Sprint Triathlon Nutrition for Boundary Breeze Tri 2014

Out towards the quaint little town of Knutsford is the Boundary water park which marked the venue of the Boundary Breeze Triathlon. Hosted by Manchester Triathlon Club, Sunday 13th July started off rather wet from the early morning rain.

My drive over was roughly 50 minutes and having prepared my bits and pieces the night before, I was all set for an early dart. This particular race fell at a nice time in the grand scheme of things, as I have been targeting the British National Standard Triathlon Championships in Liverpool this August. As this particular week was a heavy, high intensity training week, the boundary breeze has helped with my preparations for Liverpool. This meant, no carbohydrate loading, no tapering, and no easy saturday resting my legs.

The day started at 7am where I attacked a large bowl of Dorsets fruit muesli. With my wave starting at 11:10am, eating this high carb breakfast 4 hours before the race helps provide carbohydrates of two kinds; fast and slow releasing. This begins the task of filling my muscles with the required amount of glycogen for the race. I also took my regular supplements of vitamin B, C and D, folic acid, beta alanine, l-glutamine and omega 3 oil in a glass of beet-it beetroot juice (I will do the whats and whys of these supplements another time).

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A keen eye for organisation – The president of Triathlon England

I filled up my water bottle with 50g of SIS GO energy and 500ml of water and made sure I sipped it regularly on the drive over leading up to the race. Having arrived and parked up at the local village hall, I collected my race numbers (245) and timing chip, and then set my bike up before I went to equip my transition areas (there were two at this triathlon, T1 and T2). Before leaving the car park I ate half a High5 caramel energy bar at around 8:30am to kept the glycogen topped up. It did feel odd just leaving my running shoes in T2 because it gave me the sense that I had forgotten something. The walk over to T1 was about 1km and this was also next to the Boundary lake where the swim was to take place.Screen Shot 2014-07-13 at 19.48.43

Nice and warm at 21 degrees.

I kept sipping my energy drink and placed my bike, helmet and sunglasses on the bike racks. At around 10:30 I downed a beet-it shot and took some more beta alanine and a caffeine tablet. Only 40 minutes to go and a few waves had set off already and it appeared as the though it was optional to wear a wetsuit as some people swam in just a trisuit. Having heard about the density of the reeds in the water I opted to go with the wetsuit and practice taking it off for the the British Champs. With 10 mins to go I necked an SIS gel (more glycogen and muscle fuel) and headed to the waters edge. I spotted plenty of Team GB age groupers and figured I could be in for a tough swim.

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Im top right of the picture

My plan was to go at 90% and just relax into it, which I did, but the reeds were exceptionally tough to fight through, and the water had kicked up the sludge from the previous waves of triathletes. Around the 3 bouys we go to complete 750m of swimming and the worst of the reeds were at the end before we ran out of the water. Instead of pulling the water, I had to grab the reeds to propel myself forward (some could call this cheating!!!).

I came out of the water in 13th place (just under 12 minutes) and my first transition went great. The wetsuit slipped off and I hit the bike in no time. I relaxed pretty quickly but soon spotted a few people to chase down and started to push myself. I held myself as best I could at about 40km/hr, but the wind and the odd rolling hills wavered my speed. I was happy that I was overtaking people and even threw out some encouragement as I passed a team mate from Tri Preston.Screen Shot 2014-07-13 at 19.49.01

Wetsuit off and sprint out of T1 – I practiced folding my sunglasses in the wires of the bike in order to put them on once I was into a rhythm on the bike…it worked ok and probably shaved a second or two.

I got my feet out of my shoes in time to dismount my bike and ran over some pretty stoney road to rack the bike and get my trainers on. I finished the bike leg in little over 37 minutes The run was a simple 2 laps of an out and back dirt track on private land. Another little aim of mine to try and not get overtaken on the run, and today was the first time I managed to go without being overtaken :-). I had aimed to stay at 4min/km on the run but in fact went a touch faster overall to finish the run in 19:19.

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50 metres to go!!!

I managed 3rd in my age group, but the 2 lads above me were well oiled triathletes with plenty more laps, miles and experience in the bag than me. Nevertheless, I have 1 year until the European Sprint Triathlon Champs in Geneva where I can get in a solid winter of training before I go and put on my GB kit.

A huge thanks to Royles for the goodie bag, and also to Manchester Triathlon Club for the organisation. Thanks to Wallis cycles for cycling equipment and also a big thanks to the volunteer marshals and Triathlon England officials. Oh and don’t forget the wife for taking the pictures ūüôā



Sport psychology task – How many words?

