Manuel Quinziato’s Black Line London Playlist

Here at Black Line London we love bikes. And we love music. And we really love people who love bikes and music. So it was a massive thrill when Italian BMC Tour de France rider Manuel Quinziato agreed to put together a playlist for us…and you.

In his Twitter profile pic, he is holding a magazine cover of Thom Yorke over his own face….proof if it were needed that he really is a proper muso because why would you do that otherwise?

The photo above is Manuel with his friend Perry from the band Pendulum at the end of the 2012 TdF. It’s just a shame that an international rock star and world class cyclist struggle so badly with the ladies.

Here is Menuel’s musical story in his words, and you can listen to all of these tracks in the Spotify playlist widget below.

Enjoy.

 

What song or band first really turned you on to music? And how old were you?

I remember I was 9 in 1988 and the first music cassette I bought that upgraded me from ‘cartoon’ songs to real music was the album of Europe, the one with “The final Countdown”

 What was the first record you ever bought with your own money? What do you remember about it?

The first CD I bought with the money I was winning at races when I was 15 was probably ‘Basket Case’ by Green Day in 1994. Well, I still listen to that.

First ever gig?

I live in Bolzano, and not so many good bands comes to play there, so excluding some shameful Italian bands the first big gig I saw was just in 2004 in San Siro, the AC Milan football club stadium. It was Red Hot Chilli Peppers. I was a big fan of them but the gig was pretty disappointing. Short one and Anthony Keidis has no voice live.

If there was one band or artist (dead or alive) you could go and see play live, who would it be and what song would they HAVE to play?

I’d kill to have been at a Nirvana gig! I was just a few year too young unfortunately. I love all their songs but I’d pick “In Bloom” if I have to chose one.

What is your most recent music discovery?

A band I just discovered is Built to Spill, thank my colleague Jacopo Guarnieri.

What song or artists do you listen to while warming up before a TdF stage?

For the hardest stages or for when I want to catch the breakaway Rage Against the Machine is a must.

Best song for a really hard turbo session?

For turbo session I need something that gives me a good pace so I chose electro stuff like Daft Punk, Justice or Hot chip.

What is your favourite band of all time? And what song will we include on the playlist?

I’m in love with Radiohead and they didn’t let me down either of the two times I saw them live. I love ‘Idioteque’ above all the live version.

What album is ever-present on your ipod?

Radiohead indeed but also Pearl Jam, ‘Ten’.

Best gig you’ve ever been to?

I say Foo Fighters at Madison Square garden. Me, Daniel Oss, Karsten Kroon and a non-cyclist friend of mine went in New York just for 3 nights to see that gig. Absolutely worth the travel. Song: My Hero.

Next gig? Where, when and who with?

Well tonight I’m gonna see Nada Surf in Madrid with my girlfriend. Next November I’ll see Muse in Bologna wit a couple of friend from Bolzano. For Nada surf: Bad best friend. For Muse: Plug in baby.

What song do you wish you had written?

‘Daughter’ by Pearl Jam.

Song or album to relax to on the bus after a tough stage?

A perfect band to relax and forget the pain of a hard stage is Sigur Ros. Saw them live, simply unbelievable. Let’s pick ‘Hoppipolla’.

You have won the Tour de France – what song will they play as you get up on the podium?

You can tell me I’m predictable but I pick ‘We are the Champions’.

What is the perfect Sunday morning song/artist?

Ben Harper is perfect for a Sunday morning. Saw him live and he’s, good vibes for almost 3h. Glory and Consequence can be the song.

 

 

 

Stef Wyman Interview : #FanBackedWomensCycling

Stef Wyman picture

If you watched the thrilling women’s road race at London 2012, or any of the incredible moments in the Velodrome that made household names of some incredible young female cyclists, you might think that it’s a sport in rude health, right?

That is not quite the case, but there is something pretty incredible happening right now due in no small part to the efforts of one guy – Stef Wyman. Owner/manager of Matrix FitnessPrendas cycle team and key protagonist behind #FanBackedWomensCycling Stef is a doer with a great story and one which resonates with Black Line London’s own ethos.

You can listen to the Fan Backed Womens Cycling story from the horses mouth and follow Stef on Twitter @DS_Stef

 

 

Get Plan. Do Plan. Fly.

With the end of the triathlon season now a few weeks behind us, and the fading of the pain, your thoughts might just be turning towards 2013.

Mine certainly has, and ‘The Plan’ is beginning to form.

I’m telling you this for two reasons. Firstly, I’ve found that if you tell lots of people you are going to do something and then don’t do it, you look like a tool. So avoiding that scenario is pretty good motivation. Secondly, I’ll be writing, posting and Tweeting the shit out of all of this, so consider it a heads up.

Run More:

My 2012 season was defined by poor running, so improving that is key. I don’t really enjoy running, and certainly didn’t run enough in 2012. So I’ll be addressing that by getting more miles in my legs. And to really kick start that I’ll be doing #50Runs#50Days, starting soon – look out for lots of Tweets about that.

