Zone 3 Latest News
10 July 2014
The journey to Celtman 2014 began in 2012 after completing the inaugural CXTRI as my first ever triathlon, in a time of 14hrs13mins. The race had captured my imagination with its breathtaking scenery and terrain, adventure, atmosphere and the sheer difficulty of completing the challenge. It starts with a 3.8km swim in a 400m deep sea loch, 202km cycle with over 2000m of climbing then finishes with an off road marathon over 2 Munroe’s. I already had a blue t-shirt so 2014 would be about seeing how fast I could go. The race has every aspect of why I love racing in the mountains so motivation was never really hard to find.
Training began back in Oct 2013. I knew my swim was weak and also that at Celtman being strong on the bike was vital. I am a mountain runner so it was hard to put time in the pool and out on the bike ahead of time in the hills but it was a small sacrifice I was willing to make. After 9 months of focus, hard work and some decent race results June 28th came round very quickly as it always does! I had the usual doubts and worries but reminding myself of the amazing journey to get to the start line, however things turned out it would be worth it. Time to put all that training to use and answer some questions.
One of the best things about Celtman is the camaraderie pre and post race between the competitors. It really has a family feeling and the race is such a leveller, no room for the egos that can be present at other events. We are all about to embark on the challenge of a lifetime; we will all freeze in the water, suffer on the bike and climb a mountain after 7+hrs of racing. The mood on the coach to the swim start reflects this. It’s great to meet a few faces from the social media pre race build up; it helps settle the nerves as we talk about our training and the day ahead.
The scene at the swim start is amazing. Burning torches, the surrounding mountains and a pan flat loch Shieldaig greet us. I warm up, remain focussed and remind myself that this is what it’s all about. I have already made the decision to give my all today and I welcome the chance to do this. We are piped down to water’s edge, a fitting send off for the 155 brave souls who take to the cold water. The water is cold, but I soon warm up when we start and the adrenaline kicks in. Focusing on my breathing and hand entry helps me maintain my rhythm as I find some space in the water. Jelly fish add to the adventure. For the last 800m my shoulders begin to tire and I realise I have been pulling a small group for quite some time as I slow down and hitch a ride for the last few hundred meters. A cool box full of warm water over the head from my amazing support crew warms me up. I am also pleased to notice most of the bikes still racked, unusually for me I had a pretty good swim!
I dry quickly with a towel, put on some warm clothing and it’s time to head out onto the bike. This is some bike course! Hilly, exposed and in places a time trialists dream with long fast downhill’s and flats. It has everything and is certainly challenging. The road surface is mainly good but it would not be an extreme triathlon if it were all this way. I had a plan to make use of the fast, flat and downhill sections after holding back till Kinlochewe. My support crew do a fantastic job looking after me, as do other peoples. At one point I am offered a banana from someone but I think they mistook me for someone else! I am in 5th place and feeling good. Johan comes past at around 100km and I try to stick with him but he is motoring! Possibly my only mistake of the race, it is important to do your own thing during these long time trials but the competitor inside got the better of me. The usual highs and lows of a long race are well separated and in general I am feeling very good, moving into 4th place. I hit a real low around 180km, my muscles hurt as I make use of the final fast flattish section into T2, I just want to be off the bike now. It coincides with a little rain and wind. I am also worried that I have ridden the bike too hard as I realise my split around 6hrs10 is 20mins faster than planned. I would soon find out!
I enter T2 in 4th with 3rd and 5th very close by. I wasted no time in transition; my support crew had everything ready and do a great job. Time to test those running legs. The Celtman run begins with a slight uphill that gradually steepens before hitting the Coulin pass. I had trained specifically for this in my long bike brick sessions, always running uphill. I was side by side with a Swiss competitor to start. A little doubt creeps in and I fear I will blow up if the pace increases. We too and fro a little up the hill. I decide to take a chance as the path steepens and heads into the trees near the top of the climb. I know I am on borrowed time as I increase my pace and it hurts, but I needed to open up the gap. Through the 15km Coulin pass I continue to push at every slight rise and technical section. The pain is worth it as I enter T2A with a few minutes gap.
