Triathlon

2014 bought a triathlon bike, cancelled all my triathlons

2014 was an interesting year... firstly, I thought I had not signed up for Blenheim, but the pass arrived anyway so I must have, and I managed to get a place in London Hyde Park. The trouble is I had simply not been on form and could not work out why... So I did the usual solution: I bought an expensive piece of kit to solve the problem! I bought a specialized shiv, and very nice it is too, it was a bargain 2013 reduced, added Rotor QXL rings and the amazing specialized carbon cranks and some 90mm carbon wheels and we are away... well almost.

Setting it up is a bit daunting so I went to get a bike fit and settled on the Body Geometry Specialized BG Fit. At the same time I had problems with my calf muscles and was going to Physio... to cut a long story short three things happened:

1) the Physio said my hamstings are too tight, causing calf issue have I tried Yoga
2) the BG showed I had a rubbish position due to tight hamstrings
3) all my triathlon friends finally admitted they had been doing yoga for last 3 years and otherwise could not fit their TT bike... thanks guys!

So I am doing Yoga and will be back in 2015!

In the meantime I have been collating this fun fact sheet on the differences I have seen between when I started triathlon, been doing it a few years and how far that is from the pros...
Difference between amatuer, seasoned amateur and pro triathletes

2013 more quality... hopefully some more quantity...

I am training for the 2013 Blenheim Triathlon. It is one of the best triathlons there is and will now be my 3rd year... training is not going too well: I was ill for two weeks in January / February, and the weather in the UK has been awful. I did the Reading half marathon in March and did a shocking 1:52, so have some way to go!

In case you are feeling bad about your training so far (and a bit of a disclaimer around the 1:52 half...) here is all that I have managed so far this first quarter of 2012...

January February March
 Count: 7 Activities 10 Activities 16 Activities
 Distance: 80.11 km 181.97 km 233.15 km
 Time: 5:31:09 h:m:s 10:27:47 h:m:s 15:03:39 h:m:s
 Elevation Gain: 753 m 1,248 m 1,617 m
 Avg Speed: 14.5 km/h 17.4 km/h 15.5 km/h
 Avg HR: 165 bpm 160 bpm 160 bpm
 Avg Run Cadence: 85 spm 86 spm 86 spm
 Avg Bike Cadence: 78 rpm 77 rpm 80 rpm
 Calories: 4,784 C 6,781 C 11,093 C
 Steps: 40,536 s 32,142 s 91,880 s

2012 proved Quality over Quanitity

2012 saw me shave down from 1:34 to 1:26, which I was pleased with, 2013 sees more of the same, with the goal being 1:15 (but will settle for 1:17 at worst :)) read post on this: 2013 Triathlon Quality over Quanitity

I have now done three years of triathlon; the Hyde Park Olympic twice and the Blenheim Sprint twice (different years!)... my first Olympic managed a respectable 2:35 and aiming for 2:20... assuming work, weather and injury allow... unfortunately there was no age-group race in Hyde Park in 2012 year with the London Olympics, and there is nothing else like it, so for my experiment I had  to settle for just Blenheim in 2012, 9th & 10th June 2012. I did an underwhelming 1:35 last year, aiming for closer to 1;25 this year!
(update: managed 1:26)

Blenheim 2012

The preparations in earnest started earlier this year. Last year I sprained my ankle in the 2010 Royal Parks Half Marathon and basically did nothing all November / December and only really kicked off in February 2011. I then took the "less is more" approach a little too seriously and over-egged the endurance training at the expense of speed, and did virtually no swimming that year until it was time for Blenheim. As a result I had a terrible swim and a bike ride where mountain bikes were overtaking me on the hills, but still had the speed on flats and downs, and made up a bit with a good run, thanks to lot's of cadence training and being able to keep a healthy but still slow 12km/h despite not being that in shape.
Spotting Pippa as I cross the line @ 2011 Blenheim  Tri
This year, I have been good maintaining some sort of pace over the winter, though I am still not ready to do 15km/h for 5km, that would get me down to 1:25 on its own, let alone after a swim and a ride... so its now 2 weeks (3 weeks plus a wind down) to see what can be done to build on the base, try and save about 5 mins on the run and another 5 mins on the ride... the swim is not really my thing!

