Tuesday, 29 December 2009

It's Christmas Time...

This is what Christmas is all about!! It's Christmas Eve and as you can see Evie and Ellie are super excited. In fact the whole house was a bubbling cauldron of excitement. It's traditional for Sarah to have a 'Night before Christmas' present and she could hardly wait this year. Her Mam buys her one and Sarah buys her Mam one, Eileen couldn't even wait until Christmas Eve, she opened hers on the 23rd...

Christmas was great this year. My Mum and Dad arrived on Christmas Eve for 5 days and it was lovely to have them around for a nice long time so we could all really relax and they could spend some decent time with the girls. It was great to spend some quality time with my Dad. I got him a 12 Day pass for the DW Fitness Gym and although we only managed a couple of sessions it was awesome to work out with him, riding the spin bikes, some weights and some core work with the medicine ball. We also had a great 9 mile walk through the snowy fields and woods together before meeting the girls for a picnic in the woods on Boxing Day.

As usual the living room overflowed with presents and for a while the adults presents were untouched as we watched the faces of Evie and Ellie as they discovered what Santa had left, magical. Sarah was the first to dig in! I think I did pretty well and surprised her with a few gifts (every year she gets worried by my lack of shopping and every year I pull it out the bag) Mum and Dad enjoyed their selection of gifts and I must have been a good boy this year because I was thoroughly spoilt by my naughty wife! My big surprise was an iPod Classic! Wowsers I have put nearly 100 albums on it and not even made a dint in the memory. I love my music, but up till now it's a bit all over the place, CD's, Computer and iPod mini, now it can all live in one easily accessible place. Scooters, dolls, battery powered hamsters, Cinderella and Mini Mouse Dressing-up outfits, books, puzzles, crafty making stuff and much much more covered the floor for the next few days, awesome.

Sarah had got us all tickets to see the 'Snow White' Pantomime at the Grand Theatre in York. That proved to be a great present, we all had a fun filled afternoon, "Oh no we didn't", "He's behind you" etc, etc. A really friendly, family orientated production. If you haven't been to the Pantomime for a few years, you've still got time, it really is great fun.

Ellie and Evie have been superstars over the Christmas period. There is so much anticipation and excitement, presents and chocolate where ever you look, yet they still sat down and ate every meal with us, went to bed when they were asked to and played so well together, sharing each others toys and goodies. I have had a great time with them. Ellie is becoming a beautiful, caring little girl. She had saved all her Christmas cards from her school friends, and written us all at least 10 different cards each. She brought down this great big bag of cards on Christmas Eve which we opened, then we played 'Pass the Parcel' with a present she had wrapped up. She worked the music and made sure everybody won a stage and got a treat. Evie is also fabulous in a totally different way. Her energy and energetic manner is great, I love seeing her charge around, jumping and giving me that cheeky little look she does so well. Yet this Christmas her calm side also started to show through as we have sat and made puzzles, read books and watched DVD's. One of the girls favourites and mine on TV was the 'Gruffalo' Did you see it? A really simple, short story with great music and animation, fun.

A common theme ran through one set of presents....

Well, we do have three types of washes in our house whites, darks and pinks!!!! I had a great Christmas, and am enjoying the final days of 2009, hope you are to. Have a great New Years Eve, see you in 2010....

Monday, 21 December 2009

Holiday Time; Week 1

Most folks are still working hard with a view of taking some time off over Christmas and hopefully between Christmas and New Year, I however am firmly in Holiday mode, yippee. I kind of consider myself fortunate when it comes to holidays, but at the same time it was me who decided to be a teacher, so actually I am not fortunate at all!! By the same token if you don’t like something, then do something about it and do something else, I have a pretty low tolerance for folks who moan about their job, particularly moaning teachers.

Much to Sarah’s amazement I have had a great week of training and chilling. I say to her amazement because she has yet to see much evidence of me shopping and is getting a little concerned whether her Christmas stocking will be slim this year??? I of course have everything under control. Ellie still had a week left at school, Evie was in nursery on her usual days and Sarah had a pretty normal week of work. More carefully planned than the invasion of Iraq (actually that is a really bad analogy) I constructed a week of training around the girls, school and nursery drop off’s and pick up’s and other things that were in the weeks planner. This post will be largely training based because next week there will be far more exciting things to write about; at least I hope so because I have been a good boy this year!! Before we get on to my training a little of the rest of the week.

I spent a really chilled afternoon on Thursday with Sarah curled up on the sofa watching the film ‘Australia’ and munching on Terry’s Chocolate Orange. It was great to be able to spend some quality time together and not a bad film.

We now have a couple of outdoor Christmas lights on the Garage, much to the joy of Ellie. I think this is the start of the slippery slope, more planned for next year adding a couple yearly until we have a house resembling that of the Character played by Robson Green in Northern Lights (a nice film, see it if you haven’t)

We travelled north to Newcastle for the weekend. Sarah’s Dad took me and Sarah out on Friday night to a Christmas Party at his local. Bernie changed his local pub a few years ago and rather amusingly the refurbished Pub he now frequents has become a focal point for the Gateshead and Felling Gay community. The owner (an energetic lady in her 50’s) and most if not all of the bar boys and girls are camper than camp people in a camper van in a campsite. All involved in the pub have been great to Bernie over the years, especially with his various problems associated with his Parkinsons and balance difficulties, they are great bunch and really look after him. Anyway I ‘camped’ it up a bit with my outfit, and we went out. A nice Christmas meal was followed by some live music from a group calling themselves ‘Souled on Sax’ It looked promising and the first song a great version of Santana and Rob Thomas ‘Smooth’ was excellent, unfortunately the music went to a rock place and the Saxophone stayed on its stand (much to Sarah and Bernie’s disappointment) But this said it was still great to be out. The band were good, the Saxophonist and lead Singer looked pretty good in her black catsuit, knee high 6” heeled boots, and their rendition of Bon Jovi Living on a Prayer brought back a few teenage memories!!! Geordie women just don’t care!! Age or size is no barrier to getting dressed up and having good time, fair play to them. There was plenty on show, the main outfitters must have been ‘TopShop’ and the vast majority a size 18, throw in the bar staff and their friends and you get a bit of an idea of what the night was like. We had fun, the wine flowed and it was a good evening, thanks Bernie.

Sarah and her Mam went shopping into Newcastle on Saturday whilst Bernie and I entertained the girls and watched some of the Cricket. We spent the afternoon at his local ‘Gay Bar’ chilling out whilst Ellie and Evie played in the indoor soft play centre. Eileen’s new super deluxe spa bath complete with underwater lights got some action, (nearly fell asleep in it on Saturday night) and as usual we were very well fed and thoroughly spoilt by Eileen, a nice weekend.

Training wise I have had a great week, currently I feel aerobically very fit but I also feel like I am getting quite strong from the recent gym activity. I put quite a bit of emphasis on strength training. I think it is key (along with stretching) to not incurring repetitive injuries from running and swimming, leg strength is important for the bike when the road goes up or higher levels of power are called for, plus in my mind a strong body is a fit body and this is vital for everyday living and more so as we age, finally I really enjoy the variety of being in the gym lifting weights. Recently I have been doing loads of Core work with Medicine Balls with my Judo friend Dane and on Thursday we had a monster session. Not particularly Triathlon specific but a great Power and Plyometric session. Power Cleans and Tuck Jumps, Power Squats and Bench Drop jumps, Power Bench Press and Plyometric Press ups, Rows and Kettle Bell Torso Rotations, Medicine Ball Side Throws and Seated Overhead Throws followed by some really challenging core work. I really enjoyed pushing Dane hard and enjoyed trying to match him in my own performance. Needless to say I was sore and stiff on Friday.

On Monday I hooked up with Ove for a Run. After a steady 30 minute warm up we put in 6 hill repeats each lasting 50 secs, taking it in turns to lead and set the pace. There is something very motivational about being on the front, I think we both upped our game. We then ran home giving us a 7 mile run with some hard work in the middle.

Tuesday was long day in the gym. A steady 2k swim, was followed by an hour on the spinning bike, then the spin class group turned up, so I thought it was rude not to join in. 45 minutes later after some tough fast spinning and high resistance, slow cadence work I was cooked. I had a bite to eat and then met Dane for a 90 minute strength session including heavy squats and leg press. I once read that Gordo Byrn at the end of a long ride or Ride and Run would do a few tyre pull intervals to really work himself hard. His thinking, if he could run some intervals with the tyre pulls at the end of a long day he would easily find the extra effort to push through in the final k’s of the Ironman, also none of his competitors were doing it!! Tuesday was a 4 hour day, nice.

