Friday, 31 May 2013

Highs and Lows...

Spent Wednesday and Thursday this week focusing on my cycling given, what I thought, was an I.T. band issue. I've stretched out my muscles with a foam roller - a seemingly innocuous soft foam rolling pin… In reality an updated medieval instrument of torture!

I visited the excellent John Trevena (Sports Physio) at Virgin Active and he has advised me that rather than it being the I.T. band, it is actually an inflammation of the bursa under the distal I.T. band, which complicates matters a little bit. I can try ICE (ice, compression and elevation and using anti-imflammatories like ibuprofen) but he's advised me to see a sports consultant to se whether I should get a steroid injection to help get me running again. Not the news I was hoping for but I trust John's judgment, so I'll be contacting the Doctors next week to get a consultation arranged.

Rather than running, I'll be taking to the cross-trainer to keep my cardio vascular fitness up whilst the bursa heals. Thankfully I can still swim and cycle, which brings me to the highs…

Visited Chris and the gang at Velocity 44 in Stirling this afternoon. Chris had performed a RETUL fit for me on my TT bike and had changed the very aggressive riding position into something much more comfortable for the Ironman distance. I got him to change over my tri-bars to J-bend extensions which allow your hands to sit in a much more natural position. He's also changed the tubular tyres - now a dapper black and white design (perfect for a Newcastle fan) and added a self-healing sealant into the tubs to help reduce the risk of punctures. The bike feels so much more comfortable now and looks AMAZING! I'll be taking it out on Sunday and will report back after, hopefully, another 100 mile session.

The *tweaked* speed weapon:

Tuesday, 28 May 2013


Well, after a really busy bank holiday weekend I'm back exercising, albeit slowly.

Friday's bike ride started a little later than expected and I managed to get lost in Lanarkshire en-route to Leadhills… I ended up all the way down to Cumnock in East Ayrshire. Flew along a few sections of road with a wonderful tail-wind but ended up having to re-trace my route and fight a mighty headwind for most of the way home! Still, I ended up doing 5 hours and 19 minutes, covering 138.2 km, so a pretty decent training ride.  Once back in the house I went for a gentle jog just to see how the legs, and in particular, the left knee would cope.  Not brilliantly well was the verdict - I managed about 15 minutes and then spent another 10-15 stretching out.

Spent a fantastic weekend at my sister-in-law's wedding, so no training on Saturday - I'm not sure if my dancing really counts  :-)

On Sunday I was scheduled for a 2.5 hour run, all was going reasonably well until after 55 minutes (and about as far away from home as I had planned to run) my I.T. band on my left leg stopped me dead in my tracks. I struggled back up the hill in Chatelherault and tried to stretch it out but to no avail. I ended up walking 1 hour and 40 minutes back towards home, often doubled-over in pain until I spotted my wife driving to the gym. I managed to flag her down and she drove me the 500m or so home. Never have I been so pleased to get a lift!

The I.T. band can often become sore when quickly ramping up exercise - although I think I damaged this on the Caledonian Etape a couple of weeks ago.

So, with only 32 days left to the race I went for a sports physio session at The Treatment Hub in Hamilton. Grant 'dug in' to both the legs and now I'm feeling a little looser, although pretty sore. Hopefully in a day or so the IT band will have loosened off a little and after a few more sessions I should be back to full fitness. I've decided that I'm going to get one sports massage a week until the race to try and prevent any further injuries.  Looking at the plan, I've done pretty much all of the training sessions I need to ensure I can complete the distances in all the disciplines - the next step is getting to the starting line fit and healthy. Legs - don't fail me now!

Sunday, 26 May 2013

GOOD LUCK 4ES and 5DH :-)

Good Luck to all of my brilliant students sitting their Standard Grade or Higher Physics exams tomorrow.

Remember, read the questions thoroughly, write down your equation(s) and all of the info you know, substitute in your values then work out the answer - don't forget the units!!!

It has been my pleasure having you all in my classes over the last couple of years - go and do all of your hard work justice in the exams tomorrow!

Thursday, 23 May 2013

ECG Results...

On Wednesday evening I popped along to the Nuffield Health and Wellness Centre in Finnieston Street, Glasgow to check all was well with the trusty ticker in preparation for the big race.

They measured my height, mass, BMI (a pretty useless measurement to be truthful), body fat (down at 11-12%), resting heart rate (41 bpm), ran blood and urine tests, checked posture and alignment, flexibility, family medical history, nervous system response, diet, eyesight, blood pressure (110/60) and various other tests.

