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25 July 2014

How can you separate the chimp from the computer?

Ok, granted, a rather strange title for a triathlon blog. However, for those of you who have read ‘The Chimp Paradox’ by Professor Steve Peters, you will know exactly what I am talking about. For those of you who haven’t, read and learn people – read and learn.

The hypothesis that Peters (who is a consultant psychiatrist to Sky ProCycling and the England football team, among others) creates is based on the fact that our rudimentary instincts sometimes control our logic (this also parallels Freud’s theory of the id, the ego and the superego). If this all sounds a bit heavy, bear with me…

The ‘chimp’ is that animal inside you which reacts emotionally to situations. The ‘computer’ is your brain which can process the information and apply logic. Peters has created a globally-acclaimed mind management programme which has been widely adopted by a host of sporting greats. It was cited by Chris Hoy as “the mind programme which helped me win my Olympic golds” and Victoria Pendleton claimed “Steve Peters is the most important person in my career”; so to summarise, he comes on good recommendation. 

The reason I am writing this is because we all suffer from chimp-like moments, on a frequent basis, whether in our sport or outside of our sport. When it comes to sport, however, like any other performance-related activity, it really counts how you manage it.

I have a tendency to get insubordinately nervous before races, angsty during a race, disappointed if I don’t do well; this is all chimp-like emotion which should and can be controlled. It’s perfectly normal, of course, to have these emotions, but it is how we handle them that will ultimately make the difference between a ‘champion’ and a ‘finisher’.

On another level, there is sometimes this chimp chatter that goes on when I’m feeling tired. But am I actually feeling tired? There is that age-old question of whether it is just your mind saying you’re tired or whether you really need to listen to your body if you have over-trained and need rest. How do you know? Sometimes, it is very difficult to tell. Listening to your body (but not the chimp) is imperative for anyone training for a triathlon, because you will come across this at some stage or another.

There is a very effective way to establish whether you do need rest or not, and for many, this is something they already implement into their training: heart rate. If your resting heart rate is higher than usual, it indicates that you are tired/stressed/over trained and should be careful about what training you take on. You may notice it while training – an elevated heart rate (and a lower heart rate threshold) will tell you a great deal about how fatigued you are.

The important thing is to try and not let your emotions dictate your race or affect your overall perception of your sport. If you have a bad race, learn from the experience. This is said countless times in triathlon-related articles and many, many non-triathlon related publications, but it is true. It only takes a moment to observe what the pros do – it took Chris McCormack six attempts to become Ironman World Champion, and if you have read his book, you’ll know that yet again, a large part of this comes down to the psychological attitude of a winner.

Many pros have been plagued by bad luck, crashes and injuries before going on to win key international races. It’s all about attitude: a positive outlook, self-confidence, and belief in what you are trying to achieve (and maybe already have achieved). Self-doubt is something which affects us all, but we need to shut that chimp up.

I can’t say I’m an expert on any of this but ultimately, we are all on a massive learning curve, as you never stop learning about the sport, and more importantly, about yourself.

There are endless articles on training for performance; drills to perfect technique, volume and intensity, rest and recovery, nutrition and hydration, gear, kit and technology…

However, this stuff will only get you so far. It’s the mind that gives you the edge. Just don’t neglect it.

Amy Kilpin,

10 July 2014

Celtman 2014 Race Report

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

Race Report for Monster Racing's Eastern Counties Finance Sprint

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

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

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

New Zone3 Products Now Released!

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  

Swim Skin

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.
More information on the Swim skins can be found here (Men's) and here (Women's)

We also have a great selection of race and training accessories in stock, including our brand new range of sunglasses and swim shorts! Be sure to check out the full range here.

10 June 2014

Late Entry to Blenheim; Michael Barnett's Race Report

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, 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 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.

Blenheim Palace Triathlon medal 2014