Endura Helmet Pod – a hard case for Giro Aerohead Helmets up to size medium

I have a medium Giro Aerohead helmet and travel (sometime via plane) to races with it – I was looking for a hard case and was shocked how hard it was to get the Giro “replacement” case (replacing what exactly? It didn’t come with a case!), and how expensive it was! £60 from here!

Fortunately I found a much cheaper alternative for £17: https://www.endurasport.com/product/helmet-pod/

The medium helmet just fits as long as you put the visor in the “flipped up” position before you put it in:

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Note it won’t take a large helmet.

In this picture it looks like it’s just too big – it does add a slight deformation, but nothing major and zips up without any issues:

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(The zip sliders don’t have to be in this position)

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The dimensions at the widest are 36cm * 27cm by 19cm.

So far I’ve used it for one trip via air-plane, and taken it to several local races, and it seems well made! I don’t have any complaints.

There is a mesh air-vent underneath which allows any moisture to dry out.

I’m not in any way connected with Endura or Giro, just thought it was worth sharing this as I see a lot of these helmets around!

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Fyn Aquabike World Championships 2018

I feel very lucky to have had the honour to be able to race for GB Triathlon again (in a mature age group category). I’ve only managed this once before, but unlike last time which was a sprint duathlon, this time I was racing a long distance Aquabike; 3km swim followed by 120km of cycling. This was being held at the World Multisport Festival in Fyn, Denmark. This being a relatively new format, unlike the other events, there was no separate Elite race, so it counts as the fully-fledged World Championship!

Building up to these distances has been quite a challenge. Most of the difficulty was based around lower back pain on the bike, and oddly given the nature of the event, running! The latter being because I’d booked myself to race a half Ironman as the last test for the swimming and cycling, but really wanted to do the run for that as well!

I did manage that event, but even so, both the bike and swim on that were the furthest I’ve ever raced (or in the case of the bike, cycled on a TT bike!), and were quite a bit shorter than the Aquabike (2km swim and 91km bike), and my back really had been aching towards the end of that.

In the build up to the event, there was a lot of worry about jellyfish in the docks we’d be racing in.

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On the way, the Ryanair flights were a nightmare in many ways.

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On the upside we met someone lovely (Fleur) in the crowded airport who was also going to the race, to support a friend.

After a delayed flight, we arrived in Odense at 3am, but at least my bike hadn’t got lost on the flight. Unfortunately, my relatively new rear disc wheel, despite being well packed in a bike box, got broken :(.

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Fortunately, the next morning I was able to patch it together for the race with electrical tape. Putting the bike back together wasn’t plain sailing due to a part falling inside the frame and getting stuck, but I fished it out eventually! The entire day was spent rushing to do random bits of admin, faff or preparation, but it all got done in time!

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This included putting my bike in transition. Due to it being really warm, and having to leave the bike in the sun, I let a little air out of the tyres to avoid a blowout.

After that it was time for some pasta and an early night – the previous late night turned out well as it meant I found it easy to get to sleep early despite it being very hot. I was up 3 hours before the start; 4:40 am (3:40 UK time!). I ate some low fibre carbs (rice pudding and porridge) and had some coffee. I walked to the start/transition 1, queued, and found my bike.

I hadn’t planned to pump my tyres up; they are latex inner tubes so tend to lose a little pressure overnight. However, I thought the tyre pressure would still be high enough, despite having let a little air out and the fact it was actually pretty cold at this time in the morning. However, there were a few people with track pumps, so I thought I’d do it just in case. This turned out to be a good move because they were down to around 60 psi (I normally race at 100!)

I did all my normal preparation including setting up my nutrition (750ml energy drink, and 240g worth of gels in an aero bottle – this time with a good fitting lid!) and switching on my Wahoo cycle computer. I’d changed the battery in the power meter since it hadn’t worked at Holkham, and it had been working since then.

There was a massive queue for the 8 toilets in transition (for over 1000 athletes!), but I’d heard a rumour of toilets near the swim start, so I headed over there. While queuing for these, I let a lady in an earlier starting wave who was worried about making it to the start in time come into the queue in front of me. I thought I recognised the name – it turned out that this was the person our new friend from the airport was supporting, Claire! Speaking of which, Fleur and her mother suddenly appeared, which was lovely and I felt like they were my supporters too!

I ended up being ready about 10 minutes before my wave started (a PB!) and was pretty relaxed. We were called forward into a holding pen, then into the water. It was a short swim to the start in the harbour, where all 200 men in my wave (wearing white swim hats) congregated in a narrow gap between two buoys. Mostly, they appeared to be weeing, given the smell… I settled into the third row to wait, treading water. I was somewhere over to the left (not the inside line for the first buoy, but I was hoping to avoid being in the most congested area).

After a few minutes it seemed it was time to start; cue some atmospheric music! The starter called “Attention!”… Then a long pause … HONK! Off we went, doing a good impression of a 400 armed washing machine. Bodies were everywhere, limbs flailing! The water was lumpy. Er, what? Oh, jellyfish. They didn’t appear to be stinging, but I was still glad to be in a wetsuit!

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Photo Credit – World Triathlon | Wagner Araujo

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Photo Credit – World Triathlon | Wagner Araujo

I was trying to cope with the mess of bodies, sighting the course (I hadn’t done a reccy), worrying about overdoing it at the start of a long race, attempting to draft, and remembering bits of technique. It was all a bit of a blur. I was hoping it would thin out, but we soon caught up with slower swimmers from the wave before. Then the wave before that.

At the halfway point it was still as busy as near the start, and there was a pontoon with a narrow 4 step staircase up and down, with a timing mat at the top. I hauled myself out onto this thing. I thought I may have looked like a Pro triathlete doing this, but suspect that I may have looked more like one of those mud fish with partially formed legs…

Anyway, having successfully navigated this, I dived back in (er, jumped in, while holding my nose) and floundered onwards. I think we caught up with another wave, just as the fastest swimmers from the previous wave caught up with us. I say us, as I was trying to draft other swimmers.

I wasn’t having much luck staying with anyone though. Either they were stopping to clean goggles regularly, or despite having swum the same distance as me in the same time, suddenly seemed much faster!

