Saturday, 15 December 2012

New Balance 880V2

The nice people at New Balance have sent me a pair of shoes to review. Now, I'm not sure does that mean I am now a sponsored athlete? (if so I'm gonna have to put a link somewhere on this blog)

I've got to lay my cards on the table, I've been wearing New Balance shoes for the last few years and they are my shoes of choice. I'm not saying I'm some kind of fan boy, but yes I do like them

The retail price for these shoes is £84.99, but with a little bit of shopping around you can get them for about £70

This is what New Balance have to say about them

The New Balance 880v2, the second edition of the popular 880 running shoe, is built on the ACTEVA® LITE midsole with groundbreaking T-Beam® to provide a lightweight, supportive, and well-cushioned ride. Perfect for a runner with a neutral gait, this comfortable trainer is packed with premium features but still weighs in at only 11 ounces.

Type: Cushioning

Weight: 311 grams (11 oz)

Synthetic/mesh upper provides lightweight comfort and support
Blown rubber outsole is extremely flexible, light, and helps provide cushioning
Abzorb® Strobel Board runs full length of shoe to maximize shock absorption and comfort

And this is what I have to say

The first thing I noticed is that the shoes come in pairs, which is handy because so do my feet!

I find the shoes to be very appealing to look at, obviously I'm not going to wear them to a high society function, but they are suitable for purpose. A subtle use of red and blue on a mesh of grey, very understated.

I usually run with elastic laces, but for the purposes of this road test I ran in laces supplied. I was pleased to find out that the laces gripped well and that stayed tied for the whole run (one of the reasons I use elastic laces is to stop them undoing during races).

I chose to run on a route that I run quite regularly, which meant I'd be able to make a comparison. The shoes initially felt nice and light compared to my current shoe, and I was running at a good speed (for me).

Now I know that when you run, sometime you have good runs and sometimes they are bad. But whilst running in these shoes I was averaging a speed of 5 minute kilometres compared to my usual Z2 running speed of 5:30ish. I'd be very surprised if this gain was purely down to the shoe but I can only assume that they contributed.

The day I ran was in November, so obviously it was cold and wet. I didn't experience any issues with regards to slipping on steep sections or going around corners. But my feet did feel a bit colder once I'd finished the run.

So to the crux of the matter, would I buy these shoes? And the unequivocal answer is yes.

Keep up the good work New Balance, and if you can find out who stole my 1080 Chilli Peppers I'd be eternally grateful

Friday, 23 November 2012

2012 - Report Card

2011 was all about Ironman Wales, the training was all focused on this race, and I really went for an all my eggs in one basket approach by not racing at all apart from this.

By the essence of what I was up against that day, the race was a (partial) success. With some issues that I'll need to go back and address.

But, the danger for 2012 was an onslaught of post Ironman blues. Which is one of the reasons I has 2012 planned out as early as possible

The 2012 race season was to be based around my A race of Cotswold 113, coupled in with the Celtic Tri championship races where I could squeeze them in

The first race I'd set myself a target for was one of the Swansea Bay 5K races, which is a series of races operated every summer along the Swansea seafront. The race profile is pan flat, so perfect for getting good times.

The target I'd set for myself was to get sub 20 minutes, a tall ask seeing as my PB prior to this was 21:51, and that was a few years ago.

My tactic for the race was
  • Run the first mile really hard
  • Give everything I've got for the last mile
  • And in between... run hard
5km races are not nice

I knew at the turn around point, that it was gonna be tough to crack the 20 minute barrier. And I really could feel myself fading as I reached the end of the run. My finish time was 21:02, so I didn't break the 20 minute barrier; but I did break my PB which had stood for 5 years

My next target was another running race, and it is to break my age for 10km distance. So at the age of 44, I am looking to run it is less than 44 minutes. My previous PB was 44:51, which also had stood for 5 years (2007 was obviously my glory year for running)

The race in question was the the Llanelli 10K, a mainly flat route with a couple of undulations. My strategy was to try and keep a steady pace of just under 4:30 kilometres. Whilst I was clearly pushing myself during this race, I was running within my abilities.

My finish time was 43:51!

So I'd hit my age target and got a new PB to boot

Next up was my A race for the year; Cotswold113. The time in question 5 hours and 30 minutes - the time achieved 5 hours and 34 minutes.

Close but no cigar, I will be back in 2013 to correct this failing.

Next up was Tuska Sprint Tri, I'd raced this previously and finished in a time of 1:32, so I set myself the tough target of 1:25.

A perfect day for racing, the wind was negligible and the forecasted rain was holding off. I smashed this race, and feel that it was the best I've ever raced, finishing in a time of 1:21. I honestly don't think anything could have gone better on the day.

A last, but not least - The Neath Valley Triathlon. A short sprint race, which meant I'd be going hard for a good hour or so. The target I set was 65 minutes.

I was just outside this, with a time of 66 minutes (I blame the wind and the rain).

