Monday, 16 October 2017

Race Report: Cabbage Patch 10

Yesterday I took part in the Cabbage Patch 10. This is a running event that starts off in Twickenham, follows the Thames to Kingston (er, Upon Thames), up to Richmond and then back down to Twickenham. It begins at the Cabbage Patch pub and is 10 miles in distance, clever name eh?!

I have since found out that this is quite an iconic race, which has been going since 1982. Mo Farah is a previous winner but I didn't really know much about the event. This was because I hadn't actually entered it. the year I turn 65 and will still probably be 10 years from retirement

Mrs Trihard had signed up for the run, along with some friends, to raise money for MDS UK Patient Support Group.

When we first moved to Turners Hill I would take the artist formerly known as Toddler Trihard (now  Trihard Jr 1) to a  playgroup. There I met a wonderful woman by the name of Lisa. She had a son a few months older than Trihard Jr 1, who was two or three at the time.

Occasionally Lisa's husband, Gavin, would pop in as well. I later learnt that Gavin was suffering from a rare malignant disorder, known as myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS).

But you wouldn't know it. Despite the family (they had two older daughters) going through what I can only describe as sheer hell in the time that I've known them, you'd rarely, if ever hear them complain.

Gav was always chatty, ready with a joke and would often have a queue of three year olds waiting for him to spin them round by the arms.

To cut a long story short, Gav, tragically lost his battle in 2016 (months before his 40th birthday), after finding himself at the centre of a political bun-fight over the funding of second stem cell transplants. However, because of Gav, Lisa and the children's tireless and fearless campaigning this policy has been changed, which you can read about (and I strongly urge you to) here.

Despite several lawsuits, the Crown landlord never got tired of the "superglue round the rim of the pint glass" gag.

So, Mrs Trihard and a few of her friends signed up to raise some money for MDS Patient Support. However just a week before the event, due to unforeseen circumstances, a couple of the fund raisers had to drop out.

Out of all the running, cycling and triathlon events I have taken part in there have only been a couple that I have done for charity but it has been very much on my "to do" list to raise some money for the various causes that have helped the Hepburns over the last six years.

And to be honest they are my heroes who inspire me and motivate me on a daily basis. I don't think there are many adults who could have coped with what Ellis (now eight), Tilly (ten) and Olivia (13) have been through, let alone use the situation to help so many others. They are the living and breathing example of the phrase "when life gives you lemons, make lemonade."

So I was more than happy to step in.

And I had selfish reasons for taking part as well. It's been almost a year since I had competed in an event and, as I've mentioned in a previous post, I've been training hard and have lost a bit of weight in recent months, so wanted to (as I described it to Mrs Trihard) "take my new body out for a spin."

Also, I am booked in for a half marathon in January where I would like to break the sub two hour mark (my personal best for a half is just under 2 hr 10 mins) so I wanted to gauge how much work I have to do, to get myself to that level of running fitness.

Preparation, preparation, preparation.

When you've done as many events as I have you know how important it is to get everything prepared the night before and have an early night. Which was why I was out until the small hours, drinking a bar dry for a friend's 40th birthday.

That's right, I was out drinking. And I drank so many alcohol free beers that the bar ran out of them. By the time I got to bed it was 1am (I'm usually tucked up in bed by 10pm) so really wasn't feeling it when the alarm went off at 6am. However after consuming several gallons of caffeine I began to feel that I might just about make it to the start line.

These are proper athletes, so don't bother looking to see if I'm in this photo

Stitch in time

So, arriving at the starting line, Mrs Trihard asked if I could help her with some stretching exercises, which I duly obliged. However it was then that I noticed she had a timing chip on her shoe. I looked around, so did everyone else.

As I mentioned, the night before a run it's good practice to get everything ready - pin your number to your shirt (I did that in the car) and fasten your timing chip to your laces. I'd obviously left it in the car but the car was a good 10 minutes away (well, probably two for Mo Farah).

Realisation set in. If I got a world, European UK or course record it wasn't going to count. If I didn't beat Mo's winning time, it wasn't going to count. Was there any point in me racing?

Well, obviously I was doing it for charity, lots of people had sponsored me (and if you haven't you can here) and I owed it to the Hepburns, so I wasn't going to let them down.

And my expensive new watch (which was actually a huge bargain, thank you Mrs Trihard) would record every microscopic detail of the run. So at least I'd know if I happened to achieve a new world half-marathon record, even if the world didn't.

