When BLL met Gary Kemp. Part 1.

You might know Gary Kemp as a member of Spandau Ballet, with whom he was at the epicentre of one of the last real youth culture movements in the UK. You might also know him as a Kray Twin or  author. What you might not know is that he is a committed cyclist and in part one of a two part interview he took time out to talk to Black Line London about his love of two wheels…

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Winter 2012 Ballbuster Duathlon Race Report

I must love this race as it was my 7th straight participation in this bi-annual duathlon held at Box Hill in March & November. The now famous Ballbuster duathlon consists of an 8 mile loop with the Zig Zag climb up to the National Trust cafe at the end of each lap which you run once then bike 3 times and then run for a final loop making 5 ascents of Box Hill in total with 16 miles of running and 24 miles on the bike.

My first attempt at the race was in Winter 2009 in which I clocked a 3:37:43 (185th place) I remember being pretty happy with that at the time. Since then I have gradually reduced my finishing time to a PB prior to Sunday’s race of 3:08:55 (49th place)
This year since getting coached by Steve Lumley my performances over all distances have gone up another level so I was hopefully realistically targeting a sub 3 hour finish this time round and had calculated that I needed something like a 51 min first run a 1:15 bike and a 52 min second run to get the job done with 2 minutes for transitions. It meant there was no slack whatsoever for any mechanicals or even calls of nature!
Sunday morning was a pretty cold 2 degrees to start with but it was a beauty of a day with no discernible wind and dry roads this was a massive bonus as I needed all the assistance I could get! The view down to Betchworth from the lookout point next to the start was absolutely stunning

A great day for a race...

As it was remembrance Sunday the race director called for a minutes silence just before the start and then the horn went off and it was the usual charge of the light brigade bun fight that goes on at every duathlon I have raced at, with what seems like everyone going off at a suicidal and totally unsustainable pace, myself included!

I had made a decision that whatever happened I would put myself in a position for a sub 3 at the end of run 1 which meant that I had to get round in circa 6:40 pace this meant hitting the bottom of the Zig Zag at just under 6:30 pace as you obviously slow down a fair bit on the climb. The first 2 miles of the run are mostly uphill and within a few minutes I was really feeling it running at the necessary pace, sub 3 at this point felt like a pipe dream! Happily the downhill started soon enough and the pace started to feel more sustainable. I hit the bottom of Zig Zag just off schedule and as a result had to work a bit harder than I would have liked up the hill. Run 1 done in 51:31 and I was in 50th place overall.

Uphill all the way....

T1 went without any dramas in 38 seconds and I was out on the bike for the first of 3 laps. I have a power meter but I always just ride the Ballbuster to feel. My best ever bike split here was 1:16:25 which I knew from the Garmin file was 18.5mph so I was hoping for something quicker than that. I didn’t feel particularly great but on the first lap I was making up quite a lot of places, once you get on to laps 2 & 3 it gets pretty busy with the slower people you are lapping and you have no idea if you are gaining places or not.

A beautiful ride up the iconic Box Hill.
By the end of lap 2 my average speed was 19.5 mph so I knew bar an accident that I was on for a bike PB. That accident nearly happened on the sharp left turn at Lodgebottom Road, when I turned to find some idiot had parked their black Range Rover right on the corner and then to compound matters another Range Rover was coming the other way leaving me and several others a gap of about 3 feet to navigate through at speed, I can’t believe we all stayed on our bikes, if it was wet there would have been carnage…. a lucky escape.
Up Zig Zag for the penultimate time that day and the bike was done in 1:13:07 (11th fastest bike split of the day) I had made up 36 places and was now in 14th place overall although I had no idea of this at that time.

Hat, gloves & arm warmers ditched and I am out for the final run with T2 done with no hiccups in 42 seconds. I know from my cumulative time of a shade under 2:06 that I just need to hold it together for the final run with anything under 54 minutes and sub 3 was in the bag.
Run 2 never starts well in at the Ballbuster, those first few steps when pushing your bike after the dismount line are a sensation like no other, your legs don’t feel like they belong to you and the idea of running 8 miles at a decent pace feels utterly impossible. This isn’t helped by the first 2 miles heading mostly uphill again and also a huge painful stitch in my side but I knew from experience that these normally subside within a mile or 2. My thinking was to try and dig in as much as possible for the uphill and stay at a decent pace and then try and recover on the downhill section before the final climb.