So all in all, not a bad season, not a bad season at all. To top it off I appear to be the runner up in category 2 section of the club championships (yes I am the runner's up runner's up)

I'm in a happy place in regards to the individual disciplines:
  • My swimming seems to have improved, no doubt all due to my fantastic new Snugg wetsuit
  • I'm making grounds with my cycling. But there is still room for improvement here, hopefully #turbovember will help build a base
  • I've set PBs at both 5K and 10K this year, so my running is in a good place
  • I've finally got my head around manageing my time in transition
  • Race day is all about #GoHardOrGoHome

2012 has been a reasonably successful year, so in summary, I think I'll award myself a

Monday, 22 October 2012


Here it is what you've all been waiting for, your very own ready reckoner for recording your #turbovember sessions

I've also created a document for us all to keep a tab on each other and so we can create a league table


Tuesday, 16 October 2012


It is one of the most hotly argued subjects in the triathlon community. The decision on whether you get an Ironman tat once you've completed an Ironman race.

It does appear sometimes that sorting out the differences of the Palestinian dispute would be easier. Both sides have strong cases for their argument, which include

  • It is a hell of an achievement that you want commemorate
  • It's your body you can do what you like
  • When you're old and wrinkly, it'll be something to tell the young uns
  • You look a bit of a cock
  • It's a corporate brand, just like putting Adidas or Coke on your body
  • It's just showing off
There does also appear to be some rules about getting the M Dot tat
  • You have to have completed the race within the cut off
  • It has to be an Ironman branded race
  • It can't be a half distance race
After completing Ironman wales in 2011, I seem to have achieved the necessary requirements to be able to have the M Dot ink.

I've often dabbled with the thought in the past of getting a tattoo, but have never followed it through. Being a proud Welshman I've thought about dragons, Celtic knots and other icons to celebrate my nationality. But I've always shied away from completing the deal. But now I have the motivational factor to get it done.

Here is the design I came up with, and I have to say I'm pretty impressed with it.

The concept of the design is pretty simple, but with some imagary to tell the story. The Ironman logo is self explanitory, I believe the dragon is very Welsh in its essence and the spines down the dragon's back remind me of the chainring of a bike.
Whilst doing research on tattoos I found the following passage which I found very interesting, which was taken from here)

What a Dragon Tattoo Represents on a Man

A dragon tattoo design on a man typically signifies raw power. Like dragons, men are the guardians of that which is sacred, such as women and objects of great wealth. But this must be tempered with wisdom, lest the greed of dragons overpower the man's soul and turn him into a ravenous creature with an insatiable appetite. Men who get dragon tattoos view themselves as being revered for their wisdom but feared for their tremendous power.

Yeah, I'm pretty sure that's how I view myself!

I suppose the only thing left is getting the damn thing done.

After getting some advice from a few inked friends, I decided to go to Kyle at Tat2U Studio. I booked a day off work and got myself in there 

Now, it has to be said that I don't consider myself to have very much of a pain threshold, which obviously could have an impact on the 2.5 hours I'd be spending under the needle. But, what the hell I was in there now and I'd paid my deposit so there was no way I was backing out.

Obviously, I was anxious as the work was started. But I was pleasantly surprised in how little pain I was experiencing. In fact the 90 minutes (which is how long it took) was very pleasant. And, here is the result of that 90 minutes work

I'm very happy with the result, its just a shame my arms are so damn skinny.

All that leaves now, is deciding on what to have for my next one

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Gower Olympic Triathlon


After weeks of pontificating on whether I'd do this race I was persuaded by Jason C to sign up and race. I'm a bit of a wuss when it comes to the cold and wet, so the thought of racing at the end of September didn't fill me with joy.

I checked the weather forecast all through the week building up to the race, and it looked like it was going to be a dry day, but quite fresh early on.

Having raced in the sprint distance race earlier this year, plus this being a home town race; I knew what we were up against. A short flat swim, a testing bike ride with 3 not inconsiderable climbs and a run that I thought would be tough.

As Friday was going to be quite a busy evening dealing with the boys as Ang was in work, I started setting up my kit on Thursday night. This was a good move as I discovered that my tyre was flat, due to the valve coming away from the tube and also my track pump was broken. Thankfully I now had plenty of time to remedy these.

There were a couple of people I was keeping a look out for at the race: the aforementioned Jason, Huw P who was making his triathlon debut and Hayley G who had beaten me at Glynneath last week and we'd had a bit of banter about me being 'chicked'.

Registration was on the Friday night (part of the reason that Friday was so busy for me), this went with a breeze. I was disappointed that the goody bag contained nothing but a crappy cotton t-shirt.

As is my want I set myself an arbitrary target, which was 2 hours and 45 minutes.

Race Day

I'd gone to bed reasonably early the night before and when my alarm went off at 5:45 I was up like a shot. Usual routine of porridge and car packing was conducted and I was out of the house by 6:30.

