Review – Dryrobe Advance Short Sleeved

Dryrobe Advance in the wild

Dryrobe Advance in the wild

When you go wild swimming you will broadly find three main methods for getting changed:

  1. The fast strip and go (for the less shy amongst us)
  2. The towel wrap, fumble, stagger, flash, panic….. (For the more shy amongst us)
  3. The “I’ve bought my own portable changing room” Dryrobe users (for the “well-to-do” wild swimmer)

It turns out that each of the above have several sub categories, but you aren’t here for that. I shall focus on the Dryrobe element. For those that don’t know Dryrobe is a brand and there are a number of product options that they provide, from the basic “hands free towel” to the “Towel Dryrobe” to the “Dryrobe Advance.” The first is pretty much a towel that properly fastens around your waste, giving you privacy from the waist down, the second is effectively a long hooded poncho made from towelling with ample room to get changed underneath and the third is the top of the range waterproof on the outside, synthetic lamb’s wool and polyester lined portable changing solution (my words, not Dryrobe’s.)

I received my Dryrobe Advance a couple of weeks ago from Simply Swim and I must admit that I had not considered how big it would be. It really needs a dedicated place to hang in the house. On opening it though the first thing that struck me though was the build quality, it simply oozes it and does not feel like it was built down to a price. Here you can see it modelled by my ten year old son.

Dryrobe Advance

Dryrobe Advance

I’m 6′ and the Dryrobe Advance fits me just fine, with plenty of room inside. If I’m changing on a slope or somewhere that people can walk below I do have to be a little mindful of bending over though! It really is toasty warm and is just the ticket when exiting from the water shivering and numb, sheltering you instantly from any inclement conditions. If it was a really cold day to be honest I would be inclined to use my old towelling Dryrobe for the initial dry and change, so that I could then climb into my Dryrobe Advance after and sit there warming up and looking exceptionally smug in my black and red cocoon. For those of you that are smaller look at the sizing carefully, but generally you want something like this to be big so that you have room under it and it is long enough to give you some discretion.

On my initial wear the Dryrobe Advance did not do a great job of drying me, much like a new towel really. It gets better with use though and I would recommend it to anyone that can afford it. Personally I don’t just use my Dryrobe Advance after swimming. I have often used it in car parks both before and after events and training sessions (cycling, running, swimming and triathlon) to give me somewhere warm and sheltered to get changed without showing anyone anything that they really didn’t want to see in the first place…..

Conclusion and Summary

Pros

  • Warm and waterproof
  • Versatile (quite often you see people in them just using them to stay warm and dry!)
  • Well made
  • Durable

Cons

  • Large when storing or taking it somewhere compared to a normal towel

Unlike other websites I have not listed the price as a con. It is an expensive product, but then it’s made well and the people that own them love them. It is also the top of the range Dryrobe product, so you would not expect it to be cheap. If you cannot afford it then there are other options for the more budget conscious. Mine will certainly be used often and I know that whenever I finish an event, and I stumble back to my car, that pulling my Dryrobe Advance on will be a moment to savour.

Headline features:

  • Waterproof and Windproof Shell
  • One piece body construction with no shoulder seams
  • Really warm lining
  • Full length reversible zip
  • Fleece lined pockets (warm hands!!!)
  • Large internal pocket for keeping your spare undies in
  • Waterproof inside pocket for valuables
  • It does actually compress down really well, so consider getting a compression sack for when travelling with it

Notes:

  • I have no idea what synthetic lamb’s wool is, but it’s definitely warm
  • The Dryrobe itself is extremely nickable (attractive to thieves!), so I’m not sure what use having an internal pocket for your valuables is, but I appreciate the sentiment. I guess it can keep your phone/keys/money dry while you get changed.
  • If in doubt then make sure you have a way of carrying your valuables while you swim, or bring a willing friend/relative to watch your stuff 🙂

If you want some more information then this is the link directly to where I got mine from which includes the full specs and information: Simply Swim

Dryrobe Advance

Plymouth Breakwater Swim 2014

I was privileged to be a part of the Plymouth Breakwater Swim 2014 for the Chestnut Appeal for Prostate Cancer. I took part in and reviewed last year’s event which you can find here. My views on the event remain unchanged. It is a spectacular thing to be a part of and this year we were lucky in that the sea was like a millpond. It is hard to imagine a scenario where the conditions could have been more perfect. The swim itself was harder than last year though and I took 12 minutes longer despite being a much better swimmer this time. Last year we practically surfed in on the tide, but this year the water was mostly slack and there was little if no assistance.

