Tag Archives: Racing

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

Bideford Triathlon

The Bideford Tri is a Local club and Rotary Club run event where all profit goes to charity.  It’s a great sprint tri that is very friendly but still challenging.  Facilities are good with a large long stay car park and toilets within 100m of the finish line.  Race start time depends on tide times so can vary.

The Swim is a straight 600m river swim with the tide from downstream back to transition, The water is not very clear and the tidal race can catch you out on the swim out to the first bouy from the shore.

Transition was easy to navigate and there was lots of support.The bike leg is well marshalled and easy to follow (i never did a pre drive and had no issues) Be warned though this is by no means a flat course! The 24km bike course weaves it’s way around the little villages around Bideford and has 1 enforced foot down junction,  But with tough uphills there are some super fast downhills too.  There is a good flat/downhillish last 500m to spin the legs out before transition too.Bid Profile

The run was perfect after the hills, The route takes you over the old bridge and out and back on the flat Tarka trail.  Thre was a well place water station at the turn point too.  The run was well supported in the final stages across the bridge and into the finish funnel.

This is a small race (Max 250) with a real friendly feel.  This would be perfect fr both newbie triathletes to try there first Open Water race as well as the die hard racers to test yourself with a hilly bike course.

As with the title, this race would be a great race to do whilst down in sunny Devon on your hols due to being in August.

The organsers were super helpful and friendly and it had a great atmosphere!

Hope to see you all next year!

Burgh Island Swim Report

So in my quest to become a triathlete i found out that Ashfords Law were organising a charity swim around Burgh Island.  Now i had a vague idea where it was but i had never been there.  Burgh Island is a small island off the south Devon coast just outside Bantham near Kingsbridge, south Devon.

The Swim seemed a great solution to a few of my fears.

  1. Can i swim a mile in Open Water?
  2. How long will it take me?
  3. How will it feel racing in Open Water with other people?
  4. Ho will my Zone 3 Aspire suit fare in a longer swim?

I have my first Sprint Triathlon on the 7th August so i was really keen to try swimming n a group in open water.  Finally the opportunity to raise money for 3 great charities, Parkinsons, Exeter City Football in the Community and The Surf Lifesaving Society.  Another great reason to do it was to swim in what looks like a great venue, so it  was hard to turn down so i signed up 2 weeks ago.

Preparation was not as i wanted as with my last blog and my chest cold was still hanging on so i was still not feeling 100%.  To add to this i had rushed about all day as it was the first day of the school holidays.  Finally i got the kit in the van and headed off for the hour journey to the swim.

As you come over the headland and start to be able to see Burgh Island i realised how great this swim was going to be.  Conditions were great, a few clouds but very little wind and the sea was lovely and calm.

Zone 3 suit and BI

I had heard that Ashfords Law firm put on good events and this was no different.  Huge car park, friendly staff and organised.  Within minutes i had my swim cap and race pack and was heading back to the van to get kitted up.   Cassie Patten Bejing 10km Bronze Medalist was also there and gave us all some advice and was joining us for the swim.  So with my Zone3 Aspire suit on i made my way down to the beach to get wet and ready for the swim.

As this was a more social event than a race the organisers set the more leisurely swimmers off first and then 5 minutes later the rest of us headed off.  I noticed 2 things right from the start of the swim. 1. How clear the sea was. 2. How flexible the Aspire suit is.   I was quite worried about sighting and swimming into the setting sun made this even harder and i ended up getting a little too close to the island which made the swim a little longer and harder.

The swim felt tough but as i got further into the swim the buoyancy in the legs and body of the Aspire really helped.  It’s flexibility is amazing and you hardly notice you are wearing it as you swim.  I got better at sighting and controlling my breathing.  This was a great way of learning how to swim in race conditions in Open Water.

We were heading around the island in an anti-clockwise direction to get a bit of a push from the tide on the back leg.  As you headed around the back of the island the viability was still great and sighting was easier now the sun was behind me.  I suddenly realised i had a swimmer beside me so i tried to stick on their feet but they were quicker than me but i kept with them as we rounded the island and started the home leg back to the beach.