I overtook an Army Tri chap fairly quickly who was struggling a bit but pretty soon after that a different Army chap cruised past followed fairly soon after by a fella who made me feel like I was walking as he disappeared into the distance very quickly! So I had lost 2 places but hey ho sub 3 was the goal and I had to just run my own race. On to the downhill section and I did get some respite as holding a decent pace is much easier but then I hear that disconcerting sound of footsteps approaching again and another chap overtakes and puts a pretty decent gap in to me, this feels all wrong when you are over 2.5 hours into a race and running at 6:30 pace! A girl by the side of the road around now says I am in 16th place which gives me a lift as I have never been this far up the field before. Only about 2 miles to go now with pretty much just the climb left and I see the Army chap up ahead who cruised past me in mile 1, I wasn’t expecting to see him again as he looked super smooth earlier but this race can bite you on the arse if you overcook yourself. I went past him just before the left turn on to the Zig Zag and he sportingly gave me some encouragement, I raised my arm in acknowledgement as speaking was not easy at this point. At the bottom of the hill I have 2:46:30 on the watch, just 13 minutes or so of agony to go and it’s in the bag! Just suck it up and get on with it.

More encouragement when I see the final chap who had overtaken me a couple of miles back coming slowly back to me, I seem to be pretty strong going uphill even though I don’t do much specific hill training so I was pretty confident I would reel him in. Having a target also gives you something to focus on and distract your brain when it is screaming at you to STOP…. which is handy! I catch him by hairpin 2 and it’s just the long straight and final turn to go but the minutes are ticking away and it is still just under a mile to the finish line, crazy thoughts of slowing down and having a nice little walk break are ignored. Round the final right hander and now finally I know it’s done as I have 2:57 on the clock. I cross the line in 2:58:39 for 14th place overall, 4th in my age group, a massive 10 minute PB on the course and a huge personal goal achieved …..satisfying stuff ☺
I will be back again in March the 8th time but can say with some certainty that I will not be taking another 10 minutes off!

Training By Heart vs Heart Rate : My 2013 Plan

Having missed out on a Hawaii slot by 3 minutes at IM Wales, on my aluminium bike with a triple chainring, I decided not to abandon IM just yet and to get some coaching to see if I can improve for 2013.

2012 training ‘plan’

My training for 2012 had been loosely structured. I followed some fairly established IM principles;

  • Include a weekly long run and ride,
  • Try to run and ride 3 times a week.
  • At least one day of no training each week.

And then some less standard guidelines;

  • Swimming is overrated. Once a week, unless it’s in the sea or a lake, in summer, is enough.
  • Don’t break a sweat all winter. Train a bit harder nearer the race.
  • Avoid all training indoors except for weights.
  • Cross train. Climbing, tennis, wii-dance, whatever.
  • Heart rate or any sort of testing is too boring to bother with.
  • Include plenty of easy weeks, in fact have one whenever there is fun to be had elsewhere.
  • Running – always run a new section of road or trail you have never run before.
  • Treadmills and turbos dont make you fit, they make you bored. And boring.
  • Cycling, if there is someone else to ride with, just follow their wheel, for as long as they say.
  • Make a mental note of something beautiful you see or hear on each run or ride. I mean nature or architecture type things, not the finely crafted glutes up ahead. Although sometimes I include those.
  • An effective taper involves watching one Rocky film each day during the final week.
  • Do what you enjoy.

In summary, just train consistently and enjoy it. I read this week that ‘Ironman is the one sport that rewards hard work and consistency above natural talent,’ and I have to agree. I utterly lack natural talent. In fact, I lack natural talent, technique and technology, but I train regularly, listen to my body and I race smart. The training guidelines above worked better than I expected and made the training journey itself a pleasure. My good results were simply the icing on my too many cakes.

I’d thoroughly recommend this approach. Its enjoyable, and I got some surprising results this way. A very surprising 10h 36 IM in fact.

That said, for 2013 I want to go faster. I’ve taken some Black Line advice and found a coach who seems pretty in tune with my way of thinking. He keeps it simple and straightforward. I’m a technophobe and a nomad and he seems ok with that. I’ve only just recently got a garmin for my bike. (I only bought a TV this year.) I’m anxious about not basing each days training on the weather forecast, and I’m wondering if my cycling can still be as much as a social jolly as it has been this year. Does more structure mean less fun? (A life question I am yet to answer). Will training by heart rates, and not by my heart take the pleasure out of triathlon for me? I’ll admit I’m apprehensive; I really want to be trained, but I dont know if I’m trainable.

I’ve got a coach and a plan now, with IMUK 2013 being my ‘A race’, as they say. I’ll update you as I crack on with it, and adjust to letting someone else take the reins. Wish me (and my coach) luck.

Trail Shoe Review: Inov-8 X-Talon 212

Winter is here, the rains comes. And you know what they say: There is no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing. Wearing your regular running shoes on the muddy, slippy hills and trails is not just inappropriate – it makes you look like a tool when you’re skidding around arse over tit on the hills and of course messes up your nice white trainers. 

After some mixed results with off road and trail shoes (you can check out previous Mizuno & Nike reviews) I wanted to call on the collective brains of Twitter for some recommendations and was interested to see that almost all of the many replies I got suggested Inov-8, a brand I have not tried before. 