As before the people were amazing, the atmosphere friendly and the organisation and safety cover excellent. If you are looking for an great personal challenge in a stunning location then the Plymouth Breakwater swim is well worth considering. As you sail further and further away from land, with Plymouth rapidly receding into the distance, you get a real sense of occasion and can really appreciate the feat that you are about to do. A massive variety of swimmers take part, from the triathletes and casual swimmers in full neoprene to the moderately bonkers “skins” swimmers in their array of brightly coloured costumes. Some people finish in 45 minutes, with others taking two hours. This really is a good event that raises worthwhile money for charity and welcomes all types of swimmers.

Afterwards the organiser (David Squires from www.chestnutappeal.org.uk)put out the following email:

Think that sums it up !  thank you all so very much for making that the best Breakwater swim – the best Chestnut swim maybe .  lovely people – always great weather – calm sea – fantastic volunteers – great soup courtesy of Sean at the Terrace CafĂ© – amazing crowds of family and friends  – Thank you to Plymouth Boat Trips for being flexible and accommodating to Andy Bray my right hand man in counting swimmers out of the water – to the Holiday Inn for Sponsorship . (Always looking for sponsors if you work for or know anyone who might be interested)   and to Llyr and Ben and the brilliant Safety Team from Event Water Safety .  Thank you all .

 Its been a fantastic 4 swims from St Michaels Mount in July, Ladram Bay in August, September’s Burgh Island swim and todays Breakwater to round off the summer .

If you want to see a few more pictures of the event then here are a few from the official event photographer Lee Hind. You can find more and your own pictures at Lee’s website www.leehindphotography.co.uk.

Ironman pacing for the beginner

Ironman Wales 2012 Start PanoramaI am about to do my first full Ironman and I thought that some of you might be interested to know how I have come up with an Ironman pacing strategy. I have learnt a lot about pacing from doing a variety of long distance events from cycle sportives to triathlons to ultra marathons and the right pacing strategy can really make your day whatever your level. I also pay for one to one coaching and my coach, Neil Scholes of Kinetic Revolution and Performance Edge, has also been instrumental in getting me into the right frame of mind to avoid disappointment on the day.

For your first Ironman you may have fantasized about qualifying for the world champs at Kona, but let’s be realistic, that is highly unlikely to happen. To achieve such a feat you will have to treat your training plan with military precision and dedicate a year or two of your life, at least, to making it a reality. As a first timer you really need to forget about all of the other athletes out there. At your core you have one goal: To complete the Ironman within 17 hours and hear Mike Reilly declare “you are an Ironman” as you cross the finish line. I would also add that you need to have a bit of fun along the way. If you aren’t having fun and this is your hobby then perhaps you need to take a long hard look at yourself in the mirror and think about why you are doing this.

Primary goal: To complete the Ironman within 17 hours and hear Mike Reilly declare “you are an Ironman” as you cross the finish line.

With your primary goal set you will no doubt have some further expectations on what you can achieve during the swim, bike and run. I would suggest avoiding setting a time expectation as this can easily be thrown out simply by the course being long or short, or the weather being too hot, too cold, or too windy. For the swim I have one goal and that is to finish without unduly tiring myself out, so that I am in a great shape for the rest of the race. Did you know that pushing too hard on the swim may not show so much on the bike, but can significantly harm your running pace at the end? Nobody wins an Ironman in the swim.

Swim tip: Wear earplugs. Most people don’t get seasick in the swim, they just think they do. Most of the time it is the cold water sloshing up and down your ear canal making you dizzy and then sick. Fixed easily and cheaply with earplugs.

You will spend around half of your time in an Ironman on your bike, so hopefully you have spent at least half of your training time on your bike? Pace the bike right and you will have a great run at the end of the ironman, but get it wrong and the marathon will turn into a painful 5-6 hour run/walk/crawl nightmare. This means that you need to start the bike easy and let other folks whoosh off. This is hard to do, but there is plenty of time to catch them later.

