Tunbridge Wells Half Marathon 2019

I was back in Tunbridge Wells this weekend, catching up with family and friends … and running my hometown half marathon.

The race has grown in popularity since I last ran it 15 years ago. Back then it was just a handful of runners – yesterday’s race had over 1500 entrants. It was a bit of a spontaneous opportunity to see my family so the race itself was very much a low-priority event. Therefore my goal was to have a low-stress race and enjoy myself … but to reap the rewards of a solid Winter’s training and beat my younger self obviously!

It was a fantastic event by the TW Harriers getting all the important details right like marshals, signage, bag-drop and lots of toilets! And there was great support out on the route through some beautiful and hilly Kentish villages. A brute of a mile-long climb at Fordcombe did some damage to my pace and energy reserves but that’s what makes this such a notoriously tough race.

I ran with a group for the first half of the race, clocking an initial 10K PB of 38:53. Certainly a lot faster than I had intended but the race is mostly downhill to start before the climbing begins so it felt quite manageable.

The course profile with my pace overlaid
At the halfway point I found myself breaking from a nice little group, without it necessarily being a conscious decision


A Royal Flush of PB’s

Racing at threshold is as much a mental as physical battle so I try not to overthink decisions during a race. Fortunately I had judged it well and didn’t see the group again. To the extent that I had the luxury of an empty stretch of tarmac over my shoulder for the final mile and could cruise home for a solid 31st place and a personal best time of 1:25:09.

Eyeing up the finishing line

My priority early season race is the faster and flatter Bath Half in 3 weeks time. So my goal for this race was to reacquaint myself with the longer distance and survive without any cock-ups. Saying all that, writing this the evening after the race I’m definitely feeling pretty tired. I guess there’s no ‘easy’ way to run 13 miles … especially when you give your wife a weekend to herself and wrangle the children on top! On to the next one …

Tunbridge Wells Half Marathon – still smiling!

Going tubeless

I decided to go tubeless. It’s all the rage apparently. Excellent puncture resistance and ride quality, they say. A small sacrifice in weight apparently, but on a steel frame commuter bike it’s all just extra training! Why the bloody hell not. Embrace modern technology you old fart.

First outing on the space-age tech was this morning’s 20 mile commute to North Bristol. With my reformed stone-age mentality, I set off at 6.30am to be at work for 8am. Half an hour in and I felt the unfamiliar sensation of a flat. I’d previously been riding on the same Conti 4 Seasons for almost 2 years without one. Why oh why would the evil Puncture Gods choose to smite me now. After several years being a devout retro-grouch and resisting all change to tubeless I’d finally made a sacrifice to the Gods and killed off my clinchers.

Spadge leakage

No drama I thought. Just stick in a bit more air in and wait for the magic sealant to fill the hole. This didn’t work. Therefore, drama.

Luckily I had a couple of spare inner tubes so I decided to ‘just’ whip off the tyre and stick in a tube. Ho-ho. It went roughly like this:

  1. Struggle to remove tight-as-fuck tubeless tyre
  2. Legs and shoes get sprayed with sealant
  3. Struggle to remove valve with freezing fingers
  4. Insert tube getting sealant all over hands
  5. Struggle for ages to get tight-as-fuck tubeless tyre back on rim.
  6. Break a tyre lever.
  7. Realise that I will probably split the inner tube with the lever but also realise I have no alternative so press on
  8. Once tyre is on, use ‘magic’ CO2 canister to reinflate tyre.
  9. Notice that tyre is not reinflating, therefore realise I am simply polluting atmosphere with magic CO2
  10. Look around, see that nobody is nearby and shout “FUCK” at top of lungs
  11. Realise that some of the cars that are driving past are probably thinking “ha ha, stupid cyclist”
  12. Repeat steps 1 – 5 with second tube
  13. Locate backup mini pump. Try to reinflate second tube. Pump is broken. Haven’t used it for years.
  14. Stand on side of road for 10 minutes waiting for another cyclist.
  15. Flag him down and kindly borrow his pump
  16. Inflate tyre and say big thanks bro etc.
  17. Recommence journey
  18. Notice that tyre is going flat again.
  19. Repeat Step 10
  20. Phone a friend who laughs. Decide to ride to friend’s office as there is a bike workshop next door
  21. Ride 5 miles on a flat tyre. Almost fall off on a couple of corners
  22. Get to friends office at 8.15am. Everything is closed.
  23. Reception opens at 8.30am and they have a magic bike repair box
  24. Take a new inner tube from magic box
  25. Discover that someone has borrowed the pump from the magic box and not returned it
  26. Get friend to help install 3rd tube.
  27. Repeat steps 1 – 5, being thankful that friend also finds it a massive effing struggle and it’s not just me being a puny woos-bag
  28. Wait for bike workshop to open and borrow track pump
  29. Go to friend’s office for a nice cup of coffee
  30. Continue journey to work and arrive at 10.15am, almost 4 hours after setting off
  31. Be grateful that first meeting at work is not until 11.30am
  32. Eat food and drink coffee
Thumbs up for tubeless

Luckily my journey home was totally non-eventful. General advice from people I’ve spoken to is that new tubeless tyres can take a couple of rides to ‘bed in’ properly. Maybe I should’ve done a couple of local rides on them first.