 Get Strong:

Like most people I probably know enough about strength and conditioning to be dangerous but not enough to really nail it. I want to be sure I’m getting the most possible gain from the time I spend on it and have benchmarks along the way to measure by. and So I’ve booked a session at  St Mary’s University for a full physio assessment and strength and conditioning clinic.

Bike Race:

Why the hell not?! It looks like great fun and can only make me a better biker. I’ve got my Cat 4 racing license and hope to try and do some winter crit racing.

In addition, I’ve entered some mountain bike races. Again, mostly for fun and I figure a great way to keep it interesting and develop some bike skills over winter.

Become a Training Peaks super user:

I love Training Peaks. It’s a fantastic training tool and not only is there a great free version, it just works. I’m drawn to data, it appeals to me and I think provides measurable benchmarks in training and performance. So, I pledge to really get under the skin of this brilliant tool and share tips, experiences, data files and insight from all of the above along the way.

So these are the things I will be building my season around, starting now. I’d love your comments, questions and maybe even your participation…..

What’s your plan?

 

 

Slow Cooked Oxtail Stew Recipe

Diet is important, and if you are anything like the BLL guys you probably think about food a lot.

And after I posted a picture on Twitter recently of my mostly make-it-up-as-you-go-along Oxtail stew I got loads of incoming mail asking about it so here is the recipe. Some people are a bit freaked out by the thought of eating oxtails, but if you are happy to eat eggs………

It’s full of gelatine and fat which is vital to the taste and texture, and because it’s cooked for so long is really tender, flavoursome and extremely healthy. Fat is not evil…right!

Ingredients:

6 large piece oof grass fed/organic oxtail. I got mine from my local organic butcher and it cost about £8.

1 Head od celery

2 large onions

5 large carrots

1 bulb of garlic

1 bowl of frozen peas

2 Star Anise

Tablespoon of butter

To cook:

Turn your over up to full heat.

Roughly chop all the veg. And I mean roughly – it shouldn’t take more than about 60 seconds to do the lot. I just crushed the garlic with the flat side of a knide, and the skin flakes off.

Brown and seal the oxtails in a big pan that is also safe to put in the oven. Remove form the pan and set aside.

Melt the butter and chuck all the veggies and Star Anise into a pot. Keep on a high heat until they stat to sizzle, give it another 5 or six minutes then add the oxtails back to the pan. Add some salt and pepper.

Pour water into the pan, enough to cover the oxtails.

Turn the heat down to 150 degrees, and put the whole lot in the over, with a lid on the pot.

Come back about 6 hours later and add the frozen peas to the pot, and stir. Add a little more water if required – mine didn’t need it.

The meat will more or less fall off the bones, so you can fish them out if you like.

It took me almost as long to write this post as it did to cook the meal – this is a really easy dish to prepare and would be ideal to come home to after a long bike ride.

 

 

 

 

 

Paul Burton’s Ironman Wales

So, Ironman Wales… My main target race this year was Roth in July. At 9.51 the time wasn’t quite as fast as I was hoping, but with a solid performance, a 3.37 run and a sub-10 in the bank, I was happy.

So Wales was just a bit of fun – a bonus race, if you like. A Kona slot was always going to be a stretch given the strong field of European slot chasers at Tenby, and with a tough course and conditions it’s not a race to go chasing a time. I wanted to bank another race… apparently it takes five ironmans until you “get it”, and this was to be number three for me.

Having said that, I was feeling in great form so was hopeful of a race that I could be proud of. After my first Ironman in 2010 I was stuffed for weeks. With that in the back of my mind I was ready to pull the plug if I didn’t recover from Roth. But three weeks later I was back in full training and put in a really good six week block with a couple of good short races including a sub-2 hour Olympic, and some solid run training in an attempt to improve the weakest part of my ironman racing to date. So I was really excited and, unlike Roth, not nervous at all. That’s a helpful place to be, it turns out. My strategy was simple – be sensible but give it a good go and take some risks if feeling good.

A number of the Black Line crew had entered the race, as well as a few others I know like fast runners Richard ‘Spud’ Lewis and Rory Maguire, Ben Unsworth and Pete Stewart from Thames Turbo, plus Jenny Hill who we met out in Roth and I had bullied into doing Tenby claiming she’d have a great shot at Kona. So it was going to be a fun weekend. Unfortunately neither Deenzy nor Troy could make it in the end – a shame as they both had great races in Roth and we were looking forward to duking it out again – so BLL honours were to be contested by Nico, Ian and I. Having trained a lot with Nico in recent weeks I knew he was in great shape. With his bike and, in particular, run strength I would be glancing over my shoulder for most of the race knowing that if he caught me it would be tough to stay with him.

