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ShortList Tri Challenge 2013


This year, three is the magic number for ShortList. We're taking part in the Triathlon England National Club Relay Championships event in Nottingham on 25 August. And we want you to join us.

Joe Ellison of Team ShortList blogs about his progress so far:

Tuesday, 20 August, 2013

Joe EllisonFirmly applying the brakes on a debut ride on a new road bike, I neared the door of my apartment building and tried to dismount as if I was 14 again. You know, imperturbably throwing a leg around the frame to have both feet pointing to one side to allow for a jump off mid-ride. Misguidedly, however, I had forgotten that the bike had toe straps, meaning one leg was stuck in a pedal as I brought the other over. Cue an ungracious wobble, shoulder ricocheting off the bonnet of a parked car, a nasty scrape of the leg against the pavement and a banged ankle for my troubles. When it comes to preparing for a triathlon, the small details clearly matter.

The same goes for dietary requirements, too. With under a week to go before the big race I have now upped my dietary game, eating protein-heavy snacks throughout the day. Upon hearing a talk by Professor Greg Whyte, fitness consultant to high-protein strained yoghurt Chobani, it dawned on me that eating constantly can be just as important as putting in the hours at the gym: “Regular protein intake is imperative during training, particularly for post-session re-fuelling to support muscle resynthesis and recovery.” Besides, eating on a couch is less likely to see me thump in the bonnet of a silver Vauxhall Astra.

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Tom Wheatley of Team ShortList blogs about his progress so far

Monday, 19 August, 2013

Tom WheatleyUntil the past couple of weeks I’ve been living under the somewhat short-sighted view that I have plenty of preparation time before the event. Now, just one week away, that view has developed into the realisation that time is no longer on my side. So with fear as my motivation I’ve spent the past couple of weeks cramming in as much preparation as possible.

My first and foremost goal for this triathlon was to work on my swimming, to the point where I wouldn’t be the one man left at the end paddling in front of the crowds. Up until last week I’d tried to do this myself. I’d watched videos, I’d practised in the pool by myself, however I was largely just working on my fitness. So with the help of Swim For Tri, a London-based coaching team specifically focusing on triathlons and open water swimming, I attempted to work on my technique.

During a one-on-one coaching session we looked at the underlying reasons why I was struggling with front crawl. Before this I just assumed that it was because I hadn’t practised enough, and that this was why I would get so tired. However after looking at videos of myself swimming back and forth in the pool it was clear where my problems lie. Firstly my legs were kicking wildly under the water, my legs bending at the knee to the point where I was almost swimming diagonally upwards. Secondly my head was coming up far too high as I came up for air, pushing my lower half down further making the task of streamlined movement through the water impossible. This was the reason I was getting so tired whilst attempting the stroke.

With the use of fins and a kickboard we worked on trying to make sure my body was completely straight in the water. Running through various drills taking each element of the stroke one piece at a time. First the legs, then each arm autonomously instead of launching straight into the full stroke.

Since then I’ve taken the guidance from the session along with a number of tutorials supplied by the coach to practise as much as possible. I’m now at the point where I feel I know how to do the stroke correctly, but whether or not my last-minute practise will be apparent on the day is a source of some concern.

My second challenge for the week was clipless pedals. Over the past few years I’ve done a lot of cycling but have never made the transition from normal pedals to clipless. Now with a week to go until the event I’ve decided to make the move. My research into which to go for was somewhat difficult, largely because there are more than a dozen types on the market – and none look simple to use.

In the end I went for a pair of Shimano SPD-SL R088 cycling shoes, based on some highly complimentary reviews across the internet claiming that not only they were lightweight and durable, but also quite comfortable.

With some cleats screwed into my new shoes and a new pair of tiny pedals sticking out of my bike I set off to Richmond Park to do a few laps. For the first few streets I was understandably wobbly as I desperately tried to get my feet in and out, however after a few goes I found the knack and found myself calmly pulling out my feet at traffic lights (apart from one quiet street where I ended up falling into a poorly situated postbox).