Update 02 June 2012

After the previous week with a 20 hour day + boozy business lunch on Wednesday and dinner in Spain and then a weekend in Spain doing more of the same, this past week had to count, and fortunately it did. After two years of amateur last minute training I have learned a thing or two:

  • 3 Weeks before event train mix of distance and speed; so did 10k runs, 40k bikes and then 2k sprint runs and shorter 30k bike rides with sprints in them, so apart from the booze breaks, on track. Only problem here was missing swimming entirely, thankfully Blenheim is a sprint, I would be struggling if this were an Olympic distance. They key for me is to do 1:30 hours of exercise a good few days of the week to get your body used to the strain of a triathlon. For me a bike ride is perfect: ride to Richmond park at swim heart rate (average pace), ride the park like the ride part (this requires the least simulation!) and then ride home like the clappers to simulate the strain of the run.
  • 2 weeks before do bricks and increase the intensity but put break days in to recover and get the most out of the workouts, with real simulations: i.e Bricks (bike + run = ick). Bricks put a big strain on your body (so I hear) and so rest days are no bad thing (1-2 in week) I did the first brick this week, going down to Richmond park (as above simulating the swim) race the park like the race, managed a 20 min lap of the park, which is for me a good race speed, and then back at the same pace a further 20 mins, followed by a run: did the 5k at 12.8km/h average, so very please. The next day I headed to the pool and did the 750m in less than the 15 mins and then went on to do a further 1200m to complete 2km in 40 mins, again, very pleased. So please I took Friday off. Actually meant to do a fast cycling lap  yesterday but work got in the way... 
  • Last week: what you loose by weeks with 20 hour days, you gain in the shape of a four day weekend. Yes, here in the UK its a long bank holiday, so the weekend will see some strong training. I know the pros tell us that we need to rest the last week, however I am not a pro, and I have not been training like a pro all year so two thinks change dramatically: 
  • firstly, my best performance is without a doubt after 2-3 days tapering, not a week that a pro needs / can do. If I taper for a week my body thinks its Christmas and can wind down
  • secondly, I do not have accumulated strain of over training, like most amateurs, and my best performances are after two to three strong weeks of training and the above rest... 
So there, age-groupers are different, let's see if I increase on the dismal 1:35 of last year. An added bonus is that two of my ex tri now half iron man colleagues are doing Blenheim as well, and are in the wave 20 mins after me... which of course means they are threatening to finish at the same time if i do a leisurely 1:35 this year...

The "age grouper" dilemma

On my way I have read many guides, magazines, books and more. I have learned a lot from great athletes like Chris McCormack and Chrissie Wellington who make time to write articles and magazines like Triathlon 220, which takes its name from the result that age groupers aspire to, however they are written by people who are also way above 220 and/or live their life for triathlon as journalists and so their training advise, while great, has little or no relevance as to how to fit this in to your work and other commitments. Of course, they write the odd article that has been inspiration to this blog, but they are a small part of the total advice and do not give any context to applying the theory or how that may evolve over time. You do also get the idea, that a lot of their views of work life are just like age groupers'  advice on full-time sport: anecdotal!
Stock images for search term "business person" - this is as anecdotal as the sport industry's view of age-groupers!
Then there are training companions. While I am fortunate to have a group of friends to train with, they are now either falling off or going to the ironman, which again, makes their advice irrelevant... or falling off full stop, having been there, done that. I have also suspected that thee advice some people pass on is the advice they are willing to give away, not the real nuggets! so, resigned to the fact that this is a competition where I want to get to 220, no matter how many people are in front or behind of me (when you are X hundredth in your age group, does it matter a few dozen or even hundred positions up or down).

So this aims to be a guide / companion as to what to expect and how to stick with triathlons if you fall into the seemingly uncatered for but ever growing bracket of people who want to do it well (a 2:20 olympic triathlon) but in a balanced manner while keeping a job, friends and /or family, and not get obsessed with training that get's in the way of your work / life balance...