Lots of people suggested the X-Talon 190 as a light, fast shoe so that was my first order. When I unboxed them, I was immediately impressed with the wight, construction and what looked like the perfect sole to tackle the winter weather. But I tried them on and decided that they weren’t gong to offer quite enough protection to and old and still occasionally troublesome ankle injury so back they went. I’d seen enough to want to stick with the brand though and a little extra research later, I decided upon the X-Talon 212.

Weighing in at 212g for a UK size 8, they are very light. And you know how a few extra grammes can feel towards the end of a hard run. But what is really striking is the sole  – made up of what bear more resemblance to a football boot stud than a regular running shoe.


The conditions for the first run couldn’t have been more perfect for a test. It has been raining all night, with the drizzle still coming down. If you know Wimbledon Common and Richmond Park in SW London you will agree that while these 2 brilliant suburban parks might sound serene, there are plenty of hills and trails to test the fittest runner and equipment.  

While light and fairly low profile, the 212’s seem really well constructed, meaning despite the glass ankle, I felt confident in them straight away. The differential is small – only about 6 mm and the leather rand (that’s the protective strip around the base of the upper) makes for robust feel. The sole is super sticky, and with a shallow groove across the forefoot allows great flexibility. The lacing system, with the shoes on, makes for a really secure fit while the breathable upper seemed to keep almost all of the wet out – particularly helpful on a miserable winters day. I wonder though what the purpose of the very thin round laces are? Cold, wet fingers found them a little tricky at times but the heel loop was appreciated and missing from a lot of shoes.

The stand out feature however, which can’t be appreciated until the shoes are on the feet and on the trail, is the grip and stickiness they offer. On my run I encountered a mixture of deep mud, wet gravel, sodden leaves, grit and wet grass and on none of these surfaces did the shoe let me down. And crucially, this was not only on the up hill section but on the down hill ones too (often the most tricky).

Having read a bit more on the brand and these shoes, it’s clear this is a proper fell running/cross country shoe rather than a less technical trail shoe but this is not a complaint. This means that on the short tarmac sections of my run the feel was very different to a regular running shoe – to be expected and actually much more comfortable on this surface than I expected. I imagine these would really come into their own on a hard mountain race and owning these shoes has even made me think about giving fell running a go.

Overall, a great shoe that I’m so far very happy and impressed with. And not only that, but when I next need a new pair of running shoes I will be giving the quality British brand a shot. 9/10

Manuel Quinziato’s Black Line London Playlist

Here at Black Line London we love bikes. And we love music. And we really love people who love bikes and music. So it was a massive thrill when Italian BMC Tour de France rider Manuel Quinziato agreed to put together a playlist for us…and you.

In his Twitter profile pic, he is holding a magazine cover of Thom Yorke over his own face….proof if it were needed that he really is a proper muso because why would you do that otherwise?

The photo above is Manuel with his friend Perry from the band Pendulum at the end of the 2012 TdF. It’s just a shame that an international rock star and world class cyclist struggle so badly with the ladies.

Here is Menuel’s musical story in his words, and you can listen to all of these tracks in the Spotify playlist widget below.



What song or band first really turned you on to music? And how old were you?

I remember I was 9 in 1988 and the first music cassette I bought that upgraded me from ‘cartoon’ songs to real music was the album of Europe, the one with “The final Countdown”

 What was the first record you ever bought with your own money? What do you remember about it?

The first CD I bought with the money I was winning at races when I was 15 was probably ‘Basket Case’ by Green Day in 1994. Well, I still listen to that.

First ever gig?

I live in Bolzano, and not so many good bands comes to play there, so excluding some shameful Italian bands the first big gig I saw was just in 2004 in San Siro, the AC Milan football club stadium. It was Red Hot Chilli Peppers. I was a big fan of them but the gig was pretty disappointing. Short one and Anthony Keidis has no voice live.

If there was one band or artist (dead or alive) you could go and see play live, who would it be and what song would they HAVE to play?

I’d kill to have been at a Nirvana gig! I was just a few year too young unfortunately. I love all their songs but I’d pick “In Bloom” if I have to chose one.

What is your most recent music discovery?

A band I just discovered is Built to Spill, thank my colleague Jacopo Guarnieri.

What song or artists do you listen to while warming up before a TdF stage?

For the hardest stages or for when I want to catch the breakaway Rage Against the Machine is a must.

Best song for a really hard turbo session?

For turbo session I need something that gives me a good pace so I chose electro stuff like Daft Punk, Justice or Hot chip.

What is your favourite band of all time? And what song will we include on the playlist?

I’m in love with Radiohead and they didn’t let me down either of the two times I saw them live. I love ‘Idioteque’ above all the live version.

What album is ever-present on your ipod?

Radiohead indeed but also Pearl Jam, ‘Ten’.

Best gig you’ve ever been to?

I say Foo Fighters at Madison Square garden. Me, Daniel Oss, Karsten Kroon and a non-cyclist friend of mine went in New York just for 3 nights to see that gig. Absolutely worth the travel. Song: My Hero.