I was asked a question the other day by one of my Sport and Exercise Science students… “How many words describe triathlon?”

This one a great question, and a somewhat mind journey of an answer too. It is in fact an exercise i did with a sport psychologist many years ago. So, here is my take on it with triathlons. Yet having thought about all the words in my list below, the final one stuck in my head.

Triathlon… Swimming, cycling, running, competing, training, eating, fasting, avoiding sugar, avoiding fat, weighing scales, bike, carbon frame, deep section wheels, disc wheel, aero, helmets, tri suit, chamois, technique, body roll, kick board, 50 m sprints, hills, intervals, drills, goggles, wetsuit, open water swimming, Long runs, protein, beetroot juice, creatine, vitamin D, triathlon cycling shoes, running shoes, elastic laces, mid foot strike, strength and conditioning, Core stability, sweating, breathing, bilateral breathing, the catch, pull bouy, shaved legs, cycling tan, brick sessions, early mornings, hydration, 30 minute window, saddle sores, electrolytes, watt bike, sacrifice, pain, crying, winter, blisters, muck off, sunglasses, race belt, sprint, suncream, chamois cream, baby oil, paddle, flippers, grit, toughness, injury, motivation, Cold baths, flexibility sessions, top 10, winning, 5th place.

5th place. It was only when I really thought about it that I recalled having achieved a lot of 5th places. In fact my last four races have been 5th places and that is something I need to crack. However I don’t think I would’ve focused on this as much if I hadn’t done the little exercise above. Now i will be aiming for 4th.

So I encourage you to make your own list and see which things come up for you. 

One last thought I will give you to go away with touches on one of the words above, and that is motivation. The one thing that always comes into my head when thinking about motivation to go out on my bike or complete the last two intervals in the pool is this; 

“You don’t get what you wish for, you get what you work for”

The end of getting faster?

Year on year we hear about athletes breaking new records beyond what was once thought as being humanly impossible. But will there be a day where we can no longer improve our physical abilities?

A recent presentation by David Epstein (TED) brought together a number of intriguing historical statistics up against our more recent achievements. He explains that over the last 108 years the winner of the Olympic marathon has become an hour and 20 minutes faster. This is similar with the likes of Jesse Owens and Usain Bolt in the 100m sprint. ¬†The record time of Owens was 10.2 seconds compared to Bolt’s 9.58 seconds. That shows a clear increase in speed, strength and power, yet¬†it is not all down to the¬†thought that we are naturally getting better at what we do. Epstein explains that in both of these running events, previous athletes ran on the cinders of burnt wood which would have made a huge difference to the grip an athlete has under¬†the foot. Compared to the synthetics of todays running tracks. Also the use of lighter and stiffer running shoes¬†help the athlete to generate a more efficient running technique.

There are other things that come into play that may help us understand why we are getting faster in certain sports. For example, many youngsters in primary schools have the chance to compete in many different sports. By the time these youngsters reach high school they could well be training in a professional fashion, that is, eating correctly, training correctly, and using the best equipment. So to some it is no wonder that these increases in ability have come about.

The second point that Epstein makes highlights the selection process, or suitability, of athletes in particular sports. Activities such as basketball, sprint cycling, swimming, and horse riding are just a few sports that require specific physiological body shapes. In his own words “the large got larger, and the small got smaller”. All in all to suit a particular sport.

In a sports such as cycling and the Tour de France there are many different shapes and sizes. Some explanation for this is dependent on the type of rider that the cyclist is. For example, they could either be an exceptional climber, time trailer, or sprinter, or maybe even good at all 3 (more commonly known as a domestic rider or domestique). And this will depend predominantly on the type of leg muscles they have.

All shapes and sizes

This may also be the case in triathlons as there are three different disciplines to master (swimming, cycling, and running). Not only this, there are a variety of different distances that a triathlete may focus on. From my own experience, anything from Sprint up to Olympic distance triathletes share a similar body shape. That being very slim and lean, with a low body fat percentage. Nevertheless, the height of such triathletes tends to differ greatly and may not have that much of an impact on performance. Yet the geometry of triathletes at these distances show similarities, for example, arm and leg length in proportion to the rest of the body.

However, many of the Ironman athletes show a slightly different physique despite having the same three disciplines. As with most endurance events one of the key things to consider is power vs weight. The lighter the athlete, the better they can perform at a certain power output. So having done a little bit of research and looked at the top 10 finishers in different ironman races my conclusion was this: Top Ironman triathletes generally hold a lean body shape and tend to be 6 foot and under. They also show signs of increased upper body muscle mass in the shoulders and biceps to possibly suit the length of the Ironman swim (usually 3.9km). In general they tend to hold a slightly stockier build to that of a Sprint or Olympic distance triathlete. Although, further scientific research may uncover something more surprising.

