Archives for June 2013

Evans Cycles Discount – Extra 10% Off

Evans Cycles

To take advantage of this special Evans Cycles discount code simply click on the picture above, or the discount code and enter 10EXCPA at the checkout before the 9th July.

Code: 10EXCPA
Valid Dates:28/06/13 to 09/07/13
Extra 10% off Clothing, parts and accessories

Terms and Conditions
Extra 10% off clothing, parts and accessories. Excludes Aftershokz, Altura, Bontrager, Endura, Enve, Exposure, Garmin, O’Neal, Rapha, Specialized & Thule. Also excludes Gift Vouchers, FixIt! and RideIt! Events Cannot be used in conjunction with any other offer, discount, or when using Price Match. Valid from 28/06/13 to 09/07/13

Markel Castle Triathlon Series – Cholmondeley Castle Review

Cholmondeley lake

Cholmondeley lake

I ran along the narrow metaled track focusing hard to keep moving and keep my form. Lift heels, elbows back, cadence high, no slouching. I focused my eyes on the track in front, faltered, rubbed my eyes and stared again. There, right in the middle of the track was a fully grown swan. It was standing up and staring at me with its beady little eyes. Have you ever seen a swan out of water and standing next to you? They are massive and they look like they have a serious attitude problem. I briefly envisaged a new take on the old Monty Python sketch. In my version the swan is guarding a track and emits a low voice “None shall pass!” The swan then proceeds to peck the limbs off of various triathletes who attempt to continue with their race, while uttering phrases like “It is but a flesh wound!”


Stepping out of my surreal reverie you may be wondering what it is like to take part in the Markel Castle triathlon series? This article is the first person account of my race on the day, featuring the highs, the lows and any little tips that I picked up along the way. Have a read and consider how you do it. Are you doing something better than me? Are you doing something worse? How can you improve?

At the bottom of the article you can find links to my original race preview which will give you an idea of what is involved in the Castle Triathlon Series as well as providing some hints, tips and race strategy for novices and more experienced athletes. You can also find a link to a more structured race review that I crafted with Joe from the very useful website with yet more triathlon tips and advice. As usual feel free to comment, email me or hit the “Ask BRS” button at the top of the page if you want to discuss any aspect of this article.


Cholmondeley Castle CampingI had decided to camp onsite due to the amount of traveling that I needed to do to get to this round of the CTS. I figured that while the camping itself would almost guarantee a bad night’s sleep, at least I could take it easy on the morning of the race and would have plenty of time to sort myself and my kit out. A friend from my triathlon club had decided to come with me to offer moral support and had grabbed himself a spot in the sprint race. We would be sharing the car for the journey and the tent overnight.

As we got near to the start of the event we began to see warning signs on the roads, so that the locals would be aware of the Sunday morning disruption to the traffic. The roads wouldn’t be closed, but there would be policemen around to stop the traffic when required to give triathletes the right of way at all of the road junctions.

The Cholmondeley Castle estate was easy to find and we followed the organisers signs onto the campsite next to the lake. It wasn’t a formal campsite and would be serving the purpose simply for the event , however it was well kept with just enough grass to keep the ground comfortable without it getting in the way. Nobody was immediately around to greet us, so we found a spot and began to set up.

I had rooted my tent out of the back of the garage earlier in the week and tested it in our back garden. It looked clean and mould free but I didn’t have the time to check if it was still watertight. I don’t think that we had used it for five or six years, so given the wet and windy weather forecast, this was a genuine concern. On the site we pitched the tent in the lee of the car to give it some protection from the wind that was coming off of the lake and were soon settled in. Just as we were about to go for a walk the campsite attendant came over, ticked us off of his list and briefed us on the amenities.

The estate was beautiful, and the evening was uneventful, with children and adults playing in the lake until around 10pm. This was an encouraging sign especially as there weren’t any screams about it being cold. I eventually settled into a restless sleep, apprehensive about the bad weather forecast. I didn’t fancy waking up, starting the day cold and then shivering my way down to jump into a cold lake.

Registration, racking and the race brief

Cholmondeley CastleThe Markel CTS team operate a very efficient registration system which means that you don’t need to turn up too early. You will have more than enough time as long as you give yourself the recommended hour between arrival and the start of your wave. I took my bike and transition box down to registration where I was ushered through, bumping into a couple of welcome and familiar faces on the way. Nothing is sent out before the race, which is a good thing, so I collected my race numbers, swim hat, timing chip and goody bag as I moved through.