Go hard or go home

Now I was fuelled up with caffeine I decided what my tactic was going to be to assess my fitness for a half marathon. Should I start off at a pace that I was comfortable with and try and increase it as the race went on? Or should I go at a pace that I knew was the equivalent of a sub 2hr half marathon and see how long I could keep it up for?

All of my training runs involve hills, not out of choice just because its quite hilly round my way. If I want a flat run I have to get in the car and drive, which is obviously rather counterproductive. So to have an easyish run, I still have to take in several inclines. And this is all off-road.

As a result I find I am quicker (relatively speaking) when running on a flat, mainly paved route. So I decided to go at a pace that was a little out of my comfort zone but would give me a taste of what was required for January.

The old stamping ground

Another reason I was eager to do the Cabbage Patch 10 is because I'm so familiar with the area. I went to Kingston University and lived in the area for six years in total. Everyone I was out with the night before I'd met at University, more than 20 years ago. I'd obviously had some very drunken nights out there.

This was going through my mind as we approached Kingston Bridge. It was then that I spotted some freshly laid vomit in the doorway of a shop. I then realised it was Sigma Sports. A very high end Triathlon and Bike shop. I had a bit of a wry chuckle.

I knew that if I had been drinking the night before I would have been feeling pretty ill myself at that moment. Instead I was running through my university town, at a pace that when I was a student would have probably made me want to puke my guts up, with or without any booze.

Any Kingston Uni friends want to join me next year?
Another thought struck me. About seven years ago, I worked in the communications department of Kingston Council. It was during that time that I signed up to my first ever event, the Kingston Breakfast Run. I remember attempting a run one lunchtime, up through a park by the river and back again. I had to stop several times. I've just looked at Google Maps and it's about a mile and a half there and back.

And now I was storming through there four miles into the Cabbage Patch 10.

At the six mile mark I decided to ease up. I'm not sure if this was a wise decision or not. I know it wasn't a pace that I couldn't keep up but even after a mile of taking it relatively easy, I wasn't able to get a good pace back up and was really starting to struggle. However, I realised that if I was able to keep up a moderate pace I might be able to finish in under 1hr 30 mins (a little off the course record of 46 mins 2 secs), which was a lot better than I had been hoping for.

You can't escape it

I was willing myself on but was beginning to feel quite dehydrated, I was absolutely gasping for a drink. I rounded a corner and was confronted with a stand giving out tiny cups of beer.

Beer?! Can you believe it?! Had they not read my last blog?!

I was so thirsty that I almost gave in. "Just a tiny bit wouldn't hurt would it?" I thought. But I pushed on, rounded another corner and was delighted to see the finishing line.

I clocked in at 1 hr 32 mins 7 secs, so what does that equal in half marathon terms? Well despite dropping off dramatically at the six mile mark, my average pace came in at 5.44/km. Over a half marathon this would equate to 2 hrs 0 mins 58 secs...

So with three months to go I am actually wondering whether I shouldn't perhaps set my sights a little higher. Maybe even a sub 1 hr 50 mins. We shall have to wait and see.

I'm coming for you Mo...

Want some micro Trihard? Follow me on Twitter @therealmrtriha1

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

We need to talk about... Cancer

While I generally try to keep things light and entertaining on this blog, there are occasions where I will discuss subjects that aren't necessarily a laughing matter.

Cancer is one of those subjects. I know I am not alone in saying that cancer has taken a number of people close to me. 

In recent years several of my friends have been diagnosed with cancer. 

One of them has beaten it. Another is currently fighting it. One lost his fight, before his 40th birthday.

I have taken part in several events to raise money for various charities that do an amazing job in researching and fighting the causes of cancer and aiding those that are battling with it. 

It's not uncommon to take part in a race and see people wearing t-shirts with a picture of a loved one that has been taken by this vicious disease, or a message for them on their t-shirt.

This never fails to choke me up. Whenever I am out training or racing and I'm starting to flag and want to stop, I think about those that I've lost and the pain they inevitably went through. 

I tell myself that what I'm feeling is nothing compared to the pain they went through and how lucky I am to be fit and healthy enough to run a half marathon or cycle 50 miles.

In my blog where I discussed the reasons I am taking a break from alcohol there is one reason I omitted but was a factor in my decision. And that is because I want to be around for my children for as long as possible. 

Cancer is a lottery, and perhaps I'm kidding myself, but I want to increase the odds of me having a long healthy life. I know cancer is caused by a lot of things so wouldn't want to suggest that anyone who is being treated for cancer encouraged it by drinking.

And I don't want this blog to be about me moralising. I am choosing not to drink at the moment, I have no intention of forcing my views on others. Please bare with me over the next few sentences.

