Monday, 11 September 2017

Guess who's back, back again?

What year is this?! Who’s the president?! Yes, it’s been rather a while hasn’t it? A couple of years by my reckoning. So where have I been? Was I kidnapped by aliens mid cycle? Did I fall down a well during a run and have only just been rescued by Lassie?

"There's a boy in the well. He's not well and feeling ruff."

Did I get such a horrendous case of man-flu that I’ve only just been able to struggle out of bed? Did I decide that triathlon wasn’t for me anymore?

Er, no. What actually happened is that I got out of the habit of writing this blog and just thought I’d pick it up next week. Next week came around, I didn’t write anything and I put it off until next week.

And then the next thing I know Donald Trump is president and we’re on the brink of nuclear war!

Well, maybe not. But you don’t come here for my political insight, you come here to read about an overweight man in his 30s, trying to not make a fool of himself every time he pulls on the lycra (which by its very definition is an instant fail!)

The picture that launched a thousand modelling contracts

So what have I been doing for the last few years and has much changed in my life? Well, you’ll be glad to know that while I haven’t been writing this blog, I have still been getting my hands dirty in the world of Tri.

In November 2015 (Jesus, it really has been a while hasn’t it?!) I decided to have a crack at what is known as middle distance or Half Iron Distance and entered the Vitruvian triathlon. So after several months of training in September 2016 I successfully became a Vitruvian (or a “Baboobian” as Trihard Jr 2 called it).

That’s right, it’s been so long that the artist formerly known as Toddler Trihard is now almost eight, so we’ll refer to her as Trihard Jr 1. Baby Trihard is now five and at school, so we’ll refer to him as Trihard Jr 2.

So where was I? That’s right - last year I earned the honour to be named a Vitruvian. While that was a massive highlight in my triathlon accomplishments so far, it perhaps doesn’t take the title of the best race of last season. That accolade goes to the Bishop’s Castle Tandem Triathlon.


This involved me swimming 1km, taking to the tandem with my partner for a 40km cycle (with approximately one minute of tandem experience between us, which we’d gained earlier that morning), him taking on the 10km cross country run and then one final sprint on the tandem to the finishing line.

So who was that mystery partner? Well it was a man who needs no introduction (unless you haven’t read this blog before, which is probably most of you), a man who recently broke his 5km pushing a buggy PB, a man who immediately declared he was going to be putting in more brick training sessions (a run directly after a cycle), that’s right, it’s Smug Running Guy aka SRG.

For all you new readers, SRG is one of my oldest friends who I used to get up to all sorts of no good with in my teens. And twenties. And thirties.

It's amazing the range of novelty hats you can buy at a Guns n' Roses gig

However, in the last five years he has turned himself into a finely honed running machine. When I started writing the blog he said he wanted to be mentioned, but was worried that he’d come across as “some Smug Running Guy”. And hey presto, SRG was born.

So how did we do in the Bishop’s Castle Tandem Triathlon? Well that’s certainly a story for a future post. So you’ll have to wait patiently.

So, I’m still around, SRG is still around as is Trihard Jrs 1 and 2 and the love of my life, Mrs Trihard.

Has anything changed? Well something has changed recently. Just under three months ago I decided that I wanted to have a break from alcohol. There are many reasons for this, which I will undoubtedly go into in a future post, but one of those reasons was that I feel alcohol holds me back in my triathlon adventures.

While I’d only drink once or twice a week, I’d find it difficult to moderate when I did have a drink. It not only meant that I’d be lying on the sofa when I should be out training, I found it near impossible to lose weight. The high of finishing a event would soon be replaced with frustration and regret and the thought of “how much quicker would I be if I hadn’t been drinking the last few weeks and had lost more weight?”

As a result I have discovered this amazing group One Year No Beer. Again, this is something I will go into more detail about in future posts but (hyperbole alert!) I think this group has seriously changed my life.

At the time of writing (11/9/17) I have not had a drink for 81 days (not that I’m counting!!!) which has meant a lot more calories burned off and a lot less put in. I initially signed up for a 90 day challenge but have entered a duathlon in November so will be staying dry, certainly until then.

This will take me to around 135 days of being alcohol free. Will I return to drinking after my duathlon? I don’t know.

All I do know is that I feel better than I have in years, have found an amazing network of people and am finally becoming the person I want to be.

I still don't have the figure of Chris Froome or a Brownlee but today I am wearing a jumper that I haven’t been able to squeeze into for a decade!

Anyway, it’s good to be back and the aim is to update the blog once a week as soon as I can pry my laptop out of Lassie’s mouth. Catch up soon!