We did a recce a few weeks before… the sea swim was challenging, the bike course was a brute, and the run was up and down a ruddy great big hill. So it needed respect! It also showed how beautiful Pembrokeshire is. The bike course has some wonderful terrain, including the blustery but epic Freshwater West and the gorgeous sea views at Wiseman’s Bridge and Saundersfoot. The day before the race we got a stunning sunrise on our early morning jog at Saundersfoot. Ian, Jenny and I used that to do some Olympic style larking around (wouldn’t be the only time that weekend).

 

Last preamble before getting onto the race… some of my family came down to support, which is a first for a long race. Mum, Dad, sister Carey, her boyfriend Jon and their new puppy Wiggins. I can’t say my parents were that thrilled about the prospect – they watched me at Windsor once but that was about it. Understandably Wales in the wind and rain didn’t thrill them. It turns out they had a ball – spectating at ironman is a long day but with a break for a game at Tenby Golf Club during the bike, they were content and loved the swim and run. Happy days, and I think they now know why I love this sport.

RACE

I was delighted with the weather forecast… cool, dry till early afternoon and 20mph gusts. You don’t enter races in Wales in September expecting sunshine. Although having opted for a disc wheel on the bike I was crossing my fingers the gusts wouldn’t propel me over the hedgerows.

SWIM

First surprise of the day came at the swim start. Last year they didn’t rope it off and when the gun went most of the field ran up the beach rather than swimming. Despite no mention at the briefing, some genius decided to prevent this by putting a new buoy in – perpendicular to the beach at only 150m out. So there were 1500 of us aiming for one small point. Sharpen your elbows, lads. To avoid massive biff my new strategy was 110% for 2 minutes to the buoy, embrace the lactic pain and then start the race properly once round the buoy. The swim was OK for me. At Roth I had a perfect draft the whole way round and swam great for a 57 min split. Whilst the sea was pretty flat, the small chop did make it hard to find any feet to follow, so I had to do all the hard work myself (bit of karma, I guess). Also, having gone out hard I tired in the second lap. So I was delighted to see 56 mins on the watch on the beach – it was either 100-200m short or we had a good current. Game on.

Onwards and upwards (literally) with the real business of the day. The 1k run to transition is actually one of the highlights of this race. The crowds are huge the entire way – what an atmosphere. Combine that with the sun making its only appearance of the day and it was serene. I would have loved to hit the pause button right there. Unfortunately, having come out of the water in 120th there were 1400 people chasing me down, so best crack on.

BIKE

I whizzed through transition – thanks in part to borrowing Jim Peet’s nifty long sleeved Fusion aero top, worn on top of my tri top under the wetsuit. So whilst others were layering up I went straight out. Ben was grabbing his bike at the same time which perked me up – it meant my swim was solid as he’s faster than me in the drink, and as he’s a strong rider and a fast Ironman (9.30 guy) there was the prospect of riding close to him. It turns out he hasn’t had as much time to train this year, so that wasn’t to be. Probably a good thing as we ruined eachother’s races at Swashbuckler this year smashing it out on the bike!

The bike course is just awesome. The first big loop is rolling rather than hilly, with a headwind out to Angle, via the stunning Freshwater West and then a tailwind back before starting the first of 2 smaller northern loops which had 4 or 5 sharp (10-15%) climbs and very little flat. Rather than set out easy and let the heart rate settle like I did at Roth, I went out steady at 230+ watts and went about chasing folk down. My HR never really settled, but I was happy with that as I now see this as a good sign – I had it at Wimbleball and it tells me I’m fit and fresh enough to push. I was making good progress, barely overtaken and taking loads myself. Then the ‘fun’ started – that being a bunch of Europeans that have a more liberal approach (read blatant) to drafting than the Brits. I’ve had my rant about this. It’s shocking and irritating, but as irritating is the marshals’ failure to penalise anyone. Throughout the first 70 miles I saw 4 distinct pelotons and there was not a single penalty issued. Go figure. My failure was that I let it impact my race – rather than letting the group go and getting on with my race, I shouted some fairly industrial English, went off the front a few times only to get reeled in a few minutes later. So my power was getting erratic, HR climbed and I was getting angry. So I calmed down, let them go and got on with my race. Rant over.

I had a couple of bad patches, but sure as eggs are eggs, they passed and overall I felt strong on the bike and my stomach was behaving itself unlike at Roth. I caught Pete and 2nd woman pro Eimear Mullan around halfway on the bike, had a good natter/whinge with them about the cheating, and then pulled away from them on the flatter section. The crowds on the hill coming out of Saundersfoot and then flying down the hill into Tenby were incredible, and it was great to see friendly faces like Laura, John and Leighton cheering us on. The final loop on the bike is tough because there were now so few targets. It had got a bit harder, as you’d expect with the time and hills, but I felt fine and knew I was having a solid race. Finally Nico caught me at somewhere around 150k. He was seriously shifting, and told me that Rory and Spud were not far behind. That helped to sharpen the focus and pick my pace up – it may have been quiet, but there were fast guys just minutes ahead and behind so there was no time for resting up. Nico kicked on and I kept him in sight for a while before letting him go – who knows, he may have been trashing his race and I shouldn’t ruin mine chasing him.