The Training Process

So, before going on to training tips below, its important that we cover the process, as this is an area that you typically struggle with at first, either relying on anecdote or pro based tips which while much more reliable are not necessarily more relevant to your training (or learning) process. That is, advising people who are just getting started to go to bed at 9:30pm get up at 4:30am to do a long run is not going to recruit anybody to the sport, furthermore they may form an opinion of you that, well let's say may not be favourable. It does amuse me the irony of triathletes telling people all proud that they got up at Xam to train and the contrast in opinion it actually draws from their audience...

So anybody who is contemplating triathlon will have worked out by now (many have not) that you have X hours per day to yourself and anything beyond that has to eat into either work, sleep, friends and family or leisure. Whether this be commuting, sitting in the pub telling the same old stories of what could have been, another hobby, a second job, etc. The key to long term progression is a balance and to not dig into any one of these too much over time (this may need to vary week to week, i.e. a busy week at work and you need to eat more into personal or sleep, and vice versa), and look at being clever about how you eat into them:

Work:

Eating into work can be done cleverly, if you are flexible you can eat into your lunch break for interval training, work from home x days a week and use travel / commute time for training rather than  cleaning the fridge or putting shelves up, or jig things around a bit: some people train at 6am (or earlier) which I do in the summer, but in winter i would rather be on the sofa with a blanket doing some work with industrial coffee, and then use that extra gained time for a mid morning or pre lunch run. As with the other areas below, while a bit of investment may be needed up front, the rewards will pay off in the fact that if you run twice a week at 6am, 12pm and 8pm you will be able to work coherently at these times, and produce better quality of work more often, quicker and for longer. Triathlon is about picking short, medium and long term ever more achievable goals, pushing barriers and sticking with what you have planned over the medium, long and short terms, adjusting for inevitable changes and judging realistically what you can achieve in any given time frame and it pays off in droves in your work life!

Family / Friends:

It is important not to lose family and friends along the way: there are ways to keep them in the loop. Unfortunately, most people have no sense of measurement and try and take their family on a "short" 6km run... with them running and wonder why they never want to do it again... but you can get them to cycle while you run, have swimming lessons or swim while you swim (with swimming you can swim at different speeds strokes without the other party feeling "slow") or cycling where there is a loop where you do 3 laps in the time they do 1 or 2... once you are fit the rewards will pay off: when your 3 year old / partner / flatmate (their propositions of things to do are often interchangeable) jumps up and down and says "let's go to the ..." instead of saying "i'm tired" you will have the energy to make them think twice about proposing whatever it was again :)

Sleep:

Sleep is an interesting one; at first you need more, then you need less. Yep, once you are triathlon fit, you resting heart-rate will be a good 30-50% less, your body is less tired from doing the things you do and you need less sleep. When you are getting fit you also tend to eat better and drink less (do i really need that extra g&t???) and you get better sleep. If you have been for an evening run you will not need to count sheep either when you hit the pillow. However, as you start to train and continue to train, you will need more sleep after a big training session to get results. Again, the balance is that you should be aiming to have either two big days a week and/or one big week every two to four weeks, and so will only be needing extra sleep sometimes: the trick: avoid the crappy movie, the pointless mid-week cheeky drinks after work and get to bed early sometimes: you will notice your productivity increasing

Training diary and tips 

So, I have said my peace, I had better put my money where my mouth is and offer some advice :)

I plan to keep updating this and the other sections at least monthly if not weekly as the season kicks in, so hear goes. When training, your best friend is your Garmin, or other training devices, however, many people just look at them and go "nice", a bit like most product demos, stats or data presented. I consider myself lucky in that as a young professional I trained as a consultant, which teaches (the good consultants!) many counter intuitive things in life, one I remember my director saying: anybody can find, collate and present some interesting stats; average consultants just do it quicker and more refined, but good consultants try and  undertand why the client is interested in them, and looks behind the data to analyse what these stats really mean for the person (or company) you are showing them to. Now, I am not pretending we all become business consultants, but given that half of the difficult part is understanding the business or the person we are presenting to, but here that "difficult half" is you, yourself and you, then the other difficult half of looking behind the simple stats should not be that difficult either.