With Ove on Wednesday I had the wettest ride I have had for ages. By the time I got home I had ridden 55 miles, 3 ¼ hours and was soaked through. It was great to ride with Ove, nice and steady and good company, great motivation also, would I have stayed out for that long on my own? I tried to swim in the afternoon, but my arms were pretty sore so just settled for 1500m of chilled out drills. It did all add up to another 4 hour day.

My final session of the week was a Run in Newcastle. Fresh snow had fallen late Saturday afternoon so a nice off road hour’s run at a really steady pace, (dictated by the conditions) Crunching through fresh snow with blue skies above made a for lovely start to the day.

By the end of my first 7 days of holiday I had trained really consistently on 6 of them, including 2 4 hour days. I had managed a really nice balance of all disciplines and pushed myself in the gym, in total I trained for 14 hours, race season seems a way off, but I just love it!!

Christmas is firmly within our sights and our house is gearing up for a good one. I think I am as excited as the girls this year. My Mum and Dad are coming up on the 24th for 5 days, we are all looking forward to seeing them and spending plenty of time together. It goes without saying Ellie’s excitement goes up a notch every morning when she realises the Christmas is a day closer and Evie is mirroring her sister’s behaviour.

Enjoy Christmas week, try not to let the preparations take away from the real pleasures in your life, make some time for those close to you and for yourself, and then kick back and have fun.

P.S. Rage Against the Machine, such lovely boys!!!!
P.P.S This weeks photo is what happens when you let a toddler choose her clothes for nursery?

Monday, 14 December 2009

Family Time

Chatting to Ove today during our run we were discussing our lifestyles and in particular making the most of opportunities, and keeping things fresh. Recently he has been out quite a lot and talked about how much him and Emma were looking forward to a few weekends at home, I on the other hand was talking about the need, after a few too many weekends at home to get out, mainly for a bit of a change of scenery. It is with similar sentiments that Sarah and I decided to book a 3 night break away at Sherwood Castle Forest Log Cabins a few weeks ago, a change of scenery before the Christmas Festivities kick in.

Since Ellie was born Sarah has been going to Sherwood Castle with a group of friends who all had babies at the same time and met through the children, they have a yearly short break with the kids. When they were babies more a break for the adults, the last few years it has become a chance for the kids to see Santa at the nearby Sundown Adventure Land. Sarah has always said how good it was, so on Friday after my School Carol Service we set off down the A1.

I was quite excited, the cabins sounded great, we had gone for one with a Log burning Stove and a Corner Spa Bath and more importantly it was a chance for some quality family time. We hadn't unpacked the car before I had a huge roaring fire going, a theme for the weekend. We went through three big dustbins of logs and numerous bags of kindling wood!!

The girls had a lovely time at Sundown on Saturday, it really is a great place if you are under 8 years of age. Evie was really excited when she saw Santa, Ellie went a bit shy but soon told him not to come down our chimney because he would get stuck behind the wall, he said he had a special magical key so it would be alright. The weather was a glorious bright, cold day. Back in the cabin, log fire and curry....... and The X Factor. Sorry Folks had to do it, it was the Final and although Sarah had set it up to record, I knew she really wanted to watch it (I read the latest edition of Triathlon Plus, in between checking out Olly's backing dancer's!!!)

On Sunday we had a very leisurely morning. We got a bit carried away with bubbles in the spa bath, much to the amusement of Ellie and Evie. Went for a couple of walks in the woods, a play on the Outdoor Assault Course and a long play in the indoor play centre. We watched a couple of movies, Elf and some ice skating one, then when the girls were asleep me and Sarah flicked between X Factor and Sports Personality. With Ellie's school play "The Wiggly Nativity" taking place on Monday morning we had decided to stay Sunday night and just get up and drive the hour home first thing on Monday. It worked perfectly, we dropped Ellie off at school, then an hour latter went to watch her be an Angel in the play, where she sang her heart out and didn't stop smiling.
We had a lovely weekend. Although we still had to deal with the energy sapping energetic toddler that is Evie, and there were moments when Sarah and I wished it was just the pair of us, the change of scenery and opportunity to spend time with the girls and together as a family was great. We are already looking ahead to 2010 and planning a couple of similar weekend breaks.

I started my Holiday on Friday, three weeks off with not the hint of work, it's a great feeling, have a good week......

Sunday, 6 December 2009


#winterswim was an idea conceived by Tom, Ove and I during a Skype conference call chatting about 2010 triathlon races. Tom has worked his statistical magic and has designed a wicked challenge to keep anybody motivated, and hungry to put the hard work in through the winter. The basic concept is a maximal swim every fortnight. Week 2 a 400m, Week 4 a 100m, Week 6 another 400m, Week 8 a 200m, Week 10, 400m, Week 12, 800m, Week 14, 400m, Week 16 1500m, Week 18, 400m, Week 20, 3.8k, Week 22, 400m and finally a brucey bonus 10k for anybody Mad, up for a challenge, or fancying some serious lengths. To keep beginners and the super speedy motivated and to add in that competition, Tom is comparing peoples times against World Record Times and looking at % improvements from fortnight to fortnight. (not a job for me, but Tom has it firmly in hand, cheers mate)

My swim performance in Triathlons has always been pretty solid. I have always done very little swimming (a combination of lack of time, lack of decent pools to swim in and to be honest a somewhat smug satisfaction that every season on minimal swim training I have still been able to perform pretty good) I have thus done a little open water swimming pre-ironman races, and some very specific long sessions in the pool for a few weeks prior to a race. What I have done though, is lot's of upper body strength work and muscular endurance work in the gym 12 months of the year. I really enjoy gym work, whether it's maxing out on bench press or hitting some high reps on shoulder and lat exercises. This I feel has been very beneficial and allowed me to 'swim strong' in an open water environment. However with the #winterswim challenge firmly laid down I got myself a membership at JJB gym, which although it is only a 20m pool is 5 mins from my house and very convenient.

I have for the last 6 weeks swam more km's than I did for my entire swim training prior to Lanzarote IM last earlier this year. My #winterswim performance has been very encouraging. 400m = 6.33, 100m = 1.27, 400m = 6.19. Last night I swam 20 x 100m (mixing swim, drill HARD and swim) During the Hard 100m I was touching on between 1.31 and 1.34, and tonight an impromptu session saw a straight through 2000m, feeling strong throughout.

Swimming is such a solid training activity, I am convinced that I will be considerably faster in next seasons triathlons as a result of the hard work through the winter. In addition to the obvious swimming improvement, (measured in better swim splits) I will be getting on the bike feeling fresher, with the swim taking much less out of me. I also expect to see a leg strength benefit from swimming consistently. If I swim a 2k set that is 100 lengths and 100 legs drives off the wall. If I attack the wall and drive hard off it there will definitely be a training effect on my leg muscles, I bet it requires similar leg power to jump squats. Also there is the cardiovascular benefits associated with any form of aerobic and anaerobic training.

I was lucky enough to be invited to a Boxing Dinner on Wednesday by some good friends who move in the boxing circles. The guest speakers were Leon Spinks (beat Ali) John Stracey (World Welterweight Champion in the late 60's, 70's) and Brian London (British Heavy Weight) It was a good evening and with photos of Leon and Ali fighting it really brought home how good this guy was. It was a little sad to see Spinks, who in his 60's was in a pretty bad way, his movement was a slow shuffle and his speech was laboured and slurred, however this guy to boxing fans a LEGEND.

Saturday was the end of my schools Rugby Season, we move on to Football in the Spring term. It has been very successful season and given that I am in charge and responsible for the sport at the school it reflects the time and effort I put into it. I have coached the 1st Team this season and it has been a great one. The boys have trained hard, and have played some excellent Rugby. Our record is Played 13, Won 9, Drawn 1, Lost 3, compared to previous seasons this is like winning the Premiership, FA Cup and Champions League. I would like to put all our success down to my coaching, but it's mainly due to having a greater selection of good players to choose from, because a large group of decent boys have stayed on into our 6th form these last couple of years. All the other teams have been more successful than in previous years so something must be going right. We are a very small school with just 20 to 28 boys in a year group, we have managed to field teams at u12, u13, u14, u15 and 1st xv this season, playing a combined total of 54 matches. It sometimes takes more of my time than I would like (especially at weekends) but it is a huge part of being a PE teacher and one where I do get a great deal of satisfaction from, here's to a successful Football Season.

The rest of the week has been as busy as usual, the house is now all 'Christmasified' and the girls (including Sarah) are starting to get quite excited. I have just 5 days of work left this year before a decent break until 4th January (holidays always make me excited, more training time and a chance to catch up with friends and of course loads more time with Sarah, Ellie and Evie) I will get to take Ellie to school and collect her.

I was asking Ellie what she wanted to get Mummy for Christmas, her response was great;

"Lipstick, because Mummy is really fussy about going out with out lipstick"

She's absolutely right, one of Sarah's little habits, lipgloss queen I call her....Enjoy your week :)

Monday, 30 November 2009

Three Little Boys....

