The triathlete blog with no mention of triathlon

It hasn’t escaped my attention that this blog, Triathlete In Training, rarely covers anything to do with triathlons and the reality is that it’s unlikely to do so for the foreseeable future. I simply have little interest in participating in events at the moment other than Active Warrior and Rainbow Rampage which both Daniel and I are doing. Life is too busy for any training for any specific event and I don’t need the pressure of preparing for an event.

It’s felt like a fairly hectic first 4 months of the year.

Work continues to be busy with lots of achievements and happy customers.

I completed an excellent first aid course held by Lifeline Training ( with a couple of other Lordshill Road Runners.

The instructor, Brett, was excellent and, although I hope to never need to use the skills learned, I feel confident that I could help save a life in an emergency.

Daniel, Connor and I enjoyed a great skiing holiday with the Trents in early April in La Plagne. It’s brilliant to be able to spend a week in the French Alps with my boys and for them to enjoy the experience.

Daniel has moved from skiing to snowboarding and is really good. Connor tried snowboarding but has decided that skiing is for him. In 2020, we’ll return to La Plagne 20 years after my first visit. I can’t wait.

Having worked with helicopters since my early 20s even I’m surprised that I have never flown in one. When asked for ideas for my 50th birthday in March, I therefore suggested a helicopter flight. I was very pleased to receive a 30 minute pleasure flights from Bliss Aviation at Bournemouth Airport to Corfe Castle and back in mid-April. It was a brilliant experience with some fantastic views of Mudeford, Poole Harbour, Bournemouth and the surrounding areas.

As well as all of the above, a few kayaking and canoeing visits to St Denys Boat Club, the first Lordshill Mile of the year, the weekly S&C sessions I run for LRR, the main other activity has been the family starting to board trainee guide dogs.

I’ve had dogs in my life since birth with about 17 years of later life with Labradors (Harvey and then Milly) with Denise until just under 3 years ago. With us both working full time, a few holidays booked, we can’t commit to a 24/7 pet. It simply wouldn’t be fair. About 18 months ago, we heard about Guide Dog boarding and started the application process which subsequently stalled. Fortunately that changed earlier in the year and we re-applied.

Guide Dog boarding consists of looking after a trainee guide dog overnight during the week and at weekends while they complete their training with a local mobility office. During the week (Monday to Friday), the trainee goes to school to learn how to guide its visually impaired owner.

For about the first 12 months of a Guide dog’s life it lives with a ‘puppy walker’ who provides basic training and a family environment.

The dog then attends basic training typically for about 20 weeks followed by advanced training for 10 weeks. Assuming the dog passes the training, he/she is matched to an owner and they become a fully fledged guide dog.

In order to become a guide dog boarding family, both Denise and I had to complete an application form, be interviewed, have our home checked for suitability, have references submitted and complete a day and a half of training on dog care, responsibilities, the law regarding dogs and the responsibilities of a dog owner. The course, split over 2 days also included dog behaviour, training and lots of practical experience with trainee guide dogs.

The home assessment primarily checks that the house and garden are suitable e.g. the garden is secure, the house is safe, there’s somewhere for the dog to sleep, there’s an area in the garden for the dog to go to the toilet (to ‘spend’) that’s ideally a concrete area for easily cleaning.

Having completed all of the above, we passed and within days were providing a week-long board to cover holiday of 22 month old Golden Retriever, Ludo. A week later we picked up a 14 month old Labrador/Retriever cross Yana and will be boarding her for up to 20 weeks.

Boarding works for us perfectly. As experienced dog owners, we know how to live with dogs and what makes them tick. The mobility office where training is based is in Chilworth a few minutes from where I work so I can drop off in the morning’s from 8am until 9:30am and collect between 4:30pm and 6pm as part of my daily commute. This does mean that my cycling commute has had to be restricted to the couple of days a week that Denise takes Yana to school but that’s a small price to pay for having a dog in our lives.

For all intents and purposes, the guide dog can be treated as a family pet although there are a number of rules including:

– the dog can’t go upstairs

– the dog isn’t allowed on furniture

– the dog isn’t allowed human food or titbits

– the dog must be encouraged to spend on concrete and not out on walksAlso, during the first few weeks of each board, the dog isn’t allowed to free-run (be let off the lead outside the house/garden) or be pavement-walked on its leash. Instead much of the walking is some with a freedom harness and lead (an extendible lead).

