Thinking next year

As I prepare to taper for the Basingstoke Half Marathon next week, I can not help but be proud of the running improvements made over the last few weeks. Where apart from running daily now comfortably I have raised the volume (35 miles per week) and intensity markedly.

While the half-marathon is not a focus at all for me, I am excited for next years races. I have spotted some awesome events already! Outside of the (costly) IronMan franchise, which will be saved for special treats. But events like the AronaMen and IronCat look maga cool. So I will have added impetus to my drive to do really well next year.

PS This morning 12 miles hurt! Very tough..

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Zoot Z-Pack Training Bag Review

Initially I thought I would hold off on writing another review any time soon, but I think considering the number of products I have used and use I probably have some insight to offer. What I think differentiates my reviews from any magazine offered data is firstly I have bought and used something till it is falling apart of the product was any good, at which point I may replace it with the same, and two I have no loyalties to suppliers etc.

http://zootsports.com/spring2010/product/z-pack-training-bag?category=mens%2Fbags

General

After re-reading the Zoot web site for this backpack I do feel slightly incensed since it is touted as a training bag, while up until that point I was willing to forgive it since I fully believed it to be a transition bag. While the bag fulfils the role as a transition back with ease, the long-lived ruggedness of an otherwise well designed product is completely undermined.

Design

The size of the bag is perfect for transition, which is typically a space confined area, the bag accommodates a wet suit and other essentials comfortably. The helmet storage panel is particularly useful if you do not own an aero helmet with a visor! For day-to-day use the bag is a little on the small size resulting in some squeezing. You will find yourself leaving the pull buoy at home in favour of your lunchbox and/or shake bottle. That said the top pocket is very convenient and the inside mesh pockets very useful, and the ubiquitous wet compartment a must-have.

The external mesh pocket is perfect for a decent sized water bottle, which remains firmly gripped. I have yet to use the rubber head phone jack on any of the bags I have ever owned so I view that ‘feature’ as pretty useless.

The ID window is actually a hard plastic card upon which you can scribble your details which I have dutifully done, and is a nice little extra.

Comfort

The shoulder and hip straps work well together clamping the bag down in place. Making it practical for cycling and the occasional sprint for a bus or train. The bag is slung fairly low on the bag making for a stable carry position, especially when fully loaded.

Durability

Sigh, so we saw this one coming. How durable is this rather cool well designed back pack / transition bag? Well sadly despite being fairly well cared for, mine does not seem to have survived even a full year of daily use. Which is very unfortunate since the practicality of the bag is so clearly thought through. I would cite the weakness of the grey/silver carbon looking nylon material as the failure. Which frays and pulls away from the shoulder straps over time. And unfortunately the top of the bag too, looking rather unsightly. Making a classy product look fairly cheap and nasty. The final nail in the coffin for me was the zip pull for the wet compartment that broke earlier this week, I think the zip itself was too thin in places.

Zoot, I am gutted! I loved my transition bag, get it together!

Affordability

A high end price so I would have expected good durability and long life from the bag, I have to score down the affordability in terms of cost per days use. So unfortunately at $100, you could find better value me thinks.

Overall

A product that would have been dearly loved were it not for some serious durability issues. The infuriating tag line for the bag on Zoots web site is “Looking for the ideal bag to use for your day to day workout bag? Look no further than the Zoot Z-Pack Training Bag“, which suggests it should withstand day to day life of a triathletes two (to three) training sessions a day.

Affordability 2/5, Comfort 4/5, Durability 2/5, Design 3.5/5, Overall Verdict 2/5

Blueseventy Nero Race Goggles Review

This is my first review ever so please be patient!

I write this review after having used these goggles for 12 months or so, and so feel that they have been well used and I am qualified to give an accurate view of my experience using them.

General

In terms of affordability these goggles are towards the upper boundary of what I am prepared to pa for a pair of goggles (£23). Due to frequent losses, damage and general depth of fundings. So my expectations have been high. For the most part they have not disappointed being more durable than other goggles I have bought in the past at the same price point. Fending off regular exposure to chlorine and other anti fog chemicals. I have for the most part used them through all my training sessions, both pool and open water based and through several races this season.

Fogging

Regarding fogging I found these goggles to be the same as any other goggles I have owned at this price point. In that the factory embedded anti-fog layer wears after a view months after which you have to rely on your own mechanisms (gob etc).

Visibility

Relating to visibility I have used these goggles many times in open water and they seemed to fair well. Brighter conditions being well suited to, darker days are perhaps less ideal. But considering the lenses are tinted I always felt this was an acceptable compromise.

Durability

In terms or durability I think I am quite satisfied the goggles have lasted me a long time, and are only finally wearing now in terms of sealability, where I think the rubber is hardening from prolonged exposure to chemicals. And the elastic head band which started to crack recently. This is after circa six hours use a week minimum!

Comfort

Comfort is a huge factor to me since I typically swim for a hour and a half at a time. For the most part I have no issue here until the very end of the session when the edges on the socket cups do seem to feel like they are cutting their way into ones skull. But well within accepted limits considering it is the tail end of a long swim session, and these are touted as race wear. But something to consider when choosing the goggles for either the half IM or full IM swim!

So would I buy them again? Certainly would, I suspect issues with comfort and sealing to wards the end of the life of the product explain the former issues.

Image

Overall

Affordability 4/5, Comfort 3/5, Durability 4/5, Overall Verdict 3.5/5

Queensford Lake Relay

Martins Race report.. what a cracking time!