So i started my final push to the beach, i was completely unaware of how i had done, how long it had taken but as i reached the shallows i was happy to stop my Garmin 755XT (Review to follow soon) and lay back in the sea, happy that i had done it.

Swim detail BI

A few moments later i heard a shout telling me to get moving as the finish was up the beach! so i got off my backside and jogged up the beach to the finish line.  The atmosphere at the finish was great, i was given some water before clapping in the remaining swimmers.  i had done the swim in about 38 minutes, i was a little disappointed but i’m happy to write this off due illness and lack of experience.

Heading back to the car park i threw my Zone 3 Parka on and went to enjoy a beer and a Pasty that was laid on for the swimmers by Ashfords.  I have o say the organisation and atmosphere was great.  The swim was fantastic and you even got a great goodie bag and pasty at the end.

Will i be doing it again? Of course not only was it a great swim i need to beat that time!

Zone 3 Cloak BI

 

 

When do you write the season off?

So i’m sat here on the sofa 2 days before my first Open Water race thinking my season is over before it has begun!  After a rubbish start to the year after injuring my back at Bath Half training never really started and I haven’t really started beck to running!  Training was slow to begin with but my swimming and Bike sessions got longer and i grew faster, fitter and stronger.

Then it happened!  OK i’m a teacher and i know the reality of that and what happens but i never expected to get wiped out with a summer cold 2 weeks before the end of term and just before my first Open Water swimming race and also my first Triathlon.

People joke about teachers and their long holidays but between training and a majorly hectic work schedule we get to the end of term literally on our knees, which in turn wipes your immune system and you get ill.  Visiting the many schools i do as a Primary PE Specialists i was prone to more germs than most but i have never been wiped out like this.

So first it was a sore throat but i carried on with my training, treating it with the usual Paracetamol and Ibuprofen but rather than getting better it has gone to my chest.  Continual tiredness a hacking cough and a tight chest has stopped all training for the past 2 1/2 weeks.

I sit here with 1 day of term left feeling slightly better.  I tested my lungs out last night with a 1 km pool swim and came out OK.  So to swim or not to swim in 2 days time?  The 1 mile swim i am doing is around Burgh Island, Devon for charity, I may not race it but it wont hurt to do it?  Right?

So training for this first year of Tri is not going well, with my first Sprint Triathlon on the 7th August at a local race in North Devon.  I’m definitely not going to be at my prime but i don’t want to write the season off just yet, however going into a new venture no where near prepared as i want to be does fill me with fear.

But i’m not quite ready to throw the towel in just yet, i guess i need to except i’m not at my best but use it as a learning experience ready for a full season next year!

Brighton Marathon 2015 – A trip into the unknown

One slightly drunken camping trip way back in may 2014, spurred on by a period of great half marathon training I entered a pact to enter this years Marathon.  Surely stepping up from half marathons and trail runs could not be that difficult and I had just under a year to get ready!

Entry was done, as well as the ballot for London safe in the mind that there was no chance on getting in on that one!  I sought lots of advice from my running friends around me and also Andy Middlebrook from Exercise Science Consultancy on what was the best way forward.  I knew with my family and work I was not going to be able to follow an off the shelf plan as many others could and with Andy’s advice i settled to a plan of 3 quality sessions a week with 1 being a long run and the others being a mixture of speed, hills and shorter ‘tempo’ runs.

I was happy with this plan and work my way to Xmas with all going well.  The miles went by easily with a few trail and night races thrown in to help with the increased boredom.  I had been told by many that the road to the start line in a marathon is always problematic but I had been eating and drinking right and trying my best to improve.

As I upped the mileage in the cold dark months of January and February it all began to fall apart! Between Flu and knee and ITB injuries February and March came and went and I began to panic that it was not going to happen but with 3 20 milers under my belt I felt that it may not be the best prep. but it was enough to feel a little confidence that I could get to the finish!