I arrived at Port Eynon at 7 o'clock and started racking up. Laid out my kit and Jason kindly lent me his track pump, which meant I was good to go.


The 1,500m swim was two loops (with a small run) of the sprint course; I was convinced when I raced at the sprint earlier in the year, that this was short. Looking at the course it definitely looked short to me.

Looks short to me

After a quick paddle and splash to acclimatise ourselves, we were back on the sand and then sent on our way. The sea was surprisingly warm, and I seemed to be swimming at a reasonable pace. There was plenty of biff especially going around the buoys.

I checked by time at the end of the first loop at it was 12 something (swimming well or short course, you decide?)

The biff had certainly settled down on the second loop and I was able to settle into a relaxed stroke.

As I came out of the water I spotted Jason, we must have swam within 5 seconds of each other. I just about passed him to hit the timing mat first in a time of 27:04 (positioned 100th out of 193 starters)


It's important in transition to ensure that you're in a primed position for the bike, I was adamant that I wouldn't be cold on the bike so I put on a cycling top and mitts. Not easy when your soaking wet, which is why my transition time was 4:19 (177/193). I know it's embarrassing


The bike route was 37km, taking in Cefn Bryn (the highest point in Gower).

It was imperative that I made up some of the time lost in transition on the bike. After climbing well out of Port Eynon, I set off at a good cadence. I was thankful for the extra layer as it was quite fresh.

Keeping warm with a Viking salute

The ride around Gower is beautiful and I cycle various parts of this course quite often, which allowed me to gain valuable time in taking the racing line.

One thing that often confuses me when I'm racing is the fact that competitors don't make use of downhill segments and are satisfied in coasting down instead of collecting all that valuable free speed. Well it's good news for me, as I pass them.

My strategy for the bike was to go strong for the first 25km and then into TT mode for the final 12km. I pretty much stuck to this plan and managed to drop a few of the riders I had been nipping and tucking with in the first segment.

I got back to Port Eynon in a time of 1:22:19 (108/193) which was an average speed of 27kmh.


As I've got the cycling top and mitts on, I've now gotta waste time in getting them off. Hence my marginally better transition time of 1:40 (150/193)


The 10km run was 2 loops of across the sand and then up the hill through Bank Farm campsite. I've never run up this hill, but I've walked it; it is steep, very steep indeed.

I left transition at a reasonable lick, I checked my heart rate to make sure I wasn't over doing it and set of along the sand. As much as running on the hard sand wasn't to debilitating the run through the soft sand and dunes was energy sapping.

After getting through the dunes I was faced with the climb, and boy was it steep. There were plenty of people walking which meant I was making up plenty of places. Even if I wanted to I wouldn't have walked as I was of the mindset that this was only a 10km and walking wasn't allowed (Go Hard Or Go Home).

Once you reached the campsite you were confronted with plenty of undulation and a steady climb to the turnaround point. But at least this meant it was downhill all the way back to the beach. I finished the first lap in a time of 25 minutes which meant if I could keep at the same pace my target time was within reach.

So my plan for the second lap was to go steady along the sand, hurt up the hill, coast back down and cane it for the return along the sand and the dunes.

As I started the second lap I was feeling strong and was still picking off other racers (as well as those who did the sprint fancy dress race). In fact I'd say I felt stronger running up the hill on the second time.

Shouting at the cars

On reaching the turnaround point, I knew that the worst was behind me and that I could push on to the finish. On reaching the beach I really dug in and gave it everything I had. It was a satisfying feeling turning right into the finish chute.

My run time was 49:56, and I must say that I was very pleased to be running sub 5 minute kilometres on that course.

Go hard or go home

This gave me a finish time of 2:45:18, which if I round down that means I hit my target time. However, as expected Jason smashed me and showed me how to get through transition properly, I was chicked again by Hayley and well done to Huw for finishing his first (of many) triathlons.

I'd like to thank the marshalls on the course who did a great job, especially Rob G at the top of the hill at Bank Farm. I'd also like to thank Rob C for coming down to cheer us on (he said he was repaying the supporting debt of Ironman Wales).

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Neath Valley Triathlon

This is a great event that is organised by my club Celtic Tri. But this is the first time that I've been able to enter it for a wide range of reasons (last year I marshaled at the run turnaround point, that was a long lonely morning)


This was going to be my first pool based triathlon for about 2 and a half years, and it felt a bit uneasy not packing a wetsuit and the usual faff that comes with it. The race was a very sensible 400m swim, 22km out and back bike and a 3km run; I set myself the arbitrary target time of 65 minutes.

Race day

My wave wasn't due in the pool until 10:38 and race briefing was at 6:50, so I took the organisers advice that it would be assumed that I would be at the briefing.

My usual race day breakfast is a bowl of porridge washed down with a cup of coffee, but due to the fact that I've being following a paleo (lite) diet, I hadn't noticed that the porridge was out of date. So a slight change of plan, but this being a sprint not too much to worry about.