RUN

Rolled into transition after a 5.44 ride – pretty happy with that, but now the race really starts. It’s always interesting to find out if you have any running legs off the bike at any distance – with the hills and being half an hour longer it had definitely been a harder ride than Roth, so I was fearful they’d be knackered.

It turns out they weren’t and they felt great in the first few miles – it’s always been a pleasant change to get off the bike in an ironman for me. I was holding back but still running quick up the hill. It’s a 4 lap course that weaves around Tenby then goes up a big hill via a couple of out and backs and then straight back down and some more weaving around Tenby. The support was amazing throughout from both the volunteers and crowds, in particular in town where it was rammed and most had been suitably refreshed all day. Lots of fun. Having my family there was amazing – a huge lift. My mum and sister were jumping up and down like jack in the boxes and my Dad was screaming with his fists clenched!  For all supporters out there, you really do make a difference, thank you! I saw them 2 or 3 times on each lap. Great fun.

Nico was a couple of minutes up the road, Rory was a couple of minutes back. But they were both flying and capable of close to 3 hour ironman marathons, so racing them would have been stupid. The first lap was great then just like Roth I started to slow considerably before half way. So lap 2 was a bit rubbish, but it was fuelling rather than fatigue so once again when I got on the coke at halfway I came right back to life. In the future I’m on the coke from the start of the marathon – it’s rescued me twice now, so I need to eliminate the bad patches! Spud flew past me just like in Roth, although this time nearer halfway than the start. Lap 3 was solid and then, recovery complete, lap 4 was my best of the day. I had been chasing Jenny down for about an hour (she was a lap behind and moving really nicely) but when I finally caught her at the start of the final lap my legs were feeling better and better so I kicked on up the hill, shouting at her to go get her Kona slot. I was managing 4.30km pace back down the hill and then also on the flats at the end, and was able to ‘race’ properly, taking a number of places. Bonza. Nico had got 6 or 7 minutes up on me by halfway but in the final lap I saw the gap had shrunk significantly at the final out and back… so the hammer went down, but the sight of me meant the same for him, so I couldn’t close the gap and he got to the line 3 mins before me. A fun race… they breed them strong in South Africa!

 

 

Finished with a 3.18 marathon, which sounds terrific, but unfortunately it was only 40k on my Garmin, so more like 3.30 on an accurate course. Next time maybe the WTC can manage to get it right?! I’ll lend them my Garmin if they need? You can only run the course in front of you though and I ran at faster pace than Roth on a much tougher course, so I’m delighted with the progress.

 

Final scores on the doors were 10.09 for 20th in the M30 AG and 88th overall. 20 mins behind the final Kona spot, but I was delighted to ride steady and run faster than at Roth off that hard bike. A big step in the right direction and loads more learned. My swim was 120th, bike 89th and run also 120th. So the previously weak run now looks a bit more balanced, like my short course results.

Much like Roth it was great to see a load of mates laying it on the line, and almost to a man (and woman) having a great race. Gutted for Rory and Jenny to miss the Kona places by 2 or 3 mins each – although Jen got an impressive 3rd place in her AG and trophy for her efforts. Next time, guys! Combine this with a local community that so passionately embraced the race and it was a wonderful day, despite the drizzle on the run. I would recommend Wales to absolutely anyone, and I hope to go back one day. Hopefully not next year, mind, as inspired by racing with mates that are chasing Kona slots a number of us have all entered Ironman South Africa in April 2013. It’s typically been less competitive than the European Ironman races and it’s just gone up from 30 to 50 slots, so there is no lack of motivation this winter. If I can continue to improve my cycling and get in a good winter of high mileage running then I’m going there with a clear aim – to earn myself the right to throw a lot of good cash at a little race in the Pacific in October 2013. The dream lives on…

2012 has been a terrific season for me and this was a fitting end. I’ve loved every minute, most of all the banter, miles, smiles, hills, sunshine, rain and pain in training and racing with old and new friends. Whilst it’s been a year best described as ‘transitional’ on a personal level, these moments have been the highlight, so thank you all. Now it’s feet up and time to follow the black line to the beach. Mine’s a rum and coke. The best sports fuel in the world. The season’s dead. Long live the off season.

 

 

Black Line London’s Postcard from Hawaii

As Black Line London’s only current Hawaii resident Laura Trimble provides the lowdown on everything she thinks is fantastic about the Big Island.

Rest assured that while the training is awesome I’m not going to bore you all with that here when there is a whole host of other things to experience! So these are my “Best” things so far…

Kope Lani

1) Best for… Coffee. And ice cream!

With coffee and macadamia nuts produced en masse on the island they are everywhere. From ice cream to the latest fish catch, don’t be surprised to see a coffee flavoured macadamia nut crust. As an infrequent coffee drinker I feel a little unqualified to comment on where the best coffee is to be found but it’s hard to look beyond Kope Lani’s iced coffee.