This is essentially what a good coach would do, however as an amateur, this is still a luxury, so here goes. One way to do this analysis, for people who are good at this sort of thing, is to go to DC Rainmaker and see what software he uses half way down his reviews of devices. However, I get the impression he spends rather a lot more time than I analysing his stats (and the results probably show!) but I am starting from a lower base of a balance being more emphasis on work/life than work/tri!

Weekly triathlon training data

What data is important for me is a certain selection of fields from your weekly data. if you go to Garmin Connect you can add or remove these by clicking on "customise", I have added here max HR to the default. You will also notice two very important fields here: run cadence and bike cadence. These are critical for age groupers as they can maximise your time and minimise injury - there is no point training great and then having to take 2-4 weeks out due to injury, if you do your year's work is gone. remember here as well, nobody remembers the guy or girl who peaked in March, most importantly, not even you! this is a steady progression. I will get back onto cadence below, in the meantime:
CB log Week 11 so far, don't worry about my stat's, go and get yours!
This output may be too small to read, but that is not important, what is important is the fields I am going to describe and your stats. Go to the "reports" tab a few tabs along from the usual "dashboard" that everybody looks at , select "last 7 days" from the drop down, and then click on "progress summary" and select the  "Activity Distribution" by event from the drop down that appears. We are now in business. here you can click "customise" as I said above and add "Max HR".

So what do these fields tell us and why are they important? One of the best pieces of advice I read was from Macca on his old blog of about 18 months ago,  which has now been replaced by the new blog, where he said most amateurs spend too much time training, especially running, in zone 4. Its true, you try and do as much as you can as fast as you can, and at some point you plateau and do not improve no matter how much you train. The key is to do long hours in zone 3 and shorter, harder training or intervals in zones 4, 5 and the new fangled zone 6. This graph will quickly tell us if we are doing this by reading the:

  •  average run cadence, if too low you are not doing enough speed training or over training (your cadence drops when you are tired) pro's run at the same cadence no matter what speed they are running, they just alter their stride, while this is your goal, remember you are not a pro, you will have a higher cadence at higher speed!
  • average speed. My slow training speed (zone 3 running) is around 11km/h, I can do sprints up to over 30km/h (we are talking seconds) longer periods at over 20 (low minutes) and speed training is whole kilometres at 15km/h, average around 12.5 to 13.5km/h depending on length and intensity and how hard my week has been. If my weekly average is 11, like this week, now Saturday 17th March I need to go and do some interval or speed training. 
By the way, its best to do this analysis from Thursday evening to Saturday morning, when you can still do something about it. This is where pro's and those with certain personalities / jobs will say that I should have a schedule and have done the racing according to schedule. Well, yes, you may be right, but up until a few hours ago I did not know whether I was going to be in Rome on Monday or not, or even what flight I was getting back from Rome, so with my job this is never going to work: Monday will bring what training Monday can, I will see where I am later in the week / months and do my best to adapt. Secondly, I live in London, for those of you who have trouble with context that is London United Kingdom, yes, the one with weather that changes by the hour. At this point some are saying, "you can train no matter what the weather", and you are right, however enjoyment is a key to long term success, at least for me, and I enjoy running short runs in the rain, long ones less so but passable, and swimming ditto; but cycling in the rain is a chore at best, dangerous at worst (road cycling at least) or makes more hours of work cleaning the bike (mountain bike at least) that you did training. Finally, whilst I am on a roll... I firmly subscribe to listening to your body: there are days I start out planning a long run, and either get warmed up two km in and see my cadence dropping saying I am tired, at which point a long run is risking a silly injury and unlikely to improve my fitness so go home, or I am buzzing and my body is screaming for some interval training (I may be exaggerating slightly here, but you know what I mean) and you will gain more by speed training here than trying to force speed out of a weary body and/or mind.

