Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Caledonian Etape - back on the radar

Looking through my old race reports you'll see I completed the Caledonian Etape last year - an 82 mile closed roads cycle around some beautiful Scottish scenery.  Well, I've signed up together with my better half to do it again in 2013 - on the 12th May to be exact.  Should be good preparation for IM Austria - and this time I'm determined not to be blown off the road by the gusty wind across Loch Rannoch! Hopefully complete this on the TT bike - should be a good tester for the 112 miles around Austria!

Started running in the mornings before work (see my training (b)log for more details)… it's about the only way to fit in the required training whilst working and keeping some semblance of a family life. The temptation to hit the snooze button at 6 a.m. is strong but so far I've been able to resist and fit in a few gentle (zone 1) 30 minute treadmill sessions. I reckon it must be good mental toughening for the race too ;-) I reckon I'll have to catch up on the beauty sleep at some stage - I may be asleep for the entire month of July 2013… just warning you early!

Sunday, 25 November 2012

RETUL bike fit - I've been fitted up, I tell ya!

Yesterday I travelled back down to see Andy Sedgwick of Tri-ology in Newton Aycliffe to get a RETUL fit on my TT bike. 

A 6 a.m. alarm call on my day off was a rude start to the weekend but I stumbled out of bed, showered had breakfast and jumped into the car. Good drive down despite hitting freezing fog in many places and drivers who, for some bizarre reason, decided that having no lights on was a sensible idea. Muppets!

I'd filled out a pre-fitting questionnaire, so Andy was aware of my aches and pains my past injuries and my goals for the coming season (i.e. to finish IM Austria). Andy asked me to perform a range of flexibility and strength exercises to see what would affect my bike fit. I now have several more core exercises (including the dreaded 'plank') to perform every day to help build up my cycling (plus swimming and running) strength!

Lots of velcro sticky dots were applied at key points (shoulder, ankle, hip, wrist and knee) so that the LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) for the RETUL system could be put in exactly the right position. The system captures movement in all 3 dimensions and can instantly provide feedback on critical angles like hip angle and knee extension which allows the bike to be 'dialled in' to exactly the right fit.

Pre RETUL fit I looked like this:

Now, this is an AGGRESSIVE position for a TT bike - you can see my back is pretty much parallel to the floor. Bradley Wiggins would struggle to hold that for too long and it was no surprises that this position became pretty uncomfortable in the 'aero' position for much longer than a few minutes…. Phew, I thought it was just me being a bit of a wuss ;-)

It was pretty apparent we needed to lift up the front end of the bike to relax my back angle (from a very low 15 degrees to approximately 25 degrees) to ensure a more comfortable position that I can hold for the 112 miles of the IM race. 

After battling with the bolts holding the seat onto the seat post, the seat was moved forward by approximately 3 cm, dropped down in height by 1cm or so and the elbow pads on the aerobars were lifted by about 4cm. The extension bars were then raised by about 5 cm and low and behold… a comfortable riding position!!

Post RETUL fit:

Now my back angle is at approximately 23 degrees which is considerably more comfortable and I can actually see ahead of me whilst in the aero position - which will no doubt come in handy for seeing where I am going!

I am now confident that the time I spend on the bike over the next few months will be getting used to the correct position. As the old saying goes you get better with practice, practice, practice… just make sure what you are practicing is correct in the first place!

I now have small circular bald patches on my arms and legs after ripping off the sticky velcro dots - good training for the sponsored leg waxing for our School Charity week coming up in a few weeks time - YIKES!

Many thanks to Andy for his help and expertise - I suspect that this will be one of the best investments I make in terms of preparation for June 30th 2013.

As you can see the RETUL fit information is pretty comprehensive:

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Breast of Duck!!!


The best of British to all my Standard Grade students who are sitting their Physics Prelim tomorrow (Wednesday 21st November) and the rest of their SG / Int 1 prelims over the next 2 weeks.

Enjoy your work experience too :-)

p.s. What are you reading this blog for?!?!?!  Get revising!!!!  ;-)

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Feeling flat...

Driving home last night and the car displayed a warning sign "chassis system fault". Eeeek.  RAC called out and culprit identified… a very flat rear tyre. Dashed home from the gym today to get it sorted and found out that my trusty local garage was closed. Given another hectic week at work on the cards (whole school meeting on Monday and a S1 football game on Wednesday) it may be a while before this is sorted… And I suspect it's going to be expensive - one draw back of having nice 21" alloys on the car - doh!

