Make The Tour de France Even More Awesome.


Following the Tour De France on Eurosport and cycling websites is pretty good, but here are three things that can help you elevate your enjoyment to a whole new level.

And here’s a bonus – all of these are year round things that will add a whole new dimension to your training and racing enjoyment.

Subscribe to The Velocast

Hands down the best year round cycling podcast there is, but particularly around the grand tours and classicas and double particularly during TdF. Excellent insight, comment and analysis delivered with passion, humour and intelligence by twa canny Scots, in a way everyone can understand (ie: there is no bike snobbery involved!)

The Velocast is a paid for monthly subscription but delivers over 200 hours of quality content every year including daily shows from all the big events.

This podcast has made my long runs infinitely more bearable and if I had to chose, I’d probably listen to the podcast covering a stage over watching it live on TV.

Download the Pro Cycling Stats App is an unbelievable detailed resource where you can find pretty much any stat on any rider and any race. Complete geeksville and perfect for the race obsessive. It’s by far the quickest and easiest way to find team line ups and start lists but you can go waaaay deeper than that if you wish. Be careful – it’s a vortex of data that will suck you in.

Their newly launched app is all of that, on your phone. I’d recommend upgrading to the pro version for £2.99 a year.

Follow the Training Peaks Blog

Because Training Peaks is so awesome, it’s used by many of the pro tour teams and rider to analyse race (and training) data. The TRaining PEaks blog is given access to many of these which means you can have a really deep delve into the pain cave with the riders and get some great explanation and comment from the TRaining PEaks team. Ideal for power freaks.



Black Line London Does Windsor Triathlon

Swans of Windsor.

Back once again with the renegade master……the latest micro race reports are a departure from the torture of long distance racing and focus on a different sort of torture from the Windsor Triathlon 2014.

James Peet (22.18/62.03/41.47 = 2.09.22, 4th in AG and 12th Overall)

Fun morning out and a result indicative of my current fitness given lack of proper training over prev months. Decent swim (for me), ran out of steam on the bike & my legs haven’t felt so wobbly out of T2 in a long time. Loosened up & ran well in last 3km but def need more bike/run sessions if I’m going to do better at this short course stuff.

Jane Hansom (13.56/48.23/23.12 = 1.29.04  1st in AG and Overall)

entered sprint distance in prep for european champs in kitzbuhel this coming sat after 70.3 training. swim was ace. had a great start with a decent gap after 100m. swum through the wave in front. traffic jam at the buoys. drafted a fast moving swan on return (pro tip) swum too far around the power bar buoy )not a pro tip) bike solid. went hard. run could  have been faster. was overtaken by no one. fun event despite 6.12 gun. cheered on other BLL’s. went for coffee. definitely prefer longer distance. then i would have earned a bit of cake too.

Paul Burton (19.11/59.44/39.28 = 2.01.19 – 2nd in AG and Overall)

Goal: swim fast, bike under 60 mins, run solid off a massive one day taper. Result: swam very fast (must have been short), fastest bike whilst maintaining some semblance of control, ran solid. Second overall and age group in 2.01. Job done. Next stop Swashbuckler en route to Ironman Sweden.

Guy Laister (27.21/76.02/49.35 = 2.39.19 – 160th in AG and 671st Overall)

Proper comeback after nearly 5 years with injury, chuffed with a 2:39 finish. Tough swim, quality bike, run – enjoyed the feeling of hurting again.

Paul Deen (23.59/62.10/40.47 = 2.09.43 – 2nd in AG and 15th Overall)

4am alarm = OUCH! Strong current made for tough swim but happy with effort. Fastest T1 of day, but no prizes for that.  Felt good on bike & blew past all but a few in previous waves. Solid T2 but if I had known there was a prize for fastest I would have ran quicker! Run = hello pain cave, blimey short course hurts. Dig in & suck it up. Sub 2:10 goal achieved = happy face. Dominated by Pablo yet again, but I’m used to that and he isn’t a #KonaLegend like me.

Black Line London Does Ironman Mallorca 70.3

BLL Flag.

Our recent IM south Africa micro reports were so well received, we’ve committed to boring you in fewer words from now on.

The sunshine island of Mallorca recently shat itself when 7 BBL’rs took part in Ironman Mallorca 70.3 there.