Outcome - it seems I'm pretty healthy… might have something to do with all this exercising!

I was strapped up to an ECG - electro cardiogram to measure the electrical activity of my heart whilst cycling under load (i.e. working out). I started at a load of 25 W and the following trace was obtained:

It's funny seeing these traces - I've seen heart rate traces so often on TV, but never my own.  Good distance between the beats shows my heart was beating nice and slowly - around 80 bpm at this stage…

Compare this with the next trace, showing the load increased in 25W increments to 275W (i.e. having to work much harder to maintain the same cadence (pushing pedals) on the bike):

You can see the gaps between each beat are now much shorter (beating at approximately 155 bpm) since my heart is having to work harder to supply oxygen to my muscles.

The next trace shows me in the recovery phase; load reduced and allowing the body to cool down. A couple of erratic spikes shows that one of my ventricles is occasionally squeezing a little too quickly - seemingly this can be due to an electrolyte imbalance, now given the amount of bananas I eat that will unlikely be potassium or magnesium...  Much more likely to be a deficiency in sodium… normally I drink sports drinks during heavy exercise but not during this test… so I'm not worried about it - neither was the physiologist!
My heart rate dropped from 160 bpm to 100 bpm in just under a minute which shows the cardio system is in pretty good shape.

The last trace shows my blood pressure increasing during exercise (as expected) from 110/60. The first number is called systolic, or maximum pressure and the second number is diastolic, or minimum pressure. Both numbers are pretty spot on.  You can see as the load increases and the heart works harder to pump the blood, the systolic pressure increases up to a maximum of 180.  There should always be a difference between systolic and diastolic pressure… blood flows from high pressure to low pressure, so if there is no difference the blood won't flow through your vascular system!!!

All in all, I was given a clean bill of health. I'm going to work on some flexibility issues by doing some additional core muscle work in the coming 37 days! Not long now...

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Just a wee niggle!

Had fun tonight at the ATHelite swim session practising our open water technique in our wetsuits. Learned how to sight - i.e. swim in a straight line - more difficult than it sounds! After all, the lake we'll be swimming in does not have lane markers or a nice blue line on the bottom to follow. Without good sighting you can end up swimming much further than you need to - and 3.8km is just far enough, thank you very much.
Learned how to turn around the buoys correctly, using a combination of front crawl and backstroke… somewhat faster than resorting to breast-stroke like I did at the London triathlon in September last year.
We also practised our open water starting technique… that will be fun with another 2500 people in the water!
After a few lengths of the pool I think the adrenaline had kicked in and worn off - I was struggling after that! Just in time to start a hypoxic training session - breathing every 3, 5, 7 and then 9 strokes… almost killed me off but I survived. Just.
Got some great feedback on my swimming stroke from Jack, so I now have a few more things to hone before race day… life is all about learning.

Back to the house and onto the treadmill. It should have been an hour long interval session but after the first few intervals, my left knee started to niggle. Rather than pushing on and causing more damage, I decided enough was enough and cut the session short. First time I've had to do that in a long, long time. Prevention is definitely better than cure, so hopefully I've nipped this in the bud before it stops any further training. Despite all the technology of GPS watches and heart rate monitors, sometimes you just have to listen to the body and act on the warnings it gives you! I'll check it out again tomorrow, hopefully I'll be as fit as a flea and back on track!

Monday, 20 May 2013

TT bike = speed weapon!

Apologies for the lack of posts - it's been a busy week, lots of developing new courses and of course, training!

After a (well deserved?!) rest day on Monday I tried out my wetsuit for the first time in 8 months in our Tuesday night swim session… What a difference! Instead of swimming at a steady pace of around 2:00min/100m I ended up swimming 1:30/100m and it felt really easy. Here's hoping that the water temperature in the Worthersee this year allows us to use our wetsuits - the buoyancy they offer really helps with my sinking legs and consequently my hydrodynamic drag (water resistance!) is considerably lower.

On Wednesday I took my TT bike out on the road for the first time. It's ridiculously fast and inherently unstable. You crouch much lower to reduce your air resistance but as your arms / head / shoulders are directly over the headset any movements result in the bike wanting to change direction like a puppy on a leash for the first time - unpredictable and liable to have you falling face first without warning!  I managed to tame it sufficiently to post a new record time - I'm now (currently) the King of the Mountain on the LJG to School segment   ;-)

Thursday saw me sweat many more buckets on the turbo trainer, pushing a new record of 235W for 20 minutes and a maximum of 291W… Nothing to worry Sir Bradley at this point in time, but I'm growing the sideburns just in case he needs a stand in at 'La Tour' over the summer.