Pete Jacobs 179cm (5’9″)

So with Epstein’s ¬†two points of improvements in technology and the improvements in selection and suitability, my question still stands. What would happen when technology is unable to improve sport any further? Is it the simple possibility that technology is the sole influence in the improvement of our athletes? And when technological improvements stop, will our athletes continue to strive to become faster, higher and stronger?

The impact of having athletes that are faster, fitter and stronger is what captivates the public. The possibility of a new humanly impossible record. What if that were no longer???

Winter Blues Will Make You Lose

What an incredibly demoralising January its been. Dark mornings and dark nights, raining nearly all day and everyday. Not a nice month for training at all! 

There is a huge ‘mind over matter’ battle that continues to break down our will power, and all of a sudden wanting to train 5 days a week turns in to ‘well, I did a bit of a run last Wednesday’. This is when we can turn to indoor training, and as far as cycling goes, this part of the year is all about speed, strength and power.¬†

It is best to think about cycling training as decorating. Stay with me… You need to sand down the wall, apply the under coat, then maybe another under coat, then you put on the nice colour you wanted. With cycling it is a case of starting the winter training around October/November and simply riding really easy. Then you can start to build a good mileage base, long boring hours on the road in the dark. Once you have this, you can apply the good stuff you wanted like speed, strength and power.

Ideally we would prefer to be out on the roads, but if the weather is against you and you can’t bring yourself to putting all that kit on…. then here are a few good indoor sessions under 45 mins that will help you get to where you want to be.

Strength: This is all about keep a hard resistance but a low cadence around 60-70rpm (using a metronome on your smartphone will help with your cadence). The speed of your legs should be slow but should be able to sustain a high level of tension in the muscle throughout the revolutions. After a warm up of 10 minutes that includes two 30 second bursts of high resistance and low cadence, incorporate the following:

– 2 sets of (5 x 1 min @ 60rpm – high resistance – 1 min easy spin) 3 mins recovery between sets

Р3 x 2 mins @ 70 rpm Рhigh resistance Р1 min easy spin. 3 minutes recovery. 3 x 2 mins 60 rpm Рhigh resistance Р1 min easy spin

– 4 x 4 mins (1st 60rpm, 2nd at 65, 3rd at 70, 4th at 75) Alter the resistance to suit that cadence. (2 mins recovery between intervals)

Speed: A big area to work on is leg speed. We are looking for the opposite of strength here, so a very low resistance and a very big cadence ranging from 110-150rpm. You need to focus on making the legs spin as fast a possible without any body or hip shifting on the saddle. Stay in control. Again, after a 10 minute warm up that includes two 30 second bursts, but this time make them at a low resistance and a cadence of 120rpm. (Get that metronome out again)

– 6 x 1:30 mins at 110rpm (1 mins easy spins between intervals)

– 2 sets (1st, 3 x 1 min at 120rpm with 1 min easy – 2nd, 4 x 30 sec at 130 with 1 min easy spin)

– 3 sets (1st, 4 x 1 min at 110rpm with 1 min easy – 2nd, 4 x 6 sec at 150rpm with 1 min easy – 3rd, 3 x 1 at 120rpm then go at 150rpm for the last 6 secs with 1 min easy between intervals)

Power: Here we combine strength and speed and create power. The ability to hold solid tension in the muscle but with a good leg speed for a longer duration. Some timetriallers have been known to race with a cadence of 90 or below, others prefer to race at 95+, it really is each to their own. After a 10 min warm up that holds two 1 minute bursts with a good resistance at 95rpm. For these intervals it is best to go with your most natural cadence. Your effort should be just enough to last each interval, too hard or fast and you¬†won’t complete the set, so pace your effort accordingly.

– 5 x 3 minutes working at 8/10 effort – 2 mins recovery

– 4 x 5 minutes working at 8/10 effort – 2 mins recovery

– 3 x 8 minutes working at 8/10 effort – 3 mins recovery

– 2 x 10 minutes working at 7/10 effort – 3 mins recovery


All the above sessions are sessions that I have used in my time as a race cyclist, and, as your training program progresses, you can simply adapt and add an interval, or make the intervals longer, or make the rest periods shorter. Only up the progression to suit your fitness gains, and only progress a little at a time.

