Sunday, 25 January 2009

Happy days...

Back again for another thrilling download of all things Sparky!

Another great week. With a race on Saturday, this week saw a reduction in overall volume and so much needed rest. 

Swimming continues to go well, I could only make two sessions this week as the third was on race day. The two sessions went well, both totaled 3.6k and including some solid pacing. I'm now holding 1.50 swim & rest as my cruise pace - which is 10 secs quicker than last year. I'm feeling strong and balanced in the water. My body position still needs to improve but my new head position feels good and has made a real difference to my catch, as my shoulders feel in a better position to enable a high elbow. 

Race day was the third in the Coastal Trail Series races, organised by the EnduranceLife guys. These are great events, really well set-up with a great crowd of like-minded people taking part. It was great to see some familar faces from the other races so far in the series, and meet up with a few mates I've met along the way. 

This race was in Portland, Dorset. An early start meant we were at Race HQ to see the marathon guys setting off. A quick hello to a couple of mates and then they were off. I'm telling you that anyone who takes on a trail marathon has my greatest respect. There are some awesome athletes about. 

The half-marathon started at 10.30. My legs have felt heavy all week so I deliberately started slowly. After seeing the terrain on the other two courses I wanted to make sure I could hold a good pace throughout. This paid off, as I felt stronger as the race went on (apart from a mile of running on pebbles at mile 11) and I came in at 2 hours 9 mins. This is 20 minutes quicker than my previous two trail half marathons. This was partly due to the course being the easiest (relatively) so far and my strength improving. 

Kit-wise, I tried a few new things out. I wore my Skinfit Klimasoft base layer, which again is super comfortable (you don't even realise you have it on) and then I wore my Skinfit Vento Jacket as the outer layer. A great little light-weight jacket which is highly breathable and far more adaptable than other lightweight jackets I've tried. Check out Skinfits clothing range. I've got a lot of their kit - so let me know if you have questions. 

In preparation for some longer distance races, I wore a Raidlight waist pack. Really impressed with the Raidlight gear. Its very comfortable, and you can fit all of the important gear you need into the pack. I got the pack from Likeys, who are a great stockist of adventure racing gear. They are also really nice people!

Nutrition-wise, I used some of the Clif Bar samples that were on offer. I've used Clif Bars for a while now and have found them to be the best energy bar out there. They are an organic product, made from natural ingredients and also taste really good. I've found that they don't upset the stomach like some energy products can. I always take them with me when I'm traveling to races, as they guarantee I have a good snack on race morning. 

In addition to the bars, I used the Clif Shot Bloks instead of another energy gel. Again, these are a more natural product which provide a quicker source of carbohydrate. I was really impressed with these, and will be definitely going back for more.

I read a great article about the owner of Clif Bar a few weeks ago in an old edition of Triathlete magazine. The guy started this business in his garage, as he wanted to produce a more natural energy product instead of the highly manufactured products out there. His company are now one of the biggest in the sports nutrition industry, worth millions of dollars, yet he has stayed true to his vision and not sold out. A great story. Check out the Clif Bar site - its really impressive. 

This is another example of a genuine, authentic brand who practice what they preach. I'm adding Clif Bar to my list of great brands, alongside howies and Skinfit. 

You'll notice a common theme here. I believe that these brands represent what's important to their customers. They don't chase the quick buck by selling their soul. They stay true to their core values. These brands will survive the challenging times we are in - the false, manufactured brands will perish - as people see them for what they really are: money-making machines. 

Believe me, I've been in Sales & Marketing for ten years now. I love marketing but I am also ashamed of some of the ploys so-called marketers use to steal honest peoples hard earned cash. 

Stick to you beliefs, be genuine and authentic. Practice what you preach. 

I feel its important that if see someone doing a good job, you should tell someone about it. Help a friend. We'll could all do with a little help from our friends. 

See you in seven,


Sunday, 18 January 2009


Ok, got to keep this weeks post short as I promised myself I would be in bed for 9pm and its now 8.50pm!

Training has been superb this week. I've felt really pumped up for it all week and even managed to get on the turbo! I've managed to keep my promise of getting out on the bike every weekend of the year (apart from race days) and I have had a good a swim week as I can remember. 