Once out of registration there was plenty of space to affix the two numbers to my helmet, one to my bike and the other to my race belt. As usual I then had to put my helmet on before I was allowed into the transition area to rack my bike. The racking is laid out in waves, so I made my way across to the section marked as Wave 1. I was pleased to see that I wasn’t the only person in the “elite” wave that didn’t have aero bars on their bike. I had been training in a normal riding position so felt that simply putting aero bars on would do more harm than good without getting a proper bike fit done around them.

I put my transition box on the ground and fixed my shoes onto the bike, using elastic bands to the front derailleur and the rear quick release skewer to hold them level. This should mean that they wont bounce and rotate as I run with the bike, while also offering themselves up to easily accept my feet when I finally leapt on. I had never tried this before, and was going against my number one tip “don’t try anything new on race day!” Do as I say, not as I do!!!

Due to the inclement weather extra precautions were needed to keep me warm on the bike, so I also laid out a pair of thin neoprene gloves and a lightweight Jack Wolfskin windproof jacket (reviewed here). My plan was to pull them on if I was feeling nippy in T1. I also laid out my running shoes, ready and open to pull onto my cold wet feet in T2. Finally I put my helmet on top of my transition box upside down and with the straps hanging out, with a pair of clear glasses stashed inside to protect my eyes against spray on the road. I have had some appalling transition times in the past and this time I wanted to do better.

With all of that done I left the transition area and returned to my tent to get into my wetsuit. I was wearing a neoprene skullcap and a neoprene headband underneath my swim cap. They weren’t really needed due to the warm (18 degrees) water, but I always use them when swimming outdoors just to ensure that I don’t get brain freeze. I was also wearing Docs Pro plugs in my ears which keep the cold water out of my ear canals but still allow me to hear the race brief. A lot of people think they get seasick when swimming in cold water, but in reality it is often the motion of cold water whooshing up and down their ear canals that gives them extreme vertigo and then makes them sick. This is easily resolved with earplugs.

The Swim

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter the comprehensive race brief from race director, Brian Adcock, we were shuffled off of the small pier and into the water. I felt compelled to utter a meaningless comment as I passed him.

“Can you tell your canoeists not to rush over if I look like I’m drowning, it’s all part of my “style?””

As a regular and experienced race director I imagine that Brian has heard many such comments before. He promised to throw his washing in so that it could get cleaned while I was thrashing about…..

The water was….well, it was actually warm. I didn’t feel any discomfort whatsoever as I got in. This was a major result. Last year I suffered cold shock, with the associated hyper ventilation and panicking, which severely hampered all of my open water swims. The difference this year was that I had been swimming in the sea once a week since March and I was fully acclimatised. When we started it was a frigid 7 degrees Celsius, so the 18 in the lake felt simply balmy.

I barely had time for my pre-race alfresco pee in my wetsuit before we were set off.  Once the chaos died down I was really pleased that I managed to keep with the majority of the swimmers for the first 400m. Unfortunately my swimming is a serious weak point and after that everyone started to gap me, but that was expected. I kept my cool and simply ploughed on as fast as I could manage. I was on the final leg and was angling away from the marker buoys towards the exit flags when the next wave started to come past me, still on their first lap. Due to our slightly different routes it wasn’t an issue and there was more than enough space for them to come through.

I climbed out of the water with the aid of a marshal, was careful not to kick the concrete step hidden under the water, and started to pull my wetsuit off as I ran the 120m to T1. My time for the swim ended up being nearly two minutes quicker than the target that I had given myself.

The Cycle

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI put on my helmet, chucking my glasses to one side. They were covered in water droplets from the rain and would have seriously hampered my vision. I paused to put on my windproof jacket. This turned out to be a wise decision as I kept it on for the rest of the race. I grabbed my neoprene gloves and ran out of T1 with the bike. I crossed the start line and leapt on. It was my fastest ever T1 by over 1 minute and 20 seconds.

Both feet went easily into my Sidi T2 triathlon shoes and I started to pedal. One elastic band snapped, but the other didn’t, so I reached down and gave it a tug. Problem solved. I did up both shoes and then started to pull on my neoprene gloves. 5 seconds later a pair of neoprene gloves were cursed at and thrown into the hedge. I simply couldn’t get them on over my wet hands and resolved to collect them later.

As I settled in to a steady pace I pulled the wrist strap for my Garmin 910XT out of the Lezyne Caddy that I have strapped to the top tube, just behind the stem, and put it onto my wrist. I then pulled out one of the Cliff Double Espresso gels and chugged it back. The bike leg was my chance to restock. I intended to finish it feeling fueled, hydrated and ready to run.

