Month: July 2018


I forgot to say, while I was looking for a 954 FireBlade I had my eye on a few. The others were higher mileage but had upgrades. I’d narrowed it down to 3 that I really liked and was undecided. I was leaning in favour of the one I got, and decided to do a history check on it. You could get one check or three checks for the price of two, so I ran the other bike other as well.

I had been struck by the wording on the ad, but not unduly. “Had if for more than 3 years and never been trashed or abused in my ownership…” In my ownership.  The check came back, it was an insurance write off in 2012!

That was the best £4.99 I’ve ever spent.

The other bit of good news I forgot is my legs. Yesterday on the bike the pain in my knees was so bad I thought I’d broke something. Then I forced them to run 26.2 miles. The best I was hoping for was being able to finish before the injuries crippled me. Last night I could barely walk, but as today has worn on it’s faded to a bad stiffness. I think it may have just been abuse soreness rather than an actual injury. That’s a relief. I can give it a few days to fully recover then I have to crack on with my speed training towards a sub 3 hour marathon. And start swim training. The fast boys (and girls) were out of the lake in fifty odd minutes, I was 1hr 40, again.

Just looking at the breakdown of my race. I came out of the lake in position 884 (out of 880, possibly) I finished in position 485, overall. If I learnt to swim…


More for my benefit here are some stats.

1,025 entrants.

929 started the race (told you it was awful weather. 96 clearly had more sense.)

849 finished the race.

58 Did Not Finish (DNF)

16 Cut Off (told to stop as they were too slow)

4 Queried (something fishy about results, I assume)

2 Disqualified.

Big Week.

A year ago I had a moment of biking epiphany. All my life I’d loved Harleys, Brits, Cafe Racers, etc. Basically pretty engines in stylish bikes. That also sound awesome. While at the same time I poured scorn and contempt on plastic-fantastic, pocket-rocket, ugly, race bikes. Then, in my moment of clarity, I realised that was a superficial and nostalgic view of biking. Air-cooled, naked (no fairings) bikes look gorgeous, sound nice, but just don’t bikey things. The true essence of bikes, the aspiration of the 50’s/ 60’s Cafe Racer is speed and handling. It’s realised in race bikes. I’ve become my own antithesis.

I’ve just bought the most bikey of bikes. The legendary Honda FireBlade. (“The Bike That Changed How Bikes Were Built”.)

The best (older) model. Obviously the tech gets better, the performance gets more extreme, but this is the desirable model of the not-the-latest (£19,000) bike.

I bought the scruffy Honda VFR750 (“The Best Bike Ever Built.” Thinking about it, only Honda get these tags, the other one that springs to mind is the 1970’s CB750 “The Worlds First Superbike”. Kawasaki don’t get “Ugliest Green Bike Ever”, though I’m willing to start using it.) as it was the benchmark for reliability, but still nippy and handled well. I was so impressed I rushed out and got a pristine VFR800fi. I just never took to it. Loads of power, comfortable, the pinnacle of Honda reliability, but chunky. I never felt comfortable throwing it in to a corner.

Suddenly, last week, I had a whim to trade it for a FireBlade. Then I did the obsessive internet research thing and found the model I wanted, only made for 2 years and prized, so dealers were charging the Earth. Instead I sold my VFR800fi and bought one private. 

By some miracle the sale went smoothly and I got the bike I was after. A more of less bog standard, 2003 954cc FireBlade, only 13,000 miles.

Look at the condition of it!


The ‘more or less’ is that white panel on the nose. Don’t like it, but it’s not a deal breaker.

I was scared picking it up, after the last sportsbike I had (the Suzuki TL1000S) that was instant, all-or-nothing, unmanageable power. Plus this one had a brand new, back tyre (they say to be very careful of new tyres for the first 100 miles or they can slide out). And picking it up from South Wales (no bikes are ever local, it’s the law) it obviously rained.

But it’s a Honda. Smooth, easy to ride,docile. And then you turn the throttle. Wow. I’ve never ridden anything like it. 60+ mph first gear, then there are 5 more. What the hell, Mr Honda?

The “Changed The Way Bikes Were Built” thing is the lightness. Until then it was just bigger, more brutish bikes. The FireBlade wasn’t as outright powerful as some but it was so light the power to weight ratio and it’s pure handling blew everything else out of the water. Maintaining the lightness ethos, Honda expanded the ‘Blade range to smaller models. When the 2002/3 954cc came it is was lighter than Honda’s ‘Blade 600cc!

It is stunning to ride.

I picked it up on Friday, then it was last minute preparation for my Outlaw triathlon.

On Saturday I had to pack Wendy’s car full of my bike and kit, drive over to Nottingham, register, drop everything off, attend the pre-race briefing, then drive back. That took my until about 20.00hrs, then I had to be up for 02.10hrs to drive back.

Obviously the weather gods were just waiting to mock me. We’ve had an unbearable, unrelenting heatwave for months, the verges are brown and half dead. I went to pick up my bike and it rained. Of course it did. Then for the Outlaw they were predicting lashing down rain and wind, gusting to 60mph. Naturally.

I don’t know if it was 60mph, but it was hellish strong for a 112 mile bike ride.

This is the afternoon before, note the windsock.


I set of a 03.00hrs, got out on to the M62 and they had closed the M6. Joy. I had to take the long way around,  East on the M62, then South on the M1.

I’m ashamed to say I was half hoping I was going to be too late. Then I could have honourably not done it. The conditions were so bad. Nope.

The swim was OK, the ride was hellish. The wind made it a nightmare. (The word I overheard a few times was “brutal”,) The rain wasn’t great but it didn’t slow me down. The wind just wore me out. And the strain of pushing so hard against it knackered my knees. I was in so much pain by the end of the ride I was glad to get out running. It hurt, but so much less. I managed a really good (considering) 4.18 marathon and ran the whole way. Lots of them were doing swim/bike/walk.