Broken lever, pointless CO2 – rescued by a proper Conti tube

Change, eh. Who needs it!

Luckily, sometimes things are so bad that they end up being funny. And you realise that if this is the biggest hardship you have to deal with in life then you’re doing pretty well.

N+1, the full scientific rationale

In the name of science (but mostly marketing) I recently landed the gig of pedalling and posing in a wind tunnel. I got a call from 220Triathlon asking if I’d be interested in a day’s work being prodded, poked, photographed and tested at the new Boardman Performance Centre in Evesham.

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The morning was spent with a physiologist who carried out a biomechanics analysis of me. I had a bunch of electrodes stuck to my body and rode a Watt Bike with state-of-the-art pedals to analyse every conceivable force in my pedal stroke, while sat on a pressure-sensitive saddle to electronically map every squeak of my bum. It produced a wealth of information – probably more data than was needed to send man to the moon, and certainly more than I would know what to do with. But nonetheless, it was pretty cool to geek out and have an insight into all the technology that’s being used by professional cycling teams these days.

The afternoon was spent playing in the wind tunnel.

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The real-time feedback was incredible. You can see from the image above that there was a screen on the ground in front of me. This displayed a side-on profile (with a baseline silhouette) and gave a reading for my current aerodynamic drag (CdA). Making small adjustments to my position told me the difference this was making to my drag.

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All of this data was being analysed by the technicians in the lab. We then ran a series of tests trying out different positions. For this they used a Boardman rig, partly as it was easier to make quick changes but also because they understandably wanted to get their branded bike in the magazine. They also had a selection of helmets for me to try.

There were a few quick fixes to improve my position, and others that may justify n+1 bike purchases. More on that in future blog posts!

As well as appearing in 220Triathlon, it appears I’m the also face (or more accurately the legs) of the new Boardman wind tunnel website. Luckily my face isn’t taking it too personally.

boardman site

So, no pressure then

I did some more work with 220 Triathlon magazine in September. They asked if I would spend the day running and cycling in various locations around Bristol for a feature on duathlon. I assumed it would be a review of the kit, but a couple of weeks before my big European-qualifying duathlon race, the mag dropped through the door with this headline:

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1 way to tempt fate

I would have been more suited to a feature on ways to f**k up a duathlon. Doing extra laps on the bike leg, turning up late for races, incurring time penalties, not practicing transitions, eating right before the start, going too hard on the first run, going too hard on the bike … I reckon I could come up with at least 36 mistakes I’ve made this season!

Obviously I’ve come in for a bit of justified mickey-taking from friends and club mates for all of this posing in lycra for photographers. But I now had the added a pressure to ‘smash’ my attempt at Age Group GB qualification.

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The first part of the shoot was carried out on the Clifton Downs. And before you ask, yes it definitely is a nice enough area to go for a run and leave your thousand-pound bike unattended by a park bench.

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I had several different outfits to wear for the shoot. I got changed in a wooded area in the middle of the park. Item 37 in a feature on duathlon / triathlon should be “lose any inhibitions about getting your bum out in public”. Fortunately, unlike at my recent hill climb, nobody called the police this day.

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The second part of the feature was in Leigh Woods. It was starting to get a little bit tiring by this point. I’d been running and cycling short distances, before turning around and doing it again and again for several hours. We finished off with some trail riding on a mountain bike.

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My “MTB-bro’s” all laughed at me for this picture. I don’t think the shaved legs and lycra shorts are very cool in their world! Apparently I look like a complete ‘newb’. They could well be right – the last time I did a mountain bike triathlon I misjudged a jump and hit a tree stump, sending me over the handlebars! I prefer to keep the rubber to the tarmac.

Anyway, I somehow managed to learn from most of my previous 36 ways to mess up a duathlon and qualified for the European Championships next season. Let’s hope I can smash that…

GB Qual

Chew Valley CC Hill Climb 2018

At the end of last year I decided to host a hill climb race. The idea probably arrived at the end of an evening in the pub. How hard can it be? Surely all you need is a couple of stopwatches and some cake…

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As it turned out, it was a lot of work. Similar to planning a wedding, except I had to find timekeepers instead of a Minister, Marshals rather than Ushers,  cake bakers as bridesmaids and a village hall instead of a church. As the big day loomed, I was worried that my diet hadn’t quite gone to plan and fitting into my dress was going to be a squeeze.

