Pro cycling

I admit it: I’m addicted to reading. If ever I find myself with spare minutes I immediately reach for my book (I’m rarely without one), phone (how did I live before smart connectivity?), newspaper or magazine (I draw the line at free sheets and their mindless editorial copy though). This technologically advanced age fuels my desire to constantly be absorbing information, articles, tweets and blog posts and I simply don’t like doing nothing. Multiple IM champ Mark Allen and Brant Secunda wouldn’t approve of my inability to “quiet the mind” – although I do have their book and will read all about doing it I’m sure! So today, finding myself at lunch with time to kill and nothing to read- well…thankfully a WH Smith was located near my lunch spot. The saviour: the new design Pro Cycling.

I’ve always preferred Cycle Sport and sister title Cycling Weekly, but I have to hand it to Future Publishing: the new design is terrific. Clean crisp artwork, a wider page layout and heavier paper stock; bold, elegant and sophisticated; echoes of Wallpaper’s style, Creative Review’s innovation, National Geographic’s powerful imagery, even hints of Dazed & Confused’s edgy cool. It looks fantastic.

It’s hard for a monthly title to break news (that’s what cyclingnews.com – in the same stable – is for), but it certainly can provide depth of analysis, probing editorial strength and unique feature-led values. What Future Publishing have done here is create a blend that gives us cycling fans the insights into the pro world that we crave together with a sense of cycling viewed through an artistic eye. The unique beauty of the sport is its ability to fuse spectacular landscape vistas with fascinating race action; Pro Cycling mirrors this through it’s design and structure. Regular sections such as ‘Folio’, ‘Insiders’, and ‘Retro’ are simple yet stylish, but the content remains strong: ‘The Interview’ (with Cav), ‘Profile’ (Carlos Sastre), ‘Preview’ (of the Giro) and ‘Race Tech’ (chainrings) all hit the spot.

It’s refreshing to see Pro Cycling doing something different. And if it can really deliver on substance as well as style, with some hard hitting comment and analysis that holds the elite cycling world to account, then this could be a winning formula. The cover price is a bit steep (£4.99? Seriously?). In this instance my urge to feast my eyes on the written word overcame my desire to retain a crisp five pound note; but substantially more favourable pricing through a subscription is de rigueur in the print publishing world these days. Pro Cycling is currently available in all good news agents! Check it out.

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Training diary – w/c 26 April

This last week marked the start of a new training block and also a 6-week build to my first major test of the 2010 season: Weymouth Middle Distance Triathlon, June 6th. So, I decided it was about time I posted a training diary again as it’s been quite a while. After the months of winter training, it’s starting to get serious: long long runs every week, plenty of 100+ mile bikes and some tough swim sets await!

Here’s what week 1 of this block looked like:

Mon: SWIM 45min aerobic swim

Tue: RUN 2hr, 16 miles @ 7.30s

Wed: BIKE 15 x 3min sub maximal / 60sec rec

Thu: RUN 1hr inc 20 x 30sec strides / 30sec rec

Fri: SWIM 3.2k (inc 6 x 200m @ 70%)

Sat: BIKE 95 miles, 5hrs

Sun: RUN 2h57, 22.5 miles @ 7.50 min miles (HR ave 140bpm <75% max)

IMCH 2008 vid

Here’s a good video I stumbled upon from Ironman Switzerland 2008. Worth a look if you’re joining me at the 2010 event (or fancy a crack at an Ironman some point in the future for that matter).

All we need for tri?

For a while now I’ve been hoping to discover a one-stop-triathlon-shop for all my needs: finding events, searching for training camps, locating retailers – and so on and so forth. Too many hours can be – and have been – wasted clocking up Google page impressions (but being careful not to drive their profits by clicking on sponsored links – just a personal bugbear) and landing on out-of-date sites and event lists which were correct circa 2006.

It’s a problem that seems largely triathlon-based. Runners World and others have always proffered accurate and informative services from events to articles and training plans to product reviews for distance runners. I grant that the British Triathlon Federation offers a very useful (and localised) service – but it’s focus as the sports governing body is limited to events, clubs and coaching qualifications. So what about everything else a triathlete might want to find out about?

allyouneedtotri.com might just provide the answer. It’s only in beta – so comprehensive it is not, as yet – but just scanning the side bar menu you get a feel for its potential usefulness. Races, accommodation, therapists, training camps, fitness testing, trade shows, books and DVDs – it’s all there. There’s also a site blog and a forum for discussion which – in time – would hopefully provide a place for athletes to share ideas, review races and recommend products.