Here’s how we got on…..

Mark Shipton (30.04/2.59/1.56) 212st in M40-44
After a panic Friday trying to find a replacement seat-post clamp I felt relieved to be on the start line. First serious race in a while, pre-race nerves never change. Had a confident swim, love the fight. Bike course was beautiful and kept telling myself to enjoy. The climb was honest. Motorway section was a dream. Run was war. The heat assisted the torture. The screams from BLL family where a saviour. Im back next year to sort out that run. 30.04/2.59/1.56 M40-44

Michael Collins (27.00/02:38/1:28 =4:41) 37th in M35-39)

Mallorca, my favourite destination! The plan: treat it as a big brick session, ride 90kms day before, race on tired legs, good plan!? Swim: can’t get any easier. Bike: contain myself and ride the climb controlled.  Run time: fun time, first km sub 4 min, hold back, wobble at 18 kms, recover, red carpet, high five Paul Kaye to his words of, “Black Line London kit is the best looking kit in triathlon” AGREED!

Carel Du Plessis (0:30/ 2:39/1:48) 104th in M30-34.

First ever 70.3. Awesome venue, and great to have BLL as company and support. Swim: Solid. Bike: Above all expectations. Run: Disaster, feet issues. Target: Sub 6hrs – result 5:06, chuffed to bits!

Paul Smernicki (0:29:27/02:40:45/01:39:18=04:57:37) 49th in M40-44

Surrounded by friends and family, in a happy place. PB Swim, solid bike, decent run. Did I leave it all out there? I’m ashamed to say not. PB, so happy. Party was great, drinks were drunk and escaped a hangover. A winning week all round then! Is this the best 70. in the world? Very possibly. See you in 2015 Mallorca.

Ashley Howes (0:30, 2:45, 1:35 = 4:57) 48th in 40-44

Palma airport: late night family pick up. Mosquito drama. Not much sleep. Gun, no clear water. Fantastic bike course. Under hydrated. No run legs. Struggle. Passed by Matt Molloy. 5k to go, find run legs. Catch Matt and Paul. Photo finish. Double up in September. Back next year.

Alastair Maher (0:30/2:34/1:32 = 4:44) 42nd in M35-39

Swam, biked and ran hard. Happy with race execution. New PB. Should buy a TT bike. The @blacklinelondon supporter cheers topped off a great day! @blueseventy @cervelo @asicseurope @oakley @powerbar #whitemilk 

Jane Hansom (26:14/2:49:24/1:34:44=4:56:07) 1st in W45-49

Amazing swim. Massive PB. Must have been mermaids down there helping me.  Bike was solid except chain came off . Kept focus and unusually had better second half. Stayed on during a very fast descent, lost my BLL water bottle – Gutted. Run was a total shocker – hot and horrible from the off. Stopping was not an option so hung on in and tried not to slow down too much. Won my age by 18 mins. Happy days.


Black Line London does Ironman South Africa

7. Swim start

Getting a group of friends together to share a long distance triathlon is one of the things that floats our boats. Ironman South Africa in April proved to be one such occasion. Seven of the gang raced and we had a blast, both on and off the race course. It’s a beautiful part of the world, and an incredible race – truly up there (or beyond) other big races that get significantly more coverage in the triathlon press, such as Frankfurt, Austria and Roth. Even more so this year as they changed the bike course from three flattish laps to a larger, 2 lapped course that showcased what the Eastern Cape has to offer. Hills, spectacular views, wind… it turned a fairly fast course (wind dependent) into a real brute. But it was all the better for that. Check out the race video here – and look at those bike course views!

Another highlight was sharing the trip with friends of Black Line London, such as Team Freespeed (Matt and Sam were racing, and Richard was there on media duties – massive thanks to him for most of the pictures below), Lucy Gossage, who had a superb race as second pro, and Paul Kaye, the voice of Ironman Europe & SA, who called us all (well, nearly all…) over the line and does his job with energy, passion and humour. #KayemanToKona.

Whilst fun was had by all, our races were mixed! Below are the micro-reports, 50(ish) word maximum to avoid boredom, and a gallery of the fun and games. Race reports are in age order, which quite neatly ends with our only Kona slot from the trip, from our resident Kona Legend who is, we gather, planning his outfit for the Underpants Run already. Cover your eyes for that one, especially if Dave Rowe qualifies again as well.

