The Paleo Chronicles: Eat Bacon. Jog Sometimes.

Starting in 2010 I read all the early Paleo diet books. Wolf. Sisson. Devany. Hines. I skipped the popular wave and then started again in 2014: Tam, Petersen, Sanfilippo and Durant. Notable mentions for Instinctive Fitness by Oliver Selway and Eat, Move and Be Healthy by Paul Chek. Robb Wolf's new book, Wired To Eat, is also excellent.

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I wasn't hunting, gathering or pulling my wife from our cave by her hair. Yet I've definitely used these books as well as paleo websites and podcasts to create a framework for making good food choices. I've experimented. I've had good weeks, I've had bad weeks but I've always known where I wanted to go.

Maximize fresh, local vegetables. Eat Good Meat. Eggs, Fish and Fruit. Some potatoes and white rice. Drink water. Eliminate processed foods, sugar (except occasional dark chocolate in small quantities) and salty snacks. Minimize caffeine. Enjoy good bread or beer when appropriate.

At the beginning we worked hard on the logistics. Planning menus. Learning new recipes. I started enjoying cooking. Sourcing food. Shopping locally. Strolling to the markets. Asking questions at farm shops. We joined a vegetable collective. I started getting up early to prepare breakfast and packed lunches.

I'm embarrassed. It wasn't until I was nearly 40 that I started to understand that what I was eating had a huge impact on me emotionally and physically. When I was a competitive athlete poor eating habits must have hampered performances and are partly at the root (!) of ongoing and costly dental work, including braces!

There's no science here. It doesn't interest me. But I've felt the benefits. Constant energy levels. Better mood. More motivation. I eat and drink less in endurance events. I'm leaner, lighter, stronger. Foods taste better. But over the years I've not been consistent enough. Too many excuses. I don't like that.

This year I've got more time to prepare food and shop.  I want to improve my cooking skills and experiment with recipes. I've made a family menu planner that I'll post on the kitchen door every week. I'll be mainly using the new Nom Nom Paleo book for ideas, techniques and meal planning. 

Triathlon Goals For 2018 & 2019

End of season update of what I wrote in January. Don't train. Stay fit. Be ready for anything.

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  1. Have a simple, repeatable training week in Munich. Lift daily. Eat well.
  2. Race local, often, short and hard.
  3. Stay fit through the winter. Start XC skiing.
  4. Do the BTS Club Championships and get back to Vesoul.
  5. Swim 100m in 1:05. 400m in 5:20. Run 5km in 17:30.
  6. Find and enter more team time trials.
  7. Race on a bike and wheels that I built myself.
  8. Race in a singlet that I sewed myself.
  9. Improve my German to get involved in club life.
  10. Tour from my garage every year.
  11. Do some long, steady trail runs.
  12. Complete a long distance triathlon at a steady pace.
  13. Take an annual triathlon road trip.
  14. Document more. Here and here.
  15. Improve cornering and get some criterium racing experience.
  16. Race twice in a weekend. 
  17. Leave one day per week free for family adventures.
  18. Qualify for Lausanne 2019 Draft-Legal Sprint. Finish top 10.
  19. Coach the boys in all 3 sports. Get them to as many races as possible.
  20. Give away old equipment. Buy tubeless race wheels and a better wetsuit.

Dorney, Deva and ITU Worlds in Rotterdam

If I was going to commit more time to triathlon training in 2017 I wanted to use my fitness to really RACE. Toe to toe. Gun to tape. Sprinting for the line. With guys like me.

I wanted a multi-step challenge with the potential to fail. I've never raced an AG Worlds before but the dates lined up. Thanks to Stuart for being my travelling buddy.

The original plan was to qualify for both the draft legal sprint and the standard distance. In Mexico in 2016 the sprint was on the Thursday and the standard on Sunday.

At the end of May we made a quck trip by car from Strasbourg to Dorney. We stayed with my parents just 5km from the race venue at the Eton College Rowing Centre.

Near the front after the swim, I worked with Mark Whittaker on the bike. He was stronger than me but also much more skillful through the corners. Something to work on!

To stay injury free I 'd decided not to run much this year.  Mark ran off and Neil Collins passed me at about the 2km point.  I just held on for 3rd. See pain face above.

