Zone 3 Latest News

25 February 2015

Obstacle racing columnist Paul Hayward on his journey to become an Ironman.

Our obstacle racing columnist Paul Hayward has been inspired to become an Ironman. V-Day (Valetines day) marks the start of serious training for Paul and is also the date for the London Triathlon Show
“65 miles across the beautiful countryside of Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Wiltshire” I was told by my swimming coach Scott Farnell as he 'sold' me the benefits of signing up to the Evans’ Ride IT Sportif. It does not sound that far I thought to myself. After all, I have to do a 112 miles come September across some of Wales’ scariest hills, but I had only ever cycled 30 miles in one go before in my life. I was, however, promised that there were 'cake stops' and I could certainly eat £11.33 worth of cake so the decision was made.
Ironman ambitions - Part 5
What Scott failed to mention was that it would be freezing, that my bike would get filthy, that there would be vertical hills that would break me and I would look like a complete amaeutar without cleats. This being said, I managed to survive the ride and after several comments of “bet you wish you had cleats mate”, I was quite pleased to hear that I was “the fastest guy in the south without cleats and I clearly must be fit” as one or two serious cyclists were shocked when I overtook them.
I feared the distance truth be told. I was not ready for it and I had been quietly enjoying some turbo sessions in my garage, so hills were quite foreign to me let alone the freezing weather. However I managed to stay in the bike saddle up the majority of the hills, when others struggled, and finish in a respectable time, so there is half a chance I can make the finish line at the Outlaw Half come May.
I also proved to Evans that one person can eat more than the entrance fee in cake across two food stops!
With the buzz of this performance on the bike and my swimming up to 52 lengths in a 35 minute session, I was quite excited about Valentines Day. I could say that I was excited because the day marked the beginning of my training and the hard work starting, or for some romantic time with the girlfriend, which would be the right answer, but my excitement was mainly due to going to the London Triathlon Show.
I had not been to an exhibition where I had purpose; before I had just had a look round and casually purchased water bottles or even goggles. But this year was different; this year I was taking on the challenge of becoming an Ironman and I needed help. I was really excited about going to the featured talks on “don’t fear the swim” and “training for your first Ironman”.
Ironman ambitions - Part 5
Photos: Three top triathletes at the Triathlon Show
Although I had read Don Fink’s book, which made it all sound very doable, I am still scared; witless. Simple things like what if someone swims under me? Or I get kicked in the head? Or I get a puncture? So I was hoping that these talks would help in some way. I also had promised myself that I would try some wetsuits on and hang around the area and pick Paul Shanley’s brain about a lot of my questions.
So what did I learn? Well mainly that I should stay to the back of the swim and go for the inside lane once the mass start had taken off. I had previously planned to stay at the back and go on the outside for fear of being kicked in the face; this was clearly a mad idea as I had not appreciated that I would swim further, a lot further, by this tactic. I also learnt that I really need to plan my fuelling strategy and eat a lot on the bike whilst using some gels on the run. I had started thinking about it, but not enough and with May around the corner, I need to think about it now and test new things.
On being suitably scared by just what I should be eating (people eat sandwiches on their way round?); I decided to take some small steps first and look at some wetsuits. I was lucky that Scott had told me from day one of my swim training that I would need some support in my legs and I knew I needed a suit with some extra padding in my legs.
After plucking up the courage to speak to one of the team at Zone 3 Wetsuits, I was recommended the 'Vision' and I was told that I needed to go and try it out in their pool. I will be honest, I was scared by this. I did not want to embarrass myself in front of so many people, but I was not really left with an option - I had to test it. 
What happened after this was nothing short of special. The suits I had used previously for Blenheim Triathlon were always tight and uncomfortable. The Vision was a sports car in comparison as it felt natural and more importantly, quite magically, my legs seemed to raise and I could feel them kicking in and out of the water.
Ironman ambitions - Part 5
Photos: Testing the Zone 3 wetsuit at the Triathlon Show
I could actually swim properly for once and on doing four lengths I was beaming. I could kick freely and the swim felt controlled and natural. I was amazed that I had found a wetsuit that supported me and made me feel competitive!
I was so impressed I asked my girlfriend (who had done remarkably well to not fall asleep) to come and watch me as I glided, or splashed awkwardly, up and down the pool. The wetsuit was clearly special as it had not only fooled me but also her, as she commented “your swimming has really improved Paul”.
On speaking to James Lock from Zone 3 about their wetsuit and expressing how fantastic it was;  I was bowled over by their offer to support me to the finish line. I am really pleased to be supported by such a fantastic brand with such a good wetsuit.
By the time you read this I will have hit the second week of my training plan (with morning sessions being a struggle but strangely enjoyable); but I think I am ready to train for this. I know the hard work starts now and the sacrifices get harder; I just want to be in with a shot of that blue carpet come September.
With thanks to Zone 3 for their support, more information on their range can be found

30 December 2014

Winter Training, Goals & Challenges

Right about now its the perfect time of year to think about exactly how you are going to make your goals for 2015 happen, or at least die trying! I always feel really fired up this time of year and have usually spent a good deal of time assessing and planning already. Little notes of paper with split times for races, previous workouts, goals and dreams scribbled on over the past season start to become even more useful than when they were first written. This all helps to keep the goals attainable and the dreams alive, nothing wrong with setting the bar high and going after it. A map helps though :)

Personally I don't have a super ridgid plan worked out months in advance with all sessions planned out, but I do start every training session with a goal and know the reason I am doing it. I know my key sessions for each week and usually have a few key workouts planned for the 3\4 week block of training. Then its time to reassess, adjust or change, depending on how I am responding. I am also a fan of throwing the odd challenge work out when I can, something that maybe does not fit exactly to the end goal but will challenge me mentally as well as physically. With 2 months of easier base work done so far, its time to up the ante a little over the next few months.


I have set myself a few tough workouts over the next month, using the amazing terrain I have on my doorstep to really challenge myself and get that training adaption kick started.

One work out involves a local hill I live on known as `The Struggle`, and a struggle it is, 4.5km, gradients to 25%, average 8%. If you want to improve cycling hill power its the ideal training ground. The workout is simple, 3 reps, negative splits, effort level just below threshold. Remain seated as much as poss. Repeat over 4 weeks, then ride a 1 rep TT end of rest week to see if its working. Current PB is 21mins07 (Christmas day ;)). 19mins30 is the goal end of February. If I improve, I will be better climbing hills, there are a few of them on Celtman and one or two at Norseman ;)

Link to 'Struggle x3' 

Train smart and don't be afraid to set the bar really high, commit, put the effort in and those dreams might become reality.

See more from Chris Stirling via Twitter and Facebook.

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!