So, this is my view of training for busy people, however, do bear in mind, if you have done your MBTI, Belbin, Birkman or other personality tests, that this also suits my personality type: whilst about 50% of the UK population and most people in professional services have the same principles in the key personality types, there are some (extreme "shapers" in the Belbin tests for example) who's mind just cannot cope with this pragmatic approach and must plan ahead: If you are one of these, and reading this and getting your knickers in a twist already at all this laissez faire attitude then just remember that you will also be a fan of a) metrics to ensure your planning is going to plan, which this will hopefully demonstrate, and you will also be a fan of having a plan "b"... which in an imperfect world we live in, may well mean you read this data as your plan b ;) So back to looking at these few lines of data:

  • Average heart rate: here, firstly we can see how fit we are, in theory this average should go down as we peak (if we are training right) however in a weekly graph like this it shows me a) I have spent too much time running in zone 4 and too much cycling in zone 2/3: this week is unlikely to see any great gains in fitness unless I do some speed training in both disciplines: so there, Saturday interval run, Sunday interval cycle. This should also be read in context: in order to get my three hour ride in this week I eat too much into sleep and it showed, I average 21.5 km/h on my road bike! This is no huge biggie, but it will mean I just maintained fitness rather than progressing it this week.
  • Max heart rate, mostly just gives context to above, but also shows if I have pushed myself hard enough this week: I have not, but I still have Saturday and Sunday to compensate.
  • Average bike cadence: again, this should be around 90 for training, its not, sometimes this can be from too much speed training (yes I know pros do speed training at 90, but I do not have the legs nor the heart to do this for more than a few mins) but in this case it just reflects that I was shattered for my long ride... ;(
  • Other data: later in the year elevation will be important as I try to get some climbing in, distance vs. time vs. speed is an indicator of balance but takes a lot of time to analyse, and calories is key to seeing whether you have earned yourself a pizza or a burger this week or not!
This graph assumes a few things, one that you are moderately fit by now (its March and you are reading this) The big problem with running is that until you are fit, it is difficult to run in zone 3, with running you are supporting your whole body weight, so even slow jogging is quite a strain on the body. you will need to do a lot of long 3 hour bike rides at zone 3 and some work running in the dangerous zone 4 to get here, I will cover cadence elsewhere in more detail, but for now all that is needed is that you look at your run cadence when jogging: if your cadence drops quickly, go home, if your heart rate is 10bpm higher than it should be before a run, go for a gentle ride instead, it means you are tired and you will gain nothing from a run except injury, stick with it and in 2-4 weeks you can get here to start improving by analysing.

The kit

Without doubt the biggest barrier is the kit, but it should not be if you are a) committed, b) plan wisely. Firstly, we are lead to believe that you need the best of everything. You do not, the best bike with aero wheels will make you a bit faster, even a few minutes, but the reality is that this difference is the difference between being 234th or 224th in your age group out of 500 and could have been easily made up by eating fewer pies or cutting out that "one last pint": never lose perspective! The secret in cycling is: buy cheap, buy twice" and this is very much what I have learned in triathlon: you will see where you think is best to upgrade or not and everybody is different: some of my colleagues spend a fortune on trainers and have the same tyres their bike came with, others on wet-suits but run in a t-shirt, other have £1000 wheels and a £30 helmet...

The Swim

The swim element is by far the cheapest, the requirements are:

Wetsuit,

A wetsuit can be hired, that is if you do not mind putting on some rubber that someone else has inevitably urinated in... call me a prim and proper Brit, but I preferred the "buy" option and got the cheap to middle range 2XU when it was on offer and I cannot resist a bargain.
First Tri swim, especially in the Serpentine, is "an experience"
Others swam equally well in the Orca budget tri wetsuit from wiggle. To be honest, I could have gone the budget route as well.

The Swim is the hardest part by far: the first year I had to stop and recompose myself three times:
  1. Firstly I could not see a thing in the serpentine, this should be called closed water swimming as the, let's call it "sediment" from the bottom the lake was disturbed, literally you could not see even your arms or your hands: a strange mix of what can only be described as claustrophobia set in
  2. once composed and visibility accepted, I swam on, only to find reeds accumulating on my glasses, face, hands... this was not nice at all and I was not alone in treading water for a second to take it in
  3. Then, past the first buoy and into a rhythm of the long 800m straight, the reeds got longer, this time they were going into your mouth as you came up for air and by now it was more of a strop than anything, again, recomposed and got on with it!
Once past these eventualities, the swim was quite pleasant. There is a wonderful pitter patter of dozens of people swimming in open water together which is really rather addictive. It soon wears off as you reach the second buoy and the more Neanderthal among us start taking paths that are just not there, elbows out, their leg strokes breaking rhythm to kick defensively and a phenomenon that can only be compared to road rage overtakes many - let's call it river rage. There is that and then the realisation of the fact that the wetsuit is actually a corset and your chest is tired from fighting it for nearly half an hour.