Now, there is also tri247.com which acts as the news hub of the sport and also contains results, events and product info. But it is more editorially-geared, so I think the allyouneedtotri.com listings-based portal idea has value. Then there’s 220triathlon.com which – with it’s strict adherence to it’s magazine subscriptions – has always offered a frustratingly shallow online experience. The improved site design is – well – an improvement, but I still find it fails to meet the high expectations it’s brand sets (why, for instance, isn’t the Gear review section a more comprehensive and relevant archive when the magazine has pages of analysis on the latest bikes, shoes, gadgets and gizmos month in month out?). Perhaps I’m being harsh. It does – after all – need to ensure commercial viability in difficult times for the print industry. But still, 220 has spent a long time waking up to the digital revolution.

My concern for allyouneedtotri.com is monetisation. It will need to build it’s position around comprehensive, accurate listings and valuable, easy to navigate user reviews in order to maintain it’s market differentiation, attract increasing unique user numbers and stickiness per visit (creating or syndicating editorial content is not the way to go given the competition). An ad-funded model is therefore essential. Paid for listings I’m sure are tempting, but risk seriously diluting the visitor trust relationship necessary for success (only Google has really made this work in my view – Yellow Pages and Auto Trader have seriously struggled to translate their paid for listing models into viable on-line businesses). The beta version has some ad spots on there, so hopefully the owners will be able to make this commercially successful. In doing so this could well be the first port of call for all our triathlon search needs.

Weymouth 70.3: preview

The sun is shining, the birds are chirping and the sky is blue; all those hard winter months are behind us and – hopefully – the base miles have had the desired effect. Now it’s time for the racing season!

To placate my winter blues I entered a series of events to add spice to training, trial pacing and tactics and generally tune up before the Main Event: Ironman Switzerland. My major race in preparation for this will be the Weymouth Middle Distance Triathlon, Sunday June 6th.

1930m sea swim. 54 mile bike. 13.1 mile run.

I admit that – after The English Channel last September – the prospect of more competitive sea swimming does not appeal. It starts on the beach and we’ll head out in an oval loop into Weymouth Bay. The organisers release competitors in 15-min waves, so hopefully this will alleviate the usual mad-capped first few minutes as swimmers fight for clear water or a useful pair of feet to draft off. Conditions will clearly have a big effect on time here and sighting will be a challenge. My hope is to just emerge unscathed up the pebbles and into T1!

Looking at archived results, the bike leg could be fast. If it’s the same route as ’09 then – at 54 miles – it’s a shade under the standard distance. There also appears to be plenty of A roads on the route up north-east through Dorchester to Bere Regis and back, allowing some good sustained riding. Past participants have referred to it as “flat to rolling”, so we’ll see. It’s always nye on impossible to predict bike times, such is the impact of course profile; but, I’d be delighted with anything sub 3hrs.

The exit from T2 sends runners down some steps – which will be novel in a race – and onto the Weymouth sea front. It’s a two lap course and I’m reliably informed there’s “only one real hill” and the rest is pretty flat. Given the time of year it could well be a warm day; hydration will be important and it will also provide an opportunity to test out race nutrition strategy in general. If all this winter training pays off and I get my tactics right then I’m hoping to put in something like a 1h40 run time, running just under 7.45 min miles. Coach Trew’s question slash statement about Weymouth was: “this one is pretty serious to see where we are, OK?” I felt yes was really the only answer!

Here’s what some people who’ve previously completed Weymouth had to say:

“I like the weymouth race as it’s low key, cheap and easy on the schedule.”Toby Radcliffe, professional triathlete.

“great event. it’s our club middle distance champs so always a good turn out. can often be hot…”Ewan McKay, Crystal Palace Triathletes.

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Al has put together  an interesting preview of my other overseas challenge this year: the Maratona dles Dolomites. Check it out.

Hydration

Yesterday I had a big wake up call: my brother Paul fell at mile 23.5 in the Brighton Marathon and the medical staff on hand insisted that he pull out of the race, before taking him straight to the medical centre. He’d had a perfect 6 months’ training and was physically ready; he had the right race plan and was mentally ready; through half way he was bang on time and was delivering on his plan. So what went wrong?