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Race report: Windsor Olympic Distance Triathlon



So where did it all go so wrong? Was it being lured into a false sense of security at the beginning of the season where I took 6 mins 53 secs off last year’s Sevenoaks Tri time and 8 mins 29 secs off my club’s sprint distance course? 

Was it succumbing to the double whammy of a sinus infection and a back injury in the final weeks before the main event? Was it my general lack of preparation for the open water swim? Or was it the psychological blow of losing my sunglasses in the portaloo minutes before my wave set off?

As I lowered myself into the Thames I soon realised that a wetsuit isn’t just to keep you warm, it’s to make life easier when swimming against a strong current. And I wasn’t wearing one. A couple of weeks earlier I’d discovered that my wetsuit was never going to fit regardless of how much weight I could lose - it was just too tight and restrictive around the shoulders. And I couldn’t afford to buy a new one.

At the time I wasn’t that bothered as I had done quite a bit of sea swimming on holiday so thought I’d easily cope with the temperature. However I soon realised the current was a different matter. Even holding my start position was proving arduous and I could see why everyone else was sensibly covered in neoprene. The horn sounded and we were off. 

Can you guess which one is me?
 Swim

This wasn’t my first open water triathlon (without a wetsuit!) but the scrum was a lot more brutal than anything I’d experienced before. I managed to get a rhythm going but I soon realised that 1500m in the Thames was going to be very different to the 2500m sets I’d been doing in the pool. On top of the currents and being bashed about by my fellow competitors I could barely see where I was going, regardless of whether my face was below or above the water.

Even those wearing wetsuits were struggling with a number of my fellow competitors opting to walk in the more shallow parts of the river. However I was worried that if I adopted that tactic I may not get going again and floundered on. I have to confess I started to consider alerting the kayak marshal that I’d had enough.

The buoy that marked the turning point just wasn’t getting any nearer and I had found myself being caught up in another scrum as the next wave of swimmers surged past me. But then I realised I’d just about made the turning point. As shattered as I felt I knew that I now had the current at my bidding so literally let myself get taken by the current like a kid at Centerparcs with a minimum amount of swimming.
I clambered  out and just about had enough energy to run into transition – the swim had taken me 36 mins 49 secs.

Just a 40km cycle and a 10km run to go...
 
Bike

I pulled on my shoes and helmet, grabbed my bike and was out of transition in 2 mins 30 secs. Cycling is certainly my strongest discipline so I was aiming to make up some time, the goal was to finish the whole thing in under three hours. However more technical difficulties – I just couldn’t get my heart rate monitor to work. Like losing my sunglasses, this wasn’t something that could prevent me racing but was affecting me psychologically. I know what sort of effort I can keep up and therefore wanted to know when I was easing off too much but despite continuous fiddling couldn’t get any signal.

Still not smiling for the camera

I charged on, realising that I needed to complete the bike in around 1 hr 20 minutes if I was going to come in under 3 hrs. After much huffing and puffing and cursing my sore back I soon found myself wheeling back into town. I’d completed the cycle section in 1hr 20 mins and 15 secs.

Run

Running is the aspect of Triathlon that I like the least. While I have improved in this discipline I am still incredibly slow. And I have to say that the final section of the Windsor Triathlon was one of the most gruelling things I’ve ever experienced. After a 2 min 55 secs transition I knew that I had to get round in 57 minutes. My 10k personal best is just under 55 minutes and my previous run time in an Olympic distance Tri was 1 hr 2 mins 46 secs. 

Considering how shattered I felt I knew it was more likely to be nearer the latter time than the former. After one lap of the three lap route I felt like I could no longer go on. How much shame was there in admitting defeat? I’d given it a good crack but it wasn’t to be. But then I knew how annoyed I’d be with myself afterwards for not forcing myself through the pain for another 40 minutes. I struggled on and despite every fibre in my body telling me to stop managed to keep going at a pace that was just above walking. 

Almost there...
 I staggered in at 3 hrs 3 mins and 3 secs feeling rather disappointed with my effort. 

However the good news is my sunglasses were handed in to lost property and as I was passed by several elite athletes on the run section you should be able to see me on the TV coverage wheezing away behind Mark Buckingham. 

Just look out for the Big Fella in blue.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Beer and meat

If you read my last blog update you will know that I recently attended a product launch. But what else have I been up to in the last few weeks since I was flushed with success from the 7Oaks and EGTri Winter GP Sprint triathlons?

With less than two weeks until the iconic Windsor Olympic triathlon have I been building on the gains I made in my previous two races? Well, er, not really. To be honest I spent the best part of two weeks drinking lots of lager and eating lots of meat. 