The facts show that alcohol, in the words of Cancer Research UK, "is one of the most well established causes of cancer."

According to Cancer Research, alcohol has been classed as a Group 1 carcinogen since 1988 which "means that there is convincing evidence that alcohol causes cancer in humans." 

Not only this but Cancer Research states that "there’s no ‘safe’ limit for alcohol when it comes to cancer". 

Apparently "regularly drinking even small amounts of alcohol can increase the risk of breast cancer . A review of the evidence in 2012 concluded that having one drink a day (around 1.5 units) could increase the risk of breast cancer by 5%."

All very shocking and sobering (pardon the pun) statistics. So imagine my surprise when I discovered this weekend, that despite offering all these warnings, Cancer Research actively encourage women to drink after completing a half marathon or marathon.

"One drink a day (around 1.5 units) could increase the risk of breast cancer by 5%"

On the Sunday that has just passed I was supporting someone taking part in one of Cancer Research's Race For Life events. These are women only races, pitched as perfect for beginner runners. 

Race for Life offer some fantastic training programs that can be downloaded from its website, including information that, as a beginner, you may be unaware of, such as the importance of stretching.

I did not see anything on their website advocating drinking alcohol as part of training. In fact I couldn't find any information on the importance of rehydrating after such an intense run.

Yet finishers were encouraged to head straight to the prosecco bar for their complimentary bubbly - with the organisers announcing over the loud speaker to finishers "Well done, go and get yourself a glass of prosecco."

I know this is not the only endurance event to offer alcohol at the finishing line. However for a charity that's sole purpose is to raise awareness about the causes of cancer I thought this, at best, gave a mixed message and at worse was incredibly irresponsible.

I spoke to an event organiser (a Cancer Research employee) who didn't agree with my views, stating that it was fine in moderation (which obviously isn't the message given on their website).

So I asked why didn't they give cigarettes out at the finishing line, stating that if three competitors shared a cigarette, by her logic that would be acceptable. Unsurprisingly she didn't agree.

So my question is, why is it acceptable to give out alcohol, which as stated by Cancer Research is a Group 1 carcinogen but not cigarettes? 

In the interests of transparency, I have consumed alcohol within minutes of finishing an event but never after an event that was about raising awareness of the dangers of alcohol.

You could argue that I am overreacting (please let me know your thoughts in the comments below) but I feel this really gives out mixed messaging on the health implications of drinking alcohol. There was a time when smoking wasn't viewed as it is now.

Attitudes to alcohol are slowly changing and surely Cancer Research, of all people, should be leading the charge on this.

I have been in touch with Cancer Research and given them the opportunity to comment, which I would have included in this blog. However after a phone call and three emails they have unfortunately not responded. 

If they do I will happily update this post.

These are the questions I put to them:

1) If alcohol is so harmful why was a free glass of Prosecco offered to those completing Race for Life's half marathon and marathon at Lee Valley park?

2) Does this not give out mixed messaging and encourage people to drink (which isn't recommended after intense exercise)?

3) If alcohol was being offered why wasn't information on the harmful effects, as displayed on your website, also given to allow competitors to make an informed choice?

4) What was the measurement of the glass/unit given to competitors?

5)Why weren't competitors  informed of how much of their recommended daily units this was in case they though they might enjoy another glass or more later in the day?

6) Is it  common practice to encourage competitors to drink alcohol after Race for Life event?

7) Are there any plans to change the policy of encouraging competitors to drink alcohol after taking part in a Race for Life event? If so why not?

8) Are there plans to offer complimentary cigarettes to competitors after taking part in a Race for Life event? If not why not?

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Why alcohol and triathlon don't mix

Confession time. This is actually a rehash of a blog I originally wrote for 220 Triathlon back in 2014. I was blogging about my preparation for the Windsor Triathlon and had been invited to the Surrey Human Performance Institute to try out their Advanced Triathlon Package.

Despite putting in a considerable amount of training and being relatively careful with what I was eating, all the hard work was undone in the space of two weeks.

A rather boozy stag do in Hamburg was swiftly followed by a week's holiday in Greece, where I lazed around eating and drinking.

So I wasn't exactly in great shape when I turned up for an in-depth assessment of my fitness. The findings were quite concerning, so concerning that three years later I've finally decided to do something about it!

So here we go...

We’ve all seen photos and footage of elite athletes powering away on a treadmill with various tubes and wires attached to them.

But I’m not an elite athlete, I’m a less-than-average age-grouper with a bit of a weight problem. Is there really that much I could learn from being put through my paces under lab conditions? Turns out there was.