Goggles: much of a muchness, but do bear in mind the conditions, when I started out I went for the mirrored option as it had a great review, and nowhere explains the options, but in the overcast duck-crap and reed infested serpentine I could not see a thing and came the closest I have ever come to having claustrophobia and need "a minute" to recompose myself... I needed the yellow lens version in this case. I now have both mirrored zoggs predator flex as they seem to fit the face best and will keep foggless for the best part of half an hour that it takes an average age-grouper to swim 1500m. It still does not help when you get kicked in the face and your goggles knocked off as I did last year... more on this later

Ear plugs:

Keep the crap out of your ears, or at least let them flood and keep the same crap in your ears for the duration. I have been using these, nowhere are there instructions on how to wear them, so my results are average, but either way it is way better with than without, suggestions welcome!

Cap

other things such as the head cap come with your race pack, they are coloured by wave you have been allocated (now have pink, blue and gold ones) I wear them in race as I have to but hate them otherwise. I have no idea how people train with them on, its like having a boa trying to constrict your head.

Lube:

yes lube: getting a wetsuit on and off is up there with going to the dentist in terms of ease and wish of doing, I have tried them all, but saw tri champion Helen Jenkins use baby oil and stuck with that ever since: the easiest to use (I even put my leg into a sleeve of the wetsuit once!) and it even seems to protect your hands from getting wrinkly fingers on the swim

Bike

The bike is of course, no matter how much you spend, the most expensive part, not only upfront but ongoing... it is the piece of kit you will want to upgrade, with later upgrades alone costing more than your first bike, and wear and tear is expensive as well, with triathlon training coming it at hundreds of miles a week, and tyres, bearings (bottom bracket and hubs), cogs (chainsets and cassettes) and chains, etc lasting low thousands of miles, you will soon rack up the expenses. having  said that, its still way cheaper than many other hobbies, and I do not know of another hobby that keeps you as fit or allows you to eat as much cake, chips and burgers as triathlon. For the bike section you nee

The bike(s)

er... bike(s). most people I have spoken to come to triathlon via the bike, many from mountain bikes, some from road and many of them ran to compliment their cycling. This means that bike often means first road bike, rather than first bike and so people know a thing or two, but even then road is a new world... there is a lot off debate over road vs tri bikes and many even use sportive (more upright road) bikes. The way I see it is that I spend 5-10 hours a week training on the road, and less than 5-10 hours a year racing a bike in triathlons, and moreover have one bike, so it is a road bike. I went for a specialized tarmac pro. I had done a good piece of work for a client that had been hard but paid a bonus on early delivery and other key deliverables and so had planned for an SL3 frame and build it up with SRAM red or Force. I have always like Specialized, despite also being a big fan of giant, kona and my native on-one/planet-x, but the SL3 was the way forward. Unfortunately, product managers in whatever side of the pond decided that the UK was not to get the BB30 bottom bracket version, nor could i get even the raw carbon version with standard English bottom bracket, thus relegating us to use what I then saw (and to some extend still see) as an inferior, outdated,  drivetrain solution and a colour scheme I did not want. I do not understand how at this level a company as large as specialized cannot respond, but maybe somebody can fill me in. Anyway, back to the bike.
Tarmac SL Pro 2009 at 2010 Hyde Park Olympic Triathlon
So at the same time the previous year's SL Pro was available, which is basically an SL2 with an extra layer of 3K carbon and super strong laquer to seal it. Already having a raw carbon s-works stumpjumper and thinking that the extra layer of carbon an laquer maybe a good idea (in rain my s-works finish appear to eventually soak up water...) I jumped at the option, it even had the Mavic Kysirium SL wheels I wanted, as well as the mostly SRAM red kit and the amazingly light and stiff specialized carbon crank,which is worth it in itself. In all, as shipped in 54cm without pedals it weighed in at 6.8kg, add the pedals and its UCI weight :)