Next gig? Where, when and who with?

Well tonight I’m gonna see Nada Surf in Madrid with my girlfriend. Next November I’ll see Muse in Bologna wit a couple of friend from Bolzano. For Nada surf: Bad best friend. For Muse: Plug in baby.

What song do you wish you had written?

‘Daughter’ by Pearl Jam.

Song or album to relax to on the bus after a tough stage?

A perfect band to relax and forget the pain of a hard stage is Sigur Ros. Saw them live, simply unbelievable. Let’s pick ‘Hoppipolla’.

You have won the Tour de France – what song will they play as you get up on the podium?

You can tell me I’m predictable but I pick ‘We are the Champions’.

What is the perfect Sunday morning song/artist?

Ben Harper is perfect for a Sunday morning. Saw him live and he’s, good vibes for almost 3h. Glory and Consequence can be the song.




Challenge Roth Race Report

Training has gone really well for this race with over 6 months of uninterrupted training which included the intervention of a coach from mid March. This was a turning point in my training as up till this point I was trying to follow a generic plan to make me achieve my Sub 10 target but I knew I was floundering. The quality and volume of training increased dramatically and proper periodisation with cut back weeks was introduced for the first time since I started endurance sport in 2007. I have to be honest that I was a bit unhappy about the run volume as it seemed in those first couple of months to be too high but I knuckled down and got on with the plan.

Early season results started to bode well with my first ever AG wins at Thames Turbo Sprint and then The Swashbuckler Middle Distance which included a 14 mile run split which took me by surprise…mmm maybe this coach knew what he was doing!

Many others have covered the epic nature of this race and the fantastic support so I won’t repeat much other than to say I agree!  The social side of the whole trip was  fantastic with a big group of friends racing including about half of Black Line London!  Sharing theses big race experiences with friends plus making new ones is probably the best thing about long distance training and racing.

So back of fag packet pre race expectation was Swim 1:05 ish Bike 5-5:15 ish Run 320-3:35 ish. Add 5 mins for T’s and that would even in a worst case scenario get me my key goal of Sub 10 hours. But in all honesty I was riding well and had heard so much about how “fast” the bike course was that I had cockily thought that the bike would be nearer to 5 and that would give me a comfort buffer on the run if things got tough.

Things couldn’t have started better with a really calm pre race build up on a beautiful morning, no rushing around, no faffing it was really quite chilled with the PA playing some nice soothing classical sounding stuff including the Gladiator theme…nice!  I seriously felt like I had no nerves whatsoever which is really quite weird considering the amount of investment we put into preparing for these races, I honestly get more nervous before the Thames Turbo sprints!

Unlike most Mdot races the swim at Roth has to be done in waves so the carnage of 3000 people starting at once is thankfully avoided, I couldn’t believe how civilised the swim start was, no jostling for position and virtually no biff at all. I tried to find some feet and draft but I am totally shit at it and gave up trying after a while and was on my own after about 15 mins. By halfway I was in serious discomfort from my goggles which in my wisdom I had done up really tight as they had leaked in the practice swim on Thursday, I thought I could ignore it but the pain started to become unbearable so at about 2/3rds distance I stopped and pressed the little buttons on each side that release the tension, that solved the problem albeit now my goggles were full of water…arse…Ho hum this was preferable to feeling like my brain was going to explode.

Although I was swimming aerobically and was in no discomfort by about the 40 minute mark I was starting to experience my first low point of the day, maybe it was the nature of the long boring 1.2 mile out 1.2 mile back swim course or the goggles issue, I don’t really know but I wasn’t feeling the love at all and when I got screaming cramp in both calves at the final buoy I was really not feeling it. Still I figured that once on the bike it would be happy days on those beautiful smooth roads….. swim completed in 1:04:38 so exactly where I expected.

T1 was smooth and I was on my bike in less than 3 mins and initially all felt fine apart from the residual cramp stiffness in my calves. The first few miles were super fast and within 10 mins my average speed was 22.5 MPH and I was thinking that this was going to be a fun and fast bike ride. Then I turned a corner and was surprised by how windy it suddenly seemed, the average speed started instantly dropping but more alarmingly than that I realised I was feeling totally shit, my legs felt like jelly my calves and hip flexors hurt and 220 watts which was my conservative power target felt incredibly hard, so hard that I was actually struggling to hit it. The day before I had gone for an easy spin with PB & Ian and 200 watts felt like I was tickling the pedals and was producing speeds of anything up to 27 MPH, right now 200 watts felt like 270 watts and was achieving below 20 MPH

Yes it was windy and therefore slower but this didn’t account for why 200 watts felt so incredibly hard? I had the brainwave that maybe my power meter was out of calibration so I recalibrated it on the fly….. which made no difference at all …It dawned on me that I was having a bad patch, this is something I was expecting and prepared for…. just not at the beginning of the bike….and not for 3 solid hours! So hours of dark thoughts ensued,  feeling like I was a shit athlete and that Ironman racing was stupid and that I was never doing another Ironman etc. etc. until I gradually realised that I was passing people and that my legs felt quite good…FINALLY!!  I was back in business, the last 2 hours 20 of the bike were completely different to the first 3, my watts were up,  perceived effort was down and I was passing lots of people… bizarre but what a relief.

