Author Archives: It's only a medal

About It's only a medal

I'm a Primary Physical Education specialist with a passion for running and anything outdoors. I live in the South West of Great Britain and make the most of the local area for my training. I'm a keen runner, newbie triathlete and a Science in Sports and Pearl Izumi Ambassador

Aquasphere MP Tucson Jammers Review

I was given a pair of the Micheal Phelps Tucson Jammers to try out by AquasphereUk and i have had a few months now to give them a blast.  I have tried them both in the pool and the sea on their own but i have also tried them under my wetsuit. Price £31

When i first received them i was a little unsure about the print, not for the style as i like the design but the placing of it!  Talking to my wife she thought it may be like a big arrow pointing to parts that don’t need highlighting in Jammers!  Luckily this is not the case when you put them on! (Sorry not happy sharing those pics)

Now you could say Jammers are just Jammers but i have an odd shape body (Exe Rugby Player) i don’t always find the fit that great but i found these tight but not too tight and i found they keep their shape and are not baggy at the knees.  The top cut is good and the tie stays tied and tight too!  The Material it of a good quality and there is no risk of loosing your modesty due to it’s thickness but it is also lined with an inner so this is definitely not an issue.

They have been designed to be used for training with high chlorine resistance as well as being sun protective (Not that we have to worry too much in the UK!) and sun cream resistant.  I did fully agree with the fact they were quick drying too!

Now they don’t claim to make you swim faster, improve your turns or anything else that would be ridiculous but with a great fit and design they will help you focus on your training rather than adjusting your suit.

They have washed well (i just throw them in the machine with my towel and other kit!) and as they dry so quickly they can be used very regularly.  Now the colour way may look a little busy and this may put you off at first (Like me) but i have to say when it’s on it’s great.  Why can’t we have a little colour in our training kit?

If you are looking for some new jammers for you summer training then definitely consider these shorts.  They have a great fit, look good and will last the test of time!

Happy Swimming

An Idiots Guide to Race Fuelling (By a running idiot!!)

Now getting everything right for a race is tough.  For runs it’s about getting your kit sorted, packing bags getting the obligatory kit photo before the race onto Twitter.  For Triathlon it’s all about trying to fit all the kit you think you need for the race into the car and then double checking you have the essentials!

The one thing I have never been very good at until I started to work with Science in Sport  asa brand ambassador was my Pre, During and Post Race Hydration and Fuelling. (This is obvious with my Blog on Hyponatremia) Luckily now that I’m a SiS Ambassador I have access to their team of nutritionists and Scientists.  This blog will refer to SiS products and will include a cheeky discount code at the end.  If you don’t like SiS then I’m sure it can be replaced by other brands but beware of things like osmosis! (More later)

So here is what I have gleamed from Ted Munson and the rest of the team…….

Pre racing –

To Carbo Load or not

Carbo loading was massive years ago but with current fuelling techniques and science, cramming pasta the night before a Marathon may not have such an effect as you hope.  Carbo loading needs to be done over time, one meal won’t make you a super hero.

Pre Hydrate

Losing just 3% of your fluid can make a huge performance dip.  With this in mind you need to pre hydrate.  Sports drinks are good but are full of sugar and water will not be absorbed by the body and just pass through.  I find the Go Hydro range is great for this.  With salts and virtually 0 calories it will keep your fluid and salt levels topped up ready for the start line.

Go Hydro

During the Race

If it is a short race (Less than an hour) you may not need fuel but caffeine could have an effect on you performance in a positive way.  I’ll talk about caffeine later.

Longer running Races – I as along with others used to fuel up too late.  We cannot absorb enough carbohydrate per hour to our usage so we will be in debt and this will cause issues later in the race.  With this in mind the guys at SiS say start fuelling early.  Don’t go on mileage but time.  If you like gels (My favourite is the Orange flavour) suggestion is 1 every 20 mins with 22grams of carbohydrate per gel the recommendation is between 60g to 90g per hour depending on your size.  I personally swap in a caffeine gel after an hour too and the 1 every further hour.

If you are a heavy sweater…. I am I look like a race horse after 10 miles! You need to think about salt replacement too! I love the Electrolyte Gels and they are perfect for this too!

