Monday, 22 December 2014

Learning Curves.

I wish I’d had the sense to take more photos yesterday. It would have made today’s blog all the more interesting, but I didn’t, I didn’t think until it was too late, so I’m sorry.
 
 
This being the first year I have really bashed the Turbo Trainer - following a prang last year that saw me bust a rib and my shoulder (that’s never been the same since) after hitting the deck on an icy road at 20mph, I have been keen to get out and see how much of an investment (or disaster) the garage based training has been. Its been 10 weeks since I last stretched it out on the road, my longest abstinence for a long time.....
 
 
A decent 65 mile ride with a friend was the plan. We are pretty similar pace over distance on the bike, so assuming all things were even with him it would be a good assessment for me as to my current form.  Despite the wind we met up bright and early and headed out into the hills of the Wolds. The first 7 or 8 miles were tough. The bike felt twitchy and different to what I had become accustomed to, and I certainly didn’t enjoy the climbs. I quickly convinced myself that the turbo was a disaster and my form had gone. I also noticed early on that my heart was working a lot harder on the road than the equivalent effort on the turbo, not that it minded. It wasn’t pounding like a jack hammer in my chest so as to be unmanageable, but it was definitely a good 10bpm higher throughout the ride than I would have expected. I've decided I think the lack of sweat pouring profusely from you when you are physically moving due to evaporation, makes a big difference physiologically, and maybe just even that alone stops you working as hard when static?
 
 
By 8 miles I had settled in. We had a few good steady climbs under our belt and got our heads down. Olly, being much taller than me was suffering in the persistent and powerful headwind,  jutting up out of his bike like a windsurfers sail. I decided to go easy on myself and given the quite rough conditions that we were forcing ourselves headlong in to, to not be too quick to judge the turbo as detrimental, and just enjoy it for what it was.
 
 
Then at mile 12 Oliver unexpectedly declared himself out. At first I thought it was simply an excuse, and he didn’t fancy battling another 20 miles of this before the route changed direction and we got some assistance from the gusts rather than this battering, but on inspection it was apparent his back tyre had popped. Not just the inner tube – the tyre was worn through. There was a quick admission that he had been using the tyre on the turbo, and it had taken its toll. I posted a few weeks back about a friends tyre spraying rubber in the shed, and I’ve experienced it myself at home. Now, having seen the damage it does first hand when the tyre is subjected to the tarmac, I have all the evidence required never to use my road tyres on the machine.
 
So there we were stood in the middle of nowhere, except for the badly injured owl that was laid on the road half squashed just behind us, scratching our heads..... and I waited, expecting the back up kit to come out so we could enjoy some impromptu roadside bike maintenance. But there was no spare tyre to be conjured. (I didn’t have one either - but my actual tyre is near enough brand new). There were 2 inner tubes, several inflator canisters and a host of tools and first aid kit on my back - If only he had come off in the wind and knocked some sense into his head we'd have been sorted). I did notice Olly had thoughtfully forgotten to remove his mini pump from its home at the base of his seat post however. Useful. 
 
Next up the admission that he hadn’t brought his phone either. As it's Christmas I thought it best to be friendly, and decided to let him borrow mine. That was a faff, it meant taking my gloves off, my fingers going numb to the wind chill and clatting about disconnecting my headphones. It was worth the fuss though when he then had to admit he didn’t know his Girlfriends phone number (who he has lived with for a couple of years I might add), so he called his dad to ask him what her number was. He didn’t know either. It was starting to look like he was stuck.  
 
 
While this was going on a couple of other friends biked past & stopped, one pouring with an impossible amount with sweat given the conditions. When they stopped and I noticed that, it made me realise how cold I had become. This wind was stripping me to the bone of any heat. I hadn’t really layered up as much as I could have, working on the premise that it would encourage me to pedal harder to generate warmth. With the other 2 now present I seized the opportunity to declare my cycle partner a write off, and they joined in with some casual abuse.
 
 
And so we wished him luck walking home alone.  It seemed only fair given his gratuitous personal negligence - it would give him time, walking 12 miles in cleats, in the cold and the wind, to contemplate his failings. I bid him farewell, the other 2 cleared off as well, and once back in the saddle I found myself alone on the Bluestone Heath Ridge, in the pummelling wind.
 
 
A few times it blew so hard that I nearly ended up in the ditch. The rear wheel disc (mentioned in the previous post) acting as a sail, and forcing the back end all over the road. I was enjoying the challenge.
View from the Ridge.
 
 
This continued unrelenting until mile 34. At that point the course changed, and it gave me some assistance. In terms of the turbo, I had had plenty of time to assess my form during those miles. It was hard to tell if it has helped my power or pace, but certainly my endurance was strong. Given the effort of cycling into 25+mph winds it dawned on me I still had plenty in the tank for the mostly steadily uphill 31mile climb to home. A big plus for the indoor work done. Again I got my head down and enjoyed it for what it was.
 
 
There were a few back wind /down hills going home, steep and ferocious affairs. Thundering down them, barely in control, belly on the seat, backside mm’s from the rear wheel, chin on the aero bars. Blind from the wind. Adrenalin surging. An overdue reminder that that’s why we cycle.
 
 
Home in just over 3hrs. Averaging 18.5mph. I wouldn’t leave the road out so long again, but the turbo has been confirmed in my mind as a valuable means to an end. As a mate said after, it keeps the legs spinning, and lets you do some all out sprints without a fear of coming off.
 
 
Trainers on, and straight back out onto the road for a run. A quick 5 mile brick to gauge current form in this department. The legs were tired and angry at this unexpected effort, but gave me a 6:45 min  mile average regardless. No complaints there.
 
 
Yesterday was also the last day of the 30 Day Cold Water Challenge.
 
 
The 30 days are done, and it went quite quickly. My body has got used to the cold, and I think there has been some benefit in helping me with Ice swimming. Certainly my head has desensitised to the initial ‘ice-cream headache’ type effect I was suffering.
 
 
The highlight is definitely that I used to think a warm shower after training was refreshing, I now know it isn’t. I will continue to take a cold shower after a decent session. It genuinely cools you, brings down the heart rate, and leaves you feeling alive and fresh, not tired and sleepy. In terms of training, especially in the morning before work, that is a real gain. 
 
The only reason I'll really be glad its over are because of the couple of things I hadn't really counted on missing. The first is I always tend to sit in the shower. Cross legged on the floor letting the water beat down on me. I love it. Its also a great place to sit and brush your teeth. When the water is ice cold there is no point trying to relax like that, and its good to be able to do it again, although I have already had complaints that I drain the tank of all water, and how much the family preferred me 'on cold' as it kept an element of brevity to my washing affairs.
 
Secondly I missed showering with Sarah. Not like hot and steamy showers, but just day to day. We are a house zero privacy, or so it seems. Often when we get up we will both get in the shower together, a quick mutual back wash - and just to save time and water. Its not unusual to be followed into the bathroom by 1 child sat on the loo and then 1 child stood brushing their teeth, all while we stand and shower together. A quirk of our family life that was missing for a month while I had to hang back and let the rest of the family  get sorted before I did my cold thing. Getting back to the everyday routine that I never even knew I would miss will be fun.
 
