Zone 3 Latest News

26 August 2015

Zone3 Lava Kit Review



Zone 3 Lava kit Review by Chris Stirling

I have been racing and training in this kit for the past 2 seasons and have to say I can only sing its praises.  The main focus of my racing season tends to be long distance, off road, extreme style triathlons and can be racing for up to 12hrs and beyond so I think its fair to say that the kit has been well and truly put to the test, not to mention the hours on the turbo and race simulation sessions. If I found it was not working, or it let me down I simply would not be using it, but it does work, superbly. I have used it for Celtman, Norseman, Slateman and various off road duathlons involving mountain biking, mud and very tough conditions, plus training sessions.

Its available in a suit or short and top combo, I love both and have been using the top for swimrun training the past few weeks in conjuction with the new Evolution wetsuit. Personally I prefer to race in the suit, but find the shorts great for the turbo and brick sessions.


So what is it I like so much about this kit and would I change anything about it if I could?

Fit-

No doubt about it the fit of the suit it great. What I look for is kit that I forget I am wearing, I dont need to mess about adjusting it and fiddling whilst racing. I just want to put it on and race. To achieve this you need athlete led attention to detail in design, great materials and quality construction. It fits snuggly but is not restrictive in any way with no lose material. I have never suffered from any chafing during a race despite 12hrs of hard racing wearing the suit from start to finish. Nice features are the wider shoulder straps, they spread the load nice to prevent digging in and also provide extra sun protection. The legs also seem to have room for my ample long distance/mountain runners thighs without feeling tight or restrictive. The front zip is great for ventilating and has a nice material backing strip so it does not dig in or chafe.

Materials-

The suit uses a few different materials which shows the attention to detail. A super soft but hard wearing fabric is used on the legs, it feels like a very light compression fabric and gives a little support without feeling restrictive. My original pair of shorts from 2 years ago are still going strong and not showing signs of wear in the seat/inside of leg area that gets the most abuse, I have worn through other brands in less than 6 months before. This brings us nicely to the chamois, arguably the most important componement of a long distance suit, if that aint comfy you are in for a tough day! Well I have found it is great, a quality CyTech product, good for 202km and 6hrs in the saddle and I dont notice it whilst out on the run after. The upper part of the suit is made from a lighter fabric that dries super fast and also provides a little support but is much thinner than that used on the legs. Again its easy to forget you have the suit on. The choice of white helps prevent overheating but it also gives great protection from the sun, beleive it or not it was very sunny on the run at this years Norseman and I had no issues with sunburn or temperature regulation.

Features and Construction-

Its easy to take the last two catergories for granted once the suit is on, but when you are racing, in my opinion its the features and design that make or break a great product. Every pocket needs to be placed perfectly and be the right size/shape to make it usable in every kind of condition. It sounds simple but its an area that many suits fail to deliver on. No matter how tired or covered in mud I have been racing off road duathlons or triathlons I have never struggled to get to nutrition or find a pocket to stash empty wrappers. The rear pockets are slightly angled for ease of access and plenty big enough, you can actually fit a waterproof race cape/gillet easily into one of the pockets, perfect for changeable conditions. I have also never lost anything from them, testament to the fit, fabrics and the overall design. The two leg pockets work fantastically for storing wrappers, less chance of ending up littering trying to fiddle them in round the back, or worse still storing them inside the legs covering you in sticky gel leftovers. Simple things but they mean the suit just works. Flatlock seams throughout keeps the suit comfortable, fitted and fast.

To sum it up, from an athletes perspective that has really put the product through its paces, it has all the hallmarks of the rest of the athlete driven Zone3 range and it just works! It has never let me down and so far seems to be indestructable. I beleive a ladies version is on its way for 2016, not too many womens specific long distance suits out there so its about time. Being totally honest, I would not change a thing about the suit, but would love to see a short sleeved type suit in the future.


19 August 2015

Swim-Run Training for the Loch Gu Loch with Chris Stirling

Well its been an interesting few weeks since Norway, still have that buzz from the awesome day at Norseman but also felt a little lost and needed a bit more time off than usual to get the legs and mind ready for more training. To be honest I expected it, carrying training and keeping motivated from Celtman to Norseman in 5 weeks was always going to be a challenge and this was part of the appeal.

