped in a hotel room with nothing but four TV channels and a Corby trouser press for company. Sure you can pack your trainers and go running when you are away at that sales convention in Scarborough or that productivity course in Solihull, but is that the full extent of what you can achieve. No, no it is not. My job entails many things and some of those things mean being away from home, cooped up in a Premier Inn/Holiday Inn/Public House Hotel with nothing better to do than eat third rate nuked food and put together poorly written blog posts. I used to use the "going away with work" as an excuse to eat saturated fat, drink liquid sugar, lay on my bed with a TV and see if the world ends or I get out of bed first. 

But increasingly spending nights next to the country’s finest Motorway infrastructures and a recent prompt to actually try and revisit former fitness levels forced me to not be that guy any more. 
How to go about turning your weekend away into a fitness camp that work interrupts? Decide on what sort of training you want/like to do. There's a plethora of items that cover most training bases that can be used on the move. The obvious being running: T-Shirt, shorts, trainers and off you go. But it doesn't have to stop with cardio. It is possible to do a full body workout from the "comfort" of your white and purple cell of solitude.

Suspension Trainer:
One of the all-rounder super heroes is the suspension trainer. If your room has a door that shuts you are good to go! Oli once told me that it was developed by a soldier that wanted a workout station on his travels (not sure if this is true). It's basically an S&M device modified to allow you to use body weight as a resistance for exercising. The original TRX suspension trainer can be picked up for around £150 on the net, this comes with a whole lot of gubbins (But not the wall mount). If that is a little cash heavy for you, a basic non-branded version of the suspension trainer can be picked up on Ebay for around £20-£25. There is a multitude of potential exercises that can be done on the suspension trainer:



Although the suspension trainer does focus on specific muscle groups using various exercises, by its very nature it always gives a solid core workout. This is done by using multi-planar, compound exercise movements, this in turn means the body must create its own stable base for the exercise – thus working out your core.

Some suspension trainer exercises work better than others in the confines of a hotel room. For instance, Lenny Henry may be a little aggrieved if he found size 9 footprints all over his walls:


Particularly good exercises I have found to use with the basic door/wedge set-up are:

·        The Atomic Push-up
·        The Lat Pull
·        The Mountian Climber
·        The Pike
(See exercise chart above)

Resistance Bands:
Another more compact resistance exercise weapon is the resistance band. These are basically rubber bands (The stationary kind) on steroids. Various lengths, strengths and sizes. With or without handles. But all pretty much do the same thing to different degrees. There are loads of exercises that you can incorporate into a resistance band workout, and whilst I personally use them for more of a warm-up/warm-down routine, they can be used in a full on hotel room workout: Exercise list here!

Warning: Some exercises require you to “Wrap” the band around you!

Body Weight Exercises:
What’s that? You are one of these new age, minimalist hipsters that don’t believe in exercise equipment. No problem! The one piece of equipment everybody has is – your body. Body weight exercises are numerous, and generally you don’t require anything but yourself. Best of all they can to adjusted to suit anyone. On researching for this blog I came across the table. It’s fantastic to use as both a base point and also a litmus test on your progress.

It’s a bit like “What can you do bingo”.
These exercises range from easy to “Insane”, but there is one missing. The exercise that (my wife at least) uses as a datum point to grade your “ability”. The “Handstand Press-Up”. Ever since mid-2013, when my wife fell in love with another man (Oliver Queen/Arrow/Steven Amell) I have felt sub-standard, both in looks and fitness. 



It’s a power/weight exercise that combines upper strength, core strength and balance. At least two of which I do not have……. So as an added challenge for 2016, I want to be able to do at least one rep of this ridiculous exercise.

I thought where better to start than practice my balance with a headstand. After all, if you can’t balance a headstand you can’t do a handstand. Stage 1 went well……..

I shall continue to practice………
I know what you are thinking. “You have conducted this research and applied it on you travels, but where oh where is the best places to actually do these exercises?”.

Here are my top three hotels/locations to break the boredom with exercise.