It is a long way until summer so make sure you don’t peak to soon.

Have you got GRIT? Test yourself here.

Having been involved in sports for pretty much most of my life, I have endured times of wanting to quit as well as times of wanting to never give up. These moments come across all individuals at unpredictable times, and it’s most likely that when it does come about it is the worst time possible.

A lot of athletes are often measured on their individual performances in sport. This has always been the way since the very start of sports. The winners are the ones that people remember and the losers‚Ķ well, nobody remembers them. There are many ways to measure an athlete, in psychology we have performance profiling, in sports analysis we have statistics, and in sports science we have laboratory physiological tests, and if you are lucky enough you will have all three of these areas to measure you and how do you perform. However, there is one aspect that I would like to draw to your attention having recently watched a video that discusses the nature of how resilience should also be considered as a measure of an individuals drive to succeed. This is something that Angela Lee Duckworth explains as being ‘grit’.

Over her years of extensive research Angela Lee Duckworth was able to devise a scale of which grit can be measured. She used the scale in a number of capacities and established that it was a better predictor of success than intelligence. The main contexts that the grit scale was used was mainly academic or military, yet I am interested in how this would differ with a variety of athletes. There are always those days where you may look out of the window and see the rain sheeting down onto the road outside, and we let this factor into our train of thought and some of us may decide against training on that particular day. I believe that this grit scale may help coaches and athletes themselves to decipher how motivated and determined they are to succeed when times are hard.

For me the definition of grit is as follows: ‘Being able to endure difficult moments to achieve a long term target’

We must think back and remember of times when we have achieved such targets and consider how long it took. From that length of time, how many days were good days, and how many days were bad. If we do have a day where everything looks like it is against us we must think of the days where everything was in our favour. If your long term target takes you 365 days I am guessing that roughly only 50 of those days maybe bad ones. To go one step further 50 days could be reduced to 20 days depending on your ‘grittiness’.

So I urge you to have a go and see how gritty you really are by taking the 12 item grit scale as designed by Angela Lee Duckworth by clicking here. How likely are you to tell the rain and the cold to shove it? To put aside your emotions and fill your body with lactic acid? To forget about that hard day at work and hit the tarmac? To put your injury behind you and think of everything you can still achieve? The answers to these questions are what will make us different to one another, and I believe that grit is one of the newest and most influential measurements of how we can succeed.

Please take the time to watch Angela Lee Duckworth’s presentation at one of the TED conferences.

Is porridge wheat free?

Winter training is due to kick off soon, so who’s thinking about going all ‘Bradley Wiggins’ by being wheat free?

According to his book ‘My Time’ he went wheat free for a few weeks. Having done this myself, without a ¬£50k a year nutritionist, proved to be difficult considering the majority of our food contains wheat of some sort. Do you know why ketchup is nice and thick and gloopy?…wheat! Same goes for the soy sauce that you had on all those Chinese dishes. Even your cereal has wheat. It is hard to find wheat free alternatives, but they are out there, and possibly already in your cupboards.

Thankfully, there are websites to help. Such as www.wheat-free.org who give some good ideas about alternatives to use in your cooking to avoid eating wheat.

But…..and it is a big but…….why bother going wheat free?
To put it simply, it keeps you insulin levels low which in turn helps you to burn fat better. High insulin occurs when foods such as carbs are turn to sugar in the body, this sugar is really good at slowing our fat metabolism down. Wheat, is in Essenes a carbohydrate and ends up increasing insulin levels. Avoiding wheat products help you to get of the puppy fat and water that you retain around the love handles and other areas.

So what’s for breakfast?

Helen from wheat-free.org says……..Porridge!

Yes, seriously. While porridge oats have never traditionally had a sexy image, they are now the hottest thing on the breakfast block.

And what is the absolutely great thing about oats? they’re wheat free! Wheat free and low on the glycaemic index (GI), they release energy slowly with the complex carbs in them helping to balance blood sugar levels, avoiding the blood sugar highs and lows experienced when eating sugary cereals or many wheat free/gluten free breads for breakfast. On top of this they are low in calories and fat, so with oats ticking all the nutrition boxes it’s no wonder they’ve become fashionable, and seen in all the best eating places. Eat your oats and you’ll feel full for longer, snack less, and help your heart.

Studies have shown that oats can lower cholesterol and reduce high blood pressure, and are high in fibre, something often missing on a wheat free diet.

Evidently oats are now Britain’s second favourite breakfast cereal with Sainsbury’s reporting a 60% increase in oat sales in the last six months. But with wheat free eaters they are certainly number 1, providing a filling, nutritious meal at any time of the day.

