Archive for February 2016


Big Red Ride

It’s the start of the outdoor season on the bike for me, and for the 3rd year running I’m attending the Big Red Ride, essentially a local fundraiser for Mansfield Road Club.

What I like about the first proper ride out, and this event in particular is that it’s not a training ride, not a club ride, not a sportive or any sort of race, but rather it’s billed as a Reliability Trial, which they describe thusly:

[The idea] is for each entrant to ride over a pre-set course within the agreed time that has been set, the route that is planned is suitable for all around riding ability it’s nothing to do with being the fastest. If you’re a rider who isn’t good with directions and need every junction marshalled, or unsure how maps work, find reading simple instructions difficult, can’t time your own ride, this is not the type of event for you.

For me, it’s a chance to get the bike out, and take on a good length course that manages to avoid any start of season ego trips or macho hill torture. There’s no pressure to be fast, and every opportunity to re-aquaint yourself with your bike, with the outdoors, and even with your cycling friends. I expect there’ll be actual stops here and there for flap jack, no agitating when you hit traffic lights, leisurely puncture stops without people stressing about whether to wait or shoot into the distance etc. I’ll not be bothering to fit all the gizmos to the bike, shan’t bother with a HR rate monitor and probably won’t even record the ride, and I won’t care one bit about carrying the extra weight of a massive sack of tools during an event (shock, horror, and not even carbon fibre water bottle holders!). In short an enjoyable ride, what it’s all about really.

Reliability, of the time described by the event organisers is certainly one thing that’s important to club riders. As a triathlete who spends far more time on the road in group rides than training alone it’s good to know which of your group is capable of sticking to a route, not dropping massively late notice left turns etc when leading, and capable of maintaining a consistent pace, regardless of how fast or slow that might be. Additionally, it’s a chance to reaffirm the reliability of your kit, and y our preparations for heading outdoors. I certainly strive to know what condition my bike is in at all times, and it get’s a nice service before being put to bed over the worst of winter so I can be sure it’s ready to go without needing a lengthy session to sort it out the night before it’s needed, i.e. tonight. More easy to neglect is the soft stuff. It’s been a lot longer than the couple of months the bike’s been hung up since I wore full length gloves, are they still OK or did I mean to replace them at the end of last spring and then forget, and just quietly switch to short fingered ones and thrown them in a drawer thinking it stupid to replace them in May and then not wear them for 5 months? I’ll spend more time going through my winter clothing than thinking about the bike, and there’s always 1 or 2 pieces of kit that you’d forgotten just how worn you had left them at the end of the previous winter, which can lead to the 2nd most fun part of being a triathlete, which is disposing of your disposable income…

Of course, true road warriors will probably think this a load of rubbish, having been out pedalling without a break for 28 straight years, but I like my winter indoors, I love a spin class (I’d love to teach a few one day), and I love my turbo (although the latter hasn’t really been used, do to my currently ridiculous work situation that requires me to keep weekends free from serious training). It’s good to break it up, and good to feel a season starting, rather than just finding you’re in it at an arbitrary point when the first event happens to arrive on the horizon.

Anyway, I’m hoping to enjoy a slow and relaxing 106km tomorrow, after which I’ll give Florence (the bike) a good old clean, and then start to attach all the electronic training aids and begin the switch into serious mode. I’ve a 6 day training camp in Mallorca coming up courtesy of my Tri Club (The ever popular Racing TNT) in a couple of weeks, and before that the chance to represent, well, myself, at the headquarters of Ashmei where I am shortlisted to potentially become an ambassador (#ashmeiambassador, for those who like their social media properly tagged…) for their brand – something which would put a hugely welcome injection of seriousness into my 2016, as well as provide the bibtights that I deserve 😉

Park Life!

I’m trying to learn to love running, but it’s a hard process. I’ve long had the opinion (stolen from some comedian, no doubt, about 30 years ago) that it you are fit enough to jog, you don’t need to.

I think the majority of people I know through triathlon would admit that swimming is the bit you have to endure, the Coffee Revel to your Malteser or Toffee one for cycling and running. But I just can’t quite get a handle on the running. I don’t love it, I don’t feel good doing it, and I sure as hell am no bloody good at it.

But! I do want to get there… I reckon it must be like drinking beer as a kid, you don’t enjoy it, you pretend to like it, and then at some point, without you actually realising it you find that actually, you do like beer, and you like this particular kind of beer best. I obviously haven’t drank enough yet, and/or stumbled across my tipple of choice, to bulldoze an analogy.

I hate, and I use the word sparingly in most contexts normally, but I hate running alone. I can’t do it. I need people around me, to push me, to inspire me and all that. But they have to be the right sort of people, people with enthusiasm, not people with a single track mind that usually results in ignoring anyone who is not directly useful for them as anything other than a marker to lap. Where best to just meet a load of enthusiastic runners who aren’t there to “win” and go home? Your local park run of course.

Small problem, I don’t have one. Any park run you can’t at least cycle to, is not local enough in my books, hence me only having ran 4 or 5. Sheffield has more park runs than pubs it seems, but Chesterfield has none. Anyway, I’m a devious bugger me, and I decided to attack this from an odd angle. So I dug around on the net, and saw that plenty of others wanted one, but no-one was actually doing anything about it. So I did something about it. I set up a group on Facebook, the delightfully named “Unofficial Chesterfield Parkrun Interest Group“!