Three little boys went through their school life. Each boy had very similar opportunities throughout their time at school, some opportunities they took, some they didn't, soon they moved on to Year 13 and began the process of applying for Universities. I am a Year 13 (Upper 6th in old money) form tutor and have to write UCAS (University Application Process) references for the above three not so little boys.

Writing the reference for Boy One, who I shall call Arnold is a doddle. He has a tremendous work ethic, too many personal qualities to write in the provided space, has fully involved himself in Sport at school, has excelled as a senior pupil, was given Head Boy Status, raised money to and then participated in a month long World Challenge Expedition, and has shown dedication to pursue his Sporting talents. He achieved a solid set of GCSE grades and last year completed his A Levels also gaining a strong set of grades. His academic achievements have been as a direct of result of some natural talent but mainly huge amounts of hard work, dedication and desire to succeed.

Writing the reference for Boy two, who shall be called Sylvester has also been quite straight forward. Sylvester has been on a steady progression as a pupil throughout his school days. He has taken many sporting opportunities and is currently 1st XV Rugby Captain. Recent hard work and determination have resulted in Yorkshire U19 representative honour's this season. He has passed on some opportunities offered at school, but has gone out of his way to focus on coaching some of the junior sports teams, as a result he is moving positively in the direction he wishes to focus on at University. Around school he is very approachable, friendly with most pupils, a prefect with responsibility and a decent, independent young man who has been on a slow burner throughout school who will be successful at University.

The reference for Boy three, who I would like to call W Astas Pace is proving more difficult to write. Here is a boy who has slowly regressed as he has aged. He is a talented sportsman but has coped poorly with the sporting environment, he failed to take opportunities in the senior school to represent the school and struggles to cope with the playing environment. We are currently discussing whether he should represent the school 1st XI or whether his involvement will upset the balance of the team. He is academically decent however a lack of effort, focus and desire to achieve resulted in a weaker set of GCSE grades, that can only be described as underachievement. His A levels have been a constant battle between said pupil and staff, and now he is finding himself studying just two A Levels and looking at the possibility of a Foundation Degree, in a subject area (Architecture) where in all honestly his chance of success is fairly limited. I am not prepared to extend the truth with W Astas Pace, so can only write a short concise reference, not dwelling too much on his failures.

Writing references and helping students succeed is one of the reasons I teach. I have really enjoyed guiding Arnold and Sylvester through their University Application and I am sure they will continue to be very successful, as for W Astas Pace, I can only hope the passage of time and the contact with new individuals will put him back on the track he has fallen from.

We are all presented with opportunities throughout our days, weeks, years and life, how firmly we choose to take them depends on many factors, many people and often situations we may be in when the opportunity arises.

Sometimes I wonder whether I am always taking the opportunities in front of me, however many, many factors affect whether an opportunity is taken, and the degree to which it is pursued. At the moment there are opportunities to do many things, I am hoping I can take as many of them as possible in the next few weeks.
This week Ellie has left me no choice but to share a quote with you all. 'Ellie's Quote of the Week'
"In the night I heard a little voice and it was a fairy and it wanted to sit on my special plaster on my finger"

Monday, 23 November 2009

My Training Diary

Do you keep a training diary? I have kept one since my University days (1996) and think I have managed to write one every year except the few years in the early 2000's when whilst still training I didn't really have any focus. I find it a really useful 'NOW' tool, and also an interesting retrospective read. It also allows me to look at training progression, and I guess in 20 years I might be able to compare max bench press efforts, or interval run session pace with my Grand Children (oh how they will love visiting Grandpa Garrard's). So this week I thought I'd look at my last 4 training weeks and compare them to this time 12 months ago.

Week 1; 2008 Bike x 6, 6hrs, 120 miles, Run x 4, 3 1/4hrs: Total Training 9 1/4hrs.

Week 1; 2009 Bike x 4, 5 1/4hrs 110 miles, Run x 4, 3 1/4hrs, Swim x 2, 1 1/4hrs, Guy Fawkes 10 mile race: Total Training 9 1/4hrs.

Week 2; 2008 Bike x 7, 5 1/2hrs, 110 miles, Run x 2, 1hr:Total Training 6 1/2hrs.

Week 2; 2009 Bike x 6, 7hrs, 140 miles, Swim x 1, 1/2hr: Total Training 7 1/2hrs.

Week 3; 2008 Bike x 7, 9 1/4hrs 170 miles: Total Training 9 1/4hrs.

Week 3; 2009 Bike x 5, 6hrs 110 miles, Run x 2, 1 1/4hrs, Swim x 2, 1 1/4hrs, Weights x 1, 1hr: Total Training 9 1/2hrs

Week 4; 2008 Bike x 7, 9 1/4hrs 175 miles, Run x 3, 2 1/2hrs, Weights x1, 1/2hr: Total Training 12 1/4hrs

Week 4; 2009 Bike x 6, 7hrs 130 miles, Run x 2, 2hrs, Swim x 2 1 1/4hrs, Weights x 2 1 1/2hrs, Abbey Dash 10k Race: Total Training 11 3/4hrs.

In a summary form;

2008 Bike 30hrs, 575 miles, Run 6 3/4hrs, Weights 1/2hr: Total Training 37 1/4hrs.

2009 Bike 25 1/4hrs, 490 miles, Run 6 1/2hrs (2 races), Swim 4 1/4hrs, Weights 2 1/2hrs: Total Training 38hrs.

What does this show? well I guess the one thing that jumps off the page for me when I look at my diary's is the consistency of my training, particularly over the last 3 years. This year I am trying to train much more like a Triathlete and whilst it is still 'all about the bike' my promise to swim through the winter and to run more consistently is happening. I haven't looked into specific sessions but if I did these 4 weeks would show much more variety, interval sessions on the bike, running intervals and more specific weights/core sessions (currently in a leg strength building phase) In addition there are 2 running races in 2009. This isn't a coincidence or me selecting particular weeks for good stats, but a deliberate desire to do more running races for that ultimate, not possible to replicate in training intensity that only a race brings.

My training diary also provides me with positive motivation, it is great to look back on a week and see a solid set of numbers, or to see numbers missing for a particular discipline and to then sort it out the next week.

So week 4, 2009 was a good one, nicely balanced, some intensity and the Abbey Dash 10k race where I ran 39.10 (6.18min mile pace) today my legs are suffering, but what's the point in racing if you don't hit it as hard as you can, a little DOMS didn't hurt anybody!!!!

Sarah knows that I enjoy the prospect of opening a new training diary on Christmas morning, I wonder whether she will be able to find another Mickey Mouse one?

Sunday, 15 November 2009


This weekend I have managed to watch some of the International Sport that has been on. I enjoy watching the Rugby, and find it really beneficial to my refereeing and development as a coach. I find football on TV a long occasion, and rarely manage to watch an entire match. I saw some of the England v Brazil match (England 0 Brazil 1), watched England beat Argentina 16 - 9, and then managed to see Ireland v Australia (20 - 20) when Evie fell asleep lying on my chest. Sitting here on Sunday evening am I inspired by the performance of highly paid professional sportsmen? well in a word NO, (although things improved somewhat this afternoon).

Where has the spark gone from team sport? where have the match winners gone? where has the spontaneity and improvisation gone? There wasn't much on show this weekend, particularly when an English team was involved.

I think 15 year's ago (bit of a guess) football started to change, (was that about the time of the Premiership?) I remember hearing many managers say 'if we don't concede a goal we won't lose and we may win'. Team's started to put more and more emphasis on the defence and as a result games became tighter, teams conceded fewer goals and they would often sneak a goal or hold out for a draw. I realise a solid defence is vital in professional sport, but the last time I explained winning to the boys and girls I teach I remember saying if you score more goals, score more tries, score more points you will win, it's still the same. Yes you need to be solid in defence and stopping the opposition scoring or your badminton opponent hitting winners will give you a greater chance of winning, but you still have to score some points for yourself or your team. In my teens I played tennis, and every year we had the village tennis championships. Very often I would come across the same player who had one very simple strategy, get the ball back over the net. He did exactly that, safe, low risk tennis, he kept returning the ball, safe serves, rarely going for a winner, guess what happened? He frustrated the hell out of me, I made mistakes, got wound up by his defensive game plan and quite often I would lose to him. (I don't really think he beat me) Some would argue a pretty effective tactic........anyway back to our overpaid footballers. When was the last time a striker scored a hatrick? when was the last time a midfield player scored a mighty goal from outside the box (not a free kick) when was the last time you saw a attacker take it past the goalkeeper and slot it into an empty net? I think with all this defensive thought, strategies and tactics to keep the opposition out individuals and teams have forgotten how to score goals, and guess what the same thing is now happening in rugby.......