Longer Cycling Races – People like to mix it up on the bike… Solid food, liquid and gels.  I love this approach but tend to lean towards liquids rather than solids.  On the bike I mix Gels and Go Energy Bars (25g of Carbs and low in fats) but also rely on Go Electrolyte Drinks too.  Lots of people don’t realise that as well as fluid and salts these drinks have 36g of carbs per 500ml this makes them ideal for simple fuelling on the bike.

SiS Energy

Post Race

My old idea of a glass of water or beer (depending on how bad the race went) the banana given to me at the end and a coffee if I could get one has topped.

I have found the delights of SiS Rego a protein shake that has all you need to refuel, replenish and repair after a race.  It has a mix of Carbs, Salts and Protein and when mixed with water it contains the fluid needed too.  Since using it on a regular basis I have noticed I don’t get DOMs as much after sessions and races.

If a shake is not possible (I always have a few in sachet form if away from home) the new Whey 20 protein gels are a good stop gap with some Go Hydro.  With 20g of Protein, some BCAs to help absorption and low calories it’s a great way of boosting your protein intake too!

If you have a heavy race/training schedule I would strongly suggest using the Overnight Protein too.  With a mix of Casein and Whey you get slow release throughout the night helping muscles to repair and prepare for the next day!

SiS Rego

Caffeine!

A lot has been written about the use of caffeine to help in sport.  Some love it and some don’t.  The theory is that it lowers your perception of effort.  This means you can work harder.

It’s defiantly something that’s worth playing with.  For long races, using a caffeine Gel 1 hour into an event can help, or 15mins before that killer hill!  If it is a short race with no need for extra energy  the new Caffeine Shots are great or the Go Hydro Caffeine are perfect as they can be taken pre-race.  Word of warning don’t leave trying caffeine to race day!

SiS Caffiene

Words of Wisdom (Not from Me!)

I had always been an athlete that saved my nutrition for best! However if you only use gels and other nutritional aids in races you will find you cannot push as hard as you could and not get the gains you want.  Train Smart = Fuel Smart this means up your carbohydrates and protein intake on training days.  To stay injury free and push yourself your body needs the fuel and protein, So Fuel to Train and Fuel to race!

Now as an ambassador I have a 10% discount code that I can share with people.  This will give you a further 10% off your basket regardless of any deals you have used on the SiS website.  This code can be used over and over again so feel free to use it!

AMBD1G0MUN                       #FulledByScience

On Running Cloudflow Review

The team at On Running Sent me a pair of the new Cloudflows to test this year and put through their paces.  After trying the Cloud Surfers last year I was looking forward to getting my feet in them and doing some miles in them too.

Like the Cloud Surfers they are super light and have similar ‘clouds’ to give you your cushioning.  The colourways are amazing as always with On Running and look like super smart.  I was sent the Blue shoes which look very smart with the flo yellow tongue and heal.

As soon as you pick up a pair of the cloudflows you are very aware of how light and flexible they are.  My last pair became my go to shoe as they felt like slippers. They will not suit all as they have a heel to toe drop of 6mm so have a more race shoe profile.

So straight from the box I used them on a hard track session in deepest winter.  On the 2km run to the track they did feel a little slippy on the tarmac paths but I found this with my last pair.  I was confident and can now say that with a bit of wearing they do bet better.  It is like you need to remove the top layer for them to grip better.

The only issue I had on the first session was the squeak! The dreaded curse of on shoes are that due to the ‘clouds’ you get ‘feedback’ on every step in the wet!  It’s quiet funny and became a talking point with fellow runners saying it was keeping them ‘honest’ as they could hear me approaching!

This only happens in wet conditions and I don’ mind it as a trade-off for a good shoe.  Comfort levels are as expected.  They are comfy with a good size toe box.  No internal stitching means that they would suit Triathletes bar there is not a heal tab as found with the Cloud Surfers.

As well as comfort they feel quick! They have a new design which is meant to help with a natural roll from heal to fore foot.  I’m a forefoot runner so I cannot comment on this but I can say they are super flexible and respond well.

The only downside I have found to this shoe is you can occasionally get stones stuck between the 2 rows of clouds.  There are 2 rows of cloud in the mid part of the shoe and heel, 1 running down either side of the shoe.  There is a 1cm gap between each one down the centre of the shoe.  This sometimes picks up stones on deep gravel but is easy to remove but if you do a lot of gravel running this may not be the shoe for you.