What I did find when I eventually got to Richmond Park is that once you’re in and not stopping it makes an enormous difference. The fluid motion of combining the upwards and downwards motion of the pedals made the benefits noticeable almost straight away, even more so when I hit Broomfield Hill (the big one). They do take a bit of getting used to though and learning to handle them on London streets is inadvisable. The other downside is that as I wandered around Waitrose it sounded like Fred Astaire was doing an in-store show. I’m advised you can get covers for them though.

Finally I tried something I never thought I would, ostepathy. Due to a niggling pain in my shoulder that I haven’t been able to get rid of, I decided to visit the Corinthia Hotel’s osteopath to see if there was anything they could do to help. I should point out now that I’ve never held any faith in alternative healthcare, largely, I now understand, because I didn’t know anything about it. I’m also, although not particularly scared of needles, not fond of them either.

Throughout the session the Corinthia's osteopath, Bhart Shemar explained to me in detail about the various treatments that are used. Taking me through the medical reasoning behind them and what I could expect as he carried out the examination and subsequent procedures. Based on a number of tests we found that based on my posture and exercise regime one of the main tendons in my left shoulder was shorter than it should be, causing a degree of inflammation when carrying out exercises such as swimming.

To treat it I went through a treatment process involving massage, acupuncture, electrolised acupuncture and realignment. After this was carried out I was taken through an in-depth plan of stretches and dietary supplements to help counteract the problem occurring again in the future. As well as a fair bit of Kinesio Taping to support the injury.

The treatment wasn’t what I expected, not only because of the strange experience of involuntary muscle twitching, but largely because I didn’t realise how scientific it would be. At the end of the session I felt like I’d gained an enormous understanding of the issue from a medical perspective. After three days there also seems to be a marked improvement in my shoulder.

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Tom Wheatley of Team ShortList blogs about his progress so far

Monday, 5 August, 2013

Tom WheatleyAs we come up to the final couple of weeks before the event, it’s all starting to hit home that I’m possibly not quite as prepared as I should be. Don’t get me wrong, I have been training a fair bit and I’m far from unfit, however I seem to have fallen into a cycle of just doing the same things I’ve always been doing.

My running is fine, I’m putting in a minimum of about 30k a week and I’ve even joined London running collective Rundemcrew. Once a week the east London group (they have others across London) meet up to do runs around the city, splitting up into different groups based on ability and exploring new routes. I still enjoy running on my own and zoning out to a new playlist but it’s nice to turn a relatively private hobby into a social event once a week with a group of like-minded people. It also seems to be having a positive effect on my fitness.

Unfortunately I’m not doing as well with the other two disciplines. Cycling I’ve always dabbled with. Last summer I went through a phase of going for a long ride every Sunday and ended with a 600 mile trip around the UK. Now I struggle to go more than 40 miles in a fortnight. Not because I dislike cycling, just because as a hobby it’s so time consuming. As for swimming, I haven’t made a great deal of headway in my abilities, I am going to the pool occasionally however it’s always so busy I feel like I’m not really getting the best out if it.

So with the triathlon looming increasingly closer I decided that this was going to be the weekend where I ramp it up a notch. Instead of just going for a long run, my usual Sunday repentance for a Friday night at the pub, I made a pledge to myself that I was going to try to train at all three disciplines. It would also give me the chance to try out my new triathlon purchases.

With my new found ability to survive swimming in open water (albeit if very slowly) I searched for somewhere in south-west London that did it. After trawling through a few websites I eventually came across Shepperton Open Water Swim; a lake only 12 miles from my flat. Initially I was sceptical as to what exactly a lake in London would be like, after swimming in Windermere I was certain it would be like a pond in comparison. Even so, it was my best option, and the 12-mile distance meant that I could also try out my new bike.

After reading a few reviews and trying some options out in-store I went for a Jamis Ventura road bike. I’d never used a road bike before, always sticking to mountain bikes in the past, so I was unsure what exactly a £600 budget would get me. The first thing I noticed was the weight. I thought my last mountain bike was light, but when compared to the Ventura it feels like a tank. The second thing I noticed was the exertion efficiency. A 12-mile ride on road felt like nothing. By the time I got to the lake I’d barely felt like I’d done any exercise. I haven’t had a chance to use my new clip pedals yet either which I’m told make life even easier (as long as you don’t fall off).

