Category Archives: Open Water Swimming

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

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

Beginning to Tri – So i’m now a Triathlete

So i can now honestly say i’m a triathlete, well maybe only a open water sprint distance one but with 2 sprint tri’s under my belt i can still be classed as a novice but i did it.  So what have i learnt?

  • It’s a great event to get involved in! i have loved trying something new, even coming form injury and having poor fitness a sprint tri is achievable and still good fun.
  • You don’t need to buy the gear – lots of people doing sprints buy loads of expensive kit but you wont look out of place on a mountain bike and a surf wetsuit if you want to see how you go.
  • You wont be the only newbie! Both events had lots of new to tri racers.
  • It will help you stay Injury Free! Having to mix your training up across 3 events has stopped me over training and get back to fitness!
  • Each race is different, you cannot compare BUT you will want to do more!

So now my first tri season is over, whats next? Do i have a winter of running? I fancy trying some Cyclo Cross and Duathlons too!  I need to build my base back up both in speed and mileage across Swim, Bike and Run.  I have 2 more pounds of weight to lose and i have decided i want to build on this year and try a few Olympic distance races next year.  Speaking to others it sounds like quiet a step up so here is my winter plan!

  1. Regain focus and build a good training base over all areas
  2. Do some of the Wild Night Trail races to help build strength and running stamina
  3. Stay injury free by stretching and working on my core
  4. Build my speed back up both on swim, bike and run!
  5. have a go at a CX and Duathlon if i can find some locally.
  6. Take my nutrition more seriously, especially around recovery and repair

So i guess now it’s here the only thing to do is get going! Starting as i mean to go on! pool session planned for Monday morning.  Oh and also the fun bit……….

What races do i enter next season? More to Follow! 😉

 

Zone 3 Aspire Wetsuit Review

The team at Zone 3 agreed to send me a wetsuit to test for the Triathlon Season so as I have just finished my last race I thought I would post my review! It needs to go back but after using it this summer I really am going to struggle to let it go back!

The team offered to send me the new Aspire model I had seen it had won several awards and had been highly rated by several magazines but as with everything I wanted to wait to see if it was true myself.

When the suit arrived I was impressed by the quality of the box and the fact that you also got a good quality bag.  The team had suggested what size I needed (I suggest you do this or try a few on first) and I have to say it was spot on.  You can see the quality in the suit right from the start.  The neoprene looks and feels very smooth and the lining is of great quality too.  All the joins look very neat and make this look a high quality suit as it is.

The fit was superb.  The 1 piece shoulder felt very comfortable and on first try I knew it would feel unrestrictive in the water.  The body and legs which are thicker to aid buoyancy felt supportive but easy to get on.  The zip was of a great quality and I was able to do it up by myself, this shows a well-made suit in my eyes.

As this was a test suit I was unable to trim it.  Being 5ft 6inches I normally take a few inches off the legs and arms to make transition easier.  The arm and leg cuffs are well designed and I felt this would have been easy and not compromised the suit.

So the proof was in the testing.  I have used this suit on several triathlon races over the summer as well as some open water training, sea swims and a mile sea swim race.

I used this suit first on the first Open water club swim at Budleigh Beach, Devon.  It was a cold, windy day and the sea did not look that inviting.  I noticed not only that it was a warm suit but you really can feel the extra buoyancy in the body and legs and I was able to keep good posture throughout the training swim.

As expected the 1 piece shoulders really allowed free movement in the arms and I didn’t feel restricted at all.  I forgot to put anything on my neck and was worried how sore it would be but I was pleased it was chafe free.  I have noticed on training swims since that as it helps me keep my shape in the water it also makes me faster and less tiring.

The real test for the suit would be both a mile swim race and a triathlon transition.  The suit performed so well on the mile race, as with the training swims I felt buoyant and kept a good position in the water as I swam around Burgh Island.  I never felt cold and the buoyancy helped with sighting in the waves too.

zone-3-suit-and-biI was a little worried about transitions as I had been unable to trim it down but I didn’t need to.  The pro speed cuffs really help with getting on and off quickly.  I never felt stuck in races to get it off.  Getting the suit off was quick and simple.  The stretch in the cuffs allow it to come off quickly even over a clenched fist with my goggles and swim cap in!  The shoulders are so flexible it is easy to remove.