For Deva in Chester we flew from Basel to Manchester and rented a car. The race was one of the slickest run events I've ever done. Scenic, safe, friendly and hassle free.

I swam steadily at the front of the wave and used my roller training to keep a high cadence on rough roads. I gave everything I had left on the run. A surprising age-group win!

When the programme for Rotterdam came out I learned that both races would be on Sunday. I hesitated at the €350 entry fee but finally decided to enter the draft-legal sprint.

I got the train up on Friday and met Stuart at the Novotel, about 5km from the race start. We rode the course on Saturday morning. It poured with rain and I got two punctures. 

The Facebook group was ranting about the bike course. It was definitely twisty and narrow but I believe a lot of triathlons in the Netherlands are run on bike paths like these.

I'd been setting up tight circuits at home with traffic cones. I still need to improve my braking and trajectories but luckily I do have a turn of speed to make up for small errors.

We also had grandstand tickets for the WTS race on Saturday. Duffy is a role model for bike handling and after living in France for 15 years, Vincent Luis was a welcome winner.

In the holding pen I was nervous. In July we had moved from Strasbourg to Munich. I hadn't found a club to swim with and knew I'd be lacking an extra gear to close gaps.

100m in I looked left and right and was near the front. After the first buoy I settled into the line. Out in about 15th, I made up a few places in the super-long T1.

Climbing the Erasmus Bridge I saw the lead motorbike and a group of 4 getting away. Then a German and a Belgian about 50m back followed by my group of about 10. 

In the twisty bits immediately after the bridge 2 GB athletes, Neil Collins and Simon Hoppe, pushed through the tight group and set off  to catch the Belgian and German. 

I hesitated before deciding to chase, knowing I had one shot to join them. Take a risk to play for the top 10 or accept a position inside the top 20 or even lower?

I took off flat-out in pursuit for the next 3km. The gap was closing slowly.  The Dutch guy with me said he couldn't work. So a few corners and sprints later I was alone.

I caught Neil and Simon at about the 6km point. I took a minute to recover and then we worked really well together. We caught the German and Belgian with 5km left.

A rush of excitement through the crowds and a great dismount allowed me to lead the group into T2. The group of 4 was about a minute ahead and we were 5th through 9th.

On the run I did what I could. My legs were pretty spent. Neil and the Belgian ran off. I pulled ahead of Simon and the German. It was still probably my best run of the year.

In the last KM I was passed by Simon Crook, 4th at Dorney in May,  and a Mexican athlete. They had come into T2 in a third group about 30 seconds down on us.

The weekend was everything I'd hoped for. Close racing. A good result. 9th. Riding as a team during the race and feeling part of a greater collective at other times.

I've automatically qualified for the race next year in the Gold Coast but I won't be going. I'll definitely go back to Dorney in 2018 to try and qualify for Lausanne in 2019. 

Thanks for reading. Ross.

Twelve Summer Movement Goals

The school holidays start on Friday. On Monday I'll be driving from Strasbourg to Slough for one week. Then back to Strasbourg for a week before moving house to Munich. After three days in Munich we're heading to Bordeaux for a holiday on the Atlantic coast.

That's a lot of driving. I don't want to get out of a training routine and lose too much fitness. Below is my achievable holiday sports checklist. When I get back to Munich on August 14th I'll start training for the World Sprint Triathlon Championships in Rotterdam.

  1. Swim, bike or run twice a week.
  2. Strength train every other day.
  3. Daily sport with the kids.
  4. Help Etienne improve at front-crawl.
  5. Do gymnastics.
  6. Sprint on the beach.
  7. Climb, jump and land.
  8. Rent a canoe.
  9. Take a surf lesson.
  10. Body surf.
  11. Improve cornering.
  12. Finish a free triathlon.

FSR Tours: How It Might Work

In 2008 I enjoyed a short period of unemployment. It was great but not long enough. The European School had opened down the road and I strolled in one day to drop off my CV. It was October and I was hoping to re-start work the following September. The head asked me if I could start the next day. I've been there ever since.

However, I did have enough free time to head off to Pyrenees Multisport. I joined the 4 day Camp Kia Kaha organised by the hosts of the popular podcast Ironman Talk. Everything was amazing. Ian and Julie's place, the food, the surrounding training options, John and Bevan's organisation, the other campers. Everything.