I was setting a good pace and started to claw back some of the faster swimmers. Feeling good, I was rolling along and didn’t even find the strong headwind too much of a problem. This was great. My plan was working out perfectly. I put some serious effort in to that first lap to catch as many people as possible. It was a multi lap course so I also used the first lap to plan my pacing for the second, so that I wouldn’t finish it feeling too tired to be able to perform on the run. There were quite a few potholes around some sections of the course, and to make it worse they were filled with rain water, so you couldn’t tell which puddles were shallow and which were treacherous. I avoided all standing water wherever possible just to be sure, but I know that a few riders were caught out and finished with gravel rash.

My ego was dashed somewhat on the second lap when I started to get overtaken by a lot of young people with red numbers and wearing tri-suits with their names written on. This wasn’t a good sign. A lot of them were very fast and came past me like I was stood still. This must be the BUCS lot from the second wave. I knew I should have researched what BUCS meant. I kept my cool and stuck to my plan.

The last few hundred meters of the bike course was downhill along a private road through the estate. I rolled down it, moving my Garmin 910 XT from the handlebars to my wrist and also removing my feet from my shoes. I leapt off at the dismount line and ran into T2 to the sounds of a BUCS competitor behind me skidding across the line, leaving his braking a little too late.

The Run

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAComing in to T2 I racked the bike, took off my helmet and stuffed my feet into my shoes before heading straight back out again. I set another personal best time for transition and ran up the well signposted track. I had to pause once to adjust my shoes as I hadn’t pulled the quick lace system tight enough, but this only took a second and I was away again.

I have been doing a lot of marathon and ultra running recently and simply wanted to beat my last Olympic tri 10k time. I knew that my standalone 10k PB wouldn’t be under threat, but I also knew that I shouldn’t really lose any ground on the run. Unfortunately nobody told the BUCS lot that. I had a brief chat with one of them as he went past. BUCS stands for British Universities & Colleges Sport and this was a major event for them so a lot of good triathletes had turned out. The guy that I was chatting to declared that his running was terrible before leaving me far behind.

My brief swan encounter on lap one was repeated on lap two. As far as I can tell the swan didn’t move for the entire morning and must have been enjoying intimidating the triathletes.

Overtaking one runner I eased off for a chat. He was on the sprint course and this was his first tri. I checked to make sure that he was enjoying himself before moving on and up onto the extra 1km loop that the Olympic runners were doing. When I finally got to the line, smashing my previous Olympic 10k PB by nearly four minutes, he was there, stuffing a burger into his mouth and drinking a pint of non-alcoholic beer. We shook hands, grinned at each other like idiots and I moved on to devour the contents of the free food table that was laid on for finishers.



I had a really good time during this event. The past few months of training and endurance racing had done nothing to harm my performance and on the day I exceeded all of my personal race performance targets. Being overtaken so much during an Olympic tri was new to me, particularly when I was going so well, but to be honest I didn’t mind seeing the “youngsters” in action. They were a very impressive bunch and it has motivated me to continue putting the effort in so that I can do better against them next time. Having such an amazing field did place me lower on the final results table than I would normally have liked, however I was competing against some of the best triathletes in the country, so I don’t feel too bad about it.

The CTS rounds always seem to feature a strong field, however don’t let this put you off. Triathlon is very much a race against yourself and it is good to see some very fast athletes doing their “thing.” Watch them closely and you never know, you just might learn something.

If you want to take part in an exceptionally well organised triathlon in stunning surroundings then head over to and book yourself a spot in one of their next rounds. See you at Hever Castle for The Gauntlet in September?




Premium Rush Review – Fixed wheel lunacy

Premium Rush

Fixed gear. Steel Frame. No Brakes. Can’t stop. Don’t want to!

Wilee – Premium Rush

Over the last few days I have been watching Premium Rush in bits and pieces whenever I have had five minutes to enjoy a bit more. It is a 2012 film about lead character Wilee, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who is a cycle courier by choice. The story line is fairly obvious, he has a package to deliver and a dirty cop wants to get the package instead. Let the fun begin!

Premium Rush features a lot of crazy cycling action, but we aren’t talking over the top Vin Diesel xXx style stunts here. All of the stunts seemed achievable albeit on the edge of human ability and skill, particularly when strung together in such a fashion. Wilee’s cycling style is particularly outlandish, relying on simply locking the back wheel to stop which results in a few nice drifts and neat moves while threading through the traffic. In other words the action is over the top, but doesn’t quite stretch into the realms of being utterly unbelievable, which makes it all the more enjoyable.