Hopefully get this fixed by Friday night as I've booked a RETUL bike fitting session down in Darlington on Saturday 24th for my new TT bike. I've had a 3D computer fit done on my road bike and it totally transformed the ride; going from a medieval instrument of torture to something I could pedal round in (reasonable) comfort for 82 miles.

Now, as every good scientist knows, you should only change one variable in an experiment so that you can see what effect that has on your results (we call this Fair Testing). I've changed both my style of bike (road to TT) and the type of saddle I'm using… This has meant getting into a comfortable position on the bike has been harder to achieve than on my road bike. Hence the trip down South next weekend to gain the benefit of both experience and technology.

In order to get bet at anything you need to practice, practice and practice some more… but you need to ensure that you are ingraining good habits not bad ones! Hopefully by this time next week I'll be set up in my ideal TT position for the Ironman - probably a less aggressive position than you would use in a 30-50 mile time trial, given you've got 112 miles to get through and then run a marathon…

As always, I'll post up pictures before and after and explain the benefits of the new position once the bike has been correctly set up for me.

Monday, 12 November 2012

"That's not running, it's falling... with style!"

Video analysis from Nick on my before and after running styles:

Gav: running before and after

Looking at 1:40 to 3:52, first clips are me at the start of the day, heavy heel strike as I move along - all this does is put the brakes on and send impact forces up through my knees… Second section and I'm starting to get it… Now my feet are landing underneath my centre of gravity rather than in front of it, stride is now out to the back and I'm leaning forwards with better posture, allowing gravity to pull me forwards. 

To paraphrase Buzz Lightyear… "That's not running, it's falling... with style!"

Still lots to work on but I now know what I'm looking to achieve and know what it feels like to be running efficiently. I know for certain there were times during the day when I nailed it (for 4 or 5 strides!) but these didn't happen in front of the camera… so now all I need to do is practice, practice, practice. I get the feeling it will be worth it.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Run Forrest, run!

Right, just back from a fantastic course on running today :-)

Spent a few hours in Pollok Park being taught the Chi running method by Nick Constantine of Soul in Motion. What a brilliant day!

Nick got us to run back and forth in front of his video camera a few times to record our current running style, at both a steady and quick pace then highlighted the error of our ways!  We then spent time improving posture and alignment, learning how to run from our core and the fact that our feet are primarily there for support - not as some sort of magical propulsion devices.

Keeping cadence high (about 180 steps per minute) and simply leaning forwards, the feet land directly under your centre of mass and you're off!  Gone are the heavy 'slapping' noises of your trainers heel striking into the ground and resisting your every move forward. Gone are the knee and ankle jarring forces as your body works against you. Instead your legs seems to turn over without effort, landing silently and softly as you are pulled forwards as if connected by a giant bungee rope from your core towards the horizon.  Rather than 'trying' to run faster you simply lean further forwards, engaging your higher gears, and whoosh - you're off!

Did I get it right every time? No chance. But I know what the correct feeling is now - and what a difference it makes. We practiced moving up and down through our 'gears' and I was reaching speeds, almost effortlessly, that I would never have attained using my previous technique.

I'd thoroughly recommend one of Nick's courses to anyone who wants to improve their running, whether you're looking for injury avoidance, greater efficiency and or speed. Given he's from Whitley Bay he was always going to be a top lad, but his coaching was great and I'm now really looking forward to putting on my running shoes again and putting this style of running into action.

I'll post videos up of my before and after styles in the next few days. For the first time in a very long time I'm really excited about my running - the handbrake is off now - watch out Mo, I'm coming for you ;-)

Friday, 9 November 2012

Just keep swimming...

Back in from a productive session in the pool. After reading my Swim Smooth book and following advice from ATHelite sessions I am no longer following the more lengths in pool = better training doctrine. Instead I have much more focus on technique... 

