Zone 3 Latest News

8 December 2015

2015, you have been an awesome Triathlon year! Paul Edmonds looks back on this past season


It all started with a Cold Water Test study at Portsmouth University Extreme Environments Laboratory. The University were tasked with checking the ITU’s wetsuit guidance rules which required a 20-minute swim in 12, 14 and 16-degree water, both with and without a wetsuit. Our ability to perform various strength and coordination tasks followed the swim, and the effect of a reduced core body temperature was calculated. Sadly I haven’t been issued with the final results, but I can assure you I will always be wearing a wetsuit when it’s allowed!! Read about the 6 test sessions and twice getting hypothermic in more detail by linking to my blog here.

A great stretch of winter training, with consistency structured running meant both 13.1 mile and 10k PBs fell repeatedly in the run up to the start of the triathlon season. This combined with signing my first sponsors, Zone3, meant the season was ramping up to be better than ever. I had the pleasure of helping Zone3 on their stand at the TCR Show in Sandown, and was excitably took delivery of my very own top of the range Vanquish to use for 2015. Not only was it a great opportunity to help at the show, but after working with the amazing Sports Photographer Naomi Baker, I was able to present them with photos of their products, which I am pleased to say have been used in their marketing material.

Easter holiday presented a chest infection and a month of inconsistent training. A battle with will power followed knowing I had to keep the feet up to recover, but wanting to be out training to keep my fitness. Time trial results were sub standard and running felt like I had my head in paper bag. Finally seeing sense, I allowed myself to recover.

The end of May was the real kick off to the season when I flew out to Rimini for the European Middle Distance Championships, and my first GB Age Group representation of the year. Excited was an understatement as I stood in the starting pen with two of my mates and training partners. The run up to, and my race was fuelled by the Science Fitness product #glycosourse. Having met at the TCR Show, I became part of their Ambassador Club shortly after. Their products settled well in my stomach and helped keep the training intensity at its peak when needed. 4th GB athlete in my Age Group was definitely something I got excited about and meant my winter training and fuelling probably couldn’t have gone better.

A couple of local fun sprints were thrown in to keep the legs ticking over and keep some light hearted competition with my Southampton triathlon Club mates. This coincided with signing my main sponsor, JL Audio, having met their Managing Director through work, and got talking bikes!! JL Audio signed up helping me fund an expensive season, and couldn’t have come at a better time.

On to Deva Triathlon in Chester and my one and only World Championship qualifier of the season. 4 minutes quicker than last year and finally sub 2:05 for an Olympic distance gave me the opportunity to fly out to Chicago for the ITU World Championships in September. The pinnacle of Age Group representation shy of an invitation to Hawaii!!

Unsure whether I could get out to Chicago after the financial demands of a full season of driving and flying around the UK and Europe, my main sponsor, JL Audio, stepped in and presented me with their sponsorship contribution. Once I had come down from Cloud 9, my plane ticket and hotel were booked and the 6-week run up started.

What a city! Chicago has something for everyone and putting on the GB Tri Suit was as exciting as it was the first time last year. Another great race to finish up my tri season and great conditions to boot. Read my blog for the full story here.

Back to the UK and some fun events to finish off. Ride Wales in a Day was a 184 mile sportive spanning the length of Wales! We couldn’t have had a better day other than a few degrees warmer. Not a breath of wind all-day and rolling into Chepstow after just over 11 hours riding we were all happy to have completed it. An excellent event set up by Open Cycling who I would highly recommend. Prior to the event, KitBrix got back in touch with me (having met at the TCR show) and added me to their ambassador program. Through the mail arrived 2 of their really cool bags which do exactly what it says on the tin #keepittogether. My kit now lives in them!

October was upon me and it was time to watch Kona Live, ride with friends for pleasure, and make a start on my BTF Level Two Triathlon Coaching Course. Time to pass on some of my training knowledge to the Southampton Triathlon Club.

Winter is here, and having enjoyed a couple of months down time, December is time to get things ramped up again, get rid of the cobwebs and to knock out some easy miles.

A huge thank you to all of my sponsors for their help and assistance throughout 2015. It’s been an absolute pleasure to represent you at all my international events, wear your logos on my GB Tri Suit and help your brands wherever I can. Read more about my sponsors, my racing and training on my website, www.pauledmondstri.co.uk

Paul

16 November 2015

Tyler Butterfield Answers the Question: What is Kona-Committed?



