To Do Or Not To Do

The question of whether to do something for not is one that we all face every single day in some form or another, be it shall I have cake with my coffee or buy that new pair of wheels.

In my world I am currently trying to work out what is my sporting targets for this year, in the past I have usually found something easily but for whatever reason this year I just can’t find something that really inspires me.

I will do some duathlons again, as I enjoy them but as they are done by the end of spring it does leave a large hole in my summer schedule.

I have tried to ask myself a few questions to try and help, and whilst these have helped to the point where I know they have to involve bikes and also running is welcome. I could do some long off road mountain biking events or try some time trialling but whilst these appeal they just don’t fill the gap.

For anyone who has read my ramblings before will know there is an elephant in the room, and that is swimming, if I added swimming to cycling and running then i would have the chance to do more triathlons. Now, I have done a couple of these in the past but I have issues with swimming and that I find it stressful, and thats not just on the race day it includes the training as well. I did think about going to the pool to try to and see how swimming was, but the mere thought of it just meant I couldn’t bring myself to go and do it.

Could there be a “cure” for my issues with swimming, well I am sure there is but I am not sure if I really want to go through the struggle of trying to overcome it, as it is not the physical side but the mental side, perhaps I am just too weak.

So, currently I am in a bit of a state of flux regarding what to do and I will continue to look for something and hopefully inspiration will strike.

Side Project – High 5 Energy Bar – Berry Flavour

Another energy bar and once again one I enjoyed. This bar is a flapjack style bar which gives a really good texture and also makes it chewy so it feels like real food as opposed to some sort of sticky mess.

I really liked the berry flavour, it is a strong taste and certainly to me tasted like it was supposed to.

I used the bar whilst out on a very muddy mountain bike ride, and ate it whilst fixing a puncture! The packaging was easy to open with gloves on and the initial bite was actually very satisfying. At the tim I ate it was was just starting to think about food I hadn’t reached the point of being hungry and I found eating this bar removed that feeling.

I did find that I didn’t need to eat anything else for the rest of the ride, approx about another hour and a quarter and didn’t feel hungry again so I would have to say that in terms of does it work that it did.

As I said above I enjoyed both the flavour and the texture of the bar and as it is like a flapjack it was visually pleasing to.

I am now getting down to the last couple of bars and so shortly I should have some sort of conclusion although I doubt it will be earth shattering!

Side Project – Power Bar Ride Energy Bar – Peanut Caramel Flavour

Another Power Bar and another one that scores highly in terms of both texture and flavour.

Like one of the earlier bars this is again a chewy bar and one that leaves you feeling that you have just eaten something solid.

I used one these bars before a cyclo cross race and found it stopped me feeling hungry mid-race which has happened in the past, it’s hard to say if it gave any extra energy but as the course was super muddy and I kept going it might have.

The second of the bars was eaten mid mountain bike ride and again it was satisfying to eat and certainly filled a hole at that time.

The flavour is as advertised and I really like the taste, as I said before these bars are chewy with a solid feel to them and so you do have to be careful not to take too big a bite ealse it can be tricky to chew and cycle!

I think that so far the Power Bar ride bars have bene my favourites as they have really good flavours, are solid and have a texture that I really like.

The only downside is that if you are are in the cold then the bars can become a bit hard if you keep them in your bag and when hard become like the old fashioned Texan bar which has been kept in the fridge, i.e. very hard!

All in all another good bar which I liked.

Farewell 2016

So its that time of the year where we all write about 2016 and try and make some sort of sense of whether it was a good year or not.

For me this last year was decent sportingly, I completed the Ballbuster duathlon, several other duathlons and did my first set of cyclocross races, all of this adds up to a reasonable amount.

I have written about most of the above and above all enjoyed doing them, for example cx racing is one of the most friendly things I have ever done, people offer so much free advice and at the end of the race every one chats and shares experiences.

There were things in the year that didn’t go to plan, the occasional cold, the times when you don’t hit the training numbers or even fancy going out training and the race where I blew up! But, overall all these experiences added to my enjoyment and meant I learnt more.

