Category Archives: Open Water Swimming

AJBell London Triathlon

Being part of the Science in Sports Ambassador team has nothing but perks! As well as getting a steady supply of what i feel is the best training supplements and support i also get from time to time get offered race entries.

When i found out the SiS were the nutritional provider for the London Triathlon weekend and i had been given the chance to enter, how could I say no.  I was told i could choose whatever race i wanted so i spent some time looking through the options and then it appeared!

Up until now my journey into triathlon had stuck safely in sprint distances but it felt a long way to go to do a sprint regardless of how iconic it was!  Also once i began to look through race routes and more event information i realised that due to the venue the sprints were a multiple lap affair around the Excel Centre but the Olympic Distance race on the Sunday saw closed roads to Big Ben and back.  That was it, decision made!  Just the small point of stepping up to a 1500m swim, 40km bike and 10km run!

With a new found focus training started well.  My running mojo hadn’t still fully returned but using the Exeter University Pool gave my swim training a new lease of life and ride outs in good weather with my friend @Itsbeef helped build confidence each week.

Training went well and times came down distances grew and i was beginning to feel ready for a new challenge.  Timing could not have been better.  London Tri fell on the weekend after school had broken up allowing no pressure of returning to work after but a long holiday!  I had offered to help team SiS with promotion and general duties on the Saturday before my race on Sunday.

So a quick jaunt up on the Friday to mums and then a journey around the M25 to the Excel centre.  I had found an airBnB literally a stones throw from the excel.  My host was amazing, not only was there free parking, she was more than happy for my bake to come inside and happy for me to check out after i’d raced and had a shower! Win, Win!!

So a brief walk over the pedestrian foot bridge over to the Excel allowed me to see the swim course.  The water looked a little green but with lots of space it was a 1 lap swim which i was much happier (Don’t like lap races).  I stop and watched the TriStars racing as a wave had just set off and was shocked at the speed!  I’m sure there were a few future world athletes in the dock.

London Tri 2

Walking down the longest corridor in Europe i was fully immersed in all things Tri.  Surrounded by expensive bikes, athletes of all shapes and sizes and lots of lycra!  It wasn’t until i turned the corner into the main hall the sheer size of the event hit home!  With part of the run lap inside the hall adding to the atmosphere as well as the finish there was a great buzz in the hall.   Moving through the few outlets selling everything you may need, want or had forgotten trying not to dribble too much over the bikes around me i was in search of Seb and the rest of the SiS Team.

SiS were giving out gels on the course, Whey20’s at the finish but also had a small stand giving away gels to the competitors as they entered transition!  Now transition was nothing like i had ever seen in a race!  Transition must have spanned the size of 2 possibly 3 football pitch’s.  Space for everyone racing in the waves of the day to rack and get ready.  The officials were being their usual organised and officious selves which made entry and exit from transition smooth and fairly quick through the checks.

It was great to be there on the Saturday and get a feel for the event.  This is by far the biggest Triathlon possibly event I’ve done.  Watching those who have done many Tri’s as well as those first timers milling about as well as giving advice on race nutrition was great to take my mind off my race and my worries of the unknown!

It still does surprise me how many people turn up to an event and decide to use the supplied nutrition without ever trying it before or even worse  never having used fuelling in races!  Mine is always a well advised and practised routine!  At least i know i can rely on SiS to be good for most regardless if they have used it before!

So as the last wave set off for the day i met up with Katerina, fellow organiser of @UKTrichat and Owner or @RaceCheck for some tea and a catch up.  This was great for my nerves as it took my mind off things as well as a brief catch up with @myblondereality

After seeing Katerina back to the tube i headed back to my AirBnB.  It was empty and quiet so a quick brew and a chance to prep things for the early start before a good night sleep……………………………….. Sadly the neighbours had other ideas.  As a 30th birthday party got into full swing i saw every hour pass until it died down around 3am! my alarm was set for 6!