The low point in this endeavour came a week last Sunday from an unexpected corner. While we were changing for Ice Swimming in the hut a fellow swimmer asked me how it was going. At that point my mate Alex piped up ‘Are you still doing that??’ I confirmed I was, and asked if he had tried it, to which he replied:
 
"I thought about it, but we are stood here nearly naked about to get into a lake that’s 5 degrees, I considered that, then thought ‘of course he can do that, it’s no challenge’ so I didn’t bother trying it. We all know you can take a cold shower".
 
It was a throw away comment from Alex, but his assessment that it was in essence a pretty low bar I had set myself with this one hit home, and it made the final week hard to push through and be bothered to continue with it. Finish what you start though, even if all you take from something is that you saw it through, is a worthwhile maxim. And so that’s what I did. I stopped questioning it again, got on with it, and now it’s finished.  No regrets.
 
 
It’s that attitude I hope will carry me through the bike leg of the 140.6 in the summer. No questioning it. Just get in the saddle and pedal.
 
 
And so on to the Christmas Holidays, juggling gluttonous excesses and family gatherings that can quickly rob you of structured training. No doubt there will be lapses, but the 2 main pre Christmas evening events have passed without drunkenness, and that is the biggest thief of my time. A hang over seems to last 3 days and ruin training. They have been avoided with a strict personal 3 drink limit, and that is a huge gain.
 
 

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Making ends meet.

It's been a week. A quick week. The last ramped up week of long endurance base sessions before a deserved rest. It's also the last week of the 30 day cold shower challenge. That ends Sunday.
 
Rather than repeat myself, or admit to a few smaller sessions I have slacked off on due to the dark mornings (warm bed) and the dark nights (coal fire) putting a dampener on things I have also delayed blogging on the premise it is better to be quiet than repeat myself or be negative and not motivate people.
 
It's an expensive time of year too though, and it occurred to me today that that is worth blogging about. Any way you can save some money is worth consideration in my mind.
 
It's not just busy and expensive because its Christmas, it's also the time of year when all the big events for next year are open and you start carefully watching the entry lists to see how quickly they are filling up. Before you know it you have little choice but to fork out for entries or risk being a spectator, and the bank balance can soon take a serious wallop. Today alone I got 'invites' to 4 events in 2015, and spent the afternoon thinking "I'll pay for that one then, this one there... oh, but I need this replacing, and if I hold off and enter that in Feb there's no council tax to go out and we can also book a hotel..." You know how it goes I'm sure....
 
Everyone has an annual budget. That budget might be £5000, it might be £500. Whatever it is, that doesn't just have to cover entry fees, it covers travel, accommodation, and more importantly kit that might need replacing or improving. This is a tough ball to juggle - once you get more serious about your sport you need the right kit to be competitive, but you don't want to spend a penny more than you have to. After all its got to be better to spend the money on entry fees and competing than it has on having a load of equipment and no money left to race, right? And that's where I did something last year that saved me around £500 and bought me a good few minutes on the bike.
 
I'm pretty outspoken about how much of a waste of money most kit is. Overhyped, over branded and mostly not worth anything more than a bit of hard graft can't improve on anyway. Something we can't escape though is physics, and the all important chunk of that we call aerodynamics. The stats are out there clear as day on the benefits of good aerodynamics, and a great place to start is a decent set of wheels.
 
The problem with wheels is they are expensive, and so I had avoided entertaining them up until the point where I just wasn't getting the improvements in my times that I used to, despite training harder and harder. Then I hit on an idea. Having looked at the various designs, and deciding that the weight of my wheels wasn't an issue, the next thing to consider was a disc wheel to really help cut through the air. 
 
I quickly concluded buying a budget end heavy lump of a disc had to be false economy. What I gained in aerodynamics I would lose in weight, and a decent carbon one was going to cost me dearly. For a solid back wheel I decided that with a bit of thought and patience I could make a lightweight 'in fill' for a fraction of the cost of going out and buying one. So that's what I did. And that's what I want to share.
 
I was lucky enough to be able to get sheet plastic through work for free. I knew what specification I wanted. Either ABS or GPPS (the type of plastic sheet I was looking to work with - both much lighter than PVC) and rigid but flexible. Anything used in a process called 'vac forming' would be ideal. I got a few sheets sent to me of varying thicknesses and settled on the thinnest suitable one I dare use, 200 microns thick. That's 0.2 of a mm. This I got free, but if you want to buy some it will cost you about £15 a sheet. At most these wheels are going to cost you £30. Just do a Google search on PS or ABS Sheet suppliers. Be sure that the width of the sheet you order is greater than the diameter of your wheel. 
 
I have put some images I took below with simple to follow instructions.

                                                                The unrolled Sheet PS.
 


Remove the back wheel and measure the radius from the skewer entry point to the edge of the dish where the spoke disappears into the outer edge of the wheel. Add 2 cm onto the radius depth.
 
Next secure the plastic sheet to a board with nails in each corner.  Knock a nail into the centre point of the sheet and tie some string to the nail.
 
Measure the string out to the radius +2cm distance you just took from the back wheel. Tie a nail into the string at that point.

 


Keeping the nail straight and upright, carefully and systematically work round scoring the sheet, keeping the string pulled taught. Measure intermittently with a tape measure to ensure you are scoring out the required radius evenly.


Once you are happy you have got the right size marked out, cut the disc out. I tried a few methods, a stanley blade was sharp, but left jagged edges. In the end I settled for my wifes dress making scissors. Sharp and smooth, and adds an unexpected element of danger when she finds out!!
 
Once you have cut out the disc, cut out the centre hole and then a straight line from the outer edge down to the centre.
 
Carefully slide the cassette on the wheel between the slit and ease it down and jiggle the centre hole around the inside of the cassette.
 
By adding the extra 2cm at the start you can now finely trim the sheet down to the perfect size so the rim of the disc sits on the dish about 3to 4mm just outside its inner edge. You need to leave a good bit of dish visible between the disc and the tyre for securing the disc to the wheel.



Once the disc is sized up and you are happy take it off and use it as template for the other side. You now have both sides ready to fix up.


I tried various methods, including bits of tubing and cable ties, but found that the best way to secure the disc was using nothing but a good quality duct tape. The glue in the duct tape bonds with the plastic and fixes very securely. Run it the length of the spokes and press it firmly and snugly around the spokes as I have started doing in the image above. Finally cut a flap in line with the inflator valve.
 
Once you repeat with the other side take your time. Slide you hand up and curve the sheet gently to get access. There should be enough flexibility in it to let you bend it to gain access.
 
Once it's stuck down both sides it should look something like this.