I took 6 days off completely, dosed up on CurraNZ and enjoyed the feeling of satisfaction that comes after a big event, not wanting to rush onto the next thing and just let things naturally take course. It took around 2 weeks in total and I can now say I feel ready to train again, although with a slightly more relaxed approach. Luckily the next race of the season is something completely new to me and coincided with the arrival of the new Zone3 Evolution SwimRun wetsuit!

SwimRun heaven, Levens Water, Coniston fells

So I now have a new way to enjoy the hills, trails and mountain tarns of the LakeDistrict, things just get better and better. So if you see a guy running about in the Ambleside/Coniston area, in a shortie wet suit, its probably me!

Goats Water below the shadowy Dow crag, its cold!

Yesterday I gave the suit its first proper test with roughly 15km running and 2km swimming in a journey starting on the shores of Coniston Lake, taking in Levens Water, Swirl Howe and Goats Water. A good first outing but plenty of potential up this way with a bit more creativity!

Its fun trying stuff out and part of the appeal of this new sport/adventure. You have to be fully self sufficient and need to balance this with being able to move as freely as possible in the hills. It reminds me a bit of alpine climbing in a way, you need just enough to keep safe and allow you to complete the route but not so much as to encumber and slow progress.

Evolution Swim Run Suit!! Awesome.

Luckily the new suit is designed specially for the sport in conjunction with a previous winner of the OtillO race, so a fantastic job has been done. The super flexible legs are very easy to run in, bit like a pair of compression shorts and can be turned up to regulate temperature and give more freedom of movement. Its is fantastic to swim in, super flexible around the shoulders has good buoyancy without being bulky and restrictive. The 'Rocket Pocket' round the back is a great place to quickly store goggles and swim hat for the longer run sections and the suit also has 2 smaller pockets in the front, ideal for gels etc. It comes with some 8mm calf guards, these make swimming with shoes on easy enough with having to use a pull buoy, so one less thing to faff with and give the added bonus of shin protection when you are exiting the water and slip, which you will! Saved me a few cuts and bruises for sure! I also found shoes can be stuffed in the small of the back for longer swims, for instance the 2km start of Loch Gu Loch.

SwimRun test kit :)

Other stuff I have tried are my La Sportiva Anakonda fell shoes, mega grip, fast draining and more than enough protection for the roughest of terrain. Injinji toe socks seems to work really well, no probs with toes wet and rubbing. Also tried using an UD Anton Krupicka race vest under the suit, replace the bottles with a small 250-500ml soft flask and it works fine as its so small and light you hardly notice its there swimming and I like the idea of having quick access to gels etc without having to dig around in the suit. Whatever its great fun trying stuff and sure I will whittle it down and keep things as simple as possible!

Also planning for next season is well underway with the help of Blair Davies, also know as Supercoach, we did some swim analysis, via skype which was invaluable and are planning to super charge the diesel engine for next season, as it seems to take me about 4hrs to get warmed up at the moment :)

Another cool development, great to be working with StriptSnacks as a member of TeamStript. Amazing all natural, additive free protein snacks, its hard to find products like this so great to be part of the team.

If anyone has any hints tips etc for swim run please contact me and same if anyone has any questions about stuff I am trying. Be great to hear from you.

17 August 2015

Xterra Athletes share their advice, aims & thoughts on the sport ahead of Xterra UK!

PHOTO CREDIT | LUKASZ WARZECHA | WWW.lWIMAGES.CO.UK
Louise Fox

Why Xterra?

I wanted a new challenge, a change of scenery (after 6 years racing road tri and duathlon), and perhaps the biggest motivator – to get away from bike training on busy roads.  After several collisions with wayward drivers, road riding was becoming a chore and even a fear, instead of something I looked forward to.

Proudest moment  in the sport so far?

Getting my first GB Elite selection - to race the European Champs in Germany last month. Within Xterra itself, my proudest moment was achieving my first podium (3rd place) in Xterra Spain.

What gets you through those gruelling training sessions?

I’m fortunate that I rarely struggle for motivation – but of course some sessions I enjoy much less than others! I get bored doing long mileage for example. It may sound strange, but being able to tick off everything that Jez (my coach) has set me, day by day, is satisfaction enough.

Ultimate aim through the sport?

