Category Archives: Kit

What I learned yesterday

Yesterday I did another sprint triathlon after doing one two weekends ago. This one was in a village about a 45 minute drive from me, so again it was a nice gently start to the day. It wasn’t quite so gentle later on and this is what I learned:

1 – Triathlons are bloody hard work – even the sprint distance.

2 – Sprint is very much a misnomer – I’m not sure that other than a quick burst in the pool I officially sprinted ever during the event.

3 – I owe Steve £20 – I made a silly bet that I was bound to lose, but that’s ok because he has done 14 triathlons this year for charity and I’m happy to pay up to his charity – you should too if you’ve got a spare tenner (https://www.justgiving.com/Tri2014/).

4 – Actually, despite the above, it’s a pretty good way to spend a Sunday (especially when you can then go down the pub afterwards and have a few pints and a game of darts – which is what I did for post-event refuelling).

5 – It was great to meet Rachel in real life and I love the TeamBear ethos.

6 – I could spend a LOT of money on kit – I’m not going to, but it’s fascinating to rack my bike up next to bikes that probably cost more than my car.

7 – I have a very weird relationship with on course support – and I’ll probably blog about this more later.

8 – I’m not going to enter another event before I sort out my personal life – I probably won’t blog about this later – I’ll leave it intentionally cryptic, those that know, know. But if I need to go to *that* place at the moment I find it full. I don’t want to make excuses, but I do think this has affected *some* of my performances this year.

9 – Some driver are dicks. There were 3 or 4 that passed me by the absolute narrowest of margins on the course, but the trophy today goes to the woman that decided to turn right next to me in the village at the end of the event. She crowded me at the junction, turned with me and then overtook me even though I was indicating to turn right. I do hope that the 13 seconds she gained by that helped her out.

10 – I need to find a way to stop nipple rash – nuff said.

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11 – Monday morning update. Number 4 was a bad idea!

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Filed under Charity, Cycling, Kit, Motivation, Running, Swimming

Review: Speedo towel

Another piece of kit included in the package that Speedo sent me is a towel.

Technically, it is a microfibre towel and Speedo describes it as “soft, super-absorbent and quick drying… lightweight, compact and easy to pack into small spaces.”

What can I say? Well… this towel is a bit weird.

You know the tiny towels that you see Tom Daley use when you watch the diving at the Olympics – the little one no bigger than a flannel – well it’s the same material as that (I’m assuming, I’ve never actually shared Tom Daley’s towel).

It’s a bit strange to use, you can’t rub yourself dry so much as wait for the towel to absorb the water and then move on – it works well and it works quickly, but you almost need to dry yourself in a different way. You have to adopt much more of a “patting dry” rather than “rubbing dry” approach. I have to admit that it has taken me some time to get used to it, and even now I’m not sure it is.

The biggest negative for me (and without getting into too much detail) is that I find it hard to dry in all the nooks and crannies. Let’s leave that there shall we?

However, it does have a lot of positives.

The microfibre towel compared to a normal one.

The microfibre towel compared to a normal one.

The size of it is definitely one. It’s a full size bath towel, but folds up to be tiny. You don’t realise how much of a difference that can make to your swimming bag until you try it. I’m not sure that the photo does it justice, but it feels less than half the size.

Another huge positive is the absorbancy of it. Use it, give it a minute  and then go back to the towel – you can’t actually see where you’ve used it – there are no obvious damp areas on the towel and it looks like it hasn’t been used at all. Although it is wet to the touch, it’s not damp and it could almost certainly dry you all over again. Not only that, but it dries very quickly too.

Having said all that, it won’t become my main towel – I struggled to find the best way to use it properly and in the end I decided I just preferred a vigorous rub down with a traditional towel. That said, if I do enter the 2swim4life event, then this towel will be perfect; or if I find I really need to save some space. Other than that though I’ll keep to the “traditional” towels for now.

You can buy the microfibre towel from Speedo here – it costs £18.

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Disclaimer:
Speedo sent me the kit for free, but did not pay me for this review. This is my honest opinion after trying the kit out.

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Review: Speedo shorts

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to be sent some kit by Speedo. They wanted me to use it and then write good things about it here*. I promised to do the former, but wasn’t going to promise the latter, let’s see.

*Obviously there was no coercion or expectation involved from Speedo.

The first things I used were the shorts. When I say shorts, they are the trunk/shorts hybrid that many people wear nowadays. Speedo actually calls them aquashorts.

Aquashorts

Aquashorts

I’m normally a board shorts kinda guy (apart from when I’m open water swimming and abiding by the BLDSA rules). But in the pool I previously wore long shorts. There were two main reasons for this: 1) I felt that the extra drag would be extra training and once I took the long, baggy shorts off I’d save maybe 1 second per 100m, which doesn’t sound like much, but can add up over 10 miles; 2) the second reason is that I didn’t think anyone should have to look at me in tight shorts if they didn’t have to!