Cloudflows

I currently have done about 80 miles in these shoes and they are still looking smart but do show more wear than expected, I feel the rubber on the sole maybe a little too soft.  I have used these shoes for both short, speed work as well as longer runs and found they suit both.

If you want a low profile, light smart looking training I would strongly recommend you try these out.  They may feel a little odd to start but I’m sure you will like them! Especially when they talk to you in wet conditions!

Garmin 630 Running Watch Review

As an avid Garmin owner (VivosmartHR, Forerunner 610, Vivoactive) I was very keen to get my hands on the Garmin Forerunner 630.  I have had the watch on test now for 3 months and will be going back to Garmin UK in the next month.

The 630 has a noticeable absence of the new wrist hear rate sensor but the model I receive did come with the new updated heart rate ‘run’ strap.  As the top of the forerunner range I guess most people will be using this as a pure running watch.  I have to say that its size and sleekness does allow it to be a daily watch also.

It boasts the same features as many of the other watch’s in the range with smart notifications, step count, control over your media player with the added bonus of a light/sleek big screened watch.

From getting it out of the box it could not be simpler.  If you have a Garmin connect app and account it will sync via Bluetooth with your phone and will set up immediately with no need to plug into a computer.

Garmin FR 630

It will sync with your phone when in rage automatically which is great if you are wearing it as a day to day watch but even better when by the time you have taken on fluid and stretched at the end of a run, it has already uploaded you data to the connect app and any 3rd party fitness tracking software you use! (I use Strava).

Where the 630 sets itself apart from other brands and models are the features and functionality of the device.  I have only scratched the surface of what it can do and tell you but the data you receive after a run will fulfil any statto runner out there.  (When used with the heart band)

The GPS receiver upgrade is very noticeable; no longer do you need to do the Satellite shuffle at your start point! You navigate to the activities screen, tap the touch screen to run and within a nano second you’re ready to go.  It remembers satellite positions too so if you run from a regular point it is super quick.

The mix of buttons and touch screen is great.  It means you’re able to navigate screens simply but also able to lock the screen to stop accidental stoppage.  The colour screen in bright and easy to read and you can customise what you want to see via the connect app.  I also love the new IQ feature where you can download from Garmin extra apps/widgets or even clock faces.

It has a good accelerometer so there is no need for a foot pod when you are forced indoors also.  I have got hooked on the VO2 max estimate, looking for improvements constantly but I feel the recovery advisor is a little out!

As well as the standard features you normally find on a Garmin: pace predictor, auto scroll, auto lap and auto pause.  I love the virtual racer where you can race a route on a previous run as well as a virtual partner to keep you honest on those long runs.  You can also set up bespoke sessions including intervals which I love as it saves me taking 2 watches.

2 Races and a Funeral

It has been a long time since I wrote on my blog, I have missed it but time and life have caused the major lack of activity!

Life has not been great over the past 3 months.  Training was going well pre Christmas, I actually enjoy the cold runs more than the summer (I know I’m weird!) and getting the pool, run and bike time juggle seemed to be working with all the balls in the air including work and family.  But then it happened!

My dad was taken into hospital on the 3rd January with an expected appendicitis.  No real biggy people have them all the time so life continues for us and planning to visit when he was home seemed the best option. A week later dad had to have a second operation and then a further week later on the 20th January he died in intensive care from Sepsis and pneumonia!

I had made the trip up to visit him in hospital after the second op and with a call from mum while I was at work when he had the 3rd my bag was packed and I was on my way to the hospital in Swindon.  Even at that point when mum had said that we needed to come it all seemed a little surreal.  He had been complaining the weekend before about the food, beds and noise and the question of how did it get to here is still one I cannot grasp.

Seeing you dad in ICU wired to every machine possible and being told that he would not make the night was an odd experience.  Trying to process it all, support mum and my sister seemed to take me into auto pilot.  So we sat, talked and stayed with him until at 5am when he died.  Sat in my mum’s kitchen at 7am nothing seemed right, we all felt numb and just spent the day crying and drinking tea shut off from the world.

I had heard that running was some peoples medicine from lots of different sources, I have always used it as a stress buster and great thinking time but it now became my time to think, prepare and step out of what was going on.  In the first 5 days post dad dying I turned to running to get out of the house.  People don’t stop to say they are sorry when you are running, or ask questions.  It was my time where I didn’t need to worry about others, well not for most of the run!