So even with little sleep like most i woke before the alarm, sprung out of bed to begin my pre race ritual.  Porridge, SiS Go Hydro and the constant checking of kit.  I was lucky to be testing some new kit out for this race too.  i had the new Aqua Sphere Kayenne Goggles, Garmin Forerunner 935 on my arm, a Fab new Pearl Izumi Sleeved Tri Suit and of course the amazing Ridley Fenix SL.  So with kit on Charlie Mcleod sports cloak on to keep me warm i headed over the bridge to rack my kit.

I had registered and picked up m chip the day before so it was very smooth.  The hall was quieter than the day before due to the time.  The races had not begun so it was a mood of preparation and nerves.  I did the helmet checks and then headed into transition.  Now even though it was quiet i managed to miss read the signs and racked my bike in the area for the wave before mine.  I choose not to move it as i’d set my kit up!

London Tri 3

Kit laid out, checked, checked again and AGAIN i walk the transitions from swim to bike, bike to run.  The reason i didn’t want to move was partly because i had a good spot in the long transitions which was easy to spot.

So with wetsuit half on, goggles in hand i headed out of transition to wait for my wave start.  I met up wit a few other people racing with SiS and we chatted through our expectations and experiences.  Going into the unknown i had a hope to get under 3hrs but was unsure about what to expect so finishing was the focus!

As we entered the holding pen we were handed our swim caps.  The wave was split into 2 due to the numbers, we would enter the water just after the first group but it still was a busy pen!  The compare went through the safety briefing and got us ready before i downed my SiS Caffeine shot and headed down the stairs to dockside.  Goggles on, Cap over the top i jumped into the water and decided to swim over to the inner side of the course.

The course was a large rectangle and we would travel around it in a clockwise direction.  The inner rope was further from the pontoon which made it quieter.  This decision paid off as throughout the swim i was never run over and although catching the other half of the wave in front of me it was fairly smooth.  Far from my fears of how it could have gone.

So final turn taken and i headed for the pontoon, a quick scrabble out a push of the button on my 935 and i was heading up the dockside to transition.  We had to remove our wetsuit and put it in a bag before heading UP the stairs to the main hall before running about 300m to our racks.  My decision to not moved my bike was good as the bikes around me had gone making it easier to get sorted.

Helmet on, number on, bike unracked and i was off to the mount line.  As i crossed the line i jumped on my bike glided down the ramp while fiddling with my shoes and i was off!! This was the bit i was most looking forward too!  We headed out over a few flyovers before heading through a few tunnels before we settled onto the road running into Westminster.  I was feeling good, it felt fast but i didn’t want to look at my watch so jut kept plugging on.

It was hard at times to keep up the cadence and speed as i forgot i was racing and was enjoying the view.  Tower of London passed, London Eye and then i began to make out the turn point at Big Ben.  There were good numbers out on the course cheering you on making it even better!  I made the turn point and headed back to the excel.  The est of the ride seemed to go fairly quickly.  With focusing on taking on Fluid and trying to pick off riders i was soon at the turn around point for the smaller lap.  Taking on my gel ready for the run i have about 3 km left of the bike.

Transition for the bike was easy.  Dismount and then racking was about 200m away.  I had a bit of a fight with my trainer and then my race check visor went on and i was off.  I was trying to do the maths in my head of the times but couldn’t work it out so just decided to go as fast as i could and see what had happened at the end.

The run course was 3 loops along the dockside and then inside the Excel and out again.  The run course was fairly busy and felt like the start of a half marathon at times and i spend a fair bit of lap 1 weaving in and out.  On each lap you had a little horrible ramp up of about 30m to head into the excel and then we snaked about inside being cheered on by the crowds before heading out again.  It was a warm day and i found the air hard to take in when doing the inside part and was happy to get back outside!