Stop the opposition scoring, let them make mistakes and maybe opportunities will present themselves, enter stage left the specialist 'Defence Coach'. A contrasting thought, be aggressive in attack, outplay the opposition, commit numbers and create overlaps, look for opportunities to score, controversial!!! The England game was dire. Talk about a team devoid of ideas, and individuals scared to make mistakes. Another thing I will tell the boys I teach is to look after the ball. Keep the ball, protect the ball, surely you need it to score goals or tries!! However cue the England's tactics, (and many other Rugby teams), kick the ball back to the opposition and see if they make a mistake, if they don't they will return it to you, and you can have another go. I remember at school practising kicking the ball so that it bounced into touch and you then had the opportunity to win the lineout (guess lineouts are too predictable now so that's a pointless tactic) So mistakes are made, the ball is knocked on. Ok, nice territory deep in the opponents half with the ball at the scrum, surely a perfect position to launch an attack, Oh how wrong I am. Instead, win the scrum keep it tight, set a ruck, set another, set another make some ground and lure the opposition into a mistake that results in a penalty, Bingo, free shot between the posts 3pts yawn, yawn, yawn!!!! Who would want to be a winger with today's tactics. The way we are going, and I don't think we are far away we will have specialist kickers (probably American Football Players) who are that good they will be able to kick from pretty much anywhere. We wonder why today's players can't attack, score goals or tries, well it's not rocket science, they rarely get the opportunity to practise the skills required or create the partnerships with their team mates to build effective attacking positions.

Rooney attacking the Brazilian defence doesn't have the skills, knowledge or confidence to back himself and take on the defender and head towards goal, it's fear of failure, or lack of confidence, so what does he do? He turns back inside and plays a safe square or backwards pass, end result all impetus has gone from the attacking situation. Same on the Rugby pitch. The opposition give you the ball via a poor kick, where's the 15 running with pace and power, initiating an attack bringing in his winger and looking to open up the defence? In an attacking line where's the 15 joining the line, running with pace, looking to outnumber the opposition, looking to commit a dummy runner, throw a miss pass, work a scissors move he's not there, he's sitting deep just in case the scrum is turned over and the opposition attack. Managers are scared of losing, directors in turn put so much pressure on not losing, and as a result this negative approach to winning sport is reinforced in most modern players. Modern players are scared to be do something different, scared to be spontaneous, in case it doesn't work.

Before I move on I have a simple idea that might make the game of Rugby more exciting again. Make the penalty worth 2 points and the try work 6. Teams will still have to behave themselves, but it might just encourage teams to be braver and look for try scoring situations. 3 converted tries would require 12 penalties for the boring, play it safe team, even Jonny's not capable of slotting that may over.

I wonder whether some endurance athletes have also lost the spontaneity and ability to improvise, particularly with our training. Not necessarily just in terms of effort, but also in terms of the type of sessions we choose, where we do those sessions, when we do those sessions, swimming, running or cycling in your comfort zone. Some sort of training plan is probably a must, for me a rigid weekly training plan very rarely works. I usually miss a session and then beat myself up for doing so, if I set a session in stone and then fail to deliver I am often left feeling a bit deflated. For me I prefer to have some ideas for my training but with enough flexibility to change or miss sessions, without it causing World War V in my mind.

How often do you ride the same old routes at the same old speeds, run the same out and back or do the same warm up set, session after session in the pool. In the gym, Bench Press then Shoulder Press then Upright Row then Bicep Curl then Tricep Extension then too knackered for the situps and crunches, sound familiar? Take a look around you, have you ever run a route through the woods near your home or have you ever driven to a challenging wood or park for a run in a change of scenery. Have you ever ridden your favourite route in reverse. When was the last time you left your HR monitor at home and just went for it, or just ran without any timing device.

Unfortunately in Professional Cycling the Rugby, Football theme is occurring. Take for instance the fact that all cyclist are radioed up. Taking directions from their team managers the riders know exactly the time gaps and when to chase and how hard to chase, I hope the UCI ban radios, and we get back to the cyclist racing, taking chances and making there own decisions.

To a lesser extend power meters are having a similar effect in Ironman Triathlon. A superb training tool, but doesn't it take the guess work and spontaneity out of race day. Stick it at 200watts and come in with a 5.30 bike split giving you the platform to run your predicted 4.30 marathon using your Garmin to control your pace, Oh what a surprise my finishing time is exactly as I predicted. OK I know it's not that simple but what about if you were having a 'blinder', your legs feel like you are spinning, and you wonder whether your chain has fallen off it feels that easy, but NO wait a minute, stay in control, Mr Powermeter is too high, slow down, slow down!! Have we lost the opportunity for that monster day when massive PB's are earned?

This week I was spontaneous, and I loved it. On Thursday I rode my bike and slotted in 5 intervals on a steady incline taking approx 4 mins to ride. I hadn't planned to do this, but I rode the hill and felt good so decided to do a few more, I also hit it pretty hard. Then on Friday I trained with My Judo Friend Dane, although I hadn't lifted weights for a couple of weeks sod it, lift heavy, bench press, squats, flys and some pretty severe weighted abbs exercises. After lunch I wanted to run. I wasn't that inspired by my usual route along the river bank so decided on some rugby pitch intervals. I completed 8 laps, holding 68seconds on a 90 seconds recovery. I felt very tired on Saturday morning and had planned to ride to work, but with 2 solid, different high intensity days behind me I was quite content to drive in and take a couple of rest days.

This week I invite you to look for moments in your life and training where you can be spontaneous. Go on do it, it really is quite enjoyable doing something a little different.....I think I might ride where I will sprint max out for every sign post, bring it on...
The photo? I wanted to jump off the steps on holiday in Majorca, so I did......

Monday, 9 November 2009

Citius, Altius, Fortius

'Faster, Higher, Stronger' the Olympic moto and the name of my Blog, what's that got to do with this weeks thoughts? Well it sort of links in to how I am looking at my training this year. The picture for the last 3 years has been racing Ironman. During the preparation for each Ironman it has all been about preparing my body to endure a long day of racing. This is vital and must be number 1 priority for an athlete like myself, by that I mean an athlete who has just a finite training window each week due to work and family commitments. Each session is aimed at maximising success on race day. It is either a very brave athlete, very confident athlete or very experienced Ironman athlete that is prepared to play around with their training. For me most swimming sessions were long, steady sets, riding was mostly as long as possible, steady state/ submaximal and running was focused on steady 8min/mile or slower with great form. With the hours I had available to train I felt this was the most sensible approach and would give me the best possible chance of finishing my Ironman race as well as I possibly could, it's not the only way but it is where I found myself. I think it worked, I finished each Ironman, went faster at Switzerland than UK and then had a strong race throughout the day on the challenging Lanzarote course. This year however things are getting a bit more spicy.......

I am aiming to race predominantly Middle Distance Triathlons. I know I can complete the distance so it's all about doing so with as much speed as I can muster from my 8.5% body fat frame :) (I am sure it's shot up to 15% thanks to the Guys Fawkes goody bag and my lack of will power and over indulgence!!) This year as many sessions as possible will have an aim, and I will look to vary the aim of sessions from day to day or week to week. Now this sounds straight forward. I have many years of training experience, I have a Sports Science Degree, I teach training principles and I am surrounded by very knowledgeable people......but I reality of change and is quite tough. I am quite motivated by miles in my training diary, comparisons between years for training hours and such like volume related goals. See my keenness to complete the 1000mile May challenge, great for an Ironman athlete, but a direction I have to move away from this year. It is a new direction I am looking forward to moving in and so far I have resisted the invitation from Tom to join him in early August for the 'Outlaw Ironman Triathlon'

So what sort of stuff will I be looking to do. Let me start with swimming. "Hey Ben it's 6 months before your first race, surely it's way too soon to start swimming"? No not this year, I am going to swim through the winter, and I am going to swim properly through the winter. I am going to focus on my technique, I am going to try and bring my continuous swim 100m time down from 1.45's to 1.30's. I am going to swim shorter sets, and I am going to test myself with the added motivation found in the form of the Winter Swim Challenge.

As always my bike training will be consistent courtesy of my daily commute to work. However I am looking at a different approach to my cycling for at least the next few months. I have lowered the gearing on my fixed wheel, I have challenged myself to stay out of the BIG ring on my road bike and I am looking to train at a much higher cadence and improve my pedalling efficiency. I have also realised that my long ride on a Thursday is not all about spending as long as possible out on the bike, aka last few years Ironman training mode. I intend to mix up my Thursday rides. Riding between 1 1/2 and 3 hrs but throwing in some higher tempo intervals mid ride, hard hill repeats, shorter max efforts etc etc. My rides to and from work will also vary, some days 1 min on 1 min off or timed efforts between set points. I might not record many really long rides in the next few months, and I may find I don't tot up as many miles of riding next year, but more riding variety and quality is the song I am dancing to this season.