 
 
Now secure the sheet onto the dish by using good quality flexible electric tape. This will shape smoothly around the wheel, if you take your time you can pull it evenly round without pucker or ridges. Run another strip straight down the centre seam. Press it all down firmly.

Once everything is secure clean it up using white spirit or similar, and wipe over with a cloth.

The finished article below.

Before (complete with Aero Pineapple)

After.
 
After creating this disc I took it out on a well used 10 mile TT route. I instantly took 40 seconds off my PB for that route. An unbelievable time saving at an incredibly low cost. The additional weight to the wheel is a mere 98 grams. It really is a thin and durable disc. Buying a wheel like this would have cost me knocking on £600. That's the entry fee on another 3 x 140.6's. Result.
 
I have since used this wheel extensively and am happy to confirm it holds up in all weathers and has not once come loose.

It has been used in anger without issue - pushing me to a 24.3mph bike average in the Club Sprint Relays and my part in our team Silver medals, and also at Olympic distance bagging me an age category win and 5th overall. These results wouldn't have been possible without it.
 
Bored in the holidays? - Get out in the garage and spend some time now to save money and minutes in racing next season.

 
If you want any more info on the wheel please get in touch and I'll be happy to help.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

An Alternative View


Tri Wife

Martin has asked me to write a post on how it feels to be a tri wife. Having given this some thought it’s a large range of feelings….. mostly positive. I love how positive and healthy and motivated he is about training (when it’s going well) as I feel this translates into other areas of our life. The old saying “If you want something doing then ask the busiest person you know” is very true where Martin is concerned.
Me. Married to Triathlon.
 
I do wonder sometimes how he manages to fit everything in, but we do. It means he gets up early to fit training in, and of course this does disturb me when he gets up. Martin CANNOT do anything quietly if he tried. I also have to entertain myself when he trains in the evening when the girls go to bed. This I don’t mind, but not sure Ella is thrilled when she gets woken by the post training shower - as her bedroom is next to the bathroom.  I am also very aware that at any time if I asked him stay in tonight, don’t go swimming Saturday morning stay and spend time with me, then he would sack training off. I would never ask him to do this for a couple of reasons

1. He shows me his new training plan and asks if this fits in with family life (it always does).

2. It makes him happy and is very good for his physical and mental health.

3. It’s a positive for the girls to see (a better hobby than the pub).

I have come to realise that the actual races or events are good family fun, but they are such a small piece in the whole puzzle. The girls and I love race day BUT Martin is a nightmare the day before - distracted, can be negative, and can talk of nothing else, which to be fair can be very irritating. He also constantly checks I’m ok with it!!! I understand why he does this, feels guilty, selfish for some reason. But after repeating “I’m OK, and I want to come”, “No the girls don’t mind”, “We love cheering you on” for 20 times in one day….. sometimes, only sometimes, I could scream.  

Getting THE BOX ready and equipment, making sure the bike is race fit seems from my point of view to take hours. (Same thing is needed every race - get a list). We just keep out of his way as I have realised my help is definitely not needed. While Martin prats around gets ready, I do everything else. Making sure we have enough food, drink and tea, clothes for every weather etc.
The All Consuming Ball Box and Bike.
 
While we sort everything else.....
 

As a family we have never had a problem with getting up and being on time so we are always at events in plenty of time, which we all love. Martin goes off to set up, the girls and I wander off to have a look around. We always see people we know which is nice. This is my favourite time - I’m a huge people watcher.  Standing outside the transition area is a favourite thing of mine, but sometimes the posturing and overwhelming scent of testosterone is far too strong and I need to move away before I disgrace myself by laughing out loud.

I have come to see that the one who to me have the blingiest gear & flashiest bike does not always show on the results page. I love to see those who it’s their first race. They look nervous but excited and are usually raising loads of cash for charity. The girls and I try to remember who these ones are so we can cheer extra loud when they run or bike past. Molly and I can clap and cheer for England. Of course Martin is the main one we cheer for but anyone from the Tri club or friends will get equal claps and yells of encouragement. Or because we can be quite nice if we think you need an encouraging yell or you are impressing us we will cheer for you. When Ella races I’m sure all you can hear is us yelling, but not to go faster just to have fun and enjoy it. She’s is the one with the biggest grin on her face loving every minute, I’m not going to go on about some of the parents at kids races……but I could. In my book it should be fun.
 
Ella after a race.
 
Waiting patiently for ANOTHER T-Shirt.
 

When racing is finished and we have acquired yet another tee shirt it’s off home. Dissecting the race, chittering about who we have seen etc.

Then the bit that really annoys me goes on. Pulling himself to pieces, texting from the thread to the needle and back again with his friends all about the race. This will go on for at least a week and sometimes can try even my elastic patience. We all love it really and despite what Martin says I’m very easy going and genuinely love going to the events.
Post race dissection pose.
 
 
 

Monday, 8 December 2014

A week of experimentation.

Its been a busy week. The upside of being productive is there is plenty to write about, the downside is that there isn't the time. Thanks to the persistent encouragement of my wife however, I have found that time now.
 
The beginning of last week should have been part of my rest week, with The Program re starting its 4 weekly cycle last Wednesday. I was enjoying the rest, but it creates time. You get so used to fitting everything in that when you suddenly don't have to find 2+hrs per day to train it leaves you with time to think, and all that extra energy to burn.
 
Now is definitely the time to try new things, things that will hopefully pay dividends come races next year. With that in mind I decided to step out of my rest week early. Definitely not something I would advocate others to do, but I was feeling strong and well rested by Sunday so decided to trial the concept of the reverse taper. With that in mind I grabbed an early night Sunday, ready for the next few days ahead, and preparation for a local beach front 5k on the upcoming Tuesday evening.
 
Dodging the usual Monday morning endurance swim set, I started at 6am on a Bike/Run/Bike brick for 1.5hrs. I then repeated that brick Monday night, over 2hrs. Tuesday morning I got up and did another straight brick involving anaerobic interval sets for 45mins on the bike and then a nice 5k run.

My legs were certainly now under no illusion as to what I expected of them, and kept reminding me they were very aware that they had been put to work. By building the intensity and volume over a short sharp period following a rest the theory being tested was that the legs would be ready and expectant in meeting the demands that would be placed on them later. They should still be fresh enough from the rest to absorb the last 48hrs efforts, and know that it was time to work hard without yet being fatigued.
 
3 of us travelled to the race. Only making it by the skin of our teeth thanks to the abysmal planning and organisational skills of our driver, and his magical bag of kit that included absolutely everything he owned except his bike spilling out all over the car. It had been cold and windy all day, with plenty of rain, and nobody was holding much hope of this changing for the race. As it happened there was no rain, but the wind was strong and bitingly cold. I knew from the Humber bridge 6hr enduro a few months back I could expect plenty of salt and sand in my eyes. It is always tempting to think you will be OK to run in shorts and a vest while you are getting ready in the home, but I had plumped for a compression top and leggings and was pleased with the choice. It was about a mile to the start from the parking, and we took the opportunity to warm up on the way down.
 