Honourable mention to Lava Java for their Lava Java Shake. But the real reason to choose Kope Lani is that the ice cream is to die for: Caramel Mac Nut, Kope Lani Sundae, Mud Pie, KK Krunch (despite our best efforts we can’t pronounce the Hawaiian), Kona Joy are all winners. Allegedly.

Smoothy

2) Best for… Smoothies

For convenience, good service and (admittedly pretty dodgy) free wifi, the best place we’ve found is Menehune’s just off the pier. Try the Shaka or the Green Honu, they’ll happily add protein to it for you. Tastes best post run while cooling off in the ocean. Alternatively if you make it to Hawi then Kohala Coffee Mill at the top does great smoothies and even better ginger oatcakes.

Acai Bowl Menu

 3) Best for… A chilled out lunch

Almost certainly my favourite place on the island… Basik Acai. Serves bowls with an Acai base topped up with various combinations of fruit, berries, nuts, granola etc etc. I have no idea how I didn’t find this place in 2010. Delicious, tasty, healthy food (even if Scott thinks he is allergic to the granola), great atmosphere, chilled out music, sea breeze, cool seats overlooking a fantastic view of the ocean. I could sit there for hours.

 4) Best for… Dinner

I’m reluctant to talk about hidden gems but it’s not often you come across a Japanese lady serving food from what is essentially her kitchen. We stumbled across Kimagure when planning to eat somewhere else and as wellas being the cheapest meal I’ve seen in Kona it is just fabulous. Full of locals and tucked away out of sight in the Kona marketplace mall. Dumpling soup, gyoza and yakiudon are all great. As is everything else as far as I can see. Honourable mention to Rapanui’s which is a bit more pricey but also delicious and based on the wine selection seemingly run by New Zealanders. Last honourable mention to Kona Brewery where you might struggle to get a table but the pizza is fantastic. And to Lava Java for the fish tacos. Let’s face it… despite the impressive array of fast food outlets here if you dig a little deeper you can eat very well.

5) Best for… Happy Hour!

Coming straight from Vegas it didn’t take the boys long to figure this one out. With $4 a cocktail from 3-6pm and a fantastic view of the sunset Huggo’s cannot be beaten. Top marks to the Mai Tai’s and the Rainbow cocktails. And the hula ladies.

So 10 days into my trip and aside from a large amount of training that’s where I’ve been spending my time. I’ve also learned I can live off bagels, humous, no-fat yogurt, granola, almond butter and fresh fruit quite happily for weeks. And that at the farmers market you can buy 3 papayas for $1.

And finally on the training front a few useful tips…

Ad hoc water stations: there is a drinking fountain 2 miles down Ali’i Drive on the left; a shower at the farthest point of the energy lab; and a petrol station on the Queen K halfway (3 miles) from the energy lab back to town. All very welcome and much used.

The old airport is awesome for running reps. Dead straight runway almost exactly 1km long. About 1.5 miles out of town. Does slope up a bit going north. Next to a nice looking and popular beach which I am yet to fully appreciate.

The pool is free, runs masters 3x weekly and has a great vibe. Mostly locals swimming but all friendly and welcoming to visitors. Natascha Badmann has done every session I’ve been to. Steve is the head coach there. He gave me an avocado after my first session.

Pool
There are 36 lampposts on Mark and Dave hill, 37 if you include the one on the corner of Palani Road. It’s around a mile and quite steep so if you can hit one every 12 seconds you’re doing pretty well

Lamp posts

And I stole this from Macca but apparently it takes 42 seconds to sprint from the Banyan Tree to the finish. Hoping I won’t need to use that one!

Hamilton, Armstrong and a huge amount of drugs….

Tyler Hamilton the Tour de France with a broken collar bone and in what sounds like such mind-bending pain that he ground down 11 of his teeth down to the nerve. EPO or no EPO, that makes him a total bad ass. And if a bad ass writes a book, it’s probably worth reading.

That he’s come clean about his drug use through his cycling career and written about it (with co-writer Daniel Coyle) in such an eloquent and non-sensationalist way pretty much backs up his bad ass credentials.

His book The Secret Race’ gives us all an idea of what we might have found out had Lance Armstrong chosen to challenge USADA’s ruling. And it’s pretty mind blowing.

Everyone has an opinion, and I have mine, but you don’t want to hear that. What you might want to hear is that this is the sort of book that anyone with an interest in sports could and should read. The Hamilton story covers an incredible time in bike racing (by any definition of ‘incredible’) and really paints a picture of a man who, after years of lying, wants to decompress by telling the truth, holding nothing back and laying it all out there.

He’s a doper, yes, but like in David Millar’s equally excellent biography ‘Racing Through The Dark’, Hamilton makes it understood that it’s not quite black and white. His delivery is great – facts, events and little conjecture delivered in a personable way.