14 October 2015

Happy ending 2015! One last trip to Spain for Louise Fox

Spain has always been kind to me in my racing career - and I was back one last time for the European X-Duathlon in Castro Urdiales.


This inaugural championship was an exciting event to finish my 2015 season - as it is brand new on the ETU calendar no-one really knew what to expect. We were pleasantly surprised to find a proper MTB course, not just riding round some grassy fields as you can sometimes get in the UK!



I'm glad I arrived a few days before the race so I could get in (and recover from) a few practise laps on the bike course. It was deceptively tough - with a 3km climb averaging 10% gradient straight out of transition! Two sections were so steep or tricky, I suspected most athletes (including me) would be walking. This was then followed by a 4km fun but rocky descent back to transition to be repeated 3 times. The field was also a complete unknown attracting elite Spanish mountain bikers and even former Olympic medallists, as well as top road duathletes (would they be any good on knobbly tyres?) and a few familiar names from Xterra. With no clear favourite, I believed I had a shot at the title; and certainly planned to race it to give myself the best chance of getting on the podium!


Castro Urdiales is also a lovely town for an autumn break. I've been swimming in the sea every day to relax, even on race day (as I'm so used to Xterra, it seems wrong to start any race without a swim?!)

I wish I had done this in my tri suit right before the start to cool down, as it was super-hot (at least by British October standards) for our 4pm race

As the time approached, the sound system was cranked up - along with the atmosphere and adrenaline, supporters lined the course, and we were called up to start! The first run set a quick pace this race doubled as the Spanish champs and the national rivalry was tangible! I knew what was coming on the bike though, so I did my best to stay in contention without burning too many matches. I was suffering too in the heat (27* with no shade) which is often my limiting factor on the run. I knew the course passed some showers on the beach, and was hoping to take a 5-second cool-off before T1, but the showers had been taped off - gutted! I kicked myself for not leaving water in my transition box to tip over my head - as unusually there would be no aid station on the bike (I decided my electrolyte was best saved for drinking not showering!)


I headed out on the bike in 4th place, still struggling with a high core temperature up the first climb. I just had to pace myself and maintain concentration - I was relieved to find I rode further up it than most before pushing! Just before the top I witnessed - as if in slow motion - the girl in 3rd place tumble backwards off her bike and down the slope... Quickly checking if she was OK, I reminded myself keep focussed so you don't do the same! Finally (yes finally!) we reached the top and the welcome descent. Only now could I start to get my body temp back down to something cooler than 'so hot I feel cold and shivery!' The descents were a lot of fun - rocks, mud, puddles, a few hidden ditches that caught people by surprise and had athletes flying over their handlebars, or in my case gaining a little more air than expected!

After lap 1 I had moved up to 2nd place, but with a couple of strong bikers closing the gap behind. On the second lap, the lead age group men began to pass, but I was also pleased to note I was overtaking some elite men (who'd had a 5 minute head start) and lapping some of the AG women (who'd started 10 minutes behind). This actually made it more interesting having to pick lines, yet the course never got too congested - my main concern before the start.


By T2 I was in 3rd place but with the 4th lady tailing me into transition. The final run was only 3km so it was time to all-out empty the tank! I hoped that a hard effort out of transition - up the climb to the clifftops - would be enough to put off anyone giving chase, and I was relieved to open a nice gap. Great, I can relax, I thought, with wobbly legs and burning lungs (which are used to running 10k not 3!) but just then I caught sight of 2nd place 200m or so ahead...

Can I close that down with only a mile to go? Well I know for sure I will kick myself if I don't try! With 400m to go, just before the steep descent towards transition, I caught and moved into silver medal position, and then I noticed the penalty box... There were so many numbers on there - too many to take in at speed with my overheated and confused brain, so I skidded to a cartoon-style halt to double check! I'm 99% sure I'm not listed, and 3rd place is right behind me so I set off again quick trying to sprint but my hamstrings didn't like braking suddenly and aren't responding! I don't dare to look behind but just push on as hard as I can to the finish and hope for the best...

My effort is rewarded with 2nd across the finish line - and now confirmed - the European Silver medal!