And it doesn’t just stop at porridge, oats have had a makeover and now appear in many different forms, for example the stem ginger, mixed berry and fruit spice biscuits brought out by Nairns (see review).

So the next time you are looking for a wheat free, hot, filling, nutritious, low calorie and low fat breakfast look no further than porridge, it’s got everything you need to keep you going.


Spinal Surgery and Happy Juice

I arrived on time at the hospital, both physically and mentally prepared to have my lower back operated on. It is a pretty daunting feeling to know you’re having spinal surgery, and to be honest, I have been playing it down as not a big deal. In fact it was my dear friend, and physiotherapist, who helped this plight¬†truly¬†settle in. I thought of it as a back operation, but it was only when she said ‘Grant! your having spinal surgery, its a big deal’. Despite this, those going to have spinal surgery still need to walk¬†the¬†full length of the bloody hospital to be admitted. The¬†architect¬†for that place has obviously never been injured.

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Sitting down in my designated bed area, I’m the only one in there. Yet all¬†the¬†nurses get on with their daily activities and duties. Like re-stocking the bucket with crutches, I might need them later. A few more people arrive and sit down, all with similar internal emotional content as myself. Its probably not¬†that obvious to see in someone unless you know that you are also in¬†the¬†same frame of mind. Now, I noticed that I had the biggest bed in the ward so I was pretty smug with myself, but deep down I know its because of the operation I am due to have. That smugness quickly starts to turn to that ‘oh shit’ feeling.

Now that most of the patients have arrived, all the nurses begin to fill the room. First I get my blood pressure, temperature, and heart rate taken, and then another nurse asks me, at 31 years old, if I am wearing dentures. I found that a little bit offensive but I didn’t really want to make an awkward moment of it so I managed to let that one pass. Still, it was a bit¬†embarrassing¬†when she noticed I had put my¬†hospital¬†gown on the wrong way. I quickly sorted that out, but the next thing that someone having spinal surgery should be aware of is that you will be asked to wear stockings. I was the only in for spinal surgery. Everyone else around me were having injections or epidurals. The guy next to me was having his coccyx manipulated, he might find it hard going to the toilet for at least a few weeks.

One thing I did¬†realize¬†in this particular hospital is that people talk loud. Two nurses can be stood next to each other, and have no need to shout, but seem to continue telling everyone on the ward that they are having chips and egg for tea. I also had to listen to a nurse give a story for every item that was in her fridge. Don’t get me wrong these nurses’ are amazing¬†people¬†for what they do, but it’s safe to say that they are a little bit nutty. Except the¬†anesthetist. She was a very straight talking indian woman, who, if she enjoyed her job, she certainly¬†didn’t¬†show it. And¬†I’m¬†not sure if this is irony or not, but she also a had a cold. But then everything stops for a moment, because the surgeons arrive. They are like rock start to the nurses. Three or four nurses around each one. Following and listening and writing. They maybe rock stars to the nurses, but all I can think about is ‘this guy ¬†best not screw my back up’.

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I had said to people who I work with that¬†I’m¬†not too worried about the general anesthetic, but this surgeon guy is going to be playing with my spinal cord, and it’s that which had me worried deep down. What did strike me was the fact that surgeons wear white wellies. Well I think they should be white, because one guy clearly hadn’t cleaned the blood stains off of his. Hmmm comforting… They all eventually leave the ward to go and sign autographs for the nurses or something, which leaves all the people just waiting to be called to have their operations and injections. It was only men in that particular ward, and when men wear hospital gowns, especially the elderly men, they seem to be comfortable with letting ¬†it all hang out. I¬†immediately¬†had a sudden urge to go and get my operation done.¬†Luckily¬†I only had to wait an hour, which I spent with Bradley Wiggins’ book. I get marched to what can only be described as a ‘holding room’ where they put you under general anesthetic, and I’m pretty sure the anesthetist shouldn’t be calling it ‘happy juice’.

It¬†wasn’t¬†bloody happy juice. When I woke after surgery I felt horrible. The physio had me up on my feet after an hour and within 20 seconds I was ready to be sick. So, I lead back down into the position I felt most comfortable. The nurse then tells me I could go home, which was great news considering I was expecting to be held in for a night. The second I got home, I was sick. My body does not agree with Morphine. That lady with the cold can keep her happy juice, I’l be fine without it, but I’m keeping my stockings.

Anyway, all done now, here’s to 12 weeks rest!

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