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15 December 2014

XTRI winter preparation with Chris Stirling

Ever wondered how an XTRI athlete trains in the winter? Time spent in the mountains is never wasted in my opinion, its specific, great for building strength and/or endurance and you learn to cope with the variety of weather conditions you encounter in the hills.

Most importantly its what I love to do and you cant go far wrong is that's the case!

This time of year in like to spend time in the hills, bike, run, light mountaineering and find it pays off in the spring when its time to get more race specific and tune up for racing.

Massive thanks to for the company on the hill and this short edit from a fun day out.

28 November 2014

Louise Fox: National Champion & Course Record

Winter has arrived in the UK, which can only mean one thing… OK 2 things! End of season break, and some Offroad Duathlon action!

National Cross-Duathlon Champs - Ladies Winner

It was a stark contrast landing at Heathrow after the 28 hour journey home from Xterra Maui – from 33 degrees, humidity and sunshine, to a damp, grey, cold and typically rainy November English morning. Spirits were not hugely brightened by the discovery that my bike - and all our luggage - had been left in L.A. to enjoy an extended stopover!

With only 3 days until I drive up to Nottingham for the National Offroad Duathlon Championships – will I get my steed or any of my race kit in time to compete?!

Thankfully Virgin Atlantic managed to pull their fingers out and everything arrived with a day to spare. A couple of missed training sessions on the bike, but perhaps the rest would do me good. Last minute prep sorted, and I was off up North. Sadly the weather was no better in Sherwood Pines, and I was in a small minority to brave a course recce in the pouring rain. The only benefit of wet conditions was it made the relatively easy MTB course slightly more technical!

Ladies and vet men relishing the conditions on the start line!
On race morning I woke up to a lovely sunrise – sadly this only lasted until the end of the mens’ wave, then the heavens opened once again. The ladies and veteran mens field looked undeterred though as we lined up (while the finishing men ran for shelter and hot drinks) - obviously made of tougher stuff!

I knew I had to get good lead on the run have any chance of holding off Commonwealth MTB-er Jess Roberts on the bike. Luckily this went to plan – sharing the lead for the whole field with Andy Chatterton.

Leading out the run with Andy in front… and a nice gap behind :-)
Once on the bike it was a case of ploughing through a flowing stream of water for the entire 2x10k laps. Glasses were ditched in transition as I couldn’t see anything through them – unfortunately this meant large sections of fire road ridden with one eye shut to try and keep the grit out of my contacts! Several patches of mud in my blind spots (or while both eyes closed!) did catch me out - but luckily no crashes.

I was hoping I could stay ahead of Jess and take it easy on the final run… but I couldn’t have it all my own way, and Jess caught me with about ½ a lap to go. I tried to keep her in sight but got stuck in traffic in the singletrack – some of the lapped riders were not too keen on allowing others to pass… Sure, not I or anyone expects a slower rider to stand aside or go completely off their line – but where there is space to ride on one side of the trail, yet they choose to actively block you… unnecessary!

So Jess was out of sight by the time I reached T2, but plenty of encouragement from Paul Davies and the rest of the crowd spurred me on to close the gap. I only had a short run of 3k to do it, and my legs – still acclimatised to 33 degrees – were not happy with the British cold and seizing up with cramp. Thankfully a controlled effort was enough to take the lead again with a mile to go – no need for a sprint finish which my legs were in no state to do!

Sarah Davies and me on the 30-34 podium. Not many athletes hung about in 
the rain to receive prizes.
So I was very happy to win the inaugural Triathlon England Cross Duathlon Champsionship title! (And make up somewhat for a rubbish race at Xterra World Champs). Well done to Jess who made me work hard for it!

There is a great highlights video here.

Once finished and recovered, there was no better way to celebrate (and begin my end-of-season break) than with some lovely fish and chips in a local pub. Then the only downside - the long drive home through rain with cramping legs – uurrgghh!!

Sika Duathlon - Course Record

Ladies podium at the Sika Duathlon. Liz Gilmour, Louise Fox, Kate Hewitt
Next it was 2 weeks off, having already had one week R&R in Hawaii. Not being allowed to do anything that felt like training, or that made me feel like an athlete was much harder than it sounded!

I couldn’t wait to get back into training (I suspect just the effect Jez wanted!) but it was somewhat of a kick-start for the body with my first ‘session’ being a race!