The Easter holidays felt very different this year, very little chocolate and attempt to taper and eat clean and as well as trying to do this Carbo Loading thing which as a vegetarian felt normal but far too much!  Pasta, Bread, noodles, baked potatoes were ingested and unlike normal I tried to keep my fluids up as it was going to be warm!

The 2 main reasons for doing Brighton were the fact that you could buy a place and not worry about a ballot but also my running buddies family lived there which reduced the cost.  we set out on this new era (neither of us had done a marathon before) very early on the Saturday morning to make the trip over to the Expo.

I have never experienced a running expo, the Brighton Expo was relativley small off to London but there was more than enough to look at and to spend my money on! Luckily I had a UKRunChat Tweetup to organise and prepare for.  We had over 50 UKRunChat runners doing brighton and it was going to be a great opportunity to meetup and finally put faces to twitter names.  After catching up over cake and coffee we all headed our own ways to prep for the morning.

1 thing to remember pre marathons are that everyone and their dog will be trying to find pasta the night before the race so unless you have booked it’s going to be a struggle! Luckily we were able to get in somewhere and our prep was complete.

Like all my other races I slept for a couple of hours before my mind started to panic about the race ahead.  Before I knew it the alarm went off, I’d had breakfast, I put on my kit and was heading out the door to the start line.

I had raced the Great North Run back in September so I was used to the large crowds milling about at the start line and the huge cue’s for the toilets.  The atmosphere was good and the organisation was slick.  Bag drop was easy and getting into your pen was simple enough.  I stood in my pen going over my mantra “go steady, see how you feel, don’t go off too fast!” when the time had come and the masses started to move forward!

I past the start line and began my first marathon.  The race began with a loop of the park before joining the road where the Elite had started.  Like most of my races I had got my hydration wrong and even with several visits to the loo before the gun i still had to join several other men in a hedge within the first kilometre!

The crowds were out and for the first half of the race you run through the city before heading out to the east to a small village before coming back on yourself.  It was at this point 2 things happened.

1 I realised how fast the elite move at! watching them on the other side of the road heading back to the city centre they looked fresh and very quick!  Their pace was blistering!

2 Mothers never listen! I was wearing my Aftershokz Blues to help with the harder parts of the course and suddenly they started ringing……… ‘Hello?’ “hi son, just checking you got my good luck text?” ‘yes mum but I have begun the race’ “oh ok, while I have you on the phone……………” Bless she stayed on for a further 5 minutes to the amusement of those around me!

After my mum had finally hung up i hit the part of the course that I would later realise was the undoing of my good work! From about mile 15 we hit London Road, the road was long and straight and you could see the runners coming back the other way.  The road seemed to go on for ages before the turn around.  The temperature was getting hotter and my sub 4 pace was slipping and my body was not willing to speed up.  I had kept to the plan.  Taking on gels every 5km and I took on water at every station as it was hot!

After you leave the straightness of London road you headed out again towards the Power station on the only part that had very few crowds.  The concrete walls and tarmac road was not overly inspiring but at least there was a Saucony cheer point.  We had set messages up for each other at the expo and seeing the cheer was just what I needed as i had reached 23 miles and was uncharted territory!

The final stages were along the beach front.  I felt disconnected from the loud crowds cheering me on.  My body had gone into auto pilot to get to the finish.  Although being disconnected I believe that the crowds were the extra bit I needed to help finish, I could see the pier so I knew I was close, my legs began to cramp but I was determined not to walk in the final miles.  I hit the pier only to realise i had more to run, luckily it was not far and it was down hill!

The line got closer and closer and the crowds louder and louder.  Even in my daze i picked out some friends in the crowd but my focus was just in finishing!  I crossed the line and blubbed like a baby.  The emotions from 26.2 hard miles washed over me and I hugged the sweaty guy next to me as I was given my medal.

I had done it! I had become a marathoner.  It was the hardest thing I have ever done but was it worth it? OH YES! How long before I signed up to my next one? 4 days! Paris here I come!