February newsletter

Anne Solley, Double trouble, 23/24th February
Darren’s marathon training schedule had a surprise up its sleeve on 23/24th February: back to back half marathon runs. The aim was to complete both runs – Saturday’s in Brighton and Sunday’s the Tunbridge Wells half marathon – at marathon pace. This is something totally different to anything I’ve done before and, to be honest, I was a little scared at the prospect. I am, however, always keen to try my hardest when following Darren’s plan and saw it as a challenge.

As the weekend approached it became obvious that both runs were going to be really cold so I was really glad to have bought some good quality winter kit. Saturday’s run was mostly along the seafront and the Road To Hell. It was a chilly but pleasant start with a bit of sunshine peeking through. The sun went in just as I turned around to head pier-wards. And to top it off, I was now running into the wind and snowflakes were falling. The closer to the pier I got the more bitter it became, the cold really zapping my energy but I just about managed to keep going.

I knew there were two big hills and some other undulations along the route and really doubted my ability to finish within my target time, especially on my already tired legs. Spring Hill (at mile 7) is a mile long and quite tough. I have to admit that about half way up the steep section I decided that as this was a training run for me I wouldn’t ‘overdo’ it and walked until the hill eased up a bit. Luckily there were some downhill sections where I clawed back some of the time lost by my little walk. The main thing I noticed on Sunday was that those gentle inclines that wouldn’t normally trouble runners felt much harder than normal and it was these sections where I really noticed my tired legs. Although tired, they never felt as if they couldn’t keep going and I was able to push the pace a little bit as I got closer to the finish.

As with Saturday’s run, it was the last few miles that were the coldest and bitterest but luckily there were plenty of spectators and marshals encouraging us crazy runners to keep going. I caught up with, and overtook, the 2:10 pacers with about 4/500 metres to go so knew I had achieved my goals for both runs which spurred me on to speed up for the final section. I was overtaken by one lady with a couple of hundred metres to go but I wasn’t having any of that and sprinted past her just before crossing the line! Job Done!

These back to back sessions were a good challenge for me, gave me a bit of confidence for the next stage of my marathon training and also helped with the mental toughness aspect of marathon training.

I have no idea what Darren has in store for me next, but bring it on!

Darren Connaghan, Retul Bike Fit, The Tri-Store, Eastbourne, 26th February
Having bought a fantastic bike (Focus Izalco Tri 2008) off of eBay at the end of the 2012 season, I set my bike up with similar angles/distances to my trusty Sigma road bike (which I’ve used since early 2005). The fit was comfortable and I was noticeably faster, by a few %, when I did comparable Preston park velodrome rides. However, after reading quite a bit about having a proper bike fit and talking to Will Taylor who used the service of FreeSpeed London and their Retul bike fitting service, I was convinced that the money I would be spending would be a good investment. Will and I had chatted and he was convinced that his Power output was between 10 and 15% higher after the fit, as important for him, was the belief, through sessions, that his running had not been impaired.

FreeSpeed London, as the name suggests, are based in London but have a link to the best Triathlon shop in the region, The Tri-Store in Eastbourne, so I booked a setup for last Tuesday afternoon (it’s cheaper during the week). On arrival, I was met by Richard and we spent quite a while talking about why the bike was setup as it was, my goals, any issues I have with injuries (lower back pain) etc. He then explained the process and we got down to the setup. I was wearing my race kit rather than training kit as this can have a small affect (padding on my winter outfit is about 0.5cm thicker). He proceeded to cover me in sticky pads (which you should be able to see) which he then connected to a series of sensors which be picked up by the 3 cameras in use providing results in all 3 dimensions (left/right; up/down; back/forward). I was then asked to pedal at 70% for 90 secs while the cameras monitored me, I then was rotated and did the same on the opposite side. He then analysed the results and we discussed the results which included knee angles, distance to handle bars, knee wobble (yes, my right knee oscillates in/out more than it should), hip angles etc. On viewing the image on the left, I could see quite clearly that I am quite upright, my knee is too bent and my shoulders are not over my tri bar pads.

Position before fit

- My saddle was raised approx 1cm causing the leg to be slightly straighter on the right image thereby engaging my quads more thereby increasing the power I can generate per pedal stroke
- My cleats were adjusted as they were not symmetrical, this should even out my oscillating pedal stroke

Position after fit

- My stem was rotated which dropped the bars by approx 1cm making my back lower and me more aerodynamic
- My saddle was moved forward by approx 1cm which places me closer to being directly above the crank pushing my shoulders fwd slightly giving me slightly better skeletal support, this also opens up my hips

The question then is ‘Was it worth it’? I enjoyed the experience and learned a lot more about bike comfort and fit than I did previously. It wasn’t until the following Tuesday that I had the opportunity to really test the position and do some comparisons at Preston Park velodrome, my favourite location for TT style or intervals sessions. The sun was out, the track was clear and I had warmed up nicely by cycling from work to there.