The mountain has been visible for the last 18km section, looming in the distance, ominous but beautiful at the same time. I meet my support crew in T2A and am glad to see friendly faces who once again look after me, sorting water and jelly babies and giving words of encouragement. We enter the mountain and things start to get really tough once the path steepens. The highs and lows intensify and become closer together. Steve my good friend and support runner holds me together and pushes a great pace up the hill. The hairs on the back of my neck stand up as we are piped onto the first summit an amazing feeling I will never forget. We are gaining on Johan and Stuart in 2nd and 1st, but I know I have very little left to give. I am going to have to dig deep and risk everything to take any more places and I don’t even know if I can. Moving into 2nd takes the last of my reserves and I know that from now on I will be racing with my mind. Johan passes us on his way down from the summit. He looks so strong and I try to do the same, running uphill a little which is now very difficult with cramping muscles. On the final descent to the road the technical nature of the trail becomes torturous, every step hurts but I know I cannot slow down or stop. Fear of being caught and the thought I may still catch Johan drive me on. I think back to promise of giving my all today. Steve holds me together again, says all the right things and does a great job. In the back of my mind I am dreading the final 7km road section to the finish. I know Stuart is a great road runner and I have nothing left to give. Thoughts of catching Johan are long gone as I am told he is 15mins ahead. That is some descending as the gap was less than 5min at the top of the mountain!
My girlfriend Jo joins me for the final road section and I am so glad to have someone there and my support crew are never far away in the van. It really is survival now and the flat 7km section seems to take forever, the 4min50-5min km are being run on will power and I just want the pain to stop. As Torridon comes into view my mood lightens a little. I have been in a pretty dark hole since the top of Beinn Eighe and the thought it is nearly over provides some light. I think I even manage a smile as Paul asks me to wave (from the finish line I can see but am running away from!) running along the beach onto the final climb up the road to the finish.
Crossing the finish line I feel a little teary as the emotions of the day and months of hard work hit me. I could not have dug any deeper or raced any better on the day and I know this. I also could not have done it without my amazing support crew who were there for me during the highs and lows of race day and the months of training before.
Massive congrats to Johan on his great win and an outstanding course record, I have a feeling that will take some beating and will be safe for some time to come and to Stuart, who raced so hard at the front all day and has been an inspiration in my training. Also to everyone who started/finished Celtman, who put the work in to get on that coach at 4.15am and set out on the adventure in the cold water. That’s the great thing about Celtman and what makes it such a special race. Everyone is a winner regardless of time, position or t-shirt colour. Long may it stay that way!
The local support for this event is phenomenal and thanks to everyone for welcoming us, volunteering your time and making it such a special day. Hopefully see a few more of you racing next year!
Did I just say next year?? There is a surprise!
- Chris Stirling
30 June 2014
Monster Racing’s new event, the Eastern Counties Finance Sprint sponsored by PWR+ took place on Sunday, 29th June. The new event promised cracking routes and a great base for Race HQ, Blackdyke Fisheries, as always the Monster team did not disappoint.
80 athletes took part in the event that consisted of a 450m swim, followed by a 21km bike ride and then 4km run.
First across the line in the men’s race was Carl James in a time of 55mins and 27secs. Second male was Adrian Ball (Tri-Anglia), 00:56:04, and third male was Petros Giannaros (Cambridge University Triathlon Club), 00:56:06.
The women’s race was won by Joanna Davies in a time of 1h 01mins and 55secs. Second female was Juliet Vickery (Cambridge Triathlon Club), 01:02:40, and third female was Nicky Roger (Kings Lynn Triathlon Club), 01:07:29.
First and second placed athletes won cash prizes donated by Eastern Counties Finance and PWR+, third place athletes won a voucher donated by Zone3. Tasty race nutrition was provided by Hammer Nutrition and 9Bar and athletes were kept well hydrated by local Iceni Water.
Age Group winners: 16 – 24 – Simon Rodier (Cambridge University Triathlon Club), 01:07:35. 25 – 34 – Matthew Mcclure (Whizzy Tri Club), 00:57:49 and Sarah James (Cambridge Triathlon Club), 01:09:57. 35 – 44 – Gordon Irvine (Newmarket Cycling & Triathlon Club), 00:56:09 and Andrea Holt (RAF Tri), 01:10:30. 45 – 54 – Richard Lewey (Crystal Palace Triathletes), 01:01:59 and Linda Hones (Newmarket Cycling & Triathlon Club), 01:14:04. 55+ - Graham Chapman (Ely Tri Club), 01:02:41 and Georgina Jennings (PACTRAC), 01:18:56.