Although it’s early days, Guide Dog boarding is working brilliantly for us for many reasons:

– we have a well-trained, well-mannered dog to look after without having to provide that training as a puppy

– we don’t have to worry about the dog being left while we are at work as they are at ‘school’

– we don’t have to worry about kennelling the dog during holidays as other Boarders can provide holiday cover

– we don’t have to pay for food or vet bills as the mobility office provide that

At the end of the boarding period, it’s going to be tough to say goodbye but we’ll know that we’ve helped do something positive for a very worthwhile charity and helped provide a warm family environment during its training and a well trained dog to a visually impaired owner once training is successfully completed.


Getting back on track

In my last blog post, I shared the news of my bad back and how it was impacting my goal of being fit when I reached the grand ol’ age of 50. The good news is that after 3 weeks of inactivity, this week I’ve been able to get active again.

In fact, the previous week I was able to start the ramp up by walking regularly both during lunchtime walks as well as in the treadmill.

This Monday, I got back in my adventure bike and commutes to and from work. I felt my lower back aching a little in the evening so decided to alternate my cycle commute days by cycling Monday, Wednesday and Friday. On Tuesday and Thursday and Friday, I drove to work and then went for 30 minute runs. Tuesday’s was a little too early with a pre-6am alarm and a run that started while it was still dark.

As well as that, I decided that I’d try to walk around 2 miles a day. There are lots of health benefits of regular walking and this also acted as a great way to take a break from the office and a recovery from the cycling/running.

On Thursday morning’s run, I made the decision to complete 2600 miles of exercise this year through a combination of running, walking and cycling. That means 50 miles per week. I’m likely to achieve that with 30 miles of cycling, 10 miles of walking and 10 miles of running.

As well as that challenge, I decided to join my wife on Saturday for a swim. As mentioned in a recent post, I swam once last year. That amounted to less than 1 mile in distance – a far cry from the 100 miles I covered 5 years ago when I was training for triathlons.

Having zero swim fitness, I was pleased to complete 40 lengths of the pool.

With today to complete (a run is planned), it’s been a good week with Garmin summarising my activities below:

So far, so good.

So, my rough plan for the coming weeks will be something like:

Monday – cycle and walk

Tuesday – run and walk

Wednesday – cycle and walk

Thursday – run and walk

Friday – cycle and walk

Saturday – Swim

Sunday – run

Secret ’fit at fifty’ operation under threat

Late last year I set myself a secret operation to be as fit as possible when I reached 50. It’s now 7 weeks until the big day and my plans have been derailed considerably by back pain and the consequential lack of mobility.

Almost 2 weeks ago, I spent a weekend doing a combination of a couple of sessions out on the water kayaking and stoopping over a bike doing bike maintenance. Although the latter left a dull ache, it wasn’t until the Monday morning that suddenly my back seized and the discomfort began.

I had hoped that a combination of regular doses of paracetamol, ibuprofen, stretching, foam rolling, heat therapy and rest would help and I’d be able to get back on with my reasonably active life but recovery has been slow.

That’s meant limited sleep, no cycle commutes to and from work, no running or on-the-water activities and a struggle to get out of chairs and bed.

Although I appreciate that ‘it’s only a bad back’ and it was self-inflicted through inadequate care (likely caused by not warming up before kayaking and poor form/technique whilst paddling and not raising my bike up in its maintenance stand for the hour or so that I was working on it), the impact has been frustrating.

I am focused (for the umpteenth time) on losing weight as part of my ‘fit at fifty’ operation and not cycling each day has meant not having 500-700 calorie bonus due to the exercise calorie burn each work day.

As well as the benefit of burning calories, my regular exercise does make me happier. The lack of exercise and pain has meant being grumpy and fed up. Thankfully, I’ve had a few things to take my mind off the negatives including an exciting project at work and the preparation of the yearly accounts for the Beavers/Cubs/Scout group I’m the treasurer for.

The positive news is that I’m being good, tracking calories and working hard to not exceed my target calorie goal each day and that appears to be working in my favour. I’m also hoping that I’m setting a habit of consuming less ‘bad stuff’ each day and that habit may just ‘stick’ for a while once I’m back to regular exercise.

I have my fingers crossed that a weekend of rest, trying to keep mobile and self care will allow me to get back to cycling next week.

A late look back at 2018

As the first month of 2019 fast approaches completion, I’ve found a few minutes to look back at 2018 before it’s too late.