So after using this for a season it still looks like new.  If you follow the care advice and dry it and then fold and store flat I can see this suit lasting for many seasons.  I haven’t used gloves to put it on and have never had an issue of put any nail marks in it.

I will really be sad to send this suit back.  So much I have been looking to buy one for next season.  If you are in the market for a good quality suit that will not only look good but help you swim smoother and faster, then I would really consider the Zone 3 Aspire.

 

 

Cotswold Sprint Triathlon Review

I entered this sprint Tri for 2 reasons, it was very close to my parents (free accommodation) and i spent many a great day swimming in the lake so really wanted to race there.

Pre-race information was good and the pack given out at the sign in the day before had further information to put even the most unorganised or newbie at ease.  Signage to the event car parks was good and easy to follow.

Race day parking was well marshalled and organised and quickly i was in, parked and starting to get my kit ready.  I was able to find my racking point the day before and go through exits and entries in a calmer and less stressed surroundings.

My initial observation was that the transition area felt very small.  With racking for 500 the gangways between the racking was very tight.  With this in mind i kept kit to a minimum and on a small towel.  More on this later.

The 750m swim was across the lake from the near bank before taking a left turn and then a further left to return to the original bank but nearer the transition point.  The lake was clear and fairly warm.  This was my first lake race this year and it was a nice change from salty, choppy water.

Race briefing was clear and done to each group as we entered the water.  The waves were of about 50 people but as we cuold spread along the bank the start was not as frantic as i have had in previous races.  The depth of the lake was undulating and i never encountered problems but i did hear of some that ‘drifted’ of he route getting grounded.

Swim exit was via a rubber mat covered ramp.  The ramp just touched the water.  I didn’t realise this and on exit went to put my foot down and there was nothing there!  To exit i had to get my fingers into the matting and crawl out.

The route from the swim to transition was not too long (I was near the run/swim end, furthest from the bike exit/entry)  Quick change, making sure to tuck my kit under the racking and i headed off for the bike leg.  My earlier concerns about the size of transition soon proved correct.  I got stuck behind a athlete who was getting his kit on then walking out of transition.  I also found myself walking over/running my bike over others wetsuits as they had not tucked them away.

Once out on the bike course it was well marshalled and easy to follow as like the swim course it was basically a large rectangle.  The roads were fairly flat with only one major junction to cross which was manned by the local police.  There was a technical section involving a few left and right turns in quick succession but once again this was well marshalled.

As a Non drafting race, the straight flat roads made this much easier to comply.  The trickiest part of the cycle was the dismount and transition.  The dismount line was on the road with a sharp left turn off the road into the transition.  This was a little hairy as some left it a little too late to stop!

Transition was once again cramped, i got stuck behind a cyclist walking in and then by a group of relay runners stood in the way waiting for their team mates.

So i headed out on the run, i was looking forward to this as it was a trail run around the lake.  I was worried that i had brought the wrong shoes as it had rained the night before and i had brought my road trainers.  It was a little greasy at times and i may have been a little quicker but it wasn’t a major issue!

The 2 laps of the lake was a refreshing change from road or path based runs and was very picturesque.  After the second lap you had to double back on yourself to run up the finish funnel.  I heard some had fallen as the corner was wet from the nights rain.  I just slowed, turned and began again and had no issues.

I crossed the line, got my medal and headed to get my timing sheet.  Not only had i done a fast run i was happy with my swim too!  Packing up and getting going was simple.  The carpark was easy to get out of and not that hectic.

Would i do it again? Yes, when does the entries open? i have a time to beat!

Pros:

  • Well organised
  • Clear, warm lake swim
  • Easy to navigate
  • Good Marshalling

Cons:

  • Transition was too small
  • Pontoon water Exit would have been better than short ramp