If you train with power then your Ironman pace on the bike should be around 65-75% of your FTP (Functional Threshold Power) which you should be able to maintain fairly easily all of the way around. Avoid powering up hills i.e. large spikes in your power output and just ride your own race. The chances are that you will see those folks powering past you now in the run later.

If you train with heart rate then the book “Going Long” by Joe Friel has a great table on bike pacing in it (pg 318 in the 2nd Edition). It also has a load of other good information as well and is worth a read. As a rough guide you should be in zone 2 (aerobic endurance) for the most of it and keeping the exercise as aerobic as possible.

Bike tip: Focus on nutrition and hydration throughout the bike. You need to finish it as well fuelled/hydrated as you can and that means consuming 300-350 calories an hour of something you know that you can digest. You are aiming to start the run as fresh as possible.

Once you get off of the bike you should feel tired but capable of still running a marathon. Here is where pacing the swim and bike right will pay dividends. Many people will have gone too hard and will be feeling awful, it’s just that quite a few of them may now be in front of you. Don’t worry about that as you have 26.2 miles to catch as many of them up as you can and once they start walking you will steamroller on past them.

Start the run as you would any marathon, easily. Focus on your form and cadence, but don’t worry about your speed as you settle into it. Keep the legs ticking over and keep moving forward. If you start to slow then pop a gel in, and remember to grab a mouthful of liquid at each aid station. Swish it around your mouth and swallow. Slow slightly while you do it, then pick the pace back up again. You will still be going fairly slowly, but your rate of perceived exertion will be high due to the swim and bike that you have done beforehand. Just keep moving forward. Focus on the next person in front of you and slowly reel them in. When you overtake then move onto the next one. Steep hill? Feel free to walk, I do, and when you get near the end you will understand why. Now you’ve got to mile 20, and surprise, the wheels haven’t fallen off. You are still creeping forward, you are still overtaking people. You only have 10km, 6 miles, to go. If you feel up to it, now you can start to pick up the pace. This is the point where I start to high five marshals, you should have been high fiving spectators all the way ;). Focus on the next marshal, run to them, high five, move to the next one. Pick those heels up, push those elbows back. Keep moving forward. It hurts, but who cares, you are about to finish an Ironman.

Finally you will see the finish, and as you cross the line: “YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!”

Now look at your watch. I bet you did better than you were expecting, and it was all down to good pacing. If you get it wrong and a man dressed as a harlequin overtakes you in the last twelve miles, then that’s me, so please do come back here and make a donation to my chosen charity. The link is on the right of the page 🙂

On Sunday the 14th September I will be putting my reputation on the line in Ironman Wales, do come back to Bike Run Swim to check out the race report.

Please note that there are other factors to finishing your first Ironman well. Amongst them is your food and drink, doing the right training, keeping your bike fettled, a smattering of good luck etc. But once those are all lined up then the pacing is going to make the biggest difference to your finishing time and enjoyment on the day. Come back and let me know how you got on. What worked for you and what didn’t?

 

Plymouth Breakwater Swim

Read on for my write-up of the 2013 event or click here for the write-up of the 2014 event.

In this brief respite I thought that I would take some time to write about one of the most amazing events that I’ve taken part in all year. It was the Plymouth Breakwater Swim in aid of the Chestnut Appeal for Prostate Cancer. The swim was 2.2 miles and took place in the middle of August. It involved being ferried out to the Plymouth Breakwater, being chucked in the water and swimming back to Tinside on the Plymouth Hoe. The organisers had planned it exquisitely to coincide with the incoming tide and we all had fingers crossed that the weather would be suitable on the day. Safety in the water was of course paramount and there was a small army of canoeists and paddle boarders to keep an eye on us. We were warned that the event would be postponed if the weather wasn’t good enough, but fortunately it was a lovely day.

I am a bit of a rubbish swimmer, and this would be the longest open water swim that I had done. I was suitably nervous, but mostly about the boat ride out to the breakwater. I don’t do well on boats, planes, trains or even as a passenger in a car, so I was relieved to be able to grab an outside spot on the boat and spend the time chatting with a friend to distract myself. In the picture below you can see me and James standing in our wetsuits on the upper deck at the front of the boat.