Ironman South Africa It’s a cracker of a race. Do it, and do it with friends if you can.

 Sam Blanshard (0:56/5:30/3:56 = 10:28, 7th in M25-29)

1. The Ironman swim should definitely be longer – 5km at least! 2. South easterly wind in PE = slow bike times. 3. Can Natasha Badmann not afford a new bike? 4. I wish I hadn’t lost my salt tablets, wait there’s Jamie. 5. If only I was a prince of Bahrain.

 Fiona Love (1:11/6:34/3:37 = 11:30, 7th in F30-34)

Wee paddle, rode like a donkey (but enjoyed the views) then tore off on the run past the pros to give myself a final 5km of torture to the finish line. Loved the Fusion Black Line kit but thanks to poor sun-creaming techniques have been left with permanent battle scars.

 Paul Burton (0:57/5:28/DNF)

Sweet… chest infection from flight! Start anyway. Nice swim. Cough. Ride well. Briefly. No power. Cough. Maybe stop after one lap. Stunning course. I’ll do lap two. Overtaking loads despite soft-tapping. Am I in this? Go for jog. Cough. Sod it. CBA. Massage & pizza after 18k. Cheer the guys. Always next time…

 Troy Squires (1:01/5:53/3:52 = 10:53, 15th in M35-39)

‘Home race’. Singing the National Anthem. This swim is taking AGES! Snapped chain. Chain fixed. Why does this hurt so much. I hate this sport. Smile, there’s mom and dad. The BLL boys and girl are smashing it – STOKED. 5km left, just get this done. Right turn, right turn, PAUL KAYE, red carpet, do the airplane. Finish. Proper finished. See you in 2015 PE.

Nico van der Westhuizen (1:06/5:16/3:41 = 10:09, 7th in M35-39)

Rolled the dice. Went all in on a hard bike after a slow swim. Really enjoyed riding the scenic and hillier bike course. Big smiles. Got lost on the run. Then paid for my over-biking. No rolldown slots. Missed Kona by two minutes. Tactical idiot.

James Peet (1:05/5:35/4:00 = 10:47, 11th in M35-39)

Poor swim, poor bike legs, double puncture, lost my head… long walk :o(

Lots of friendly faces, lots of sunshine, fun finish, great holiday :o)

 Paul Deen (1:04/5:34/3:32 = 10:17, 3rd in M40-44)

Will I break an hour for the swim? No. Windy baby! Well sub 10 isn’t happening. Keep grinding. Blimey not too many bikes in transition. Feeling good. Not feeling so good. Feeling really bad. Garmin bleeps 42Km. Where is the f*cking finish? Plan elaborate celebration. Forget elaborate celebration. Medical tent. Podium. Kona baby. Smiles.

Many thanks to Richard Melik for kind permission to use his photos.


Thoughts of an Ultra Runner

Alechia van Wyk

An ultra can do a lot of things for a lot of people.

But one thing it will always do is change your mind. It will focus your perspective and help you see things as they really are.

There are some lies that may be clouding your vision.

For example,I can’t run an ultra yet—I’m not in my best shape”. “I’m too old to start running ultras”. “It doesn’t appear that anyone else is struggling as much as I am”. 

One of these that stood out for me whilst running and not completing the North Downs Way 50miler was:

“My first ultra will be just like my training runs”.

You haven’t the slightest clue what your first ultra will be like. Expect nothing. The veteran standing beside you at the start line doesn’t know what this race will be like either. Neither does the dude who has run this course ten times. He can tell you about his past experiences, but he can’t tell you what the run will be like today. That’s the beauty of ultra running: Anything can happen.

Simulate race day conditions during training, but never let it fool you into thinking that you now know exactly what’s coming. You have no idea. The weather could turn, your food could not stay down (this happened to me), or you could step on a rattlesnake. Who knows.

Instead of stressing about it, take it as a relief. There is no pressure to be completely prepared, because nobody is. The runners who thrive are the ones who can be flexible. Have a good base, good nutrition on the day, and know how to adapt. Be ready and willing to tweak your strategy at a moment’s notice, and never see a change as a failure. I changed my strategy at 40kms, but only made it to 56kms, and had to make the decision to drop-out, and for those who have had to struggle with this decision would know how tough it was.