Dehydration.

He’d had water (exactly how much is hard to say) and gels; it was warm but not super hot (although the sea breeze was deceiving). As we know if the signs of dehydration occur it’s often too late to recover, but he says he felt totally fine until moments before it hit. Many of us have been out of liquids, or under hydrated and know how it feels; despite the logic to the contrary I never take water on training runs and do sometimes see an elevated heart rate in the latter stages and salt residue on my skin afterwards. I take a blended sports drink on the bike, including additional salt to avoid an imbalance of water to electrolytes. In other words: we think we know what we’re doing. But what startled me was just how quickly his race was over and all that hard work was drifting off in the ocean breeze.

Dehydration does not simply mean loss of water. There are three types of dehydration: Hypotonic (primarily loss of electrolytes); Hypertonic (primarily loss of water); Isotonic (loss of water and electrolytes in equal balance). Isotonic is the most common. You may also be aware of Hyponatremia: this occurs when the concentration of sodium in the blood plasma is too low; in sports this can be caused by absorbing too much water without electrolytes.

All this got me thinking about the demands of Ironman. Exactly how much drink and electrolytes will I need? I need to get more scientific.

Fluid mathematics

I usually take 2 x 650ml bottles containing PowerBar Energize (1.5 scoops), Base Amino (1 small scoop) and an electrolyte supplement. I’ve found this gives me good energy levels, even when riding for over 4 hours. But, I need to know whether I am replacing sufficient water and electrolytes.

Today I ran for 2 hours in 15 degrees; pre-run I weighed 11 stone 11 pounds and after 11 stone 8 pounds. Converting the difference – 3 pounds – to ounces is 48, and converting this to millilitres is 1,364ml. That’s 682ml lost per hour; contrast this to 325ml drunk per hour when I ride for 4 hours (less, over longer rides unless I stop for water). By this measure I should be drinking DOUBLE the amount of liquid! Now, with the cooling effect of the wind when cycling my sweat rate might be lower so I will need to test this on the bike and factor in intake as well. But this is an eye opener.

Also, fluid loss (and absorption) can vary depending on heart rate: the higher the heart rate the more the body is having to focus its efforts on getting oxygen to the muscles and cooling itself from the internal heat created in energy production (and the external temperature too). Third in this priority list appears to be actually absorbing liquid and calories. Thus the harder you’re working the more fluid you’ll lose, more calories will be burnt and the less capable you are of replenishing them.

…and Electrolytes?

The average person loses 500ml of sodium per pound of sweat (the range can be 200ml to 1,100ml according to Run the Planet). This means – if average (and I don’t know where I would be on this scale) – I lost 1,500ml of sodium in my run today. If I want to avoid cramp, light-headedness, extreme fatigue and possible collapse I’m going to need to work out how much salt to replace as well!

The Scientist

Upon recommendation, I spoke today to Mike at Infinit Nutrition. They make custom drinks to suit individual needs. He asked a lot of questions about sweat rate, residual salt on skin/clothing, usual nutrition habits – etc – and independently showed great concern at 325ml liquid per hour. He is now on the case to create a more optimal mix using their highly scientific approach to matching concentrated formula to your specific needs.

I could write another entire post on food – and once I have a clearer idea what Infinit’s drink will provide by way of Calories, I’m sure I will. But I guess the message here is that guess work and luck might have got me through 5 marathons and a Half Ironman, but when it comes to 140.6 miles and over 10 hours of exercise it will pay to leave nothing to chance.

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27th April: Interesting article tweeted by US elite marathoner Josh Cox relating to core temperature, heart rate and exhaustion. Note the HR of 185bpm at exhaustion; hopefully my brother won’t mind me saying his average HR was generally in the 170s throughout the Brighton Marathon – very impressive in itself, firmly in anaerobic threshold zone – and hit 187bpm in the minutes before he stopped running.

Team concept

Team Trek K-Swiss: nice idea from a marketing perspective, but will it help the athletes hit new levels? It’s certainly motivational for them and for us at least! My reaction was: man, I wanna form a Tri team too. Then I realised I’m already a member of Tri London – oops!