The year before I'd done a season in the French Grand Prix Division 2. Injuries, unwillingness to travel around France and a lack of competitive juices meant that I'd already decided to retire from hard racing. I had entered Challenge Roth however and the camp helped me get fit enough to enjoy the day.

John also runs Epic Camp. They offer the camper "Everything But Mercy". High level food, accommodation and on-the-road van support. I was envious of the athletes that could go on these camps but also thought the complete opposite style of camp could also be attractive. Something rustic, cheap and super-basic.

After Camp Kia Kaha I jotted down and then typed up how I thought these adventures might go and threw together a website. My notes are below. I've never really developed the project fully but have had some fun times testing the concept. Read about that here and the tour I'm planning in 2017 here.

Bike Tours For Triathletes
Five Sticker Rides is based out of Strasbourg in the east of France. Our bike tours take triathlon training back to nature and simplicity. We pack light, carry all our equipment in rear panniers and the camping format keeps camaraderie high and costs low. Enjoy steady riding days, lake swims, trail runs and the opportunity to toe the line at a local event.

The Anti-Training Camp
We aim to combine the relaxed style of bike touring with some steady triathlon training in nature. Take your time to stop for coffee, read, write, sleep or take photos. All campers also dig in and share the various tour tasks. Making and striking camp. Supplying foodstuffs. Cooking. Watching the bikes in camp or staying on shore to keep an eye on swimmers.

First Self Supported Bike Tour?
Don’t worry! We’ll start out slowly on the first day and help you with loading your bike, on the road mechanics and basic camp craft.

Nearly Car Free Riding
We prioritize riding on dedicated bike paths, quiet back-roads hard packed forest single track and smooth gravel paths to make tours as traffic-free as possible. Riding together is fun but feel free to strike out alone. Daily riding distances are kept to an average of 100 km or less. After checking in to camp there's always the opportunity to ride some more.

Improve Your French
If you have any energy left at the end of the day I’ll run a French conversation session. Start preparing with these online resources: http://www.bbc.co.uk/languages/french/

Camping On Tour
On an FSR tour we camp every night. We choose campsites carefully. Mainly lakeside locations with access to running trails and not far from a village or town. It could rain but the appeal of bike touring is also the challenge of aligning the equipment, technique and mindset to deal with all weather conditions.

Experience Racing in France
We get you to the cheap, uncrowded triathlons that are still organised by clubs and small towns. An FSR tour is also more about your race day experience than your race day result. Liked what you saw? Why not choose an event from this list of races to come back rested and with your best bike. Then you'll really see how you stack up against the French!

Eating On Tour
Strasbourg has a great local food movement. Producers only markets, farm shops and vegetable distribution associations. Rather than gels and sugary snacks we fuel our tour by picking up fresh, local lunch and breakfast material. The aim is to be self-sufficient sourcing, carrying and cooking all of our food. However, if there's a convenient, chilled-out restaurant with a terrace or beer garden we might not be able to resist.

Safety On Tour
Exchange mobile numbers with other riders. Have the Emergency Services as contacts in your phone. Take care descending and negotiating junctions on the bike. Always stop at red lights. In general drivers in France respect cyclists. Share the road and keep your cool. Never swim alone. Take your phone when jogging.

Discover Strasbourg
Strasbourg has more bike paths than any other French city and an extensive public transport system. For athletes there are three 50m pools, city lakes, parks, canal paths and easily accessible forest trails. There is also Roman to 20th century history to uncover and the European Institutions to visit.

Daily Schedule

  • Get up with the sun or sleep as late as you need to. We’ll make coffee and tea and then swim before breakfast. Sessions are planned to incorporate all speeds and technical abilities.
  • A party can be dispatched to a boulangerie while the rest of us take down the tents and prepare a big breakfast of eggs, bacon, salad, yoghurt and fruit. Over breakfast I’ll brief everybody concerning the bike route.
  • We aim to be on the road by 08:00 and the plan is to ride together as much as possible or break into small groups if necessary. Use your map if you'd rather get from A to B alone. We can set meeting points throughout the day or keep in contact by phone.
  • Runs are planned for every afternoon on forest trails or lake-side loops. Run for as little or long as you like. Courses will be easy to follow to allow all runners to stride out and enjoy.
  • Finish the day with strength and mobility work, barefoot jogging, touch rugby or take a dip in the lake to cool off the quads. Evening meals are planned for about 20:00.