Running is all about gaining my long lost friend 'Mr Speed'. In 2000 I ran a 17.51 5k on the track, a 37.30 10k and 62.30 10 miler. OK I am 10 years older and may have lost a few fast twitch muscle fibres, but I should be capable of running faster. I am slowly distancing myself from the slow plodding style (great for Ironman racing) and have realised that to do so I need to hurt more when I run. Intervals, short hill repeats, more racing and generally more frequency of running will I am sure bring my fast twitch fibres out of retirement and allow me to see low 7's and 6min/mile splits frequently on my Garmin. I am no longer fearful of running 26.2 miles, and hence have changed my perspective on my run training. So far so good, as I am really pleased with my performances at The Harewood Off Road 10 miler, Sherwood Pines Off Road 10k and the Guy Fawkes 10 miler. I have more races planned and some tough training sessions to do.

I think realistically I can fit in between 8 and 12 hours a week training. This is of course dependent on my work load at school and my energy levels. This sort of time, spent training like I did last year would see me maintain my fitness and consolidate my present bike and run speed, however this amount of time spent at a variety of running speeds, biking speeds and heart rate intensities will I have no doubt see me come out of the winter with more power and speed. As for my swimming watch this space, I can already feel a strange like skin growing between my toes!!!!

Finally motivation, without it the winter is hard. I am surrounded by very motivated people and love the fact that through Twitter and various other means I can influence others and be exposed to their positive influences. I know I have been a great source of motivation for an ex-pupil of mine in the past, now he is also adding to my motivation armoury. Dane Mitchell is a black belt in Judo and this year has delayed his University application to pursue his goal of completing in the 2012 Olympics. I have been training with Dane helping him pack on some muscle to take him towards his 81kg weight limit. (Oh to be 18 again and overflowing with Testosterone and HGH he just looks at the weights and develops) A few weeks back he took bronze in the National Championships and is now firmly in the GB squad. On Sunday he was put through his paces at a GB squad fitness testing session at the EIS at Sheffield. In his group he won every test. He reached level 13.8 in the bleep test (bare footed on a Judo mat) sick on completion due to the level he pushed himself to, he completed level 17 on the press-up test. Start with 1, then 2, then 3, then 4, then 5 all way up to 17 (total 153 press-ups) as well as topping the group in a power test, flexibility and various other tests. He is well on his way, and whilst I cannot bench press as much as him anymore I am still doing a regular training session with him, taking inspiration and motivation from his attitude, performance and drive.

This time next week I will be reflecting on a solid training week including variety and a further move away from Ironman training and a move towards training for Middle Distance Speed Performance.......'Citius, Altius, Fortius'
p.s. this weeks picture my DS Racers, built for Speed :)

Monday, 2 November 2009

A Great Week...

After my ramblings last week, I can report a great week and a return to my old self. The week has been helped by being on Half Term, but I do feel I have turned a new page and started a new chapter. Whilst it's been a long 7 week first half term it's hardly an eternity, I am very happy to have a week's holiday however I have very little time for the teachers at my school who just cannot hack a few weeks work before claiming illness and then moan about how long the term is. Come on guys don't moan about it, if you don't like having 16 weeks holiday a year, working at most 7 weeks before a weeks break then please get out and get yourself a job where you have to book your 5 weeks with your boss!!!

It's been a full week, lot's of family time, some relaxation time, plenty of training and mucho weather. Spring felt like it arrived on a couple of days, perfectly timed for a couple of bike rides. Then on Sunday the wind and rain came just in time for the Guy Fawkes 10 mile running race. I actually love running in the rain and once we had run the first mile I was quite warm. However my supporters remained stranded in the car in the flooded field where they did very well to amuse themselves with all the usual in car games, including eye spy and singing. The Halloween Chocolate and Sweets came in handy but really the patience and inginuity of Sarah was the real reason 2 hours in car can be so much fun. This was a real shame as the race venue was Ripley Castle which has some fantastic grounds, a great tearoom and looks pretty Castley so Ellie would have been fascinated (she asked if Kings and Queen's still lived there) It will be a good location for a picnic in kinder weather.

The picture's were taken at Tropical World in Leeds. It was nice to have a day out with just Ellie. Recently Evie has sort of taken over, she is at that very awkward 2 1/2 years age where communication is developing more slowely than understanding and the desire to be involved. At times she is certainly a terrible two. Anyway me and Ellie went to Tropical World saw all sorts of exotic animals and got up close and personal with some lovely butterflies. We hit the gift shop where Ellie bypassed the soft toys instead wanting a book and animal pen to draw some pictures, and practice her writing. So often I forget she has only just turned 5, she really is an attentive, caring, intelligent little girl. We then headed up into Headingley and had lunch at Gusto's. Ellie got to make her own Pizza and I got a hugely overpriced, miniature Caesar Salad, (should have had a pizza) but the food was secondary to the time I got to spend with Ellie.

On Friday I took myself, Ellie and Evie (Sarah was fixing Saxophones) across to Liverpool to see my brother Max and his wife Rachael. It was a visit with a two pronged attack. Auntie and Uncle get to spend a bit of time with their nieces and Daddy gets ride a stationary bike to exhaustion whist bro is stabbing his finger taking copious amounts of blood for lactate analysis. Max lectures Sports and Exercise Science at Liverpool Hope University, I wanted to a do a Maximal Power test on the bike to establish some training zones and Max wants some more subjects for his BASES accreditation. I got a body analysis in the bodpod which gave me a body fat of 8.5%. Although Max is quite happy with it's accuracy I think it may be a little low, however I was super happy with the result. Onto the bike and I maxed out at 390 watts for 2 mins, reaching 180 bpm heart rate. Lactate was sky high so Max will be able to plot an accurate Onset Blood Lactic Acid Accumulation profile against Heart rate, and then give me some advice for some subsequent training zones. I was more then happy with my bike performance, it is great to do and fits nicely with my desire to train more scientifically and move away from the long steady training I have focussed on for the last 3 Ironman filled years. Speed and quality is where it's at this year my friends!!!
The rest of the week was far from empty. Swimming with Ellie, pumpkin carving, Trick or Treating, tree surgery in the garden, leaf clearing, a shocking DVD 'Shoot em up' with Sarah, Nice Sunday lunch post race with Ove, Emma and 6 week old Eva and of course the usual day to day fun and frustrations that two little girls bring. I managed to give Sarah a bit more free time than her usual week so she could get to the gym and pool, where she is really enjoying herself. This weeks post wouldn't be complete without some attention to my training, given that when it's happening I am a much nicer person to be around, more balanced, more contented and generally happier. In a summary form my training week looked like this.
Mon: am RUN 5.5 miles, Steady 8min/mile.........pm BIKE (Ceepo) 1hr steady spinning 139bmp HR.

Tues: am RUN 5 miles including 8 hill rep hard intervals........pm SWIM 400m TT 6.33

Wed: am BIKE 47 miles 2 1/2 hrs high cadence riding (min 100 rpm)

Thurs: pm BIKE (Ceepo) 1hr steady spinning 132bpm HR Brick RUN 3.5 mile 8min/mile

Fri: am Max Power Test 3/4 hr
Sat: pm SWIM Drills set 1600m 3/4hr
Sun: am Guy Fawkes 10 Mile Run Race 1:10:50 ave HR 170bpm

Total: 9 3/4 hrs nicely balanced between swim, bike, run.
The challenge now is to maintain the balance between each discipline and the balance between intensity when I return to work. I know it's possible and I am going give it a good shot.
Oh yes nearly forgot, my new Asics DS Racers were the 'dogs danglies' on Sunday in the race, and finally....I have booked my place on the Leeds Bradford Triathlon Club Training Camp departing 28th March 2010 to Malaga for a week, will be awesome.
Let me leave you with one of my favourite quotes,
'if you're not pushing yourself beyond the comfort zone, if you're not constantly demanding more from yourself expanding and learning as you go you're choosing a numb existence. You're denying yourself an extraordinary trip'

Have a great week folks, see you in 7.......

p.s. nearly forgot, Best of luck to my best mate Ben Bigglestone in his latest coaching adventure, his VO2 Performance Center nr Seattle where you can crank out some serious cycling watts in one of his organised group cycling sessions. You don't need any luck Ben it's going to be very successful, just wish you'd not moved so far away, miss you buddy.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Time for a shake up.....

'Ben has shown a little interest in the subject of life these last few weeks, but I feel he is slipping and could demonstrate and do so much more. He seems too accepting of some of the difficulties his life is throwing at him at the moment, and is quick to use these as excuses for his poor performance. Like a bottle of Orangina Ben needs a vigorous shake to wake himself up, I expect Ben to turn his underpar performance around with just a little more thought and effort'.