The ultra distance is hard to get your mind around. That’s why people give ultra runners puzzled looks. But once you break down that wall, run past the 42kms, all those lies you believed about yourself are exposed. And it’s easier to see yourself, as you really are—strong, courageous, and able. I will be back, running even longer.


#IMSA Race Week. It’s On….

AJWWW-161featured 2

Welcome to race week. At this point in the Ironman process, it’s all about the mind and a good performance at this week’s Mind Games can set you up really well for race day.

The training is done. Nothing you physically do now is going to make any difference. It’s for this very reason that I turn to mental preparation in the days leading up to an Ironman.

Panic Training

Don’t. If you think you’re under prepared, consider it a positive. You’re far better off going into an Ironman on fresh legs. You have months of training behind you – if you don’t believe that, consult your training diary. Seriously, just take a look at the miles you’ve logged. It can be quite a motivator. This week is about giving your body rest so it’s gagging to go on race day. Think of this week as an arrow. It’s been built and shaped, now you just need to keep the tip sharp and out of harm’s way until you fire it on race day.


In the sessions you have planned this week, use this time to picture yourself in race situations. Place yourself in the water. Imagine the situation in your head. Remind yourself of what you need to be focusing on in the race (stroke rate/catch/pull/sight/relaxed breathing/swim long). Remind yourself that you’ll be nervous (nerves are good, they keep you alert). Remember nervousness will turn to excitement. Allow yourself to feel excited. It’s one hell of an experience.

Plan things to think about on the bike and run. A mantra; special people; your form. Keep the best bits for when times get toughest. Plan for an emotional rollercoaster. Know there’s going to be times where you’ll have to have stern words with yourself. Plan that speech.

Rehearse in your head what you’ll do in T1, T2 or if you puncture. This prep helps you keep calm should you be faced with a difficult situation.

Dream of the finish. See that red carpet. Allow yourself to feel the wash of emotion you’ll experience when you know you’re going to finish this beast.

Phantom Pains

You’ll get them. You’ll be walking a flight of stairs and suddenly think – what’s that ache in my knee? It’s only natural. It’s like when you’re buying a new car, you suddenly see the model you like EVERYWHERE. Your mind is razor sharp at this point and very much in tune with the body. You’ll overthink every sensation. Don’t dwell on these sensations.


Possibly the hardest mind game to control. Am I getting sick? I feel so sluggish. My legs are so lethargic. Stop worrying – it’s tapering. Keep sensible – wash your hands regularly. Avoid public gatherings if you can. But ultimately, just go about life like normal. You’ll look stupid walking around in bubble-wrap.

Race List

Source or create a race checklist. Use this week to get your kit together. Trust me, pulling everything together settles the mind. Don’t leave everything to the last few days. It overloads the brain. Time will run out or get filled by something else. Use the spare time (because you’re NOT training as much) to prepare.


Focus on yourself this week. Another week of being selfish won’t kill anyone. Eat well (don’t try anything new), get your bike sorted, kit packed, mind ready. Sleep. Get as many hours as you can. Set ‘get to bed’ deadlines. Sleep now becomes THE most valuable commodity. Work will try and stress you out. Don’t let it. Be honest with colleagues. Tell them this is the week you can’t be pulling your hair out.

Get Familiar

Read the race manual. (Remember all that spare time you’ll have not training?) Read it a few times if you can. Trying to cram in all the info the night before is useless. Knowing the course in your head will help. Picture milestone points on the map. Do the visualisation bit. How are you going to feel at 30km into the run?

Knowing the course detail is especially important on a course with laps. Know how it works. Do I collect rubber bands? How many, where? Knowing this detail on the day is priceless. There’s nothing worse than doubt/panic during the race.

Try to Relax

All of the above seems like you’re going to be busy 24/7. Make time to relax. Read a book, watch a silly movie. Anything to take your mind off the race. When lying in bed, the visualisation stuff really helps. See yourself running relaxed. Biking smooth.

How do you eat an elephant?

Bite by bite.

Don’t think of the race as a whole. Break it into bits. Don’t get overwhelmed. This is more an actual what-to-do-in-the-race, but you’ll start thinking of the race in whole terms before Sunday. Don’t worry about it. Little by little you’re going to get to the finish.