Athletes from local Ely Tri Club took part, in ordering of finishing: Andy Sole (00:57:37), Jay Woods (01:01:22), Brian Emerson (01:01:49), Kevin Chalmers (01:02:19), Graham Chapman (01:02:41), John McAndrew (01:06:40), Louise Barker (01:12:12), Jon Hunt (01:12:22), Carl Ward (01:12:40) and Michelle Chalmers (01:23:35)
Event photos are available www.ian-greenphotography.co.uk.
A Monster Racing spokesman said: “This new event is a great addition to our calendar. It’s ideal for those giving triathlon a go for the first time as well as the experienced, having a mixed a mixed field out on the course is great. We are known for putting on friendly events with superb routes, this one will be returning in 2015!”
Monster Racing have expanded their race calendar this year and have doubled the number of events they are putting on. The established events return and some exciting new additions will take place all across East Anglia. Detail and entries for all events are open at www.monsterracing.net
The organisers would like to thank everyone who helped marshal, all competitors, all safety and ‘behind the scenes’ crew as well all our sponsors. Thank you also to Blackdyke Fisheries for providing such a great facility.
24 June 2014
Here at Zone3 we are always working hard to cater for every type of athlete. For the 2014 season this has been no different - We have put together a range of specialist wetsuits to ensure everyone can get the very best product to suit their needs.
We are pleased to announce the addition of the Children's Adventure wetsuit, unisex Align wetsuit and Swim skins to our line-up for this year!
Children's Adventure Wetsuit
Until now there have been very few products available on the market for the 14 and under age groups.
The Adventure wetsuit is designed with a lot of the features used in the adult collection but with less buoyancy built in. Features include a 2mm super stretch shoulder panel, Zone3's trademark Pro-Speed Cuffs on the arms and legs, comfort-fit neck and a high quality YKK downward zipper to name a few.
As this is the first year the suits are available they are likely to sell out quickly so will be sold on a first come, first serve basis. More information on the suits can be found
Unisex Align Wetsuit
Another new wetsuit for 2014, the Align has been designed based on feedback from a minority of swimmers wanting a neutral wetsuit which is designed with minimal buoyancy and no additional performance features.
The panel design is based on our award winning Aspire wetsuit but features a one piece chest panel made from Yamamoto #40 SCS Nano for maximum flexibility. The suit has a reduced thickness on the body, side and lower leg panels.
More information on the Align can be found here
The Zone3 Swim Skins have been developed due to a number of requests from Ironman athletes looking for that extra core support and reduced drag during non-wetsuit swims. The suit is designed to go over the top of your race uniform so offers good body coverage.
10 June 2014
A week ago Age Group athlete Michael Barnett (@smoker2ironman) had no plans for the weekend, and then he got a phone call - he would be racing the Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research Blenheim Palace Triathlon.
Here is his report on how that happened, and feedback on "a fantastically well organised event that I am pleased I got to compete in."
You know when you enter competitions and never think you're going to win? Well, Tri247.com ran a competition with a relay entry to the Blenheim Palace Triathlon donated by Zone3 recently.
I entered but didn't think I would win, however last Monday I received a phone call from Zone3 saying I had won. After scratching my head for a minute, I remembered entering the competition.
Cue massive panic to find a relay team. After trying Facebook, my friends and my triathlon club, I was unable to find two people to relay with. After a quick phone call to Zone3 they allowed me to enter the triathlon as a solo competitor. Phew!
Blenheim is a race I have always wanted to participate in since I took up triathlon in 2012. In 2012 I had to turn down a priority place at Blenheim with a Q&A with the Brownlees and Helen Jenkins as the date clashed with a prior engagement. I was so pleased to get to race this triathlon this year. In the footage I had seen it looked so picturesque.
Now for the next problem. After I fell off my turbo last week (yeah I know, how did I manage that?), my rib has been really hurting. So much so that I am considering the fact that I may have broken it during my fall. I haven't exercised for a week as a result. I thought it was muscular so could do with the rest. However there has been no improvement so I think it may be more serious than first imagined.