This is what it looks like from the outside

A weighty issue

The first part of my testing involved a body composition test. Measurements of various skinfolds around my body were taken using what looked worrying like medieval torture instruments. I was pleased to discover that there wasn’t any pain involved.

I was also delighted to find out that I had an estimated body fat percentage of 22.2% which placed me in the “acceptable” category. According to the report I received a day or so after the testing this puts me in the “average” category for both athletic and normal males.

However that’s where the good news ended. The next measurement taken was my waist to hip ratio. This quantifies your distribution of fat tissue around your waist and hip. According to my report storage of abdominal fat is particularly undesirable, as fat tissue is therefore stored in closer proximity to the vital organs, increasing the cardiovascular risk.

My waist-to-hip ratio was 1.02, which is above the recommended level for males (<0.95), putting me at an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. My BMI was calculated as 32.5kg/m2, which is in the obese category. Unsurprisingly it has been recommended that I cut down on alcohol, sugars and saturated fats.

On your bike

Next I took part in a ramped cycling ̇ test which increased at a rate of 30 watts/min. My underlying physiology during cycling was measured through gas exchange analysis of inspired and expired air. Apparently I peaked at 330 watts when my maximal oxygen uptake was 37.4 ml/min/kg.

My anabolic threshold, or AT, (which indicates the intensity of exercise at which the body’s ability to effectively clear circulating lactate from the blood is surpassed) occurred at a power of 210 watts. This was when my heart rate was at 138 bpm, 80% of my maximum recorded cycling heart rate of 173 bpm. My oxygen uptake at threshold was 25.5ml/min/kg (68% of my maximum oxygen uptake). Apparently elite athletes can have an AT of around 90% of their VO2max.

Just a normal Saturday night for me really

Considering the report I received is 17 pages long this is  rather a simplified summary but effectively it was recommended that I alternate sessions where I exercise at an intensity around my AT (40 minutes with my heart rate around 138 bpm) with high intensity interval sessions. The former should help improve my AT while the latter will help me not only lose weight but reduce lactate production and enhance neuromuscular control.

While I know this is pretty much the triathlete’s training mantra (longer, steady rides and runs on some days while others it’s short, sharp intensive drills) this was probably the first time that I actually fully understood the science behind it. Probably because I didn’t do very well in my science GCSEs.

Run for the hills

Finally my running performance was measured through gas exchange analysis while running at incrementally increasing speeds on the treadmill. This was carried out in stages. Firstly the treadmill speed was increased by 1km/h every three minutes until anaerobic threshold was reached. In the second stage, the speed was set 2km/h below the AT and the gradient was gradually increased (by 1% incline per minute) until I cried for my mummy and could no longer carry on.

This is what it looks like on the inside and what I look like from behind

Running is my least favourite part of triathlon and I am particularly slow. However I was pleased to discover that my running economy was “generally very good”. This apparently means I have an efficient technique and therefore improving my physiology (in other words losing the belly) should improve my threshold speed. Again it has been suggested that I alternate sessions between longer runs set roughly at my AT with high-intensity interval sessions.

In conclusion

I am aware that my poor approach to nutrition greatly inhibits my triathlon progression. Seeing the impact this is having in black and white (“increased cardiovascular risk”) adds a slightly different perspective. While I consider myself “fit” it is increasingly evident that I am not particularly “healthy”.

Therefore I think the challenge for the remainder of the season really has to be in reducing this dangerous fat around my vital organs. Improving race times quite bluntly has to be a secondary concern but hopefully the latter will be achieved by tackling the former.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Turbo boost

So tonight is the first turbo training session of the year. As I mentioned yesterday a turbo trainer is a device you attach to your bike to magically transform it into an exercise bike.

Like most things in life there are some major advantages to riding your bike on the turbo trainer and some major disadvantages. Let's start with the advantages.

For a start you don't have to go anywhere. So even on the days when a trip to the gym seems too much you can get the turbo trainer out. It's pouring with rain outside? You can get the turbo trainer out.
It's a bit too windy? You can get the turbo trainer out. You're upset because someone laughed at your lycra cycling gear last week? You can get the turbo trainer out.

Independence Day is on Channel 5 again but you've got a race just around the corner? You can get the turbo trainer out.

However there are some disadvantages. Mainly, like the treadmill, it's incredibly boring. Obviously there are ways to counteract this. As you are in the comfort of your own home you can set it up in front of the TV and enjoy Homes Under The Hammer while you pedal away.

However as Mrs Trihard has banned any such activity from the lounge I tend to set it up in the conservatory among Toddler Trihard's toys and watch DVDs on my laptop. That's right DVD's. None of this newfangled Netflix malarkey for me, I like to keep it old school.