Now’s it’s time for me to practice what I’ve preached. I can’t wait to race. See you on the start line.




Paul Kaye ‘The Voice’ of Ironman Interview

Paul Kaye Ironman Kalmar 2103

We’ve barely had a chance to finish off the last of the mince pies and the 2014 race season is upon us. Well, at least in South Africa.

If you completed a 70.3 or Ironman last year (good skills) in SA, the UK or Europe last year, there’s a very real chance that the chap who called you over the finish line or belted out those famous words every aspiring Ironman wants to hear, was Paul Kaye ‘The Voice’ of Ironman.

 We’ve been lucky enough to throw a few questions at Kayeman post season opening South Africa 70.3, which took place at the end of January and saw Brit Jodie Swallow winning the ladies – making it 4 in a row.

Briefly, talk us through the journey you’ve taken to reach a point where you get to shout, “Troy Squires…YOU are an IRONMAN!”

A journey it has been! I started my working life at the age of 20 as a DJ on Cape Town’s biggest commercial radio station, Good Hope FM (no – not religious – named after the Cape of Good Hope!). During that time I also used to do the sports reporting. Through this I got involved in announcing some boat racing – and that’s how I got into announcing. I started my affiliation with triathlon back in 1994, doing the TV voice-overs for a Sprint Series in SA. The series used to open in Mauritius and in 2000 I was invited to go. There the pros (including the likes of Raynard Tissink) chirped me that it sounded like I knew what I was talking about – but had I ever done a tri? I hadn’t! It was the day before my 30th, I had been in radio station management the previous three years and wasn’t in any shape at all. But I donned my speedo and suffered through the 600m swim (I was last out the water) wobbled across the beach to T1 and put on the event cotton tee and jumped onto the hotel MTB (farm gate with wheels – a shocker) and set off on the 20K bike. I was second last on the run, and they were clearing the water points when I ran through. But – I was hooked, I absolutely loved it.

 When I got home I put slicks on my ancient MTB and did a few more events and quickly realised I needed a road bike. I bought my first road bike 24 Dec 2000.After that things moved quite quickly. I did some road races and my first half marathon in 2001 and that year also announced my first Ironman – at Gordons Bay – won by the legendary Lothar Leder.The last time I went back to Mauritius in 2002, I actually finished in the top 10 – considering that in 2000 my 5K time was 31 minutes and some change.

 In 2004 I raced the half Ironman in Port Elizabeth and have been announcing that event since 2005. 2008 I raced Ironman Austria and again in 2009, but in 2010 I announced Austria and that was my first international Ironman. 2011 I announced 5 events in Europe, 2012 it was 11 and last year 13. 2014 could be as many as 17 events (excluding South African IM events).

 We estimated recently that I must have given about 20,000 high-5’s…..last year alone.

 Speaking of journeys, once the European races kick-off, it’s pretty much a new city every weekend for the rest of the year. How’s 2014 looking?

 This year is looking power – so many great events, so many new events. I start in Mallorca early May and finish there with the new full at the end of September. I’m really looking forward to meeting up with everyone again and making new friends at the new events like Budapest, Aarhus, Ruegen…

 How do you handle the hours of emotional intensity on the Ironman red carpet?

Hmmm – so hard to answer – other than after an event I’m absolutely broken for days – feel as if I physically raced the event myself. But truth be told – it’s the emotion that fuels me and inspires me. Being able to contribute towards people doing something that is almost impossible. Watching them achieve, reach, exceed their goals. Seeing and feeling their utter sense of accomplishment – it fuels me. Not to mention witnessing first hand the amazing talents of our pros. Coupled to that, I try and keep fit. I’m 45 this year – so it gets harder, but I try and arrive in Europe with a base fitness that I try and maintain, which isn’t easy with all the travelling.

What elements make for an ideal race venue and if pushed to name a top 3, which would they be?

Great scenery, a relatively challenging race course, and awesome spectators – to me it’s all about the atmosphere and in a community that is passionate and wants ironman there – you get that. Different races are great for different reasons. I think Ironman Austria is awesome, massive finish line party and crowds, awesome race course. Ironman Sweden is also very special, the Swedes totally embrace having Ironman in Kalmar. 70.3 Haugesund in Norway is one of my favourites too. And, totally under estimated is Ironman South Africa – passionate, knowledgeable crowds who line pretty much the entire run course and support everyone, not just their favourites.