On arrival at the start line I was surprised to find over 200 people in attendance. It's always good to see people who can be bothered to get out and get involved. I've never been a 'stand alone' runner, and could tell straight off there was plenty of pedigree on the line. There was also plenty of other Louth Tri members down there and the time passed quickly waiting for the start while everyone took turns to abuse my choice of bright fluorescent orange leggings. That kind of lip is welcome though, only serving to ensure I try harder to beat them and shame them !
 
Eventually the whistle blew and we were off. A straight initial 2km into a hard wind. I really wanted to use this event to test the reverse taper on my body, but also get a gauge of my speed once a month to measure improvements over the winter period, so I was keen to give it my best. Learning from the Market Rasen 10k a few weeks previous I eased off at the start, resisting the urge to power off like previously, and stuck just off the shoulder of the lead pack for the first 800m. After this point a hole began developing. It was a carbon copy of the last race. After about 1/2 a mile the lead group were pulling a gap and I just couldn't keep it closed. This continued, my lungs and legs burning as I tried to settle into a manageable pace. By 1200m the gap had extended to about 150 / 200m, but had stabilised. And that in a nutshell was where I stayed. I was up to speed and keeping even pace with the group in front, but once again I was unable to close it, or stop that gap forming at the start. The wind blew hard, and it made it tough slugging it out alone in the no mans land between packs, with nobody to draft behind. I finished 12th with a disappointing 18:54min. That was a good minute off what I had been expecting. Afterwards though it seemed everyone had suffered a minutes gain due to the weather, so all things being even it wasn't too bad. The race had served some purpose, it was highlighting a problem with getting up to speed at the start.
 
I went away thinking this was down to the reverse taper, and was annoyed at myself for trying it. My legs and chest hurting like hell after the initial start while I tried to settle into pace had served no benefit. A KFC on the way back and the usual dissection of the race with my fellow Louth competitors eased the grief.
 
Next day however I mentioned this to a fellow club member, and soon to be new club Chairman Steve. With years of running experience under his belt he immediately suggested that I wasn't warmed up enough at the start. He suggested that if my heart rate wasn't up there and ready to go, then that would explain the gap that developed while my body adjusted to what was required. That made sense. Something so simple that I had overlooked, and once again by taking the time to talk it through someone else could see the wood for the trees and had made a sensible suggestion. We had been delayed on the line, it was cold and we passed the time with chatter. That won't be happening again.... arrive in the nick of time, arrive warm and run hard. With so many variables it is hard to know if the reverse taper was a success or not, but next months race falls at the end of the rest week again, and I will take full advantage of that beforehand, and I can then compare more.
 
Wednesday ticked off a decent balanced swim set, with Ella enjoying the club swimming too.
 
Thursday, and a cancellation in the diary meant I had time to talk through a friend who I have recently drawn up a training plan for - to set up his turbo, and perform a Lactate Threshold test. By getting him to do a 10minute warm up on the bike, and then move straight into a maximum even sustainable effort for 20minutes, then taking the average heart rate during that 20 minutes this will give him his lactate threshold, and the starting point for the various zones he will be working through to build endurance over the winter.

Simon and the winter training shed/office.
 
 
Getting back a bit early gave me the opportunity to seize some daylight and put down a juicy 1hr at my Intensive Endurance pace on the bike, followed by a 13mile cross country run, and then straight back onto the bike for 1/2hr of interval sets moving between 4minutes at the Extensive Endurance point to 1 minute of Anaerobic repetition.
 
This is an interesting final part to this set. It is always a shock to the legs to get back on the bike after a run, much like running off the bike used to be during my first forays into triathlon. Maintaining pace is hard, but after the first 1minute of max effort the pacing becomes easier. As time moves on each 1minute interval shows a decrease in power, with my legs fatiguing quicker. The real surprise however is that while the overall power declines, the recovery pace increases slightly. By the end of the set the reward for the suffering is an overall increase in output (for no extra Beats Per Minute) over the 4 minute extensive endurance phase.
 
Friday was a rest day, needed after a week of a race and several big bricks. Enjoying the day with Sarah shopping and a monster fry up, before heading out into the hills to cheer on Ella at a County cross country event. Watching all the students run made me wish I had my trainers to hand. Still it is always good to stand on the side lines and take your turn to be a supporter, knowing there are plenty of times it is the other way around, and people being bothered to cheer me on.
 
Friday night was the Louth Tri Club AGM. The club was in fine form, with a cracking spread, the food highlight being an anonymous supplier of cool little LTC runner gingerbread men!

Ace little Louth Tri gingerbread men.
 
 
The evening saw a change in the guard, as the old Chairman stepped down to concentrate on competition next season. If ever there was a good reason to take yourself away from the administrative side of a club, then that has to be the best. Simon has begun his winter training in earnest now, and I have every confidence he will achieve what he wants. He has a sensible 2 year plan and is already well on the way to beating his first winter training goals.
 
Best Newcomer went to Team Conways youngest member - Luke, who is now holding his own admirably among the seniors, and the coaches award went to Oliver Whelpton, for consistent hard work. Oliver is always conspicuous in his absence from training sessions, and the award was well deserved for recognition of the quiet consistent effort he applies. Jackie Hall bagged most improved, and she definitely has, again consistent applied effort has got her the results she deserves. Female of the year went to Kerry Drewery, the club member responsible for me suffering the Hell on The Humber endurance marathon. She was the clear stand out winner having featured at the top of her age category through out the races she undertook last season. Finally the Male Triathlete of the year went to Ross MacGreggor. He was the only option for this award, having taken himself from complete novice 2 years ago to Midlands Sprint Champion 2015, bagging himself a Sprint Age Group spot for Team GB along the way, heading out to Canada to compete for his Country in the autumn and finishing 3rd GB athlete home - securing automatic requalification for next year at Chicago. Oh, and also winning the inaugural home town Louth Triathlon in September.

The Louth Elite Sprint Relay Team.
 
 
The one thing that stands out with all of these winners very clearly is the solid consistent effort they put into their training. Everything has a purpose, and there is a clearly defined goal at the end of it. They know it takes time, they work hard through the lows and it gives them the highs come race day. Its a pleasure and a privilege to train with them all.
 
On a side note, and a big bonus for The Working Class Triathlete Team, is that the outgoing Chairman Simon is now on The Program using our techniques to help him reach his goals. Oliver, winner of the Coaches Award is also well down the road of his personalised program, and Luke, the most improved for 2014 is also now on our client list, and will be starting his goal specific training plan in the next week or so once we have agreed all his targets and fully understand his aims for 2015. All in all a great show of effort that people have put into the plans we have been developing, making it a real honour to work with them and see them getting results through the hard work I know that each of them apply. The biggest win here for me is that seeing them work so hard gives me no option but to always also give my best. I cannot ask anything of others that I would not do myself.
 