I wasn’t going in a very straight line, or taking the shortest route. Partially this was because of other swimmers, and partially due to not knowing what was coming next having not done a reccy. Finally the end came in sight. I was pleased to have got through the swim without any major hits to either my face or body!

At the exit (more stairs) a strong pair of hands helped pull me out, and I was away, beginning to peel my wetsuit off.

I was hoping to manage about 1:35 per 100 meters for the swim. I hadn’t come close, averaging 1:42 over the 3km. However, it does look like most people swam closer to 3.2km. If that’s what I did, then it looks much better (about 1:35). Regardless, I was 9 out of 19 in my age group, 71 out of 194 overall. Not bad considering this was the World Championships, but not good enough if I wanted to be challenging for a medal!

We had red bags with biking kit in them. These were lined up in numerical order in a small area, much like a school cloak room. Having cunningly scoped out where mine was earlier, I tried to get to it past someone who was looking for theirs. Unfortunately, they were also taking their arms out of their wetsuit, and one arm came free suddenly. His elbow smacked into my face 😦 It didn’t draw blood however :).

I grabbed my bag (which was empty as everything was on my bike) then stuffed my wetsuit in it, handed it to a volunteer, and was off towards the bikes.

I found it in the sea of tri bikes, helmet on, and out (5th fastest transition of the day! I was up to 7th in my age group now, and 50th overall. Seriously? I was fast enough to go up 21 places here?!). I thought this was odd so looked how I faired including the people doing the full distance. On the swim I was 244th out of 944, and went up 41 places in transition. Seems like this might be my strongest discipline!

I jumped on (shoes were already on the bike) and got clear of other competitors before getting my feet in, and peddling up the hill and away.

Immediately I realised my power meter wasn’t working again! I didn’t swear out loud, but the language was pretty fruity in my head! I’m pretty sure now I need to make the bike computer (a Wahoo Elmnt Bolt) and the power meter connect soon after switching on the bike computer (by spinning the pedals), otherwise it times out. Normally switching on the computer is the last thing I do after the bike is in the rack. I wish I’d known that before this race! This wasn’t a problem with my old Garmin.

So, I did at least have GPS speed showing up. I immediately started overtaking, but after a little while a GB athlete overtook me going up a hill. I recognised the name and realised it was Jeremy (we’ve raced before, and we’d chatted before the race). This was up a slight hill, and coming down the other side I overtook him back. Someone else overtook, and then we hit another uphill, and Jeremy came past again. Then I took the lead down the other side. Oh, I realised this was going to happen a lot! I also spotted Claire at this point, so said “Hi!” as I passed.

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Credit – World Triathlon | Wagner Araujo

I chuffed along, but wasn’t really hitting the speed I was hoping for. I wasn’t worried though as it was quite windy, and it seemed mostly like a cross/head direction. However, every now and then I’d get overtaken. This isn’t something I’m used to and was disconcerting! OK, it was the World Championships, but I still didn’t like it!

I was slowly drinking my Torq energy drink and gels from an aero bottle (8 of them! 2 of which had caffeine in them). I wished I’d thought to put some water in the gel bottle to make it a bit more diluted though.

About 25km in, the Spanish guy who I thought from my pre-race cyber sleuthing, would win my age category, came past, appearing to be drafting a Danish athlete. They weren’t going that much faster, so I followed (at a legal 12m distance!)

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Photo Credit – World Triathlon | Wagner Araujo

I left Jeremy behind at this point, but I thought I was pushing too hard, so after about 10km decided not to try to hold on after losing some distance up a hill. After a while, going up another incline, Jeremy overtook again and we resumed our dance.

By the end of the first lap I could now see my average speed was down a couple of kmph on what I was hoping for, but I didn’t dare push any harder:

  1. because I thought I was probably working quite close to my limit and would blow up towards the end if I wasn’t careful, and
  2. my back was hurting and working hard tends to increase the rate it gets worse.

I was already standing up stretching up all the inclines (nothing over 5%) – Jeremy was staying in the aero tuck all the time up these!

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Photo Credit – World Triathlon | Wagner Araujo

By looking at other people’s numbers I could see who was in my age group. Apart from the Spanish guy, a French athlete had also overtaken me (going at a much faster rate) who I though was probably also in it.

Apart from that, every now and again I’d overtake someone in the age group, so I had vague hopes I could be in 3rd still. However, my back was hurting and I was losing more ground on the up-hills to Jeremy now. He wasn’t in my age group so I didn’t fight it, and let him go, trying to keep a steady pace, and stretching every chance I got.

I did however see and overtake another competitor I knew – Nick. He won his age category last time, so this have me a boost, although I did have to get over how offensively bright his luminous yellow bike was!

I finished my energy drink and swapped it out for water at an aid station (lob your old bottle at a container as you approach, shout out what it is you’re after – water – then slow a bit, and grab the new bottle, which is resting on top of the open palm of a volunteer’s hand as you go past). This tasted lovely after all the sugary sweetness of the gels and energy drink!

My average pace had dropped on the second lap by about a kmph. However, I didn’t know this at the time as the GPS dropped out as well. I wasn’t best pleased with this, but just got on with it.

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Photo Credit – World Triathlon | Wagner Araujo

There were signs every 15 or 20km though, telling you how far you’d gone, so just after I overtook someone in my age group, I saw I had 10km to go. Up till this point, I don’t think I was working any harder than I’d do if I was doing the run afterwards, as I was still being cautious of my back. However, now I upped the pace a bit, tried to finish the gels, and decided not to stretch any more. However, I soon decided that was a bad idea, so resumed stretching.

I overtook a few more athletes, none in my age group, but was paranoid I’d get caught by someone towards the end! Turning off the last lap, there was about 1km to go, so I really pushed hard.

The line came in sight. It had a blue banner over it, but nothing said Aquabike finish. It was where I was expecting it to be, but still was paranoid enough that I didn’t slow down till I came into transition!

I was very glad to get off the bike and have a good stretch after that! My fellow Aquabikers were all relaxed and we had a nice chat as we walked down into the underground car park which was the transition, while people doing the triathlon came jogging past. We did our best not to get in the way, but it was pretty odd, and I’m sure frustrating for the triathletes.