The event was well attended by media, with photographers and TV crews wanting to interview us, the race compere quizzing us over the tannoy (always slightly off-putting to hear your own voice echoing out across the arena!) I would have loved to have stayed to cheer in all our GB age-groupers at the finish, hang out and possibly even sample a recovery beer... but all of the elite medallists were immediately whisked off to doping control.

I was to discover that producing a urine sample straight after a hot and dehydrating endurance event, is almost as gruelling as the race itself! Only 2 hours racing, but 4 hours and 5 bottles of water later (enough to make me feel truly sick) - it was a greater relief finally filling that 90ml beaker (after 3 attempts) than it had been crossing the finish line 4 hours earlier! But its great to see anti-doping being taken seriously here.


We were allowed out, under escort, for the medal ceremony (all the ladies were still struggling to produce samples at this point!) but sadly missed all the AG awards I was disappointed not able to support all the GB medallists and athletes who cheered so enthusiastically for me. It was a bit surreal standing on the podium under all the spotlights - I defo need to practise my champagne popping technique though - could anyone spot the rookie?!

It was awesome to be able to end my season on such a high, and the inaugural event itself was a great success which I look forward to see growing in the future. Next year's venue is already set for Transylvania - which sounds like a proper adventure! I'm told its a great established race course, so whether you want to try something different to benefit road tri training, or just aren't a keen swimmer and looking for additional races to add to your duathlon season - I would defo recommend this event. It is in my calendar for 2016!

Be sure to follow @LouFoxTri on Twitter to keep up to date with her training and racing throughout the 2016 season!

8 October 2015

Reviewed: Zone3 Evolution Swim-Run Wetsuit by Triathlete Europe



Swimrun seems to be a new growth sport and with the likes of Xterra it’s tapping into the growing demand to get outside into the wilderness where a TT or road bike just can’t take you. With 3 large Swimrun events in the UK this year and already double that amount planned for next year the question on most people’s lips is “is it worth buying a Swimrun wetsuit?” Traditionally people would take a knife to a standard wetsuit cutting above the knees and the elbows but with top-end suits now costing over £500, who is going to do that and do you want to compromise your enjoyment by using a low end less flexible suit?

From seemingly nothing on the market there’s now over 5 different manufacturers with Swimrun specific wetsuits and more in development; it would seem there’s a whole new piece of kit out there to be purchased – but is it worth it?

Unlike a standard wetsuit test, you can’t slip this on at the local pool, give it a whirl and get a good idea on how it performs; so we tool the  wetsuit to the UK’s toughest Swimrun event Loch Gu Loch and put it through its paces properly.

Firstly, the Evolution is design from first principles as a Swimrun suit and we think that’s extremely important. Some manufacturers have rushed a first generation Swimrun suit to market based on existing products. As such these offerings have missed some of the innovations seen on the Evolution and have just as importantly left some redundant features like a rear zip, which in our minds puts this firmly at the front of the field.

The Evolution comes in two parts; the main suit and a pair of 8mm calf sleeves. The specification and feature list can be found here but to recap there’s a full length front zip, a big zipped and easily accessible rear pocket on the outside of the suit and 2 small internal pockets for carrying things like gels or a mandatory compass and whistle. These seemingly small features make a huge difference and negate the need for an extra bum-bag or towing a dry bag for the likes of gels or bars and your map. The biggest advantage is that rear pocket, its one of those features that just work and will likely be on all Swimrun suits in a couple of years.

Let’s start with the calf guards because as simple as these sound, they are miles apart from what other manufactures are doing and just shows the Swimrun specificity of this design. These are 8mm thick so high buoyancy to counteract the drag from wearing shoes. They would also for short events remove the need for extra floatation devices like a pull-buoy. We tried these out in the pull and used them instead of a pull-buoy and they weren’t as effective; but saying this they have become a great swim aid in their own right. If you’ve ever tried the hell that is band-only swimming then this is a halfway house; they give an excellent workout if used as a pull-buoy helping to engage the core and promote a better swimming position. Within a Swimrun race they also provide excellent protection from the scrub and rocks. We both finished Loch Gu Loch with scratches to the front and back of our knees but nowhere else.

Zone 3 should really consider selling these calf guards as a standalone product for those not able to stretch to an entire suit and also as swim aid, far better than core shorts in my opinion for promoting real core muscle engagement.