Lap 1 went, lap 2 went and i saw the time.  My wave had started at 8:35 ish and it was 10:40 something i was going to be well inside 3hrs!  Maybe even close to 2:30!! It spurred me on for the last lap.  My legs were tired, i was hot, the course seemed to get busier but i plugged on! Turn point tick, metal path, tick, Spectator gantry, tick and oh the ramp!! I made it back inside for the lat time.  Crowds had got busier as the race had gone on and the atmosphere inside was great i turned the last corner and followed the ‘Finish’ signs and ran up the last straight trying to up the pace (I’m sure it hadn’t in real life!) i heard the commentator call my name as i got to the final 20m.  I crossed the line and stopped my 935.  I had completed my first ever Olympic distance Triathlon!!

Now what was my time????? I was given my medal, a bottle of water and i headed off to look at the screens to see my time!

London Tri 5

2:34:42!! i was chuffed! not only sub 3 but nearly Sub 2:30!! I was pleased wit a sub 50 10km to finish but know that i can work on my time on the bike and swim to find the extra speed i need to shave 4 mins 42 and of course sort my Transitions out!  I had done it! i staggered through to the recovery zone.  Grabbed a few Whey20’s and headed back to get my kit!

London Tri 4

I was so happy to finish in 1 piece as well as finish with the time i got.  My legs felt sore but i already began to unpick the race and look at where i could have found 4 minutes.  After downing a quick Rego at the SiS stand i headed back in to grab my kit from transition.  It still hadn’t sunk in but i had stepped up to Olympic after only 2 sprint races.

So would i do London again…….. Yes the atmosphere was great, the Westminster course was amazing and even though the water looked green, visibility wasn’t great, it didn’t taste too bad!  I’m not sure if i would have done the lap races but the iconic Westminster route is a must for triathletes.

So after getting my kit together i hung around to watch the elites make it look far easier than i did before heading back for a shower, pack the car and begin the journey back t sunny Devon.

The Journey home is long enough to get you thinking…….. What next?  Do i go 70.3? Do i try for London Marathon again?  what is my next challenge?  Luckily i haven’t answered that question yet but i have a few ideas so watch this space!!

Happy racing! 😉

 

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Aqua Sphere Kayenne – Polarised Review

I was given a pair of the new Aqua Sphere Kayenne Polarised goggles from the team at Aqua SphereUK to test towards the end of the season with London Triathlon being a great opportunity to try them in anger.

The new goggles come in at a RRP of £31.99 and have many new features.  They have the new curved lenses for better view as well as a more comfortable no pinch Latex free seal and easy fit side buckles.

I do love the fact that the Aqua Sphere goggles come in a hard case as it means they can live in my swim bag without fear of them being bent or creased when other things are stuffed in.  They look smart and sleek and i love the black frames with a little colour splash (mine are yellow)

Initial fit felt good, i did notice the vision was very good and the lens kept everything crisp and clear even with the polarised lenses.  I was keen to get these into open water to see how they perform in the sun and glare.  Luckily my training over the summer is done in Exeter Universities Outdoor pool so i had lots of opportunity to try this in a pool as well as Lake, sea and river.

The polarised lens do a great job in the sun and reduce glare and allow you to retain good vision.  The reduction in glare came into it’s own both on London Tri race day but also on training swims in the sea on sunny days,  It really makes sighting much easier.  I found the goggles were really good for not fogging up even on max effort sessions.

Although they are polarised i have had to use these at times in the indoor pool and found that they vision was still good making these a good option for a 1 goggle fits all for the Triathlete.

Goggle fit relies allot on your face shape but i found these goggles fitted really well and didn’t need to be super tight to stay leak free.  They were really comfy on my nose and i found them really easy to adjust.  They feel secure and don’y move, even with dive entry.

I chose to use these goggles for my London Triathlon.  Even with losing my cap on the swim i found these stayed securely on my head (i wear my cap over the top) and i had no issue with fogging on the 1500m dockland swim.  As mentioned before with no glare issues it made sighting easy and quicker too.

So as the season comes to an end and the sunshine starts to disappear these are still the goggles i go for on my training swims.  They have lasted well, still looking brand new.  I feel these will last well even when being used in chlorinated pools and salt water due to their build quality and materials.

What would i change??? Maybe some different colour choices but apart from that, Nothing!!

Pool Swim

Happy training

 

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! 😉