For me it’s more about being able to live the lifestyle of a professional athlete – travelling to amazing places and making friends from all over the world. Just being able to line up on the start as a Pro has been my main goal - so in a way I’ve already achieved it!

However I still have plenty of room to improve, as I’ve only been doing the sport for 2 years. So I guess my ultimate goal would be to win an Xterra race on the World Tour.

#1 piece of advice for someone thinking of taking up Xterra?

Stop thinking about it - just enter one! I wish I had tried it sooner!

The biggest obstacle for most road triathletes, is either not wanting to spend money on a mountain bike, or worrying that their skills are not good enough. But you don’t need to spend thousands – the first mountain bike events ever I raced were on a £100 Halfords special with flat pedals and rim brakes! As I progressed, I rewarded myself with upgrades, but I felt I should earn these by improving my riding first.

As for the skills – I would encourage anyone to just have a go. It doesn’t matter if you have to get off and walk in places - you will be in the same boat as most of the field! It would be especially good to see more ladies racing off-road. In most countries women are quite a minority outside of the Pro field.



Lee Williams

Why Xterra?

I started out mountain biking in 1999 as a 14 year old but have always had a keen interest in Triathlon.  I remember watching it during the Olympics and being very aware of how hard it looked and feeling nothing but respect for the athletes even as a youngster.  By the time I got to elite level racing I had become aware of Xterra and knew that it was something I’d end up doing at some point as the off road nature was now making the whole Swim – Bike - Run even more appealing.  I’m quite surprised I’ve held out this long to be honest, but I suppose I’ve always had mountain bike specific targets that’s always made me put it off.

Proudest moment  in the sport so far?

Getting a bronze medal at the 2009 British Mountain Bike Champs was a good day for me.  2009 was a breakthrough year in mountain biking and I’d never been on national champs podium before and my target was a medal.  The organisers messed up my gridding sticking me at the back of the field but I smashed it through the entire field!  I remember being pretty satisfied at the time and all the family were there being just as excited to see me cross the line.  I think winning the National Marathon Champs in 2012 was also a good day however, its taking a while for it to sink in that my name will be on the past winner list every year.

What gets you through those gruelling training sessions?

GLORY. Getting through the hard training sessions is all about the glory for me.  The push to be the best is what gets me up in the morning and willing to go and kill myself on any given session...and to a certain extent a sick craving for the pain.  From as young as I can remember I was always smashing myself during whatever ever sport I was doing at the time.  Giving it everything in sport was just a daily occurrence and I honestly think that genetics won’t allow me to sit down for long and will continue for the remainder of my life.

Ultimate aim through the sport?

Results aside the main reason for sport in my eyes is to be the best I can be.  To get to a point in life where no matter what I do I can’t improve anymore will be pretty satisfying I think.  Not that I expect to get to that point as I will always think of something new to make improvements.  I’d like to think that getting close to this will produce selections to major games and a few more titles.  I visualize sitting in the pub as an old man thinking ’yeah…you know what…I did used to be pretty good back in the day’. 

#1 piece of advice for someone thinking of taking up Xterra?

Work to your strengths.  Everybody wants to improve their weaknesses and for good reason, but if you have a strongest discipline make sure you don’t let the work slide for you not to take advantage of that, as advantages are only magnified when it’s off road!



Matt Dewis

Why Xterra?

I took up Xterra as I've always been a massive fan of the mountain bike and trail running and missed it while training on the road!

Proudest moment  in the sport so far?

I think my proudest moment was last year beating some big names and finishing first brit at Xterra England and qualifying for my first World Championships as a Pro

What gets you through those gruelling training sessions?

The people around me really help, encourage from then and knowing that they are hurting too

Ultimate aim through the sport?

I want to be able to travel europe or America and race an entire tour of Xterra series as a Pro  

#1 piece of advice for someone thinking of taking up Xterra?

Don't hesitate because you will love it! 



Tom Baker

Why Xterra?

I first took up Xterra as the majority of my training had been off road as I love the feeling of freedom it gives you being in the middle of nowhere by yourself. It's just you and the trail so you can switch your brain off to the everyday world and hit it hard, then when you're done you can take in the view from the top. Plus I can always take my best training partner with me- Harvey the dog :D I started up as a XC mountain biker who ran a few events like Hellrunner and Men's Health Survival of the Fittest so when I started Tri's I was immediately drawn to Xterra England. A technical bike/run course will always suit me more so I can make up time on the stronger swimmers (although my times are tumbling thanks to my Vanquish!!) and then hold onto it for the run, there's no better feeling then smashing along single-track!  Xterra events are really well thought out and everyone seems to be so much more welcoming and chilled, they really do try to get a festival atmosphere going. 

