2018 has been a good year!

This year I’ve been lucky enough to race and train quite a lot!

At the start of this season I was battling with a chronic injury in my calf muscles. As the season progressed, through a combination of rest, strengthening, physiotherapy and running style changes, I (hope) I’ve managed to finally get over that, which meant I was able to do my first Half Ironman at Holkam.

However, after that I began to have Achilles tendon issues. This I think I’ve also managed to work through in a similar manner, so am hopeful that 2019 will be a year when I can race without problems.

Fingers crossed!

Here’s a full list of results from the year – I seem to be progressing!

Ely Hardriders 25km TT
Just beat Lucy Charles! Very, very cold and windy.

Bottisham 10 mile TT

Cambridge Cycling Club 10 mile TT F2/10D
Wet. Averaged 44.7 kmph

Cambridge Cycling Club 10 mile TT F2A/10
Averaged 46.2 kmph

Saffron Walden Sprint Triathlon
Got a puncture, came 14th out of 171 finishers.

Cambridge Cycling Club Knapwell 15.2 TT

St. Neots (Grafham) Standard Triathlon
This was an ITU qualifier. 20th out of 467 finishers, 2nd in age group – qualified for the World Championships in 2019.

Ashley B TT

Dorney Sprint Triathlon
3rd out of 84 finishers.

Holkam 70.3
38th out of 1209 finisher. 4th in age group. I really struggled with the heat on the run.

ITU World Aquabike Championships
26th out of 193. 4th in age group.

Monster Standard Triathlon
1st out of 173 finishers. Fastest bike, including beating Ben Dijkstra!

Bottisham 10 mile TT
1st

Haverhill Sprint Triathlon
1st out of 108 finishers.

ETU European Duathlon Championships 2018 Ibiza
7th out of 25 in age group. Fastest bike out of everyone!

With those results I was able to win some of the point based championships at Cambridge Triathlon Club (Triathlon and Bike), and was also lucky enough to be awarded the Most Improved Triathlete and the Captain’s Award!

I worked out what you’re meant to do with one of the trophies…

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Aerocoach AEOX 75mm Front Wheel review

I’ve had a rear Aerocoach AEOX disc wheel for a while now and finally have now got a front. I opted for a 75mm rather than the 100 as I wanted better handling in crosswinds – according to the website there isn’t much difference but I still felt more comfortable with that choice.

So, before the detail… is it fast?

I ran a simple test doing 2 out and back 1 km rides at a constant speed for each different front wheel, using a power-meter to compare the average watts. Same bit of road, doing the rides directly after each other. The road was reasonably flat, out runs had a mild cross tail, and the in runs had a mild cross head wind. (12:30 here. The route was North/South)

I tested the AEOX with a Vittoria Corsa Speed 23mm, an 88mm Chinese “Carbonzone” carbon u-shaped clincher with a Continental Grand Prix 4000s II tyre, and a Khasmin Asymmetric 27mm with a wiggle puncture proof tyre, all at 100psi. I aimed at 42kmph for each 1km section.

Aeox 75mm Carbonzone 88mm Khasmin Asymmetric 27mm
Speed Watts Speed Watts Speed Watts
Out 42.3 242 42.4 263 42.1 266
Back 42.2 282 42.4 283 42.2 298
Out 42.4 242 42.2 258 42.2 276
Back 42.5 274 42.6 280 42.3 297
Average 42.4 260 42.4 271 42.2 284
@42.4 42.4 260 42.4 271 42.4 288

So, the AEOX is fast! 11 watts faster than the Carbonzone, and 28 faster than the Khasmin! The tyres on the Aeox and Carbonzone are pretty comparable in terms of rolling resistance, so I think this is a pretty fair test.

This is the bike and kit I was using for the tests:

The speed/watts has held out in actual racing – I think I had the fastest bike splits at the European Duathlon Sprint championships in Ibiza using this (although I’d switched to having a latex inner tube with the same tyre, rather than tubeless by this point). There I averaged 42.8 kmph on a smooth course with 100m of climb, 4 roundabouts and 3 dead turns in the middle, at an average of 280 watts.

In terms of crosswinds, it is a lot easier to control than the Carbonzone (I’ve tried this on windier days).

Like the rear AEOX disc wheel, this is an aluminium rim wheel with a fairing on it. This means it’s not the lightest wheel in the world – although neither is it heavy by any means – officially 985g ± 15g – which matches what my one weighs. I prefer the braking contact on aluminium, so I’m happy with this. It also means it’s relatively inexpensive!

