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Huntly triLast weekend, I competed in the Huntly Triathlon, another event in the MPH-sponsored Aberdeenshire Council Triathlon Series. It’s based at Gordon Schools & Huntly swimming pool, about 45 minutes’ drive from my home.

I’d seeded myself with a slower swim time that at the Turriff race, with the hope of being in a lane with swimmers of a more comparable speed to myself. Luckily, this seemed to by the case and I ended up swimming with someone who was more-or-less the same speed as me – we completed the swim a few seconds apart, although I took a little longed exiting the pool as I moved across a lane-or-two to use the ladder.

Once out into the transition area (there was a run from the back door of the pool to the car park where the transition was setup). I had a fairly quick (for me – still putting on socks) transition, and ran with my bike up to the mount/dismount line.

The first part of the bike runs through the town of Huntly and out onto the country roads. The section through the streets is quite twisty with some sharp corners. I was a little surprised to be passed by another cyclist on one of the sharp, blind corners! However, it was early in the bike leg, so I didn’t bother to chase him down yet. Once out of the town, the bike runs along the A96 main road for a short while before turning onto quieter, more rural roads. The route runs through the surrounding farming countryside, before heading in to the village of Rothiemay. Shortly before the turn-off for the village, I managed to pass the cyclist who’d passed me in the corners in Huntly.

The route to Rothiemay is fairly flat with a few undulations and a final drop into bridge before entering the village itself. Once in Rothiemay, the route turns back towards Huntly, following the River Deveron. From this point, the road climbs gently, before a drop back into Huntly. The course turns back into Huntly, and returns to the pool via a couple of narrow streets with a couple of tight corners to watch out for.

The run heads out from the swimming pool towards Huntly Castle, then follows the edge of the rugby pitches into some industrial units. From there, it rejoins the bike course back to the swimming pool. I managed to run the first 1.5 km a bit too fast, then had to stop for a walk/jog break. After that point, it was a walk/jog back to the finish. I misjudged the barriers on the pavement at the swimming pool and had to run a few extra yards when I realised I couldn’t cross the road to get to the finish line.

Overall, I was happy with my race – certainly, I have a better swim that at Turriff, and felt stronger on the bike. The run still let me down a bit, though.

On Sunday, I took part in the Suie Classic, an 87km ride that’s part of the Great Inverurie Bike Ride (GIBR). The GIBR’s been on the go for a number of years, as a 25 mile ride – I’ve done it a number of times as part of a work team or with friends. Last year they introduced the 54 mile Suie Classic, which adds a loop of 30-odd miles to the 25 mile route. The loop follows the river Don through the Lord’s Throat, then climbs over Suie hill, and returns through Auchleven, then back up the Lord’s Throat to Monymusk and on to Inverurie.

Groups of about 20 riders were started at 5 minute intervals – I started in the second group, and avoided the temptation to fly up the road with the lead riders! I rode with a couple of others for the first few miles and noticed a creak in my bike – for a start I wasn’t sure if it was my bike or one of the others in the group. Anyway, it didn’t sound anything major, so I just carried on – I’d have a similar creak in Lanzarote a year-or-two back and it turned out to be some relatively minor.

I took it fairly easy for the first 20 minutes-or-so, riding with a group of others. Then, as we started the short climb into Chapel of Garioch I rode away from them. Apart from one or two riders I passed on the climb from Chapel of Garioch to Blairdaff, I was pretty much alone until I turned onto the road through the Lord’s Throat. It’s quite scenic along here, following the river Don. There’s a couple of short, sharp climbs here, where I passed another couple of riders, not catching anyone else until I turned onto the Suie Road.

It’s about 10km from the turn off to the summit of Suie, mostly a gradual climb until the last 2km-or-so, where the gradient is between 8-10%. The road curves through the trees at the top, and, since I’d never been across this hill before, I had no idea how much further it was to the top. It was a great relief to see the photographer at the side of the road, as I knew this was the top. There was a drinks station setup in the car park at the top, but I decided to keep going, especially since it had started to rain on the climb.

The descent from Suie was pretty steep – 12% in some parts with a couple of sharp turns. My brakes were squealing a bit and I was at the limit of my stopping power on some parts – a good case for disc brakes! The descent shallows out a bit then descends to Auchleven, when there’s another climb of about 1-1.5km at 7-8% before completing the loop back to the Lord’s Throat road.

