Dreamweaver Days

In the early two thousands a neighbour of mine in Beirut, Joel, taught me the basics of HTML and how to use an FTP. I made progress with simple coding and soon started to add some CSS knowledge. I quickly taught myself how to use Microsoft Frontpage and a new program called CoffeeCup.  However, while living in Bangkok I bought a pirate copy of Dreamweaver 8. This quickly became my go-to WYSIWIG editor.

Up to this point my projects had just been for fun and relaxation and remained on my hard-drive.  However, as my stint working in Thailand came to a close in 2006 I suddenly had a real need for a public facing website. I had this idea to launch a bike touring company that would be aimed at triathletes. The concept was nothing like triathlon training camps that were already in existence.

They were either super-plush, one centre camps or something like Epic Camp, run by Scott Molina and Gordo Byrn. According to their website they offered, "Everything But Mercy." I wanted to organise long days in the saddle with daily lake swimming and trail running. However, we'd camp at night,  carry all our kit in rear panniers rather than in following vehicles and each tour would be built around taking part in a local triathlon.

Anyway I never did commercialise the idea. Maybe I will one day. Focusing on small French and German races. But it won’t be from this website.

However, I have ridden to a few events over the years, camping near the venue, racing the next morning and riding home. There was also an attempt to get to the Gray Triathlon with my brother in 2014. Unfortunately, I planned days that were probably too long and we left a bit late on day one. Although we never made it to the event we did ride 450km in 3 days and both raced well at the back end of the season.

In need of registering a domain I looked through books for ideas that would give a nod to the 1980s; a time when Allen, Pigg and Molina used to regularly ride point to point "credit card" tours for training. This was also the early days of social media and as a teacher I also felt I needed an online pseudonym for sites like Twitter. I still prefer it that way. If you know me offline, you obvioulsy know who I am.

Five Sticker Rides is the name of a chapter in Mark Allen's book, Total Triathlete. The narrative of the book essentially tells the story of the Grip's 1987 season and particularly the build up to the Hawaii Ironman. I really like the glimpse into the old USTS series and his regular battles with Mike Pigg (see photos). There's plenty of black and white photographs that will take you back to the golden age of the sport.

I'm planning to blog a lot more at fivestickerrides.com in 2018 as well as experiment with audio. Mainly as just a creative exercise for me. But if others like it, that's cool too. Every Friday I'm also going to summarise my training week, Krupicka-style, as I prepare for The Outlaw, ironman distance event, in Nottingham. Tweet me if you still think the bike tours for triathletes idea is a good one.

 

The Day I Jogged 80 km

It was September 2013. We came up with the plan over beers in La Taverne Francaise. Pierre and I would run the length of the Vosges mountains.

450km in 8 stages. Stages 1 and 2 were ticked off in late October. 55km from Wissembourg to Niederbronn and 60km from Niederbronn to Saverne.

Then the snows came and we had to wait until the spring of 2014 to run stage three. 80km from Saverne to Schirmeck. It would be by far my longest day afoot.

On Sunday we drove out to Schirmeck. We stashed a picnic in the woods at the 45km point and left Pierre's car at the station. On Sunday we got the train to Saverne at 08:00.

I'd kept fit through the winter by cycling, fairly casual jogging and lots of lifting weights and kettlebells. Three weeks before the big day I did a much higher mileage week.

I felt good the whole day. Psychologically I had a low point after lunch. The end just seemed so far away. I called Gwen, checked on the boys and was good to go again.

We've still not done stage 4. Changing jobs, moving house and babies. For both of us. Although we did sit down a few weeks later a record this very raw audio.

 

 

Junior Triathlons: Bischwiller, Sarrebourg and Bicester

In 2016 Bischwiller was Elliot's triathlon debut. He took well over 2 minutes for the 50m swim. After multiple stroke changes he exited nearly last out of a field of 60. This year he climbed out of the shallow end in around a minute and in 13th position!

Bicester.jpg

The bike course at Bischwiller is tarmacked and fast yet safe; using pool car park and entry roads. The run is a well-marked zig-zag, through trees in the gardens around the pool. Elliot was super-happy to finish 7th in the 6-9s. Proably his last race in this category.