Racing in France: Need to Know (1)

So. I’ve started blogging again. Mainly because it’s fun. But also because I jot a lot of things down that end up dieing on my harddrive or in notebooks. Anyway the goal this year is take you through a French triathlon season with me and two of my sons. We’ll also be travelling back to the UK for a few events.

This is the first in a series of Need To Know posts in the lead up to the start of the triathlon season. If you're planning to race in France in 2017 don't get caught out by any unfamiliar rules or customs. Let me know if you need any help with bookings, translation or race entries.

Race Licenses
French event organisers readily accept Race Licenses from other federations affiliated to the ITU. To be safe, once you've entered a race drop an E Mail to the organiser to let them know that you'll be arriving with a foreign race license.

If you don't have a race license from your home federation you will have to buy a day license. However, you must also show a medical certificate outlining your aptitude to take part in triathlon competitions when you register. I can only imagine that this would need to be officially translated into French. Best just get a license from your home country.

Insurance
FFTRI is now asking race organisers to get foreign athletes to sign an insurance waiver. The waiver states that athletes licensed abroad do not receive all the insurance cover allowed FFTRI licensees. However, British Triathlon membership seems to make up the shortfall with their European-wide cover.

Referees
French referees wear black and white striped gilets. They are well-trained and serious. They scrutinise your arrival in transition, checking everything from helmet straps to handlebar end-plugs and brake performance. You'll probably also encounter far more draft-busters on the bike course than you would in the UK.

Distances
French races stick to standardised distances. Event organisers need to get special permission from the Ligue (local arm of FFTRI) to adjust race distances. In the 80s there was an obscure RTTC - Esque method of coding race distances and difficulty. Today everything is clearly stated on the FFTRI website:

  • XS Distance: 400m / 10km / 2.5km
  • S Distance: 750m / 20km / 5km*.
  • M Distance: 1500m / 40km / 10km
  • L Distance: 3000m / 80 km / 20 km**
  • XL Distance: 4000m / 120 km / 30 km
  • XXL Distance: 3800m / 180km / 42.2km

*In a throwback to the old Discovery events some race organisers still use a 500m swim for the S Distance.

**Race organisers may also refer to a 1.9km / 90 km / 21.1km event as a Half, XL or L Distance.

Start Times
Many French events start in the afternoon. Some are also still on Saturdays. Double check!

Number Belts
Following the example of the German federation, FFTRI no longer allows athletes to wear their number belts or pinned on numbers during the swim. Most athletes tuck them into their helmets; ready to be clipped.

A New Kona Qualifying Procedure?

I’ve never raced the Hawaii Ironman and probably never will. There was a time when I could have qualified but as a teacher it’s hard to take time off in early-October. However, as a triathlete since the late-80s it’s a shame to see the race owned by a profit making entity that can impose a qualifying procedure based purely on other races that they own.

The Hawaii Ironman was clearly not the first triathlon but was definitely the first to be outrageously long, attract high-level travelling athletes and grab global attention. Good athletes peppered the early start lines but prize money was not paid until 1986. Professional triathletes used to race USTS and Nice for money and Hawaii for the honour.

Today the race is still only a self-proclaimed World Ironman Championship and nobody can use the name Ironman for fear of legal action. I believe that the event in Kona should be primarily a celebration of the history of triathlon and accessible to all. The event should be non-profit with a board of trustees. Money made should be ploughed into protecting the local environment and funding youth triathlon programmes worldwide.

I’ve used ideas from the Western States and UTMB qualification processes to draw up an alternative Kona Qualification Procedure. Some are workable and some are pure fantasy. Start numbers would be 60 professional athletes, 140 masters athletes (age 45+) and 1000 leisure athletes.

Leisure Athlete Qualifying

Complete 3 year procedure below before entering lottery. Extra ticket added for every year it is not pulled.  All tickets removed if you qualify. Re-start 3 year procedure.