The main characters are all very interesting and have some great personality quirks. The dirty cop was great fun and clearly lacked any decent sense of judgement.  There were also plenty of other colourful characters and a sense of humour pervaded throughout. There was very much a Sherriff Buford T Justice vs The Bandit (Burt Reynolds, Smokey and the Bandit reference, for those too young to know who Sheriff B is) theme running through it, with the same tired bike cop being encountered in several fruitless attempts to catch Wilee.

All in all I thought that Premium Rush was well worth the watch, but it probably wont mean quite as much to those that haven’t on occasion diced with traffic on a bicycle or sought that extra kick of adrenaline elsewhere. I used to commute through Plymouth on a fixed wheel single speed bike when at university and I used to love it. I never had the guts to ride brakeless though!

This film strictly gets a 2 or 3 out of 5 type score from most normal film review sites, but if I was to put it on a scale it would be 8/10 stretching to a 9 just for having the balls to make such a movie. It bucks the trend to go totally overblown and unbelievable, has some really likeable characters and is all the more fun for it.

Is wild swimming dangerous?

Is bathing dangerous?

With the death of a recent swimming acquaintance the risk of death while swimming has been lurking at the back of my mind. I would loved to have been able to call JJ a friend, but in reality I had only met him a couple of times. If you want to know more about this tremendous person then here is a link to his obituary in The Scotsman where they talk about him far better than I ever could.

Another swimming acquaintance, hopefully to one day be promoted from a Facebook friend that I have never met to real friend, goes by the nom de plume Plum Duff, and has recently settled down with a bottle of red wine to examine the actual risks of death whilst wild swimming. So over to Plum. Is wild swimming dangerous?

I’m quite well versed in countering it with the argument that goes along the lines of ‘its nowhere near as dangerous as driving’. At which point eyes glaze over and subjects are changed. Fair enough. That is an argument that can be and is applied to activities ranging from flying to voting Conservative; as a result it is a tired argument. I’d argue about whether it stacks up in terms of voting Conservative, to be honest. Way more dangerous than driving in my view.

So, recent events have brought this issue into focus for me; the net result of that is that I’ve had two burning urges:

  1. To do some research
  2. To get in the water.

Click here for the rest of the article: <a href="" onclick="_gaq.push(['_trackEvent', 'outbound-article', 'http://www generic’, ’55/40 – Is it? Really?’]);” >55/40 – Is it? Really?.

Further thoughts

In reality I tend to distance myself from such matters when they occur. I think that is one of the character flaws of someone that inherently likes to take risks in their spare time. It doesn’t pay to think about the death of someone taking part in one of your hobbies too much. If you do then there is a danger that it will distract you at just the wrong moment, or cause you to freeze in the split second that you should be reacting, resulting in your own injury or untimely demise. So far in my life I have only frozen once while indulging an extreme sport and it resulted in the worst injuries that I’ve ever had. I examined it, learned from it and retrained my reflexes to stop it happening again in the same circumstances. Of course the other option is to give up the risk taking altogether and I don’t think that anyone would like the miserable soul that I would become if that were the case.

Ironman UK 70.3 Wimbleball Race Report

Ironman 70.3 UK Exmoor from Yoke Creative on Vimeo.

A few members of my local triathlon club (Plymouth TC) raced in Ironman UK 70.3 last weekend at Wimbleball. Every single one of them put in a stunning effort just to finish the toughest Ironman 70.3 event in the world. The weather even came out to play just to make it a little bit tougher. One of them was kind enough to write it all up for me. His name is Mark Schofield, who has this to say about himself and the race:

I have always enjoyed running and endurance events, but ever since I completed my first Sprint distance triathlon in 2009, I have known that I had found the sport for me. Since then I have completed 5 Ironman 70.3s and 2 full Ironman races. Last year, I sneaked a place at the Ironman 70.3 World Championships and July will see me pushing my boundaries at the European Ironman race in Frankfurt. In between training sessions, I am a full-time student doing a degree in Computing, and a certified expert at falling asleep with my head on the dinner table.

Had you asked me 5 years ago if I would do any of these things and call myself a triathlete, I would have said ‘never’, but as Arthur C. Clarke said:

‘The only way to discover the limits of the possible is to go beyond them into the impossible.’ – Arthur C. Clarke”

Plymouth Triathlon Club

Paul V in action

Over the weekend of 15-16 June, 5 plucky (foolhardy?) Plymouth Tri-Club members went to Wimbleball on Exmoor for the UK leg of Ironman 70.3. The 1900m swim, 56 mile ride and 13.1 mile run are widely accepted as one of the toughest middle courses in the world.

At least it’s done in summer time, with dry weather and safe roads. Yeah, right.