75 people signed up to race, including 16 from Chew Valley CC – most of whom had never raced before. Fortunately I had enough support from friends and family with running the day that I felt confident enough to race too. My wife and her family took charge of baking the cakes and running HQ. Friends signed up to race and offered to be marshals. And lots of the village came out to support. It gave the day a real community feel.

Click here for GoPro footage of Reuben Bakker-Dyos racing up the hill

I set myself off first so that I’d have time to get back down the hill and be ready for prizes and presentations. I’d ridden the hill quite a few times in the weeks leading up to the event so was pleased to set a PB. Racing was the least of my worries for the day; I’m not necessary advocating this but if you’re someone who gets really worried about racing then try racing in an event that you organise. The fear of racing is very much secondary to the fear of the event being a failure. I’d done my best to notify everyone who could be affected by the race (or could affect the race), but there’s always something unexpected that could happen.

The race was part of the district hill climb series so had attracted most of the best hill climbers in the region. So despite being 1st place amongst my friends and clubmates, I was 30th overall. If you invite all the big kids to your party, you have to accept that they might smash everything up!

Thanks for smashing my hill to pieces

Anabell Orenz and Andrew Feather produced dominant performances to claim victories. Feather was the only rider to go under 5 minutes with a time of 4:56 to secure his fourth consecutive victory at hill climb events.

The police even turned up mid-prize giving to answer a dubious complaint from a disgruntled neighbour who thought the noises of horns on the hill was hunt protesters. A friend commented that it’s not a proper party unless a neighbour calls the cops.

The noise culprits!

The event raised £150 which was donated to the local primary school to pay for Bikeability training for the kids. And was featured by BikeRadar in their weekly YouTube blog about hill climbing.

1 Andrew Feather BCR Racing 00:04:56
2 Sam Lindsay 73Degrees CC, WestSide Coaching 00:05:03
3 Phil Stonelake Bristol Road Club 00:05:12
4 Glyndwr Griffiths 73Degrees CC, WestSide Coaching 00:05:16
5 Joe Norledge Bristol South Cycling Club 00:05:17
6 Robert Borek Bristol South Cycling Club 00:05:19
7 Jamie Atkins University of Bristol Cycling Club 00:05:25
8 Ben Millar BikeCity T3 00:05:26
9 Joe Hawksworth Bristol South Cycling Club 00:05:27
10 Kevin Thomas Chippenham & District Wheelers 00:05:30
11 Ben Wainwright Team Tor 2000 | KALAS 00:05:39
12 Charles Coleman Velo Club Walcot 00:05:40
13 Reuben Bakker-dyos BikeRadar 00:05:42
14 Jack Phillips 73Degrees CC, WestSide Coaching 00:05:45
15 Michael Shute Mid Devon CC 00:05:45
16 Nick Livermore Bristol South Cycling Club 00:05:47
17 David Cullen Bristol South Cycling Club 00:05:48
18 Gordon Markus Severn Road Club 00:05:49
19 Jacques Coates Cycle Team Onform 00:05:50
20 Adam Whitehead Bristol South Cycling Club 00:05:50
21 James Pittard University of Bristol Cycling Club 00:05:52
22 Ted Cross University of Bristol Cycling Club 00:05:54
23 Adam Whittaker Salt and Sham Cycle Club 00:05:55
24 Steve Thomas Bristol Road Club 00:05:56
25 Matthew Skeats University of Bristol Cycling Club 00:06:02
26 Andrew Metherell Salt and Sham Cycle Club 00:06:02
27 Sean Leadbeater Severn Road Club 00:06:03
28 Elliot Brunt-murphy Radeon-Cycology RT 00:06:05
29 Jerry Rayner Westbury Wheelers 00:06:11
30 Mark Jerzak Chew Valley Cycling Club 00:06:18
31 Andrew Turner Bristol South Cycling Club 00:06:20
32 Michael Gates Maison du Velo – Storck Bikes UK 00:06:24
33 Jack Luke BikeRadar 00:06:28
34 Morgan Lloyd Towy Riders Cycle Club 00:06:32
35 Will Clarke DAS RAD KLUB 00:06:33
36 Anabell Orenz North Cotswold CC 00:06:34
37 Lauren Johnston Avid Sport 00:06:35
38 Andy Collins Chew Valley Cycling Club 00:06:36
39 John Grenfell A2B Cycle Repair Race Team 00:06:36
40 Jim Miller Chew Valley Cycling Club 00:06:38
41 Joanne Jago Performance Cycles CC 00:06:38
42 Cameron Porch Avid Sport 00:06:39
43 Jasmine Jones Cardiff Ajax CC 00:06:42
44 Robin Hunt Bristol Road Club 00:06:52
45 Kate Baker Avid Sport 00:06:57
46 Rob Nash Bristol South Cycling Club 00:06:58
47 Emily Slavin University of Bath Cycling Club 00:07:14
48 Gavin Estcourt Chew Valley Cycling Club 00:07:18
49 Becky Dodds Velo Club Walcot 00:07:29
50 Drew Murray Chew Valley Cycling Club 00:07:35
51 Heidi Blunden The Racing Chance Foundation 00:07:43
52 Steven Mabey Chew Valley Cycling Club 00:07:52
53 Katherine Brand Bristol South Cycling Club 00:07:56
54 Richard Burt Solihull CC 00:08:05
55 Philip Peat Chew Valley Cycling Club 00:08:11
56 Michael Willis Performance Cycles CC 00:08:23
57 James Manthorp Chew Valley Cycling Club 00:08:27
58 James Pike Chew Valley Cycling Club 00:08:27
59 Michael Shaw Chew Valley Cycling Club 00:08:37
60 Louis Pearn Chew Valley Cycling Club 00:13:48