Some cajoling here, some prodding there, and lots of blasting all my tri friends with enough spam to send them mad got us up to over a hundred members in a little over a week. Yay for social media! Turns out there is a lot of interest out there (I knew there had to be), they just need the right people to find each other and click. The short version is that I managed to start the ball rolling, and others have turned up to look at the ball, others have gave it an experimental kick, and yet more have got behind the thing and pushed like lunatics. And in April (roughly speaking, no firm dates) it looks like I can bin the group, and point everyone at ParkRuns latest official group.

So, it’s a bit of an extreme way to crack the nut, but pretty soon Chesterfield will have its very own ParkRun, with its very own run-hating race director! I’m really proud that this is happening, and that I have been a key participant. I can’t wait for our first event, and I’m also really pleased to have however inadvertantly brought together what looks like a fine events team in Lottie, Tim & Mark who have done all the real work leaving me to fart about on Facebook.

Kill or cure, I will learn to love running! Now, where’s my pint…

Shoulder Chimp

It’s 2016 (you may have noticed), and that can only mean one thing; it’s the Year of the Monkey. I’m well aware that it can mean lots of other things as well, but as they are probably happening to other people, they simply don’t count.

I’ve been playing around at Triathlon and it’s constituent sports for 3 years now, long enough for the initial rapid improvements to have started to taper down to something more predictable (i.e. not much, not very fast), and yet also long enough for me to know that I have actually found the sport I want to become good at.

I initially dove headlong on a whim, buying the cheapest road bike I could (I still highly rate the Decathlon B:Twins for beginners) and generally getting far too enthusiastic far too quickly. I’ve done this sort of thing before, and can count on the fingers of more hands than I currently possess the number of hobbies I have taken up, drained my wallet thereof, and subsequently abandoned when enthusiasm wanes, and prodigious talent fails to emerge after minimal effort and input from myself.

Now, previously I have only ever got to a level of performance and/or skill at one other activity, possibly the only other one that can give Triathlon a run for its one at disposing of your disposable income in rapid fashion, and that was Snowboarding. No pro, me, obviously, but I will always stand by the fact that I feel confident that you could pit me against any ‘recreational’ boarder on a real mountain and not find me wanting. It’s not a boast, but for a period in my early 30s I really felt like I had a connection to the sport, and a talent for it.

After returning from a week on the mountain during which I found the time to explore my past with some solo slope time, I came away reminded by the odd fleeting feeling of what it feels like to be a sportsperson, not merely someone who engages in a sport. This is something I have had only the most occasional flirt with in my current sport of choice. I once felt like I was a swimmer, not just someone swimming, and a couple of times I have come back from a ride and thought, “Hey, I’m a cyclist now!”, not just someone who had been out on a bike. I’m still waiting for the moment to come whilst running! I certainly have never finished a race and thought “I’m a pretty good triathlete you know!”, but the tantalising glimpses have been there or thereabouts enough times to get the feeling that, you know, they could be found, if I chose to reach for them.

Now, I’m a serial bottler. I freely admit that I have an imagination that leaps and bounds far beyond what my actual self can achieve and aspire to. I think of things I want to do, and I sabotage myself with doubts and fear. Better to quietly forget that dream, than fail to achieve it. Hence the Monkey. Or chimp, specifically, sat on my shoulder telling my I should probably temper my ambition, stick to being an enthusiastic participant, don’t bother with wanting to be any good and be happy to be staying fit, enjoying your new friends, and, well, disposing of your disposable income rapidly…

Admitting such things to yourself, well, to myself, has always been a difficult process. Making clear and measurable goals has never been my style, better to be on the train facing back and seeing what happened to transpire, than facing forward and seeing what’s on the horizon. So, consequently, admitting to anyone else that you have ambition to be not simply not better than I currently am, but actually good (within, say, the eyes of my peers) is a hard ask. You can’t take that back and pretend you never said it.

But, late last year, I started to say it, to a few friends here and there. And the response has never been less than positive. Of course, it helps that I deliberately chose people who have recently made the sorts of improvements that I want to emulate one day, so you would expect nothing less, but still, positive public affirmation that the biggest barrier to success starts with hurdling your self doubt and making a goal feels like a (small) weight lifted already.

So 2016, year of the Shoulder Chimp is well under way. Although I had the unwanted start of essentially a 7-8 week layoff of serious training due to my first ever sport related injury (any sport, any injury, barring broken arms as a child) I’ve kept the mental fires stoked, ticked my body over with what I could, and have come away from my first days off work in 6 months sufficiently happy to put this out there. I’m going to be training hard, participating openly competitively, and my goal is to move out of “participant in Triathlon” mode, into “I’m a Triathlete” mode.

I’ll be putting stuff up on here periodically, and here’s a thing – I would really, really, welcome your thoughts, even you, yes you pre-triathlon friends, and I’m asking you to not take the piss (too much), but see if you can’t be part of a thing and help me to achieve a goal or two.

Bike build back on – minus the build!

Still smarting over the frame that never was, I did a quick look to see if one had perhaps come up on eBay perhaps, and lo! Well, not a frame, but the whole bike, pretty much built to what I had in mind (chain rather than belt) just minus the fun of actually building the thing. But, having said that, it will make the perfect commuter bike now that I can and am cycling to work each day. So, there’s still room for the perfect self build, and who knows, maybe this frame will one day become a donor for that project, but until then it’s a start and at least I get the steel frame that I had set my heart on.