Surprisingly I got a Personal Best! My first (2011)Outlaw I got 13.32:03, the second (2013) was a slack one, (and 30C) so 14.09:52, yesterday I got 13.17:39! Go me!

The breakdown says I was 6 minutes longer on the bike than 2013, the same on the swim, 10 minutes quicker on the run. At first I was disappointed to see I’d made the most time up in transitions (19 minutes total) but on reflection that was because I was fit enough this time to jump straight to the next discipline. I wasn’t shell shocked and stumbling around. The coolness helped, but the wind massively hindered.

This is the happiest I could look afterwards.


I forgot to say, finally given up on the denial and had my hair buzzed back to army chic. *sigh*

I lost 2½ lbs yesterday. And one day I’m expecting to be able to walk again. So it’s all win.

Also our very late tomatoes have finally ripened. Hell of a week!



Final push.

My Achilles tendonitis in my left leg cleared up after a few weeks of nursing it, but then my right tendon started hurting. I think, it’s a combination of things, “too fast too soon” on the run was just the final straw.

I think it’s bike set up as well. I bought a pair of, supposedly, wide fit cycling shoes in the exact size for my foot. The online tutorial on cycling shoes said they should be the snuggest pair of shoes you own. Any movement is losing power and causing friction and pain.

To be honest, they totally suck. I went for another long ride to test them, (I think it was about 100 or so miles) by about 70 miles my right foot was feeling numb so I tried wriggling it around. Big mistake. The pain was so bad I really thought I was going to have to get off and push my bike for 20 odd miles. It was enough to make me shout out. Happily it happened just as I was about to start a steep hill ascent, so I found out that applying pressure to it returned it to just uncomfortably numb. I managed to ride home, but every time I hit bumps or lost direct pressure to my right pedal the pain came back.

I’ve tried adjusting the cleats backward and forward and to the sides, I can ease the pain, but it still hurts. And the punchline is the knee pain I had, that I bought these shoes to cure, is still there. On the other hand it’s kind of swamped by the intensity of the pain in my right foot, so, small victories. I’ve bought a shoe stretcher off eBay to see if I can sort it out. I remembered, afterwards, that was the pain I used to get at work, before the doctor told me my boots were too tight, causing the bones in my foot to grind.  The left shoe is fine. The race is in two weeks so I expect I’ll be using my old shoes. 

While I was trying to eliminate the knee pain I came across another tutorial, by a genuine expert, on the perfect bike set up. Instead of “foot in position X, flat foot, knee bent to Y degrees” etc, she said the seat height is your inside leg times .857 (or something). That’s the distance from the pedal to the top of your saddle. No ifs, no buts.

Fair do’s.

She had her test subject to demonstrate. She said his set up was out by quite a bit (½”) by this formula, then proved it with angle measurements. I applied the science. My set up was out by 3”. Oh.

So all the time I was riding my foot was stretched and the pressure was going on to my tendon. Hence, I assume, the injury. Balls.

I tried adjusting it to the science but ended up moving it back by an inch. It felt like my knees were in my chest. After the race I might do as Wendy said, pay more money and get professionally fitted shoes, and a professional bike fit. I’m throwing money away buying cheaper kit online when it just doesn’t work.

Another last minute glitch is my watch. I bought a Timex Ironman GPS watch in January. It’s the entry level model, ‘only’ £80, but it has multi discipline and transition features and, most importantly, a battery that should last me the whole race. You can’t use the GPS feature on the swim, but after T1 when you switch the GPS on you’ve got 12 hours of battery. That should see me to the end of the race. I think it was my last Outlaw when I just had a timer type watch and I was in saddle sore misery, having to ask people how far I had left. That’s why I need the GPS one. Wouldn’t you know it? After 6 months of faultless service, suddenly the watch refused to connect to the satellites with three weeks left to my race. I’ve been in an email conversation with a very nice foreign person in customer services for over a week, trying all the different fixes they suggested. Finally, yesterday, they called me and said I was to return the watch and they’d replace it. Phew. The watch is in the post, hopefully that’s that drama over with. Assuming the new one works.

I’m going to try to do a big tri tomorrow as my final big effort before the race. I went out today for a 10 mile, fast run. I thought if I was only doing 10 miles I might as well try and make them count. I did it in 1.17:38. Not fantastic, but I kept every mile under 8m/m pace and I’ve not done any speed work for over a month as I’ve been nursing injuries. And it’s been hotter than Maggie’s spot in hell. Just looking, my last 10 miles was in April and that was 1.29:36.

Talking of the weather, I was really worried this unprecedented heatwave was going to full-on kill me on the race, but today we’ve finally had rain. My garden has cracks in it, the grass verges are all brown. The weather people are predicting 21C/ 22C/ 22C for the Mon/ Tues/ Weds before my race on the Sunday. I hope it stays in that range. I’ve been trying to do heat conditioning runs in 27C and it has been wasting me. I did 15 miles the other day and had to have a shower and go to bed for an hour.

I’m getting this race out of the way then starting on the proper swim lessons. On the bike I’m getting my shoes and set up sorted and working out some regime for the turbo trainer. But my immediate concern is going to be working on my run speed in a structured and not damaging fashion.

I want to go sub 3 on the marathon. And I’m not getting any younger.

Ok, that’s it. Apart from finishing my first term of Russian, and Wendy passing her car test first time (!) GO WENDY!  There’s not much else to say. The 7 months I gave myself to go from nothing to Iron distance tri are almost up. 17 days and it will all be over. I want to get a PB but I’m at the stage of wondering if I’m going to finish at all. Fingers crossed.