So off the bike in 5:20:22 which was way slower than I had planned for, a quick T1 in 1:47 and I am out running with exactly 6:29:22 on the clock, this meant I had to run a 3:30 marathon for a sub 10. My recent run performances had given me the encouragement that this was doable but from the very first step I felt under immense pressure as I knew that I had no leeway whatsoever…and it was now hot and sunny.

On my coaches instructions I held back on the first 10k and instead of running to feel which probably would have been 7:30ish pace I deliberately ran at 8 min pace as I had been told that this was the best way to maintain pace and run a close to even split. The first 3 miles did feel too slow but by mile 4 the prescribed 8 min pace was feeling pretty tough and I had 22 of the bastards left to run! I was having negative thoughts about the pace being unsustainable and also had a killer stitch! I saw Troy heading back to town looking good followed a bit later by Jamie and then PB who was looking good too and sounding chipper.

Happily the stitch lifted and I ploughed on running at exactly 8 min pace give or take a few seconds. My guts felt a bit tight but nothing too uncomfortable and I managed to get about 10 gels down me and 4 salt capsules with plenty of water in the first 15 or so miles before I hit the coke. I also took full advantage of the sponges and put a pair under each side of my tri top and 1 under 1 cap at every aid station, they really make a huge difference as without them I know my HR would go through the roof but it was levelled off quite nicely at about 152 BPM which was perfect

I saw the boys again heading back to town and PB was still in a good mood and moving well which was good to see albeit I was jealous that they were nearly home and I had over 10 miles left!

By mile 17 my pace started to drop and I knew that I was off schedule for sub 10, my brain started to have a conversation with itself with one side saying “10:05 isn’t too bad it’s still a big PB and it is hot and the bike was windy” and the other side saying something along the lines of “fuck that, you came here for sub 10 just HTFU” I also knew that a lot of people were tracking me this was a big motivator to dig deeper. I went round the final turnaround at about mile 18 and realised why my pace was slowing, I had been running uphill for the past mile and not noticed! This gave me a lift and I made hay on the way back down with a 7:45 mile this was followed not long after by a fairly long uphill section through the forest, I figured that as it was shady I would try to stay on pace up the hill and recover on the flat at the top. This worked a treat and I managed an 8:05 mile which gave me another lift.  The next few miles along the canal were in shade which gave me another lift and I ticked them off in 7:34, 7:59 & 7:50. I kept trying to do the maths which ranged constantly between thinking I had a buffer of 5 minutes or so and then that I had absolutely no spare time! With 4 miles to go there was a nice downhill section also in the shade, I hadn’t remembered it being a hill when I had come the other way, I made some more hay with another couple of sub 8 min miles and with just 2 miles to go even my befuddled brain could do the maths that barring an explosion I was home and hosed in under 10 hours. The last section is initially a bit cruel as it takes you past the noise of the finishing chute into the old town of Roth onto a cobbled square but with a big sound stage playing euro pop and hundreds of cheering people but it was actually my favourite part of the run and I high fived all the kids as I went through and the announcer called out my name and club, it was a real goose bump moment. I was running on pure adrenaline now and had sped up considerably, the noise of the chute got louder and I had the presence of mind to avoid a Macca Kona 2007  finishing photo and removed my sponges! The chute was awesome and I fist pumped the crowd as I crossed the line in 9:55:32 🙂

It was without doubt the hardest thing I have ever done to date but it is also the most satisfying as I could see Sub 10 slipping away and I dug deeper than I thought I could to make it happen. I realised afterwards that I had negative split the marathon, the last 3 miles were 7:36 7:46 and 7:24 which is seriously surprising and pleasing. It has taught me that there is possibly always a bit more left in the tank if you really want something bad enough.


Big thanks must go out to my coach Steve Lumley who set me all the stupid run sessions that got me under 10 hours


Stef Wyman Interview : #FanBackedWomensCycling

Stef Wyman picture

If you watched the thrilling women’s road race at London 2012, or any of the incredible moments in the Velodrome that made household names of some incredible young female cyclists, you might think that it’s a sport in rude health, right?

That is not quite the case, but there is something pretty incredible happening right now due in no small part to the efforts of one guy – Stef Wyman. Owner/manager of Matrix FitnessPrendas cycle team and key protagonist behind #FanBackedWomensCycling Stef is a doer with a great story and one which resonates with Black Line London’s own ethos.

You can listen to the Fan Backed Womens Cycling story from the horses mouth and follow Stef on Twitter @DS_Stef



Get Plan. Do Plan. Fly.