Saturday morning, and after getting in at around 2am (just the right side of sober) I just managed to make it to the club swim set. It was good to see others still motivated enough too, including Oliver who had won an award and had reason to celebrate, and Jo who had been out too, and it was her birthday that morning! And they were still motivated enough to train. The set passed quickly, and I felt good on it. I was glad I went.
 
Home to a normal family Saturday.
 
Sunday saw a return to the extended brick designed to help my body learn to delay fatigue. Bike/Run/Bike at endurance and interval paces again, and by focusing on run and cycling economy this really helped me to again see improvements from last month.
 
Sunday also saw a nice surprise, fellow athlete and Friend Jon Bromfield kindly gave me his Polar Heart Rate Monitor, knowing I had been limping by with a cheap eBay affair. This rekindled my interest in the stats and has barely been taken off since......
 
The post set cold shower registered 44 beats per minute. Very pleased with the control of that.
 
This morning was also a return to the 7am swim endurance swim set with Ross. Only this morning he decided to trial his wetsuit in the pool. The usual gaggle of ladies were loving watching him wiggle into his rubber at poolside, but the exercise was a worthwhile one.
 
We all know you go faster in a wetsuit. We all swim at a given pace in the pool, and we all swim at an increased (wetsuited) pace in the Lake. You get used to that fact. You also get used to the approximate pace of your training partners in each environment. To swim this morning next to a wet-suited athlete while I was in skins cemented in my mind the value of that piece of kit. Ross is always quicker than me in the pool, but today he was seriously quicker. The increase in pace was noticeable. Especially at the start, he put down a 5:13 400m without even trying. The pace decreased over time as he progressed, but he was still faster than normal. Afterwards the only complaint was overheating, and shoulder strain. Both of those were not unexpected, and a worthwhile exercise in appreciating the value of the suit.

The question in my mind now is can you gain more time in a 400m pool based sprint than you would lose taking the suit off in transition if you wore one?
 
Cold showers after. They are the norm now. A little part of me is dreading having to re adapt to the heat in 11days time.

Post Shower Heart Rate.
 
 
 
 
 

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Pilates & 1 week Cold Shower Challenge Review

After a busy first half to the week, culminating in the kick set from hell I'm now half way through a rest week, but wanted to quickly report a few things from the back end of the week.
 
Thursday evening I met with the club chairman who had invited me to a male only Pilate's class.
 
Sarah has long extolled the virtues of this, and I understand the principles of core strength in helping to improve fitness and  with a season of 'going long' looming I am willing to give anything the courtesy of my time if it might be able to help me in my endeavours.  With that thought and approx. 1/2hr of previous experience under my belt from a failed foray into a home Pilates video some while back we turned up at the lesson.

There were only 4 of us in the class. All of us desk jockeys by day, the main complaint seemed to be bad backs as a motivation for attendance.
 
The instructor warmed us up. Rolling spikey balls on our feet to start, it felt weird, but being only men bar the instructor there was no embarrassment at any stage. We progressed to stretching our sides, and a lot of work on our pelvic floor (ready for when we give birth I expect). Part of the stretching involved resistance bands, and I have to admit I enjoyed the opportunity they gave for smooth controlled action and movement. This class was the very basics, but even that highlighted how stiff my neck has become on one side since coming off my bike last January. Looking around it is apparent everyone had strengths and weaknesses. This hour gave me enough of an insight to appreciate how this will help build my core, make me more efficient and help delay fatigue in a race.
 
The hour passed quickly and I felt relaxed after, but my muscles felt like they had worked quite hard without being out of breath. I go away feeling positive, and keen to see how I can insert this weekly class into The Program once I am back into the build cycle next week.
 
After getting home I almost felt sick, but not quite. I was very aware of every little muscle in my neck and shoulders and steeled myself to be stiff and sore the next day. To my surprise I slept really well and woke up feeling fine. Absolutely no ill effects to report. Before bed though all I wanted was a nice warm shower to help ease the ache. Then I remembered that wasn't going to happen........

....and so the 1 week shower review.
 
As of today we're 8 days in. I haven't deviated or cheated in any respect. That in itself I'm really pleased with. The biggest surprise is the number of people it has motivated to join us. Over the course of the week I have had confirmation from 8 people they are also doing it and intend to see the 30 days through, and a couple more that have at the very least tried it.  Every time sticking my head under the cold water has felt like too much effort remembering that others are doing it tips the balance and under I go.
 
The act in itself has lost its novelty. I can honestly report that my body is now used to the cold - from the neck down that is. The head and the skull is acclimatising and desensitising to the feeling, but once I am under it does not register on the body as cold. It is just water. The lowest I have had the heart rate while under there is 57bpm. Washing and shaving is a distraction that eases the discomfort.
A week and a day and a total of 35minutes clocked up.
 
This morning saw the usual swim set, and after starting with an even 1000m with fellow Triathlete Jon Bromfield I was recruited to the tri club set to undertake the 100's challenge.

This challenge involves swimming 100m each time, starting off 1:50 and descending by 1 second per set. We did this a while back and I clocked out at 1min 26. This morning off the back of the rest I've had I wasn't feeling the love. 1:33 was enough. I was disappointed afterwards not to try harder, and should definitely have made myself go under 1:30. The clock didn't beat me, I just dropped out. This week shouldn't be about thrashing it though, and now I've had time to think about it I'm glad I didn't push it. I had averaged 1:31 per 100m, so knocking that in at 1700m on a 24min mile pace after already logging 1000m was more than enough. 500m afterwards on a pull at a decent pace with Jon and the swim set was done. 
 
Home, cold shower and out, and a good day spent on Leicester's Golden mile with the family. 
 
Tomorrow sees a return to The Pit for some more open water acclimatisation. I am excited to see if the showers have helped in this respect.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Opportunities & Excuses

A quick post from the last few days spent on the road. Work, as ever, trying its best to get in the way of the more important things....
 
Fresh out of a warm bed on Tuesday I find myself stood in front of the shower, my body rejecting the will to step under the noticeably colder than normally cold water. It's clearly been a chilly night out, and I have spied the first frost of the year on the car roof from the bedroom window. The water running through the pipe has soaked up the cold before entering the home. Sarah pushes me in the back and under the water I go. 

I stand and shower for 3 minutes. It is what it is. Aside from distracting myself with shouts of my childhood hero, He-Man..... 'BY THE POWER OF GREY SKULL' & holding my toothbrush like a sword as I bellow "I HAVVEEEE THE POWERRRRRRR" (and imagining Titch the Dog turning into Battle-Cat) to distract my mind from the iciness I am quiet. It is hard to keep my mouth closed and breath only through my nose. I've found a new sub challenge within the shower called silence. Game on.

Then it's into the car and a series of appointments through-out the day. As I drive between meetings I touch base with 4 athletes under my care, and go through various aspects of their current training. I'm particularly impressed with 2 of them who are new to The Program, and have managed to drag themselves out in the frost and the fog before dawn for pre work runs. They are committed and dedicated and I am proud of them. They show motivation and desire to succeed. In turn this motivates me because I cannot ask anything of others I will not do myself. 