I did hope having aluminium rims would mean it would be easier to switch wheels out for training wheels (without having to switch carbon/aluminium brake pads), but as with the rear, this isn’t actually that easy as the rims are very wide – 24.7mm. This is much wider than your usual wheel, so you have to adjust brakes.

There are some downsides unfortunately. While having fairings means the spokes disappear inside the fairing in an aerodynamic way without nipples protruding, it leaves issues with the inside curve coming over the top of the valve.

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This doesn’t leave a lot of room for attaching a pump. With the 45mm valve that comes with the tubeless kit, the only pump adaptor I could use was the hold on type shown in the above picture. If this slips, it can hit the fairing, which around the cutout is very, very fragile. I cracked the fairing doing this, and again when pulling the valve off and hitting the top!

After letting the wheel down to get it in a flight box I had real issues trying to get it re-inflated. Inflating tubeless tyres generally involves putting in air at high pressure using some kind of compressor in order to get a seal around the rim. I don’t have one so took the bike to a local (decent!) bike shop. They didn’t have anything that could hold that kind of pressure that would fit under the fairing (and a hold on adaptor is not an option with that kind of pressure) so couldn’t help me!

This is why I switched back to using a latex inner tube (which also I could get with a shorter 40mm valve). It’s possible to get 35mm tubeless valves that would help, but I was in a hurry to go on a plane by this point!

Aerocoach said they didn’t use compressed air to get the tubeless tyres on – I’m a newbie with tubeless so I’m not sure how this works, but it wasn’t a process the guys in the bike shop were familiar with either.

The team at Aerocoach were very supportive (which they have been whenever I’ve contacted them), and made opening larger, which got rid of some of the cracks – I’ve supported the edges with electrical tape now and intend to be a lot more careful with it in the future. I’m now able to get a small track pump head in there which should help.

ETU European Duathlon Championships 2018 Ibiza

I was lucky enough to represent Great Britain again, this time at the European Multisport Championships in Ibiza, racing in the Sprint Duathlon. Since qualifying for this last year I haven’t actually raced a duathlon – I’ve been focusing on triathlon and haven’t got to a point where I’ve been confident enough of my various leg injuries to think it’s a good idea!

However, having had a break from running since the Monster Triathlon and having built back up carefully, I was actually confident I could do this. However, I wasn’t confident I’d done enough running to be competitive. Bike training was going well however!

Having managed to actually travel to Ibiza with my wife (despite her being unwell – she’s a star for having managed to come despite this!) and get to the hotel, we were quite pleased with it!

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I’d travelled with my bike in a bike box – this time a more sturdy Bike Box Alan, with extra supports that go through the centre of the wheels so that it’d work with a disc wheel. Unlike Denmark, this time nothing was broken – huzzah! So first order of the day was to rebuild the bike. Which I managed with only one minor panic about a wheel being buckled (which it wasn’t…)

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I went for a short test ride on the course. It appeared I’d managed not to mess anything up with the bike build, and the course was amazingly fast 😀

Next it was time to travel the 20km to the random location of registration and briefing. I’d been looking forward to getting the bag promised in the blurb to replace my ailing transition bag from Aviles. Imagine, if you will, my joy and delight at what was presented instead of a transition bag:

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Onto the GB briefing, and it turned out there were a lot of GB athletes!

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The night before the race there was a parade of nations, which was fun! Music, marching around and a balloon arch.

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The organisers were having a hard time, however. The transition was planned to be on a beach, but there had been a storm surge, which had destroyed this!

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Fortunately, there was a backup plan apparently, which was to take over the Elite transition area. However, there were a lot of bikes to fit in that area!

Overnight they managed to perform a miracle and get everything moved, and it didn’t look too bad by the time I arrived in the morning!

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The run course had to be adjusted to cope with this, and apparently the bike course had been slightly shortened to ditch a turnaround at a roundabout as that was covered in dirt and was a bit slippy.

Just before the race, it started to rain. Fortunately it was pretty warm, and stopped after a short while, but everything was now damp and slippy.

The run course was very, very narrow. An out and back 1.25km section along the waterfront, on slippy terracotta tiles, which after the rain were now pretty treacherous. As a result, it was important not to get stuck behind slower runners.

For the start we were due to go in waves. I was in the second wave (40+ men) and we were instructed to stand in transition and wait for our waves to be called to the start line. After the first wave of younger athletes started, we were called forwards.