We tried the Evolution suit in 2 sizes, Medium and Medium Small.  Both fitted very well and we opted to leave the sleeves intact for the very cold Scottish water. Both of us were incredibly impressed with the amount of warmth provided by the suits consider the amount of 1.5 and 2 mm panelling and we noticed no restriction in either running or swimming. I’ve found that in swimming with a wetsuit getting the position of the suit around the shoulders is the most important factor and I was very pleased that despite unzipping the suit fully and with runs of up to 10 miles the suit stayed perfectly in place without any readjustment needed at each swim leading to quick transitions and efficient swimming.

Both of us finished the event with zero chaffing, we deliberately added no lubricant on the neck or anywhere else to show-up hotspots; and there were amazingly none. One of us had a trisuit underneath the other just running underwear covering around 8km of swimming and 47km of running with not the slightest rub. That’s extremely impressive and something to be mindful of if doing a Swimrun event in sea water. I don’t think this lack of chaffing would be possible with a suit that still had a rear zip.

Loch Gu Loch took us through all types of terrain and the suits held up well to the punishment, in particular the calf guards. My suit got a superficial scrape along the shoulder and sleeve where the neoprene is only 1.5mm thick but structurally sound with any damaged more cosmetic than anything, considering the trees and scrub that we passed through I was surprised there wasn’t more.

The Evolution Swimrun suit is a true Swimrun suit; designed from the bottom up with all elements of the sport taken into consideration and a worthy investment for those drawn to the sport. As well as being the perfect Swimrun suit, it also looks pretty flash too. At Loch Gu Loch around 50% of competitors using a Swimrun specific suit were sporting the Evolution.

The Zone 3 Evolution is so good that my race partner is now considering using it as his primary triathlon suit for 70.3 and below due to its great fit and comfort – although I’m not sure he’ll get away with using those 8mm calf sleeves!

Courtesy of Triathlete Europe: http://triathlete-europe.competitor.com/2015/10/07/reviewed-zone3-evolution-swim-run-wetsuit

5 October 2015

Loch Gu Loch, swimming, running and a tale to tell!

I first came across the slightly mad cap sport of SwimRun after spotting some pictures of the famous OtillO race in Sweden in an article somewhere, about the world’s most extreme races. Something grabbed my attention, people emerging from the sea clad in shorty wetsuits with paddles and pull buoys, running across some pretty rough looking terrain onto the next swim with a team point to point format and a great background story. I knew I had to give it a go.

Fast forward to late 2014 and I hear rumours of a new event in Scotland, with the same team behind it that brought us the Celtman. 8km of swimming, 47km of running in a point to point race based around Loch Ness in the Highlands of Scotland. A good friend Stuart Macleod has also been out to OtillO this year, he’s done an event or two and from his reports I knew this SwimRun thing had to be done. Stuart agreed to race with me and show me the ropes, to be honest I could not think of anyone I would rather do the event with so it was amazing when he agreed. It was a long wait but Sep 26th came round soon enough.

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I had a lot of fun along the way to the event trying different kit, techniques and getting lots of strange looks running around Ambleside or the Coniston fells in a wetsuit. Blair also set some interesting and challenging SwimRun specific swim sets for me, involving very little legs and lots of paddles. Part of the appeal is the sport is so new there really are not hard and fast rules about kit and training, it’s still developing but very quickly.

Team training wise, in true Half Arsed Cowboy fashion, me and Stuart had a quick chat on the phone a week before and then met on the lawn outside the Highland Club the night before the race, fully clad in race kit and went for a run. We figured the swim bit could wait for the morning, there would be 8km of it after all. I knew then we were in for an adventure and no matter what happened we would have a great day together, we both wanted to race hard but it was about the experience rather than the outcome, a good place to be as a team.

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The race starts with a ferry ride to Urquart Castle on the shores of Loch Ness, a fitting start for the race. Stuart is a little disappointed we are not heading out on a stinky open topped fishing trawler, the ferry is a little comfortable for his liking and is even serving coffee. Pre-race banter is great and catching up with friends from various events and meeting others passes the time. Tales of 10 degree water fills the ferry, a piper greets us ashore as we head down to the water’s edge for the race start. I am one of the first to test the water, its cold but that’s what we signed up for. A 3, 2, 1 count down and the race is off!