11hrs later my working day is finished & I'm sat in a funny little B&B with Alfredo and Liz, owners of The Summerfields guest house, Hastings. Alfredo makes me a drink while he prepares their tea and quizzes me politely over my travels that bring me into their home. They are a warm and friendly couple, married 38 years. Here is where the 'excuses' start to play in my mind.

I'm on my last day now of 3 weeks building volume. My body is tired. The day has been long. I'm away from home, and it would be so easy to start my rest week a day early. Who would know? I don't have my turbo, my usual run routes are out of the question, it's cold, dark and raining. I haven't eaten.... These excuses play in my mind telling me to let any form of training slide. 

Then I remember my fellow Working Class Triathletes who turned out this morning because my plan suggested they do so. I consider the thought I just had 'who will know?' and realise this is stupid thinking. It's not who will know, it's who will care? Of course -  Nobody is the answer, nobody except me that is, come bed time when I regret being lazy. 

With that the excuse of not being at home in my regular routine turns into an opportunity. I have the night to myself, no food to prepare, no jobs to do. I have a pair of trainers, I have my running gear. All I need to do is get my backside into gear. This should be easier than ever to fit in.  I petition my host for a map and plan my route to the beach front.

A quick change into my run gear, and FaceTime later to the family, and I am waved out the front door to the shaking head and amusement of Alfredo as I push into the rain and begin belting down a hill from the B&B towards the sea. It's dark, it's lashing down and it's cold, but after about a mile of steep downward strides and the realisation I'll have to push myself back up there before I'm finished I find myself in the shingle of Hastings promenade. I quickly decide I'm running the full length of it. As far as I can there and back in a circuit. I'm here, I've bothered, best do it justice and cover some ground. I'll focus on technique and enjoy it. Approximately every half mile I swap between the promenade and the sand and shingle. It is incredibly difficult going down on the beach proper, and this gives my legs a thorough work over. Then back to the concrete and concentrate on technique. Repeat.




 There are plenty of other runners out in-spite of the weather, and I enjoy the silent solidarity we share. Joining in with the locals makes it fun, experiencing their every day training ground. I notice some faded spray lines on the floor in places marked 'Start' 'Fun Run', '1/2' and realise they must run a marathon here in the summer. I try to visualise the sunny day, the buzz and the fuss. The cheering crowds. It is easy to see it would be a popular event.
 
After the promenade it's back up that hill. This burns, but is a great opportunity to study position. I don't often get the chance to run up a hill so steep, looking at the stats after I see it was an elevation gain of 137ft in 0.51miles. Running up hill forces me to lean forward, work off the ball of my foot, increase cadence and really maximise the push off with each full extension of the leg, fully exerting myself with every stride behind me. A great way to end the run. My heart is pounding in my chest, its not exactly scientific and not what is needed at this time of year, but hey, sometimes you have to go with what feels right. I've bagged 8.28 Miles on a 6:35 min mile average, I'm well pleased with that.

Run stats breakdown.
 
After that attention turns back to the shower - again an excuse raises its head, nobody will know if I skip one. The thing is again, nobody will care. This is the perfect opportunity to test my resolve. I steel myself not to make a sound, submerge myself under its ample flow - and enjoy it. I do actually enjoy it. I am warm from the run, and it cools me beautifully. More than that I have managed it when there is no danger of being caught out if I had cheated. I am glad to have not let myself down.

That kind of behaviour deserves a reward. I head out to find food.


Finding a little fish restaurant in the Old Town, and a waiter prepared to set a table for one, taking pity on the lonely and starving traveller, I devour a mussel chowder starter and then enjoy my sirloin blue, with tiger prawn surf. Back to the B&B for a straight 8hrs sleep.
 
6am. Up and at them, the shower is ticked off first thing. It feels almost illicit that my hosts have no clue that I am showering so brutally. Like I am abusing their facilities and they are non the wiser. I enjoy leaving the dial at 0. Will they question it after I have gone?
 
Meandering back via appointments I intersperse my journey between professional conversation and a few quick hello's with friends. A colleague calls, and after a cursory work chat he side swipes me with the query 'What's this about Cold showers then, I hear you're obsessed?' I enthusiastically explain the logic and motive and try to recruit him. He sounds unconvinced, but I am chuffed that there is ground swell, and people are intrigued. As ever I find talking to friends incredibly motivating to hear the different training and experiences they have to relay. I am also convinced by a mate to join him at a male only Pilates class tomorrow. I know I have lost my suppleness these last few years so it will be a humbling experience, something new to challenge myself with, and hopefully improve my fitness further.
 
Several friends have also reported back that they have quietly been trying the showering to see what the fuss is about. They all confirm it is harder than they expected. This makes me smile because I also have my eldest now attempting it with her morning shower. She is down to number 2 and then 1 for the full 2 minutes. She is doing well. Often children are so much more accepting and resilient than adults.
 
Lunch these last few days has been a feta and a medley of beans affair. It reminds me of Sarah.

Lunch : A super bean feast.

This sets me up nicely for arriving home and catching up with the family. We sit around the table and enjoy tea together. Everyone jibbering and jabbering about the last few days. Its good to be home.
 
A busy few days that further prove to myself that it is all about how much you want something, not making excuses, but finding time to fit things in and make what you have work to your benefit.
 
After tea, there's time for half an hour catch up and a cup of tea on the sofa with Sarah, and it's back out of the door for swim training. As a rule I swim 7 -8pm alone. I can control the set and do what I need. Tonight is about paced endurance, with the following set:
 
  • 1000m a best even pace.
  • 1000m negative splitting each 250m, but trying to hold an even pace for each 250m. It is surprisingly difficult to gauge the extra sustainable effort required on an even basis over the distance.
  • 400m swam as 25 Max effort, 25 easy.
  • 200m easy.
Straight off the back of that set it is 8 - 9pm swimming with the club. While you never know what the set will comprise it is a good opportunity to swim with others, enjoy the club, and mix things up. Ella also swims with the club, and it has been a joy to see her get stuck in and improve over the months, making friends with people of all ages and abilities. The club has been nothing but a positive experience for her, giving her confidence both in herself, her abilities as an athlete and her social skills. I am particularly grateful to the club for that, and the way they have taken her into their ranks. 
 
Tonight the club set - usually a balanced and pleasant affair, can best be summarised as just over 1 mile of kicking hell. By the end of the 200m dolphin kick on back with arms extended out of the water towards the end, I can only describe my abs and thighs as destroyed.
 
After the punishment was over it was straight to the now obligatory cold shower. This time we were joined by 4 other team members. This cold shower lark is catching on.
 
And so I'm in bed. Tired but satisfied, and secretly pleased that tomorrow does not require a pre work brick.
 





Sunday, 23 November 2014

Market Rasen 10k, Cold Showers and The Turbo.