Richard Jordan, Paul Vickers, Chris Agnew, Andrew Bamford and myself all duly arrived at the venue the day before for the pre-race stuff such as registration, organising transition bags and racking bikes. The pre-race brief was confident that the 35-40kmh winds blowing at the time would have subsided by the morning. There wasn’t much they could do about the rain.

Undaunted, the ‘glampers’ returned to their tents and wheelbarrows of pasta, while I sneaked off for a pub supper (yes, with beer) and the back of my car.

Inevitably the morning came too soon, with a 4.30am alarm to let me get into the car park before the hordes arrived. At least being forced to do most of the preps the day before means that the morning can be spent getting hydrated, fed, lubed-up and generally excited/worried. The number of people in transition who appear worried that their wheels aren’t round anymore and need to constantly spin them to check never ceases to amaze me. Once the music and commentary start at 6am, you can feel (and smell) a palpable increase in the competitors’ adrenaline level.

This year there were 1800 entrants, with nearly 1000 of those being IM virgins. There were nearly 300 in the M40-44 age group alone. The start was in two big waves, with the ‘young-uns’ and elite going at 7am with the more mature racers splashing off 15 minutes later. As a wave-2-er, that gave me nearly 1000 targets to hunt down. Good motivation if you can avoid the traffic jams.

On a grey but initially dry morning and following the National Anthem, each wave was invited down to the water. The PTC members gave each other a quick handshake and then we were off! The water temperature was just over 14C which made it cool, but not worryingly so. Like many others, I did my best to warm the water up a wee bit before we started. It’s hard to simulate a true mass start but thanks to all the coaching staff who have put us through our paces in recent weeks. Sighting, turning around buoys, deep-water starts, straight-line swimming through murky water, bilateral breathing, adrenaline fuelled starts – everything came into play. The same is true for the superb PTC bike coaching and track sessions – the coaches really have concentrated on helping us learn real-life lessons for races.

10 mins into the swim, my breathing steadied and I was able find my routine, slowly gaining on the weaker swimmers of the wave in front. From now until mid-way through the run, I would have no idea of where the other PTC people were getting on. Time to focus and run my own race.

Out of the water in 35 mins, my transitions are always sluggish. Over a long race, I am more concerned about being comfortable and effective for the next discipline than shaving a couple of seconds off here and there.

On to the bike and I chose to wear a full bike jacket. With air temperatures around 14C, rain forecast and a long way to go, boy did I turn out to be pleased with that decision. 30 minutes into the bike, the drizzle started. 30 more minutes and it became continuous rain. This made an already tough course, with several thousand feet of climb and descent, all the more interesting. Whilst numerous people had enforced stoppages, thankfully I only saw 1 bad crash, at the foot of a no-overtaking section of a steep hill descent where 3 marshalls had been pre-positioned for just such an outcome. Hopefully he was fine, as was the competitor who pushed his bike 17 miles after his chain broke!

I am lucky that my running has never truly deserted me at the end of the race, so I made the call to push hard on the bike and see what was left for the run. I finished the bike in 3h14m.

The run is decidedly cross-country at the best of times and seeing those ahead of me plastered in mud, I knew that this year would be no difference. There was far more support around the run course than there had been on the bike section and this makes a big difference when you’re cold, wet and tired. My concentration is normally pretty good when I have my game-face on, but this year it failed me in the final 50m of the race. I knew that I was finishing my third and final lap of the run course, but that didn’t stop me from trotting straight past the exit for the finishing chute and starting a 4th lap. Thankfully I realised within a couple of minutes but it still counts as a valuable and frustrating reminder that I have to keep my focus right through the finishing line.

Crossing the finishing line gave a feeling somewhere between elation and ‘a job well done’. I finished in almost exactly the same position as last year, albeit 20 minutes slower due to the conditions.

The other PTCers all came in with big smiles on their faces and a huge sense of achievement to match.

Our results were:








Liam Newton








Andrew Bamfield








Mark Schofield








Chris Agnew








Paul Vickers








Richard Jordan








There are some outstanding personal efforts in those results – not just for our own ‘top-dog’ Liam, but also for those undertaking an IM70.3 for the first time (but hopefully not the last!). Coming back to Plymouth, it was wonderful to realise the support and interest that the club had shown in the race – exactly what being part of a club is about. I’ve never seen so many Facebook comments posted so closely together!

That support really did help make the day, and none of it would have been anyway near as memorable had our partners, children, parents and friends not been around to cheer us on. Whether it was sharing the tent, cooking the food, allowing us the time to train and race or just supporting on Facebook, we really appreciate everything that you did to help make the day a very special one.

Mark Schofield