I had wanted to try the TriPurbeck Sika Duathlon for a few years, and for the first time it fitted in my calendar! It is a low key, friendly and fun event, great value for money, and highly recommended for anyone looking to give Offroad duathlon a go. We made it a family affair for the Bardsleys – with my dad also racing, and mum plus Simon entering as a relay team.

There were two previous winners in the ladies’ field so despite my result in Nottingham, I wasn’t about to get complacent. A fast start on the run, and a bike course I enjoyed getting stuck into – literally at times as it was nice, wet and muddy! The few short sharp climbs got tougher with each of the 4 laps, but it was great to hear the commentary and encouragement every time you pass through transition. The final run was a 2-mile out-and-back - ideal for seeing who’s ahead or behind you. Once I was sure there was no-one chasing me down, it was nice to be able to relax for the last mile!

Some hard-earned hot chocolate recovery drink at the finish – just what was needed to reheat and rehydrate :-) And even more warming was the news that I had broken the ladies course record! Thanks to Fran and Ade for organising, and all the Tripurbeck adults and kids for marshalling. Hopefully I’ll be back on a dry day to try and break 1:30!

24 November 2014

And then I moved to Mallorca; An insight into the life of Zone3 athlete Andrew Woodroffe


It’s been a while and it’s fair to say there has been one massive change I my life and my training. I moved to a small island off the coast of Spain- Mallorca. A training paradise for swimmers, cyclists and triathletes. I was fortunate to be given the opportunity to move out here to Best Swim centre, a swimming centre in the South of the island which is world class, and over the years most top swimmers and triathletes have passed through here.

For me the decision was a tough one to make at first, I had a nice little job in Edinburgh, my training was going good and I had a reasonable flat. But I never found my feet there, I never settled and always felt like it was time to go somewhere else. With swimming being my weakness and where I struggle for motivation moving to a world class swim centre was a no brainer.

I arrived back in late October and have now been here about 5 weeks, I swim at the centre under the coaches there 6 times a week and the rest of the time I bike and run around the island. Sometimes running on incredible trails, or along the coast and lately I have been back on the track in Palma with a fantastic running group there. Cycling is incredible as you can ride for miles on incredible quality rolling roads or you can find large alpine style climbs to do efforts on. There are riding groups all over the island and constantly new routes to find.

My swimming is definitely improving, it won’t happen overnight but I believe with the volume, the added coaching and guidance I’m going in the right direction. It’s easier now to swim long sets up to 5km when you have a squad around you who are also swimming and a coach poolside guiding you through the set. I have no problem riding my bike for 5 hours alone or running alone but in the pool it definitely helps me.

Training full time hasn’t been an easy process, I’ve had some real highs and some real lows already. When you are constantly focused on times, feeling good and pushing your body it can be quite a battle when you can’t hit those times or don’t feel good. I find it difficult at times to step back and listen to my body, but this is all a learning process and one I am definitely enjoying. I also need to learn that it’s not all about volume and that yes I can train 9-5 but sometimes that isn’t what is best. Fortunately my coach Graeme is incredible at keeping me on the right track and making sure I listen to my body and know the signs of when im maybe pushing a bit too hard.

The planning for 2015 has already begun, Myself and Graeme have set out some big goals and targets that I am positive I can achieve with hard work and effort. I will mainly focus on age group racing again and aim for top results. I will also look to enter the world of 70.3 (half ironman) and see what happens/If I can survive.

I’m in a great place just now, I’ve had a few niggles and a few days of fatigue but Im feeling good, fit and strong. I’m working hard in the gym to become a stronger athlete and I believe my running and cycling is also improving. It is a dream waking up every day in a beautiful country usually with great weather and just training but I know it won’t be easy sometimes the body and the mind can make things a little difficult!

I want to thank the squad out here for helping me settle in so fast and pushing me in training and also my coach Graeme as well as Best Centre for this opportunity.  Hopefully I will continue to have a solid winter and come out the other side faster and stronger.

1: Leading a local 10km race where i finished 4th after a big week of training!
2: Another day in the office
3: Beautiful cycling views
4: It's not always sunny! 

5 November 2014

The Noosa Triathlon with Dan Wilson

Well, that’s it for the year for me. The last few footsteps of racing at the Noosa Triathlon, were the last racing steps I’ll take until next year. Fittingly, they were bloody painful footsteps as well, an apposite way to takes one’s last strides in anger for the year.