For 2017 I still haven’t decided what races to do, probably some more cx races, perhaps some time trials and possibly some form of endurance bike racing

Anyhow, thanks to Mike Shaw for the coaching and to my wife for the ongoing support without them most of these would be an awful lot harder,

Enjoy the rest of 2016 and hopefully 2017 will be good.

The Ballbuster Duathlon

The Ballbuster Duathlon one of the UK’s most iconic duathlons held at Boxhill in Surrey and is said to be one of the most epic events on the calendar.

The event is made up of 8 mile laps, each which finish with a climb up Boxhill, remembered by many for it’s appearance in the 2012 Olympic cycling road race, Each competitor completes a run lap, 3 bike laps and finishes with a run lap giving a total of 40 miles and 5 ascents of the hill.

For an event held in November there is an added ingredient which nobody has control of (unless the organisers have a special hotline!), and that is the weather, there are stories of gales, snow fog and probably plagues of locusts all impacting the race. This year the weather decided it would give us heavy rain, strong winds and cold which when you think that the day before was bright blue sky and sunshine as was the day after seems like someone was really having a laugh.

I have never done this event before, and like many others wanted to tick it off the list and get my hands on one of the limited edition hoodies, which I have to say really are good.

Unfortunately for Boxhill is not just round the corner so after a very early 4:30 alarm call it was time to eat, pack the car and hit the road. The journey down was uneventful and I was soon parked up and signed on. With the weather being so horrible and the fact that they give you the hoodie when you sign on did make me wonder if I should just wait in the car and pretend I did it!

The rain decided it was time to fall harder once the first run got under way just to make it a bit more difficult. As i don’t know the area of the race it was interesting to run along and see the sights, although the main road section was a little dodgy with cars not really being bothered if they gave you any room to run or not. Luckily other than that section the rest of the route was ok and if you did meet traffic is was more than happy to give you room to run.

My main aim on the first run was to ensure I didn’t go off too fast else there was a good chance of blowing up before the end. I seemed to be being passed by a lot of runners but I kept to my plan and eventually arrived at the foot of Boxhill for the first climb, I went steady and was soon at the top and off into transition.

For the bike I leg I swapped gloves and put on a waterproof jacket to try and keep some of the rain out. The cold was starting to have an impact on the bike as once I was up to speed I really noticed how cold it was especially on my legs muscles, as my leg warmers were soaked.

The other problem the weather gave was that it had washed loads of leaves onto the road and these seemed to always form piles on exactly the line you wanted to take especially on the downhill sections. I did back off a bit on the descents on the first lap  as I didn’t want to crash. Once I got to the first climb of Boxhill, I just cruised up it, with several gears left to go and was able to pass people and so it was out onto lap 2.

Lap 2 was where I decided I would take a few chances on the downhills in oder to try and gain some more time, it seemed to work and despite being very wet I was moving ok, the second climb up the hill was again uneventful, gears to spare and passing people.

The final lap and I decided after lap 2 that I could keep pushing on a bit on the descents, however,this is where it very nearly all went wrong. On one downhill left hander the pile of leaves had moved out from where they were on the previous lap and as I came round the bend I was on top of them in a two wheel slide heading towards the other side of the road and the oncoming traffic. I managed to run out to the white line off the leaves and then re-tip the bike into the bend thus avoiding the accident. I have to say the marshall on the other side of the road looked worried for a while, I’m just glad I didn’t panic and grab a big handful of brakes or else that would have been it, instead I just trusted my bike handling ability and it saw me through, just!

Final climb of the hill on the bike and still had gears to use if needed and I was still passing people, back into transition and off on the final run.

I have to say I was dreading the last run a bit, another 8 miles in the rain and cold after having worked hard so far, it was never going to be easy. I started off and realised I couldn’t really feel my feet due to them being cold and wet, this lasted for about the first 10 minutes or so until they were warmed up and then felt normal again. For the final run I ditched any sort of jacket just put my running gloves back on as I was now soaked and a jacket would just have given me that boil in a bag feeling.

The run itself went ok, I got passed by runners along the way but unusually for me I also passed some. Coming into the last climb of the hill I was still feeling reasonable and said to myself that I wasn’t going to walk on the hill no matter what. I got into a rhythm and found that I was catching some people and moving past them, especially those that were walking.