The layout of the transition was linear, so I cunningly moved to the nearest end of the 40-44 men to the start, in the hope of being at the front. This was about halfway up transition.

What I didn’t spot was that the older age groups (who were also in the same wave) were on the other side of the bike racking, and were much nearer to the start. Doh! By the time I got there, there was a wedge of old gits men even older than myself, about 8 rows deep at the start line.

I gently moved forwards as far forward as I could politely, and ended up in about the 5th row. Given I knew that there would be a lot of faster runners around, I didn’t want to push too much. Unlike the Spanish guys in my age group who were now all at the front somehow!

An Italian guy suddenly appeared at the front and ran off after the first wave! We guessed he had missed the start, and he got a big cheer! Followed by an even bigger one about a minute later as he came running back up the course to the start line as he’d realised he was in our wave after all!

Shortly afterwards, it was time to start! There was a little bit of heartbeat sound-effects over the speaker system, then we were off!

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Photo credit: Jon Izeta

It was very congested, and we were all pretty nervous about a sharp corner after about 100m. As a result I was already 8 seconds behind the leaders by the time I got there.

We followed the seafront, and slowly began to spread out. Not much, but at least I wasn’t in danger of losing a trainer here! Suddenly there were shouts of “Bench!”. What? Oh, the course got even narrower, and there was a bench in the middle of it. I hurdled over one end of it (shouting Bench as I went) and carried on.

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At the turnaround point (1.25km in to the 5km course), you got a good chance to see how you were doing. Not good, it turned out! I was about 30 seconds down on the mad Italian already! Still, I was hoping I’d do well on the bike course, and had noted that some of the faster looking runners didn’t have fast looking bikes. So, there was some hope!

Running back along the front I heard my name and there was my wonderful wife who snapped this picture!

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I was actually running bang on what I’d hoped I’d be able to do, despite the slippy floor and congestion. Which was about 18 1/2 minutes for the 5km.

The waves were going off every 3 minutes. There was a little bit of mental maths I should have done before I got to the 2.5km point. Given the lead in from the start to the main run course loop, I was bang on target to get to that turnaround just as a wave was started, which is what happened! Had I done this maths, I could have pushed harder for the first loop to avoid it. Instead I found myself in the middle of a women’s wave. Damnit!

I did few slightly dodgy overtaking manoeuvres on the wrong side of the course it began to thin out again. The mad Italian was looking like he’d be 2 1/2 minutes ish up by the end of the run, with the next guy I thought was in my age group about 1 minute 20 up.

Coming into transition, I was pretty pleased that I’d done the run pretty fast (for me!) in the conditions and it all felt pretty controlled. I’d still have plenty of energy for the bike, which I was by now, very much looking forward to!

Run 1 Strava link

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Er, that wasn’t my transition technique. Don’t know where that came from…

So I got through transition with a minor faff with the helmet, but nothing untoward. I got out, over the mount line, leapt onto my bike, took a few pedal strokes, then got my feet in. This is something I should have done better – I didn’t get enough speed up before doing this, and wasted a few seconds.

But then I was going. And going fast! I was in my happy place. No longer a sluggish runner, but a speeding demon! The competition was in my domain now! Bwahahahaha! Er, ahem. Sorry. But I was going fast!

The course had a short connecting section, with a simple “out and back” after that, which you did twice – in total it was 18km (slightly short of the normal 20km). On the “out and back”, there was a single roundabout near the first end.

The road surface was very, very fast, and the conditions were just right (not much wind, warm and slightly humid), although slippy after the rain, so care needed to be taken on corners.

I cranked up the speed, then settled in. The first “out” was slightly uphill, about 50m height gain over the 4.5km. I was cruising, getting my heart rate under control and taking on some fluids. And overtaking everyone in sight! There were a few clumps of people, but mostly it was just one or two riders at a time. I occasionally ended up on the wrong side of the road as I was overtaking big groups and someone drifted out, but this didn’t happen very often.

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After the turn point I put in a bit of a burst to get up to speed, then dropped the watts down about 10%. I was loving it! Again, overtaking, and really feeling in control. I hadn’t spotted the mad Italian at any point, but thought I spotted the guy who’d been in 2nd.

Coming up to the roundabout, there was someone shouting “Straight on! Straight on!”. This seemed a little unnecessary. However, it turned out it was necessary! Slightly earlier on in the race, a policeman had taken it on himself to help out, and had directed riders to turn here. For about 2 minutes riders coming through had turned here. It saved at least 1 minute.