  1. Take part in nine national governing body sanctioned triathlons over a three year period. Three * Sprint Distance, three * Olympic Distance, two * Middle Distance / Half Ironman, one * Long Distance / Ironman.
  2. Carry out 48 hours as a triathlon race volunteer. Active youth coaches offering their time can bypass this by submitting proof of their non-paid involvement at club-level.
  3. Pass a bike mechanics exam that involves a complete strip-down / reassemble and wheel building basics.
  4. Read Walking on Water by Andy Martin. Commit to visit the North Shore of Oahu.
  5. Submit a diary or travelogue outlining your commitment to sustainable transport methods for holidays or everyday use. Bike commuting, bike touring, canoe holidays, horse trekking.
  6. Yearly commitment after initial 3 year procedure: 3 races at any distance. 16 hours volunteering.

Masters (45+) Athlete Qualifying

  • 140 (70 male, 70 female) slots are allocated to continental governing bodies according to their number of licensed athletes. Potentially Europe could get 36 slots, N. America 36, Australasia 20, S. America 20, Asia 16 and Africa 12.
  • Athletes must make it through a regional Sprint Distance time trial qualifier, draft-legal Olympic Distance national qualifier and Middle Distance (2500/80/20) continental qualifier.
  • NGBs fund their athletes who make it through to the continental qualifier. CGBs fund athletes who make it to Kona.

Professional Athlete Qualification

  • Top 20 athletes from WTC World Series D1*. 4 races from November to August. Best 3 scores count.
  • Top 3 WTC World Series D2*.
  • Winner of WTC World Series D3*.
  • Any Top 3 finisher in ITU Worlds (OD and LD) from previous year.

*WTC pros divided into 3 divisions to race on 3 separate Ironman circuits. 50 athletes per division with promotion and relegation. Entry to Division 3 is via Q School, organised by ITU in August every year over a 4 km / 120 km / 30 km time trial.

Note
No automatic qualification for ex-champions. If an athlete has not been active in WTC divisions 1,2,3 for last 5 years they can take part in Masters qualifying. Past Masters (any former top 10 finisher) are invited to take part in a team time trial the day before the race.

Prizes

  • Leisure Athletes: None.
  • Masters: Handbuilt steel bike frame in Kona livery for top 10 males and females.
  • Professional athletes: Good prize money paid down to 30th.

Why You Should Race In France This Season

By the mid-1980s France really had become the place to be for ambitious triathletes. More so than Australia and the USA. There were plenty of races but less travelling between them. Neighbouring Belgium and Germany also had rapidly developing race calendars.

There was good prize money at most races and it was often possible to race more than once a week. Many of the foreign pioneers did exactly this. Piling into old transit vans post-race on Saturday  to travel through the night to another race on Sunday.

The club set-up was also unique. As the sport started to grow in the early 80s, triathlon clubs were created within already existing town sports clubs. There would be a football section, table tennis section, petanque section, swimming section and now....a triathlon section.

Clubs created in this way had an instant infrastructure. Running track, pool use and some clout when it came to organising events. The newly formed triathlon clubs also had an instant following in the town. Handy when you are looking for sponsors, volunteers or want to close roads for a race.

Quickly a national league was set-up with clubs travelling throughout France to fight for high positions and the pride of their town. French athletes were strong. Many athletes in this new Grand Prix were students or semi-pros with support from the military or SNCF (the national rail network). Teams also quickly realised that a fast-track route to victory was to recruit and pay foreign athletes. Australians mainly.

I first moved over in 1996 and joined a club. I had managed to negotiate a place on a French Division 1 team,  GT Vesoul 70, at the end of 1995. Back then, pre-Internet, it was all telephone calls and faxes. I had a respectable racing CV but they were only interested in previous results on French soil.

The depth of fields was nothing like in the UK. After regularly finishing in the top 10 of British Grand Prix events at the end of 1995, I was outside the top 50 in a French one in early 1996. Now if you’re lucky enough to be recruited by a French club you’ll be toeing the line with Jorgensen, Mola, Murray and the Brownlees.

One of the goals of this site is to compile a list triathlon events in Alsace, Lorraine and Franche Comté. These 3 adjoining regions have thriving triathlon communities. This event is on my 2017/2018 bucket list. So, whether you decide to come out east or not, below are 8 reasons why should consider coming over to France to race in 2017.

A Packed Calendar Of Events
The interactive race calendar on the FFTRI website is the best place to search for an event. The 2017 version should kick in soon and Triathlete Magazine will release it's events booklet. Let me know if you would like me to send you a copy. 