As a blog about triathlon training, such events seem a distant memory. In fact, other than cycling regularly, my running has become sporadic and I don’t recall the last time I swam! D’oh. I ran a grand total of less than 400 miles and swam less than a mile. With regular cycling commutes to and from work I managed 1600 miles on the bike. This included the Garmin Ride Out – a 50 mile sportive around the New Forest for the 2nd time.

However, 2018 involved lots of water but rather than being in it, I was on it. Much of my free time activity was spent sailing, kayaking, canoeing, rowing or paddle boarding. I feel quite at home on the water.

As well as the activities centering around St Denys Boat Club with almost 35 visits in the latter 5 months of the year, I also spent time on the water on both a narrowboat with a 4 day round trip from Lower Heyford to Oxford and back and finished the year aboard P&O’s cruise liner Ventura on a Christmas and New Year’s cruise from Southampton to the Canary Islands and back.

2019 looks to be a similar year in terms of activities. I’ll be 50 in mid March and hope to keep as active as possible. I’ll take part in the Active Nation Active Warrior events in July (Rainbow Rampage with the boys) and October (Active Warrior). Aside from that, I have no plans to enter any other running events.

I’m hoping to make regular visits to St Denys Boat Club and will be enjoying a week dinghy sailing in the (hopefully) warmer water of one of the Greek Islands.

My coaching is still going well as I approach 3 years of leading weekly Strength and Conditioning sessions for Lordshill Road Runners. The sessions are still regularly attracting between 30 and 40 participants each week. Feedback remains overwhelming positive and there are a good mix of regulars and newbies taking part.

So that’s it. Last year in a nutshell and a quicker look forward to this year’s plan.

Summery Summary

This summer has been a good one. Since the near zero temperatures have set in, it seems like a distant memory and before that’s lost for good, I thought I’d better put key to keyboard to capture a summary of my summer.

Coaching my weekly S&C session out on Southampton Common was fun as usual. The sessions were well received and the weather was kind. We’ve had several indoor sessions since September and participation has increased although it’s been a little sad to see some of the regulars leave to start new adventures, several new members of LRR have been regular participants at the sessions.

My own running has been sporadic at best. I enjoy it when I do it but can’t get into a rhythm of weekly sessions. Although I have a habit of lining up races to try and motivate myself to train, my enthusiasm for races has declined over the last year or so so the incentive of trying to gain a PB doesn’t currently lead to anything other than a DNS and a wasted entry fee.

Cycling to work remains my exercise of choice. With a 10 – 11 mile daily commute, the return journey is enough to burn 650-700 calories on average which tends to be offset with treats rather than weight loss. I have a goal to help focus on the latter but need to find the enthusiasm to press start on tbat journey. Our daily rag, the Daily Echo, continues to post stories and readers letters enticing motor vehicle users and cyclists to bash heads over:

– cyclists using pavements – I avoid them unless it’s not safe to be on the road and I have no other choice.

– cyclists not paying road tax – no one pays rod tax and as a council tax payer, I make the same contribution to the upkeep of our roads as every other council tax payer. When cycling, I cause less damage than a 2 ton+ vehicle.

– cyclists not using cycle paths and cycle lanes – the use of cycle lanes and paths use is optional based on the cyclists choice taking into account experience and skill on the road. The Highway Code states that very clearly. I avoid cycle paths and shared use pavements as they are more often than not less safe than being on the road for me as a cyclist and for pedestrians. Their condition is often appalling and getting on and off then can be dangerous, and in some cases, impossible.

– cyclists jumping red lights – it makes my blood boil too but I see motor vehicle drivers do this frequently.

– cyclists acting irresponsibly – also agree on this. However, road users of all vehicles as well as pedestrians can all act stupidly when faced with travelling along or crossing tarmac covered ground.

– ninja cyclists or cyclists with bright lights – I want to be seen whether its night or day. I wear high viz when on two wheels and have lights on my bike and flashing regardless of whether it’s day or night. You wouldn’t miss me on the bike which I hope means you will miss me.

– cyclists not wearing helmets – I’m afraid that I believe that if a cyclist isn’t wearing a helmet they are jeopardising their life. I always wear a helmet in a bike and always will. I’d be stupid not to.

– cyclists not having insurance – the likelihood of a cyclist causing damage to another vehicle or a person is far less than a motor vehicle user and therefore insurance isn’t a legal requirement. However, I have cycle insurance that covers both liability and legal costs.

The main focus of my summer adventures has been out on the water on the River Itchen with about 25 visits to St Denys Boat Club. I’ve really enjoyed paddle boarding, kayaking, canoeing and sculling (rowing) as well as dinghy sailing and can’t wait for the weather to warm up so I can get back out on the water with Daniel. Through the winter, I plan to kayak, canoe and row when possible in the hope I can stay afloat and not perish in The hyperthermia-inducing murky depths.