Proudest moment  in the sport so far?

My proudest moments as a triathlete so far are qualifying for and competing at the Xterra World Champs in Maui last year and then also competing as a GB age grouper at the ETU Cross Country European Champs this year in Germany. Racing in Hawaii was amazing and gave me even more respect to the pro's for the speed they can race at even in that humidity as it was a battle for most age groupers to even hit the finishing line. Then putting on a GB kit for the Euro's, well that's just the dream of what you want to do as a triathlete- Next on the checklist is the Elite kit! 

What gets you through those gruelling training sessions?

Gruelling training sessions are part and parcel of being a triathlete, the only difference when it comes to mine is that most of the time you're going to get muddy! It may be a bit corny but I have motivational quotes everywhere, on my phone, my tablet, computer at work and just about anywhere else I can fit them. When a session gets tough if one of those pops into my head, I focus on that and my goals and it helps me power through. 

Ultimate aim through the sport?

My ultimate goal is to turn pro as an Xterra athlete, I know that it could be a long road/trail to get there but with each session that I put in, I know I'm one step closer to my dream. 

#1 piece of advice for someone thinking of taking up Xterra?

My #1 piece of advice for anyone thinking about taking up Xterra is just give it a go! Whether you go for the full championship distance, sprint or trail runs you won't be disappointed, just beware that you will get hooked and you're going to want to do more.



10 August 2015

Chris Stirling takes on the 2015 Norseman

Well its nearly a week since the race and I am still getting my head round what an amazing experience Norseman Extreme gave, it did not disappoint in any way and the worst thing is I know the race will never be the same again. I had quite a few first's heading out to Norway, no first hand knowledge of the course and not a clue how the race would go after the Celtman 5 weeks before. To put it simply it felt like a real adventure, a journey with an uncertain outcome and the environment, scenery and high level of competition only added to the sense of this.

I had no idea really how I would perform but I did set two goals before leaving for Norway, I wanted to enjoy the race and I wanted my amazing support crew to enjoy the day too. Whatever happened this was the priority, something that seems so obvious but can so often be lost in the heat of competition, months of training and drive for good results on paper or PB's. This is the race that got me inspired to take up triathlon in 2012, just making it to the start line was an achievement, if you told me or in fact probably anyone who knew me 15 years ago I would be here, it would be a 'No Chance!'. My support crew of Steve and Jo had been at Celtman and many other races this season and last, also there for all the training so a good day is the least I owed them. It was a time to enjoy the experience.


Pre-race

I have to admit I was pretty nervous and hyped up for a while, being selected as an elite I felt I had a pressure to perform, something new to me. I felt like I had to go out and earn my place, maybe I did, but this was not the way to approach this race, not for a first visit anyway. Of course there was the fact its Norseman! The worlds hardest Ironman, with probably the worlds hardest competitors and in one of the worlds harshest environments etc etc. Who wouldn't feel intimidated, perhaps its healthy to be? One piece of advice from a very good friend and 3 time Norseman, Stuart McLeod settled me. 'Chris, its just a bunch of people getting together to do something fun, race hard but enjoy the moment'. A great bit of advice for anyone heading out to Norseman.

Packing a bike for flying was a first and a bit of an epic. After 1hr30mins and a lot of worrying it was finally in the box, ready to go on a plane, to be lost, at least that's what I thought till we arrived in Norway and I got it back. Hopefully it was not in broken bits inside, another worry. All good though!

We drove the bike course backwards to get to Eidfjord, I would recommend this to anyone racing if you get the chance. By the time we reached the Hardangervidda plateau, ready to drop down to Eidfjord the bike course had my full respect and I mean that. It needs it, seriously, the climbs are long, its either up or down and most of the bike course is above 600m height.