We found out about this afterwards, when there was a very noble act by one of the Spanish 20-24 athletes. He’d gone the wrong way, and had a big battle on the run to win his age group by a few seconds in front of a British athlete. However, he realised that the British athlete had got to the roundabout before the policeman had got involved, and had done the full distance.

The organisers had failed to put a timing mat at the turn around point (which would be normal practise), so stated that they would not be doing anything about it, but if anyone admitted taking the shorter course, they would be disqualified.

Knowing the consequences, the Spanish athlete admitted what had happened, was disqualified, and the British athlete became the European champion. The Spanish athlete was in tears afterwards.

Not many other people admitted taking the short course, which I can sympathise with, given the draconian consequences by the organisers, due to the organisers own mistakes, and the fact that most would have been in a contest with people racing close to them (so the winners of medals would probably have got the correct medals they would have got had this not happened).

Anyway, when I got to real correct turn around point, I had closed in on a group which I thought contained lots of athletes in my age group. This was good news, as if we had a similar second half of the bike leg, and similar run, the fact that the second run was only 2.5km would mean I’d likely beat them 😀

One athlete slipped over at the corner, and everyone else slowed down more to take the turn! I got round safely, and again cranked up the power.

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I thought one of the athletes might be following me, and wasted some time checking and lost a bit of focus. By the time I got my focus back, I’d lost a bit speed and had to wind it back up.

The course was a bit busier now with more athletes for later waves out. But that was just more people to overtake! I was loving the feeling of cruising along on the smooth road listening to the whoosh of my wheels!

After the last turnaround, on the steepest downhill section, I got my speed up, and then took a bit of a break to help prepare for the final run. Just up ahead was another athlete moving fast. After the mini-break I pushed on to overtake him, which took much longer than any of my other overtakes.

I passed a little before the roundabout, but coming up to that I could see an older athlete on the outside of the road that I was going to overtake just as I got to it. We had quite a big speed difference, and I had a feeling he was about to cut into the middle of the road to take the racing line. I shouted out, but it didn’t stop him doing it…

I hit the brakes hard and swerved round him. The guy I’d just overtaken managed to miss me and passed by on the right. I got back up to speed and started to catch up again as we approached the dismount line.

I got my feet out before him, and overtook about 200m from the line. As I approached it, I got my right leg over my saddle, and in front of my left leg, with hands on brakes. I applied the brakes, and slowed. As I jumped off I heard a crash to my right – the other fast athlete had messed something up and gone over!

I ran into transition, and got my bike racked. Looking back at the way in, I could see him carrying his bike, so fortunately he hadn’t injured himself too badly. Unfortunately I could also see the big group of athletes in my age group – I hadn’t managed to pull away in the second half of the bike leg.

It turns out I’d officially got the 3rd fastest time for the bike leg out of 700 international athletes, only 6 seconds off being the fastest! Unofficially, I think I actually was the fastest!

The 2nd fastest posted his Strava log which shows he turned at the roundabout.

roundabout

The 1st fastest didn’t post his race on Strava, and after an unhealthy amount of cyber snooping, while I’m aware he’s a very good cyclist, I think there’s a high probability he turned there too. But that might just be because that’s what I what to think!

Regardless, here’s my ride on Strava.

Out of transition, the route was up to the top near the start, then back down to the run course. There was a timing mat here to make sure you didn’t just go straight onto the run without doing this loop, and to start the run timing, but sadly this wasn’t working, so the official run times include the transition.

I got going, surprisingly managing to run at the same speed as the first leg – whoop! However, with the knowledge that, given my fast bike ride, and the initial run, everyone around me would be better runners 😦 That coupled with the fact that I’d seen the group of athletes in my age group just behind me, meant I didn’t really feel like I had a chance, so wasn’t able to really motivate myself.

The athlete who crashed at the dismount line came past. I asked if he was OK (he was) and more importantly if his bike was OK (he didn’t know!) Then about 15 other people came past.

I saw the guy who’d been in second at the turn around point and was determined to stay ahead of him in case I was wrong about the other people I thought were in my age group!

Coming in to the finish, I was about 15 seconds clear both ahead and behind, so had time to grab a couple of flags that were being offered and mess about in the finishing chute!

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Run 2 Strava

I’d made it to the end, I hadn’t had any problems with injuries and I’d raced a race I was proud of. Whoop!