 Your company, Focus.On.The.Finish.Line (we love the name by the way), has been in the eventing industry for some time. In that time, you must have seen a huge increase in participants? What do you think are the key factors?

Thanks – we love the name too – that’s pretty much the objective of what we do – we do everything so that all you have to do is focus on the finish line. We started at the Ironman 70.3 SA in 2011 and have seen tremendous growth. And our clients want us to provide our services at other events like the Cape Epic, Wines2Whales, Sani2c, Ironman, WTS Cape Town, the Cycle Tour and more. They love it so much they want us to assist on international events. We do flights, accommodation, transfers and tour, bike transport, masseurs, mechanics, supporter tours and anything else the athlete needs (except do the race) – ok, enough of the plug.

 We see a strong uptick in participation in endurance events – people want to feel alive, challenge themselves and have a goal to keep them motivated to be healthy. The great events (from Ironman to Epic) sell out so fast and the waiting lists are huge. Unfortunately, the sponsorship support isn’t on a par with the demand for participation and this makes it very tough for event owners to keep the prices affordable whilst still delivering high standards of athlete experience. You have no idea how expensive it is to host events.

Ironman South Africa celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. Quite a few of the Black Line London crew will be coming out to get stuck in. What do we have to look forward to – race and South Africa wise?

As a South African I’m very proud of how the numbers of international participants at the IMSA events has grown. We are far away for the Europeans, flights aren’t cheap and we are very early in the season for the athletes from the north, meaning they have to train through winter. But that extremely high standard of the event, the athlete experience, the amazingly warm and friendly South Africans and the fact that you can tick off a bucket list item by doing a safari have seen the word spread. Not to mention how delicious are wines are, the cuisine awesome and at the current exchange rate – it’s CHEAP. It’s a great race course, with a sea swim which can be intimidating. Now a 2 loop bike course which will test the legs for sure, and then finishes with the run lined with spectators shouting support. The volunteers are amazing. And the red carpet is a long one giving every finisher plenty of time to soak up what they have achieved……..and the after party is pretty epic too.

Ironman SA have got a lot planned to make sure that the 10th is a true celebration. I cant wait and thanks for bringing the BLL crew down to get the party started.

You speak to the first (8 hours) and last person (17 hours) crossing the line (and obviously MANY in between). Anyone reading this who thinks an Ironman is beyond them, how would you convince them otherwise?

In Ironman anything is possible – which means anyone who is truly committed and can put in the hours should be able to finish – and in Ironman (unlike other sports) to finish is to win! I have seen physically handicapped athletes finish, I have seen blind athletes finish, deaf…I have seen athletes that have had major heart surgery, or recovering from cancer – I have seen them finish. Team Garwood – Kevin with his teenage son Nicky who has cerebral palsy – they did it together and finished last year.

Have a reason. Have a will. Get a training programme. And slowly, slowly your journey will take you to the magic carpet and that very special and unique title of “you are and Ironman”

You’re very active on social media. How has this influenced what you do for a living?

Hard to answer that – but I use Twitter to follow what’s happening in the spaces I play in – it helps me stay informed and often gives me insights I might otherwise not have. It also allows me to develop the brand “Paul Kaye” in a way, as I become a (hopefully credible) source of info. And I suppose (considering I occasionally get wrapped over the knuckles for what I say on twitter by events I work for) events feel what I share, say…my opinions count. So I think that’s good for me. Facebook I use more to have a connection with athletes and sometimes be able to say more than just their name when they are racing.

But also – I feel very blessed to lead the life I do, and I like to be able to share that with others.

What are your goals for 2014? 

I’m busy finalising the race schedule with Ironman. Very excited about the 10th IMSA and heading back onto the Ironman Europe Tour. My goal is to always just be better, do better. And deep down, I’m really hoping that will lead me to Kona. I’m also hoping to announce the first ever ITU WTS race on African soil – that will be my first stint for the ITU.

And for FOTFL – we have just hired our first employee and are looking to grow the number of events we offer our services at. And we are also looking to start FOTFL Europe. So, another quiet year ahead.

Lastly, if you could only play 3 songs at the finish of an event, name them.