Doping is complicated – legally, scientifically  (and yes, even morally) –  but the book finds a great balance of navigating these issues. The attention to detail is amazing and there are excellent footnotes at the end of each chapter that give additional background, sources and context. You also get a sense of how his private life was affected and of not just his real character but that of Armstrong, ASADA pitbull Jeff Novitzky (who seems like a decent lad, to be fair) and many of the other insalubrious players in the drama.

At the end of the book, I didn’t feel sympathy for Hamilton or want to excuse his actions (the period between getting busted and admitting his doping is particularly hard to reconcile) but I did like him. He seemed honest and transparent in his telling of his story as well as contrite and he’s certainly taken it on the chin.

Lance Armstrong attacked Hamilton’s credibility, as he has with anyone of the growing number of voices who speak about his complicity in a decade of doping. But ultimately I think Hamilton emerges from writing this book with great credibility – not for what he did then but for what he’s done now.

But I feel most sorry for Tugboat. The poor fucker didn’t ask for any of this……

 

New BLL Hoodies

Underpinning Black Lone London’s birth is the desire to have devastatingly cool kit, and the new BLL hoodie doesn’t disappoint. With the onset of autumn, this item is stylish and functional. And at only £22, it’s also a bargain.

Challenge Roth Race Report

It’s hard to know where to begin. And it’s hard to believe that it was a whole year ago that I filled in my details on the Challenge Roth website and entered my first full distance event. But fuck me, it came around quick.

The weeks immediately running up to the race had been a bit disrupted by a busy spell at work, some illness in the house and some other life stuff such as going to see The Stone Roses in Manchester the weekend before (amazing!) that takes priority – usual rules for age groupers –  so of course my mind going into the trip was filled with thoughts of the sessions I had missed rather then the hours I had done in that time.

This was always going to be an epic trip. Not only is Roth a legendary event, but the road trip itself with @JamieWardell and @TroyMaloy, driving all 800 odd KM’s to Nuremberg meant epicness guaranteed.

12 hours in the car passed with loads of great banter, top tunes and surprisingly quickly but don’t believe them when they say the Autobahns are the best roads in the world 🙁

Our first sight of the course came the next day, Friday, when we headed to the swim start. The swim takes place in a busy working canal which is closed to all traffic for practice and the event so there was a fairly small window to get in the water. Although the buoys were not yet laid out, we knew roughly where the turn around points were (or so we thought – more of that later) and let me tell you, when you can see km’s up a long straight canal, it looks a long way. The vibes were really great, and we hung out with fellow London based friends Paul DPaul  B, LauraMatt (who saved a hunger meltdown by cracking out about 2 kilo’s of @FreespeedLondon raisins), AndrewIan and Ash.

From there we hit a local cafe for coffee and breakfast before driving a good section of the bike course. The perception is that it’s flat. It’s not, and it’s more than rolling. We had the bikes in the car so we stopped just before the steepest climb and rode an out and back section for about an hour. Being out an the bikes cranked the excitement up a notch and with some smooth German roads it was clear there would be some very fast sections. From there to registration and a stroll around the Expo where I managed to lose my beloved Oakley sunglasses. Most bleak.

Saturday was about a few last minute tweeks and gathering supplies before trying to rest up as much as possible, getting some carbs in and trying to keep a lid on excitement. I  felt like I wanted to wrestle someone…

As always, the night before didn’t deliver the most amazing sleep ever, not least because of the 03:30 alarm call. With Jamie & Troy in a wave 45 minutes before mine, plus the usual fear of running out of time, we were happy to be up and heading to the swim start. What on paper seemed like a mission of parking, walking to the start, dropping off bags etc actually turned out to be no trouble. Challenge have got the admin down pat and this was the recurring theme throughout – they have a very different (I think better) feel about them to WTC which seems much more corporate and less personal.

A last check of the bikes, loading up nutrition and pumping up tyre’s and it was almost show time. The atmosphere was amazing – really buzzy and with great building tension in the air. With wetsuit pulled on, I made my way to the start and watched a couple of waves go off – the sound of the cannon at the start of each waive was thunderous and the perfect way to start this epic event.

THE SWIM: 1:05:14

As already mentioned, the swim is a long, straight drag in the canal, a turnaround, then past the start point under a bridge packed with spectators before turning again for home. As expected there was a lot of thrashing, but I had adopted a position at one side to I think escaped the worst. I felt pretty relaxed and was annoyed I hadn’t got closer to the front as I was definitely held up by the swimmers in front of me. Other than losing my cap after about 15 minutes, and a couple of kicks to the face it was pretty uneventful and I felt like I had a good relaxed rhythm and a solid catch. By now I was going past swimmers 3 waves on front of mine meaning there was some navigation to be done to side-step the bottlenecks. All was well until we approached the aforementioned bridge when I stepped it up a gear thinking we were almost home. But (and here is a lesson in proper prep), the final turnaround marker wasn’t where I thought it was going to be and we had probably about another 300m to go. So, I had to adjusted and didn’t let it freak me out but I was kicking myself for the amateur-hour error.