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Photo Credit – World Triathlon | Wagner Araujo

We got our run kit bags, put on running shoes, then sauntered up out of the car park, bags in hand, towards the Triathlon finish line. We were to finish through this, but had been told we’d have to wait for the first 3 elite men and women triathletes to finish.

We got to within 100m of the finish, where there was a blue carpet laid out, and then told to stop and wait for them. It was very hot in the sun by this point, and there was nothing to drink. We were in high spirits though!

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I was chatting to another athlete I’d met, Glen, and we agreed to race along the blue carpet to the finish when allowed. After about a 10-minute wait, the top 3 men finished, and they let us through.

Glen and I sprinted for the line, which got some cheers! It was pretty funny since neither of us had loosened off our legs, so going straight into sprinting after 3+ hours on a bike had us running like puppets! Glen took the honours, just pipping me on the line!

Then we could go through and get drinks and food from the recovery tent! As much food and drink (including real beer!) as you wanted – ace! You could also pick your finishers T-Shirt size by trying one on, so for once I actually got one that fits!

Freya had had a nice time with Fleur, her mother, and Claire’s family, so I joined them drinking beer, enjoying the atmosphere while watching Claire complete the run!

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Overall, I came 5th in my age group (first British athlete!), and 27th overall. My sleuthing before the race turned out to be awful! The winner of my race, won the whole thing, beating a 5-time rowing Olympian medallist (3 golds!) into second by over 5 minutes! And the Spanish guy I thought would win (who did get a gold and silver earlier in the week in the sprint and standard duathlon) only came 4th.

I think the lack of elite category didn’t help. The first 3 had times that put them in line with the elites in the triathlon. Hopefully the ITU will make an elite category for Aquabike soon!

My bike time was a bit disappointing. I’d averaged 37.45kmph – on a test run of 50km at target power on a marginally flatter course at home the week before I’d averaged 40kmph and was pretty fresh at the end of that. Without the power meter I don’t know if the difference was just the course or the wind (likely) or me putting out less power (also likely!)

Strava Link (it gets a bit patchy towards the end where the GPS was giving up).

Trying to gauge from other peoples paces is also difficult here as I expect the standard to be higher again than the qualifiers (where I’ve been close to the fastest cyclist recently). Here, including the triathletes, I came 106th out of 944, and got overtaken 11 times (I don’t normally get overtaken!). The winner of my age group averaged 42.35kmph (I ‘think’ he’s an ex pro cyclist).

I’ve gone away determined to up my game – I don’t like being overtaken on the bike! It was a fun event with lots of happy people, and great support by the volunteers. Denmark was an amazing place to be, and we had a great couple of extra days holiday afterwards.

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Full results here

My first 70.3 Half Ironman! The Outlaw Holkham Half

The longest triathlon I’ve done was an Olympic distance (1.5km swim, 40km bike, 10km run). A 70.3 is a 1.9km swim, 90km bike and 21.1km run, which is a big step up in length, but, er, I’ve also never cycled that far, or run that far! So, I was wonderfully prepared then…

I’d changed my running form recently which has enabled me to increase the training distances, but I only managed to do this recently, so I’d be increasing distance a little rapidly, and not doing any speed work – I’d got up to 18km in training. As for the bike, I’d got up to 83km in training, so to be fair, neither were that far off.

The race itself was held on the Holkham Estate, which is a beautiful stately home and garden in Norfolk where we take the kids quite often when on holiday near there. I’d be able to camp overnight (which was useful given you had to rack you bike the night before, and my race wave started at 6:37am). The forecast was hot enough to cook eggs without a fire, with a bit of wind.

My nutritional strategy was a 500ml aero-bottle full of Maurten 320 drink mix, and a 750ml bottle of lucozade isotonic on the bike, with the idea I’d drink the lucozade and replace it with another energy drink from an aid station, and drink that as well. The Maurten is kind of like gels, but is meant to be easier on the stomach. It’s more liquid, so only 80g of carbs in 500ml. I’d then drink coke/water/energy drink, and eat gels as I felt able on the run.

The bottles would have about 50g carbs each, so in total that would give me 180g of carbs over 2 1/2 hours, which should be about right (although probably an energy drink that was part fructose, part maltodextrin or glucose – I’ve no idea what lucozade is made of), and given the heat hopefully that’d be enough liquid.

The scale of the event was amazing – 1500 entries and all the associated stuff to go with a group of people that size was pretty cool. Transition was huge, and by the Saturday night, full of expensive bikes!

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In the evening, I walked around the lake, noticing a few patches of weed and the island you have to swim round.

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I settled in for the night pretty early, and think I was actually asleep by about 8:30pm.

Early in the morning I faffed quite a bit, moved my car to the parking area from the camping area (so I could leave earlier as the exit would be closed during the run and I was expecting to finish several hours before some). Then faffed some more. Queued for toilets, and then had to run in my wet-suit to the start, downing a gel on the way.

Into the water with the other 200 people in my wave, and after a brief wait, we were off! I was in the 2nd row of swimmers, and I deliberately went off faster than my traditional steady pace to try to get someone fast to draft. It was a little on the ‘busy’ side, but there was no angry swimming going on, just the occasional bump.

I hadn’t gone off very hard, and I calmed my pace down after about 100m. You could sense some people that had gone off way too hard rapidly dropping back at this point, but I found someone to draft off. After a little while, I decided I could overtake and moved up to another group, and then again.

I hadn’t noticed much in the way of weed yet, but then some caught on my timing chip, which was a little irritating. I tried to put it off, and snapped some off, but there was a bit still there. I looked up, and it appeared that I was in the first group of people, with 4 of us in it, with a few individuals or pairs further ahead. Woop! We started overtaking some people from the earlier (younger!) wave (in white hats, as opposed to our fetching orange), which caused a little chaos, but given a little focus it didn’t cause too many problems.

