XTERRA England

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I've had a bunch of favourite races this year and it's difficult to pick out a number 1, but as a whole experience XTERRA is right up there and I can't wait to do another one. What's XTERRA? It's a triathlon with a 1500m swim, a 30km (ish) mountain bike and a 10km (ish) cross country run. In XTERRA obstacles are put in your way, and your race is made as difficult as possible. Something that summed up the mindset of the organisers for me was a big branch that had been part sawn through so that it crossed the bike trail at head height. Love it.

XTERRA England was held in the Vachery Estate near Cranleigh, Surrey; not a particularly hilly place. The course was created from a lake swim, grassy fields, and copses that were hacked, cleared, and filled with logs and fallen trees. The bike course had alternating twisty sections of technical wooded single track and fields, and the run course matched this with 6ft ditches and a huge fallen oak to jump/climb over and a long path on the back section. I think the course had been put together by Sam Gardner and Richard Stannard, and when Richard passed me on the run he seemed to have been enjoying himself.



Paratriathlon & guiding

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As a triathlete I'm selfish. I'm well organised, manage my time well, train hard, get the hours in, do lots of stuff with my family and work hard (at work). But nonetheless to do what I do I have to focus this stuff around me. Racing is about me and my performance. Training is about preparing myself for race day. The idea of doing all this for another person is a bit of a weird idea for many triathletes, but when the idea of guiding a visually impaired triathlete was mooted it sounded like a challenge. At the base of it, what I do is about challenge so why not make it harder and do something new: try to guide another athlete to his best performance? I find it difficult to say "no" when someone suggests something new, difficult and interesting. 



Welsh Champs

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As I turned 40 this year one of my aims was to race in all of the Welsh Triathlon Championship events this year and have a crack at some medals. I've failed, missing the duathlon champs with a small gastrocnemius tear, and I'll miss the sprint triathlon champs because I've elected to race in XTERRA England instead and give myself a new challenge. I did make it to the Welsh Standard Distance Triathlon Championships at Llandudno a week after the Euros and then to the Welsh Aquathlon Championships the following week in Poppit Sands. Those races were rather good.

It's been a busy few weeks, which, with some prolonged work stress in combination with the training and racing stress (physical stuff, don't be a salmon, etc) has left me a bit knackered. The Ffit Conwy Llandudno Sea Triathlon has a cracking course. I was much better off swimming in a sea with a bit of swell than in a calm alpine lake, and the 2 lap course helped with pacing and tactics. I was having a chat with the starter in a kayak when she sounded the horn and started the race, so it was a low stress start too. Parp and we got going, failing to even start my watch and getting into a pairing chasing the leader around the buoys.



Euros

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I raced at the European Triathlon Championships a week or so ago in Kitzbuhel, Austria. It's getting easier to prepare for logistically each year, and this time I travelled with a group of team mates from Cardiff Triathletes. We drove, with trailer, bikes on the roof (careful now) and a ton of camping stuff and had a great week in the Tyrolean Alps.

Kitzbuhel is a great location for summer racing; triathlon, biking or running. Big hills, warm lakes, winding roads and paths. The swim route in the Schwarzsee was pretty (and flat), the bike course was narrow, hilly, winding (maybe optimistically so) and superbly steep in places, and the rolling run course used a mix of narrow trails and tarmac around the lake. With 4 laps of the bike course and 2 laps of the run course in the standard distance race we got to go up and down a lot.



Cosmeston Duathlon 2014

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I took some photos at Cosmeston early on Sunday morning. For the first time the swim leg of the triathlon was cancelled and we had to resort to a duathlon. Nonetheless, it was still a great morning for those involved.

See the set of photos on Flickr:

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Parc Bryn Bach Aquathlon no. 1

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I haven't raced any of the Parc Bryn Bach aquathlons, but I know that they're a popular weekly summer series. It's almost impossible for me to get to after work. I asked the family as it was a half-term holiday this week and they fancied going up on Thursday evening, and as I need to get some open water racing practice I thought I'd pop up and have a crack. The sun was out and it wasn't raining. Apparently this was unusual.

I like aquathlons. I'm not very good at them because I'm not a quick swimmer, but I like not having to pack very much. My entire transition set up is a pair of shoes.



Gloucester triathlon 2014

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Gloucester Triathlon Cycling

My 3rd race in a week was the TTG Gloucester Triathlon, which is almost a home race as it's based near where I grew up. It's a good race for a test at this time of year, and so far I've been getting faster every year here on the same course. I'd recovered OK from the Whitford Point race and spent a few hours on the new race bike in the rain the day before which loosened up my posterior chain and got me better used to the new bike.

I'm nervous about swimming again as I've put so much effort into swim training over the last 6 months or so and I'm keen to see some improvements. The pool swim started well and I was enjoying myself by the end so it was a shame I had to get out. I swam pretty much the same time as last year, so no improvement there. Hmmm.



Whitford Point Run

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The weather was beautiful for the evening Whitford Point multi-terrain race on Wednesday. Multi-terrain is right. We had soft sand, firm sand, hard sand, flat sand, wavy sand, muddy sand, rocky sand, mussel bed-y sand, dunes, soft mud, hard mud, stone, Tarmac, grass, and gravel. The wind was strong on the beach too so it was an interesting race, as always. Which route to take? Who to run with?

The soreness in my left tibialis posterior muscle was generally just more pain on top of lots of other pain, but it slowed me a bit on some of the downhill sections. I think I paced it quite well, and ran the windy section like a cyclist. The placings were decided by the end of the beach and I almost held the back of the vest ahead of me except for some poor line choices. The beach was fun but hard, and the wooded section was great. I'm still poor on soft sand. Mud I can move through.

The final climb to the finish was a crazy, full on effort and fight with runners at my back and legs weakening and fading by the top of the steep section. A massive effort. I'm sure that hill gets longer. Great fun.

Second V40 and 6th overall. Good running.







1st triathlon over 40

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We had some fantastic weather for the start of the triathlon season here in Wales, so I was glad that I'd entered the Llanelli Sprint Triathlon. It's only 5 minutes down the road from my house, and on routes that I train on, so it makes a good end to my build phase of training. Hopefully it'll help get some race speed into my legs, along with the Whitford Point off road race on Wednesday evening and the Gloucester Triathlon on the following Sunday.

The family got up at 5:30 am with me and we were at the race by 6:15. A new family record? Although I'd been spectating at the paratriathlon the day before I'd missed the packet pick up, so registered quickly, put my bike together, tested the gearing and adjusted the brakes (damned fiddly aero tolerances) and got set up in transition. I started in the second wave, which I think was mostly veteran athletes of 40-years-old and older (that's me this year too). I had plenty of time for a warm up. Getting in the water before the start and moving and feeling the water is crucial for me.