T1 0:03:20

Usually stress free, I hit a problem here – someone had either moved or accidentally grabbed my bike bag. There was nothing other than a small towel and socks in it, but it meant I didn’t have a bag to put my wetsuit in. This really threw the volunteers, but one girl eventually took it from me and said she’s take care of it. I wasn’t sure what that meant but trusted in karma to return it to me somehow.

THE BIKE 05:29:56

The course here is 2 laps and that is how I broke it down in my mind. The advice form those vastly more experienced than me was unanimous: don’t get excited and take it easy on the bike. Although my use of a power meter was really about gathering data, my slightly unscientific plan was not to let power go over about 250w on the climbs. At the front of my mind all the time was the fact I had to run my first ever marathon when I got off after 180km. Looking back on the data, the ride is littered with spikes so a have some work to do on this!

There were a couple of notable features. The first was that it was very windy – apparently the windiest Roth on record. The second lap was worse, and the common view was that even for the best cyclists this might have meant 20 minutes. The second was the Solaraberg climb, the most legendary section where thousands of locals come to support the athletes and narrow the road to single file. It really took my breath away on the first lap and I felt like a TDF rider. The power definitely spiked then!

My nutrition plan was not very well defined. I had 7 gels on a squeezy bottle, several bars in my bento box and 2 drinks bottles – one with isotonic drink, the other with an electrolyte drink. I’d also taken one tablet to help with GI at the suggestion of Tam Lewis – this had worked really well for me in my last 70.3 and I’d avoided some of the GI issues encountered at previous races.

At about 150k I was starting to get a sore back from being on the aero bars, but otherwise felt pretty decent physically and despite the wind, there were stretches where over 40kph that felt effortless. 2 Ibuprofen sorted the back but not the mind fuckery and I really wanted the bike to end quickly. That brief bleak moment passed after about 15 minutes and before I know it we were rolling into T2.

T2 00:03:27

A great example of how Challenge look after the athletes: Volunteers see you coming in and clock your number, finding your bag and handing it right to you. Another volunteeer practically put my shoes on for me  and handed me my fuel belt and visor while another put suncream on my neck and shoulders. Amazing.

THE RUN. 04:21:06

Oh my….the run! I know it would be all about the run which is definitely my weakest discipline. And I’ve never run a marathon before, so experience = ZILCH!

Things started really well, probably too well. My plan was to aim for a 3:45 marathon at a constant 5:20 pace. I felt surprisingly good going into the run. At my previous event in Mallorca i knew within a minute that the run was going to be a ‘mare so it was pleasing to feel so positive – so much so that I had to really slow myself down in the first meters. Before I knew it, I was closing in on 10km with the only memorable point hearing @TroyMaloy bellow “P-Doooogggg!” at me long before I saw him.

The course at Roth is flat, with much of it being long canal-side stretches. We’d been warned that this can be a bit of a head fuck because the scenery doesn’t change and at times you can see 5km’s ahead. In the end this wan’t too bad and it is punctuated by looping into small villages at the turnaround points at either end where, like on the bike course, the level of support from local people is pretty amazing.

The 15km point passed and so far so good. Then 20km…still not too bad, but somewhere around the 25km point things started to get a bit ugly. The legs were getting tired and the lack of strategy on the bike nutrition started to comeback to bite me as the feeling of having a brick sitting in my stomach grew. Up to this point I’d walked a couple of the aid stations and taken coke and water from the start but this, on top of the gels and bars from the bike all started getting a bit much. There was no danger of a Paula Radcliffe style crisis, but I was getting really uncomfortable and was now having to walk more frequently. The legs were really tight now, and the focus was all about getting from aid station to aid station. I really dont remember much about the run other than @JamieWardell shouting at me at one aid station  (I think he knew I was struggling) and thinking “This is really going to get shitty” quite a lot. For one brief moment at around 30km a horrible thought entered my mind…”I’m not going to finish this”. Then I remembered all the amazing messages of support, good luck and positive vibes I’d received before the race from family, friends and even strangers and kicked that right into touch.

I couldn’t stomach any more coke or sports drink so decided late in the run to try the chicken soup. “Chicken soup? Whaaaa?” I can hear you say. But to be fair, it was magical – my stomach immediately felt a little better, enough that I could at least get a shuffle going and as well as alleviating the monotony of sweet drinks I also amused myself for a while by thinking of this.

By now I had about 10km to go and I knew I just had to grind it out. I kept moving, except for one moment when my brain just said “Sit down, IMMEDIATELY!” which I did without any say in the matter. Then I thought, “What the fuck are you doing” and managed to get myself up and going again.

A few more walking periods punctuated the by now well off the pace running but on the last turnoff the canal path and thought a section of forrest I was ticking off the km’s. With about 4km to go the route enters the town of Roth where the crowds start building up and I could hear the music from the finish line PA. The course loops into the town before heading for the finish and I have to say that the last 3 km felt like the longest of the day. But nothing lasts forever. Running under the big banner over the entrance to the expo and onto the red carpet was glorious, but even now a sharp cramp in my stomach made me stop for about 5 seconds.