Tricamp at Eidfjord was a great experience, good facilities and I thought easy enough to relax and focus on the task at hand. Bike built and not broken, it was time to test out the water in the fjord. An unusually snowy winter meant lots of melt water still flowing down from the mountains and very cold water, just 10-10.5 degrees. It felt warmer further so one less thing to worry about. I used a Zone3 neoprene vest, booties and cap along with a VictoryD wetsuit. I find with this combo I stay warm enough, even in water down to 8.5 degrees. Thor 'The Hammer' Hesselberg arrived on Friday and I caught up with Graeme Stewart too, it was good to see some friendly faces.

Eidfjord is beautiful and full of very friendly locals, we experienced the same everywhere we went in Norway, its an amazing country.

 

The Ferry ride and Swim!

Alarm call at 2am, coffee, bread, jam and it was time to head down to set up T1 and finally board the ferry. The swim has been shortened, a little disappointed but I do not blame them, safety comes first and I would not ever want anyone to be hurt or worse. I sat with Graeme and Thor on the journey, its was nice to pass the time chatting. The atmosphere on the ferry is something else, heading down onto deck, hoses spraying water and everyone warming up etc. Its gets you psyched, I loved it and when it came time to jump there was no hesitation. One worry was loosing the goggles, but a hand over them protected during the jump and all was fine. The cold water certainly woke me up.

The swim start was a little hectic, I got kicked in the eye and could not see great but decided to just carry on and put up with it. During the swim I could see the mountains rising from the Fjord, the swimmers around me and the smiling started. This was it, Norseman, I was actually doing it! I settled down and took it pretty steady, knowing it was a long day ahead. When I got out Jo met me and ran to T1, pretty sure I said that it was amazing, time for the bike.

 

The Bike

It kicks off with a monster climb, up onto the plateau, never steep but very long. I knew it would be easy to blow the race here, so I settled down and watched my HR, riding conservatively. Up top was unreal, a snow covered plateau it reminded me of the North West Highlands, the small lakes were still frozen over and I started to feel the cold, Arm warmers, gillet and gloves were added to my Fusion Speed Top and they stayed on for the whole time. The wind was kind, although cold it did not feel too windy. Again I could just not stop smiling, beautiful scenery and well surfaced open roads made for exhilarating descending. I made sure to eat plenty and always keep something in reserve, waiting for the final climb up to Imingfjell, that comes at around 140km, the steepest of the day. I steadily made my way up through the field, passing others who had passed me early on. I felt strong all day, on every climb, until the last! It was tough, as the picture shows. People were out on the course supporting the whole way, the race obviously means a lot to them too, it was pretty amazing. My support crew did a great job, feeding me, keeping me updated on position and looked to be enjoying themselves too. The final climb opens out onto another plateau and drags before a 40km descent to T2 and the only rough road on the course. I had a moment here, hitting a bump at very high speed and landing in the middle of two, whilst down on the bars. I gripped tight and prayed, may have even closed my eyes. I took it a little steadier after this into transition!


The help from the guys over at ElevenSprocket, Rich, Chris and Matt with my bike set up were invaluable, none of the issues from Celtman, the fit was great.


The Run

My legs felt pretty good coming into T2 and my support crew had everything ready so a quick transition had me out onto the run. You can break it down into 3 parts, 25km on the road, no it ain't quite flat, more rolling, 12km Zombie hill then the final 5km off road section to Gaustatoppen at 1800m. I have never ran 25km of tarmac in a triathlon so was not sure how it would go and pacing would be a little difficult. I set off at what felt steady and felt good for at least the first 15km. I made up 4 places before hitting Zombie hill, so I guess my bike pacing was good. I switched to drinking coke, water and a few shotblocks, easy on the stomach and it kept me going. After a while it started to bite though, my pace slowed and it became a mental battle to keep going. I was actually looking forward to the change in angle at the hill, strangely! My support crew leap frogged me every 2-3km and I looked forward to seeing them each time. By the time I reached Zombie hill, I was unsure how much I would be able to run. My support crew left to go to the mountain checkpoint, leaving me with supplies and knowing you now had aid stations. Steve told me to keep it in the granny gear and just keep tapping it out. I did just that passing another competitor walking on the way up. Somewhere just before the first aid station after around 7km of uphill I really blew, everything hurt and I started to walk more. It was a relief when Steve ran back down the road and met me, so nice to have some company for the last 5km of road before the final push. Again support lined the course, the turnout was fantastic and we now also had our own personal Norwegian support crew, locals who had given Steve a lift back down the road to meet me. We passed a crowd of at least 25 people, wearing yellow Team Bob cycling tops who started cheering and singing as we passed, like I said its a surreal experience, especially as your physical state declines. We eventuality reached the mountain checkpoint, I had decided I wanted to finish on the top with Steve and Jo, who had been amazing all day, so we all began to make our way up the hill together. Graeme Stewart had told me its the type of race if that you think you have a mile and look over your shoulder and some one is there. It is, one of the competitors (Christian Nillson) I passed heading up Zombie hill and another suddenly appeared on my shoulder below the summit. I lost these 2 places in the last 200m of the race, my legs buckled underneath me when I tried to push harder. its the first time that has ever happened in a race. Norseman had taken me to my limit, physically and mentally in that final 5km on the mountain. A perfect end.