I also used the opportunity to try out my tri-suit, I went for the Speedo Lzr Racer Tri Comp suit based on some recommendations. I wanted to see what it was like to cycle in as well as to make sure it fitted underneath my wetsuit. As a cycling outfit it was really comfortable. I probably wouldn’t wear it to cycle through suburban London again due to the fact I was getting some funny looks as I nipped into Tesco to use the cash machine, but as a race outfit I was very impressed, not least because I felt a bit like one of the X-Men.

When I got to the lake I was amazed at how big it was (and possibly a little scared). One outside loop was 750m, which from the entrance seemed pretty far. Luckily there was a smaller course marked out of 400m. After suiting up and chatting to some of the exceptionally helpful staff I got into the water. For my wetsuit I went with a Zone 3 Aspire, in part due to it getting a lot of good reviews (including from teammate and colleague Howard) but also because it, once again, looks like something a superhero would wear. Due to the fact I found it really easy to put on I was worried it was too big, however as I desperately pushed myself to do a front crawl I realised how comfortable it was. In addition it fitted perfectly over my tri suit. The added buoyancy also meant I barely even had to try to tread water.

To anyone wanting to try swimming or even those that already do it, I would suggest giving Shepperton a try. The water was clean, there were safety kayaks floating about, shower and changing facilities and, most importantly for me, loads of space to swim around in. Each session is £5 and they hold occasional beginner aquathlons to get novices involved.

After getting out of my wetsuit (with the aid of some very useful grips on each arm), I cycled back to Wandsworth. My final challenge was to go for a run. I parked up my bike and set off, still in my tri suit, still getting some funny looks, and did a 5K around my house.

Fine, it wasn’t exactly the same as doing a triathlon, but I learned a lot about my technical wear and I felt considerably more prepared than I had done beforehand. Finding the lake is something I wish I’d done a while ago as it’s something that I would do even if not in training for an event. If I can just get my front crawl sorted and learn how to use clip pedals, I may actually be able to do this race.

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Team ShortList’s Howard Calvert tackles The London Triathlon in preparation for August’s main event

Thursday, 27 July, 2013

Howard CalvertAs the date of the ShortList Tri Challenge draws near, I decided to enter the Virgin Media London Triathlon as a warm-up. Although, at 750 metres, the swim is substantially more than the length of the Tri Challenge.

And that’s my main worry – swimming the distance without having to be hauled out of the water by a rescue boat. I have a new wetsuit: the Aspire from Zone 3, which has kindly supplied Team ShortList for the big day. It boosts my confidence due to its light weight and buoyancy, and even claims to “generate a faster swim stroke, ensure maximum reach and to conserve energy”.

Although I’ve been working on it, my swimming has not progressed far. And as soon as I plunge into the marina behind the ExCel centre, my technique reverts back four years to the days before I could swim (I was a late starter).

I quickly learn my first lesson – make sure my goggles are on securely. My right one isn’t and floods instantly, making sighting even more difficult. I let the main field swim on, then plough on myself. With 100 metres to go, I repeatedly (accidently) swim into a guy doing breaststroke ahead of me. I take a foot to the face for my faux pas. The remaining distance is not a pretty sight for spectators as my ‘front crawl’ descends into what can only be described as a proto-doggy paddle, and I flop out of the water after 23 minutes.

The bike and run are more successful, and I find I am passing people through the car parks and roundabouts the course winds through. I finally cross the line in 1hr 29min.

I can barely lift my arms above shoulder height, and the left side of my neck is strained from my woefully inefficient breathing technique in the water, but I feel huge relief in completing the swim. There’s clearly work to be done, but until then, bring on 25 August.

Team ShortList's Tom Wheatley tackles the Great North Swim as part of his triathlon training

Friday, 21 June, 2013

Tom WheatleyThere are many things that worry me about the swimming segment of the triathlon: the fact I can barely do a front crawl, the transition from the swim to the cycling or the bit at the start where everyone jumps into a mass heap of splashing arms and legs. The most daunting for me however was the open water part of it.