  • Park Lane Hotel (New York) – Situated 50ft from Central Park. Even the standard double room provides ample room and sturdy enough furniture for you to conduct your hotel work outs, but if that doesn’t fulfil your exercise needs there is also a top gym (If a little small at busy times), and is handily placed on Central Park so you can go for a beautiful green filled run within the concrete jungle.
  • Premier Inn (Harlaxton) – Just off the A1 near Grantham. Top tip. Room 53 is MASSIVE, I can only assume it is for Lenny Henry when he comes to stay. Can mount a suspension trainer to main or bathroom door with ease. This being said the standard “Cookie cutter” shape of a Premier Inn room doesn’t lend itself to a good suspension trainer routine.
  • AirBnB rental flat on the corner of Pohlstrase and Potsdamer Strase – 4th floor (Berlin). The shower is crap (and has no shower curtain), the kitchen is tiny, it’s a bit grubby and it isn’t in the nicest area of Berlin. But, the flat is sizable, good chunky tables and benches to utilise, and being 86 stairs up – with no lift/elevator, it is going to give you buns of steel should you stay there for any length of time.
I shall continue to look for new stupid ways to ruin my few hours of non-child rest on work trips and will keep you updated.
Happy travels!



Friday, 5 February 2016

1000in7 - In the Beginning

I decided that I had to take on a more focused training routine for my 1000in7 challenge, rather than the gunshot splatter (what I feel like) approach mixed in with being kicked up in the air for 90 minutes/week (at football).

The focus would obviously be getting back in the saddle and building up my cycling endurance. Currently I only really go out at an hour or two at a time. Not the required 12-14 hours (for 7 consecutive days). That, and building up my core strength. I have a feeling that 100ish hours bent over on a small road bike may take its toll on my back - hopefully a stronger, more flexible core will help.

Having taken on board advice from the ever helpful and very lovely @girlrunninglate.......


I decided on a good basic core routine that I could do a little each day.
·       Sit-Ups
·       Russian Twists
·       Plank Hold
·       Reverse Crunch
·       Headstand – (See this link for reason behind this)

On top of that I will look to blend in a mixture of mostly cycling and running, with some weights thrown in to break up the boredom. I think at this stage it is best to build up my stamina again and slowly increase running and cycling time, else the dreaded shin-splints will be back!

Training week 1 (Don’t worry there won’t be weekly training updates):

Despite all of the grand ideas I started off with the obligatory MNF (Monday Night Football) - I'm sure at some point there will be a MNF blog post. 90 minutes of being kicked and barged from pillar to post by people much better at football than myself. The only plus point is my poor ball retention (Insert testicle based joke here) generally leads to a healthy amount of distance covered chasing after the ball. 5.6km according to my Garmin (I had it on through curiosity). 

The Gamin Map - Midfield Maestro or Headless Chicken
One of the biggest issues I will face, apart from the bleeding bum blisters, wind burnt skin and over exerted muscles is time management. Something I have a severe aversion to. I’m trying to wrap my head round balancing Family, Work and Fitness this week and trying to come up with a semi-structured plan of attack.  Like I said, this is going to have to be a progressive mission. And I have a long way to go………….

Friday, 29 January 2016

1000in7 - A challenge to help the fight against Multiple Sclerosis



What follows is a rare (but necessary) piece of serious writing...........

The ugly face of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) entered my family’s lives in July 2015, when my wife (Emily) started complaining of “pins and needles” and “tingling” in her legs (On the way home from the Jenson Button Triathlon). Since then our whole world has changed. After a multitude of scans and blood tests she was formally diagnosed with the disease in early October. It was a long, mentally, and physically painful wait for all of us all. It was a moment I will never forget, the terror of the prognosis and the possibilities that faced us. Since then Emily has confronted everything with courage and determination. And although at the moment the disease is quite mild, she has her good days and her very bad days. The thing with MS, is it operates in a massive spectrum, both with its symptoms and severity of them. Whilst “lucky” at the moment with the severity of Emily’s MS, we are all too aware that at the drop of a hat it could all change with life altering consequences.

Throughout this entire sequence of events there was a source information and support we could turn to for invaluable help.
The MS Society

The MS society funds research, give grants, campaigns for change, provides information and support, invests in MS specialists and lends a listening ear to those who need it.

They are the biggest charitable funder of MS research in the UK. Scientists are now carrying out more MS research than ever-before on breakthrough treatments and future developments thanks to the MSS.