So what possessed me to undo all the good work I’ve put in over the last few months? Well first of all, as I may have previously mentioned, myself and SRG were involved in some marathon boozing for one of my oldest friend’s stag do in Hamburg. 

This obviously involved consuming lots of beer from glasses, as SRG described it, as big as our heads. 

SRG pushing himself to the extreme for a new PB

This was supplemented with a high volume of sausage munching (no sniggering at the back) and not much exercising. There was a brief interlude from the debauchery with a five-a-side competition (which surely counts as an intense sprint set) but certainly not the usual level of exercise I’d indulge in at the weekend.


He shoots, he misses

Two days after returning from Hamburg then the Trihard family were off on holiday to Cephalonia. As we were with longstanding friends again I had my arm twisted into drinking lots of lager and eating lots of kebabs (but did sneak in some Greek salad.)

However I did manage to get some intense runs in (our villa was a couple of kilometres from the beach but up a mountain) as well as some good sea swims.

Just below the waterline I'm clutching a beer and a kebab

Since our return I have managed to just about get back on track with my training, partly helped by a trip  to the Surrey Human Performance Institute which involved me being subjected to some horrendous cycling and running tests to see at what point my body could take no more and I’d started weeping for my mother.


Just when you thought I couldn't look any sexier in a Tri suit
Luckily I survived the experience and have learnt a lot more about how to improve my training. I’m sure you’ll hear a bit more about my trip in the coming weeks.

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Product Review: Secret Training Race Informed Products

Yesterday I was invited to the launch of Secret Training Informed Products. This is the latest venture from Tim Lawson who is a European Champion Track Cyclist but is perhaps better known for the company he launched 20 years ago from his family's kitchen, Science in Sports.


One of these men is currently launching his second highly successful business
The whole ethos of the STRIP product range is to make racing as comfortable and hygienic as possible on the day of your event.

I spent the morning with Tim at the Cyclo Park in Gravesend (which I thoroughly recommend cyclists of all ages and abilities check out) who has clearly been working hard on this project for a number of years.

Along with some other journalists I got to try out the range before and after some intensive cycling and they certainly succeed in doing the job they were designed for.

I give my initial thoughts in the video below but hope to follow up with more in depth testing asthe racing season continues.

        

For more information head over to www.secret-training.cc.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Race report round up

So it's been a while since my last post. The last you heard I was all enthused about the penultimate event in the EGTri Winter GP - the hill time trial. Unfortunately I didn't make it due to Toddler Trihard developing a vomiting bug on the Saturday which I then came down with on the Sunday morning, when I should have been struggling up hills on my bike.

This has led to the club chairman referring to this blog as a bit of a soap opera. "He's ill, then he's alright again. He's ill, then he's alright again. It's like Eastenders, if you watch it long enough you'll see the same storylines keep coming round."

Anyway, despite that setback I have been training hard and recently have had the opportunity to see if the work had paid off.

7Oaks

So Sunday 27 April was the 7Oaks Triathlon. No I haven't taken leave of my grammatical senses, I'm adopting the same cool branding that the club uses. This was an event I took part in last year so meant that I had a time to hopefully beat.

While 7Oaks is a "sprint" distance, the distances are slightly different to other races. This comprises of a 400m pool swim, a 25km cycle and an 8km run (generally sprints are 500m, 25km 5km).

After last year's race I felt that (other than the swim) the course was more challenging than an Olympic distance race (1km, 40km, 10km) I'd done the previous year. The cycle is incredibly hilly (including one real long b*stard of an ascent) and the run is just 8km of hell (mainly uphill for the first half).

2013: If I'd known what I was in for during the run, I wouldn't be looking so cheerful
Last year I walked most of the first part of the run and practically pulled up a chair for a chat with the marshals at the halfway water station. I reasoned that if I could at least avoid walking then I should be able to beat last year's time of 2 hrs 2 mins 51 secs.

The swim went well and despite the weather not being as pleasant as last year I took the brave decision to do the bike section in just my tri suit. This would hopefully limit transition time and reduce drag from extra clothing on the bike course (that's how serious I'm getting these days!)

I'm not sure whether it's the amount of bike work I've done or having lost a bit of weight in recent months but to my surprise the b*stard wasn't quite as tough as I remembered it. Don't get me wrong, it was still a b*stard but perhaps an awkward b*stard as opposed to an evil b*stard.

2014: Me and the b*stard - hey the camera takes off a few degrees of steepness

As I hadn't been able to note what time I started the bike section I was unsure whether I had been quicker than last year but it certainly felt faster and I also went into the run feeling a lot fresher.