Coming back alongside the Don, there were a number of people having picnics and paddling in the river – it was quite tempting to stop and join them, but I knew I’d struggle to get going again. Just before joining the remainder of 25 mile route, I stopped to help another cyclist with a puncture – he’d fitted a new tube, but couldn’t quite get the final part of the tyre bead on. We put a bit more CO2 in the tube and the type popped back onto the rim.

Once back on the 25 mile route, there was a loop round Monymusk – there were a couple of short climb, and the road surface was noticeably worse than the rest of the course. Once back in Monymusk, I stopped to refill my water bottles and was caught by puncture guy, who again thanked me for the help. Cakes and tea were available in the local hall, but, whilst tempted, I decided to press on for the finish.

The final part of the course runs back to Inverurie through Blairdaff and Burnervie, before passing Inverurie hospital to the finish. This section has a few short climbs, made all the harder by being at the end of the ride. On this section I passed a few other riders, mostly from the 25 mile ride and a couple of family groups from the 13 mile option – it’s good to see families out as a group enjoying cycling.

Final time for the route was 3:48:00, with a moving time of 3:45:12, 79th out of 170 finishers. I’d hoped for 3:30-ish but considering I haven’t had many long rides leading up to this event, I’m happy with that. I’ll certainly consider doing this event again, if I can manage to get in some more long training rides before it.Suie Classic Route

Forerunner735XTBack in January, I bought a Garmin Forerunner 735xt to replace my aging FR910xt. The 910xt is a bit bulky compared with the 735xt, and also only downloads using ANT+, which I’ve had a few problems with. I also wanted something to track my sleep and to use for 24hr monitoring.

Garmin IQ was also something I was quite keen on using, particularly as I’d got a Stryd running power meter which needs an IQ app to make the best of it (it can work with older Garmins by simulating the power as cadence or cycling power, but that’s not ideal).

I briefly considered an Apple watch, particularly as the new hardware has better fitness features (GPS without phone, etc.), but the lack of ANT+ killed that idea.

So, after a few months of use, how is the watch?  I’ve been wearing it basically 24/7 since January, only removing it when showering and for charging or downloading into iSMARTtrain. It’s got really good battery life, lasting weeks if just used as a watch. When used for recording activities, the battery life take a bit more of a hit.

For daily monitoring: The watch is a little bit too thick for my liking for wearing 24/7 – I find it catches on the cuff of my shirt (dress shirt) at work. However, I’m willing to live with that. It provides good feedback on resting HR – In Lanzarote, it was interesting to see how the watch’s resting HR graph gradually increased as the training camp progressed, and I become more tired. The sleep monitoring is reasonably good as well, although not as through as the (now defunked) Zeo that I used to use.

For sport use, basically, it’s great! I’ve used it for running, cycling, swimming and triathlons without much of a problem (see below, though). With the HRM-Tri and HRM-Swim straps, HR data is now provided for swimming where it wasn’t previously available (the ANT+ signal from the normal Garmin straps won’t penetrate far enough through the water to reach the watch). These straps get around this by recording the HR data during the swim, and then transferring it to the watch at the end of the session.

Issues: The biggest issue I’ve had with the 735xt is that it doesn’t seem to connect to some ANT+ devices once the timer has been started. This means, for example, that in the bike leg of a triathlon, you won’t get power or cadence data. I need to do a bit more research into this to see exactly what is happening here.

Also, as I stated above, the watch is a little bit too thick for my liking – however, that’s the price you pay for the battery life, I suppose.

For a more detailed and thorough review, see DC Rainmaker’s take on the FR735xt.

The Turriff triathlon is a close as I’ve got to a local event. It’s about 6 or 7 miles from my house, based at the local sports centre I use for swimming. I’ve done the event a few times, the first being in 1997. There’s the choice of a Short (400m/20k/3k) or a Spring (760m/20k/5k) events. I’d opted for the Short, given my lack of swim practice recently. There were about 120-130 entrants speard over both events.

Swim

I was in the second heat, with two others in my lane. I’d put my swim time as 10 minutes for 400m in the entry form. Once the swim got going, the water was quite choppy. My technique started to get a bit sloppy after half way and I started taking a brief rest at the end of each length. I was passed by the other two in my lane. I completely lost count of the distance I’d swam and was surprised to see the lap counter indicating to the other two in my lane that they were on their last lap – I’d thought we still have further to go. Getting out of the pool at the deep end was a bit of a struggle – there’s no ledge to stand on and launch yourself up like there is in some other pools.