So I'm 2 days into this cold shower lark.
 
I rose this morning, and got on with it. I can't say I enjoyed it, but after managing a full 4 minutes last night 2 minutes this morning was reasonably comfortable. I'm already finding I can relax a bit.
 
I wanted to shower first thing in the hope that the verve it gave me would help with the Market Rasen 10k I was about to run. I only entered a few weeks ago, didn't know much about it, other than that just under 3 of the 10k was around the race course. So a small bowl of porridge and a few cups of tea to get me going, and I'm out the door.
 
I picked up a team mate, and we set off. A good 20minutes in the car talking about the usual expectations from the race, tactics, Triathlon in general, training - you name it, if it's about Tri it gets talked about. Talk turned to nutrition as I swilled the pint of pre race juice I had prepared yesterday afternoon.
 
10 apples, 6 carrots, 4 whole fresh beetroots, a lump of ginger and 2 broccoli stalks (when you trim the broccoli trees off for tea remember to keep the stalks, they hold a surprising amount of juice and taste pretty good). This stuff makes me buzz. I'm feeling ready for a good run despite the rain and cold outside.
 
While I'm drinking that my passenger gets out his own race day nutrition.

Contrasting race day nutrition.
 
2 ends of the nutritional spectrum at work today. While mine is home spun and fresh out the ground Ross prefers a good balanced dose of pills. I feel like I am driving a geriatric to the hospital and wonder if he will start to rattle over the finish line with all those in him. He observes that we are like 'Rocky IV' in as much as he is Drago, a cutting edge machine of precise techniques and approach, where as I am Rocky, running around with logs, boxing with sides of beef and heaving my way up and down stairs. I'd rather be Rocky.
 
We sign in, and bump into a few familiar faces. Its good to catch up and discuss off season training, and see other like minded souls using the event in the same way I am. Next I stretch out with a quick warm up run and decide that I am going to put on an extra layer. Its raining quite hard, and I would normally wear less so I'm not carrying cold wet clothing, but the rain has a chill in it despite the recent showering I've been doing, and I decide its likely my arms will go cold and numb over the run, so I layer up. It was the right move.
 
We head to the start and all line up. The turn out is good in spite of the weather, I'd guess around 450 to 500 runners. The claxon honks and we all set off. The first 1.5k are over the racecourse, and it is wet and slippy. I had always planned to go out fast and try to capitalise on the cross country element, and for the first 1km I find myself in the lead. I didn't expect this, and I certainly don't expect it to last. Sure enough it doesn't, and the true runners who have now warmed up their legs come bounding past. Still it was nice to have my nose in front around the racetrack.
 
I find out from the stats master after I was running a 5minute mile for that first leg. Far too fast, and I pay for it down the line. For the next mile I have to settle into a slower and more sustainable pace, and that adjustment costs me a few more places.
 
At the half way point we leave the road and push into the woods. I enjoy this. It's slippy and requires focus on the terrain underfoot, picking your line well in advance - I nearly go down a few times, and work hard in my regular (not trail) running shoes. I can see I am making some ground back up at this point, the regular riverbank runs and my meagre frame paying dividends.
 
Soon we are out of the woods and running back up the road, passing runners coming the other way. By now I have settled into a pace I am pleased with, and I regret the over eager burst at the start, because I know ultimately it has cost me. I could have been into this pace much quicker if I hadn't let adrenalin get the better of me. I am finding the runners on the other side of the road motivating. I hear someone in the throng shout 'Go for it Martin', but I didn't get to see who they were, so I'm sorry I couldn't cheer back. Still that cheer is appreciated and pushes me on.
 
Soon enough we are back on the racecourse for the final loop and again I get some pace up. After running a pretty lonely race with nobody around me I can hear the feet of a runner gaining behind me, splashing and crunching under the mix of gravel and puddles beneath us. I don't look back. I want to, but don't. That will show weakness. I muster my last effort and kick for home. It's enough. I cross the line without being passed. The clock says 37:40, so a 6:02 minute mile average. The final results still arn't out, but I'm reasonably confident I came 12th.
 
I'm never going to be content unless I win, but I'm nearer 40 than not, and have to accept that fact. Given this was only an extra run chucked into the training schedule for fun I'm happy with the result. That 6:02min mile pace was hard earned with a good 50% of the course being cross country on a wet and cold day. I'd say that ground required an extra 10 to 15% effort to achieve the same thrust you get on the tarmac. I'm keen to take positives from the experience. That's what its all about.
 
Ross has beaten me by 40 seconds, but I am surprised to realise I have beat another friend, the National Aquathon Champion and GB Age Grouper Olly distance specialist Shaun Cuffley. Shaun's a fantastic athlete and he has outrun me in aquathons through out the summer - so I take a bit of pride in knowing my winter training must be doing OK at this point.
 
A quick change and it's straight back for home. The journey includes the ever necessary dissection of the event in the car. None athletes don't get this bit, and I try not to bore the family with every little detail, so it's good to have a chew over the cud.
 
I'm home and it dawns on me I am filthy. Great, another cold shower. Sarah comes up to investigate the noises being yelled from the bathroom. I'm not enjoying this one 1 little bit. I am already cold and this adds to it. I have to admit that it is so tempting to whip it round to warm, but who am I cheating in doing that? Myself that's who. If I let my self down here I might start thinking I can miss training sets and that is a dangerous path. I also realise Sarah has been sticking her head around the door every time I shower, with a quick glance at the dial to make sure there's no warmth getting through. The thought creeps into my mind that while I trust her implicitly, after a few drinks at the AGM in a few weeks, (when we are mid challenge), if my friends push her and she has seen me cheating, then it might slip out. I would never live that down so I cannot ever risk even a single droplet of warmth sneaking through that nozzle for at least 29 days. At this point I know there is no danger of failing this challenge. All I have to do now is focus on completely owning it, and will work on my heart rate and composure for the regular performance reviews we will doubtless conduct. This nonsense entertains me and I realise the time is up. I have pushed myself through. The water is turned off dead on 2 minutes. Enough said.
 
While we are eating lunch Sarah tells me that in an effort to support me she has been reducing the shower temp. She managed a minute at number 3. I am impressed she can be bothered. Now I feel guilty for thinking she was checking my showering integrity. Sorry x.
 
A quick ride to see family after lunch to collect the essential bag of local farmers potatoes and double yolker eggs from my mother. While we are there we watch a fantastically boring Grand Prix, and talk turns to next season. I start chewing over the 60+ Midland Sprint Series results from this season with my Dad. He is keen to try it, but needs a push in the right direction. We break down the 3rd place times, and suddenly they seem more achievable. The last race of the series will be in his home village of Woodhall Spa in June, and he lives on the circuit of the run course. The 3 discipline routes are on his doorstep. There's no excuses, and he agrees to go for it.
 