Dad had a dog, poor Bessie didn’t know what hit her! Her daily walks with dad around the town had suddenly changed to 5, 8, 10k runs!  She took it in her stride and I have to say was a perfect running companion, I didn’t need to make small talk, was happy to go whenever and happy to do what I wanted to do.

I found running my solstice with lots to organise and sort for mum.  Running gave me clarity and time to think.  I would like to say it was great training but time, distance and pace became irrelevant.  I ran for as long as I needed at the speed I wanted. No plans, no music, no goals.

So it’s now the End of March.  Dad was buried on the 10th February with snow falling in the Cemetery.   Life is slowly returning to normal.  The visits to see mum have reduced from a weekly to fortnightly, I worked pretty much though it all but it’s now back at full speed!  And as many of the poems I have read lately to find one for the funeral.  Life outside continues.  Life outside does continue and I still feel at times it’s happening around me and to me rather than with me but normality is beginning to return.

Life must be returning to normality, I have begun to look at races, I have even raced one! But I find myself continually thinking and being reminded of things.  I’m sure this will be the same always from now one but this seems to happen more when I’m running.  I think of my friends and wife who live and work in stressful lives and I tell them of my prescription, it costs very little, doesn’t involve waiting lists, drugs or fancy machines just a pair of trainers and some space.

So where do you go on your runs? I’m on about in your mind…… The journey is better than the end in that race but sadly there is no medal or strava segment for the solutions and clarity gained while running but it helps me remove the fog and return clarity in my mind.

I’m not a GP but I have an idea that will help save the NHS millions! #PrescriptionRuns

AquaSphere Kameleon Goggles Review

Price – £9.99 – £10.99

The team at Aqua Sphere have just sent me a new pair of goggles to test as they know I do love their goggles!  As I train in their MP EXCEED on a weekly basis I was a little worried how I may find their latest product as this is aim at the other end of the market.

The Kameleon will be released in January and is their new entry level goggle and will come in Men, ladies as well as a kids’ version and they will be offering choices of lenses and frame colours to please everyone.

Although this is far cheaper than the EXCEED they boast some of the same technology.  The vision is great as they have the same style of curved 180 lenses with UVA/UVB protection of their other models.

The fit was good (Goggles fit however is subject to face shape!) and I have not had any leakage problems.  The soft gasket makes them comfortable to wear and the simple back of the head buckle for adjustment made them easy to fit.  They have a single head strap which may not be to your liking but I found this not to be an issue.

I have used these as part of my normal training, this includes long swims, speed sets as well as lots of other drills that I’m forced to do!  I have not as of yet had issues with fogging as they have an anti-fogging coating on the lenses.

The thing I like about AquaSphere goggles is the fact they come in a box.  My goggles get thrown in my swim bag and left from session to session.  The box is sturdy and protects them from getting damaged and an added extra to what already is a great product.

So if I had the choice between the MP’s or the Kameleons obviously I would choose the MP but they cast nearly 5 times more than the Kameleons.  The fit and design does not put the Kameleons in the same bracket as other ‘budget’ goggles that you can buy at this cost and would be a great option for the occasional swimmer or a spare pair for a keen swimmer.  This would be a great option as a clear/indoor pair if you wanted to get a more expensive mirrored/polarized racing/outdoor pair.

kameleon

Garmin 735xt Review

When I was asked to test the new Garmin Forerunner 735XT for a couple of months I jumped at the chance.  It fell perfectly with the beginning of my journey into triathlon and as I own a VivoActive HR and a forerunner 610 personally neither of these were up to the new challenge completely.

The Garmin team sent me the 735XT Triathlon bundle to test which alongside the watch it came with a Swim and Triathlon heart rate monitor bands.  I had tried using HRM bands in the pool before and found them not to work very well so I was intrigued to see how it faired.  I have to say that the team at Garmin have got the box perfect, it’s sleek and looks desirable and not a huge deal of packaging witch is a great thing too.   With this aside it was the watch I was more interested in!

I like that Garmin’s come with some charge so if you are like me you can put it straight on the moment you get it out the package, it was easy to sync to Garmin Connect and within minutes I had switched to this as my activity tracker too and all my data had been shared with the watch.  I did charge the unit at bed time to make sure I began the next day with a full charge.