For an entire list of the services the Multiple Sclerosis Society provides, visit here.

Every day in the UK, 14 people are diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. It's a life-long, chronic condition for which there is currently no cure. The MSS are fighting to improve treatment and care to help people with MS take control of their lives. Over 100,000 people in the UK suffer from varying degrees of MS. I can honestly say, the MSS make a difference to ALL of them, be it research into treatment, grants for health care, support for sufferers or just a clear concise, accurate leaflet of information.

At times I feel powerless in helping Emily through her ordeal. And whilst medically it is impossible to currently cure MS, I can help fund the research into a potential breakthrough/cure.

How????

The only way I know how............ Sheer lunacy.

The plan is to cycle 1000 miles in 7 days!

Yes, 1000 miles, the equivalent of cycling from London to Madrid, in a week. Unassisted carrying everything I need on my back/bike. I have previously cycled from Cambridge to Paris (about 350 miles) in a leisurely 4 days. But this new venture is a different animal completely. Almost 3 times the distance in a little under twice the time frame. It works out at about 150 miles a day, which realistically equates to 12-14 hours a day of cycling if you factor in Cars/Trucks/Hills and old ladies on mobility scooters. Probably more after days 3-4 – I’m getting old.

Heatstroke - The Icing On a Large Cake
Just to up the ante, I have penciled in early July (Training injuries allowing) for my latest act of idiocy, so I could well end up with a good dose of heat stroke too!

I’m no wordsmith, and cannot truly convey the roller-coaster of emotions that come hand in hand with MS as well as the obvious physical implications. It is a brutal disease if left diagnosed and untreated. Please if you can donate anything to this wonderful service – “The MS Society”, I would be truly grateful. My donation page can be found here! and don't forget if you are a UK resident, hit the Gift-aid button for the Taxman to give an additional 28%

I understand that it still may be a time until I complete this challenge, but every donation will encourage me to get my fat arse off the sofa and actually train for this (in my eyes) herculean task.

Just to prove that I’m keeping my end of the deal I’ll keep you updated via my:
Blog (Occasionally): Here!
Strava profile page: - Also Here! (On the right)
Facebook Page

I thank you all in advance.

Peace and love,

James

Friday, 17 July 2015

Must Tri Harder Pt. 2 - The Jenson Button Trust Triathlon


Date: July 12th 2015
Place: Markeaton Park, Derby
Time: 10.00am

As a group of us huddled under a collection of trees trying to escape the rain, the realisation that I was about to venture into the unknown started to hit me. Much to my amazement I spotted an old friend Olly Jarvis (Official Audi 24hrs Le Mans driver), who had the same distant sad expression on his face (Although it’s hard to feel sorry for someone who races cars for a living and is as fit/healthy as he is). We spoke of our trepidation and our impending doom. I had been drawn in the 4th wave of starters so at least I wouldn’t be first in the water and it would give me chance to see the whole starting process (not sure if that was a good or bad thing).

Once I had made my way round to the starting pens and we had our pre-race briefing it was into the water to get ready for the start. The countdown began, the heart started pumping, I started my watch and then the claxon sounded. Thunderbirds were go!

The Swim:

I had made the pre-determined decision to hang back a little for the start of the qualification heat, just to see what it was all about. Once I was underway I immediately realised one thing, that wetsuits were actually quite helpful. The buoyancy it gave allowed me to concentrate a bit more on my breathing (which still had awful form). 


Lake Extraction
The other thing to hit me (apart from other peoples arms and legs) was how black the water was, literally zero underwater visibility. They had dredged the lake a couple of days previously and clearly (or not clearly) the lake had not had time to settle again before the influx of idiots in PVC suits hurtled themselves into it. There was an oily/silt film on the edge of the lake which was unpleasant to say the least. Once into my stride I picked off a couple of the stragglers before the turning buoy at the 2/3 mark. With it being only a short swim the turn acted as a bit of a bottle-neck and caused a heap of people to almost stop dead. This in turn caused a bit of a mosh pit of swimmers all doing their level best to not sink, over take people and also keep moving forward. Once the turn was negotiated though it was a short sprint to the jetty where you were extracted from the lake, partially under your own power, partially powered by an overzealous marshal (But he did a fine job).