As we swam round the island, the person I was drafting started going a bit wide. I followed, but the other 2 from our group took an inside line. The guy I was drafting got some weed on his timing chip, so I spent a few strokes trying to grab it off (which I managed, eventually!). The other 2 were now 15 meters to our left, and definitely getting ahead, so I decided to bridge across to them. This turned out to be quite hard to catch up, and took about 3 or 4 minutes of hard swimming.

We now had a later wave swimming in the opposite direction on our left (in blue hats). Suddenly there was a bit of splashing, and just ahead of me there was a blue hatted person doing breaststroke in the middle of all the white and orange hats! Aggggh! We narrowly avoided contact, and I had to sprint to catch the people I was drafting. Fortunately that didn’t happen again.

We got to the final buoy and turned left towards the shore. I started kicking hard to wake my legs up (which slowed me down, sigh).

The route was a little on the long side (2km instead of 1.9)km, and including the run from the edge to the timing mat at the entrance to transition, I’d taken 31:39, coming 64th out of the 1250 starters, which is way up on where my swimming used to be! I ‘think’ that works out as 1:33 per 100m for the actual swimming 😀

I got through transition without any drama, taking a small amount of time to get some socks on before heading out on the bike, and straight up the hill that I’d be running up repeatedly later. Given I was in the 3rd wave (behind the Elite and a younger wave), and the bike leg is my happy place, there were quite a lot of athletes to overtake!

Out of the estate, and onto the roads, there were a few cars, but it was pretty quiet really. I know later in the day, particularly sunny days, that whole area (near the beach!) can get pretty busy.

My power meter wasn’t working for some reason, although I did have GPS based speed readings. I was planning on drinking mostly (as opposed to having the Maurten ‘gel’) so I’d be ready to replace the bottle by the first aid station at 45km. However, about 5km in I thought I’d have a sip of the gel.

Unfortunately, the lid of the aero bottle (Elite Crono) came off in my hand and disappeared. Uh oh. It was spilling out in a sticky fashion all over the place 😦 I either had to drink it now (which might be bad for my gut, hitting too many carbs too quickly) or waste it and not have enough energy. Er. Um. I downed it.

So that’s 80g of carbs (OK a little was spilt) and to give the Maurten’s its due, I didn’t feel particularly bad. However, it did feel odd enough that I didn’t think adding to the carbs by drinking lots of energy drink was a good plan. There was another aid station at 75km, I could drink later and get another bottle there.

I was gaining and overtaking everyone I saw on the flats and downhills (although it was mostly gentle ups and downs rather than flat), but on the up hills I was relatively going slower. Cycling past the Sandringham Estate was quite a nice area to be cycling. My new helmet (a Giro Aerohead) was working out nicely as you can see ahead when you’ve got your head down (which I had problems with on my previous, a Bell Javelin), and didn’t seem too hot. I was heating up though.

By about half way, I still didn’t feel like drinking energy drink, but turning into the headwind of the return leg cooled me down a bit. I’d passed a few of the Elite females, but now passed one of the males who was on the side of the road (fixing a puncture?). After a while he overtook me, which worked quite nicely as I then followed him at the regulation 12m into the wind. I don’t know if it helped in terms of drafting, but it certainly helped mentally to pace yourself.

This was on a big A road, and I think I was behind him for about 20km. I’ve not had the experience of racing behind someone before, and it was interesting as you have to pay attention to keep the distance the correct length (so no illegal drafting within the 12m), and cope with someone else’s speed variations.

Coming up to the aid station I still had about a 1/3 of a bottle left, so grabbed a water bottle, poured it over my head and then carried on. The Elite guy hadn’t slowed for this, and it was an uphill section, so I lost him here. I hadn’t seen anyone in my age group for ages a this point, so when someone else overtook me at about 85km I was a bit gutted to see they were in my age group.

I followed them round (a bit further back than 12m this time, as he overtook on another uphill), but didn’t drop back any further.

We briefly got stuck behind a slow moving horse transport, then entered the estate. I cycled as far as the top of the hill, then got my feet out, got up to speed and then coasted down to transition. There were a few runners out already (the running course started along the side of the bike course), but not many.

Coming into transition, there were no other bikes in the area where our age group was, so I was in second in the age group (out of 200)! I’d come 17th on the bike in 2:27.

Strava link

I was right behind the other guy at this point, and he faffed more than me in transition, so I actually came out onto the run in 1st place age group. Including transition times, if I did a 1:30 run, I’d get under 4:30, which I was secretly hoping for. It’s 3 laps, so 30 minutes per lap. Simple!

My run plan was to start off easily, and then get up to 4:30 pace per km, then get up to 4:20 after 5km, and then try to ramp it up towards the end. Tracking this would be difficult as the start of the run was a couple of kms up a 5% hill.

The other guy in my age group went past me within the first 300m, which was a shame, but I had no intention of going too hard. I wasn’t sure about drinking or eating too much while running, so just had a sip at the first of the aid stations.

There were kids with water guns and signs like “wave if you want to get wet!”, which was ace. The temperature by this point was climbing towards 30 degrees, so this was very welcome! There was a lot of banter and people being happy, music and a really nice vibe!

By the second aid station (they were about 2.5km apart) I thought I’d best get some electrolytes in, and used one of the sponges being offered to get some water on me. Up the hill I’d averaged 4:45 pace, and on the rest I was averaging 4:25 pace, so basically I was bang on target. I still got overtaken by a couple of people about 6km in (one of which was a relay runner who was talkative, but I thought the other was in my age group).

Starting the second lap I was beginning to feel quite bad. My stomach was fine (yay!) but my mouth was really dry, and I realised my vision was getting a little blurry around the edges. Oh, and my legs started feeling really, really heavy. Having listened to the dire warnings in the briefing about overheating, I decided to take this seriously!

I stopped at the aid stations and drank one or two cups at each one. I ran past and behind the people offering sponges and grabbed 5 – 10 of them instead from the buckets and really getting myself wet. And I slowed down – not that I had any choice on this last point! I was now averaging 5:30 minutes per km up the hill, and 5:00 on the rest.

To make matters worse, there were a lot of people joining the run for their first lap (relay teams included), so I was being repeated overtaken (although a lot of them slowed right down and I could overtake them again pretty soon!). I had no idea how I was doing – I was still hoping for 3rd, but I was pretty sure I saw someone in my age group come past.