I’d come 7th – from 2nd to 7th was pretty close, but if I wan’t to get on the podium I’m going to have to improve my running! The mad Italian (an ex professional) had won by a large margin, so apparently his “warm up” hadn’t done him any harm. He also won the standard distance duathlon the next day!

Full results

All in all it was a great experience, and we did a bit of holidaying afterwards, before returning home and retrieving the kids from my parents (thanks Mum and Dad!)

 

Haverhill Sprint Triathlon 2018

Haverhill Triathlon was the first Triathlon I won, in 2016. So, I was returning to this with happy memories! This time I was racing with some friends, which is always nice!

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The format for this is a 300m pool swim, 22km undulating bike, and an undulating (OK, it would be considered flat by anyone not from Cambridgeshire) 6km run. Unusually, there is a 2 minute “dead” zone between the swim and the first transition, which allows you to put some socks, shoes, maybe calve guards on, before you cover the 250m to transition. Or, if you’re completely nuts, strip buck naked (with a towel, although accidentally flash the locals, but make that OK with a cheeky grin), and put on a dry tri-suit. (Nope, that wasn’t me!)

Anyway, it was a cold, but glorious sunny autumnal day, but it warmed up enough to be pleasant by the time I was racing.

The pool can’t handle everyone at the same time, so you get started one at a time with a 30 second gap. Last time this was seeded (slowest estimated swim time went first) but this time that didn’t appear to be in effect. As a result there was a LOT of overtaking going on! This consisted of tapping the overtakee on the feet, then waiting till they got to the end of a length, before the overtaker could overtake.

I’ve got a reasonably fast swim now, so started off and caught the person in front in the middle of the 3rd length, just as they caught the person ahead. I did breast stroke till the end, then got to overtake both at the same time.

Then there was a clear section, until I caught 2 more people on the 9th length, so did some more breast stroke, and again passed both at the same time.

My swimming felt pretty relaxed but like I was moving through the water well – I actually wished it was a lot longer! I think it cost 15 seconds doing the overtaking, and both times gave me a breather; I felt pretty lucky having seen the chaos in the water before I got in!

Out of the water I got socks, calf guards and trainers on, and jogged gently over to transition. I took the shoes off just before I went in. Transition went well, and I was on my way again quickly, doing a running mount (without crushing anything delicate!)

Out onto the bike course and immediately up some hills. I had my power meter working this time, which helped with the pacing. It really was a lovely day to be out on a bike, whizzing through beautiful countryside. And overtaking everyone in sight!

After a bit I got to the first set of temporary traffic lights we’d be warned about. These were red, but we’d been told, that as there was no work going on, if it was safe we could proceed through a red light here, so I did.

The second set of traffic lights involved a detour, which missed off a fast section and replaced it with some junctions, but avoided the lights. There was a car reversing out of their driveway here which stopped across the road on a downhill section. Fortunately there was enough room once they’d stopped to get past.

The final set of traffic lights had a marshal, and if they were red, you had to stop, and the results would be adjusted for the delay. These were green for me, but I got stuck behind a long queue of traffic, stuck behind other athletes. Eventually this cleared and I was able to get on with it!

Strava bike link

Back into transition, I tried to go in via the “out” entrance, but the marshal spotted me in plenty of time and helped me go the right way! Then I was out onto the run.

This felt odd after the ride – it always does! I haven’t done many ‘brick’ sessions to help. It really took about 2km before running felt natural again.

I’m coming back from an Achilles tendon injury, which has been absolutely fine for a while now, but it seemed tight today, which was worrying. Fortunately it eased off after 5 minutes, and I could concentrate on keeping my cadence high and running with good form. My pace picked up a little, despite the return section being slightly uphill.

Just before the finish there’s a short, sharp downhill, which is great as I could pick up a lot of speed (past spectators) to the finish line. Over the line and I was in the usual breathless state, but felt exhilarated. That was fun 😀

Strava run link

I turned out I’d won. By over 5 minutes! Woop! Full results

A couple of my friends also got trophies as well in different races, which was ace!

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After this it was my daughters 7th birthday party in the afternoon (on mini trampolines). Apparently I was tired by the evening…

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So that’s the last race before the European Duathlon Championships in Ibiza where I’m doing the sprint distance.

 

How much faster is swimming with a wetsuit?