Transition 1:
Much to my surprise the wetsuit top was removed with very little issue. My main problem being in my excitement I pressed the wrong button on my super geeky GPS watch and lost all the data I got from the swim. I then spent the remainder of the 200m run to the transition area trying to reset it for the Cycle/run – to no avail. #TechFail

The Cycle:
20 of the days riders had a "moment" on their bikes
Being a casual cyclist, I was confident that this would be my strongest leg, and I was happily proved correct. Starting the leg in a middle/rear of the field, over the course of the cycle circuit I didn’t get overtaken once. In fact I managed to make up approximately 15-20 positions. The surface was still damp from the rain earlier which proved too much for some people with almost 20 riders being dislodged unceremoniously from their bikes throughout the morning. I’m fairly sure that the route took us into Derby city center but in all honestly I couldn’t tell you what it looked like, I had what I’m going to call “race blinkers” on, and all I saw were bikes and roads!

Transition 2:
Shoe in hand - The look of 2015
I quickly decided that Cycle/run transitions were not my forte. Having had to stop dead on the bike to dismount (Not pro like at all) and dropping a shoe in the process quickly saw me loose time that I couldn’t really afford to due to the ability of my running. And just to top it off I also started to run down the wrong bike racking lane before quickly aborting it and finding the right one.

The Run:
The run sucked. It was all that  could do to hold onto what I had done on the bike leg. For me I kept a respectable (Pretty pedestrian to others) speed of about 4.20/km, except for the hill section, where I very almost left my breakfast. One of the hardest runs I have ever done.

I finished in a time of a little over 38 minutes. I wasn’t sure if it was any good or not, all I knew is I beat some people and lost to a lot of others. I would have to wait until the results were published to find out. These results would also dictate which final I would be in later in the day, although I was confident of not being in the top 50 grand finale with the Olympians among us and JB himself.

Selected qualification heat times:
Position*             Name                                Occupation                                       Time
1st                        IestynHarrett                   GB Triathlete                                    29.54
14th                      JensonButton                  F1 Driver                                          31.45
57th                      Olly Jarvis                       Le Mans 24Hrs Driver                     35.03
188th                    GordonRamsey               Craggy faced TV chef                      39.52
222nd                   JasonBradbury                Aerodynamic TV gadget man          41.28

133rd                    Me                                   I work with metal things                   38.11

*Overall position includes: Men, Women and relay teams.

The cut-off point for the mens top 50 Grand finale was 36.48s

After the initial shock of me not being 100% crap at this triathlon thing, I went to refuel at the onsite fish and chip van - I’m sure Chris Froome and Alister Brownley do the same. Once I was full of starchy carbs, fat and grease I proceeded to pillage the various stalls and tents for freebie hand-outs of supplements and protein bars. This was followed by a trip to the portaloo. Why am I mentioning this I hear you say. Because it was one of the highlights of the day. Upon exiting this portaloo I forcibly inserted the door into the “Gadget Shows” very own Jason Bradburys face. He seemed to take it all in good spirits though, enthusiastically giving me a “Great timing”.

Buoyed (pun intended) by my non-lethal outing in my last swim I decided to be brave and get a bit more involved in the finals. My time in the qualification heats had placed my in the Wooden spoon wave 4 final – The fastest group not to have made it through to the top 50 “Grand final”. This would also put me up against the man of the moment - J.B. himself, as his relay team were also in it and he was doing the swim leg.


As we bobbed up and down waiting for the start claxon, I positioned myself slap bang in the middle of it all. The countdown began, I started my Suunto watch, but the claxon never came. Instead the starter called us all out again, the race had been delayed for ten minutes due to an exploded wasp nest somewhere along the cycle route - interesting....... Precisely ten minutes later the claxon did sound. In a flurry of limbs and PVC, we were off!

The Swim:
Getting in amongst it was a whole new experience. I can only liken it to a neoprene clad kick boxing match where the eventual loser drowns. To make things worse, as it is a shorter version of the race format the pack remained throughout. An H2O based battle royale for 80 odd pumped up guys. Several minutes later I emerged from the murky depths of the lake a bit battered and bruised, but I had survived and what’s more I was still mid-ish pack.