Key highlights: 
3 great swim sessions - 4.3k, 4.1k and the first T30 swim I've done (covered 1.75k). Felt great all week and really pleased with where I am for this time of the season. 

Pilates - I'm loving my twice weekly classes and am feeling the benefits in my core, posture and overall conditioning. Highly recommend taking up these classes if you are serious about your long term well-being. 

Saturday bike - only 1 hour 45 mins but the most pleasing thing was that I got out. After the T30 swim I was shattered and really didn't fancy taking on the gusty winds. But I got out and a decent little session - staying in the big ring throughout and holding a decent pace. 

Sunday run - 2 hours off-road covering 13 miles. After a big week, this hurt but was ultimately satisfying. Must admit that I didn't enjoy as much as usual due to tiredness and slippery conditions. Had a hot bath straight after to warm up but it made me feel 10 times worse! 

Just a short note on non-training stuff - as you know I like to download what is on my mind!

The reason for the title of this weeks post is due to the historical event taking place in America this week. Barack Obama is filling the world with optimism about positive change. Driving home tonight I heard John Lennon's Imagine, what a great track for this week (and all weeks). Lets all imagine a better world, and then make it happen...

See you in seven...


PS - Check out this great site which I read about on howies site -

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Let's make it simple

This week I saw one of the most beautiful quotes I have ever seen. Where was this piece of inspiration? It was on a t-shirt!

The t-shirt was featured in the winter catalogue of one of my favourite brands, howies. I'll get back to why howies are one of my favourite brands below, but I'll let you know this quote which has left such an impression on me: 

So true it is beautiful. Those who have spoken to me over the last few years, will testify that I seek simplification. I hate noise, clutter, fuss and impurity. I hate non-genuine people, companies, brands. I believe in a simple, pure live. I am striving to live my life in as a pure and simple (no Hearsay jokes) as possible. 

Sport is a great vehicle for enabling me to do this. When I am training, racing etc, nothing else matters. It declutters my mind and my soul. My goal this year is to widen this declutter state into other parts of my life, but more about that at another time...

Lets get onto bringing you upto speed with my training...

I've really enjoyed my training this week. Three good swim sessions, finishing with a very satisfying session on Saturday. Although legs were tired I felt good in the water and my work on a new head position felt like it was paying off. 

The new position is holding the head slightly higher in the water, focusing the eyes on the entry point as opposed to the bottom of the pool, which was causing me to pull my head down too far. This came from some feedback from poolside, proving how invaluable a coach is, especially in swimming when you cannot see yourself as easily as when running and cycling. 

Run-wise, a couple of nice little sessions on the treadmill and then my favourite session of the week, the Sunday trial run. Only 75 minutes today but loved every minute of it. Legs were heavy after yesterdays double session and the slippery tracks added to the difficulty but it is so invigorating going out on across the fields without a car in sight. 

Got on the turbo this week but only to turn the legs over. I know the plan is to work through a scheduled session but I must admit I do struggle for motivation on the turbo. Watching Remember The Titans on my iPod helped pass the time and inject some much needed motivation. Went out on the road bike yesterday, only 90 minutes but a satisfying ride as didn't really feel up for it after a poor nights sleep the night before and a strong swim session in the morning. 

A few other things I'd like to share with you guys (and I'd appreciate your feedback on whether you find these interesting or not) are things which I have made an impact with me over the last few weeks. 

I'm currently reading a great book called Into The Wild by Jon Krakauer. Its the story of Chris McCandless, a young lad who had a dream and followed it. It cost him his life but it appears that this was a cost he was willing to pay. A movie of the book has been made and I highly recommend watching it. It has had a profound effect on me. The soundtrack by Eddie Vedder is awesome and works so well with the film. 

Friends often ask me for recommendations on training, diet and equipment. I plan on sharing my thoughts on each of these throughout my posts. I'm no coach but I know people often prefer the word of a friend over that of an advertisement or magazine review. Word of Mouth is a genuine as your friends are - so choose your friends carefully!

Authenticity and being genuine are two attributes I place right at the top of my list when choosing anything.