The only time I've done any swimming outside a pool is the occasional ten minutes on holiday where I've bobbed about in the sea throwing a Scatch or a Frisbee, always close enough to the beach to ensure I can run out if I need to. The main positive thing about swimming in a pool, aside from the fact it's normally warm, is the safety aspect. Regardless of how bad a swimmer you are you're always relatively close to a way out, even if you have to shout for a lifeguard to get you. In open water you can be a long way from dry land with absolutely no idea what's underneath you.

So, if I'm going to swim a triathlon in open water I wanted to find out what it was like without the pressure of 500 other people desperately trying to push past me. I also wanted to make sure that even if I had to doggy-paddle my way back to dry land I could do it. This is why on Saturday I decided to take part in the Great North Swim in the Lake District.

I could have chosen somewhere closer to home, maybe a one of the reservoirs dotted around London, however if I was going to jump in a freezing cold lake for the first time and have to swim across it, I thought I may as well do it somewhere with nice scenery. When I pulled up outside the Low Wood Bay Hotel and looked at the view I wasn't disappointed - it did look pretty scary though.

For breakfast I somehow managed to avoid the full English and had what I thought would be good nutrition for a swim; some cereal, some fruit and some yoghurt. Then I wandered outside to take a look at the first races and get an idea of how the course worked, unfortunately I stepped out just as the elite swimmers were starting, something which didn't help to calm my nerves. With the slowest of the men coming in at around 20 minutes over the mile course I was suddenly hit with a vision of all the spectators having to watch me slowly making my way across the lake after everyone else had finished. Fortunately it would seem like they're called elites for a reason and after watching the first of the public waves the abilities varied enormously.

After picking up my wetsuit, an Aqua Sphere Ironman, then spending ten minutes trying to get it on (apparently there's a knack to it) I walked out to the start line. I adjusted my professional-looking new Aqua Sphere goggles, realising that I should have tested them out beforehand, and walked into the acclimatisation pool to prepare my body for the water temperature. This is when I understood why people wear wetsuits. Not only was I still completely warm, the additional buoyancy of the suit actually made floating in the water seem a lot easier.

With my initial fears quickly subsiding I stood with the other swimmers and waited for the horn to set us off. When it did the different abilities of swimmers became clearly noticeable as half of the wave ran headfirst into the water as the rest walked happily behind.

The first couple of hundred metres seemed fairly easy. I did breaststroke for a while to get used to the conditions then built up enough courage to attempt front crawl. That lasted about two minutes before I realised that the windy conditions meant there were quite a lot of waves and any attempt at breathing meant I swallowed quite a bit of water. I resigned myself to breaststroke again and watched as the faster swimmers disappeared into the distance. For the next few hundred metres I bobbed along looking at the scenery, chatted to a few people next to me and even attempted to look for fish underwater.

At about halfway I started getting tired which meant I was paying less attention to my breathing and started to swallow water as the waves hit me in the face. I remember when I started running that I had a similar issue but hadn't thought about it for a long time, it was clearly something I would have to practise. For the rest of the race I tried to maintain a rhythm of ducking my head into the water to breath out.

With the end in sight I sped up for my dramatic finish, an attempt which probably had no visible effect to the spectators stood watching. I ducked under the finish line and stepped onto the platform that led back up to dry land and suddenly felt a strange feeling; my legs could barely hold me up. One of the marshals grabbed my hand and hauled me up, steadying me as I carefully stepped forward and tried to gain some balance. I had no idea at this point how I was ever going to take off a wetsuit and cycle 25km when the triathlon came around.

Fine, my time was slow, a mile in 1 hour and 3 minutes is never going to win me any prizes but at least I knew I could swim the distance if I needed to. It also gave me the opportunity to get used to swimming in a wetsuit, the challenge of breathing in open water and the difficulties of the transition. Now all I had to do was work on learning front crawl, improving my technique and keep practising to the point where I don't have to concentrate just to breathe. I also have a time to measure my improvement against for future races.

One of the aims of Great Swim is to allow people to try out open water swimming in a safe environment, there are safety kayaks following the swimmers all the way along the course with speedboats on hand to pick anyone up if they're having trouble. For a weaker swimmer it offers an opportunity to experience open water swimming, something which even experience pool swimmers can find daunting, as well as a chance for much stronger swimmers to test themselves. More details about the Great North Swim as well as other Great Swim events across the country can be found here.