But lets get to those strides with some meandering narrative first. Since my last post, it’s been 6 weeks of prodigious amounts of work, with the aim of getting myself as fit as a butcher’s pup for my last two races of the year, Nepean and Noosa. All had been going quite swimmingly until the Wednesday before Nepean, when on an innocent enough 30 minute jog I strained my calf. This put me out of Nepean, much to my chagrin, and had me somewhat perturbed about getting to the start line at Noosa as well. Fortunately, I gave it a bit of rest, and resisted from putting it through it’s paces until the day before the race at the Celebrity Noosa Tri, where it felt ok at race pace in what, I must add, was a fruitless effort, as my team got totally pumped. I’d like to say this didn’t bother me, as it’s mainly just a fun, entertaining race. I’d like to say that...

Anyway, harboring minor melancholy post-defeat, I was able to move onto the also fun and entertaining, but somewhat more serious, and most pertinently well-paid race of the weekend. The swim was relatively uneventful, my arms were kind enough to propel me out pretty comfortably in 4th, and the brutal pace set by Shane Barrie had been unrelenting enough to see a few of the main contenders off the back early. Out on to the bike, and things started to get interesting for me at this point - and not the good sort of interesting either. Pretty much with the first few pedals strokes, I could tell I was in a bit of trouble, with my legs feeling heavier than Kim Kardashian’s make-up bag. For the rest of the ride it was a game of survival, my tactic of trying to spark myself up a bit by surging up the main hill almost saw me get dropped from the bunch, and I was in difficulties and dangling off the back for most of the ride. At this stage, my increasingly desperate inner monologue was telling me to hang in at the front of the race, and fervently praying that I’d come good at some stage. Out on to the run, and there was a bunch of 5 of us, featuring the usual suspects of Good, Kerr, Bailie and Royle. My legs were yet to ‘come good’, but I was moving ok, so once again my plan was to hang around, keep myself in the race, generally be a nuisance, and see what happened. Pete threw down some big surges from around 4km in, and was joined by Bailie and Royle in changing up the pace, which saw Good drop off at about 6km, and then Pete at 8km. At this stage, my legs were still hurting, but at the 8km mark, with a chance of a Noosa crown up for grabs, I felt that at least a bit of pain was to be expected, and somewhat warranted. Nevertheless, I decided to veto any further suggestions of pain from my legs, and decided that I was going to win the race in a sprint finish. Lamentably, Royle and Bailie were obviously also thinking the same thing, and I finished in a Wollongong Wizard sandwich to grab 2nd, in a race I was pretty happy to hang tough and graft out a good result.
Following the race, I had my last uni exam for the year yesterday, and can now officially switch off both the body and mind for a while, and as such, today’s plan involves drinking coffee, eating peanut butter out of the jar with a spoon, and watching Man vs Food all day in my pajamas. Let the good times roll.
Take care friends,

Check out more from Dan Wilson over on his site:

9 October 2014

Chris Stirling: A recap of the Wasdale win

After a long season that started back in March, winning the Wasdale Triathlon was the perfect end to a fantastic year of experiences, racing and training in the hills. Maintaining focus and keeping up the training for the 6 weeks leading up to the race was tough but the result proves it was all worth it.

Like I said it had been an amazing season, 2nd place in the High Terrain off road duathlon series, 2nd place at The Celtman and a trip to Colorado to represent Northern Ireland at the World Long Distance Mountain Running Champs. After Colorado I felt a little tired of structured training so took a short break from it but this only left a 3 week build up to the Wasdale Triathlon. I was unsure where my fitness was at in swimming and biking as I had been focused on running for the last 6 weeks. I hoped the base I had built during the season was solid enough to put in some really hard training sessions, crash style specific to the Wasdale course. This paid off and 10 days before the race I knew I was in really good shape for the bike, probally better than I was for the Celtman. I would like to mention I had also started using CurraNZ as a supplement in my training and I feel this really helped with my ability to recover from the sessions and also how hard I could push during them.

I felt as confident and calm as I ever had going into a race. The race plan was to be within 10mins of the leader going onto the run, without riding the bike too hard. Mountain running is my strength and the technical, rough terrain during the run would really suit me.

It looked like a great forcast for the day, next to no wind, no rain, just low cloud on the tops . It was great to meet a few fellow Celtmen (Thor and Francois) at the start. These races really do bring a sense of cameraderie often missing from many other races. Mark decided to put me on the spot at the breifing and asked me what my finishing time would be. I replied 6.55hrs and was confident I could get close.