With the end of the triathlon season now a few weeks behind us, and the fading of the pain, your thoughts might just be turning towards 2013.

Mine certainly has, and ‘The Plan’ is beginning to form.

I’m telling you this for two reasons. Firstly, I’ve found that if you tell lots of people you are going to do something and then don’t do it, you look like a tool. So avoiding that scenario is pretty good motivation. Secondly, I’ll be writing, posting and Tweeting the shit out of all of this, so consider it a heads up.

Run More:

My 2012 season was defined by poor running, so improving that is key. I don’t really enjoy running, and certainly didn’t run enough in 2012. So I’ll be addressing that by getting more miles in my legs. And to really kick start that I’ll be doing #50Runs#50Days, starting soon – look out for lots of Tweets about that.

 Get Strong:

Like most people I probably know enough about strength and conditioning to be dangerous but not enough to really nail it. I want to be sure I’m getting the most possible gain from the time I spend on it and have benchmarks along the way to measure by. and So I’ve booked a session at  St Mary’s University for a full physio assessment and strength and conditioning clinic.

Bike Race:

Why the hell not?! It looks like great fun and can only make me a better biker. I’ve got my Cat 4 racing license and hope to try and do some winter crit racing.

In addition, I’ve entered some mountain bike races. Again, mostly for fun and I figure a great way to keep it interesting and develop some bike skills over winter.

Become a Training Peaks super user:

I love Training Peaks. It’s a fantastic training tool and not only is there a great free version, it just works. I’m drawn to data, it appeals to me and I think provides measurable benchmarks in training and performance. So, I pledge to really get under the skin of this brilliant tool and share tips, experiences, data files and insight from all of the above along the way.

So these are the things I will be building my season around, starting now. I’d love your comments, questions and maybe even your participation…..

What’s your plan?



Slow Cooked Oxtail Stew Recipe

Diet is important, and if you are anything like the BLL guys you probably think about food a lot.

And after I posted a picture on Twitter recently of my mostly make-it-up-as-you-go-along Oxtail stew I got loads of incoming mail asking about it so here is the recipe. Some people are a bit freaked out by the thought of eating oxtails, but if you are happy to eat eggs………

It’s full of gelatine and fat which is vital to the taste and texture, and because it’s cooked for so long is really tender, flavoursome and extremely healthy. Fat is not evil…right!


6 large piece oof grass fed/organic oxtail. I got mine from my local organic butcher and it cost about £8.

1 Head od celery

2 large onions

5 large carrots

1 bulb of garlic

1 bowl of frozen peas

2 Star Anise

Tablespoon of butter

To cook:

Turn your over up to full heat.

Roughly chop all the veg. And I mean roughly – it shouldn’t take more than about 60 seconds to do the lot. I just crushed the garlic with the flat side of a knide, and the skin flakes off.

Brown and seal the oxtails in a big pan that is also safe to put in the oven. Remove form the pan and set aside.

Melt the butter and chuck all the veggies and Star Anise into a pot. Keep on a high heat until they stat to sizzle, give it another 5 or six minutes then add the oxtails back to the pan. Add some salt and pepper.

Pour water into the pan, enough to cover the oxtails.

Turn the heat down to 150 degrees, and put the whole lot in the over, with a lid on the pot.

Come back about 6 hours later and add the frozen peas to the pot, and stir. Add a little more water if required – mine didn’t need it.

The meat will more or less fall off the bones, so you can fish them out if you like.

It took me almost as long to write this post as it did to cook the meal – this is a really easy dish to prepare and would be ideal to come home to after a long bike ride.






Paul Burton’s Ironman Wales

So, Ironman Wales… My main target race this year was Roth in July. At 9.51 the time wasn’t quite as fast as I was hoping, but with a solid performance, a 3.37 run and a sub-10 in the bank, I was happy.

So Wales was just a bit of fun – a bonus race, if you like. A Kona slot was always going to be a stretch given the strong field of European slot chasers at Tenby, and with a tough course and conditions it’s not a race to go chasing a time. I wanted to bank another race… apparently it takes five ironmans until you “get it”, and this was to be number three for me.

Having said that, I was feeling in great form so was hopeful of a race that I could be proud of. After my first Ironman in 2010 I was stuffed for weeks. With that in the back of my mind I was ready to pull the plug if I didn’t recover from Roth. But three weeks later I was back in full training and put in a really good six week block with a couple of good short races including a sub-2 hour Olympic, and some solid run training in an attempt to improve the weakest part of my ironman racing to date. So I was really excited and, unlike Roth, not nervous at all. That’s a helpful place to be, it turns out. My strategy was simple – be sensible but give it a good go and take some risks if feeling good.