I arrived at the Leisure Centre at about 8 o'clock, and obviously the first waves were already out on the course, I parked up and strolled across to registration, this took a while as I was constantly stopping to talk to the great and the good.

The weather forecast was given as cool, but dry early on with rain coming in later on. At about 9 o'clock the rain started to fall, and by 10 o'clock it was tipping down and the wind had picked up too.

As this was such a short race, my strategy was to have the bike as light as possible, no tools, no spares and not even a water bottle. However, due to the weather, I made one change to my minimalist setup; I decided that wearing arm-warmers would be wise.


The pool was setup in three lanes, with three competitors in each lane. We were travelling in a clockwise direction, and I would be first off. This meant I'd have clear water in front of me, and if I got caught, it wouldn't be a problem.

My swim was a steady 7:55, but was I was expecting something a little closer to the 7:30 mark. My position was 36 out 140 so not too shabby


Out of the pool and into transition, had to faff about a bit as my shoes and arm-warmers were soaked through. But I was off and out in 1:47


The course was an undulating out and back, and my theory was to go balls out. If I wasn't down on the aero-bars, I was out of my seat climbing whatever hills were there. And for the most part that is what I did.

The problem with wave based racing, there are only a few people who you can pass whilst you're on the road. As far as I can remember, I passed 5 whilst 2 passed me.

It was certainly a bit windy, but not too bad. But it was very, very wet; thankfully the nontechnical route meant that this did not cause any problems.

I returned to transition in a time of 43:18, which as a speed of over 30kph is reasonably pleasing, my position was 24/140


Had a bit of trouble in T2 with a combination of cold hands and wet shoes, but managed to get in and out in 52 seconds


The run  is the part of the race where I normally pick up time; so with this in mind, I gave the run everything I had. Being only 3km, this gave me the opportunity to hit it hard from the off. It was a flat run over a mix of tarmac and trail path (no need for trail shoes Steve).

Whilst I really went for the run, I still wasn't retching when I crossed the line. My run split was 12:18 (17/140)

My overall time was 1:06:10, which meant I was just outside my target time of 65 minutes, but all in all I matched my expectations in all three disciplines. My position was 24th and I was 4th vet, so not a bad day at all.

This is a great race for anyone thinking of starting in triathlon, it's aimed very much at the novices and there's plenty of advice from the marshals and other competitors.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Cotswold 113 Middle Distance Triathlon


After finishing Ironman Wales last year, discussions were had regarding completing an 'easier' race to get a time in. After hearing great things about this race in it's inaugural running last year, Cotswold 113 was decided upon.

This was to be my 'A' race for 2012, with my training focused on getting to the start line in as good shape as possible. I'd set myself the arbitrary finish time of 5 and half hours.

There was plenty of talk on Twitter and there were loads of Celtic Tri entrants too. As a family we decided to spend the whole weekend camping on the race designated camp site, especially as this was the end of June, so what could go wrong with the weather. What went wrong was the wettest June on record, together with some very strong winds

Wish I'd brought me brolly


We arrived at the campsite at around 5:30pm and thankfully we'd left the rain back in Swansea; however the wind was quite strong. The campsite was nice and empty so we had the pick of the field, so set up in a sheltered corner that we could take over when the rest of the Celtic Tri guys arrived on Saturday.

Thankfully when we woke up on Saturday morning nothing had been blown away by the not inconsiderable wind. The wind did seem to be dying out which was boding well for the race.

For the rest of the day the field started filling up, with a large contingent from both Celtic Tri and Team True Spirit . I finally got around to meeting up with Jason; a fellow Jack but is now a local resident.

Registration was a five minute walk away; and it was great to meet up with friends old and new and to put faces to on line buddies.

Jason took Rich and I for a light run around part of the course, the ground was compacted trail path but standard road shoes would be more than adequate.

Later that afternoon, it rained and it rained and it rained a bit more. Bike set up was conducted inside the tent. Got us all fed and went off to be at a reasonable time, as the 6:20 start meant I had to be up before 4:30. Oh, did I mention it was still raining.

Race Day

Woke up before the alarm clock; I'm not sure if this meant I had a good night's sleep and I was fresh or I'd had a poor sleep and was just dozing.

Due to the lack of homely comforts, breakfast was cold rice pudding. I left Ang and the boys in their sleeping bags and set off to transition.

The number of competitors was twice that of last year, and this became apparent with the queue of traffic going into the car park. The resultant gridlock meant that the race was delayed by 30 minutes, which meant my start time was now 6:50


The swim was to be in one of the many lakes that are all along the M4 corridor. A single loop, compared to the two loops of last year.

This would be my first swim in anger in my new Snugg wetsuit, which was supplied by Terry and Rose of RTJ Sports.