Time out on the water

It’s 7 weeks since my last post, where I talked about joining St Denys Boat Club and I’ve spent quite a few hours since then out on the water.

Having been signed off on kayaks, paddle boards and dinghies in one afternoon, this meant I’ve been able to use quite a few of St Denys Boat Club’s wide range of water-going craft with my favourite being the Laser dinghy.

Daniel and I have also sailed two of the club’s other dinghies; Harry’s Girl and Kingfisher, as well as kayaks and paddle boards. Connor has even joined us for both kayaking and paddle boarding on a couple of occasions. The most recent of these being to support the Lions-organised annual Duck Race where we helped along some of the less enthusiastic plastic ducks before collecting the 1000s that clearly never had a hope of crossing the finishing line.

Yesterday (1st September) was a great day to be out on the water and fortunately I’d arranged to explore ‘under the bridges’ with another club member, Geoff. Many thanks for ‘showing me the ropes’!

The area by the boat club at Cobden Bridge is a little small and the wind is often quite shifty. That’s mostly due to the buildings that surround the area and the bridge itself. With the narrow width of the river, the water depth affected by the tide and the wind, it’s recommended that you sail out towards Northam Bridge but that requires some extra challenges as getting under Cobden Bridge (and St Denys railway bridge) is not possible as the bridges are too low to sail under with the mast up. If only they’d made the arches a little higher when built in 1926.

Instead, you have to take a boat with an outboard (we took a petrol outboard which was more likely to get us there and back than an electric outboard) and tow the dinghy (or dinghies) out to a buoy and then raise the mast and rig the boat on the water before setting sail. A bit of a faff but well worth it in reality. Getting ready and motoring to the sailing area probably added 40 minutes of which 20 would have been spent sailing there had we been able to.

The journey to the sail area was very pleasant. The weather was lovely and it was quite surprising to see so many houseboats along that stretch of the Itchen River.

Having lifted the mast successfully (without a dip in the water) and set sail the sailing area is much bigger and more interesting than to the north of Cobden Bridge. There are other moored boats to avoid as well as several shipwrecks which are exposed during low tide but lurk beneath the surface at high tide.

With 7-15mph winds, the conditions were great for sailing. It really was a beautiful day to be on the water. As I’d cycled 50 miles the day before in the Garmin Ride Out, I was a little concerned that my quads wouldn’t respond well to the demands of hiking out, but my fears were unfounded. I managed to sail without getting wet.

The sail area didn’t suffer from the fluky wind-shifts of Cobden Bridge and there was plenty of space to explore. I was sailing the Laser whilst Geoff was helming the Laser Pico. After 90 minutes or so, we swapped boats and I got my first chance to sail the Pico. A very different experience to the Laser. Much bigger, with a large deck, and more forgiving but not as much fun or as responsive. No complaints though. I wasn’t too sure about the toe straps but fortunately didn’t need them.

With 30 years since I’ve last sailed, I’m pleased do report that I’d not forgotten how to sail. The dinghies, in particular the Laser, seem smaller than I remember them (!) but other than that the skills I learned as a teenager have soon flooded back. In fact, I’m gradually teaching Daniel the basics of dinghy sailing and am remembering instructing as a teenager and the theory and practical aspects of the RYA courses which are largely unchanged in the intervening years.

After 2 hours of sailing, we headed back to the buoy where we’d moored the motor-boat, de-rigged and motored back to the club which was teaming with activity with club members getting afloat in kayaks and dinghies. I’ve not seen the club so busy. Fortunately, one family was keen to take the Pico off our hands so we only had to get the motor-boat and the Laser out of the water and give the outboard its post use maintenance.

Overall, a great afternoon of sailing.

Today I hoping to get Daniel helming the Pico with the aims of getting him confident sailing before the end of the Autumn.

St Denys Boat Club is quite simply brilliant. There’s plenty of choice of boats, all well looked after and ready to go afloat on/in. The club members and committee are friendly and helpful. We’ve certainly made the most of our membership so far with 9 visits (1 or 2 visits per week). Hopefully the weather will remain good for several weeks to come and I’ll get more time afloat with the family and occasionally solo too. Can’t wait!

Reigniting a passion

As a teen, my family lived in Germany in a village called Bruggen close to the border with Holland.