Fast forward six days from the day I won the competition and I woke up at 04:30 to travel to Blenheim. My Dad kindly offered to drive and keep me company, which was really nice of him and made the day a lot less strenuous with my commute from Doncaster now a chauffeur driven experience.
After last week where I raced in Cologne for the GBR Age Group Team, I was thankful to have a race with no pressure. It felt good just to race for me. After arriving at Blenheim, I was expecting there to be a problem (given I was a late entry), but the registration process was seamless, thanks Challenger World. I felt really relaxed before the race when I was setting up my transition area. The space we were allowed at Blenheim for transition was amazing. Why can't every triathlon have this much space?
After transition was set up I made my way to the swim start where I put my wetsuit on. Even though I had a mild pain in my rib I decided to put myself at the front of the swim. I made sure I was in plenty of space though just to be on the safe side. I didn't fancy a kick to the ribs. The hooter went and I sprinted away from the line. I wanted to set a good swim time today to restore some of my confidence after I had a wobble after last weekend in Cologne.
I managed to make the lead group in my wave and stuck with them for the duration of the swim. There were two really quick swimmers who were about a minute up on us but I exited with a pack of four or five other swimmers to exit the water in the top ten from my wave in a time of 12:24.
I have watched the television coverage of Blenheim and knew all about the run to transition and the fact you run up a hill in your wetsuit. The 500m run was a lot more undulating than I envisaged and certainly got my heart rate up. I stripped my wetsuit to my hips as soon as I could and slogged up the hill in question. After getting to transition I stripped my wetsuit off, threw on my number belt and helmet and exited transition practicing my newly acquired skill of leaving my shoes on the bike.
I hopped onto my bike and set about completing the 20km route. Given I was in an early wave, the roads were clear. My heart rate was high for the first half of the first of three laps after my run to transition, but I tried to keep my cadence high. Whoa... where did all these hills come from? They were a little unexpected.
The loops at Blenheim can definitely not be described as flat. In the first half of the course (about two miles), you are mostly climbing apart from one short downhill, which means the second half, is mostly downhill and this is where I used my lack of fear to my advantage. I took the first lap quite conservatively to gauge where I could put the hammer down and where I could corner at speed. In the second and third laps I let rip. Given the technical nature of the course I had decided to race on my road bike so I had easy access to my brakes. I was pleased I made this decision, as by the third lap the course was a lot busier. I was flying past people constantly screaming “ON YOUR RIGHT!” and was glad I had the brakes at hand, not that I needed them.
I completed three laps of the bike course in 39:16 and was pleased with this considering I climbed over 250 vertical metres.
After running into T2 I threw on my trainers and made my way to the transition exit. What, there's a bridge to climb as a welcome to the run? AAARRRRRGGGGHHHHH!!!!!!
After traversing the bridge, I set about the 5.5km run. My rib was feeling okay so rather than take it easy (like I planned to), I ran to my tempo heart rate. The run route at Blenheim is undulating as well but so picturesque. I just wanted to stop to have a look around. There were so many things to look at. The run route consists of two laps and I made sure my HR was in the right zone. Given I haven't run in over a week (#ribgate), I was pleased to complete the 5.5km in 30 minutes. It was by no means my quickest run but it got the job done. I crossed the finish line in 1:28. This finish time put me as the 700th quickest finisher from the weekend. I'll take that for a race that wasn't on my radar until six days ago.
Thanks to Zone3 and Tri247.com for the opportunity to compete in a race that has been on my radar for over two years.
To sum up Blenheim, it is a fantastically well organised event that I am pleased I got to compete in. I had an absolutely amazing day and it felt good to blow away the cobwebs with another race so soon after Cologne. The course is enjoyably tough and you're definitely made to work for the finisher's medal. One day I'll be back. That is the pull of Blenheim, it is just so awe inspiring and there is so much to see.
Oh and the bling is amazing.
27 May 2014
What’s in a tri suit, really? Just a layer of lycra to keep you decent and match your bike (or not)? For a lot of people, the price tag is their only consideration. It makes me roll my eyes to see the guy who has spent thousands on a pair of expensive race wheels and a super-expensive TT bike with electronic shifting, while rolling along in a sopping wet, loose and flapping lycra tri suit because they couldn’t see the benefit in investing in a better one.