However the other problem of turbo training is it can get incredibly uncomfortable. Half an hour on the stationery bike can feel to your backside like you've done the entire Tour de France, without any of Lance Armstrong's buttock numbing medicine - I think that's what he used the drugs for isn't it?

Anyway to minimise this cheeky issue I bought a new saddle and some rather expensive cycling shorts but it still takes its toll on the posterior.

Another side effect of cycling indoors is the amount of sweat you produce. Unfortunately the corrosive nature of sweat means it can damage your bike. It's a good idea to keep a towel close at hand and perhaps maybe invest in this sexy little number - a bike thong.

Not only does this protect the bike from sweat but there are some handy pockets to keep your remote control, sweeties, whiskey and a distress flare in case you get lost on your cycle.

Another handy bit of equipment is the bike riser. As the turbo trainer raises the rear wheel up it can make it even more unfomfortable on the saddle because you are pushed forward more than you would be out on the road.

Obviously this is where some of the big heavy textbooks, such as The Triathlete's Training Bible and the Lore of Running, can get most of their use but a bike riser does equally as well at lifting the front wheel so the bike is level.

So I'll be loading up the car later tonight to cycle for a good 45 minutes and get all sweaty with my fellow club members without actually going anywhere. While I tried to do a couple of sessions a week at home last year this will be the first time I've actually done a club session so I'm sure I'll discover that I've been doing it all wrong.

Friday, 29 September 2017

Life begins at 90: What I've discovered by having a break from alcohol

I'll warn you now, this is a long one.

I  have a reputation for "liking a drink." Ever since I was 18 (which was obviously when I first ever had a drink because otherwise that would be, you know, breaking the law) I'll happily admit it's been one of my favourite pastimes. I've had some amazing nights out and made some wonderful friends through drinking.
Beer goggles can have some very embarrassing consequences
However it has crossed my mind many times throughout my drinking career that perhaps I like it a little too much.

I don't have a stop button. One pint easily turns to two, which would turns to three and so on and so forth. To be blunt, I am a classic binge drinker, drinking to get drunk.

While I do enjoy drinking, I don't particularly like the after effects and the older I've got the worse hangovers have become. Rather than having a bit of a sore head I was increasingly finding that alcohol was giving me severe anxiety and depression, sometimes lasting for several days after a binge.

And it doesn't take a genius to work out that hangovers and triathlon training aren't a particularly productive mix. So while I would only be drinking once or twice a week, this would invariably lead to one or two missed training sessions a week. On top of this alcohol severely hampers your body's ability to recover from a workout, as well as being a huge source of calories.

And to cap it all off alcohol also releases an enzyme that, for want of better phrasing, makes you want to eat crap. So it's perhaps no surprise that despite taking part in triathlon training, at least three times a week, for the past six years I've never been able to retain a healthy weight.

And while you may have seen Johnny Brownlee staggering around the race course, which, legal fans, obviously WASN'T due to alcohol, it's not an encouraged practice in triathlon circles.

So around three months ago I decided to sign up for a 90 day challenge through One Year No Beer. And amazingly I've completed those 90 days without any slip-ups, which, to be honest, I didn't think was possible.

So how does the OYNB challenge work? Well I don't want to give too many secrets away, if you're intrigued I suggest you have a look yourself, but on day one you're encouraged to write out all the reasons you want to have a break from the booze. The idea is that you refer back to these whenever you feel tempted to imbibe.

So, I thought I'd share some of the reasons why I wanted to have a break from alcohol and whether, 90 days later, I have reaped the benefits.

1) Because alcohol affects my immune system

Long-term readers of my blog will know that, particularly during the winter months, I become highly susceptible to all manner of nasty bugs. This generally manifest itself as a sinus or throat infection but also me feeling washed out, lethargic and generally quite depressed.

However, over the last few years I've almost got used to chronically blocked sinuses, which could flare up at any time, regardless of the time of year. However this is something that has pretty much disappeared, certainly over the last six to eight weeks.

Obviously we are now entering the autumn, so my optimism may be misplaced, but in the last few months I have probably had the longest period I can remember of uninterrupted training - ever.

Yes that is a new bike, no Mrs Trihard wasn't as delighted with the purchase as I was

2) Because alcohol affects my ability to lose weight

As I have mentioned above, for a variety of reasons, alcohol is not great for weight loss. Over the last few years my weight has fluctuated from in excess of 100kg to just below 90kg. On the few occasions that I flirted with the 90kg mark it has been because of intensive training for an event, with the weight soon piling back on.