Pretty steady 4km swim on Friday followed up later on in the evening with a good 1 hour run on the treadmill - although I forgot my heart rate monitor (even though I'd worn the chest strap) so no heart rate data to pour over. Psychologically doing 4km every Friday is really good, it's giving me a lot of confidence that I can do the distance on my weakest discipline. I've still got a lot to learn in terms of technique but I know that I am capable of getting through the swim and onto the bike where I can hopefully pick up some time.

I wore some snazzy calf guards for my long run on Saturday - these help to reduce the excess movement (shock waves) of the leg muscles when running, heeling to reduce fatigue. I'm now a convert. My legs felt soooo much better than my previous run 2 weeks ago, still tired and a little sore, but devoid of the agony of the previous run! I'll certainly be wearing these on the 30th June.

Another decent bike ride on Sunday. It's funny that I now consider a 3 and a half hour , 60+ mile cycle a 'short' ride! Compared with last week's 110 mile ride, it was. Learned a few more things that should come in handy on race day - like replacing tubs and the need for CO2 canisters (rather than a pump) for inflating the tyre once on the wheel.

The farm tracks of South Lanarkshire took their toll and my bike was looking somewhat mucky:

Now, a clean bike is a fast bike, so out with the jet wash, bucket of soapy water and sponge and I've added an extra 2 km/hour to my next ride's average  speed:

Not forgetting my trusty steed from the Etape:

So, that's all for now folks….

Or did I mention there are now only 40 days to go? Eeeeek!!!

Remember, if you're enjoying the MADness of my blog, you too can Make A Difference by clicking on the 'Virgin Money Giving' icon at the top right of this page, or on this link:

So, I'll sign off for now - and thanks to Caitlyn for reminding me to get more blogging done!

Sunday, 12 May 2013


Great to come back from competing at The Caledonian Etape, 2013 to find we've now broken through the 8000 hits barrier - thank you!

Race today was great fun and should prove fantastic preparation for IM Austria - now only 48 days and 11 hours away!!!

We stayed outside Pitlochry in Dunkeld, so after a fairly rushed breakfast at 5:30 a.m. we decided to cycle to the start of the event - a nice 22km warm up ride!!! After quickly nipping to the 'facilities' on site, we squeezed our way through the 4000+ riders to the start line and a 7:06 a.m. we were on our way.

We'd already decided to race at our own pace, so I only saw Lorna at the start line and after she'd finished. The weather was cool and cloudy but thankfully the wind was reasonably low and it wasn't raining (yet).

I had a strategy to eat a protein bar on every hour and a gel on every half hour and this managed to sustain the energy levels throughout the ride.

I was making good progress in the individual sprint race until a couple of riders blocked my line and I came off the gas. I still posted a fairly respectable time, coming in 72nd out of 4265 riders!

The climbs up Schiehallion were a little more challenging, and by this time the winds had picked up. Again, wayyyy better than last year, I ended up 691st (/4265) in the 'King of the Mountains' category.

I kept on plugging away and it was great to see a few familiar faces from the ATHelite team - special thanks to Alan for his super domestique support in the final 12 miles of the race - helping to drag me round the final section of the race. 

I ended up with a time of 4 hours 19 minutes and 18 seconds, putting me in 984th place (/4265) overall - and a whole 1 hour 12 minutes faster than my time last year! Result.

I waited for Lorna at the finish - who also posted a new personal best and we then rode (a fairly hilly) 25km route back to the hotel.

Not content with riding 175km (only 5km shy of the full IM distance), we decided on a quick 10 minute run… That was 'interesting' shall we say.. especially as I tweaked my left knee busting up the final climb of the race after my gears got stuck in the highest cog. I'm sure after a bit of pain with the 'foam roller' it will be back to normal.

All in all, an epic ride today, especially given how ill I'd been all last week. A well deserved rest day tomorrow and I'm back at swimming on Tuesday - trying out the wetsuit again for the first time this season.

Here we are, appearing (briefly) at 0:06 seconds… can you spot us?!

Looking back to last year - when I was wearing a far less subtle Heinz Baked Beans top - appearing at 0:55 and 1:15… Never mind 15 minutes of fame, I'm settling for around 5 seconds of fame  :-)

Friday, 10 May 2013

Improving power to weight ratio?

Well, this week has been written off in terms of training. After a brilliant weekend swim / run / bike / run and feeling like I could take on the distance right here, right now... I ended up with food poisoning. Doh!!!