This compares swimming without a wetsuit, compared to in a Zone3 Aspire wetsuit and a Zone3 Vanquish wetsuit in a 100 yard (91.44m) outdoor lido. I did 4 individual lengths in each.
I’m a reasonable swimmer (for a triathlete), don’t have sinking legs (I think!), and tend to have a 2 beat kick.
See Zone3 Aspire vs Zone3 Vanquish Testing and Review for more details about the wetsuits and their comparison.

The Results

For the 100 yards (in time per 100m)
Aspire Vanquish No Wetsuit
1:29 ___1:22 _____1:39
1:27 ___1:22 _____1:37
1:25 ___1:23 _____1:36
1:25 ___1:18 _____1:34

Average
Aspire Vanquish No Wetsuit
1:26.5 _1:21.2 ___1:36.5

So, between 10 and 15 seconds per 100m!

The Small Print!

Each of the individual 100y lengths I swam as if it was the start of a longer swim – so not flat out, but too optimistic to actually hold on. The exceptions when I wasn’t thinking about it clearly were:

  • the last length for the Vanquish, and without wetsuit, where it was practically flat out.
  • the last 2 lengths for the Aspire where both were done very hard, though not flat out.

I think these evened out though.

The pool was 16 degrees centigrade. I think this and the length of the pool mean this is a lot slower than an indoor 25m pool, so if you’re comparing to that, don’t expect to see such big differences! For example, a few days earlier at an 25m indoor pool, with tumble turns, at 28 degrees centigrade I did the following:

100m in a 25m Pool
1:30
1:28
1:28
1:30

Average
1:29.0

This meets my expectations of how fast I’ve gone in the Aspire in races compared to my swimming at the pool.

Zone3 Aspire vs Zone3 Vanquish Testing and Review

This review compares swimming in a Zone3 Aspire wetsuit vs a Zone3 Vanquish wetsuit in a 100 yard (91.44m) outdoor lido. I did 4 individual lengths in each, as well as a 4 length swim (368m).
I’m a reasonable swimmer (for a triathlete), don’t have sinking legs (I think!), and tend to have a 2 beat kick.

The Results

For the 100 yards (in time per 100m)
Aspire Vanquish
1:29 __1:22
1:27 __1:22
1:25 __1:23
1:25 __1:18

Average
Aspire Vanquish
1:26.5 _1:21.2

For the 400 yards (in time per 100m)
Aspire Vanquish
1:35 __1:30

I also swam the 100s without a wetsuit – the results from that can be found here: How much faster is swimming with a wetsuit?

The Vanquish felt faster gliding through the water, (which could be body position, or coating?)
The main difference while actually swimming was that it was really obvious how much less restrictive the shoulders are – the Aspire isn’t bad in this respect, but the Vanquish is better! I think this led to a higher cadence.
Putting both on and off was pretty easy and the taking off is quick. They both zip up from the bottom to top.
The neck on the Vanquish is lower, which is good as I’ve had some nasty wetsuit rubs on longer races, but this may be to do with how the Velcro is near the neck after it’s done up. I didn’t have a problem from either suit today.
The catch panels on the Vanquish are a nice idea. I think it was giving me a bit of extra feedback of water pressure, which I currently find pretty useful.

The Small Print!

Each of the individual 100y lengths I swam as if it was the start of a longer swim – so not flat out, but too optimistic to actually hold on. The exceptions when I wasn’t thinking about it clearly were:

  • the last length for the Vanquish, where it was practically flat out.
  • the last 2 lengths for the Aspire where both were done very hard, though not flat out.

I think these evened out though.

The 400s were pretty much as fast as I could go (and the first length of each matched the pace of the 100s). I didn’t do tumble turns.
The pool was 16 degrees centigrade.
I did the Aspire first, then the Vanquish, and had plenty of rest between repetitions.
The Aspire is a few years old, and isn’t in the best condition any more (which is why I’ve bought a new wetsuit), so the comparison favours the Vanquish.

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Also in favour of the Vanquish is that the Vanquish is a size ML, whereas the Aspire is a size MT and was too tight round the chest so I had it professionally adjusted (see the turquoise panels below). Both fit well and appropriately tightly now (I’m currently 76kg, 183cm tall, 41 inch chest, and have big thighs – I’m an ex rower).

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The Aspire

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The Vanquish

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The lido

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Monster Standard Triathlon

I had a great taper for this race (my 2nd Olympic distance) having been on holiday for a week before in the Peak District with my family. Lots of beer carb loading, hiking and resting. I’d done a few rides on a mountain bike, and some short interval running, but mostly resting!