My first impressions were how sleek it was.  Looking more like the other round faced forerunners rather than the Fenix I felt this was a great design point as it would be a better size to wear daily and more importantly it had less bulk when it came to removing a wetsuit.  They have removed the touch screen facility which I think is a good idea in a sports watch as I regularity ‘turn off’ 610 when out running.

They seem to have redesigned the strap since the 610 model to a much simpler, more robust strap so this will last much better.  I have used the watch for 3 months everyday wearing 24/7 unless charging it.  I have had no discomfort, irritation or issues.  I’m a little clumsy and heavy handed and the watch still looks like new!

Quickly scrolling through the options the main new features not seen on other Garmin’s I have had to date were VO2 max predictions, Recovery Time feedback, Stride height, length and count as well as many other measurements that i don’t understand!  It also had all the usual feedback fields that you expect from Garmin.  The main plus point for this watch was the Triathlon setting in the activity list.  The list of activities that you can track are endless, with activities like Paddle Boarding and golf to mention 2.  You can download more via the IQ website too.

tri-route-pic

Connecting to GPS is super quick.  I have lost the need to do the connecting to GPS dance when starting a session, the connection happens within seconds which is great off to how it used to be with the old GPS watch’s.  I also notice the speed it took for it to sync with Garmin Connect.  Now I have sent t back and I have returned to using my VivoActive HR I have realised how much quicker it was to sync!  Battery life o the 735XT is good with it needing a charge roughly every 5 days with me wearing it constantly taking writs HRM data and training at least for 4 sessions a week.  The charging clip has been changed once more but is easy to use and secure, gone of the days of it being knocked and not charging!

The Triathlon setting is a great idea and I found to work well.  In a nutshell when it is in Triathlon mode when you hit go it will track an open water swim, when you push the back button it goes into ‘transition mode’ then hit it again it begins cycle tracking, then transition on the next press before moving to run mode on the last.  This was great for my first race as I could see using the Tri HRM strap how much effort I was putting in and get good feedback on each part of the race.  The results were almost spot on with the race timing too!

Now to the HRM Straps!  As mentioned earlier they sent the Tri bundle with 2 straps a blue swim strap and a black tri strap (blue unit on front of the strap).  The watch naturally finds each band without asking it to and downloads data at the end of a session quickly and easily.  I have never had much luck with a swim HRM before as I have a dip in my chest from an ice-hockey injury, bands have previously gapped as I have pushed off the wall.  The swim band is less stretchy with only a small area that stretches and made from a plastic material which grips the skin better when wet.  You need to wear it fairly tight but I found it worked perfectly.  Wearing the band also gives you further information as stroke rate, max stroke rate and stroke length.

The reason they send 2 straps is that the normal Tri strap will work for Swim, Bike and Run but needs to be worn under a wetsuit/Trisuit within a swim.  Stupidly I never tried the band in the pool under a tri suit to see how effective it was as I think ladies may get away with using this one all of the time under a swimming costume.  The days of the standard HRM bands that just reported your heart rate are now dead! The data you can get from these bands is incredible and if you are a serious athlete the information you and you coach can gain will be very helpful.

The inbuilt wrist HRM I have found to be the most accurate to date I have used.  It doesn’t need to be worn super tight and will track well even during activity (Not in swimming).  I feel Garmin are at the forefront of wrist HRM technology and I have never had an issue.

Just a word of warning I asked the team at Garmin if the bands work with other models, they will but you need to double check there compatibility.  It won’t work with the older forerunner watches or the VivoActive HR to my disappointment!

As I got this watch when I was returning from injury I have been doing a lot of indoor sessions I was impressed at how easy it was to sync the watch to record data from doth the Watt Bikes and Stages indoor bikes in my local gym.  You can choose what data is recorded also.  The indoor pool setting was very accurate too and easy to switch between pool lengths as regularly switch between a 20m outdoor and 25m indoor pool.

Now the 735XT is not cheap, but if you are looking for a watch for triathlon that you can use as a daily watch.  I don’t think you can get anything better.  The functionality and data you can get from it will suit everyone from those starting out looking to improve right up to the seasoned athlete doing some Swim Bike and Run.  If the Tri bundle is too expensive in 1 hit you can buy the straps separately, this will end up being more expensive in the long run but it would spread the cost.  I was really gutted to have to end it back to them and ended up having it for 3 months rather than the 1 that had been agreed and still felt gutted when I took it to the post office!  I’m going to have to start saving up to buy one!

garmin-735xt