And even when I have managed to lose weight, that certainly hasn't been due to cutting out the booze.

Because I knew that I was nearer the 100kg end of the spectrum when I started the challenge, it was a good 30 days before I braved the scales. However, as you can see the weight has come off in recent weeks, due to a combination of abstinence from alcohol, a new found discipline to diet and an increase in training.

Insert joke about the strength of the pound since the referendum here
Not only that, rather than resting on my laurels I am certainly in the mindset that there is still a lot of weight to come off.

However I also feel that I am toning up, can recover from training sessions a lot easier and am stronger and quicker than I've been in a long time, if ever.

This man is preparing to eat the man below

Yes that is a new triathlon watch, no Mrs Trihard wasn't as delighted with the purchase as I was

3) Because alcohol won't help me get up and down Box Hill

Day one of the OYNB challenge involves writing down all the reasons why you want to take a break from alcohol. Day two involves signing up for a physical challenge.

Not only that, you're encouraged to sign up to something BIG which will be towards the end of your 90 days. For example, if you've never done a 5k before, aim for a half marathon.

If you've done a 10k before, sign up for a marathon.

A race I've always been intrigued by, but never had the balls for, is the Box Hill Ballbuster (can you see what I did there?).

This involves running an eight mile loop up, down and around Box Hill, followed by cycling the same route three times, followed by a second lap of running.

Yes, that Box Hill.

I'm pretty sure the weather won't be anywhere near as good as this
So obviously I've signed up for it.

One member of my triathlon club, who has done several half iron distance races, has said it's the hardest race he's ever done.

Another member has said "I'll enjoy it", which is code for "you'll be on your hands and knees crying for your mummy."

This is a stock photo so unfortunately I cannot confirm or deny whether any babies were harmed in creating this image
It's not going to be pretty, regardless of what I weigh. But I know that the slimmer I am, the quicker I'll go and the quicker it'll be over. So that's certainly been an incentive to keep on the straight and narrow.

So despite initially signing up for the 90 day alcohol-free challenge this will take me to around 135 days.

4) Because alcohol won't help me make a success of my business

Over the past few years I've combined working on a part time freelance basis with looking after the Trihard Jrs. Now they are both at school I am in the process of building this up to a proper business.

While I've not really been much of a mid-week drinker in recent years, as I've said, hangovers for me can last for days. If I'm setting up my own business I can't afford to be operating at anything less than 100%.

However I've found that I'm now operating at about 300%! I've never felt so focused in my life. Some business goals that I'd set for myself within six weeks, I achieved in less than 10 days.

Challenges that I know would have normally left me incredibly stressed and anxious I've been able to calmly work through. In short, I've never been so productive.

I know there are people that drink more than me and I know there are people that drink less than me who won't feel its necessary to have a break from drinking. But for me, having a break from alcohol is easily the best decision I've ever made.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Mr Trihard meets Joe Wicks - The Body Coach

So I'm going to hold my hands up. This post isn't exclusively about Joe Wicks the Body Coach. It's about an event I attended last week where I got to meet a host of amazing people. But, what can I say, Joe Wicks was probably the most recognisable, so by mentioning him first I'm hoping to draw more people in to reading this post.

A bit of a blurry photo, taken in a rush, but obviously there was a quite a queue of people waiting to have their photo taken with me.

Are you still with me? Great.

So where was I when I met Joe Wicks? Well, my friends at OYNB have got a book coming out in December, published by Pan Macmillan Bluebird and I was lucky enough to be invited along to an event showcasing the publisher's upcoming titles.

In all good book shops from December and probably some terrible ones as well.

I'm sure Bluebird has a succinct tag line that sums up what they do, but I'm going to put it in my own words. Basically Bluebird publishes books which enable you to look after yourself and become a better person.

These range from healthy cookbooks and exercise regimes, like those created by my friend Joe, to self improvement books like that of my OYNB chums, to tackling mental health issues. And as I'm starting to learn all these aspects intertwine.

And along with Mr Wicks I was also delighted to discover in attendance was Annabel Karmel.

Some of you  may not know who Annabel Karmel is, but if you have had a child in the last couple of decades then you'll know that Annabel is responsible for getting a generation of children to eat healthily - without resorting to liquidising vegetables, clamping your beloved offspring's mouth open and forcing broccoli juice down their gullet.

However, once I got over the excitement of being in the company with two authors who have sold millions of books between them, I settled down to hear some remarkable stories and find out about some inspirational books that will also be published in the coming months.