I’ve had a slightly sore Achilles tendon which had been worrying me, but it didn’t seem to be getting any worse, and seemed not to bother me after the first few minutes running, so decided to go for it. On the up side, I had a new toy!

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Oh yes! I hadn’t managed to set it up completely yet, so the aerobars were pretty uncomfortable, but manageable!

The Monster Triathlon is in Ely, which is pretty close to home. There’s a standard ish distance (1.5km swim, 44km bike, 11km run) and a 70.3 middle distance going on at the same time. I’d originally entered the 70.3, but switched as I decided my training was better suited to it (OK, I hadn’t done enough!)

Arriving early it was a beautiful day! The wind was picking up, but it’s a beautiful place to be. I don’t think this picture did the sunrise justice!

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There were a few friends racing this, so it was nice to catch up with them. Everything about this race is very relaxed, so I didn’t feel stressed for once. Training buddy and super swimmer John was racing as well, so we had a little banter before the race.

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A fair amount of this was around the fact that Ben Dijkstra was racing. I’d spotted him earlier – he was racing on a road bike with tiny aerobars. I was expecting him to be a lot faster in the swim and run, but was hoping I might actually briefly catch up on the bike due to the aero advantage I’d have.

Then I got everything set up in transition. This time I attempted to make sure my Wahoo bike computer was connected to the power meter before leaving transition (see this race report to see why).

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We headed over to the start. The 70.3 racers started half an hour before us, swimming the same downstream/upstream course as us, but with an extra 200m in each direction at the turnaround. Then it was our turn into the river!

As the starter announced 3 minutes, a boat approached the start from the direction we were racing into. It then slowly turned broadside across the river about 50m ahead of us! I think it ‘may’ have been this boat:

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I was laughing about how ridiculous this was and that they’d have to wait, when they started it! John and Ben disappeared in a flurry of bubbles, and I started off, aiming round the front of the boat.

[EDIT] Having talked the orgainsers, I now know that this was the Mayor and the sponsors starting the race! I assume the boat got out of the way then, as I didn’t see it once I’d started!

I found myself on the outside of a bend, with another competitor just ahead and on the inside of me. I thought I could draft him, but quickly realized I was actually faster than him, but it took a while to overtake so I could get over to the inside of the bend.

I worked my way over to that side, and found some people to draft, but again, found I was faster. Maybe I need to start off harder? Anyway, after a while, I did find 2 others to work with. There were a few boats double parked and a bridge, so you had to keep your wits about you!

I became aware of lots of swimmers on the other side of the river, after about 500m, all wearing green hats (as opposed to the yellow we were wearing); the 70.3 swimmers. This seemed odd timing given the 30 minute headstart, but I was busy thinking about not swallowing most of the river!

The turn around buoy came into sight, and I and the 2 people I was swimming with, made our way round it, into the stream of green-hats. This was really odd. If we’d caught them up, we should be going waaaaay faster than them, but we were only slowly overtaking! It actually transpired that their turn buoy had come lose and drifted quite a looong way downstream, so they’d had to swim a lot further!

Given that we were now heading upstream, I moved over close to the bank. This seemed to have been a good tactic, as I soon dropped my 2 fellow yellow-hats who were in the middle of the river. Although I did occasionally have to go through some lilies!

Coming to the end, the river bed had rocks which made getting out a little tricky, but the wonderful volunteers were on hand to help! I started getting out of my wetsuit on the run to transition – this felt like a fair distance (it took about a minute) and my Achilles really wasn’t happy running without shoes.

The organisers had done a good job here – they had a timing mat at both ends of this run so you could see how long the swim had actually taken. I’d taken 24:57, which is a couple of minutes slower than my 1500m race PB, but it wasn’t a fast course I think. More usefully, that put me at 6.9% of all competitors (which is a swim PB!).

John hadn’t had a great swim having had someone grab his leg and had a near drowning incident 😦 Ben D however had swum 18:30! Blimey. No chance of catching him on the bike then (although I didn’t know this then).

Transition was slightly slow as I decided to go for comfort and put socks on, but then I was out onto the road! The Wahoo had lost connection to the power meter and wasn’t showing signs of reconnecting. Grrr. I switched it off and on again (yes, I work in computing…) and it connected! Yay!