The results are in and although they are not as much as I would have liked (the winter has played havoc with training and being on the road), I am optimistic that I am now more than 5% faster than I was before the adjustments. Over the next few weeks as hopefully the weather improves and I am able to get out and more used to the position, this improvement will be confirmed and hopefully increased, watch this space. If anyone is interested and has the money, I would definitely recommend the process.

Lucy Biddlestone, Double trouble, 23/24th February
My apartment looks onto the seafront between the mile 7 and 8 mile marker of the Brighton Half marathon. I had just finished holding my head over a bowl of steam when I saw the first few runners shoot past my window…I’m not proud, but envy was the feeling that overcame me. I was meant to be nudging shoulders with them that morning. Instead I was blowing my nose and making a boatful of lemsip. Darren had told me not to worry as it was only a training run and i wasn’t meant to beast it anyway. But I had been itching for a good beast of a run for ages. It’s OK, at least I could give 100% in for the Tunbridge Wells the following weekend.

Monday was a frustratingly slow 30 min ‘run’ to see how my lungs were holding up; the stuff coming out of my lungs was gross but at least it was moving. Tuesday was similar, but I was up for it again. Darren sent me my training program for the week and i copied it, bleary eyed, into my diary early on Wednesday morning before a client. It was only when it came to Friday night when i looked at my diary for the following day I really took in what Darren had written in for the Saturday. Surely this wasn’t right. I got home and double-checked on line…yep he really had written what I copied into my diary. Although I am starting to get use to Darren’s hard core programs but it still made me question my running ability.

Saturday = 13 miles Sunday = 13 miles at the Tunbridge Wells ½ marathon …and keep them the same times for both days. Aaaaah I was so excited to do this as I knew it was going to be a really fun challenge. Saturday had been cold but a perfect run and I took 4 mins off the time Darren had wanted me to aim for…”let’s see how that affects your run tomorrow” he texted me with his afternoon check-up to see how it had gone.

I met Clumsy Anne by the peace statue bright and early at 7:30 am “you don’t really look like a runner all wrapped up in your ski gear like that” Anne said to me as I climbed into her warm car out of the cold. We chatted and drove and discovered that Darren had planned for both of us to take on the double whammy that weekend. At least I wasn’t the only one who thought he was nuts. We parked up and tried to prepare ourselves to climb back out into the windy cold conditions of Tunbridge. We dumped our bags at the drop off and joined the queue for a last minute toilet stop with the other female runners and swapped notes with the ones who were around us. Once we had sorted ourselves out, Anne got a text from Darren saying he was near us. He was wearing his WeAreTri suite and slipped his leggings down to proudly show us his surname printed across his bum.

We all made our way out to the start line, wished each other good luck with hugs and made our way to find our own pacemaker flags poking above the crowd. I found mine but realised that my tiny bladder needed to be emptied again. There was a bush and a large man next to the crowds; I smiled sweetly and asked the big man to stand in front of me to protect me from being seen by the crowds having a wee. I’m so lady-like.

I got back in line and the gun went off. The start was busy, but as the slight rolling hills started, it started to thin. Soon, the guys I was running near became familiar. I chatted to some of them as we cruised along. I was glad I had ‘overdressed’ as the wind kept picking up, making those in just shorts and t-shirts shiver. At mile 3 a girl cruised past me and my competitive switch went in my head. No! No! I mustn’t! This was just a training run and I had to keep the pace as though i was doing the marathon. It was so difficult, every time a girl went past I wanted to chase her and race her all the way to the finish line. I was disciplined and managed to control myself until the last 3 miles; we had just slogged up the big hill that people had been talking about before and I had some left in the tank so I opened it up and cruised home. I took 5 mins off the time Darren had originally put in the programme and 1 min faster than the day before.

Anne and I got in the car and celebrated with a well-deserved cup of coffee…thank you Anne :)

Coaches note: well done for being controlled when the urge to blast struck you, you’ll be grateful on race day

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Level 2 Triathlon coach 3 x Ironman finisher British National Formation skydive silver medal winner (2004) Father of 2 boys
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