There we go, I have written myself an end of term report. I have been honest and today my friends I will begin to try harder.........

I have been a lazy, tired, demotivated individual for too long now, and today I am gonna give myself a shake and snap out of it. Enough is enough, there are a few things in my life that I am currently finding disappointing and I have no reason to think like this. With just a little bit more get up and go life will once again be fun, and full of the things I like to do.

Blog, or in my case what blog? For a year whilst training for IM Lanzarote I really enjoyed writing my blog, and I know there were a few people who liked reading it. Why no Blog for weeks and weeks and weeks, well I have just been too lazy to write something. There has been much to write about, life in general, training, racing etc etc I have had plenty of opportunities to spend an hour writing down a few thoughts, just couldn't be arsed.

Training, what training. Training and Exercise is what makes me the person I am. I love doing it and I am a little lost without it. Apart from riding to work, I have done very little of what I would call training. I have hardly lifted any weights, I have hardly run, I have hardly swam (ok that's not such a problem but I did say I'd try to swim once a week, and I do love swimming) Why? Well I am not going to list my excuses, they make pretty pathetic reading, too busy at work, rubbish. Too tired once I have put my girls in bed, rubbish. Garage too messy so can't get to my weights, rubbish (tidy it you lazy wan**r) No time at work for a lunch time run, rubbish too easy to drink coffee in the staff room. "My name is Ben Garrard and from today I am going to make more effort to do what I like doing"

I have two absolutely gorgeous girls. Ellie is a beautiful 5 year old full of life, enjoying school, thriving and loving learning. Evie is 2 1/2 years old, she is different to Ellie, she behave's and reacts differently to her sister. Ellie was a perfect little girl, Evie is different, she doesn't do the same things as Ellie did, she doesn't sleep like Ellie. She thinks the naughty step is a game. Six months ago all she would eat is sausages, now she says 'don't like them' It is me who needs to adjust, not Evie. Too often situations occur that upset me, but in hindsight it is not the situation that has upset me, but my inability to react appropriately to the situation in front of me. With Sarah I chose to have children, they are my life and having children is fabulous. I must not dwell on the difficult times, I must cope with the challenging times, but more importantly I must smile and enjoy their company.

I want to spend more time with Sarah. Well my friend sort it out!!!! I am busy, Sarah is busy but there is still plenty of opportunities in a week to spend time with her. I need to look more closely for those opportunities and I need to work harder to engineer time. "My name is Ben Garrard and as of today I will look for more opportunities and make more of the opportunities I have to spend time with my gorgeous wife"
As I write this Evie is sitting on the lounge floor next me making me smile as she tries to eat a Muller Crunch Corner Vanilla Choco Balls Yoghurt. She's been at it for 5 minutes, there is yoghurt on her top but it's not a problem, infact it's fun and her smiling face and cheeky manner make her who she is.
Great stuff, I feel like a new person. I think we have all been through times in our lives when things are just ticking along. My life was just ticking along, don't get me wrong even then there were some pretty great things happen, but like my desire to be the best at my sport, I want to be the best at my life, and for the past few months I have been underachieving.
Winter might be on it's way, it will be dark at 5.30 today, and spring might seem a long way off, but hey there are plenty of exciting months and events from now till then. Life can often be one long list of plans always looking forward to the future. Today and now is the only sure thing and that is what I want to enjoy. Have fun out there, do what you want to do, enjoy being you and enjoy those loved ones that you have chosen to surround yourself with. Must go now, Evie not quite understanding that Poo Poo's need to be done in the potty as well as Wee Wee's, just got to remove it from her knickers and plop it down the toilet...........

Wednesday, 12 August 2009


I haven't blogged for ages, Why? well the focus of my blog has been training and since Lanzarote I guess that has been ticking along with nothing of real significance to write about. I have enjoyed a bit of a rest from the computer and I guess wanting to write something meaningful each week has left me a little short of inspiration. In reality it has been a very busy 12 weeks since Lanzarote. He's a quick recap of some of the things that have happened.

Majorca: 2 weeks family Holiday in Cala Bona, in a Thompson Family Extra Resort. This was our first 'non race' holiday and we were really excited about the prospect of enjoying 2 weeks in the sun as a family. Overall it was nice holiday, the facilities that make this type of holiday different from a normal apartment holiday were exceptional. Kids clubs for Ellie, Creche facilities for Evie, great swimming pool, swimming lessons for Ellie, etc etc were all very much appreciated for that little bit of free time so that Sarah and I could also have a bit of a break on some days. Ellie loved the evening entertainments dancing, kids games etc, the next few years will be fun as I keep catching her singing bits to songs on the radio and dancing in front of the mirror :) 95% of the people then enjoyed the Reps evening entertainments that went through to 11.30pm. However watching Rod Stewart or Tina Turner Tribute acts and Holiday Reps doing their stuff is neither Sarah's nor mine idea of a good night. Options were a little limited, back to the apartment and sit on the balcony with a bottle of wine, entertainments too noisy, go out in Cala Bona, too late for Ellie and Evie. We were a bit snookered and felt we missed 'our' time when the girls had gone too bed. Thus we are now searching for the holiday that has 'some' provision for children during the day time, but doesn't turn into Butlins as the sun sets, we quite fancy the idea of EuroCamp etc in the South West of France, suggestions welcome.

Broken Ulna: Evie had run, jumped, been a lunatic for 2 weeks in Majorca. The day after returning she is at an indoor play center with her friends and she falls from a little soft step and would you believe it breaks her Ulna. She is now into week 3 with her arm cast, it comes off tomorrow. It hasn't worried her in the slightest. Just terrified me and Sarah as she continues to bounce around and behave like the bundle of energy that she is.

Racing: After Lanzarote I looked at the Triathlon race schedule and time trial race schedule and wondered what to do. There wasn't really any triathlons that were jumping off the page at me, so I decided that a decent couple of months of time trialling would be the way forward. It's been going pretty well so far. I have ridden 1.57.30 (ave speed 25.52mph) for 50 miles, 58.38 (25.58mph) for 25 miles and 23.40 (25.38mph) for 10 miles, I feel my speed and power is consistent around 25 to 26mph average, what I need to do is find some more watts to push performance up and my times down. Has 3 years of ironman training made me slow? have I lost my top end that I had in my mid 20's? or am I just needed more racing and time trial experiences. The arrival of my new bike (an impulsive buy from a club mate at a price too good to be true) has helped fire me up. Check it out!!!!!

Camping: We have had a couple of fun camping outings with friends at a great site in the North Yorkshire Dales and in the garden. Sleeping under canvas and living outside is good fun. Ellie and Evie seem to like it, hope to fit another one in before the summers out.

Jobs around the home: Boring stuff really, some necessary, some done out of a few months of neglect and some done to make training more comfortable. My Garage/ Gym is now looking clean and inviting, strength and conditioning is now back on the agenda in a big way. Oh to be 18 years old? I have been putting one of my A Level Pupils and Family Friend's through his paces on the weights. He is on the verge of breaking into the GB Judo Squad, and has decided to delay his University experience this year to concentrate on his Judo Goals. At 73kg he was just out of the 73kg category but at the bottom of the 81kg Category. Heavy weights, protein and an intense appetite for training have seen him pack on 5kg's in the last few weeks. He is well on the way. I am just about holding my own, but for how mush longer I'm not sure! Oh to be 18 again and have more Testosterone and HGH than the Tour de France Peleton (that's a little unfair it seems to have been a very clean tour) Dane is a very motivated athlete, switched on kid, great support network at home and I think will be there in 2012.

Toast: I love toast! white bread, multigrain, brown, wholemeal it just doesn't matter. I can destroy a loaf over a couple of days no problem. However with toast comes butter, jam, peanut butter, honey, Nutella etc etc. I read an interesting book called 'The Paleo Diet for the Athlete' and have since been trying to cut down on my intake of wheat and grains. In brief a Paleo diet suggests we eat like a Caveman, lots of good meat and fish, heaps of veg and fruit and nothing that they wouldn't have had eg, wheat and grains as well as the more obvious refined sugars and processed food. I have been giving it a go. I have eaten more fruit and veg than before and have not really missed the pasta, rice or breads that would have made up 30% or more of most meals. Breakfast is now fruit, nuts, a little Muesli and a little yogurt or eggs usually in the form of a 3 egg omelet with various ham, chicken, mushroom combos. I have not become 'anal' over what I can and cannot eat but if possible have tried to go for it. I think I need to tweak it a little so it works for me, fitting in with my family and lifestyle but in theory it makes quite a lot of sense to me.

www.ironman.com: I have spent many hours watching the updates from various Ironman Races across the World as my friends have raced their socks off. Too many at this stage to call individually but well done some amazing performances, Inspiring stuff :)

Reading: I have really enjoyed reading this summer. I have Read 'In search of Robert Millar' an interesting read about life as a pro cyclist. 'Thunder and Sunshine', Alistair Humpreys story of his journey by bike around the World, now that's an adventure, made me feel very safe and small in my comfortable bubble. 'The Paleo Diet for Athletes' (see above). 'Mark Cavendish, Boy Racer' this was really enjoyable. I might squeeze one more book in before I return to work, suggestions?