It's Not That Far
Eurostar still carry bikes and there are many events near Paris that you can cycle to. Also with many races starting in the afternoon you could leave Dover by car early on Sunday morning and be back in the Uk on Sunday night. Use the interactive map to find events not far from Calais.

Races Are Cheap To Enter
The vast majority of events are still organised by clubs and small towns. The for-profit companies have not really taken off. One of my local events, the Sarrebourg Triathlon is a typical example. €20 for Sprint Distance and €30 for the Olympic Distance. Races also rarely fill-up and the logistics of entering events are also getting easier. Even the smallest races now use multi-lingual online sign up sites. Just three years ago I was still sending paper entry forms and cheques in the post.

It's Part Of The Culture
Some events in Alsace, Lorraine and Franche Comte have been around for 15, 20, 25 or 30 years. They are well organised and roads are more often than not closed to traffic. Anyway, with shops are closed on Sundays, traffic is light. Races, be it bike races, triathlons or a 10 km are accepted as part of the culture of the town.

Learn The Language
Spend a summer holiday travelling to 2 or 3 events. Take some time off work, live in France and join a club.  At local races everything will be in French. Announcements, race information packs and instructions from referees (les arbitres). A great opportunity to improve your French.

Fields Are Strong
Do well at your local or regional events in the UK? Why not see how you stack up against the French? The age-group thing is not so big over here but even outside of Grand Prix events the depth of most fields is still high.There's less prize money than before but I'm sure the journeyman pro could still make money if they choose events carefully and live frugally.

Race More Than Once
Lots of events now span the whole weekend. At the Val de Gray Triathlon there's a Half Ironman, children's races and a Relay on Saturday. On Sunday there are Sprint and Olympic Distance events. Why not link up 2 race weekends, bike touring between the two venues?

Check out the French Grand Prix
These draft legal events attract some of the best short distance triathletes in the world to race for club points. The 2017 towns, dates and formats are below:

  • Dunkerque (21 May). Sprint Distance.
  • Valence (2 July)
  • Quiberon (2 September)
  • Nice (23 September)

There is also a 2nd division that includes many British athletes racing for French clubs. 2017 events are in:

  • Besancon (4 June)
  • La Rochelle (10 June)
  • Angers (22 July)
  • Peyrolles en Provence (10 September)

French Grand Prix Videos

2017 Sarrebourg Triathlon Tour

I'm considering the 2017 Sarrebourg 2 Day Tour as the first official FSR triathlon tour. I started testing the format with a three day tour with my brother in July 2014. We rode mountains, gravel and bike paths. We stopped for wild swims and tried to race and run.

Importantly, we found the limits of fully-loaded triathlon touring. The distances that shouldn't be exceeded if you want to keep your sanity while getting fit and chilling out. Once you get to camp there's always the possibility to ride and explore more.

With two children and the arrival of a third at the end of 2014 I had little time to think about the concept. However, I continued to ride potential routes, uncover wild swimming venues, test campsites and experience races tour-able from Strasbourg.

I've gone back and forth on tour formats. Sticking points were daily riding distances and whether to design strictly tarmac or mixed terrain routes. However, I knew I needed to include daily lake swimming, trail running, nearly traffic-free riding, camping and a race.

There’s also plenty of people out there thinking up ways of making triathlon complicated, expensive and even more competitive. With FSR Triathlon Tours I want to offer something that is cheap, simple and somewhat of an adventure. The way that triathlon used to be.

This year I’ve penciled in just one short tour to the Sarrebourg Triathlon. The plan for 2018 is to offer several weekend tours and a 4 Day Tour into Franche Comté. A free service to those who want to come or be inspired to roll out from home for their own tour.

The tour includes 290 km of cycling over two days, one night of camping at Celles-sur-Plaine and a taste of small-town French triathlon culture at the Sarrebourg Olympic Distance Triathlon. The tour is built around some of the best bike paths in the region.

We're meeting at 08:00 at Cafe Con Leche, 4 Rue Kuhn, Strasbourg.on Saturday 24th June. We'll be back in Strasbourg late on Sunday. There should be a few local athletes and anybody reading this is welcome to come. 

Bike Touring For Triathletes

Pencilling in a few short bike tours in the triathlon season allows me to keep training sessions super-short the rest of the year. So why might you forgo the sun and comfort of a Training Camp in Lanzarote for the potentially muddy camp-sites of France or your local area?