Sometimes I think these mixed-terrain, self-contained courses are also the future of adult triathlons.

Sarrebourg can be a rude introduction to open-water mass starts for the kids. 100 athletes. 50m out, around a buoy and 50m back. I'd have set out a small triangular course. It's one gravel lap around the lake on the bike and a tidily taped run loop around a sports field.

Elliot was in the 9-13 category at Sarrebourg. Good practice for his next challenge at Bicester. The swim would be a scary  150m with a TT start. While his cousin kept up a steady rhythm, Elliot found the last fifty in the increasingly wavy pool pretty tough.

As an ex-PE teacher, the bike and run course lay-out at Bicester is a masterclass in the art of conage. In fact, they live in a post-cone world up there. They must stay out all night to drive the hundreds of small wooden stakes into the cricket field!

Tape is then stretched from stake to stake to create a pop-up triathlon theme park. @lukeemuir and I totally wanted to be racing. I think the result would have been close. Anyway, Elliot missed a lap on the bike and his cousin placed strongly mid-pack.

In 2018 we'll be checking out Bavarian races, making a trip back to France and returning to Bicester. Elliot's brother, Etienne, should also start racing too. 

Tweet me if you know of any other excellent children's triathlons in the UK or Europe.

Kraichgau 2017 Bundesliga Round One Trip

On 10th June, right at the last minute, I realised that the first round of the Bundesliga Triathlon Series was taking place just an hour from Strasbourg in Kraichgau. I knew the boys would be interested in watching the fast, spectator friendly racing; featuring a few WTS stars.

The Bundesliga is the German national elite club competition. It's run along the same lines as the French Grand Prix that I wrote a little bit about here. In 2017 there would 16 men's teams and 14 women's teams taking part. After Kraichgau, rounds two to five were going to take place in Munster (23/07), Tubingen (04/08), Grimma (20/08) and Binz (09/09). 

Bundesliga.jpg

Like the French Grand Prix, the Bundesliga has also experimented over the years with different formats. However, this year all races would be the 750m / 20km / 5km draft-legal style. Four athletes start the race for each team with three scoring, cross country style. 

The swim was one lap with the first buoy after about 250m. We got a great view from the top of a small hill. The bike was on a non-technical 5km loop. It didn't go through transition every lap but passed close by. The run was an out and back over four laps along the lake.

The women's race started at 19:00 and, after an exciting run battle, was won by Laura Lindemann (Potsdam) from Rachel Klamer (Buschhutten) and Anja Knapp (Team Witten). We stood on the fastest bend of the bike course. The way those big packs got around that corner was definitely impressive.

After a tiny break, the men's race started at 20:15. Richard Murray (Buschhutten) ran up from the 2nd bike group to win. On each passage through the Biergarten he pumped his arms to get the crowd going. Frenchman Felix Duchampt (ROWE Rheinland-Pfalz) was a close second with Ian Manthey (Team Saar) third. 

But who cares, as just like in the French Grand Prix, these events are all about the team competition. Team Witten won the women's event followed by Buschhutten and Potsdam. For the men the order was Buschhutten, ROWE Rheinland-Pfalz then Team Saar.

The athletes from English speaking countries taking part for various teams were Debby Lynch (NZL), Anel Radford (RSA), Emy Legault (CAN), Elisabeth Boutin (CAN), Seth Rider (USA), Jack Willis (GBR) and Liam Lloyd (GBR).

Check out the videos below for apearances later in the season from Andrea Hewitt, Tamsyn Moana-Veale, Emma Jeffcoat, Charlotte McShane, Gillian Backhouse, Drew Box, Emma Jackson, Sian Rainsley and Henri Schoeman.

Only the final event in Binz had a live stream but highlights videos are put up pretty quickly. Here is a playlist of the season with events in order.

The second division of the Bundesliga is organised into north and south conferences. One team from each conference gets promoted to division one at the end of the season. Consequently, two teams from division one get relegated to the second division every year.

I'm hoping to get to more events next season. I might even try to cover one irunfar style  I'd try and do pre- and post-race athlete audio interviews, a course preview, chats with team staff, a look at some bikes and, of course, live tweeting.