Hahaha – you kidding me right? That’s impossible as music is so subjective and so local – we always tailor the music to suit the crowds – it’s never what we want to hear, but what gets the crowd rocking – this creates the atmosphere of celebration for the athlete.


Follow Paul on Twitter @Kayeman and check out the FOTFL website here.


Onwards and Upwards: Paul Burton’s Pre-Season Musings

Tick tock. The passage of time means that as the new year dawns numerous races have been entered, flights have been booked, a winter base is hopefully being built, and dreams have been built on winter cycling holidays and endless chats over Spanish lattes and leche leches (seriously – try one of these in Lanzarote. Amazing).

So here are my reflections on my 2013 and aspirations and pre-season musings for 2014. Feel free to abuse/heckle/doubt/praise/laugh as appropriate. All comments welcome.

Black Line London Bananaman


The Good:  The entire first half of the year, 1.21 half marathon, 2.55 Ballbuster, 9.30 Ironman South Africa, qualifying for the GB age group team at Hyde Park worlds, pretty much anything on a bike, winning Thorpe Sprint, winning Bananaman team TT with Sam and Jim, riding a bike round London in the world champs like I stole it, crossing an Ironman finish line with a friend (twice), training and racing with Black Line Londoners, testing my limits, racing in Budgy Smugglers.

The Bad:  Most of the second half of the year, blowing up at 30k on the run at Ironman UK, walking in a race for the first time, injuring my foot in winning Thorpe Sprint, most of my running off the bike, finding out where my limits are a little too often, missing a Kona slot by one place, racing in Budgy Smugglers.

The Ugly:  Stomach shutdown at Ironman 70.3 UK and spending most of the run in the bushes… whilst racing in Budgy Smugglers.



What will change:  Lots… working with a proven coach to improve my run technique, track sessions, lots of core/glutes/leg strength work, easier easy sessions, harder hard sessions, swim squad, big gear bike work, less volume chasing, understanding my training data better with the help of Training Peaks geekery, more balance in my diet alongside the easier easy sessions to help build a fat burning machine, more sleep, and more diligence in planning the year’s training and racing to peak only at the right times. Oh, and coffee. I’ve started drinking coffee. Truly life changing.

What won’t change:  Testing my limits in races, using my bike strength in races, having fun training and racing with Black Line Londoners and other Lycra-clad friends, keeping the Spanish economy afloat with numerous training holidays (Lanzarote and Andalucia already ticked off since the end of last year) and unnecessary purchases of expensive objects made of carbon fibre.

What I’d like to happen: Get better, be as good to the finish line as I have been to T2, cross the finish line of an Ironman alone (for once), watch Kona unfold from the race course rather than the sofa and for the Budgy Smugglers to get left in the drawer.

See you at the races. First up for me and a number of the Black Line London gang, is Ironman South Africa on 6 April. Let’s see if I can ride for show and run for dough.

Mel vs Hills. Mel Wins.

Anyone who knows me will know I like a good hill. I train on hills, I try and race on hilly courses, I’m all about the hills! I also have a fear of going fast and using aero-bars  so hills are helpful here as I don’t need to do either.

I’m not sure exactly where it comes from but I remember that when I first bought a road bike and started cycling properly even the little inclines around Richmond Park struck fear into my heart and most of the time I would be found taking the anti-clockwise loop around there! However with a bit of persistence, hard work and consistent training the impossible became possible and I was soon able to take on the baby ascents of Richmond Park at a respectable speed and HR! After a year of training only in Richmond Park I started to get brave and headed out to the country lanes of Surrey and their selection of hills put in some consistent training. Half the time I think it’s as much about controlling your mind and the little voices as it is about strength!

This is why when I read about the Rapha Rising Challenge on Strava it looked perfect for me! Having got my A race out of the way for the year I liked the idea of a different kind of challenge.

Taking inspiration from the Tour de France the challenge set was to accumulate over 7,235m  of climbing in 8 days. This total is apparently the same amount of climbing as elevations of the Peyresourde, Ventoux, Sarenne and Alpe d’Huez combined.

Given the challenge began on a Sunday and ended the following Sunday it made most sense to break it up into 3 weekend rides and one mid-week ride….