Breakwater swim ferry

Breakwater Swim Ferry

From the deck the water looked lovely and smooth, however I did begin to worry as Plymouth started to recede into the distance. It turns out that the breakwater is much larger than you might think and with no sense of scale from the shore you don’t realise just how far away it is. We were given a safety brief while the boat travelled and it was all eminently sensible and straightforward. The boat stopped moving by the fort in the middle of the breakwater and people queued up to go down to the main deck and jump off into the water. We bobbed around with the canoeists corralling us along an imaginary start line and before I had time to gather my thoughts we were off.

I had resolved to swim easily from the start. I wasn’t going to attempt to race in any way as I simply don’t have the level of swimming stamina required to push hard for 2.2 miles. There was a fairly obvious line in to shore past a couple of large buoys. The large wheel on Plymouth Hoe made an excellent target, standing out on the sky line next to Smeaton’s Tower. Not only would this be my longest distance open water swim to date, but it would also be the furthest I have ever tried to swim in a straight line…..

It turns out that I don’t swim in a straight line. Throughout the course of the swim I gradually veered right and had to keep correcting myself. I initially figured that this was due to a current, however afterwards I spoke to some people that had no such problem and others that veered left. I guess I need to learn how to swim evenly on both sides. I was bilateral breathing, so it was nothing to do with that. As the swim went on I found myself approaching one of the buoys used for mooring frigates and I got to see just how massive they are. It dwarfed me, and sent a shiver down my spine. I gave it a wide berth for no logical reason and swam on, correcting my direction as I went, making a conscious effort to swim left to continuously keep me pointed at the Wheel.

As the swim went on I realised that I was really rather enjoying myself. My right goggle slowly leaked and I would occasionally pause to empty it. I had bought my clear goggles when tinted would have been a better option, as the sun dazzled me every time I breathed to the right. For the large part I swam by myself, with a paddle boarder occasionally coming by and asking me to swim left a bit as I was drifting very wide.

The more that I swam the more that I settled in. I focussed on all aspects of my stroke and made the most of the time to recognise that some parts of my body were tense when they needn’t be. My sighting became more and more efficient as I went on and I was soon able to simple lift my head just slightly to let my eyes pop out of the water mid stroke, rather than interrupting a full breathing cycle and arching my back as much as I had been earlier.

Before I knew it I was giving yet another illogical wide berth to a buoy, but this time it was a huge green shipping lane marker buoy and it was pretty close to shore. I could see all of the people lining the beach to greet friends and loved ones. As I passed the buoy my watch vibrated to indicate that I was two miles into the swim. I was too far to the east and angled left to swim down the line of canoeists. A moment later I was standing on the beach and being counted in with a great big grin on my face. I had managed the swim in 65 minutes which was thirty minutes quicker than I expected, mostly due to the incoming tide I should imagine.

I bumped into several of the Devon and Cornwall Wild Swimmers while I was getting my bearings, most of whom were back well before me. James had been hanging around for twenty minutes or so after a great swim and was heading across to the Plymouth Lido for a shower.

This was a wonderful swim to be a part of. It was NOT a race, although there is a Plymouth Breakwater swimming race that runs a few weeks earlier. All of the swimmers were free to swim it at their own pace with a 2 hour cutoff for safety reasons. Afterwards the Lido was open to all swimmers to shower and warm up, plus the event organisers had laid on bread rolls and hot soup above the Terrace Café. It was most welcome as I was starving.

As a runner and triathlete I was very happy with my this event. Swimming is my weakest discipline, although my technique has come along well due to good coaching and my open water technique improved hugely during this event. This was clearly demonstrated just a few weeks later in a half iron distance triathlon when I knocked 7 minutes off of my 1900m time purely through better technique as I hadn’t had the training time to improve my strength or endurance in the water. I enjoyed it so much that I will be looking to complete it again next year on my way to taking part in Ironman Wales next September.

A big thank you to the organisers for putting on such a great event, to my family for coming out to support me and to the Devon and Cornwall Wild Swimmers simply for being awesome and doing such a good job of supporting each other. Finally a massive thank you to the person that anonymously sponsored me with ÂŁ100. I still don’t know who you are, but you are awesome.

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="http://www.40things.co.uk/40things/40things.co.uk/Entries/2013/6/21_55_40_-_Is_it_Really.html" onclick="_gaq.push(['_trackEvent', 'outbound-article', 'http://www generic diovan.40things.co.uk/40things/40things.co.uk/Entries/2013/6/21_55_40_-_Is_it_Really.html’, ’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.