Tyres

The only changes I made to the bike were the tyres, the 2009 specialized tyres were awful, and soon came off and were replaced with continental 4000s from merlin cycles and the amazing (but fragile at fitting, careful not to snag them when fitting) conti supersonic tubes and the bike was already a few hundred grammes down and rolling faster. The problem was that this was still a harsh ride, and south carriage drive in hyde park shook your fillings out, even at 100 psi (vs. 110/120psi normal pressure for these tyres. So the reason I wanted the Mavics was the undrilled outer rim to try road tubeless, already a tubeless convert for years on the mountain bike, I was this as the way forward and was I right... road tubeless Hutchison Fusion 3 transforms the tarmac and its super stiff Mavic Kysiriums, running 90psi at the front and 100psi at the back it was like having 1cm of suspension on the bike, and I finally broke the 70km/h barrier down the anticlockwise winding off-camber downhill stretch in Richmond park :)
Road Tubeless; tub style ride, trainer style puncture resistance, plus huge grip
I cannot recommend road tubeless enough. You can either go for fusion 3 all round, especially if you are light, or replacing the rear more often if you are heavier and use fusions front and back. Or if not, you can put Intensives on the back for better wear. If I were racing I would use atom front / fusion rear and for training use fusion front intensive rear. as you may have guessed, the weight and durability increases though from atom, then fusion, then intensive.
I have since upgraded to tubs for racing, eventually plumping for Planet-X R50 and continental competition tyres and have been using them for a while training as well.
Tubular carbon is a handsome & toxic mix of carbon, exotic rubber and glue
Road tubeless is up there with tubs in terms of feel, absorbing road harshness, and rolling resistance. aero wheels are worth 3-5km/h over 30km/h, so are a great reward when you are fit. In the end I decided The planet-X ones are plenty enough for me to pay for now while I decide whether i go tubs or clinchers, carbon or alu clinchers and while the edge, zipp firecrest and other technologies battle out the next wave of aero, its all very interesting :)

Wheels:

Wheels can become expensive. I bought cheap aero wheels, and they are still the most expensive wheels I have bought! They do make a difference though. the Planet-X carbon tubulars are fast, properly fast, especially with the great but expensive continental competition tyres on them.
Strangely; the Planet-X and Specialized logo mix works!
Full carbon wheels mean funny brake pads, which not only don't grip well, but bizarrely grip differently throughout a full wheel cycle, making them, well dangerous and prone to skidding - gone is the ability to endo your way out of trouble as you would either flat spot and fall or go over the bars, that's if you build up enough power that is....

Aerobars:

I spent a huge amount of time researching aero bars, and eventually went for the amazingly good but expensive deda fastblack bars, however, i have used them about 5 times and never got the best out of them. Unfortunately from 11 to 15 years old I cycled and ran a lot and stretched very little and have hamstrings as tight as a clam to a stormy-sea rock and just cannot get aero. I am also a control freak on two wheels and just cannot get with the lack of control, especially when sharing a road with cars, aerobars for me are just dangerous. Then there is the performances of the Brownlees without aerobars to reinforce my view. I am stretching and we shall see, but at the moment they are not for me.

Clothing:

The tri suit, if nothing else, is easy. I have been using 2XU suits, first the medium level one with the convenient pocket at the rear for gels, and now the compression version, still with pockets for gels.
You would not wear a tri-suit to a beauty contest, but they work
For general training, there is nothing better than gore bike wear. I am still using my phantom II jacket I first bought in 2008? and must have been thought over 1000 wash cycles by now!

Run

The run is the best part of triathlon: why - its where the biggest gains for the smallest investment in time, and money, can be made... more coming soon

The Training

The training has started for this year, it has been knocked back a bit from a week of skiing, but will be back from next week and documented (sort of)...