The first time I put the aquashorts on they felt a little bit tight and I felt quite self conscious getting into the pool with something a little skimpier on.

Out of the water that feeling remained, however once I got them wet and started to swim properly they felt really good. While I’m swimming they don’t feel too tight at all, but nor do they feel too skimpy. I don’t know if they’re making any real difference to my performance, but they make me feel like a proper swimmer – even if I still don’t believe the rest of my physique can pull the look off.

Even after the first swim I was hooked. I won’t now be going back to the long shorts and will be using the aquashorts all the time now.

You can buy them from Speedo online here and they cost £21.

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Disclaimer:
Speedo sent me the kit for free, but did not pay me for this review. This is my honest opinion after trying the kit out.

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Next steps for the BLDSA

I’ve been a member of the BLDSA for a year now, so I thought I’d give my views on how it’s gone for me. No-one has asked me for this, but that’s never stopped me from expressing an opinion before.

This post is coming from two very different angles. As I’ve mentioned before my Grandad was a founder member of the BLDSA and my parents were heavily involved for a number of years. So when I was younger (30+ years ago) I spent a lot of weekends travelling to swims and watching the events from the sidelines. However, this year I joined the association as a complete novice. I wasn’t a member of a local club and I had done no open water swimming to speak of before.

I’ll focus on the recent experiences and try not to look back with rose-tinted glasses, but that may be easier said than done.

The first thing to say is how welcoming everyone has been. It has helped that some people still remember my Grandad fondly and that there are still some connections to the association, however it’s been more than that. The people involved have warmly welcomed anyone else willing to genuinely get involved. The fact that I’ve got in and given it a really good go has been enough for most people to welcome me into the club and provide help and moral support wherever they can. For that I’m very grateful.

However, there are one or two areas that I think the association can be more helpful to first-timers. I suspect that for those immersed in the culture of long-distance swimming these points no longer need a second thought, but they do for first-timers and can reduce the number of people wanting to get involved.

A selection of kit required.

The first is the kit involved. In theory it’s very simple – a pair of trunks (or costume) and a hat – easy. However, as soon as you enter a swim that needs a boat to be with you the requirements increase dramatically: a whistle; a compass; a dry bag; but perhaps most onerous – a flag alpha. This blue and white flag is the signal to other lake users that the boat has a swimmer nearby – and is very important from a safety point of view. But as a newcomer, what is a flag alpha and where the hell do you get one from? Maybe the BLDSA should offer a starter bag that all new members can buy – a dry bag containing all the above items. Suddenly the hassle is taken away and we won’t have to try to have home-made versions (as we did for one swim).

Of course the next area is the boat itself. Kayakers (and rowing boat crew) are vital safety components for the swims, but as a first-timer I didn’t know anyone that could kayak. I didn’t have the support network of a club (the BLDSA is my swimming club), so I couldn’t ask around there. Yet upon further inspection there are many people willing and able to do this vital task. I would like to suggest to the BLDSA that it runs a list of such people, it doesn’t have to be an endorsement of them, but it can at least offer some names and numbers to get a newbie started.

That said, there won’t be many more newcomers that come in and enter if the website isn’t improved (have a look here – but be warned!). Without wishing to insult anyone – it’s terrible! Nowadays it must be easy enough to get something that looks a bit more modern and inviting and doesn’t hurt people’s eyes as they enter. I’d even be willing to manage the project myself if people were willing.

All of this leads to a general point about the stature of open water swimming and the role of the BLDSA within that. I would suspect that open water swimming has never been so popular that it is right now. While most of it is in wetsuits (which is against the purist nature of the BLDSA), there are thousands of people getting into lakes and rivers every weekend during the summer. The BLDSA should be at the forefront of that and leading the movement, yet no-one I speak to has ever heard of it. No doubt, like much of what I do at work, this is down to a combination of missing a strong message and ethos for the association, as well as finding the opportunities to speak and enter the national debate. It’s something that Joshua PR would be willing to do on a pro-bono basis if the desire was there.

The final area is me harking back to the “good old days”, but I suppose that was bound to happen – it’s about the fact that there are no “personalities” involved any more (or at least not many). Now there are probably a number of reasons for this, not least the fact that when I was traipsing round the events as a kid most of the founder members were still involved – you’ve got to be a bit of a nutter to want to form an association like this in the first place, but that came across in the best way possible (at least for me) during the events themselves. Of course it may be a generational thing and I may just have missed the people this year, but in my opinion it needs a few more people that can hold the attention of a crowd (swimmers or not) and can welcome, put at ease, relax and inform a newcomer with just a few words. It’s not easy and it can’t be forced, but it would be great if they were there.

But apart from all that, and I mean this sincerely, I’ve really enjoyed this year and I’m looking forward to next year – although maybe without a Windermere swim at the end of it.