Let me know via Twitter if you think you'd be interested in getting English language coverage of the Bundesliga Triathlon Series or French Grand Prix next year.

Thames Voyageurs Canoe Trip 2017

Hopefully this Spring trip becomes a Muir family tradition. For once the French and English school holidays lined up and six of us set off for 2 days on the Thames.

We put in at Wargrave on Wednesday 19th April at about 13:00. We paddled all afternoon before making camp, visiting the pub and cooking in Hurley.

The next morning we cooked bacon sandwiches and set off for Maidenhead. We arrived at about 14:00. Thanks Mum and Dad for the shuttles.

Thames Voyageurs.jpg

The trip was superbly planned and led by my brother Luke. He worked for years as a canoe instructor and has done this stretch of the Thames many times.

We used his huge Old Town boat. Easily big enough for two adults, my two sons, his daughter, his son and all our equipment.

To fully-prepare the kids we forced them to watch The Voyageurs and Paddle to the Sea on YouTube.

Both days were sunny and as it was midweek there was very little other boat traffic. This was perfect for getting through locks stress-free.

Next year we'd like to do a Maidenhead - Windsor day trip and a two day trip from near Benson down to Hurley. Overnighting near Mapledurham.

WTS Transition Build Project

My three boys are always practising transitions, running mounts and flying dismounts. I started to build them a classic, scaffold tubing bike-rack structure.

"No. No. No. Stop Dad! We want a proper WTS transition area!"

We found some photos online and then I got a closer look when I was in Rotterdam. Elliot and Etienne helped with measuring, painting and screwing.

They carry them out into the street and also use them to store their bikes in the garage.

The FSR Guide to Baby Jogging

Yikes! I first drafted this about eight years ago. During another writing frenzy while not working. In fact, I'm trying to get up early and start the day with about thirty minutes of writing. Anyway, I was reminded of this post when reflecting on the 2017 triathlon season. Pushing the buggy was pretty much the only running that I did. I still love it!

I've also been following Andy Waterman on Instagram and Strava. He's training for an Autumn marathon by doing lots of miles pushing his son in a Thulé Glide. I've spoken to lots of athletes who think that it's uncomfortable or not proper training. Back in 2008 I was in my best ever running shape. I'll keep going until Alan (3 years old) is fed up.

Elliot is now nine and we've added Etienne (five) and Alan to the family. I think the tips below are is still relevant as we've gone through the whole process with two more passengers. Elliot and Etienne now cycle while I jog. I've therefore added a section about Biking & Jogging at the end. Just before Alan was born we also upgraded to a two-child Croozer.

The Baby Jogger
Don’t think that you need a lightweight, name brand Baby Jogger. Many generic brand buggies with 3 big wheels will work. Why not try and pick one up second hand? Make sure the front wheel can be locked in position so that the buggy  will roll straight.

Check that the buggy has a high, possibly adjustable, handle. Pump the tyres up hard and maybe zip-lock a bottle cage to the frame. A compartment underneath is handy for carrying your stuff. I often use my jogs with the buggy to run errands around town.

The Baby
Manufacturers’ websites suggest 9 months as a minimum age for a baby in a sling seat style baby jogger and 3 months for children in the car seat style attachment. We checked with our doctor and were given the all clear when our son was 10 -12 weeks old.

The doctor essentially wanted to make sure that the baby could support his neck and spine sufficiently and was adequately thermo-regulating. This time frame also coincided with Gwen's return to running after the birth.

Our son seems to enjoy every outing and generally spends the 1st half of the run looking at the countryside and the 2nd half sleeping. Younger children should face you and older children will enjoy facing forwards.

Make sure you've got extra clothes for you and the baby, water for both of you, nappy changing equipment and maybe an extra blanket. I also carry money and a mobile phone.

Even in fairly good weather, don’t hesitate to install the clear rain cover on the baby jogger. In warmer weather ensure the baby is not over-dressed and is in the shade of the buggy's canopy. Avoid temperature extremes and monitor your child’s condition throughout the run.

Will They Enjoy It?
In the 1st year I could jog for as long as I wanted. Sometimes up to 90 minutes. The relaxing motion and wind on his face would send Elliot to sleep. In fact, going for a run became a tactic for getting him to sleep. I’d leave the watch at home and just tour our city’s parks.