A number of the Black Line crew had entered the race, as well as a few others I know like fast runners Richard ‘Spud’ Lewis and Rory Maguire, Ben Unsworth and Pete Stewart from Thames Turbo, plus Jenny Hill who we met out in Roth and I had bullied into doing Tenby claiming she’d have a great shot at Kona. So it was going to be a fun weekend. Unfortunately neither Deenzy nor Troy could make it in the end – a shame as they both had great races in Roth and we were looking forward to duking it out again – so BLL honours were to be contested by Nico, Ian and I. Having trained a lot with Nico in recent weeks I knew he was in great shape. With his bike and, in particular, run strength I would be glancing over my shoulder for most of the race knowing that if he caught me it would be tough to stay with him.

We did a recce a few weeks before… the sea swim was challenging, the bike course was a brute, and the run was up and down a ruddy great big hill. So it needed respect! It also showed how beautiful Pembrokeshire is. The bike course has some wonderful terrain, including the blustery but epic Freshwater West and the gorgeous sea views at Wiseman’s Bridge and Saundersfoot. The day before the race we got a stunning sunrise on our early morning jog at Saundersfoot. Ian, Jenny and I used that to do some Olympic style larking around (wouldn’t be the only time that weekend).


Last preamble before getting onto the race… some of my family came down to support, which is a first for a long race. Mum, Dad, sister Carey, her boyfriend Jon and their new puppy Wiggins. I can’t say my parents were that thrilled about the prospect – they watched me at Windsor once but that was about it. Understandably Wales in the wind and rain didn’t thrill them. It turns out they had a ball – spectating at ironman is a long day but with a break for a game at Tenby Golf Club during the bike, they were content and loved the swim and run. Happy days, and I think they now know why I love this sport.


I was delighted with the weather forecast… cool, dry till early afternoon and 20mph gusts. You don’t enter races in Wales in September expecting sunshine. Although having opted for a disc wheel on the bike I was crossing my fingers the gusts wouldn’t propel me over the hedgerows.


First surprise of the day came at the swim start. Last year they didn’t rope it off and when the gun went most of the field ran up the beach rather than swimming. Despite no mention at the briefing, some genius decided to prevent this by putting a new buoy in – perpendicular to the beach at only 150m out. So there were 1500 of us aiming for one small point. Sharpen your elbows, lads. To avoid massive biff my new strategy was 110% for 2 minutes to the buoy, embrace the lactic pain and then start the race properly once round the buoy. The swim was OK for me. At Roth I had a perfect draft the whole way round and swam great for a 57 min split. Whilst the sea was pretty flat, the small chop did make it hard to find any feet to follow, so I had to do all the hard work myself (bit of karma, I guess). Also, having gone out hard I tired in the second lap. So I was delighted to see 56 mins on the watch on the beach – it was either 100-200m short or we had a good current. Game on.

Onwards and upwards (literally) with the real business of the day. The 1k run to transition is actually one of the highlights of this race. The crowds are huge the entire way – what an atmosphere. Combine that with the sun making its only appearance of the day and it was serene. I would have loved to hit the pause button right there. Unfortunately, having come out of the water in 120th there were 1400 people chasing me down, so best crack on.


I whizzed through transition – thanks in part to borrowing Jim Peet’s nifty long sleeved Fusion aero top, worn on top of my tri top under the wetsuit. So whilst others were layering up I went straight out. Ben was grabbing his bike at the same time which perked me up – it meant my swim was solid as he’s faster than me in the drink, and as he’s a strong rider and a fast Ironman (9.30 guy) there was the prospect of riding close to him. It turns out he hasn’t had as much time to train this year, so that wasn’t to be. Probably a good thing as we ruined eachother’s races at Swashbuckler this year smashing it out on the bike!

The bike course is just awesome. The first big loop is rolling rather than hilly, with a headwind out to Angle, via the stunning Freshwater West and then a tailwind back before starting the first of 2 smaller northern loops which had 4 or 5 sharp (10-15%) climbs and very little flat. Rather than set out easy and let the heart rate settle like I did at Roth, I went out steady at 230+ watts and went about chasing folk down. My HR never really settled, but I was happy with that as I now see this as a good sign – I had it at Wimbleball and it tells me I’m fit and fresh enough to push. I was making good progress, barely overtaken and taking loads myself. Then the ‘fun’ started – that being a bunch of Europeans that have a more liberal approach (read blatant) to drafting than the Brits. I’ve had my rant about this. It’s shocking and irritating, but as irritating is the marshals’ failure to penalise anyone. Throughout the first 70 miles I saw 4 distinct pelotons and there was not a single penalty issued. Go figure. My failure was that I let it impact my race – rather than letting the group go and getting on with my race, I shouted some fairly industrial English, went off the front a few times only to get reeled in a few minutes later. So my power was getting erratic, HR climbed and I was getting angry. So I calmed down, let them go and got on with my race. Rant over.

