Highland Open Water Swims for Charity

I've been asked to help organise this series of three swims.

Last year there were six in the series, which was ambitious and stressful for the organisers.

It took a lot of sorting to get boat and kayak cover at each, especially when volunteers pull out at one day's notice.

This year the organiser is starting later than previously so we're restricting it to three swims, although there may be more towards the end of the year.

I swam the Skye Bridge event and the Sound of Mull.  They are utterly superb training for triathlon.  The confidence these swims instilled in me meant I could stand on the start line of my first Ironman and have no doubts whatsoever about the 3.8km ahead of me.  I actually enjoyed it.

We're on the look out for kayakers who can help provide support.  Finding them is my job because of my kayaking background.  If push comes to shove, I'll be in the kayak rather than in the water.

The key thing is that not a penny goes to the organisers (us).  Entry is by donation directly to the Children with Cancer charity.  Check it out at Highland Open Water Swim and scroll down to read about last year's swims.

Bronze - Ironman, All World Athlete award

It is, of course, not even a piece of paper.  The certificate is an automatically generated PDF.

Yet I am rather chuffed that Ironman's points system has placed me in the top 10% of my age group for 2016.

2016 was only my second year doing triathlon competitively, and saw me compete in my first full Ironman.

It seems I'm position 34 in the UK and 604 worldwide after two of their events last year - IM Maastricht and IM70.3 Weymouth.  

This apparently puts me in the bronze category of their All World Athlete programme.  As yet I have no idea what that entails.  I suspect it allows me to spend more money on something with a bronze logo on it, we'll see.  But it's nice anyway.

Get Stuff Done (Like Replace Batteries)

With our local ferry off until 3rd January the roads around our part of Ardnamurchan are quiet today.

I saw only two cars on my rather soggy bike ride and no walkers on my subsequent run.

Many of us have a little extra time on our hands, so it's the ideal part of the year to take care of a little device-admin.

Plug your devices into your computer and run the update App to see if new software is available to download and install.

While you're waiting, hunt around in that kitchen drawer when you keep spare batteries and replace the ones in your heart rate strap.  A fading battery can produce some weird readings, so keep them fresh.  What's more, it'll be easy to remember the last time they were replaced.

Incidentally, the ubiquitous CR2032 batteries are relatively cheap in Ikea and big supermarkets.

My Current Favourite Podcasts

Winter means more time cycling indoors on the turbo, working out in the gym and low heart rate runs.

That means more time to listen to Podcasts.  I thought I'd share my current favourites.

I know some people need music to exercise, but that pumps me up too much.  I go too fast or too hard and blow the effect of Zone 1 training.  Although I start focusing on my effort, when I have someone talking in my ears I can rift off into their world.

BBC Radio 4 Friday Night Comedy - always tops the podcast charts, so I'm revealing no secret here.  Likewise my second favourite Desert Island Discs, although I tend to be picky about who I listen to.  The others are all triathlon related.

Our Medicinal Precautions for Seasonal Gatherings & Travelling

Large gatherings of friends and relations are part of what make Christmas and New Year special.

But along with the presents can come the unwanted gift of a cold.  That could ruin the first few weeks of new year training.

So these over the counter medicines are how we try to avoid the sniffles.  I'm sure my friend (a top pharmacist) will tell me where I'm going wrong [edit - he did - see below], but this seems to work for us.  We also use it when travelling on aircraft.

Not All Bike Fits Are Created Equal

I've had a few bike fits in my time.  I think - I hope - I've just had one of the best.

It has taken my new Cervelo P2 Triathlon Bike from being "I'm not sure I can ride that comfortably", to pure "whhhoooo".  Also I suspect I've saved quite a few watts.  Free speed has to be good.

I've written about my bike fits several times, including a piece about Retul Fitting that was published in Scottish Cycling Magazine.

I like the way Retul works, using motion capture to accurately report the wangles through which your major joints were working, then the fitter's skill is used to optimise those angles.

It worked great for my Specialised Roubaix and my Parlee road bikes.  So far so good.

Swim Stroke Needing Repair

The disconnect between how I think I swim and how I actually swim never ceases to amaze me.   Phil, the manager of our local pool kindly allowed us to video our stroke after the pool emptied. The purpose was to show a physiotherapist treating shoulder pains we both occasionally experience.

But once we started looking at our techniques we found all sorts of 'faults'.  Presumably these crept in over the summer when we'd been focusing on distance not technique.  

For just one example, watch at my left arm.  It's going in the water bent and crossing my centre-line. That will have implications for my subsequent catch.  (Although, given the photo above was taken last June, perhaps this has been a long standing issue!)  

Either way we now have new focus for our visits to the pool.