For those just starting out in the sport the entry level gear available today is fine to get you started in the sport, but it is worth understanding the very real speed benefits which can be obtained by choosing the right suit for your body, abilities and style of racing. It is also worth noting that, as with many equipment upgrades, slower athletes tend to realise much greater improvements against the clock with better tri clothing than faster athletes, due to the fact that they are on course for longer and they usually have greater technique inefficiencies to ‘conceal’. Here are some things to think about.
Body position and core support
When trying on new tri suits for size, err on the side of tighter rather than loose. Apart from the fact that all tri clothing will stretch over time, the best tri suits will be designed with strategically-located compression around the core and hips. In the swim, this ‘holds you in’ and supports the engagement of your core, which increases hip drive and reduces fatigue over the course of the swim. This is particularly the case with the ‘speedsuits’ used by many people in non-wetsuit races, such as the new Zone3 Swim Skin – these suits use very stiff fabrics which compress the whole swimmer providing maximal drive and minimal surface area (speedsuits are taken off in T1).
Better quality fabrics (ie. not bog-standard cheap spandex) will hold their shape better and provide this benefit for longer.
Drag and buoyancy
Contrary to popular belief, the most aero/hydrodynamic fabrics are not those which are super smooth, but those which are slightly rough. A smooth fabric allows air or water to attach to it at a molecular level, which creates a ‘tugging’ at the fabric which creates turbulent (rough) flow around the surface, increasing drag. Well designed, textured fabrics actually ‘induce’ a very thin, controlled layer of turbulent flow immediately over the surface, which acts as a super-slick surface for the bulk of the air/water flow to move over smoothly (laminar flow). High-end suits like the Zone3 Aeroforce 220, Aeroforce Nano and Zone3 Swim Skin use fabrics which feel ‘papery’ to the touch, making the most of this principle.
While it’s against the rules in most races for tri suits to contain rubberised or buoyant materials, there are some clever tricks for ‘indirectly’ creating buoyancy with hydrophobic (water-repellent) coatings such as PTFE (‘Teflon’). As well as assisting in the production of a boundary layer, these coatings significantly reduce the ability of the fabric to absorb water, resulting in the attachment of air bubbles under the swimmer which assist with buoyancy. Check out the underwater shots in this video to see the results.
The right tri suit or swim skin can net you in the vicinity of 2-4 seconds per 100m over a cheaper suit, depending on your body shape, stroke mechanics, natural buoyancy and speed. Free speed!
Drying after the swim
After emerging from the water, donning your helmet and heading off on the bike, I’m sure you’ve all experienced my pet-hate. Your tri suit is wet and it clings to your body and legs like plastic film, restricting your range of motion and increasing the effort you need to expend to turn the pedals. If you’re wearing a low quality, poorly fitted suit, it may even still be wet from the swim when you arrive in T2!
The hydrophobic properties of good quality suits create a wicking action, which moves moisture away from your skin and allows it to evaporate. This reduces the cling-wrap effect and allows you to move more freely and naturally. I’ve worn many different tri suits over the years, but none of them comes close to the Zone3 Aeroforce 220 in terms of drying speed and comfort on the bike.
Aerodynamics on the bike isn’t just about aerobars and expensive wheels. These days, more and more speed is being found from improvements in the aerodynamics of tri clothing. In addition to the boundary layer principle described above, minimising seams and loose fabric make a measurable difference. Flapping race numbers are another drag contributor, so if the rules allow it is best to put your race number belt on in T2 rather than wearing it on the bike.
Those who are unconvinced about the value of aerodynamic improvements should read this. At 40km/h, over 80% of the power you put out is spent overcoming drag. Saving even a handful of watts can save you many minutes.
Comfort on the saddle
The pad/chamois in a tri suit is a challenging part to get right. It can’t be as thick as a full-on cycling chamois due to the added bulk on the run, but it does need to provide adequate support and separation from the saddle. Different brands are using everything from a thick-floaty-pull-buoy pad, to a thin strip of polyester fleece, to no chamois at all, which suggests that it’s all about personal preference. Personally, I love the chamois in my Zone3 Lava tri shorts – it’s a medium-thickness Italian tri chamois, which is comfortable even when I’m being bounced around on the mountain bike. It is instantly forgotten on the run.