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My views on the cycle helmet debate

I actually wrote this post a few days ago and then sat on it. The main reason being that I’m not sure if it’s wise to open this massive can of worms. But, as you can see, I’ve decided to post anyway.

I admit that I’m no expert on this, but this is my view on the way this debate is being presented to the masses, most of whom, like me, aren’t experts. So, here goes:

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In a terrible coinciding of news, a few hours after Bradley Wiggins won Olympic gold on his bike a cyclist died near the Olympic Park after being hit by an official Olympic bus.

It’s obviously very sad and a real tragedy and our thoughts go out to the friends and family.

Not surprisingly in his press conference Wiggins was asked about it and his reply included him suggesting that all cyclists should wear a helmet as ‘Ultimately, if you get knocked off and you don’t have a helmet on, then you can’t argue…You can get killed if you don’t have a helmet on.’

What then happened was a huge swell of support with many people claiming that all cyclists should be made [with laws introduced] to wear a helmet. And of course an equally loud group saying how ridiculous that was and how helmets actually reduce safety.

Now I don’t belong to either camp, but I do find the non-helmet argument a strange and possibly disturbing one – so I thought I’d explain why in more detail.

As I understand it the non-helmet* argument is split into three key points.

*I’m using the term “non-helmet” to describe those people that argue against those that immediately want a helmet law. I’m aware that some of those people wear helmets occasionally, but are arguing against a helmet law.

Anyway, onto those three points:
1 – A thin bit of plastic won’t do you much good if you’re hit by a truck
2 – Forcing people to wear helmets puts people off cycling and actually cycling is safer when more people do it
3 – The helmet question is a distraction and want we actually need is better, more cyclist friendly infrastructure and attitudes

So firstly, three quick replies to those points:

1 – Can’t disagree with that, but a helmet may help reduce serious injury if you hit the road, or a branch.

2 – I know that stats are wheeled out (no pun intended) to say that when a helmet law is introduced the level of participation in cycling drops, but those are historical figures and why do we have to blindly assume that they will be repeated?

3 – I agree completely with the second half of this point, but as for the first half I believe that it is the non-helmet brigade who make it such a distraction.

And this is at the heart of my problem with this argument.

By instantly shouting down anyone that suggests that a helmet law may be a good thing, they are further stigmatising helmet wearing and further enforcing their argument that fewer people ride when there’s a helmet law.

Instead, why not embrace helmet wearing and make it a natural thing when it comes to cycling? Law or no law doesn’t really matter to me, but the non-helmet brigade need to accept that this isn’t an argument they will win – when incidents like this happen then some people will instantly say “helmet law”.

So go with that. Thank them for their concern about the welfare of cyclists and then suggest that helmet wearing is merely the start. If the same effort was spent in promoting cycling even with helmets as goes into shouting down a proposed helmet law then the numbers wouldn’t drop.

I’m not for a moment suggesting that the passion that is shown on trying to improve the infrastructure and change attitudes to cycling to make it safer should be lessened in any way, instead fight with the helmet brigade and not against.

But on the issue of the stats, I accept that I haven’t read them all in detail, but I would like to question some of the conclusions. As have proper studies been done in relation to not only the number of cyclists, but also the number of other vehicles on the road? Because when this Daily Mail article (and one that was specifically pointed out to me as having got the non-helmet response spot on) says: “You are far, far less likely to be killed on a bicycle on the streets of Amsterdam or Copenhagen than you are in New York or Los Angeles.” My first response is “of course”. That would appear to be obvious based on the number of other cars, lorries, trucks etc. as much as it about the safety in numbers argument.

In summary, I believe that by fighting the helmet lobby, the non-helmet brigades are themselves making cycling less safe. By focusing on this argument they are alienating themselves from a majority voice that just thinks “helmet = safer”. They should embrace this group, embrace helmets as a start of making cycling safer, push for mass participation and spend their energies on the important stuff such as the infrastructure and attitudes.

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Goggle malfunction

The plan was to do a couple of miles in the pool this morning, or at least a mile and a half. It would seem that my goggles had other ideas.

Spot the difference:

goggles ok

goggles fail

You know when you can just feel that something is different – well that’s what happened here. I was completing a length and it just felt a bit weird.

Oh well, at least it happened in the pool and not the lake. And the good news is that I can start work a bit earlier (yay!)

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Underwater MP3 Player ..

I was excited when it arrived and I played around with it last night and uploaded some music onto it (very simple actually, just dragged some iTunes files across into the right folder). So I was looking forward to testing it out in the pool this morning.

I started the music, put the headphones into my ears, pushed off from the side and … nothing. It had fallen off my shorts and out of my ears and was at the bottom of the pool.

A bit less exciting.

So, I’ll play around with it a bit further and hopefully have a full review to post soon.

 

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Exciting …

Some nice kit’s just arrived ..

It’s an underwater MP3 player from Speedo.

I’m going to play around with it for a bit and then write a review, so look out for that.

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