Coffee: Throughout my life I have drunk Tea not really getting the coffee taste, however Tea is a bit boring so I have given the famous bean a go. Finding proper coffee a bit of a shock I have eased in slowly and am now enjoying the Tea alternative of a milky Coffee or when the opportunity arises a Cappuchino. Not yet on the hard 'Black' variety but moving in that direction. Life's about experimenting so lets experiment!

Work: What is that? In a colleges office is a postcard that say's 'the 2 best things about teaching are July and August' If as a teacher that's your mindset then the rest of the year will be tough, but hey July and August are pretty good. So far I've had 5 1/2 weeks holiday with 2 1/2 more to go. I am looking forward to going back to work but being at home is not bad either.

Well that's a very brief over view I hope to get back into the regular blogging mentality, it's been very enjoyable. Take care and enjoy the sun for it is now shining, and before long it will be dark at 5pm:)

Monday, 15 June 2009

Goole Splashers

I have not long returned from Goole Swimming Pool where I have just had a very humbling evening with the Goole Splashers. I went along to their swim session to present them with the sponsorship money I raised from competing in Ironman Lanzarote. It was a warm feeling to be handing Val (the Secretary of the East Riding Of Yorkshire Disabled Sports Association, and organiser of the Splashers Swimming Club) a cheque for £550. What is brilliant is some of the money will go directly to the organisation of the 2009 Swimming Gala for all swimmers from the district.

When I met Val this evening I was instantly struck by somebody whose week revolves around organising activities for children and adults with various physical and learning disabilities. I would guess most, if not all of her work is voluntary. Whilst I was there tonight she was asking who would like to come along on Saturday to the Indoor Curling they had organised. They have got some adapted Curling Stones with ball bearings so they roll along the sports hall floor, sounds like great fun. Her energy, enthusiasm and dedication is clearly in huge abundance. Tonight at the pool there were 70 swimmers. Some had severe physical disabilities and required the hoist to get into the pool, wore armbands and had a helper with them in the water. Some were there independently mixing in and having fun with the others, some were physically fine and excellent swimmers, but had quite severe learning difficulties. Chatting to Val revealed that many had travelled as small groups from local care homes, some had come with their parents, and some had travelled from further afield, all because of the specific session organised by the Splashers. Tonight was a quiet night, apparently when 120 turn up things can get pretty noisy and boisterous!

There were smiling faces to be seen and laughter to be heard all over the pool. The water slide got a great deal of action, I can vouch for it's fun factor as I took Ellie down it a number of times, she loved it! Volunteers were throwing beach balls to whoever wanted to play, and care workers were helping hold and guide those who found floating difficult. The session was clearly a big part of the week for all there. They have access to the pool for 2 hours and I am sure some of the early arrivers were still there as I dried off at 8.15, they couldn't get enough of it.

I have offered my help, and intend to get down on more occasions over the next few months, getting in the water and helping out where I can. I will take Ellie with me some of the time, she did ask why the adults were wearing arm bands, so it will be a good experience for her. Ellie had a great time splashing around and soon made a friend with a little girl who she played on the mini slide with, they then played a throwing and collecting game with some floating foam animals.

It is always nice to give or do something for others. When I drop a few pennies in a collection pot in town and get a small circular sticker I feel good. Giving presents nearly always makes me feel as excited as receiving them. It was great tonight knowing that my efforts in Lanzarote, something I love doing, combined with the generosity of many of my friends, family and work colleagues will allow many there tonight to enjoy a competitve Swimming Gala and further sports activities over the coming year.

Watching all those people there tonight smiling, laughing and having fun reminded me that having fun is what it's all about. Sometimes it's all too easy to get wrapped up in our quests for personal bests or our pursuit for 'more', (more money, more strength, more fitness, more houses, more bikes, etc, etc) that we forget to enjoy the experience. Sure, we will set ourselves targets and goals, we will strive to achieve personal bests, we will want to see progress but along the way we must all make sure we have fun.......

Monday, 8 June 2009

Birthday Girl...

Evie was 2 years old on Saturday, now where did those years go? The change over the last year has been incredible. I wish I could learn and master as much as she has done in a year. All sorts of locomotion skills, walking, running (she's fast), jumping (just), eating with a fork, spoon and knife (sort of), drinking from a big girls cup and glass, communication (although most communication is in a language only understood by Evie, a language Sarah has called Evish) teeth cleaning, sitting on a big chair or kitchen stool and bossing your big sister around, (Jevon, is this normal behaviour from the youngest sister?) Happy Birthday Evie you have given us many sleepless nights in this last year but you have made our hearts glow on so many more occasions.

As Evie progresses at an alarmingly fast rate so does her sister Ellie. My brother and I took Ellie swimming on Sunday morning. After buying her a swimming sausage (6ft long foam swimming aid) and a sinking stick (the equivalent of the black brick) we went for it. Ellie is confident in the water, she spent most of the holiday in Lanzarote in the pool and loves jumping in, face planting (she calls this diving) being launched high in the air, however, all whilst wearing her armbands. After the usual fun and games, playing sharks etc etc, she then wanted her arm bands off to swim with her new sausage. She then wanted to pick 'Fred' up from the bottom of the pool (her name for her sinking stick) with her sausage for buoyancy. She then got rid of the sausage and with some great encouragement from Uncle Max managed to kick her legs and swim down a little deeper for 'Fred', and then finally she ended by really trying to swim between Max and I with her head up kicking and paddling like mad :) She was a STAR, had great fun and has made real progress, it wont be long before she is swimming for real, do they still do the 5m badge. She has now given Evie her armbands, and can't wait to go next weekend. Well done Ellie, you also fill our hearts with so much happiness and laughter.

The Garrard family has joined the world of the garden trampoline, a 10ft beauty. This was Evie and Ellie's Birthday presents from us and my Mum and Dad, thanks Mum and Dad it's ace fun. Needless to say most of the weekend was spent bouncing. 7am on Friday and Saturday we were bouncing, a great way to start the day.

I finally finished marking the 275 pieces of A Level Coursework, a job I do for the exam board each year. It is a small piece of work that should demonstrate the students ability to write 6 short essays chosen from a variety of topics from the 2 year Sport and PE Course. The standard of work from some students is incredibly low, it makes you wonder why they are doing A Levels. Why are they doing A Levels? Well it's a complex issue but I think the pressure from society, teachers and parents to study beyond 16 years is immense. There is also so little else to do. Apprenticeship positions have all but dried up and practical courses still have a stigma attached to them and many students don't fancy that option. So what happens, students stay at school or go to college and study subjects they were fairly successful at GCSE's (not really a true reflection of their intellect) Some subjects, Maths and Science modules can be taken over and over again, and many other subjects have turned to multiple choice style questioning or short answer style questions. Students then stay on at school and find themselves hugely out of their depth, unable to cope with the style of questioning and extended writing required for most A level subjects. They of course will get plenty of opportunities to retake the modular exams they fail to perform in and eventually at the age of 18 will most likely progress to a University (Universities now need to put bums on seats, so anybody will do) to study a degree course that probably won't lead into a related job, and then what???? I think employee's have already started to look at the path taken to get there as well as the end grade. I suppose in some cases it might show perseverance and determination but I still question whether it is the correct route for these students to be taking. It's not all doom and gloom, I have also come across some very clear, concise, accurate pieces of work at very high levels.

I have started training this week. I have ridden to work each day, thoroughly enjoying the weather and the steady no pressure riding. I have laid down the foundations for my 'get strong' weights campaign. Feeling the effects of a Chest session for a couple of days and an over enthusiastic weighted abbs session for a number of days. In also went swimming, an activity I have in the past simply forgotten about after completing my Ironman race. This year however things are going to be different. I intend to continue swimming, working on my technique and putting together some interesting pool sessions, building my swim speed and endurance. It's been a very enjoyable week of training (maybe exercising is a more accurate term)

I have plotted some rough plans for the rest of the season starting on Sunday with a 10 mile TT on the V212 course. This is the stretch of road where Tom, Helen and I have done multiple loops in our mega brick sessions, so I know it well. I hope to get my heart rate sky high and see what the clock stops on. I will then build on this adding in some serious intensity into my training. I am really motivated to take my fitness forward and enjoy some more races this summer and into the autumn.