Coming towards the 3rd lap, the finish looked very tempting, but I plodded on for the last lap. All I was doing was trying to get from aid station to aid station by this point! My legs felt like lead. I finally decided to risk trying some gels (caffeinated ones at that). This actually gave me a bit more energy, so I upped the pace a bit, but was offsetting that by spending more time at the aid stations drenching myself, drink and finding gels each time!

With 2km to go I spotted that I was running next to someone in my age group, so managed to up my pace a bit to 4:38, which took ever bit of energy I had left. I was very, very glad to see the finish up ahead, when I finally did! At this point I bumped into a friend – he had another lap to do, so I felt a bit sorry for him, but he seemed to be enjoying himself!

Checking I wasn’t about to be overtaken, I mustered what energy I could to run up the red carpet and take the ribbon in my hands. I’d actually done it! And hadn’t broken myself! Yes!

My run took 1:44:41, and I’d come 116 overall in that.

Strava Link

Even on my best day, I think 1:30 on that course would have been optimistic, but 1:35 I might aspire to!

The finish line was a fun place to be, with a DJ playing music, commentators having some banter over a PA system, drinks (including Erdinger alcohol free – it’s isotonic apparently, and tasted great!) I was able to go and get a massage, and then a meal (although I needed a LOT more than was provided – but there were plenty of places to get more once I’d got my stuff from transition and had some money to pay).

My full time was 4:46, and I came 38th overall, 4th in my age group (sigh – there were prizes for 1st to 3rd).

Full Results

Given how bad I felt on the run, before I think about doing another of these I need to do more running, manage to get the calorific intake right, drink enough, and learn to have gels while running. Hitting the wall was not pleasant at all!

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Dorney Sprint Triathlon

Having spent the last 10 years trying to win some kind of prize rowing at Dorney, the opportunity to go there and race in a triathlon was too tempting to miss! I was particularly looking forward to this as
a) It’s a small enough event that it’s a mass start, so I’d actually be able see who I was competing against
b) I’d be able to go with friends
c) It’s kind of near where my parents live, so they could come and watch and I’d get to see them

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We camped nearby the night before as the race was starting early. It still meant a 5am get up.

However, baring the fact that we couldn’t work out how to put a pop-up tent down (not mine! I got 5* luxury in my parent’s camper van!), we had no problems with this.

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The race seemed well organised, barring the obligatory small number of toilets.
The weather was ace (although obviously cold at that time in the morning), and the water was really inviting. Getting in it also didn’t seem particularly cold. I’ve spent so long trying not to end up in this particular bit of water it was odd to actually get in it on purpose!
I did a bit of a warm up, and then settled in to wait for the start – which actually happened about 10 seconds later! I’d put myself in the second row, which seemed about right for the speed of people off the start.

However… my starting strategy was to go off at the pace I was planning to keep going at (which is different to the standard “go out hard then slow down to the pace you’re going to hold”). My thoughts were that it would allow me to concentrate on good technique, and set me up to keep that throughout the swim. However, the people around me started slowing down around 100m in.

This was problematic as I had every intention of trying to draft off of someone faster. I could see someone else off to my right not slowing down, so wanted to get over to them, but there was someone in between us, slowly, slowly, slowly dropping back. Eventually he was far enough back that I could get over, which I managed to do.

After the first buoy, I decided I could go faster, and there was someone else moving a bit faster just ahead. I tried to get across to them, but was still struggling to do so when we got to the second buoy, and was about 6 feet back. Since I was in clear water at that point I tried a backstroke roll to get round it. This worked really well and closed the gap. Once I was drafting, the pace felt quite easy – I tried to overtake, but it was a lot harder out of the draft, so I decided just to stay behind him. This meant I quite enjoyed the swimming as it wasn’t flat out.

We got out, then there was about a 40 meter run to the timing matt. My time was 12 minutes, and looking at other people’s Strava profiles, I think the swim was about 800 meters long, so I’m very pleased my swimming is getting better (I’m spending a lot of time on it!) I was in 9th at this point.

Transistion went without a hitch and I overtook a few people in it, and then I was in my happy place on the bike. I could see 4 poeple ahead, but suspected there were more I couldn’t see (it was a 4 lap route). I overtook the people I could see by the end of the first lap and asked a spectator where I was – 3rd apparently! Onto the second lap and there were people joining, so I didn’t know if I was approaching either of the people ahead. I held my target power (260 watts – my power meter reads lower than my last, for reference that would have read 312 watts – almost exactly what I did last time I raced here).

By the end of the bike I didn’t think I’d caught either of the people in front, which turned out to be true – as I left the last lap and headed towards transition I could see someone entering it, and someone leaving.

Strava link

Again, a problem free transition, and I was away. My troublesome calve muscles felt tight so I didn’t try to push the running, and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to keep running. The leader seemed to be staying about the same distance away, and the guy just ahead was leaving me behind quite quickly. Nobody was visible behind me. By about 1 km I realised my calves had stopped feeling tight, but I was definitely in “no mans” land, not catching those ahead, and a long way clear of anyone behind.

I decided to try to enjoy it while keeping a sensible pace (I was hoping to get under an hour). The run was an out and back course, so when I did start seeing people coming the other way I started cheering and waving. One or two waved back, but most probably just thought I was nuts! I saw Clinton doing well and gave a shout (he did shout back :D).

Coming towards the finish, I started going the wrong way as my name was announced – I was directed the right way and made it through the finish.

Strava link

Yay! 3rd, and a trophy! I was 2:40 back on the winner, 1:20 on 2nd and 2:00 ahead of 4th. There was a presentation shortly afterwards, which was while other people were still going out on the run, which probably irritated them, but made me happy!

Full results here

St. Neots (Grafham) Standard Triathlon

After an evening of Biblical rain the night before, I had worries about this race. It’d been relocated from St. Neots to nearby Grafham water due to flooding earlier in the week. At both locations, the transition is on grass. The forecast wasn’t good, but even if it cleared up, it was bound to be a mud-bath!