I am a big fan of learning on the job, it’s hard to simulate the added pressure of racing in training so I am glad to get this one out the way at the start of the race! In SwimRun it is usual practice to use a tether for the swims, so you don’t lose your partner. Stuart got us a great start, going out hard but as we settle down the cord get wrapped around my wrist, due to the paddle on my hand I can’t remove it! I tug on the cord, we stop and I managed to get freed up. Pleased to say it’s the only time it happened, experiential learning usually does the trick.

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We come out of the water and find out we are only 3mins back on the race leaders, a bit of a surprise as I think we expected more. The first run is 9km with a very gradual climb through a forest track, game plan is to run hard on all the long sections to make up for time lost on the swims. We soon find the front of the race, Ewan and Stuart, Bonnie and Graeme, the banter begins. The German team of Andre and Burkhard soon join us, everyone looks smooth and strong and it’s clear this is where the race is at. It stays close for the next 4hrs, all 4 teams are pushing hard, its great racing. Slowly but certainly hard won, me and Stuart open up a small gap, which grows on 16km run section. We know the stronger swimming teams are coming back at us on the swims so we have to suffer on the long runs to gain time, but all the teams could run too! We never felt safe and had to keep the pressure on.

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The journey this race takes covers a vast variety of terrain and landscape, forest, trail, tarmac and all the Loch’s have their own character, rocky shores, bogginess and island crossings. It adds an extra dimension to share this this a team mate, me and Stuart are focussed, hurting but enjoying every minute of it. The marshals at swim exits/entry points and aid stations are doing an amazing job too. We also keep coming across a loud guy flying round in a white van blaring what I think is Michael Jackson music who gives us occasional but welcome abuse.

At Loch Tarf, the 2nd to last swim and only 7km from the finish line, after around 6hrs30 racing its good news to find out we have the gap we wanted, it’s still tight but should be enough if we keep the pressure on. The Loch Tarf swim is awesome, short swims visiting and crossing the various islands, rough ground and the feeling that the finish is near. It finishes with a 30-40m of bog snorkelling trip and I can’t help but smile when the legs cramp trying to get out. Now only have a 6km run and 1km swim left.

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This is where the tale becomes interesting, tired but still pushing hard we miss a direction sign, heading the wrong way now. It’s a while before we realise the mistake, no course marking for a while and we get that sinking feeling that we have blown it. It’s ok though, we can just get the map out, sort it and get back on track. Stuart’s reaction as he gets our map out of my pack is telling, it’s wet, soaked and unreadable. We have no idea which way to head but can see the Loch below, just maybe we can get back on track if we head for it. The trod we are following soon turns into a steep, rocky hillside, no sign of any paths, but we are pretty much at the Loch’s edge. Running soon turns to walking, then clambering and we are starting to cool down rapidly. We pop out on the rocky shoreline and can see the finish, but it’s at least 3km away. The shoreline is so rocky and craggy that we try swimming, it’s quicker to move but too cold as we have lost all our heat. Soon a boat turns up and we are back on the opposite shoreline in a couple of mins, freezing cold but happy to not be clambering anymore and trying to swim.

Not the end we would have wanted but the amazing thing is, it really does not matter. The best bit about this experience was racing with my team mate, sharing the highs and lows, suffering, smiling and working so well together in this amazing environment. So no matter what happens, you can’t take the best stuff away, we gave our all, missed a sign and that’s racing. We weren’t in it for a t-shirt or medal so all’s good and we have a story to tell that’s way more interesting than the usual race report!

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So near yet so far but smiling all the way to the end, as it should be. The Cowboys will ride again, just like in the films.

Thanks to the Bonnie, Graham, Andre, Burkhard, Ewan and Stuart for the racing and smiles and congratulations to everyone who finished and attempted this tough race. Of course without the many marshals who gave up there time it could not happen and you guys made the adventure possible. I am sure this race will become a future must do extreme race in the future.

If anyone fancies a SwimRun adventure, there are some great events cropping up around the country so seek and you shall find.

Just a quick note I think important to add. The course marking was overall excellent and the event superbly professionally organised, me and Stuart were never in any danger and were very quickly located due to the GPS tracking provided by the race organisers.