Transition 1:
I was a lot happier with this T1 compared to the one earlier in the day, but not because it went any better than before, because it didn’t. Probably the greatest feat of my day was remembering how to press the correct button on my watch as soon as I left the water without losing all data already collected. WINNING! You can see ll the data here!

The Cycle:
Again I adopted the theory that this was my strongest leg and I was going to go all out now and hope to survive the run later. To my utter surprise, despite the few human-dolphins tearing off into the distance after the first leg I could just about see the best of the rest in the pack. I moved my way forward through the field slowly until I came up to some guy in a teardrop helmet and  a set of Zipp Firecrest wheels (In my eyes he wasn’t fast enough to deserve either of these), but I wasn’t complaining as we paired up and used each other to push on towards the front. Once we had finished toing and froing we had closed the gap to the front running pack to a couple of hundred meters (Ignoring some superhumans that just disappeared). *Added later – turns out that my cycle time was the 32nd fastest of the day (3rd in my final) which I am ecstatic about!*

Transition 2:
This time I didn’t lose a shoe and I even managed to make an almost fluid motion when dismounting my bike, which was handy as the crowds were starting to gather in all their Jenson Button paraphernalia for the grand final later on. But in true James style I managed to fluff all of that good work up by dropping all my garb across the transition area and having to pick it up before I moved on.

The Run:
Me - On a fast day
Well, if I said that the morning run sucked, this one was worse. Way worse. Worse than anything I had ever done before, EVER! I was knackered before I even started, and jumping straight off the bike into a run was like a hammer blow to the legs. I felt like that guy that ran the London marathon I the deep sea diver suit. A few runners that were more fleet of foot passed me early on, but as I became acclimated to the running action I leveled out the difference at about 4.20/km. From there I had quite a lonely run, a gap in front and a gap behind, it was all just a question of me being able to endure the pain (Sounds dramatic doesn't it). But I managed to liven things up a huge amount by throwing half a cup of water at the biggest volunteer army guy I could find. He was situated at the water station at the half way point. Luckily he saw the funny side and realised it was a complete accident and was just another in a long line of cases of mal coordination on my part. Legs burning, lungs giving out and heart about to explode I crossed the line in a time of 36.37, I had finished! You can see all the official times here!


My final result gave me an overall position of 64th in the mens category, from a field of nearly 400. This was well beyond my wildest expectations, and in honesty I only really expected to beat a few older/more unfit guys that entered by accident. It was a very pleasant surprise, and possibly the first time my wife has said she is proud of me, which made it all worthwhile. Having said that it wasn't to my face, or directly to me, but more on social media, to her "friends", but I'm not picky and I'll take it! It's basically the modern day version of throwing your knickers at a rock star on stage!

I can honestly say, without a shadow of a doubt this was the hardest thing I have ever put myself through. I’m not sure if it was the fact it’s a 40 minute sprint, the fact it is a multi-event that I am not at all used to, the fact you have to do it twice in a day, the fact I'm now a little older or all of the above. It isn’t often you leave an event thinking you could have not given one microbe more effort, but that day I did. I was literally operating on 100%, and one of the very, very few times in my life there was a modicum of pride of what I had achieved.

The day after………….

Well. It seems as though both of my hamstrings have now been replaced with ones that are about three inches shorter and constructed entirely of barbed wire. Sitting down on the toilet seat is a new form of torture that I have discovered, which I’m fairly sure should be covered under the Geneva convention. So, what have I learnt from my little escapade to Derby:

1)       I should have trained more, whilst my cycle time was adequate, the swimming and running was comparatively pretty poor. I’m not saying I didn’t try hard enough on the day, I could have given no more. But the lack of swim training and diminished running leading up to it had a big impact.
2)      Don’t let worry put you off doing things you want to do. Odds are that you will have built it up far too much in your head and everything will be fine!
3)      A good foam roller and a cool down/stretching routine can’t be recommended highly enough. I’m suffering for my laziness now.

My legs hurt, my hamstrings have gone on vacation, I can still taste the lake water sediment, but I bloody loved it. Bring on JBTT 2016!