The lake looked absolutely lovely as we watched the two earlier waves go off. Then it was time for the quite old farts to have their turn. I entered the water with Jason, with the strategy of keeping him within sight to give me a reasonable swim time.

This plan worked well for about 30 seconds where he gave me a bit of a clout and I had to clear my head and get my bearings.

Felt strong through the swim and it wasn't long before we were out and it felt like I'd had a good swim, but I had no idea of time as my watch had stopped after 17 minutes

Swim time: 37:03 (position 219th)


I was pleased to see Ang and the boys as I ran into T1, as I wasn't expecting them to be there. That put me into a good place mentally as I dealt with a bit of wooziness getting out of my wetsuit.

It was quite a long drag out through the mud out of transition and to the mount line (I wouldn't want to be the guy who had to sort out the carpet after the race had finished)

T1 time: 4:12


The bike course is two loops of approximately 25 miles, coming back to the transition area. Lots of straight roads, but with the occasional sharp turns just to keep you sharp.

The bike course boasts that it is fast and flat, and boy it does not disappoint. Apart from one hill at the turnaround point, there is very little elevation for the whole of the loop.

To try to get as good as time on the bike, I was intent on managing my heart rate with the following strategy; as I expected the bike segment to last me about 3 hours I planned it as follows

1st hour - Approx heart rate of 140bpm
2nd hour - Approx heart rate of 150bpm
3rd hour - Keep the 150bpm effort going if I still had it in my legs

And I pretty much stuck to this plan.

The one problem I did experience in the ride was a considerable pain in my lower back. However I'm not sure if this was due to holding an aero position for a long period or the fact that I'd spent the previous night sleeping on an inflatable bed.

As the day progressed, it got steadily warmer and dryer, but there was no let up from the wind. This meant getting aero was very important, but my back issues meant that this wasn't possible for extended periods.

As pleased as I was that I'd seen Ang and the boys when I came out of the water, I was disappointed that they'd missed me at the end of the first loop. It really keeps me going on a long race that I'll be seeing some friendly faces soon, so that was a bit of a let down.

Both of the loops were pretty uneventful, apart from being just behind one guy drop his bike on one of the tight 90 degree turns, he looked in a bit of a state but thankfully there were marshalls right there to assist him

My splits were very similar, with times of 1:27:00 and 1:27:27

Obviously living in South Wales I inevitably ride on hilly routes and this is by far the flattest ride I've ever done. I was surprised how difficult a flat could be, without the benefit of the recovery of climbing and descending hills

Bike time: 2:54:26 (position 270th)


Back to the muddy carpet, which was a bit drier than earlier, but no less muddy. Took a look at my trail shoes, but decided against them an plumped for the road shoes

T2 time: 3:17


The run course was a mixture of road and trail path around a couple of the lakes. We would have to complete 3 loops of the four and bit miles.

By the time I'd started running, the day had become very warm and sunny. I kicked off the run at a reasonable lick, and despite not knowing what my race time was; I was confident that my target time was on the cards.

It soon became apparent that the choice not to go with the trail shoes was a bad one. The rain had certainly taken it's toll on the trail path. Plenty of mud, deep puddles and very slippery underfoot.

Part of the course involved getting over a sleeper, and jumping over this brought on that all too familiar feeling of tightness of cramp.

Ang and the boys were on a section of the course where I got to see them twice on each lap. However, Angela's distribution of Jelly Babies has a lot to be desired!

As the run progressed, my running form deteriorated and by the third lap it was a real struggle. It felt like a stone was in my shoe but when I stopped to remove it, there was nothing there (after the race it was apparent the pain was caused by a blister down the whole of the sole of my foot, in all my previous races I've not been affected by blisters of such size and intensity and I can only assume it was caused by the dampness underfoot)

By the time I'd got to the third lap, I was really feeling the strain and it was all about motivating myself to get to the finish (having now decided that the target time was outside my grasp)

Ran for the last mile with one of the youngsters from an earlier wave, and the talking took my mind off the pain in my foot and legs.

As I came into the home straight, I left my new companion for dust and ran for all my worth. On my way through my two boys joined me and for the first time ever they crossed the finish line with me.

Run time: 1:55:36 (position 188th)


I went straight to the timing tent and punched in my number; and my doubts were confirmed, my race time was 5:34:34. Just 4 minutes over my target time, but 4 minutes none the less. My position was 219th out of 466 finishers (494 including DNFs)

Despite not hitting my target time, I was still pleased with my race. The main points to address is to try and get stronger on the bike and to increase my ability to run after a hard constant ride.

So, will I do this race again? Hell, yes! (In fact Angela has said I have to whether I want to or not)

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Tuska Triathlon


I was really looking forward to this race as it is the first race that I've done for a while that I've done previously. Which would allow me to see if I'm making any improvements. In fact, I've done this race twice before.

2008 - This was my first open water swim, (World Champion) Helen Jenkins passed me in the water like I wasn't moving. I posted a time of 1:41.