The finish line at Roth is inside a purpose built arena in the town centre, and it’s a bit like finishing a race in a night club. Crowds, noise, music, colour, energy – really a memorable experience.

And so I crossed the line, had a medal put round my neck and proceeded to collapse on the grass and be hit by a wave of emotion. @TroyMaloy was waiting for me as close as he could get and I’ve never been so happy to see a friend. A few man tears and hugs later and I was ready to sit down and rest.

Final TIme: 11:03:00 Full split details HERE.

So, my first full distance race completed and with a few days to mull things over, here are some observations that I’ll be taking into my next one, and using in my training:

  1. The marathon can kick your arse.
  2. You can’t really know what to expect until you do one.
  3. A solid and tested nutrition strategy on the bike is critical to your run.
  4. I raced with power, but need to dial that in much more efficiently and use it more effectively. At least now I’ve started a data history.
  5. The marathon can kick your arse.
  6. No matter how good you feel, stick to the plan on the run.
  7. Friends are awesome.
  8. I keep saying it, and I’m not sponsored, but Xendurance works – I’m amazed at how not-shit I felt the days after the race.
  9. Much work needs to be done on my running.
  10. The marathon can kick your arse.
Despite my final time being about 30 minutes slower than I had secretly been hoping for, I feel pretty positive. I think if I were to (metaphorically) do this again tomorrow I could get close to that. Maybe that’s the post-race, pain-has-faded Paul talking……

As a final point, I have to mention some particularly amazing things about this event.

  1. Volunteers are amazing, brilliant and vital Remember to say thank you to as many of them as you can, wherever you race.
  2. The local people come out to support in their thousands – 200,000 apparently. That gives me goosebumps.
  3. And stick around for the final finisher and fireworks – it’s a massive party atmosphere and just felt right to be there

Athletes, We Salute You!

Black Line London’s Laura Trimble was one of the lucky ones. She was there.

I love the Olympics. Always have. I remember running home from school to

see Sally Gunnell win the 400m hurdles at the Barcelona games in 1992. I

was 10. I remember avidly watching obscure sports throughout the 90’s

(when we were rubbish at most things and the Olympics were no exception).

And in the meantime I also became an athlete, nowhere near the level of

those we have been lucky enough to watch on TV and in the flesh the past

two weeks, but good enough that I understand the sacrifices, the thousands

of hours of training, the endless following of the black line needed even

to get close. And yes, I am one of the lucky ones. Because I was in the

Olympic Stadium on the evening of Saturday 4 August, the greatest 45

minutes of athletics Britain has ever seen.

First up was Jess, leading the heptathlon by a distance, with 80,000

people willing her to take the final step. She didn’t disappoint. In a

random turn of events we found ourselves seated just behind former Olympic

Champion Carolina Kluft who assured those nearby that not only would Jess

win, but she was likely to break Kluft’s Olympic record. This was good.

She should know. And we all know what happened next. The fairy tale ending

as Jess continued the demolition job and won not only the 800m but the

heptathlon by over 300 points. Or, you could say, by miles. From the

moment Jess walked onto the track the atmosphere was electric and as she

led her competitors on a lap of honour the joyous mood was infectious.

But what of Greg? Well that was unexpected. Having nailed a massive jump

early on he led the long jump pretty much from the start, and he was the

only person to jump beyond this all evening, taking his last jump joyously

with victory already assured. The crowd were back on their feet. This was

epic.

People have hardly had time to catch their breath when Mo steps onto the

track. Mo who came to Britain as a Somalian refugee as a child and who

learned his craft on the streets of southwest London. Mo who until two

years ago had been agonisingly close but somehow always just out of the

medals, not unlike Paula in her track days, and who responded to the

challenge by uprooting his family to Portland to join Alberto Salazar’s

“Oregon Project.’ Mo who, like Jess, carried with him the hopes of all of

us.

Up until 600m to go it was impossible to tell who would win. Mo looked

good, but so did Bekele. Both Bekeles in fact. And the Kenyans too. We all

know the Africans always beat us with that devastating sprint in the

finish chute. At 500m to go Mo is on the front alongside Bekele, not

winding it up to full gas yet, just pushing a little, testing those around

him. Then 400m and I’m still not sure, the Kenyans and Ethiopeans are

right there, waiting to pounce. But then it’s 300m and there’s a gap, a

real gap, and the entire crowd is on its feet and you can sense this is

the moment; you can hardly hear yourself think but it doesn’t matter

because everyone is thinking and shouting the same thing. GO MO. You can

do it Mo. This is it. Into the

last 100m and Bekele is gone, Rupp makes his move but he’s never going to

catch Mo who is pulling away, it’s almost an easy victory in the end as he

coasts across the line, arms aloft, glancing behind. Olympic Champion.

Without doubt the best 45 minutes that British athletics has ever and almost

certainly will ever experience. I will never forget it. Jess, Greg and Mo

– three very British champions. We salute you all.