Following Ashley’s enormous enthusiasm to have club representation at the event and numerous iterations of team types and team members the “final” team was confirmed last week:

Ashley Walton, Ian Stewart, Nick Alvis and Martin Harris.

The plan was to take part in both the relay event (consisting of a notional 1km lap completed by each member in turn who hand over a wrist band to the next team member within the allocated change over area) AND the “team pursuit” which was based around the same lap but this time with all team members swimming together with the team time taken as being the time of the last team member to swim under the finish bridge.

In light of the lack of mutual knowledge regarding other members abilities and experience it was agreed that on open water event specific preparation session would be in order, so the team met at Reading lake the Thursday prior to the event to familiarize themselves with the “team time trial” swimming concept and to formulate a plan for the optimal relay order and swim formation in order to achieve the fastest team swim.

Formations tested were: four in line, in the style of track cycling.

A lozenge pattern with a lead swimmer with two flanking swimmers at hip distance and the  “protected” swimmer directly behind the leader and on the hips of the two “flankers”.

But the configuration that proved most successful was a parallelogram shape with a lead swimmer, a second row swimmer at hip level to the leader, the third swimmer on the feet of the leader and hip level to the second row swimmer and the final member on the feet of the second row swimmer and hips of the third. This pattern allowed for easier sighting within the team to keep the shape intact and provide maximum draft for the final swimmer.

The order for the relay swim was roughly agreed at this point in so far as Ian, as the fastest swimmer, would go last and therefore get less recovery time before the team pursuit. Nick agreed to go as first swimmer so Ashley went second with Martin third.

The weather forecast for race day was not optimistic, ironically following a gloriously sunny Saturday! Undeterred the team set off in the team bus (or more accurately Teutonic black saloon) and had motivational conversations until arriving in good time at the venue to be greeted with grey skies, grey water and the feeling that summer was well and truly over. Water temperature a bracing 17 degrees.

The venue had plenty of parking close to the lake, the course was easily navigable and the event HQ (lakeside hut) hosted registration and provision for hot and cold drinks and bacon, sausages and egg sandwiches, cake and confectionary bars for those in need. In addition two changing and toilet cabins provided additional shelter.

The course consisted of a start line and finish line separated by 20 or 30 metres and this area would be the in water change over area during the relay. A first turn buoy was at about 50m from the start and was approximately a 90 degree left turn, then about 200m to the next left turn buoy, a “back straight” of about 500m before the final left turn and about 250 metres to the finish bridge which was equipped with transducers to log the passing of timing chips which were attached to each swimmer’s cap.

Nick took the lead leg and posted a very creditable 12:17 to arrive back at the finish bridge and searched for Ashley in the change-over area and handed the band in 5th place to Ashley who posted 14:19 (including changeover) and passed the band to Martin in 8thposition. Martin (ensured his stopwatch had started before commencing his swim!) managed to claw back 2 places posting 13:15 including changeover and passed the band to Ian who stormed a 12:40 including changeover and almost managed to catch 5th and 4thplaced swimmers, another 50 metres and he would probably have claimed the 4th place.

As the weather conditions turning more autumnal the organisers very sensibly decided that it was not desirable to have wet athletes standing around getting colder by the minute they would start the team pursuit event earlier than scheduled. Basingstoke Tri squad were the first team name out of the hat some were first to set off on the 4 man team loop, followed at 30 second intervals by the rest of the pursuit teams. The team started steadily with Ian leading, Martin swimming to the left of Ian’s hip, Nick directly behind Ian and to the right of Martin’s hip and Ashley directly behind Martin and to the left of Nick’s hip. The held formation well around the first two buoys and the pace was increased along the back straight and around the third buoy with a further increase in pace as the finish came closer and a shout from Martin for a sprint for the last hundred metres or so. All four team members finished within a few metres of each other having successfully held off any challenge of overtaking from faster teams behind. The team time of 14.01 put them in fifth place which by consensus was a very creditable performance considering this was only the second time the team had swum as a unit.

Despite the autumnal conditions spirits were high amongst the assembled athletes and there seemed to be widespread approval of the event in general.

This event could be a fun end of season team event and the team pursuit in particular brings a different dynamic to what is ostensibly an individual sport (swimming).

Martin Harris.

 

Rolling Along

As a precursor to winter training David Edwards was kind enough to loan me his rollers to get “the feel” this weekend. Something I have been meaning to do for a while, and now that winter looms seemed the right time to get myself under way.

I forewarned the family to expect a trip to A&E, and primed them with YouTube videos of roller training gone wrong. They were suitably entertained and my eldest grabbed her video phone optimistically expecting royalties from some or other TV blooper show.

To my surprise however while being cocooned inside a door frame I found the rollers very manageable during my initial trial of fifteen minutes or so.

In fact despite only a short session on Monday morning (alarm clock failure) of 50 minutes. I found that I was getting the real cycle feeling compared to the ham fisted turbo training I normally do. The cycle feels realistic and I was immediately ‘encouraged’ to create a smooth cycling motion and controlled even pedal strokes. Still I have to perfect the skill, but am excited about getting it right!

So now I am on the prowl for a set of rollers…

Queensford Lake Relay

Looks like the team for the Queensford Lake relay event is now formed. It hasn’t been particularly easy to get everything sorted and has taken several emails to the club and even the Henley Swim organisers. But things look solidified now, I hope it will be a good event. Who knows maybe next year the Basingstoke Tri Squad entry may grow?

Have had a tough couple of days training already since Sunday (overloaded gear hill climbing), and Monday the first morning Turbo session of the season. No complaining allowed yet!