2010 - A seasoned triathlete at this point and posted a 9 minute improvement, by finishing in 1:32.

So, with the knowledge of a basis of some good training in me I was aiming to bag a time of 1:25. A tough ask, but it would mean that I would be pushing myself. My usual target is to finish in the top half of the results, but as this race is the Welsh Sprint Championship, my expectation of hitting this target was slim.

Despite having a good race at Gower, I was disappointed with my transition times, therefore I was determined to get through transition in as little time as possible. My main time savers would be to go sockless and to have my race belt on under my wetsuit (not sure why I've not done this before).

I'd had a decent brick session without socks with no after effects from blisters etc., so I was confident that I'd be OK on race day.

Race Day

Usual stuff, alarm goes off at 5 o'clock, get the porridge and kettle on,. kit in the car and off I go. I'm pleased to note that it is a mild morning with no wind, perfect race conditions, if it can stay dry then we're off to a winner.


Just to confuse us all at 7:30 in the morning the swim waves were changed from the usual men first followed by the women 5 minutes later. This year it was everyone except male vets in the first wave and then the vets to follow. The great thing about this is that I would hopefully be be picking off racers from the first wave throughout the race

The water was pleasant and the swell that I'd noticed when registering on Saturday had died down. I had a solid enough swim, but felt a bit heavy across my shoulders. I managed a time of 17:13 which was over a minute better than I'd posted in 2010.


Right! No messing about into transition get me wetsuit off; glasses, helmet and shoes on and off I go. All completed in a time of 1:14, which is twice as long as some of the racing snakes but considerably faster than the 2:54 I posted in 2010


As the bike is reasonably flat (for Wales), my plan was just to hit it hard and keep on going. I quickly made ground up on some slower cyclists, unaware if they were in my wave or the earlier wave, but either way I was ahead of them on the road and on the clock.

Gunning it!

As there aren't many hills on this course I took the opportunity to stand and get some momentum when I was climbing, instead of the usual grind as to not fatigue the legs. The only two exceptions being the long drag up Stormy Down, and the final climbs on Three Step Hill.

I came home in a time of 41:56 which was about 5 minutes faster than my 2010 time, with a good run my target time would be in my grasp


Another sharp transition, and was turned around in 53 seconds


The run along the front was changed from previous years, with the route now staying on tarmac for the full 5km instead of the middle section being on coastal path. I felt comfortable on the run and was ticking off athletes on a regular basis.

High 5s all round

I reached the turnaround point in about 10 minutes, which implied to me that the run was a bit on the short side.

As I returned to the promenade, I was caught by a few athletes; but I was more than happy with my time of 20:04.

Almost home

With a race time of 1:21:21, I'd more than exceeded my expectations. And with a position of 105 out of 215 racers I'd also attained my target of being in the top half, despite the very strong field.

Whilst I have have had races that I've felt have been major achievements, this was by far my best performance within a race.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Second Ironman Syndrome

Well I did the race and I've (literally) got the T-shirt.

The question that I keep asking myself is, should I do another Ironman race? And this in itself raises further questions

  • Should I do Ironman Wales again?
  • Should I do a race that is notoriously fast?
  • Should I do an overseas Ironman race?
  • Does it need to be an Ironman branded race?
  • Can I do the training again?
  • Is it fair to expect the commitment from my family? 
  • Will I be just as motivated the second time around?

The problem with endurance sport is that it takes up a lot of time. I currently train about 9 hours per week and this works out fine as I can train before I go to work and do a bit on the weekends around doing family type things

And 9 hours is plenty for my ability and for anything up to standard distance races. But when these volumes need to be ramped up with morning and evening sessions as well as longer sessions on the weekend where family life has to work around me, that's when it becomes a physical, mental and emotional strain.

OK, I could just continue with my current training levels and most probably I'd adequately complete another Ironman race, but I'd know deep within myself that I hadn't given my best and that when I lined up on that starting line I'd know I hadn't done enough.

Unless I can convince myself that I'm up for this again, it's not even worth speaking to Ang to see if she's up for having another Ironman adventure (at least her marathon training won't clash with mine). Only when there are ticks against these two boxes can I move onto the finessing of deciding which race to do.

So the questions in order of priority are

  1. Do I have the motivation?
  2. Do I have the support?
  3. What race shall I do? 
 At the moment question 1 remains unanswered, and until that is resolved, there's no point in taking it further. So, it looks like I'm in for some internal dialogue.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Ironman Wales - at long last

Put the kettle on, make yourself a cuppa and grab some biscuits this is gonna be a long one


I decided in 2010 that I would like to do an Ironman race and looked into doing Ironman Switzerland, but a combination of cost and date meant that I decided that it wasn’t for me. I didn’t like the sound of doing Bolton, so I decided that my Ironman adventure would have to wait a couple of years as I was insistent that as I would probably only do one Ironman distance race that I wanted to do an Ironman branded race.