Before you came round the final bend you could hear the people by the finish cheering all the finishers and that gave a little boost, on crossing the line and stopping I realised just how tired I was and how much of a hard time it had been.

I was a little disappointed in my time of 4 hours 1 minute and 20 seconds as I wanted to go sub 4 but I don’t think on the day in those conditions I could have gone any faster. I only dropped 2 minutes between my two runs which I think showed that my initial pacing was pretty good, and the conditions on the bike meant that I couldn’t make up as much time on the downhills as I would have normally.

Did I enjoy it? I think I did, I think it is an achievement to finish it as it certainly is no easy event. Would I do it again? Probably not as at the moment I don’t see a reason to do it again, but that might change.

Finally a couple of thank you’s, firstly to “iron” Mike Shaw at Triperformance.co.uk for the coaching to get me through this, as ever the plan was spot on. Also to my wife,Suzanne, who got out of bed at a stupidly early time on a Saturday to come and stand in the lashing rain to watch me flog myself, I know any one who races will appreciate how much it helps having someone there to support you and how much it helps when you are hurting and you go by them and hear them encouraging you.

A special mention should be made to all the marshall’s out on the course and those volunteers who run the event as they did a great job. I did thank all the marshall’s on my final run as I think that is the least you can do when they give up their time so you can do something you want to.

If you have never done the Ballbuster then I would say try it, you will see that it is an epic event and you get the chance to properly test yourself.

Side Project – Power Bar Ride Energy Bar – Chocolate Caramel Flavour

This another bar made by Power Bar, and it is slightly different to the last one I tested/ate. A bat which promised a more solid feel and flavour, and it certainly is a chunky little number.

I tested this bar by using it on the Ballbuster duathlon, a slightly risky strategy but I didn’t have much choice as I am finally out of my old favourite bars and so all I have is the bars I am going to test.

The first thing I noticed with this bar when I took a big bite, is that when it is cold it is solid and is actually quite hard to chew big mouthfuls of, with hindsight I should have taken a smaller bite but I didn’t. The initial bite took me quite a while to chew my way through due to the size of it, but the taste was good and the flavour was as described on the packet. Once you got into the bar the taste and texture were both good, it felt like you were eating something substantial and it also didn’t have one of those artificial after tastes.

On the second bite, i took a much smaller bite, I learnt from the first one, and it was much more manageable to chew and more enjoyable to eat. I started the bar on the first lap of the bike course and finished it coming into transition 2, so it lasted the entire bike course by just biting off manageable chunks.

As ever, the most important question is did it work, well I never ran out of energy on the bike or the second run and didn’t feel hungry on either, so I can only assume it did it’s job in  lack of scientific testing.

Overall I liked this bar, and I think it would be interesting to try some other flavours as this one was tasty and I think currently it has been my favourite bar to test, but there are still a few to go so we will see.

Side Project -Power Bar Energize – Mango & Passionfruit Flavour

An interesting bar this one, in that it appears to be very flat and for some reason I expected it to be very sticky once the wrapper was opened.

The actual wrapper was very easy to open, both with gloves on and off, and the bar was not that sticky. In terms of taste the flavour was really good, you could make out the fruits and it had an after taste that was quite refreshing.

In terms of texture the bar was like one of the fruit salad chewy sweets, a little tacky to the touch but not overly so.

I used two of these bars, one before a turbo session and the other whilst out on the bike, and I have to say that seems to work I didn’t feel hungry on either occasion and my energy levels were kept up, so in the absence of any scientific testing I would say this bar works.

Would I buy more of these bars? Yes I would, I have to say to that the flavour was better than the High 5 banana bar and when you combine that with the easy to open wrapper it is a good all round bar.

Side Project -High 5 Energy Bar – Banana Flavour

The first review is of the High 5 Energy bar in banana flavour, and as I said in my original post there is no science behind these reviews they are going to be subjective only, as I have no idea how to scientifically test them, and if that is the type of review you are after then I am sure many magazines have already done that.

The packaging was easy to open an the first bite certainly gave a very bananary taste, in fact it was very strong.