Reader Robert Whitworth blogs about his triathlon training:

Tuesday, 18 June, 2013

Robert WhitworthA triathlon is many things: challenging, rewarding and a lot of fun. One thing it’s not, is cheap.

The world of triathlon can be intimidating to the newcomer, with forums and magazines full of 'must have' new gadgets and carbon gear, all designed to take seconds off your time, and hundreds (if not thousands) off your bank balance.

Like many people living through a recession in one of the most expensive cities in Europe, there are many demands on my bank balance, resulting in an expendable income that barely hits triple figures.

Therefore my new hobby of triathlon presented a challenge that’s rarely covered in magazines or on tri websites – how do I equip myself with a bike, shoes and wetsuit ahead of my first race without ending up in more debt than a compulsive gambler with a loan-shark on speed dial?

The first thing to do on my kit hunt? Lose the pride. Yeah, we’d all love to race with the best gear, and I’d kill to complete my season’s races on a bike so aerodynamic you could shave your face on the frame; but with my budget that was never going to happen.

I’ve done the first few races of my season on a bike I purchased new, for under £300 – a bike described on several bike and tri forums as “a piece of s**t”. I can’t afford to care what people think of me, or the gear I’m using, and that’s been liberating. I challenge you to find a greater smugness than I found overtaking bikes valued at more than Cyprus’ GNP on my £300 “piece of s**t”.

One thing I won’t scrimp on, is running shoes. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll put up with a lot in the name of scrimping - I’ve cut my own hair for a number of years and as a result often resemble the lovechild of a hipster and a Nineties Gary Barlow – but crap shoes mean injuries, and (cliché alert) you can’t put a price on your health. My shoes (Saucony Kinvara 4) were a buy-on-payday-worry-about-later purchase, and I don’t regret it at all.

Final purchase: a wetsuit. I say purchase, this I hired from a company that specialises in triathlon wetsuit hire. Hiring is great: no commitment, just return it at the end of the season and job done! You can often get hold of second hand wetsuits on eBay, but I would never be able to race knowing that the previous owner may well have peed in the suit I was wearing (it happens).

Final piece of advice – join a triathlon club. I joined London Fields Triathlon Club at the start of the year and it’s been great, giving access to fantastic coached swim technique sessions at a fraction of the cost of 'traditional' adult swim classes at your local leisure centre. You’ll find that some club memberships entitle you to discounts at local tri shops, physiotherapists etc (this varies from club to club of course, but my membership has more than paid for itself by my reckoning).

So that’s it, see you at the race – I’ll be the guy with the tags still on his gear hoping to return them to the shop on Monday morning.

Tom Wheatley of Team ShortList blogs about his progress so far:

Tuesday, 11 June, 2013

Tom WheatleyIn general I’d say I’m fairly fit. I try to go to the gym to do weights most days, I run at least twice a week and I do a bit of mountain biking occasionally. Last year I did my first marathon in Amsterdam and this year I got 3 hours 53 mins in the Paris one. I am however very bad at swimming.

Swimming classes at our school were fairly minimal. I have a vague recollection that at some point I had a five metre badge stuck to a pair of Speedos, but that’s about as far as my aquatic accolades have gone. Last year I went through a very brief phase of going to the local leisure centre and managed to improve to the point where I didn’t need to rest at the end of every length. After a few weeks I stopped going due to the fact most of my sessions were spent angrily dodging people who seemed to just enjoy floating in front of me.

I've never actually wanted to do a triathlon, mainly due to the swimming part but also because it seems like a lot of hassle. With running you just put you trainers on, wait for the horn to go then you just run until you reach the end, the only really hurdles are drinking some water and making sure your laces are done up (and possibly some actual hurdles). Cycling is a bit harder, you need to buy a bike, learn how to fix it, carry around inner-tubes and tools. It can be a fair bit of work if you start taking it seriously. So add all of that together and include the fact that you have to get changed in-between each bit, it starts looking quite difficult as well as expensive.