It turned out my fears were unfounded, as the weather cleared up into a lovely day, and the grass transition was absolutely fine! Yay!

I was travelling to this race with a friend, Al, which makes racing a lot more fun! I had both our bikes on the roof of my car, on what I think of as a good bike holding solution (a Thule 591, somewhat like this). But there was a clunk while driving up the A14 dual carriageway, and my bike was dangling upside-down! Argh!

We pulled over, and fortunately it was held on by a bungie cord (which I use due to having a disc wheel), and nothing much seemed wrong with it. I don’t know what happened – I assume I messed something up, but I’ll be adding some failsafes in future! Once we arrived I found that this accident had knocked the front derailleur out of line, but I was able to fix that (I normally bring a full toolset with me!)

I bumped into a triathlon friend Clinton, who was very cheerful and upbeat despite the early morning! I think this may be his personality all the time!

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After registering, setting up in transition, and a bit of a panic about the toilet queues (which was resolved when I realised my parents, who’d come to watch, had a camper van with a toilet in it!), there was just a time to have a gel and get to the briefing. To be honest, I didn’t hear much of it, as there were a lot of people milling about, but I had read the instructions, and was already aware of the “foot down stop”. I just hoped nothing had changed.

I was racing in the 2nd wave (with fetching purple swim caps), starting 5 minutes after the 1st (red caps – they just weren’t as stylish). They got in the water, and as soon as they started, we started to get into the water. The temperature was apparently 13.7 degrees C. That seemed like it might be cold to me. I wasn’t sure if it was a great idea, but put on a neoprene swim cap under my purple race cap. This did mean I avoided ‘ice cream’ head when getting into the water, but I was concerned with overheating later on. Given that the air temperature was 8 degress C, I’d also put on a compression top under my tri-suit.

I had a cunning plan to draft Al on the swim, as he’s a better swimmer than I am (I assume this is to do with being Australian, rather than anything to do with skill…). Al had a plan to start at the back to avoid the madness of the mass start, and hopefully avoid any swimming panic attacks (which we’ve both had in the past). So, when the hooter went, I immediately lost Al, and then we both had to swim to the start line (which may have taken 20 seconds?), and then through a load of slower swimmers.

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Photo credit to NiceTri events.

The course was a rectangular affair, anticlockwise in what surprisingly turned out to be pretty clear, pleasant water! After the first buoy, we headed into deeper water and it got a bit more exposed. There was some chop, so I had to stop breathing on my preferred side (right) and switch. Fortunately I don’t care that much, so this wasn’t too much of an inconvenience. I did get a little tight chested, but managed to calm myself down without noticeably slowing. Win!

I was on the lookout for feet to follow. I found some, and thought I might settle into this swim! Just at that point, there was a bit of chaos as we approached the next bouy, and new feet to follow appeared, but I promptly had to go round them as they weren’t moving very fast. Uh oh, we were catching ‘red hats’. Coming round the bouy, I found myself on my own with no-one to draft. But after a while I noticed some swimmers about 10 meters off to my right. I decided to change course in order to get over to them. Which I did, managing to get there just behind the last person, who had a fetching pink band around the ankles of their wetsuit.

I followed these feet for most of the rest of the race, occasionally touching them when he slowed to go around red hats. I hoped I wasn’t irritating him too much! After coming around the last bouy, I decided I might be able to go round him, so had a go. I pulled level, and then didn’t get much further ahead – I guess the drafting had been working then! Looking over, I suddenly recognised that it was Al! I had been following my plan, after all!

We came out of the swim side by side, which was great.

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Photo credit to NiceTri events.

I’m the much smaller one, although it’s not that obvious from this picture. He’s about 2 feet taller than me…

I don’t have a watch on for this, but from other people’s it looks like it was a full 1500m with a 30m run to the timing matt. I think this means I did the swim in 24 minutes, which was good for me! I think that was slightly over 79th out of 500ish.

I hossed into transition. I’d decided I didn’t fancy running without socks, so since I was going to put them on, I did this before the bike so I’d have the comfort there too. Unlike the pool based, non-wetsuit Saffron Walden triathlon, I was able to already have my calve guards on. I also had my numberbelt on under my wetsuit.

After a reasonable transition (I got my wetsuit off without sitting!) I got out on the bike. Jumping on it like a flying squirrel, I got my right foot on my shoe, then was soo excited I started pedalling before getting my left foot on. Doh. I had to slow down and get both feet on again. I got up to speed, got my right foot in, then had to faff with the left as the Velcro tab was now tightly attached having been pressed into the floor by my messed up mounting. Still, I got going and started overtaking!

There was a short sharp downhill, which got a lot of speed up before some corners, so I had to be a bit careful, especially while overtaking. The course went out for a few km, did a little loop, then headed back. At this point I got caught behind cars which were caught behind slower cyclists a couple of times. I don’t think I lost a lot of time, and tried to take it as an opportunity for a short break.

Before long I was back at the steep hill. On hills I try to up the watts, but limit it to something like 10% extra. But on something this sharp I wasn’t looking at the figures – just down into the easiest gear and then grind up it! I was overtaken by two people at this point. That doesn’t normally happen! I got to the top and then overtook them back within about 15 seconds. Ha!

I enjoyed most of the cycle. I managed the foot down stop without any incidents, and the rolling hills gave way to a fast section towards the second turn around point. I didn’t see all, but shouted out to Clinton at one point. I worked my way through enough of the field (including the red hat wave) that I was about 60 people back from the leader by the second turn around. I did wish I was racing in the first wave, as it’s nice to see who you’re racing!

There was a hill on the way back where I closed up on a big group, but they got to the top and dissapeared. I spent the rest of the race wondering if I’d catch them – which I did just coming towards the end. The course was slightly short (38km?) – if it’d been full lenght I would have passed them, but as it was I was about halfway through by the end of the bike section.

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Photo credit to NiceTri events.

Strava link

I’d come 2nd on the bike second, 15 seconds down on the fastest. I’d moved up to 12th position by time overall by this point.

I got off the bike with no trauma, managed a fast transition, including picking up a gel, and was off.