Swim time:  00:10:41 – pretty much as expected.

Transition

The transition area is about 300 m from the swimming pool, through an underpass on the main road. I’d left my trainers, bike top and gloves at the exit of the pool, put them on then ran to the bike. I also accidently picked up someone’s googles at the exit, thinking they were mine, until I realised that mine were around my neck – I passed them to the organiser in transition. Putting on my bike shoes took too long – I’d forgotten to leave the straps open for the quick entry – that was the whole point of buying tri-specific shoes! I’d also decide to put on socks, as I’ve had problems with blisters before when racing without them, which took a bit more time. The run out of transition is a short up hill to the mount line – fun in cycling shoes.

Bike

The bike starts almost immediately with a hill. It’s quite steep for first couple of kms, then levels off to a more undulating climb to the 7 kms point. I’d kept my effort steady up to this point and I’d passed one other competitor – I’d had to hang back before passing as the road was a little too twisted to be able to see any oncoming traffic.

After the right turn at 7kms, the road climbs for another 1-1.5km. On this section, I passed another entrant, and spotted a couple more, further up the climb. From the top of the climb it was a fast downhill with a couple of tight turns and a quite rough road surface. The course then turns onto the main Huntly road, and continue back into Turriff.  This section is mostly downhill with a couple of short climbs. It was on one of these climbs that I managed to pass another rider, and one more one the downhill section.  Coming back down to the transition, I had cramp in right calf down the last hill. The run from the dismount line to the bike racks was downhill, so running this in cycling shoes didn’t help!

Bike time: 00:48:40

Run

The run section is an out-and-back along the last few km of the bike route. It’s a climb for about 750 metres, then level out. It’s on pavement for the first 1.25 km or so, then on the road to the turnaround.

Once off the bike, I couldn’t get into a good stride pattern, and could only take only short steps. I Stopped to walk for 1 minute at 1 km point and again at 2 km, then ran back to finish.

Run time: 00:18:20

My final time was 1:24:37 for 19th out of 28. I later discovered I was 3rd in Age Group (Super-Veteran), 30 seconds off second place.

Turriff2017

Not the performance I’d hoped for.

I’ve completed this race a few times in the past, with a course best of 52:47, albeit on a slightly different route.

The weather was nice on the day – sunny, but a bit cool – ideal running weather.

The route starts at the Garioch Sports Centre, then passes through Inverurie out into the open countryside. It then re-enters Inverurie and loops though a couple of housing estates (one of which is still being built) and back to the sport centre.

I’d trained reasonably consistently coming into the event. However, on the day, I just didn’t have the speed that I’d expected – last time a ran this, I finished in 52:47 after a similar build-up (Lanzarote training camp, followed by consistent runs back home). This time, however it became evident from the start that I wasn’t going to come close to that – every time I tried to speed up, the legs just weren’t there – I ended up briefly walking at a couple of points after the 5km point and a couple of the climbs through the new housing estate. In the end, I finished in 58:21. I’m not too unhappy with this time – after all, you can only do what your legs will let you do on the day.

Another training camp is over. We had a fantastic two weeks at Club la Santa. The first week was the Spring Triathlon camp with Joe Beer and Dan Bullock, and the second was intented to be a bit of a holiday, but ended up being a training week as well, albeit with a sight-seeing trip to Timanfaya National Park.

Totals for the Camp:

Cycling: 22 hrs 30 mins 418km
Running: 6 hrs 11 mins 49.8km
Swimming: 5 hrs 05 mins 5500m

It’s been a bit quiet here recently, mainly as I didn't race for all of 2016 – this wasn’t really intentional, just how things worked out. I was too late signing up for some races, and others were cancelled for this year. I’ve still biked and ran as much as ever, and probably swam the most I have for a long time.

Anyway, I’ve set some targets for this year, including the Inverness Marathon in September, my first attempt at this distance. To kick-start the year, I’m off the Joe Beer’s Training Camp in Lanzarote soon.

We’re just back from the Club La Santa training camp in Lanzarote

Thursday

We arrived mid-afternoon, flying in from Glasgow. Weather hot compared with 1 or 2 deg back in Glasgow. Unfortunately, when putting my bike together, I managed to break the K-Edge SRM Magnet, so no power for the camp – tip for next time, remove the chain catcher before packing the bike (and take a spare)! I had a quick test ride up to La Santa village to check the bike was ok. Gill has a cold.