Did I mention it was windy? This course is very flat and exposed. Some big smooth roads, and one truly terrible bumpy potholed section. Overtaking always feels good, and I started in earnest after the only slight climb and onto the first section, on good roads with a tailwind. I passed John here so got to say Hi! By the end of this section, my average speed was 46kmph. Woop!

The next section was a crosswind, of the kind that involves leaning into! But still, the speed kept up.

Then came the bumpy section. Into the headwind. Gahhhh! I didn’t want to get out of the aero tuck, so I had to hold on tight over the bumps. The uncomfortable aerobars set up really didn’t help with this and made my wrists really ache :(.

Many, many, many bumps later, the road got better! Still into a headwind, but it didn’t matter so much anymore! No sign of Ben D, but no other people that appeared to be doing the Standard distance either (there were different coloured race numbers) by this point.

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There came a point where the course split as the 70.3 racers went on a longer loop, and I nearly took the wrong turning, but spotted the signs indicating this in time.  By the end of the headwind section I was down below 40 kmph average, but the next section would be on good roads with a cross/tailwind. The speed came back up and the average started creeping up again.

Coming off the loop and into the section towards transition I lost my bottle on a corner – I think I hadn’t put it back in the (rear) holder properly as it wasn’t over a bump, just the corner. I didn’t stop for it.

Back to transition and I could see the sign for the dismount line and volunteers waving. There was a 90 degree turn, and I could see a strong black line on the floor just round this. As I got really close, I realised that wasn’t the dismount line which was a green line just before the turn! I braked harder and just managed to get off without crashing or falling on my face…

The dismount line was probably as bright as any other, but my eyes were drawn towards the strong black line instead.

Into transition and there was a single, road bike in transition! So, I knew I was in 2nd, which was as good as I could possibly hope for! I’d done it in 1:05:53, slightly over 40 kmph. Fastest bike (3:30 faster than Ben D!).

Strava link (slightly short due to switching the Wahoo on and off again).

For some reason T2 took a long time according to the results. I remember struggling to get my shoes on for some reason, but even so, that wouldn’t explain why my time was down to 46% of all competitors despite having my feet out of bike shoes before coming into transition.

Onto the run, and there was an aid station. I wasn’t hot as it wasn’t a hot day, but I knew I would be, so I threw a cup of water over my head and was off.

The course had a couple of hills and involved running past the imposing cathedral! It involved 4 laps, and on each you picked up a wristband from the cheery volunteers at the top of the main hill.

On my way up this, I saw Ben D walking back! I asked if he was OK, to which he replied that he was fine, but only allowed to run 1km (it turns out he’s coming back from an injury), and that I was in the lead now! He did have a bit of blood on his knee, which turns out be because he’d come off the bike coming into transition – maybe he’d made the same mistake as me about the line?

Anyway, there was a guy on a bike waiting there, who it turned out was to ride in front of the lead competitor round the first lap. This was now me! Whoop! An honour guard! This felt pretty special, especially going round the cathedral!

I couldn’t see anyone behind me, but was pretty paranoid about being overtaken. Coming into the second lap, the cyclist stopped and waved goodbye. However, now I was running with people a lap behind me, so for each person who overtook, I had no idea if they were a lap behind, or on the same lap.

I guess I was overtaken about 5 times, and each time I did a lot of looking to see how many wristbands they had on! I was averaging around 4:00 per km, which given the hills was actually probably a PB. My Achillies wasn’t playing up, so apart from the normal aerobic pain from pushing hard, I felt great!

On the last lap, I could see someone coming up behind me. I looked several times to see if he was catching fast enough to get me before the end (he was), then how many bands he had on (I couldn’t see), and finally thought it might be John (it was!).

He caught me up (he was a lap behind) and then mocked me for my multiple looking behind stunt! There wasn’t anyone else closing, so it was at this point, with about 1km to go, I started to believe I might win the race!

I sped up coming to the finish, leaving John behind and into the finishing chute, and took the ribbon! What a great feeling!

I’d run 43:08 for the (slightly short) 11km, which was 10.5% of all competitor times.

Strava link (again slightly short as I’d pressed the wrong button coming out of transition and only sorted it out a bit later).

Total time was 2:17:21. I won by 2 minutes from 2nd (who passed out as he came over the line! He was fine after a bit of time). Whoop!

I saw John afterwards and had plenty of time before the presentation to get a massage and pack up.

 

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This is an amazingly run, friendly event. The atmosphere was wonderful and everyone seemed happy!