The Stranger on the Bridge

Now, despite being an MBE, Jonny Benjamin might not be a name that is as immediately familiar as Joe Wicks or Annabel Karmel. However there is a high chance you've Jonny's touching story.

Back in 2008, at the age of 21, Jonny had been hospitalised and diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder. Feeling at his wits end he left hospital and made his way to Waterloo bridge, with the intention of ending his life. 

Thankfully Jonny wasn't successful. A chap by the name of Neil Laybourn happened to be passing by and talked Jonny down. Well, that's not quite correct. When recanting the tale, Jonny said the big difference was that Neil took the time to listen to him. So that's an important lesson to takeaway - no matter how busy you are, always try and take time to listen to people who need to talk - you might just save a life.

Two bona fide heroes

Neil then went on his way and carried on with his life. In 2014 Jonny launched a social media campaign to find his saviour which he achieved within two weeks (despite Neil being completely unaware of the campaign!)

Since then Jonny and Neil have firm friends and have tirelessly campaigned to raise awareness around mental health issues, including ThinkWell, an initiative to bring mental health education into schools. This summary doesn't really do their story justice, so I thoroughly recommend checking out Jonny's website to find out a bit more about their amazing achievements, and of course buying the book when it's available.

A Beginners Guide to Being Mental 

Someone I'm ashamed to say I wasn't aware of, prior to last week, is Natasha Levon (also an MBE for her services to children). However, within minutes of hearing her speak, Natasha quickly became a hero of mine.

This is partly because she has spent the past decade talking to school pupils and teachers, in a bid to combat the growing mental health crisis among children (according to mental health charity Young Minds, rates of childhood depression, anxiety, self-harm and eating disorders are up by 600% in certain areas of the UK).

Sticking it to the man!
However another reason is because she wasn't afraid to stick to her principles and well and truly stick two fingers up to the government, when she was appointed as a mental health tsar.

You can read a great article in the Guardian about the circumstances surrounding Natasha's short tenure here, but it appears that the government is more concerned about being seen to be tackling mental health issues in schools, rather than actually tackling mental health issues in schools.

Natasha's input, and emails, were widely ignored by ministers who had employed her (but happily trumpeted the fact that they were tackling the problem, because you know, they'd got Natasha Devon onboard) so she let the government know very publicly how she felt about it. Bravo!

This is definitely a book I shall be checking out when it's published and I truly wish there had been someone like Natasha ringing the mental health bell when I was at school.

Interestingly, Jonny Benjamin spoke about how he suffered from mental health issues as a child, but was more or less swept under the carpet. Come on Tories (and any future governments) you need to pull your finger out on this!

Joe Wicks Fat Loss Plan

Which brings me back to Mr Wicks. The title of Joe's new book is quite self-explanatory so doesn't need any further thoughts from me.

That's a lovely sandwich Joe, but what's for the main course?

However Joe did talk about a new initiative that I found very exciting.

Between 11-15th September, Joe hosted a School's fitness week on his YouTube channel, encouraging children to get a good workout in before the start of the school day. As Joe pointed out, not only does exercise help improve the capacity for learning, but this would go a long way to tackle the obesity crisis.

Trihard Jr 2 has recently started school. Last Wednesday he came home stating "We finally had PE." I've just picked him up from school and after asking what he'd done today, his response was "We didn't have PE today."

Not the most scientific study but it appears that children like running around and engaging in physical activity.

So more of this certainly wouldn't do my children any harm and it might stop Trihard Jr 1 doing multiple handstand in the lounge while I'm trying to watch repeats of Bargain Hunt on the telly.

Anyway, it was quite touching to see how enthused Joe was about this (particularly as he is a former PE teacher, who I have since discovered used to teach the daughter of one of my friends) and I really got the impression that while he has been incredibly successful, it's changing people's lives that gets him out of bed in the morning.

What also was encouraging was how Joe said this wasn't something he was attempting to tackle at government level - which as we have seen from Natasha's experiences, can quite easily be shot down. Instead he was targeting teachers and headteachers to get involved with the initiative.

I'll be keeping my eye out for the next one and will certainly be mentioning it to our headmaster to get our local school involved.

Anyway, I think I've rambled on for enough.

I am hoping to arrange interviews with some of these author's (and some which I haven't mentioned in this post, sorry my fingers have got tired) for the blog at a later date (fingers crossed) but I certainly got a lot of inspiration from the evening.

This is likely to have an influence on the blog as I discuss not only how to be a highly ineffective triathlete, but how to cope with the mental pressures of being a highly ineffective triathlete.

Anyway, catch you all soon and look out for these books when they hit the shops!