Although… running off of the bike is odd, and not helped by the fact that I haven’t done any ‘brick’ training, where you focus on doing this. The first part of the course is out and back over a damn, so is nice and flat, and had a beautiful view down over a flower filled meadow, where you could see the top half of people whizzing by on the bike leg! I, however, was being repeatedly passed by other athletes. I did think that this was going to feel like a looooong run. I thought I must be going very slowly, but was seeing 3:40 to 3:50 per km on my watch. Given my recent leg problems, I was aiming at 4:00km pace, so it was worrying to be being passed so easily!

Fortunately the others seemed to slow down, and running bacame to feel more normal to me, so I stopped losing places, except to the occasional good runner that came past. None of my injuries seemed to be flaring up, although my calves began to feel tight at about 5km in, and I was beginning to feel pretty hot in my compression top/tri suit combo.

The second part of the course goes round the lake and involves lots of short gentle hills up and down. None felt too taxing, but they certainly mad it hard to keep the pace constant or fast! I was doing a fair amount of watch watching hoping to get under 40 minutes for the 10km, and also, since there was another out and back section, number watching trying to work out who was in my age group.

This was a qualifier for the International Triathlon Uninion World Championship races in 2018 and 2019 – top 4 from each age group qualify. I wasn’t interested in the 2018 race (as it’s too far away – in Australia), but the 2019 in Switzerland I wanted to go to! The age groups around mine (40-44) all had a lot of people in them, around 50 I think, so it’s not easy. I didn’t know what the numbers were for people in my age group, and to add to that, you also need to look at the younger age group (which for me, happened to be racing in the previous wave) as if anyone goes up an age group by the next year, you’re competiting against them for the qualification slot.

Anyway, looking at their numbers really didn’t help, as I hadn’t worked out what range my age group was. So I was left with guessing from how fast people were moving, and how old they looked! By the time I’d got to the turn around, I’d convinced myself I must be in about 20th place in my age group (ignoring the fact that anyone younger had a 5 minute headstart, but I was slightly oxygen starved by this point!), so I focussed on trying to hit the 40 minute 10km run. I thought I was going to make it coming to the last km, as I had over 4 minutes left. However, I forgot that there was more up than down in that section!

I got to the finish in just over 40 minutes, to be greeted by a) (alcohol free) beer. Yay Erdinger Alkoholfrei! and b) my parents. Ace!

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Photo credit to NiceTri events.

Strava link

That was a PB on the run (I haven’t done a 10km fast since I’ve been doing triathlon’s but a 2 minute PB is nice!)

I got my result printed out. 2nd in age group! 20th overall! Woop! I guess my counting of opponents wasn’t up to much. 2 minutes behind the winner of the age group in 2 hours 2 minutes 41 seconds.

Unfortunately, there were 5 athletes in the younger age group that were faster, and it turns out 3 of them are going up an age group! As a result, I’ll have to wait and find out if I get a ‘roll down’ spot (which is done by how close you were to the winner of your age group, so at 1.5% behind, I should get in).

All in all I’d had a fantastic time. The race organisation was very very good. I think NiceTri have been doing this for a while and have a very smooth process in place! The weather turned out nice, the company was good, and I didn’t break myself!

Saffron Walden Sprint Triathlon 2018

It’s triathlon season! After a rather long period trying to correct my running and build my calf muscles up so that I could run, I was looking forward to starting racing. I’d built up to a maximum of a 16km run, but then had a bit of disaster on holiday.

We’d gone to the Lake District, which is kind of hilly. I live in Cambridge, which is very, very flat. Running up mountains, whilst fun, turns out to be something I’m not very cut out for, and I injured myself about 4 weeks ago. I’ve been trying to get back to the point where I could run, but wasn’t sure if my body parts would hold out!

Anyway, onto the race! I was going to this with a few friends, which is always a nice way to race! The course was 400m in a pool, 23km of rolling countryside on the bike, and 5km up and down a hill. Oh. A hill – great. Still, I did a recce of the course while waiting for my start – it was very beautiful!

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For the swim there were 5 lanes, so 5 competitors start at the same time (a ‘wave’), one in each lane, with about a 3 minute gap (so 2 to 3 people swimming in a lane at any one time). The people who’d put down the slowest estimated swim time were in the early waves, the fastest in the last. I was quite late on, with 3 waves to go after mine.

The one and only compulsory race briefing was at 7:30am, which meant getting up at 5:30, despite the fact I wasn’t actually starting until 9:50!

When the whistle went for my wave, I started off calmly. The guy in the lane next to me, Lee (who the last time we raced 1 1/2 years ago was 30 seconds faster than me over 300m) pulled away. The steady start is pretty unusual for me, but I wanted to focus on the techniques I’d been learning recently from Doug at Fast Fish coaching. It really seemed to pay off, as I overtook Lee around half way through, and ended up 10 seconds faster :D. It also felt pretty calm, and I wasn’t struggling for breath getting out. I ‘think’ I did the 400m in 6 minutes (the results include running to transition, so it’s difficult to tell), which is fast for me!

I had a plan to put calf guards on after the swim (as that’s a bit of me that breaks…). I’d practised this, and knew it took about 20 seconds – Lee had the chance to overtake me while I was doing this, so I was keen to attack on the bike! I got out of transition, jumped on my bike (flying squirel style!) and Uh-oh! I had a puncture!

I duly got off my bike again. I knew that any chance of doing well was gone, but did want to race, so set about changing my inner tube. I was quite calm, until I realised that the last competitors would be coming past soon, and at which point, the marshals would probably start taking the bike course signs down! After a little faffing, I got it changed, although I couldn’t work out why it was flat. Fortunately the tyre stayed pumped up though! By this point, the last competitor had gone past about 2 minutes before. I jumped on the bike, and finally got going, although in a very high gear having put the bike in this to help change the inner tube!

The course almost immediately turns up a hill, and I just about managed to get my feet in, and into a sensible gear before hitting this.

(I had put my head up for a better view over the junction, but I need to work on my head and shoulder position!)