Gaustatoppen

On the run with Tom Remman, former winner, cruising to his 10th NXTRI

Nearly there!

I finished in 11hrs28 and in 21st position, I really feel this was the best performance I could have had on the day and most importantly my two main goals were met, we all enjoyed it!

After

We stayed at the Youth Hostel, which was fantastic with an amazing view of Gaustatoppen until  Monday, which gave time to reflect and enjoy the t-shirt ceremony etc. I enjoyed this but it was definitely all about the experience for me. The race slowly stripped me back until the very end and reminded me why I do this, it makes you feel alive. I think for this to happen you need a special place with a special atmosphere and Norway and its people provide that, ten fold with plenty to spare. This race is on everyone's bucket list, but how many put there names in the hat, maybe its time you did, you will not be disappointed?? I am pretty sure Steve and Jo enjoyed it to so I guess it was a job well done.

Goodbye for now Norway :)

Thank you to the volunteers and crew who make the race happen, the people of Norway from Moss Airport to Eidfjord and back who were all so friendly and amazing all the way and my fellow competitors who I enjoyed the experience with.

I know I wont ever get a first Norseman again, so I am currently enjoying a week off from training and letting it all sink in a process. Also really happy to complete both Celtman and Norseman in the same season, only 5 weeks apart, it shows my training worked. One thing I took is the bike strength of the athletes at the front and my motivation to get stronger and train harder is now bigger than ever.

Still plenty left this year though so stay tuned! 

Amazing images are courtesy of Lake District Images, thank you!

22 July 2015

Zone3 London Triathlon Wetsuit & Trisuit Offers!

With just under 3 weeks to go until the first wave sets off in the famous Docklands, proud London Triathlon sponsors Zone3 are getting in the mood by running fantastic offers on kit for everyone, no matter your ability or budget.

First Timer offer
Purchase a full price Advance wetsuit (men's & women's) and get the Activate trisuit for half price!
Perfect for beginners the Advance wetsuit offers supreme value for money with 220 Magazine claiming that it ‘wouldn’t feel out of place against many of the mid-range products at twice the price’. As a beginner athlete this will give you all you need from a wetsuit and more, helping you to adapt to the open water with comfort and durability.
Included in this is the Zone3 Activate trisuit. Seen on hundreds of athletes at the 2014 London Tri, the Activate has been designed with beginner athletes in mind and offers unrivalled comfort, breathability and performance. 
Simply add both products to your basket before the 9th Aug and enter code LONDONTRIA to take advantage of this offer!



Ready to Race Faster offer
Purchase a full price Aspire wetsuit (men's & women's) and get the Aquaflo for half price!
Included in this bundle is the infamous Aspire suit, the best selling Zone3 wetsuit since its famous 10/10 review in 220 Triathlon Magazine. No other wetsuit has ever achieved a full marks review which makes this a great choice for any swimmer or triathlete. The Aspire is constantly given praise for its extreme flexibility around the shoulders, carefully balanced buoyancy and rapid transitions.
The Aquaflo is a fantastic looking tri suit with superior aero dynamical performance, breathability and balanced compression. The best selling Zone3 tri suit and winner of numerous industry awards for both performance and value, the Aquaflo offers something a little more for those athletes looking to excel.
Simply add both products to your basket before the 9th Aug and enter code LONDONTRIB to take advantage of this offer!
Back soon…
Whilst you're browsing the site why not check out the award winning lava long distance range, featuring trisuit, top & shorts, which will be back in stock early August!