Two brands which I feel encapsulate authenticity and are truly genuine in their core values are howies and Skinfit

I wear a lot of Skinfit kit and have never been disappointed with anything I have bought. They are an Austrian brand who have a strong following in Europe. In the UK they are a small operation, ran by Eve & Anthony Roberts (their colleague Joss also deserves a mention - fantastic!)

I'm currently wearing Skinfit's klima soft base layers and I have to say the are the most comfortable items I have ever worn. You don't know you have them on. Superb quality - highly recommended. 

howies are a clothing company based in Cardigan, West Wales. Actually, its unfair to say they are a clothing company because they are much than that. Just check out their website (link on left-hand side) and you'll see what I mean. I think you'll agree its a truly beautiful site. 

These guys are 100% genuine in their beliefs and core values. This shows in every touch-point with them - this isn't just a marketing ploy aimed at the affluent weekend warrior. Their off-line marketing is superb - order a catalogue - it's a work of art containing some beautiful writing. Their site has some great articles, photographs and least of all their clothes look fantastic. Sign up for their 'T-shirt of the week' - its a great concept, providing designers with the opportunity to get their work published. 

My mate LJ has a couple of items from their merino range - and won't stop raving about them - they are the most comfortable items he has ever worn (and he's a lot older than me!)

howies merino products deserve a special mention just for the incredible catalogue they have produced for these products. The catalogue is a really interesting read and taught me a lot more about how much love and thought they have put into ensuring that only the highest quality merino is used. The use zque merino - the best in the world. Don't take my word for it - go onto their site and download the brochure. It's a great read and another example of how genuine these guys are. 

So, in the spirit of helping like-minded people, please check out these two brands as they are a rare breed in todays world: genuine, authentic people who truly believe in the right core values. 

I truly believe that the current climate will see like-minded people unite and help form a new purer, less materialistic world where the true core values (which money can't buy) will become the pillars of a new society where we will be judged by our actions and not just empty words & promises.  

Catch you all next week, 


Sunday, 4 January 2009

Where do I start?

Well, its taken a while but here is my much anticipated (by me) second post....

I've been pondering over what subjects to cover off this week, as I see these being a weekly occurrence, but i've got so many thoughts and ideas flying around that I am going to try and share these more regularly to begin with. 

So where do I begin...

Let's get the basics out of the way first. 

Training over the last seven days has been sporadic to say the least. So, therefore, I will say the least about it. I haven't been terribly motivated and the festive celebrations knocked me for six - leaving me feeling tired and weak. 

I did manage a couple of good sessions over Saturday and Sunday (today). It felt great to be back in the pool yesterday morning & even better to be in the company  of like-minded people. At the pool I heard about a 100km MTB race called Hell of The North Cotswolds which I rushed home to enter. This gave me the kick to get out on the bike and experience the beautiful cold, crisp weather. A short, tough session helped blow some those Guinnesses away!

This morning I flew out of bed as I knew that my favourite session of the week was waiting for me. I travel back to my parents house in Ross on Wye and get out on the trails. Its amazing - I can go out for hours (just 90 mins today) and not see a single car or run on any roads....I'll share some photos I took later. 

This years Xmas period was the clearest indication that my life has changed for good. I no longer miss the "cheeky few with the boys" back in my home town, those days have gone. The fond memories will remain but they will just be memories, time & people move on. 

I'm moving on. I truly feel on the brink of starting a new period of my life. I feel an urge to be more creative and do more meaningful activities. Where has this come from? I don't know but I do feel it is related to me being less materialistic than ever before. 

Times are hard for all of us, and will be getting harder. However, I welcome this challenging climate as I feel it is what society needed. If we all begin to realise that the greatest pleasures in life are self-driven and not purchased by money then we should all learn to be more tolerant, sharing, compassionate and generally "better" people. 

There has been a lot written recently about "surviving the credit crunch" but the best piece I have read was in todays Sunday Times. It was a piece written by Bryan Appleyard. I'll try and dig out a link to the article for you all. I also read another piece which had an image in the background quoting 3 simple lines: 

Work like you don't need the money
Love like you've never been hurt
Dance like nobody is watching

I'm going to hold onto these lines as they really encapsulate my current state of mind....

Speak soon,