Monday, 11 September 2017

Guess who's back, back again?

What year is this?! Who’s the president?! Yes, it’s been rather a while hasn’t it? A couple of years by my reckoning. So where have I been? Was I kidnapped by aliens mid cycle? Did I fall down a well during a run and have only just been rescued by Lassie?

"There's a boy in the well. He's not well and feeling ruff."

Did I get such a horrendous case of man-flu that I’ve only just been able to struggle out of bed? Did I decide that triathlon wasn’t for me anymore?

Er, no. What actually happened is that I got out of the habit of writing this blog and just thought I’d pick it up next week. Next week came around, I didn’t write anything and I put it off until next week.

And then the next thing I know Donald Trump is president and we’re on the brink of nuclear war!

Well, maybe not. But you don’t come here for my political insight, you come here to read about an overweight man in his 30s, trying to not make a fool of himself every time he pulls on the lycra (which by its very definition is an instant fail!)

The picture that launched a thousand modelling contracts

So what have I been doing for the last few years and has much changed in my life? Well, you’ll be glad to know that while I haven’t been writing this blog, I have still been getting my hands dirty in the world of Tri.

In November 2015 (Jesus, it really has been a while hasn’t it?!) I decided to have a crack at what is known as middle distance or Half Iron Distance and entered the Vitruvian triathlon. So after several months of training in September 2016 I successfully became a Vitruvian (or a “Baboobian” as Trihard Jr 2 called it).

That’s right, it’s been so long that the artist formerly known as Toddler Trihard is now almost eight, so we’ll refer to her as Trihard Jr 1. Baby Trihard is now five and at school, so we’ll refer to him as Trihard Jr 2.

So where was I? That’s right - last year I earned the honour to be named a Vitruvian. While that was a massive highlight in my triathlon accomplishments so far, it perhaps doesn’t take the title of the best race of last season. That accolade goes to the Bishop’s Castle Tandem Triathlon.

This involved me swimming 1km, taking to the tandem with my partner for a 40km cycle (with approximately one minute of tandem experience between us, which we’d gained earlier that morning), him taking on the 10km cross country run and then one final sprint on the tandem to the finishing line.

So who was that mystery partner? Well it was a man who needs no introduction (unless you haven’t read this blog before, which is probably most of you), a man who recently broke his 5km pushing a buggy PB, a man who immediately declared he was going to be putting in more brick training sessions (a run directly after a cycle), that’s right, it’s Smug Running Guy aka SRG.

For all you new readers, SRG is one of my oldest friends who I used to get up to all sorts of no good with in my teens. And twenties. And thirties.

It's amazing the range of novelty hats you can buy at a Guns n' Roses gig

However, in the last five years he has turned himself into a finely honed running machine. When I started writing the blog he said he wanted to be mentioned, but was worried that he’d come across as “some Smug Running Guy”. And hey presto, SRG was born.

So how did we do in the Bishop’s Castle Tandem Triathlon? Well that’s certainly a story for a future post. So you’ll have to wait patiently.

So, I’m still around, SRG is still around as is Trihard Jrs 1 and 2 and the love of my life, Mrs Trihard.

Has anything changed? Well something has changed recently. Just under three months ago I decided that I wanted to have a break from alcohol. There are many reasons for this, which I will undoubtedly go into in a future post, but one of those reasons was that I feel alcohol holds me back in my triathlon adventures.

While I’d only drink once or twice a week, I’d find it difficult to moderate when I did have a drink. It not only meant that I’d be lying on the sofa when I should be out training, I found it near impossible to lose weight. The high of finishing a event would soon be replaced with frustration and regret and the thought of “how much quicker would I be if I hadn’t been drinking the last few weeks and had lost more weight?”

As a result I have discovered this amazing group One Year No Beer. Again, this is something I will go into more detail about in future posts but (hyperbole alert!) I think this group has seriously changed my life.

At the time of writing (11/9/17) I have not had a drink for 81 days (not that I’m counting!!!) which has meant a lot more calories burned off and a lot less put in. I initially signed up for a 90 day challenge but have entered a duathlon in November so will be staying dry, certainly until then.

This will take me to around 135 days of being alcohol free. Will I return to drinking after my duathlon? I don’t know.

All I do know is that I feel better than I have in years, have found an amazing network of people and am finally becoming the person I want to be.

I still don't have the figure of Chris Froome or a Brownlee but today I am wearing a jumper that I haven’t been able to squeeze into for a decade!

Anyway, it’s good to be back and the aim is to update the blog once a week as soon as I can pry my laptop out of Lassie’s mouth. Catch up soon!