Chiltern 108 miles of hot hilly hell

Chiltern 108m Hilly Hell

For my first ride I hit the Chilterns. It is up and down the whole way round (as you can see from the profile) but scenery is gorgeous and the roads are generally small country lanes, although you do have to watch out for potholes which are sometimes more like craters than holes.

It was one of the hottest days of the year so getting nutrition right was key to having a good ride. Unfortunately, I was so intent on not getting lost I spent the first 50 miles staring at the route on my Garmin and not getting enough food and drink in. Not a nice feeling! I had a spent 20 mins sitting under a tree eating a sandwich and drinking a coke before setting off again. Unfortunately the damage was done and the next 58 miles passed at a snail’s pace, a very sweaty snail! But, I knew that if I wanted to complete the challenge I had to the get the climbing in so I plodded on round. While it was painful at the time I think rides like that are great to have in the bank. When things get tough in a race or training you can look back and remind yourself just how bad it could be!!

Total climbed: 2,439 mtrs

Midweek Top-up

Midweek Top Up

By the time it got to Wednesday I’d just about recovered from Sunday’s fun so I took advantage of the glorious weather and flexible working hours and headed out for my usual Surrey hills loop which gave me another 750 mtrs to add to the pile!

Total climbed so far: 3,189


Legs of Steel

Legs of Steel


For Saturday’s ride I talked fellow BLL’r Paul D into a circuit of the Legs of Steel route. It definitely helped to have some company to distract from all the climbing. Unfortunately, the Garmin lost a few 100 mtrs climbing so I finished the day slightly down on where I should have been. I also had to admit defeat and take the train home.

Total climbed so far: 5,085


16 Ascents of Box Hill 

Box Hill



The final day I still needed 2,150mtrs of climbing and really couldn’t face another long ride around Surrey to get the final metres. I had discussed the idea of doing hill repeats of Box Hill on the previous days ride with Paul.  At the time it seemed like a crazy idea, but now faced with the prospect of another loop of the Chilterns or Legs of Steel route it looked like quite a good option… I started out early. Funnily enough I found the first 4 or 5 laps the hardest but once I’d got into a rhythm it was actually quite relaxing. It’s also great people watching, I hadn’t realised quite how popular Box Hill was until I’d done this. Every descent down I passed a constant stream of people making their way up on all sorts of bikes at all sorts of speeds. A great people watching and bike spotting opportunity!

Finishing the 16th lap was a great feeling, not least because I could finally stop at the cafe for a well deserved slice of cake! It was a great challenge to do, so satisfying that I’m thinking of making it a regular event (when I say regular I mean once a year regular ) So let me know if you fancy joining me in 2014….!

And if you’re interested the overall winner managed to accumulate over 41,000 mtrs of climbing over 7 rides during the 8 days. Now that’s impressive!

Total climbing at the end: 7,293


My top challenging hilly routes:

Chiltern 100 169km and 2,400 mtrs of climbing

The sportive is held once a year and offers 3 different distances. I use these routes as training rides when I fancy something different to the Surrey or Kent hills. The routes are mainly on country lanes and all your efforts on the climbs are rewarded with stunning views across the Chilterns and some fantastic descents. You are also treated to some fantastic place names, I challenge you not smile as you whizz down Pishill! But my favourite place name is Speen, probably because it is a sign you’re on the home straight!

Legs of Steel (long) 81km and 1,600 mtrs of climbing

This is probably a staple hilly route for anyone who cycles in Surrey. Again it is a route used for an annual sportive, but is a well trodden circuit for Surrey cyclists all year round. It takes in all the classic Surrey hills starting with Leith hill and finishing off (finishing you off) with Box hill. It’s a course that keeps your interest by combining long grinding hills with some short-sharp-take-your-breath-away-hills!

 King of the Downs – 185km and 2,700 mtrs of climbing

I first did this route a couple of years ago with two friends. It seemed like our day was doomed before it even started.  It was pouring with rain, a man was sick on our bikes in the train (one of the many hazard of the first train on a Sunday morning), one friend fell off his bike before we’d even started and then realised he’d only bought one booty and no waterproof.  We then proceeded to start the race by cycling in the wrong direction. However once we got over these issues and got on the road it turned out to be one of the most challenging and fulfilling days climbing I’ve had. The route takes you around Surrey, North Downs, Ashdown Forest and Kent and takes you through a “greatest hits” of climbs in these areas.