I came back from holiday in September 2009 to be told that there was going to be an Ironman race in Tenby the following year. Well, my Welshness came to the fore, and I decided it had to be done. I got agreement from Ang that she would support the obscene amounts of training I’d have to do and whipped out my credit card.

I followed the Fink intermediate plan, but found it difficult to hit all of the training sessions in the peak phase due to family commitments or injuries. On the whole my training went well and I made sure I got the key sessions of long bike and run done every week. I did the 70 mile loop on the Long Course Weekend and got round in 4:35, which gave me an idea of what my bike split should be.


Got to Tenby at about 11:30 on Friday, and was pleased to be told that we could go to our caravan straight away (as opposed to the quoted time of 2pm). Unpacked the car and strolled off to registration, this took about 30 minutes from Kiln Park.

Found the registration to be well organised, had the usual bit of banter with the volunteer about my famous namesake and walked off with my A3 sheet of stickers, poster and rucksack.

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The boys had decorated the caravan

Race briefing was informative and there was plenty of talk about the swim and the forecasted weather conditions. I didn’t fancy hanging about for the pasta party, so I walked back to the caravan. However, once back at the caravan, I found I just couldn't get settled; so decided the best thing to do was to walk back to the pasta party and spend some time with some of the Celtic Tri guys.

Saturday morning was a mix of settling my bike up, preparing my transition bags and watching the England rugby game. I decided to give the organised swim a miss, as I felt it would serve no benefit.

When I took my bike into transition I found out that as mentioned in the briefing the swim had been moved to North Beach, which would involve a 1,000m run to transition. However, this now meant that I would need an additional pair of shoes. Due to a lack of foresight, these would have to be a pair of fashion Adidas classics.

Saturday was our wedding anniversary, so Angela and I decided we’d have some time together and go for a meal whilst the grandparents looked after the boys. I was recommended a restaurant which was great. I had decided to eat light and have chicken whilst drinking soft drinks and Ang had steak and lager (something wrong with this picture), we ate nice and early so we were back in the caravan and I was in bed by 9:30, I think I fell asleep at about 11ish.

Race Day

I woke at 4:30 and managed to get half a bowl of porridge and a cup of coffee down me, and left for transition at about 5:15.

Once I was at transition that I realised that my preparation was not quite as planned as I thought; as I’d forgotten a pre-race drink and I wasn’t really sure how to get to North Beach. But Tenby isn't that big so I just followed the crowd and was soon at the beach.

From above the water didn’t look too bad, but once I was at sea level you could see that it was a little bit more than rolling. Had a quick warm up and found the water temperature to be quite pleasant.

I had a chat to some fella with a camera, and found out later on he was from ITV Wales News

As we were waiting in the starting pen the sun broke through the clouds and the view was spectacular. Then they played the Welsh national anthem, which of course I sang. Then BANG! We were off


Yes, I ran along the beach. That was the direction the people around me were going, in fact I didn’t see the ones that went straight in. The swell was certainly challenging and once passed the first buoy you were really exposed to the might of the sea, with some severe rising and falling. Once passed the second buoy, it settled down a hell of a lot. And by the time you were heading back to the beach there was plenty of benefit from the current heading to shore.

The second loop went pretty much as the first (all be it with less running) I did however seem to go a little off course after the first buoy.

Swim Time: 1 hour 10minutes 35 seconds


Shit! I couldn’t get my wetsuit off, the zip was stuck, and try as I might I could not get it undone. So I employed the help of a couple of marshals to help me, even they had difficulty and ultimately I had to have it ripped off.

As I was running through the streets I noticed that my heart rate monitor felt loose, so I undid my top to connect it back together, only to find out the connector was damaged and would not stay in place. This meant that was going to have to race on feel as opposed to heart rate zone.

To add to my zip agony, when I zipped up my cycle top, the zip unravelled from the bottom, with a little coaxing and brute force I got it in place.

T1 Time: 18 minutes 42 seconds


With the reported 2,400m of climbing this was always going to be a tough day, but with the added problem of high winds produced by Hurricane Katia this was going to be very tough indeed. This became apparent when the relatively easy first section was into a constant headwind.

After about 30 minutes on the bike I started to feel a sharp pain behind my knee, and whilst I was expecting the usual dull ache of muscle fatigue this was something I'd not encountered before (I found out a couple of days later that this was a slight hamstring tear).

I'm glad I had previously ridden the route in the long course weekend, as it meant that there were no surprises. But I suppose on the other hand the downside is I knew what was coming up. I am definitely not a climber and the climbs at Freshwater West, Narbeth, Wiseman's Bridge and Saundersfoot are testers to say the least.

My nutritional plan was to use the products supplied by the race, which meant Gatorade and Power Bar gels. To ensure that my body would be able to digest the carbs I used Gatorade and Power Gel bars exclusively during my training. I found that I liked the taste of both and they didn't give me any gastric problems. This meant that I could go light on nutrition and pick them up at the various feed stations.