In terms of texture it was a little rubbery for me, although that may not be a bad thing, it just was not a texture I liked a lot.

As you ate your way through the bar the taste did change a bit, it became a sort of hybrid of banana and the taste of the foam banana sweets you get. A kind of strong yet very artificial flavour.

Did the bar work, well I ate this one in between a bike and run session, so after a hard turbo trainer workout and before I set out on an easy paced run. I have to say that I didn’t become hungry on the run and also felt like I had a steady amount of energy throughout with no initial peaks and a sudden tail off.

There was a bit of a downside, I found the bar did repeat on me a bit whilst running and the  after taste was not pleasant a kind of off artificial banana taste.

In summary, the bar seemed to work, it was a banana flavour but perhaps not one I would turn to again in a hurry as I sure some of the other flavours will be better. I could give it a score, but I have decided not to do that, the outcome would be if I would consider buying it again and whether I actually buy some more.

The answer is I probably wouldn’t buy this flavour again.

A Small Side Project

I have decided to do a little side project, and that is to try out a variety of energy bars to see which ones I like. Currently I use the Zipvit ZV8 Energy Bar in the uncoated chocolate flavour and have done for years, it is one of those bars that I just like the taste of and it seems to work. However, it seems that Zipvit no longer do that flavour and the other option i don’t really like.

So in order to do this I went to Holland and Barrett and bought a selection of bars from a variety of companies.

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Now the thing to point out at this point is that there will be no science in the reviews, I have no way of testing it other than subjectively, in as much as did it seem to work for me, did I like the taste etc.

So, over the next few weeks and months I will write up my reviews and see if I can find some bars I actually like.

The Bison Duathlon

The Bison Duathlon, a new event held on the Dunstable Downs using as it’s main feature the well known local landmark, Bison Hill.

Anyone who has ever visited Whipsnade Zoo has probably driven up the hill, it’s the steep one before you get to the car park. It is also possible to go up it from the inside as well via a path so that makes it ideal for a duathlon.

There were 2 possible distances, the full (13km, 30km, 13km) and a sprint (6.5km, 19km, 6.5km), me, I chose the sprint as I thought it would make a good training session for the Ballbuster next month.

The weather was misty and there was certainly a bit of rain in the air, and this meant the views were pretty much lost from the top of the downs, which was a shame. It wasn’t too cold but the temperature was at that point where it made what to wear of what leg a little tricky, you don’t want to be too hot on the run and then cold on the bike. For what it is worth, I went for a base layer, short sleeved jersey, arm warmers, gloves (which came off after the bike leg) and shorts. This turned about to be about right, I probably should have left the gloves till the bike leg and not bothered on the first run, but it didn’t make too much difference.

After the usual pre-race briefing the run was off and we headed out onto the trails path around the top of the downs, which dropped down and wound it’s way round to the bottom of Bison Hill and the infamous cut steps and the slog up the hill. Once over the hill it was basically a flat run to the transition area.

Quick (well average) change into the bike shoes and off onto the road. The bike course went downhill to the bottom of Bison Hill, where the slog up the hill began. Once the hill was done the run back to the transition area had another sneaky uphill drag

The second run was round the same course, although a bit slower than the first one!

So, what was it like then? Well the short answer is it was good fun but hard, I certainly was not in any shape to have done the full distance one. The course was well thought out and the run course especially was an enjoyable run. Having an event where the run was offload and the bike on road made for a good change, running off road is not only more fun but is harder than road running and certainly more interesting.

I was certainly feeling it in my legs at the finish, I think I probably started the first run too fast and then paid for it for the rest of the race, my left calf felt like it was on the verge of cramping from near the end of the bike until the end of the run, it didn’t but certainly felt like it might.

Overall I really enjoyed the event, it was well put together for the athletes and the medals were good as well. The only downside was that the National Trust for whatever reason didn’t open the centre that servers food and drink until about 9:30, when the race started at 8:00 and there were certainly plenty of spectators who wanted to get in there early! Certainly not the fault of the organisers.

When the event returns next year I would recommend it, it is a good challenge on excellent courses and is well run, have a look at their website for more details here