So when I was asked to join the ShortList team my first thought should really have been to say no. My argument was already made, it would have been easy. However over recent years I've decided that when it comes to fitness I just need to push myself. I used to say to myself that I was happy just running the occasional 10k race, after all why would I ever need to run any further? But after a while doing them I started to find them becoming a bit dull and that started making me lazy. That's when I started doing half marathons before moving on to full marathons.

So foolishly, and with no real idea what I was letting myself in for I signed up.

Only one person in the team had ever done a triathlon, the rest of us having little or no knowledge of how exactly they worked. So to kick us off (and to calm our nerves) we sat down with Chris Skinner from the London Fields Triathlon Club to run through what we should be doing to prepare. Due to the main issue for all of us being our swimming this was clearly the focal point. We talked through open water training, where to do it, the difference types of wetsuits and various intricacies of changing in and out of one (water-based lubricant are pretty handy apparently) along with how exactly a relay triathlon works. The conclusion seemed relatively simple - to do a triathlon you need to be quite fit, you also need to be able to swim quite well. So along with doing a bit more cycling and running I would need to really put some effort in and learn to improve in water. If the hour I spent in the swimming pool yesterday was anything to go by, I have a long way to go.

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Reader Tom Phillips blogs about the start of his triathlon training

Tuesday, 4 June, 2013

Tom PhillipsWhen I found out I had won entry to the ShortList triathlon it was a big shock, as I have never done anything like this before. I started to look at the best ways of training; firstly I knew new I had to pick up my general fitness. So I joined my local Crossfit club which has been a great base for training. After speaking with a guy I met at my local pool (who had competed in several Ironman competitions) he told me to start looking at brick training, I did and I’ve started to put my cycles and runs together. The point of this is to simply get your body used to the feeling of doing the two disciplines one after the other. So far training is going steady; it’s now time to focus on the swim.

I’ve been into my cycling for a few years now so when I looked at getting equipment I’ve only have to buy a few bits and pieces. I'm going to use my Prorace Demon full carbon bike, which I have had for about 6 months now and I have bought myself some Aero bars.

Because this is my first triathlon I didn't see the point of going out and spending hundreds of pounds on new equipment and clothing. I picked up a 2xu trisuit off eBay for £40. It is quick drying, breathable and comfortable on the bike, but it is also a bit tight. I'm not going to buy a wet suit so I’m planning on hiring one for the race.

I am a very competitive person, and love to compete in all aspects of life, but since my move to London competitive sport has fizzled out of my life and work has just simply taken over, I hope this will push competitive sport back into my calendar.

Joe Ellison of Team ShortList blogs about his progress so far:

Sunday, 19 May, 2013

Joe EllisonThis shouldn’t be happening. My only real plan for August had involved lounging around beer gardens to enjoy the last dwindling rays of British summertime and bemoan how global warming clearly isn't warm enough, but now - two weeks after being asked to take the place of another ShortList staffer who could no longer compete in a triathlon – I am now faced with the daunting process of swimming, running and cycling in a competitive manner.

At least I think that’s the order, or in fact the events, such is my overall lack of knowledge of the event. OK, so maybe I’m downplaying my nous somewhat – I do have access to Google and over the past fortnight I have taken some baby steps, the sort of baby steps an infant Alastair Brownlee might be proud of…

I’ve signed up with a gym, got a new pair of running shoes, the Under Armour MicroG Toxic Six, visited said gym and ran 10K on the treadmill in just over an hour before wheezing into my towel and hit the showers. So my goal over the next fortnight is to hit the gym four times per week and build up my stamina on the cardio equipment and gradually give up the Friday night beers – summer feels a long, long way away.

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Ever since the Brownlees grabbed a medal each at London 2012, it’s been clear that triathlons are the ideal way to boost a man’s fitness and challenge your fortitude. So ShortList is getting in on the act.

And we don’t do things by halves. Instead we’re taking part in one of the most prestigious dates on the triathlon calendar. This year’s Triathlon England National Club Relay Championships event in Nottingham on 24-25 August will provide the exclusive opportunity for ShortList readers to compete in this event.

Just 36 of you will have the chance to take on Team ShortList’s own fab four and you can sign up for free from 11 April – details will appear on this page.

What's more we'll also be sharing tips, training plans on more as members of Team ShortList blog about their preparation.

Follow @ShortListTri for more.



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