It’s Cheap & Simple
As triathlon seems to get increasingly complicated and expensive, a bike tour is cheap and simple. Most bike tours require very little planning. No need to book ahead as even the most popular campsites will find a space for your tent.

Unfold your map and sketch out a rough itinerary. Try and stick to back roads and forest paths. Include lakes for swimming and trails for running. With everything you need tucked tightly behind your saddle you can ride out of your garage and let the adventure begin.

Leave Your Best Bike in the Garage
Systems exist to attach a rack to your race bike or any other bike without rack eyes. However, it’s better to strike out on a bike that you don’t mind leaving out in the rain overnight and that you’ll be comfortable on all day. Don’t have a dedicated touring bike? Why not save an old frame from the scrapheap and build up a cheap, go-anywhere touring rig?

Get Comfortable
Why does my commuting bike always feel more comfortable than my race bike? I don’t move on the saddle. I flatten the pedals and drive them downwards. I feel great on the drops, hoods or tops. Saddle height feels perfect.

Of course, it’s because I ride it every day. Fine adjustments have been made over the years and my postural muscles have become stronger. Use even a short tour to decide on a powerful position that you can enjoy all day long.

Slow Down
A bike tour is a holiday and a retreat rather than a training camp. Leave your Heart Rate Monitor at home and forget about Power Data. Don’t rush. Ride all day and get from campsite to campsite. Stop at a castle, dip your feet in a stream, have a coffee or a picnic. Read, write, sleep and take photos.

Have an Adventure
If you’re on a quick S24O from home seek out roads that you’ve never ridden before. Turn off onto forest tracks even if you don’t know where they might pop out. When exploring foreign lands you’ll experience different cultures or grapple a with language you might not understand. When pulling into camp or stopping for a rest in a village, the sight of your bike is an instant conversation starter.

You know your destination exists as you’ve seen it on the map. But you don’t know how long it’s going to take you to get there and the obstacles that could be in your way. You’re riding into the unknown. See villages and countryside that tourist buses don’t stop at. That trains speed through and that planes totally ignore. See what’s in-between and get there under your own steam.

Work Hard
With your bike fully loaded you’ll be forced to build strength in the hills. With long days in the saddle planned an endurance boost is guaranteed. Why not push yourself on the last day with an extra ambitious route?

You can ride pretty far when all you’ve got scheduled for the day is sitting on your saddle. You’ll have a massive sense of achievement, possibly set a personal daily mileage record and the beer on arrival will taste great.

Recover From Life 
Go to bed when it’s dark. Maybe read for a little while with your head-torch. That novel you’ve had on hold for months. Get up with the sun. Eat Well. Stop and buy fresh, local produce for lunch. Get Inspired. Keep a diary. Switch off. No computer. No TV.

Pick Up Some New Skills 
We look back on our early tandem tours as cultural and travel successes but bike touring disasters. It took us 3 or 4 years before we figured out what was worth bringing and what wasn’t. Finding a balance between lightness and luxury. We also improved our camp cooking, how far and how fast to ride, pitching a tent, striking camp and basic on-the-road mechanics. 

Holidays of the Future
Petrol prices are rising, air travel is becoming unfashionable and there’s a renaissance in exploring your own country. People are starting to realise the importance of spending time in nature and the growth of cycle paths make it possible to plan tours that are nearly traffic free.

The Path Less Pedalled has also recognized that bicycle touring is changing. People are taking shorter tours, combining train journeys with biking and taking advantage of bicycle friendly accommodation options and other bicycle-focused businesses.

Simplify Event Travel
I hate loading the car and driving to events. I also have a little chuckle when fellow athletes open the boot of their car and piles of superfluous kit tumble out. As I race infrequently I prioritize events that I can ride to. I minimise kit, camp and enjoy having a weekend of steady activity rather a balls-out, results based racing experience.

Camping Is Not Compulsory
Lack of equipment or no desire to brave the hard ground shouldn’t stop you from enjoying bike touring. Checking into a Bed & Breakfast will guarantee you stay dry and sleep well. Bring your best bike if you want as it can be locked away overnight. Pack light using a saddlebag such as the Carradice Longflap Camper.