Friday

Went for a 30 minute run round the lagoon first thing, then to initial meeting for training camp. Swim session next with Dan Bullock of Swim for Tri. I managed 2000 m, not too bad considering it was the first time I’d been in the pool since last Club La Santa camp in 2015! I sat out a few lengths towards the end, as I was getting a bit tired. Bike in afternoon was a 2 hour ride up to Mancha Blanca via Soo. We had to turn at Mancha Blanca and retrace our route due to roadworks on main road down to Tinajo. Celeb encounter in the evening when we were almost run over by pro triathlete Michelle Vesterby on her bike in the complex - and yes, she IS always smiling!

Swim Training

2016-02-07 07.56.02 HDR

Saturday

Again I went for a 30 minute run first thing, having decided to skip the swim session due to stiff shoulders – probably over did it a bit the previous day. The afternoon’s bike, led by Dan, was a 2:30 ride over Fire Mountain to Yaiza for coffee stop, then retracing our route back over Fire Mountain from long side.

Sunday

Felt a bit ropey - might be getting Gill's cold, so just did a run first thing, then a short bike ride over to Famara via Soo and back. Had a quick bike around the village of Famara as I’d only passed through it quickly in the past.

2016-02-07 10.44.51

Monday

Definitely got Gill's cold - skipped the planned 6 hour bike to Tabeyesco. Rest day

Tuesday-Friday

Laid up with Cold - no training other than walking around the lagoon. Spectated at the camp triathlon. Had a great final night meal in El Lago restaurant.

2016-02-10 20.29.02

Sunday

Went to Teguise market and had lunch at La Cantina.

Monday

Felt much better so biked over to Soo, down to Famara and back. Windy! Slept for ages afterwards so maybe not completely recovered.

Tuesday

Intended for go CLS - Soo - Famara - Soo - Mancha Blanca - Tinajo - la Santa, but cut leg to Famara short because of wind - sand blowing across the road like drifting snow - just like being at home! The run back down into La Santa from Tinajo was very windy.

Wednesday

Last full day at CLS, so biked Soo – Mancha Blanca – La Garia – Yaiza – Fire Mountain – Tinajo – La Santa for a 55 km ride. It’s a fantastic ride through the wine-growing region of La Garia. Wish I’d taken the time to put my Garmin Virb back onto my bike before the ride. Great end to the holiday.

2016-02-17 18.21.26 HDR

After last year’s incident with the baggage handlers, I decided to take some extra precautions when packing my bike this year. Firstly, I got some pipe lagging to protect the tubes of the frame – it’s available in a number of sizes and should fit most bikes – I got mine off eBay for about £12 for five 1m lengths of various sizes.
The second change to the packing was that I bought a set of Allen key wheel skewers, eliminating the chance of the lever end damaging the frame, should the baggage handlers again try their best to bust my bike.
Update: The bike arrived in Lanzarote without any damage.

Packed Bike Box

 

Yesterday, I ran the Fraserburgh Half-Marathon. This was my first road half since 2007 – I’d originally wanted to do the Crathes half, but, as usual, I waited too long to enter and it was full. My primary aim was to break the 2 hour barrier, or at least to be close to my last road half-marathon time of 2:07.
The weather at the start was dry, but there was a chilly breeze off the sea. The course leads out of Fraserbrugh down the A90, then turns off and loops through the countryside, taking in part of the old Fraserburgh-Aberdeen railway line, now a long distance path known as the Buchan Way. After going through the six mile point in about 53 minutes, I felt that my target of sub 2hrs was still on, but soon after that, my pace began to flag, and the lack of long distance training runs became apparent.
At the end of the loop, the course re-joined the A90 to head back into Fraserburgh. Just after entering the town, and in plain sight of the finishing line, the route takes a 1.5 mile loop through the neighbouring housing estate, with a leg-sapping climb adding in the middle. As I crossed the finishing line, I saw my time was 2:08:21, not quite as fast as I’d hoped, but within a minute of my last half-marathon, set almost 10 years ago.
All-in-all, a good, well organised race. For another (and better written) perspective, visit Rhona’s race report at http://www.redwinerunner.co.uk/2015/11/16/race-report-fraserburgh-half-marathon-2015/