As a scientist I love analysing data, trying to figure out what factors are making the greatest changes. I'd noticed that since I began serious training (March 2012) my swimming had progressively slowed even though I was massively improving my land based fitness. How could that be? My endurance fitness, strength and speed had all improved, yet my swimming resembled an extra from a Godfather movie wearing concrete shoes,  'sleeping with' rather than swimming with the fishes…

I've been paying particular attention to what is known in swimming circles as the catch - the movement of your outstretched arm back towards your hips. I'd been pushing down on the water with straight arms. Now as Isaac Newton would tell you "every action has an equal and opposite reaction" - so when I push down on the water, the water pushes back up on me. This in turn pushes my chest back towards the surface of the water (it's pretty buoyant given my lungs are full of air!!) and as I'm outstretched, I pivot about my hips and my legs sink in the water… Try to think of this as a see-saw… push up one end and the other end drops down. When your legs sink in the water they massively increase the drag (water resistance) so despite putting more effort into my swimming I was slowing down the harder I tried! Doh!!!

Cue changes in the stroke. Now as I've mentioned earlier my prioproception (body control) could be improved… I'll never make it onto BBC's strictly come dancing (thankfully), so I suspect these changes may take a while to refine. I'm starting to keep my elbows higher in the water and pull back my hands towards my hips (essentially parallel to the bottom of the pool). This means I'm trying to pull the water behind me which in turn means the water is trying to push me forwards! That's a bonus!!! My 100 m times have dropped from around 2:05 - 2:10 per 100m to around 1:45 - 1:50 over the last month or so. Over 3800 m (2.4 miles) this would be a 12-13 minute saving if I could keep that going  :-)

I spent 90 minutes on my TT bike last night trying to get used to the new aerodynamic position. Let's just say it's not 100% comfortable yet. I think another bike fitting session will be on the cards in the none too distant future so that I get used to the correct position well in advance of the race next year.

Tomorrow I'm off on a chi running course in an attempt to learn how to run more efficiently… I'll report back on my findings in later posts.  

Some much to learn - so little time… Every day really is a school-day - even if you're not a Physics teacher!

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

So much to do, so little time...

I'm sitting here on Wednesday evening, it's 10:20 p.m. and I have a to do list longer than I care to mention. Back from my slow and steady 10 km run, I'm in need of a shower, a sit down, mark remaining Higher NABs, prepare lessons for the week ahead, finish my Swim Smooth book and tinker with the seating position on my bike. Anybody got a time machine they can let me borrow? Right, let's see how much I can get done before Thursday arrives. If nothing else, I'm never bored!

Sunday, 4 November 2012

And another weekend whizzes by...

Well, 8:45 p.m. on Sunday 4th November and another action packed weekend flies by in the Gall household!

More TT bike training on Thursday - trying to get used to the aero position… now up to about 5 minutes - probably need to lengthen this to about 6 hours or so  ;-) Plenty of room for improvement!

Swimming on Friday was curtailed by lack of lanes at the pool - swimming lessons for the wee one in one lane and the other lane taken up for folks competing in the Virgin try-athlon. Managed 1 x 100m set in a pretty decent 1 min 36 seconds… so maybe the time spent reading Swim Smooth and trying to get my arms to do as my brain is telling them may be working… Again, if I could hold that pace for another 3700m in open water that would be great (here's hoping!).

Saturday back to the gym with both kids - with the eldest one coming up to the gym with me for an hour (prior to his tennis lesson) whilst his sis went to tennis lessons on the new carpeted courts - very snazzy! Managed a decent spin on the spin bikes and gentle run on the treadmill. A lot of the training information we're reading now suggests keeping the heart rate in zones 1 or 2 (less than about 136 b.p.m.) for an extended period of time. This really helps with endurance work and trains the body to feed off your fat supplies rather than your carbohydrate stores (which can be depleted too quickly for Ironman type distance events).

Haircuts all round for me and the boy. That will no doubt shave off nanoseconds for me in the pool! Followed by 90 minutes dog walk down by the Clyde as the kids had their badminton lessons - back in time to make tea and then out to see Skyfall at the cinema. One word. AWESOME.

Sunday, marked up the S4 and S5/6 ink exercises (after writing out the answers!) and recorded in my trusty marking spreadsheet. Managed to watch Newcastle take on Liverpool whilst pedalling furiously away on the TT bike. Fabulous goal by Cabaye put us in front in the first half before Suarez (boo!) scored a well taken goal to equalise. Kept going on the bike for 1 hour 45 mins - although definitely still looking for the perfect position to ensure I can ride (in relative comfort) over 112 miles in June. Worked out I've burned about 1100 kCalories today so a top curry and naan bread have just been devoured and I'm off to put my feet up before heading to bed.

No wonder weekends go by sooooo quickly!

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