After a few turns through a housing estate, it was onto the open roads. The course was a lovely, with some rolling hills, and pretty quite roads in the English countryside. I started overtaking, and relaxed about the course being taken down! I paced it mostly by feel, but using a power meter as a sanity check. It wasn’t a fast course, with a “foot down stop” at the bottom of a valley, and plenty of hills, but I was very happy to be still racing!

Coming towards the end there was long hill down, which finished just before transition. I planned to take my feet out of my (clipped in) shoes before the start of this hill so that I wouldn’t be trying to do that at high speed. I spotted the start of the hill coming, and got my feet out. There was another competitor just ahead, who I was closing in on fast. Unfortunately a couple of cars got between us, and didn’t overtake, so I had to slow down and wait until the end of the bike leg.

Strava link

Into transition everything went well, although I did miss my transition spot and had to run back to it when I spotted where it was! I ran out after the slower cyclist, who had the unmitigated gall to be a better runner than me! Damnit! He pulled away, but I was far more concerned about my injuries not reoccurring, so started off gently. I ran around the sports center, then towards the start of the hill.

Going up the hill, I still thought I was taking it gently, but by the top I was puffing hard! It was probably the right pacing strategy to race as fast as possible anyway! There was a rather odd looking marshal at the top:

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But he didn’t need to say much as the course was very well marked! After a brief flat section, there was a big downhill. I saw Lee and the race leaders going in the other direction.

I got to the turnaround, and then reversed my path. I felt like a was running well, regularly overtaking, and the occasional cup of water over my head helped keep my temperature down in the sun! Happily I didn’t feel any injury niggles. By the hill down I actually went pretty fast, overtaking another competitor towards the bottom and could see the finish arch.

He asked if I fancied a sprint, to which I tried to say “sure!”, but I think I just managed to grunt. It didn’t matter – he legged it away like a gazell, while I was completely spent, and if anything, actually went slower while feeling like I was running through syrup!

Strava link.

It was a good day out with friends who also seemed to have had a good time!

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I wasn’t too frustrated about the puncture, and worked out afterwards what had happened; my Aerodisc Aeox rear wheel is very wide, and the rim tape had pushed over to one side enough to allow a spoke hole to not be completely covered by it. I use latex inner tubes which blow out when there are any holes, which is what happened here. I’m glad it didn’t happen while I was cycling, or at a bigger event!

Full results here

Aerocoach AEOX disc wheel vs homemade disc cover – real world aerodynamics testing

I’ve just spent some hard earned cash on a new Aerocoach Aeox disc wheel, and to keep some sanity that I’ve not (completely!) wasted, I’ve done some simple aerodynamics testing compared against a no name Chinese carbon 88mm deep rim rear wheel with a home made disc cover (about £20 fit the plastic off of eBay).

The (inexpertly made!) homemade version is shown below.

It’s the second one I’ve made, and while better than the first, still isn’t completely symmetrical – the width isn’t consistent all the way round which you can see if you spin it.

I’m used my TT bike, which again is a no name Chinese frame, much like a Vitus Chrono. And yes, it does really, really, need cleaning!

The test was a 1km section of local road ridden in both directions at 38kmph, and the watts used measured.

The wind was mild, a cross head/tail direction. I wasn’t wearing particularly aero clothes or helmet, and the front wheel was a relatively shallow 37mm rim.

I’m using the same 23mm Michelin Power Competition tyre with latex tube on both wheels.

This a similar protocol to the hairy leg  and bike aerodynamic testing I’ve done in the past.

So, the caveats.

  • Although I’ve done my best, I only had time for 2 runs in each direction with each wheel, and it’s not a very long test.
  • I tried to be at 38kmph going into each section and keep the peace as steady as possible, and used the same gear each time. However, there will have been fluctuations both in the initial speed and consistency.
  • I’m using GPS for the speed, which has a lag and can be inconsistent.
  • Obviously, the wind may have changed at any point (although it didn’t do so noticeably). Disc cover runs took place about 12:30pm. New wheel runs about 1pm.
  • The following results are I no way statistically sound, but the variance seems reasonably small to me between runs.
  • The out run was slightly uphill, and into a mild cross/headwind.
  • I’m using a 4iiii Precision single side crank arm power meter. I think it’s pretty consistent (see DC Rainmaker’s review), but I suspect it’s reading low ish (I previously had another on a longer crank arm that I estimate reading about 40 watts higher at 40kmph).

The Results

Homemade Disc     Aerocoach AEOX
Watts Speed     Watts Speed
Out 283.0 38.1 Out 256.0 37.8
Back 212.0 37.7 Back 218.0 38.1
Average 247.5 37.9 Average 237.0 38.0
Out 294.0 38.2 Out 271.0 37.6
Back 215.0 38.1 Back 200.0 38.7
Average 254.5 38.2 Average 235.5 38.2
Average 251.0 38.03 Average 236.3 38.05
Watts Speed
Difference 14.8 -0.02

So, 15 watts! Pretty impressive! I’m a happy bunny!

I won’t be going back to my old setup, so hopefully I’ll manage even better than the last outing.

Unboxing, contents and general wheel observations

On terms of setting up the wheel, it’s 11 speed and comes with a spacer for 10 speed cassettes (you can see that her held on by an elastic band).

There are various warnings and instructions, and it comes with some rim tape, and valve hole covers.

The brake track is aluminium and really wide. It barely fitted in my brakes at their maximum width, even with slightly worn pads. It did line up nicely with the “23mm” tyre with though.

The cutout hole for the valve is not very big. I have an adaptor, which means I can use a track pump, but even this was a nightmare to get off with a 51mm length valve when it was pumped up – it’s bending the disc in the below image, which isn’t good.

I think I’ll need to get something with a shorter valve – maybe this Michelin A1 AirComp Latex tube which you can get in 36mm or 40mm versions.

I’d normally go 120 psi, but the warnings say go 100psi, so I did that for both wheels, although I don’t know if that’s really aimed at running tubeless.

It made a pleasing carbon hum when going quickly, but I didn’t notice any whumping noise. Maybe I need to go faster…

The wheel itself looks fantastic. It feels like a normal wheel with a built in disc cover. I don’t know what a Zipp disc feels like though, so maybe they all feel like that.