I had a couple of bad patches, but sure as eggs are eggs, they passed and overall I felt strong on the bike and my stomach was behaving itself unlike at Roth. I caught Pete and 2nd woman pro Eimear Mullan around halfway on the bike, had a good natter/whinge with them about the cheating, and then pulled away from them on the flatter section. The crowds on the hill coming out of Saundersfoot and then flying down the hill into Tenby were incredible, and it was great to see friendly faces like Laura, John and Leighton cheering us on. The final loop on the bike is tough because there were now so few targets. It had got a bit harder, as you’d expect with the time and hills, but I felt fine and knew I was having a solid race. Finally Nico caught me at somewhere around 150k. He was seriously shifting, and told me that Rory and Spud were not far behind. That helped to sharpen the focus and pick my pace up – it may have been quiet, but there were fast guys just minutes ahead and behind so there was no time for resting up. Nico kicked on and I kept him in sight for a while before letting him go – who knows, he may have been trashing his race and I shouldn’t ruin mine chasing him.


Rolled into transition after a 5.44 ride – pretty happy with that, but now the race really starts. It’s always interesting to find out if you have any running legs off the bike at any distance – with the hills and being half an hour longer it had definitely been a harder ride than Roth, so I was fearful they’d be knackered.

It turns out they weren’t and they felt great in the first few miles – it’s always been a pleasant change to get off the bike in an ironman for me. I was holding back but still running quick up the hill. It’s a 4 lap course that weaves around Tenby then goes up a big hill via a couple of out and backs and then straight back down and some more weaving around Tenby. The support was amazing throughout from both the volunteers and crowds, in particular in town where it was rammed and most had been suitably refreshed all day. Lots of fun. Having my family there was amazing – a huge lift. My mum and sister were jumping up and down like jack in the boxes and my Dad was screaming with his fists clenched!  For all supporters out there, you really do make a difference, thank you! I saw them 2 or 3 times on each lap. Great fun.

Nico was a couple of minutes up the road, Rory was a couple of minutes back. But they were both flying and capable of close to 3 hour ironman marathons, so racing them would have been stupid. The first lap was great then just like Roth I started to slow considerably before half way. So lap 2 was a bit rubbish, but it was fuelling rather than fatigue so once again when I got on the coke at halfway I came right back to life. In the future I’m on the coke from the start of the marathon – it’s rescued me twice now, so I need to eliminate the bad patches! Spud flew past me just like in Roth, although this time nearer halfway than the start. Lap 3 was solid and then, recovery complete, lap 4 was my best of the day. I had been chasing Jenny down for about an hour (she was a lap behind and moving really nicely) but when I finally caught her at the start of the final lap my legs were feeling better and better so I kicked on up the hill, shouting at her to go get her Kona slot. I was managing 4.30km pace back down the hill and then also on the flats at the end, and was able to ‘race’ properly, taking a number of places. Bonza. Nico had got 6 or 7 minutes up on me by halfway but in the final lap I saw the gap had shrunk significantly at the final out and back… so the hammer went down, but the sight of me meant the same for him, so I couldn’t close the gap and he got to the line 3 mins before me. A fun race… they breed them strong in South Africa!



Finished with a 3.18 marathon, which sounds terrific, but unfortunately it was only 40k on my Garmin, so more like 3.30 on an accurate course. Next time maybe the WTC can manage to get it right?! I’ll lend them my Garmin if they need? You can only run the course in front of you though and I ran at faster pace than Roth on a much tougher course, so I’m delighted with the progress.


Final scores on the doors were 10.09 for 20th in the M30 AG and 88th overall. 20 mins behind the final Kona spot, but I was delighted to ride steady and run faster than at Roth off that hard bike. A big step in the right direction and loads more learned. My swim was 120th, bike 89th and run also 120th. So the previously weak run now looks a bit more balanced, like my short course results.

Much like Roth it was great to see a load of mates laying it on the line, and almost to a man (and woman) having a great race. Gutted for Rory and Jenny to miss the Kona places by 2 or 3 mins each – although Jen got an impressive 3rd place in her AG and trophy for her efforts. Next time, guys! Combine this with a local community that so passionately embraced the race and it was a wonderful day, despite the drizzle on the run. I would recommend Wales to absolutely anyone, and I hope to go back one day. Hopefully not next year, mind, as inspired by racing with mates that are chasing Kona slots a number of us have all entered Ironman South Africa in April 2013. It’s typically been less competitive than the European Ironman races and it’s just gone up from 30 to 50 slots, so there is no lack of motivation this winter. If I can continue to improve my cycling and get in a good winter of high mileage running then I’m going there with a clear aim – to earn myself the right to throw a lot of good cash at a little race in the Pacific in October 2013. The dream lives on…

2012 has been a terrific season for me and this was a fitting end. I’ve loved every minute, most of all the banter, miles, smiles, hills, sunshine, rain and pain in training and racing with old and new friends. Whilst it’s been a year best described as ‘transitional’ on a personal level, these moments have been the highlight, so thank you all. Now it’s feet up and time to follow the black line to the beach. Mine’s a rum and coke. The best sports fuel in the world. The season’s dead. Long live the off season.