That changed as soon as I started up the first hill. I didn't quite feel like I needed to stop and walk but the pace I was "running" at didn't feel much quicker than walking. However I made it to the halfway water station and didn't stop for a chinwag like I did last year. After that it was mainly downhill.

By that time I'd worked out that I was probably on course to beat last year's time by about 5 mins. I felt as though I could push myself harder but as the same time didn't want to run out of steam, particularly as the last 200m involves a hill which, in my opinion, requires a chairlift. I did resort to walking at that point but my heart rate was still around the same level as though I was sprinting on a flat surface.

Had I paid for two or three hours of parking?
I finally made it to the top and charged to the finish line - in 1 hr 56 mins 1 sec. 6 mins and 50 secs faster than last year. I was absolutely ecstatic.

EG Tri Sprint Triathlon

This Saturday was the final event of the EGTri Winter GP where club members get to race the EGTri course. The rules of the club are that you can only enter the official race the first year you are a member as the race doesn't marshal itself!

This was therefore the fourth time I've done the course (the official race in my first year and then three times as part of the Winter GP.) Last year, which was my best time yet, I did it in 1 hr 37 mins 11 secs.

After 7Oaks I was still feeling quite tired and not as fired up as I'd been the week before. I was hoping to perhaps take 5 mins off last year's time but would settle for a new PB even if it was by a few seconds.

As it's a mass start I said I'd go at the back of my lane as I wasn't feeling 100%. However I soon regretted my decision as I felt I could swim a lot faster than those in front.

The swim rules are that if you want to overtake the person in front then you tap them on the foot so they can let you pass at the end of the lane. Despite four lengths of me constantly grabbing my fellow members foot he wouldn't budge. I started getting really frustrated but then decided to let it go as I knew getting angry wouldn't do any favours.

Once we were out of the pool I grabbed my bike (this time pulling on a top) and set off for the 25km cycle. Halfway through I really started to feel the exertions of the previous week. Another mile or two later my back was killing me, I'd slowed right down and had more or less given up on beating last year's time.

Just pain, no pleasure
However I then had a flash of determination, (or more likely my high caffeine, carbohydrate drink kicking in) got my head down and started pedalling. As I pulled into the transition area I realised that I was actually further ahead of last year's time than I thought. Even with a slow 5k I could still beat it.

However I was really hurting at that point.

I gritted my teeth, downed a carbohydrate and caffeine gel (which almost came straight back up again) and trudged on. As I made it to the finish line I was amazed to see that I'd finished in 1 hr 28 mins 42 secs - 8 mins 39 secs quicker than last year. This season's getting interesting!


Thursday, 3 April 2014

Whatever happened to SRG?

Obviously it's been a while since I updated the blog but it's also been quite a while since I updated you on the adventures of SRG. For those who can't be bothered to click on the link SRG is one of my best friends who I have had the pleasure of knowing for 20 years.

When we first met our physical activities were limited to the occasional kick about and our relationship was based on music, underage drinking and the other undesireable things that teenagers get up to. However in recent years he's become something of a running superman.

When I first started writing this blog he was very keen to appear but was concerned that he would come across as "some kind of Smug Running Guy." And a star was born.

Anyway, SRG has been training away taking on some rather hardcore cross country running of late as well as some half marathons. Despite suffering an injury he recently achieved a personal best for a half marathon  - a staggering 1 hr 24 mins 32 secs. This was a sufficent time for him to make the papers once again.

Charlie Keitch aka SRG

Unfortunately I haven't seen SRG for a while but chances are that we're probably going to be sick of each other by the end of the summer. Not only have we got a weekend in Hamburg for a mutual friend's stag do but also the corresponding wedding and a trip to Milton Keynes to see the mighty Pearl Jam.

However there is also one other event where will be seeing each other (well, I'll see the back of him for a few minutes before he disappears into the distance) which is the Bewl 15. As the name suggests this is a 15 mile off road run around a lake (Bewl Water) which he managed to cajole me into. The swine.

Anyway, I'm sick of hearing about SRG and his unparallelled success and you probably are too. The big question, is what have I been up to?

With the improvemet in the weather and my health I've been spending quite a bit of time on the bike. This is partly in preparation for the penultimate event in the EGTC Winter Grand Prix which is the hill time trial. This involves a 25 mile cycle with three timed hill climbs thrown in. The second of these is Kidd's Hill, also known as "The Wall."

Nothing can describe the horror of this ascent, a mile long 400ft elevation, but this video I found on You Tube does a pretty good job.