Dad continues to make good progress and is now on the road to recovery. He has driven the car, ridden his mountain bike down the road a short distance and completed plenty of short daily walks. The specialist doctor doesn't think it is Labyrinthitis, but more likely a small blood vessel in the middle ear that has been affected by a lack of oxygen. The great news is that he should make a full recovery, he must walk, ride, practice balancing and start doing everything that requires balance and locomotion. In other words his progress is in his own hands, which is just where he wants it to be.

Great to see you this weekend Uncle Max and Auntie Rachael . Brilliant to see you having so much fun with Ellie and Evie, they had a wicked weekend with you guys. Fabulous Birthday Cake Rachael (I have eaten so much of it the last couple of days!)

Have a great week, I hope next week to report on a fast 10 mile TT.......

Monday, 1 June 2009

Fun times in Lanzarote

I don't intend to write much this week, I think I will let the photos do the talking. Following my Ironman experience on the 'Island from Hell' as my good friend Steven Hobson (10 times Ironman Canada finisher) calls it, I have enjoyed kicking back and spending mucho time with the girls. An added bonus was landing at Leeds Bradford on Thursday to be greeted by blue skies and warm weather, this continued throughout the weekend. Making the most of the brilliant weather I started my day at 6am in the garden and didn't really leave it until 9pm, excellente. 8 days of total recovery (apart from walking, pushchair pushing and messing around in the pool with Ellie) was just what the doctor ordered. Anybody out there who struggles to properly recover from an Ironman, and is lost without the training just needs some wee little ones. Perfect for forced recovery :)

My beautiful wife and me

Ellie and Sarah in the Fire Mountains

Pyjamas, rubber rings, sun hats what more do you need to have fun

Kite flying on Puerto del Carmen beach

Holiday hair

Top of Mirador del Rio climb

Ellie launching herself into the pool

Lunch at a great restaurant in La Santa

Breakfast in my Garden

This week I am riding to work, swimming (yep I intend to keep it going from now on) and starting my 'get strong again' weights campaign, the following week I might slot in a few runs. I intend to enter a few 10 and 25 mile TT's, and aid Tom with some time in the 'hurt box' as he ramps up some interval intensity on the bike before Ironman Switzerland.

HUGE congratulations to my best buddy Ben who race Hawaii 70.3 on Saturday. He had a really great race finishing 3rd in his age group, also earning a Kona Ironman Slot. The World Championships will be his 10th Ironman and 3rd visit to Kona, inspirational stuff as always mate, wish you were still here in England so we could train together.

Hope you enjoy the family snaps.

Friday, 29 May 2009

Lanzarote Ironman 2009: Race Report

I woke at 4am on race morning and quickly ate a bowl of cereal. If I eat quickly I can beat the butterflies before they take off and make eating very difficult. I sun creamed up with Ellie's SF 50 and prepared my water bottles and race kit. We were staying in a fabulous apartment complex in Puerto Del Carmen so it was less than a 5 minute walk down to transition. Entering transition on race morning makes it all very real, BOOM the nervous energy smacks you in the face. Pump up the tyres, check the bike, again, etc etc then find a quiet spot to relax and gather my thoughts.

I wondered whether pulling on my wetsuit for the first time since last August was a sensible thing to do (it still fitted) however a May race doesn't give much open water swimming preparation opportunity in England. I walked down to the beach with Tom, Helen and Sam feeling very excited and just a little nervous. I suddenly remembered that it was a running beach start so no chance for a quick swim warm up...BANG off we go.

The swim was the usual fight for clear water, I tried to stay calm as people swam across me and through my line. A few aggressive wider strokes helped clear some water, and a few narrower tighter strokes avoided a full on water fight. I felt good in the water and exited the first lap in 34.28. Lap 2 also had moments of congested water. Towards the top buoy I started to feel sick. I think this was due to the swell, swallowing some salt water and a general motion sickness, I was keen to get out of the water. I struggled to enjoy the final 10 minutes, however a couple of shoals of fish and the clear water helped. I was very happy to get out of the water in a time of 1:10:30. A solid swim time over a long course (probably 2 to 3 minutes according to most people) I wanted to compose myself and get rid of the sick feeling so walked up the beach and through T1. This, plus the longest transition area in the world didn't make for a speedy transition to my bike.

Out onto the bike I took my time to get my heart rate down and settled into a steady pace. The bike course was a real unknown. I'd had various descriptions from Tom but didn't really know what to expect. I rode nice and steady to a high 150's and low 160's heart rate feeling strong. I went through El Golfo and passed Helen who was looking nice and comfortable. I then pushed on to the first notable climb up through the Fire Mountains. Nothing more than a steady climb, keeping the cadence high in the 39 x 26. So many people cranking BIG gears WHY? Went really fast down the other side past La Santa trying to eat and drink. My stomach was on the edge and it wasn't easy or enjoyable to keep eating bars, gels, powerbar ride jellies or drink water. We turned in land and headed towards Mirador de Haria, it was here where it started to get HOT.

In reflection I don't think I drunk enough water through this section, but I was feeling good still and climbed Mirador de Haria and Mirador del Rio well passing a few athletes. I was starting to clock and pay more attention to the distance markers and things were looking good for my target time of 5:40, knowing the last 50km were pretty quick with a tail wind. I then checked my bike computer and was confused to see a 10 mile difference between my distance and that of the course markers. Convinced the signs wouldn't be wrong I concluded that my bike computer must be not working properly so I cracked on. At 175km (signs) we went up a slight rise and I thought we'd turn left into PDC and I would land a 5:40 bike split, instead we went straight on, and on and on and on.....I was confused, my head was filling with tired thoughts and I was watching the clock tick on. At the same time the heat was taking it's toll and I was feeling dehydrated and running low on energy.After what seemed like an eternity I turned into the final 500m along the beach front. Getting off the bike in 6:07:01, I was feeling pretty smashed, I stroll through transition trying to compose myself and find some energy. Not knowing the course had certainly made the bike harder, how they got the road signs so wrong one wonders, but that didn't really help either. However 6:07:01 was still a solid time so lets get on with this marathon run.
My target pace was around 8:45 min/mile, I'd swapped my Garmin 50 for the 405 so had mile splits from the word go. Showing low 9's I was a little off pace but I carried on feeling pretty good. I clocked my support crew, Sarah, Ellie and Evie and Tom's friends who would also shout me round Andy, his wife and his two girls, and Ian and EK, cheers folks the encouragement came at just the right times and your smiling faces made me pretty emotional during each lap. The run was far from flat with 3 climbs, well not really climbs but definitely gradual ascents each lasting between 100m and 200m. The wind that had blown me part of the way home was now in my face to the turn around point. I was running solid and went through the first lap in 59:24. Lap two was knocked out in 1:02:04 giving me a 2:01:28 first 1/2 marathon. Lap three is always the killer and here was no exception. I tried to drink plenty of water and eat gels and orange segments, and seeing Tom, Helen and Sam giving it plenty really helped my motivation. At the top turn on lap three I picked up Russ. Russ is a really solid IM athlete who has gone sub 10 hrs plenty of times. I followed his progress in Australia where he has been training and his adventures at Epic Camp early this year. Today he was having a bad day, hampered with a huge saddle sore preventing him cycling efficiently and running without pain. I convinced him to run and we knocked off lap three in 1:08:07 It was great to have some company, cheers Russ. Just one more lap to go.

I was starting to melt in the sun, I was turning into a salty mess and my energy levels were dropping very low. We walked through the aid stations taking on water, coke, gels and more orange. The aid stations were great land marks and we eventually made the top turn for the last time. I just had to run back down the course. Did I throw in a couple of sub 9 minutes sections? sure did, Did I stop at each aid station to stretch my exploding hamstrings? sure did. Did I feel great? sure did. As I approached the finish shoot I grabbed Ellie and holding her hand ran the final 25m through the cheering crowds to cross the line elated and smashed in a time of 11:53:36

My Marathon time was 4:20:33 with the final 1/2 taking 2:19:08, however I was still really really pleased. There were people exploding all over the run course, so many were walking from such an early stage. I'd run it all and once again put together three solid disciplines. I might have been an hour outside my prediction, but I always knew it was very ambitious and based a little loosely on what I thought I was capable off. Ultimately times are not what it's about. It's about putting together a training plan, showing commitment and dedication to that plan, taking the training highs and lows, and coming out on race day and enjoying the moments the race throws at you. The feeling at the top turn knowing you only have 5km to go is amazing, it's only surpassed by the one as you go across the line and the commentator shouts,

"Here comes another Ironman, it's Ben Garrard from England" that is me....

Lanzarote Ironman was incredible. Once again I have had a fantastic ironman experience. I loved racing with my friends Tom and Helen, that really added to the occasion, cheers guys. The final word must go to Sarah, Ellie and Evie who also had a really long day out on the course supporting me, and have been fabulously supportive during my training and preparation period, I love you all so much.