Support and compression
As with swimming, a well-designed tri suit with compression in the right areas will support your core and running efficiency, reduce muscle damage and delay fatigue – important for that sprint finish! Women may need to consider the level of support for the ‘girls’ too.
Ease of ‘nature breaks’
Let’s face it – nature calls. If you’re doing a long course race, you may not be able to ignore it until the end of the race. Good two piece tri clothing allows for a quick escape when you reach that porta-potty.
Weight and water absorption
I’ll bet you’ve never thought about how much your tri suit weighs before. The additional weight of the fabric alone may not be much, the additional moisture all that extra fabric holds can quite easily add up to several hundred grams, especially in cool or humid weather. My large Zone3 Aeroforce weighs (on my kitchen scales) an incredibly light 120g – compare that to my spandex Australian team uniform from the 2010 ITU Worlds, which weighs 204g – 70% heavier. I haven’t done a ‘dunk in a bucket’ test (it’s hard to do this in a scientific way), but I expect the difference in saturated-weight to be somewhere between 2-400g. Time to get out your own kitchen scales!
We’ve all experienced chaffing or irritation during a triathlon. The main culprits are body shape, suit fit, temperature and moisture. While a suit can’t change your body shape and the fit will always be an individual thing, a suit which wicks moisture away from the skin and dries quickly will give you the best chance of staying comfortable throughout your race.
Some people prefer front zips, others prefer rear zips. For me, it depends on the race – for me an ITU-style one piece suit is more comfortable for short course road triathlons, but I prefer a two piece with a front zip for long course and cross triathlon. If you go for a rear zip, attach an elastic cord to the end of the zip cord to ensure you can reach it when it comes time to open up, and go for a reverse, breakaway-style zip (like on the Zone3 Aeroforce 220) which is easier to undo. Also make sure you tuck the cord into your wetsuit properly so it doesn’t get caught in the wetsuit zip (I may have learnt this the hard way…), and leave it zipped up on the bike – it’s more aero. If you go for a front zip, be conscious of the local rules regarding bare torsos – some localities will penalise you for having your zip too low (sounds crazy but it happens)!
In a short race you shouldn’t need to carry any gear on your person, but in a long course race you will need pockets. Avoid large, billowy pockets – these create a tonne of drag and encourage you to carry too much stuff. Smaller pockets located on the back of your top and on the legs of your shorts are much more practical. Also make sure the top elastic seals the pocket well and won’t allow anything to fall out. A great option is a zippered pocket at the back of the shorts. The Zone3 Lava tri shorts have such a pocket, which is an awesome place to stash a couple of gels. For Ironman or other very long races, consider a nutrition belt or a race belt with loops for holding your gels – Zone3 makes a good one.
At Lake Wanaka Half in January I suffered badly from the cold on the bike after a 14 degree swim, mainly because the cheap spandex tri suit I was wearing (from a former sponsor) would not dry in the single-digit temperatures. I could see the impact on my power meter, and watts = speed. Hydrophobic, moisture wicking fabrics help maintain optimal body temperature in both hot and cold conditions. In hot conditions, it facilitates evaporation which removes heat from the body. In cold conditions, it pulls cold moisture away from the body, reducing the amount of energy required to stay warm.
Okay, so this one’s a bit of a grey area, but there’s a growing body of evidence to suggest if you are comfortable and have confidence in your equipment you’re more likely to perform to your potential. Modern science is discovering a heap of things about how our brain works, and how harnessing the power of our minds can help us transcend what we previously thought our personal physiology was capable of. Never underestimate the confidence that comes from knowing you’re using the best equipment available for the task.
Aside from that, decades of rigorous studies have proven beyond any doubt that red is the fastest colour. It works for Ferrari, it works for Zone3, and it definitely works for me! ;)
This is a thorough rundown of some of the ways your tri suit can help (or hinder) your pursuit of the finish line. An important final note is on price. While as a general rule you can expect a better quality product as you spend more money, it’s not always true that you get what you pay for. There are some companies out there making truly awful gear and charge a motza for it on the back of a flashy marketing campaign and some high-profile athletes. Your best defence is to get educated - knowing what you’re buying is the best way to ensure you get what you need at the best price.