While I have been up "The Wall" many times I have to confess there have been two occasions where I've had to stop midway. The first occasion was on my first ever attempt and the second time was during last year's event. I can hardly contain my excitement.

A couple of weeks ago we had a 20km time trial (another Winter GP event) which was four laps of a flat circuit.

Something very exciting is occuring on the other side of the road...
While I hadn't been out on the road much previous to this I had been putting in quite a bit of time on the turbo trainer. Having also lost a bit of weight I was fairly confident of beating last year's time of 35 mins 44 secs.

My fastest lap last year had been 8 mins 42 secs while my slowest was 9 mins 10 secs. I worked out that if I could aim for less than 8 mins 45 secs for each lap then I would comfortably beat last year's time. With the entire Trihard family (including my Dad) there to spectate the pressure was on.

Hijinks in the car park while I'm slogging my guts out in the quest for a new PB
As both Mrs Trihard and my Dad had their cameras I suggested that they'd want to be ready for my first fly by at around 8 mins 45 secs. However I was so quick on the first lap that I completed the first circuit nearer the 8 mins 30 mark meaning they accidentally photographed some of my fellow club members who were also wearing the EGTC kit.

Me modelling the EGTC cycle top
However by the final laps they'd managed to work out when I'd be panting past, as you can see above. While the lap timings still haven't been made available I'm pleased to say that I well and truly smashed last year's overall time, coming in at 33 mins 58 secs.

So if I can make it up Kidd's Hill without stopping this coming Sunday, then I will be in a very good position to have beaten all my previous times from last year's Winter GP (obviously conveniently ignoring the ill fated 1km swim).

Pray for me.

Friday, 7 March 2014

When David met Daley

So like many triathletes, last weekend I made my way down to Sandown Park in Esher to the 220 Triathlon show. There are several ways to describe what the Triathlon show is like. One would be like Willy Wonka's chocolate factory for triathletes. Another would be like one of those boring industry work conferences your boss makes you attend but this one was actually interesting and fun.

Like Willy Wonka's chocolate factory there is temptation everywhere but unlike Willy Wonka's chocolate factory the goods aren't free. Despite having been paid the day before I managed to exercise remarkable restraint and only spent £32 on some new swimming fins and goggles. Despite having been paid the day before there were a number of training aids that my budget still wouldn't have stretched to.

I did have the family credit card in my possession and while Pre-school Trihard is becoming a highly proficient swimmer, which we are obviously encouraging, I don't think Mrs Trihard would have been too pleased if I had come home with one of these:


Retails at approximately £15,000

And while Mrs Trihard is currently in training for the East Grinstead Ladies Try-a-tri I'm not sure she would have even supported any decision to buy one of these:



Retails at approximately £2,250
Anyway, as well as enticing you to buy lots of expensive triathlon gear the show also included talks by professional athletes and Triathlon experts in the 220 Theatre. I was lucky enough to grab a place in the Q & A session with none other than Dave Scott. Perhaps the best way to describe Dave Scott is the Muhammed Ali of triathlon. He's won the World Iron Man Championship in Kona six times and unlike Muhammed Ali's public persona is perhaps one of the most down to earth people you could ever meet.

When Dave first started racing the sport was very much in its infancy. So much so that when he competed in his and possibly one of the very first triathlons in 1976 the first prize was apparently a frozen turkey. For his first four World Championship wins at Kona (between 1980 and 1984) he told us that the amazing achievement was marked each time by being presented with a t-shirt.

It'd be impossible to recount all the amazing stories and advice Dave gave during the session but the one that stuck with me the most was his 20 minute rule. To paraphrase: Even if you don't feel like getting out for a run, swim or cycle just doing 20 minutes will make you feel so much better than doing nothing. And the majority of the time those 20 minutes will develop into to a decent training session.

Anyway Dave now coaches in Colarado. While this involves training some of the very elite triathletes in the world he said that in some ways he gets more enjoyment working with everyday folk like the majority of those in the theatre audience. But he didn't rush to offer me any training sessions when I accosted him for a photo.

One of these Daves is a six times Iron Man World Champion

Anyway, one of the main reasons I was at the Triathlon show was because I was offered the chance to interview Daley Thompson for my 220 Triathlon blog. Meeting a world class athlete who has inspired millions can be quite overwhelming, but I told Daley that I was a normal guy just like him and not to be too awestruck.

Anyway you'll have to wait for the next instalment of my 220 blog to find out what training advice he gave me, otherwise I might get in trouble. But here's a nice photo of the two of us for you to enjoy in the meantime.