The swim did not go according to plan exactly. The water was pretty warm for Wasdale, around 14 degrees so cold water was not an issue. As I touched the buoy on the out and back course and turned swim back, I swam straight into the 100 or so swimmers still coming my way! It was chaos and I had to stop, get my bearings and breath back then start swimming again. I came into T1 knowing I had not had a great swim and a little angry. I have learnt that I race well well with a little anger so channeled it into the rest of the race.

Out on the bike I knew I was feeling good and in control. Hardknott (33%!!) is the first test, I stayed in the saddle, kept my HR down and felt good the whole way up. The passes always feel tough and a real challenge so it was great to be feeling strong. I had planned to make the most of the flatter/rolling sections and take it steady as possible on the climbs. The rest of the climbs went by in much the same way, apart from the top section of Wrynose on the return leg! Like last year I suffered, its such a sustained and long effort and really does never get any easier. I picked up a refill from the amazing bottle drop at the top of Hardknott (thanks Guys!! great job:)) and was glad to reach the bottom. I am not a great fan of descending the passes, especially when racing so always have a great sense of relief when I know they are out of the way. They are steep and the surface is terrible in places. Adds to the sense of adventure for the day out though.

Part two of my bike plan was to push hard until Gosforth. The course is flat to rolling with a few short climbs and I felt I could make time here and it played to my strengths on the bike. From Gosforth back to Wasdale Head it was time to dial it down and get the legs ready for the run. I knew I was around 6th place here and coming into T2 I saw a few others just leaving, Perfect!

No need to mess around in transition, sock on, La Sportiva Bushidos on and out onto the climb to Styhead and Scafel Pike. I felt good as the climb steepened and just kept my rythm, tapping it out and limiting walking only to steep rock sections, part one of the run plan. The hamstring cramps of last year were non existent and I passed quite a few people by the time I reached Styhead and was in 3rd place. Little did I know one of the runners in front was a relay team. Another competitor and I reached Scafel Pike at the same time, we had been together from Styhead. I touched the cairn on the top and executed run plan part two. Unfortunatly it did not go exactly to plan!

I had planned to lose anyone that was close on the descent to Mickledore, the steepest, roughest part of the course and then push hard in the scrambly terrain of foxs gully till the top of Scafel. It was then gently downhill with a few technical sections. I had looked on the way up for the crucial split in the path and spotted it. On the way down I decided to ignore it! I came right back down, realised my mistake and looks across to Mickledore and saw nothing but crags. The only way was back up and a short traverse to the correct path. For a split second I thought I had blown it and considered just running back down and quitting. Only for a split second though. Never ever quit (thanks Stuart!) rang through my head and I powered back up the hill and smashed the descent into Mickledore, using that little bit of anger again. I asked Steve who was taking photos in the gully how many in front and he replied one! That is why we never give up and keep fighting. At the bottom of the gully I loked down and saw a bunch of guys at the foot.

I pushed as hard as I could to the top and Scafel and hammered the descent all the way to Stony tarn. Cramps started to kick in but I still pushed. I remember looking back up Scafell and Slightside and seeing no one. A marshal (thanks Kate!) had told me one other competitor was in front, she thought they were a relay runner but was not sure. Again I ran all the way to Burnmoor tarn, willing the cramps not to end my race and looked back. No one. I could not see anyone in front either but the thought of a sub 7hr finish kept me going to the end. I felt so much stronger than at this point last year.

Crossing the finish line I realised someone else had finished in front. I did not realise I had won until I asked Mark a minute or two after crossing the finish line! My brain was probably a little addled. A belated celebration and I felt a few tears welled up. To win this race, in my local area on the mountains I  have loved and  enjoyed in so many ways, so much for the last ten years was a dream come true.

It was great to spend a bit of time at the finish line welcoming and meeting other competitors as they finished there epic day in the mountains. Lots of great people and it was a pleasure to meet them and here some of their story. Some real epics out there and everyone had the same attitude, keep fighting till the finish line.

Massive thank you to the team at Wasdale, all the amazing marshalls on the hill your friendly faces made all the difference on the day.

Also thanks you to TrecNutrition, PushCartel, Zone3Wetsuits, LaSportiva, Julbo and CurraNZ health for your support so during this season, it makes such a difference having such amazing race kit and nutrition. I can then concentrate on the training and racing. Also my amazing support and media team :)