There are two versions of how I got into dinghy sailing and I don’t remember which was the real one…

Version 1:

Although my memory is getting a little hazy, I have a vague recollection of my dad suggesting I try out dinghy sailing.

I think that one of his work colleagues, Steve Bailes, was involved in running a RYA dinghy sailing course at the nearby inland lakes at Roermond which was across the border between Germany and Holland.

This was the mid-late 80s and the UK military (RAF and Army) has a big presence in the area as the Cold War with Russia was in full flow.

The lakes were big. More than ample to sail in a dinghy, windsurfer or yacht.

I took to sailing quickly and enjoyed the course. As well as Steve, the head of 6 form at my school was also involved in the course. Des Lacklison was his name and I remember he was a brilliant bloke. In fact Steve and Des both were. (I believe that Des is still living in a house just outside the school. I’m not sure about Steve though. Would very much like to find out.)

Version 2 – I have an even vaguer recollection that my introduction to sailing may have come about from a school residential trip run by Des and his sidekick, Ian Barron, where I, as a very shy teenager, came out of my shell and stood out for some reason. Des suggested that I may enjoy dinghy sailing and as an active member of the sailing club at Roermond spoke to my parents to get their permission for me to get involved.

Having written both versions of history, I suspect version 2 is correct.

Anyway, having completed the 5 day course which was held in term time (thanks to Des’ involvement, that didn’t appear to be a problem), I would regularly cycle to the lakes to sail. Although we’d learned in the Bosun class dinghy, I loved to sail the single-hander Laser dinghy. This was, and still is, an Olympic class racing machine. I dreamed about owning one one day… but never did.

Sailing was a passion. I bought books about it (years before you could order online from Amazon or read instantly on your kindle or google for information), had posters of Lasers on my bedroom wall and couldn’t wait for my next opportunity to get on the water. I can remember ordering a made to measure wetsuit at a time when buying one off the shelf at your local ALDI wasn’t an option.

As well as dinghy sailing, I got interested in windsurfing and did that quite a lot. With little upper body strength it was a challenge but I was ok at it. (My last windsurfing adventure also ended in disaster. I was on a group holiday in my mid/late 20s somewhere like Faliraki and hired a windsurfer, knackered myself out and got blown out to sea before being rescued! What an adventure!)

As well as racing dinghies, I also helped out at training courses held at the lakes and loved the sport with a passion.

I don’t remember how old I was but I sailed for my school in a Topper dinghy on a river and got a medal which I still have.

When i returned to the UK to study Electrical and Electronic Engineering in South Wales, I had every intention of continuing to sail and at the Polytechnic’s (that’s what some universities were called when it was fashionable to have further education that was more vocational than academic) freshers fair, I sought out the sailing club and signed up. My first sail with the club, the most unfriendly bunch of individuals you can imagine, put me off sailing for years and I didn’t sail again until I left higher education several years later.

At some point in my 20s or early 30s, I went on some kind of racing or advanced dinghy sailing course at Port Solent. We were sailing Toppers or Lasers I believe and I loved it. However, the cost of joining a club and needing my own dinghy was prohibitive and I didn’t pursue the sport of Dinghy Sailing again.

However, that didn’t keep me off the water. For a few years, I regularly crewed on a work colleague’s yacht and competed in both Cowes Week and the Round The Island Race on a handful of occasions. The latter was a long, long day and a true test of endurance. That work colleague, Andy H, is now my boss and a really decent bloke.

Earlier this week, my eldest son Daniel got the opportunity to go dinghy sailing as part of the scout group he attends. We headed down to Royal Victoria Country Park and met up with the rest of the group. I was more than a little jealous that he was getting to go out on the water and hoped that he’d enjoy sailing with two of his friends in the Wayfarer. It just so happens that he did and he wanted to go again.

Fortunately, locally there’s a club called the St Denys Boat Club,, that’s been established on the river close to Bitterne Triangle since 1890 or thereabouts. After paying £110 for the membership and having your skills assessed you can be signed off to take out one of their ‘boats’ 365 days a year. The boats include kayaks, stand up paddle boards and a range of dinghies including a Laser. I booked a tour of the club and Daniel and I went down to take a look. The club’s chairman, James, was very friendly and we couldn’t believe how brilliant the club was.

Having spoken to Denise I filled out the membership form and am eagerly awaiting the opportunity to get signed off and back out on the water. Although I’m a couple of stones heavier than the last time I sailed and 20-30 years older, I feel fit enough to give it a go and the practical and theoretical skills are still fairly fresh in my mind.

To be continued…