Castle Combe Summer Duathlon

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I took part in the final Sprint Duathlon of the summer series at Castle Combe this week. After the frustration of getting a stitch during Run 2 of my previous duathlon, I was hoping to have a trouble-free race. I suppose it ought to be obvious, but duathlons always seem to present far more challenges than racing a bike. The simplicity of riding a bike falls to pieces when you try and bookend it with a couple of runs at full tilt. During most duathlons I spend the first run looking forward to being on my bike, and the second run questioning why I put myself through such pain.

I was held up by traffic en route to the race so didn’t have much time for a warm up. I’d been hoping to do a couple of laps on the bike as well as practicing mounting and dismounting, but in the end I had to make do with sprinting from my car to the toilet blocks. I was grateful that I hadn’t ended up adding ‘DNF due to traffic’ to my list of duathlon disasters.

Once again, my tactics were to keep calm and run a conservatively paced race. Despite the name of the event, anything lasting upwards of 45 minutes is definitely not a “sprint” and should be treated as an endurance race.

The first run went smoothly. I ran on feel, only taking a couple of glances at my watch in the final kilometre to see my pace and heart rate, more out of interest than for pace setting. I worked out that I was in 10th place coming into the first transition. I’d received quite a lot of triathlon kit after my work for 220 Triathlon magazine so I decided to test some of it during this race. I know the advice is not to do something new during a race, but I don’t tend to go out for training rides in full aero kit and practice jumping on and off my bike. Maybe I should. Anyway, I thought a low-key, local race was a good place to try out the kit.

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The Catlike Triathlon Helmet was the first helmet I’ve worn with a tail. From the photos it looks like it could have been a bit higher on my head to tuck more snugly into my back. Or possibly my head could have been lower. Mine came second-hand, without a visor so I did Run 1 wearing sunglasses, hoping to slip the helmet over the top. During T1 the sunglasses sprung off my face and across the tarmac! Suddenly that advice seemed sensible. The other issue with a tailed helmet is that they don’t perform well aerodynamically if you look down. For the first lap of the bike my neck felt a bit stiff but I forced myself to keep my face up. Luckily the pain subsided, or more likely moved somewhere else like my legs or lungs. It’s a bit like poking yourself in the eye to stop yourself thinking about a stomach ache. It kind of works.

The Huub Tri Suit was a medium size but it rode up on my legs and resulted in a bit of inside-thigh chafing. The padding was also very thin so wasn’t particularly comfortable. There wasn’t a rear pocket which stressed me out a little bit when getting ready, but then I found a clever little key pocket in one of the arms to keep my car key safe.

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I came into T2 in 5th place, and afterwards saw that I was 3rd fastest on the bike during the race. The first few hundred metres of the run were awful. I thought I had paced things well, but I had an overwhelming desire to turn around and give up. Everything hurt. I slowed the pace a touch and forced myself to keep going. Luckily the pain released its grip on me and I found a steady rhythm. I was overtaken by a few competitors to finish the evening in 9th place and set a PB by 35 seconds. I was reasonably happy about the time and position, but mostly just pleased with my resolve to keep going when every part of my body wanted to stop. Will power.

The duathlon love-hate relationship goes on…

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Don’t give up your day job

I managed to pick up some fairly random work recently, doing a photo shoot with 220Triathlon mag. I’m only really a triathlete in the sense that I seem to have tried a lot of different careers over the last few years. At least 3 serious ones anyway. But this latest career-path tangent was never on the agenda. It was good fun, cycling around Bristol on some pretty flashy bikes and I ended up with some new kit as a thank you for my time too. But from a financial point of view, if I want to keep up cycling as a hobby I’d be wise to stick to engineering! The article is in September’s issue of the magazine.