The support at the various towns and villages on the route was superb. Particular points that stand out for me were Narbeth (where I found out Wales had lost in the rugby by 1 point), Saundersfoot and of course Tenby itself.

The leaders passed me on the hill out of Saundersfoot, and felt envious of the lucky buggers as they didn't have to do it all again.

I completed the first loop in about 4 hours and 45 minutes, which was a little slow than on the Long Course Weekend, but with the wind this was to be expected. I'd arranged for my support crew to be outside Kiln Park, and I cannot begin to express the wave of emotion I felt at seeing them. But no sooner had I seen them then I was off again.

It was at this point that the pain behind my knee was becoming more severe and it had now come to the point where I could not get aero. This wasn't really and issue as there aren't that many opportunities on the final loop. It wasn't much later that I couldn't get to the drops without being in quite a bit of pain.

The problem with being on the bike for such a long time, is that you get inside your own head. Unfortunately I was now of the opinion that despite spending all of this time and effort getting to where I was, I had convinced myself that I was not going to be able to run.

My cycling efficiency was really poor now, and I was coasting as often as I could and just trying to get back to Tenby in one piece. I made the decision before I got to Wiseman's Bridge that I would have to push my bike up the hill. Despite the mental anguish that I had not been able to ride the whole route, I was buoyed by the fact that walking was causing absolutely no pain whatsoever (perhaps I would be able to run after all).

Seeing the crowds at Tenby, gave me the mental (and physical) strength to power up the short climb to the town. I just had to find out if I could run

Bike Time: 8 hours 2 minutes 21 seconds


I had packed enough kit in my transition bag for me to make various decisions regarding the weather. But this now left me with having to make a decision on what I'd take. In the end I left my jacket and long sleeve top in transition and went out in just my tri top and shorts but with a cap to protect me from the sun and/or rain

T2 Time: 8 minutes 16 seconds


Well here we go, am I able to run? And the answer is, well, yes. All be it the sort of running you can do after being on the bike for over 8 hours, but it was definitely a run; not a walk and not a shuffle.

The great thing about the run in Ironman Wales is that it's four loops of about 10km, and lets be honest after all the training that been done a 10km is a bit of a breeze. So that is how I mentally dealt with the run, just a series of 10km runs

Now not having run a marathon previously, this was venturing into the unknown. Especially as I'd just ridden 112 tough, windy miles with a torn hamstring.

My nutrition strategy was to grab a Coke and some Ritz biscuits at each feed station, and this worked really well for me and would do this again. Seeing my support team and club mates on a regular basis kept my spirits high.

The first two loops was going to plan and I was completing each loop bang on to my planned time of 60 minutes. However the 3rd loop took the running out of my legs and I was starting to shuffle along and this was the point when I had to be mentally strong and keep on pushing.

On completing the 3rd loop, I punched the air in elation as I collected my band. I knew that I had only 10km to go and I was going to complete this damn race. Whilst the fourth loop was mentally a relief, physically it was extremely hard. This was the only loop where I had to walk some of the hillier segments (apart from the bandstand section, coz that was just mental)

However once I'd reached the turn around point for the last time, I knew it was just a matter of 4km of downhill running. By this point the weather had now become quite awful, and my thanks go out to all the spectators who endured this on our behalf.

I was beaming ear to ear at the band collection point where I was turning left towards the Esplanade as opposed to doing another lap. But this was short lived when I hit the seafront and the wind almost pushed me backwards.

As I turned the corner I could see the finish gantry; man alive! I'd done it, I'd only gone and fucking done it. I high fived my two boys as I ran through the chute and crossed the line.

Richard Harris, you are an Ironman!

Run Time: 4 hours 49 minutes 11 seconds

Total Race Time: 14 hours 29 minutes 6 seconds

Post Race

So I gave my kisses and hugs to those who deserved (and wanted them). My first problem was actually trying to get my tracksuit trousers on, I was just physically unable to sit, bend and get my legs in. Eventually I prevailed

The next problem was getting my bike and kit down the hill to the caravan park in gale force winds, this was taken care of with a mixture of hobbling and moaning.

So at the end of a very long day, I was grateful for the supporters that lined the streets. But special thanks must go to the people who were there to support me. So a big thank you goes to my mum, Dave and Denise, Steve, Deb & Elijah, Mark & Rhian, John and all the guys from Celtic Tri. Plus a special thanks to my boys Thomas & James. But most of all, my heartfelt thanks goes to my wife Angela, without her support I wouldn't have got to the start line let alone the finish.

So what next?

This year I will be going back to Tenby, but I'll be on the other side of the barriers, supporting for all I'm worth, preferably with plenty of liquid refreshment. Following that I may complete my mid-life crisis and getting my Ironman tattoo done.

Was it worth it?

Hell, yes!

Will I do it again?

....mmmm maybe