A quick few texts to siblings and the agreement is set that we will share the cost 3 ways for his Christmas present. He doesn't know that yet, but Martin Snr is definitely now doing the sprint series next year. Driving back we have a great karaoke sing along in the car, and can confidently confirm we have unwittingly ruined our 2 Girls childhoods with their unnatural appreciation for camp 80s rock music.
 
Home, and it's onto the turbo. Having the race this morning meant juggling things about. I finish a 3 week build phase on Tuesday, and then I have a rest week. The thought of having to have another cold shower after almost stops me training, but that is ridiculous and I have a stern word with myself to not be so stupid. My legs are tired, and I notice my knees are really stiff from the run earlier. I put this down to the pounding they took on the Humber Bridge last month. They hurt for days after that and have clearly not fully recovered.
 
The work out was great, a good mix of threshold training and interval work. You can find it in detail in the Work Out tab at the top.
 
I have decided not to use the laptop while training anymore. I have been re reading some pages in a book, and was reminded of the importance of technique over distance. Technique is always important, but when you are training for an Iron Distance those small tweeks can mean so much. Over 112 miles on a bike  even the smallest of improvement and economy saving in my pedalling technique will be compounded and could gain me minutes, and save me vital energy for the run. Staring at the laptop can distract from the job in hand, so it's music only from now on. With my head down and 100% focus on the 'scraping mud off my shoe' principle at the bottom of the revolution I feel pleased with a smooth movement through-out the set. When I hit the interval section I am doing 4 minutes at threshold, and then 1 minute at max per 5 minutes - for an hour. The aero bar has nothing to do with practicing race position, and everything to do with supporting me at this point. After the minute at max sections I slump on it to save me falling off the bike, but push through, and thinking about the pedal technique I worked on in the first half of the set really helps me manage to push through the recovery period and maintain my pace before the next minute burst of effort.
 
The set over, its another shower. I am boiling, and frothing with sweat. I am glad to jump in it. It certainly cools me quick, but the 2 minutes whip past and I distract myself with a wash and a shave.
 
In 2 days I have clocked 12 minutes worth of cold water shower time. I feel like the king of pointless endeavours and I smile.
 
All in all a good days work.
 
 
 
 
 
 


Saturday, 22 November 2014

2 Triathletes, 1 Challenge: Day 1.

And so we find ourselves at 9am, like all normal human beings, stood in a pair of budgie smuggler trunks facing a cold shower armed with a video camera and a heart rate monitor. The strangest thing of all - that this doesn't seem strange. Just another day in the life of 2 Triathletes...
 
(We were going to shower at home and report back, but keen to see each others reactions and being at the pool anyway it was suggested we do it post swim set. I feel obligated to report that after that was agreed last night I turned to Sarah and excitedly said "Ross has suggested we do it in the showers together after swimming so we can film each other". She raised her eyebrow and supressed a smile. I have to confess a smidge of embarrassment as I realised how it sounded. It was too late now though, I was fully committed and looking forward to it.)
 
So back to the showers......after explaining to a couple of bystanders what we are doing, Ross takes his heart rate, its a respectable 106bpm having just finished an hours swimming. He's still cooling down. Don't worry pal, that process is about to get a pretty decent sized shove....
 
He steps into the shower and I begin filming. The camera is useful, knowing a video is pointing at you is going to make you do something properly. Nobody wants to be seen wimping out. He strides in and presses down the button - The water starts beating down. 2 minutes and it will be over... I won't dissect his experiences here, it is eloquently described in his own blog :
 
 
Having experience in cold water I knew he would suffer a shock response.  Everybody's body goes through it. Its not voluntary, but its how you deal with that reaction that counts. What I saw on a physical level I expected, reddening of the skin, hyperventilation, dizziness and frustration, the frustration of the discomfort, but forcing yourself to endure, the numbness in the finger ends after.
 
What I saw on a mental level was a man with the presence of mind to assess the situation, and try different things to counter the effects. Regularly checking  his heart rate, standing in different positions, modifying his breathing, anything he could do to distract from the pain of the cold. Despite his own misgivings I was impressed. By finding what works he will be taking the shower with ease by the end of next week I am sure. As he exited his heart rate was at 145bpm - a good 50+bpm's spare in the tank.



And so it was my turn. I started at 91bpm, and honestly, was a bit angry it was that high, because I knew blood belting round my body at that rate would be stripped of heat quicker than I wanted. That had to be the focus, get the HR down. I put it down to the amusement at seeing a mate suffer and stepped up.
 
The water started pummelling the top of my head. This took me be surprise. I'd normally be climbing in a lake feet first. The last thing to go under is the face and the head - which always has a cap on, I've been taking that piece of kit for granted!  I was surprised by how cold it felt on my head. I didn't expect it, and for the first 20 seconds it tried to take my breath away. I looked at the HR monitor and could see it was creeping up. I was also annoyed that I couldn't quite talk normally, I could hear the strain of the cold in my voice, so I focused hard on my heart rate, reducing my breathing and the latent anxiety that had built up. 
 
You know how you gasp when you splash cold water on your face when you have a quick wash? Imagine that, but without any let up. That's what exposure to very cold water on your face is like, but without any respite. The gasp just wants to keep coming. This is what kills people when they fall into cold water, they repeatedly gasp, hyperventilate, panic and drown. I had a better understanding now of why Ross had struggled. This head cold was new to me, and had clearly presented itself as where the challenge of the next 60+ showers was going to come from.
 
Not moving was hard. Normally as the cold bites I would increase my stroke rate, but all I could do here was stand and take it. There is something quite cruel about having to hold a button in to keep the cold water coming out. It would be so easy to let go at any second and warm up, but that isn't an option.
 
It's coming to the end, I have been watching the heart rate and I'm down to 74. The focus on that has distracted me from the numbness in my skull. I notice how time seems to slow down when you are under pressure. In 1min 45 seconds I feel like my mind has quickened and covered a lot of ground, assessing different things, making critical choices.
 
I'm out. I loved it. I will feel fresh and alert all day. The tingle of excitement dancing over the nerve endings of my skin as the body rewarms naturally once I am dry. I know that will linger all day.
 
I hadn't expected the cold on my head, but it reminds me of the 'Reflections' post on SwimBikeRoss that I read last night, and how you can make significant gains without really realising how quickly you have advanced. That's how my body always used to feel, cold and numb, now I will get the chance to go through this again on a microscale with a bare head.

Regular exposure to cold lakes has clearly helped me out of the starting blocks of the challenge, but also reminded me how difficult a thing it is..... I am hopeful that as much as the years of weekly seasonal exposure have got me to this point the daily does will again raise the bar. How quickly will my accomplice close the gap? I don't doubt that will happen.
 
 


I get home to find we have another recruit in our friend Ron. A great athlete I have swum both the length of Coniston and the Corryvwreckan Whirlpool with. I'm sure he will post up his experience in the comments box below.
 
Tomorrow we have a 10k run that will doubtless see a return to business as normal, and Ross wiping the floor with own times. For now I can take solace in the knowledge that, following tomorrows race at least, I will suffer less showering after.