The only running I've managed this week has been running back and forwards to the loo!

Still, I'm starting to feel human again... Just in time to take on the Caledonian Etape this weekend. A scenic and somewhat hilly 82 mile cycle starting at Pitlochry. Hopefully it will be considerably less windy than last year where I was blown off my bike into a ditch!

I'll post details up on the race in due course. Wish me luck and have a great weekend!

Monday, 6 May 2013

I *can* do this!

Another great day of training on Saturday - a long, windy, fast ride with the ATHelite club around the roads of South Lanarkshire.

At times, I thought I was going to be blown off the bike - having 52mm deep set carbon wheels is not ideal in windy conditions, however, when sheltered from the elements, they're absolutely great! I managed to hang on to some really strong riders in the pack and attacked all of the hills as much as my scrawny calves would let me! 

We made great progress, and an average speed of 26 km/hr in those conditions was pretty good going - the last hour or so we averaged over 30 km/hr (or ~20 mph).

Still buzzing from the ride, I got back and quenched my thirst with a protein shake and thought I'd see how my legs would cope with a run. Ideally I'd have stayed outside, but trying to be in at least the same building as the rest of the family I decided to use the treadmill. What started out as a gentle 15 minute run turned into an easy hour long session - I was sorely tempted to do another hour (to cover time taken for 13 miles and therefore half IM distance) but decided to get lunch (by this time 3 pm.), take the kids to badminton and walk the dogs down by the River Clyde.

I was really surprised at how easy the run felt after such a hard cycle. The Chi running technique has significantly helped with this and I am almost evangelical when talking with other runners!

My confidence is now up as I can really see significant improvements in my fitness over the last few months. What seemed like a totally impossible dream ~24 months ago following knee surgery is now only 54 days away. I'll sure there will be a few more ups and downs along the way - but I can't wait! Bring it on!

Friday, 3 May 2013

Still no sign of Nemo...

Well, no sign of Nemo - I'll keep looking for him, but after 1 hour and 21 minutes and 15 seconds of thrashing up and down the pool at Virgin Active I can categorically state he is not there. 

I did, however, find a new personal best for the Ironman distance swim (3800m or 152 lengths of a 25m pool) in 1 hour, 17 minutes and 9 seconds and completed the 4km swim (160 lengths) in 1:21:15.

Still masses of room for improvement, but I've taken over 3 minutes off my time in the last month. I would be (in football parlance) over the moon if I get close to this time in the actual race. I'm hoping that any issues with sighting / swimming in a straight line / swimming with 2000 other people will be balanced out by the fact that I can swim faster in a wetsuit, anything less than 1 hour 30 minutes on the day and I'll be delighted!

Finished off my training tonight with a steady treadmill run, listening to some of my favourite music and just focusing on running form - sounds daft but it was a very relaxing!

Right time to go and check the bike for tomorrow's cycle and chill out for an hour or so before climbing into bed. 

Hope you all have a brilliant Bank Holiday Weekend!

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Just keep swimming, just keep swimming...

Well Jack took some video of us swimming in the pool last night and needless to say as soon as I was on camera I basically forgot how to swim and spent the next 100m trying desperately not to drown.

I've had video analysis in the past during golf lessons and it always amazes me how seemingly 'massive' movements are, in fact, generally very small changes. Your mind tends to play tricks on you, pretending you've totally changed your swing / stroke when, in fact, the changes are very subtle. This is probably why most coaches will get you to exaggerate the movement massively - what you actually end up with is what they're after you implementing.

In Lanzarote, Robin gave me some changes to implement on my 'catch'. I really felt like I have been pulling my lower arm + hand across my body and sweeping the hand down to the hip as instructed. Watching the video shows I'm nowhere close! Back to the pool to practise that one… Lots still to work on which is good - it means I can still make some major improvements and hopefully cut down my swim times.

My body rotation is ok and my leg position in the water is better than expected - I had been feeling the gliding sensation through the water recently and I've noticed my times and SWOLF scores heading in the right direction. 

I'm still struggling a little with extending my arms out of the water as much as possible - my shoulders are pretty strong and I reckon my muscle mass is reducing my flexibility in this area. To combat this I've been hanging on a chin up bar every morning and night to stretch these muscles out. Given water is much more dense than air, it's considerably easier to move through air than water, therefore extending out the arms above the surface helps to maximise your swimming 'levers' meaning you go faster / further with each stroke.

Well, if you're interested in seeing this novice swimmer, here goes...

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