In the 2nd year he still loved getting out to see town, the forest, parks and other runners. My runs became shorter and always finished at the playground. In the 3rd year, I couldn’t get more than a kilometre down the trail without Elliot asking to get out and run beside me.

Technique
It’s vital that you stabilize your core and run tall to ensure the most efficient forward propulsion, maximise fun and minimize the risk of injury. If you want to run anything like you run without the baby jogger, you have to push with just one hand.

This is a skill that is tough at first but is soon developed with practice. Try to spend as much time pushing with each hand and constantly check that the carriage of the non-pushing arm is as natural as possible.

Set your pushing handle nice and high and as far away from the body of the baby jogger as possible. I probably swap hands every 2 minutes and use both hands when crossing roads or on technical sections.

As all of my baby jogging runs are are on flat, smooth and traffic free trails means that on straighter sections I can even push the baby jogger a metre in front of me and run a few normal strides before catching up.

The Fitness Benefits
Just as swimming with a band on the ankles will highlight any dead spots in your stroke; baby jogging will highlight any inefficiencies in your running stride. I concentrate on a powerful, precise footfall, a cadence of over 180 steps per minute and minimal contact time.

I've measured the Baby Jogging HR response to be about +10 BPM for a given speed. This extra cardiac stress and increased tension in the muscles means that you should be careful not to over-do it. However, I had my best XC season after an Autumn of Baby Jogging.

Safety
Make sure that your baby is dressed appropriately for the ambient temperature and the effects of the wind. Fasten the seat belt and always slow down on bumpy or downhill sections. I also try to never be more than a 15 minute jog from home.

Finally, although, parenthood insists that full-on training plans are put on hold for a while, family fitness can continue with a couple of Baby Jogger runs per week. I really get into it and after a while I prefer to be pushing something along then running alone.

Biking & Jogging
Elliot learnt to ride a bike pretty quickly. From the age of two alternating a Balance Bike and a Tricycle with a chain-drive and pedals in the right place. By three he had mastered both and when he was about 3 and a half we bought him a second-hand 12 inch two wheeler.

The combination of the hours spent free-wheeling on the Balance Bike and pushing down on the Tricycle's pedals had done the job. He was proficient riding his two-wheeler in one weekend and confident starting, braking and stopping a few days later.

From the time that Elliot was on the Balance Bike he was coming out on jogs with me. We'd stay close to home or take the car to the forest. I realised that the goal of these outings was for both of us to get some outdoor exercise rather than me getting a workout done.

Sometimes I'd push an empty Jogging Buggy. When Elliot got tired he'd climb into the buggy and I'd strap his bike to the handle. Your child will definitely want to stop to look at stuff and play. Be prepared for this yet also encourage them to push on and improve their endurance.

Now Elliot and Etienne ride their Frog road bikes and Alan has taken up his spot in the Croozer.  If the boys decide to stop and play or run I use the time to do some short sprints, body-weight exercises or plyometrics.  Happy Family Trails!

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.

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.

Triathlon Goals.jpg
  1. Have a repeatable training week. 
  2. Lift daily.
  3. Eat well.
  4. Race local, often, short and hard.
  5. Stay fit through the winter.
  6. Do some XC skiing.
  7. Get into CX.
  8. Do the BTS Club Championships.
  9. Get back to Vesoul.
  10. Swim 100m in 1:05. 400m in 5:20.
  11. Run 5km in 17:30.
  12. Enter more team time trials.
  13. Race on a bike that I built myself.
  14. Race in a singlet that I sewed myself.
  15. Get more involved in club life.
  16. Tour from my garage.
  17. Do some long trail runs.
  18. Improve my German.
  19. The Outlaw. Steady.
  20. Take a triathlon road trip.
  21. Document more. 
  22. Improve cornering.
  23. Race twice in a weekend. 
  24. Family adventures. Weekly.
  25. Qualify for Lausanne 2019.
  26. Finish top 10 in Lausanne
  27. Coach the boys.
  28. Get the boys to races.
  29. Give away old equipment.
  30. Buy tubeless race wheels.
  31. Get 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 quick 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.