5km Blue Dragon Swim Challenge completed

June 13, 2010 Leave a comment

Today my 5km swim challenge came round a month early when my new team coach announced yesterday that he had signed me up for a longer distance than the warm up 3km swim I was planning for today.

However, he told me that the weather conditions were perfect for open water conditions and the water temperature was 21 degrees C so I decided there was no better time to try it.

I arrived in Pardubice (Czech Republic) with my girlfriend this morning at 10.15am, almost an hour later than planned as we couldn’t find the entrance to the Czech Cup race – the first race of the open water swimming season here. I had just enough time to register, get my number put on my shoulder and get in the water for a 10.30am start!! At least there was no time for nervousness!!

before the swim start

Final words from the coach

Overall my first impression of open water swimming is quite good, it’s a nice atmosphere and I think a lot of people just go there for a swim and some fun! A bit like me! I found that it was like a long training session for me and I quite enjoyed it apart from a small area where there were weeds growing from the bottom as I don’t like it when they touch my arms and body – I never have done! That’s a definite plus of swimming in a wetsuit in triathlon!

I also found that my face got cold, even in the relative warmth of the lake today and at times I had to swim on my back or breast stroke just to try to warm it up a bit….. still I finished in about 1h49 (still to check on website).

the finish... not looking too happy...

Thanks to everyone at our school party on Thursday who donated – we raised 1722kc there, which will be matched koruna for koruna by Intrepid Travel and thanks to everyone else who has already donated via my internet webpage. Every penny donated will help to improve thei kids lives.

 If you haven’t donated yet and wish to then please follow either of the links below:

Through my Special Appeal webpage at Intrepid Travel: 


Or direct to Blue Dragon:


Categories: Uncategorized

Ironman 70.3 St Polten Race Report 2009

May 27, 2010 Leave a comment

As the 2010 Ironman in St Polten approaches I thought I should write a report about my time in St Polten last year. It was my first race of this distance and after driving in from Brno with my girlfriend we were happy to see that the sun was shining and all was good. We arrived and the first thing I realised what that I’d left my pump at home. I borrowed a pump – noticing what a great atmosphere there was around me as I I did so. I started to pump up the tyres before taking my bike to transition – and burst the rear one! What a start! I didn’t want to use my spare so I took it to the bike repair centre in the IronVillage where they charged me 15 euro to buy and fit a new one, as well as give my bike a quick service.

I have to say that I was well impressed with the organisation at the venue and the look of the race course. I couldn’t wait for the next day.

The only slight negative for me and my family was the pasta party, which was very noisy and the food was very average. We felt that it was over capacity too, and it would be good if they had a maximum capacity in the tent which didn’t seem to happen. However, it was good to soak up the atmosphere and see some of the pros, as well as see the race course and get even more excited.

I don’t usually drink before a race but knowing that I had to get up at 4.30 for breakfast, I decided to have a glass of wine to help me sleep and went to bed at 9.30pm.

I was the first one of my party into the breakfast room in the morning and noticed that the hotel even had Ironman napkins which started psyching me up from the first bite of my cheese roll. Then my parents, girlfriend and her parents joined me and we left for the race at about 5.45am.

Anyone going this year, I’d allow yourself plenty of time to get into the car park, as this was a streeful time for me and I decided to leave the car and jog to transition to ensure my bike was prepared and I knew exactly where my T1 bag and bike was. Then I got stressed just before the start and ended up running to the start line and throwing on my wetsuit with just enough time for a quick warm up swim – at least I didn’t have time to be nervous!

The swim was great, well-organised and exciting. It was special as after about 1000m you have to get out and run across a bridge and jump into a second lake – superb. The weather as we finished the swim was turning nice again (my swim time was 34mins) as the clock stuck about 7.55…..

The start of the bike was amazing for me, cycling out of town on a closed motorway. I really felt like an athlete here, and I think that everybody feels a bit special on these big occasions. It was also nice that everyone cheers you on and the atmosphere during the bike ride was wonderful.  The single 90km loop was a factor for me in choosing this race as I don’t much like doing lots of loops and I thought the scenery and the diversity of the course was really good. After the motorway you go into the vineyears and then cycle by the river for about 20km where it’s nice and flat before turning up intoa big climb – if I remember rightly it was about 15km of climbing. I met another English guy on the climb, and it was good to have a little chat and help each other up there.

By the time we made it to the top of the hill I was ready to get off the bike for my favourite part – the run, and the reason I wanted to try this distance event. Is the half marathon harder after a bike ride? I rode down the hill and into town and by now the sun was quite strong and the temperature was rising. (bike was 2h47mins)

Coming out of transition, I felt really strong and the two loop run course was dead flat, which suited me, and I managed a 10k time of 40mins. By now I was hot and getting tired, but I had a bit of banana and picked up a gel and a drink at every aid station and finished the run in 1h25mins. I surprised myself with a finish time of 4h56 and got a shower and massage – Now I had become an Ironman!

I can only say thanks very much to all the organisers and staff at the event, which was superbly run and everyone was very friendly. It was the biggest of the events I did last season, and though I would love to do another one this year it still seems that I might be sidelined for some time yet.

Anyone going for their first time on Sunday, enjoy every minute of it and I hope your day is as special as mine….


Categories: Uncategorized

Blue Dragon Special Appeal – Save Shelter 52

May 27, 2010 Leave a comment

We need your help!

Blue Dragon is making a special, one-off appeal.

We need to raise $60,000 US by July 31 to secure our street kids’ shelter in Hanoi for the long term.

Our shelter provides urgent short term and long term accommodation for street children, orphans, and kids in crisis.

A very generous donor, Planet Wheeler [www.planetwheeler.org] has offered to match donations dollar for dollar – meaning we need to raise $30,000 and they will contribute a matching amount.

Every dollar donated will make a difference.

Please follow the link to donate: http://www.bdcf.org/dragon_house.html

Categories: Fundraising

Back to square one

After my training day yesterday my achilles is big and now it feels tender to touch. I feel that I’m back where I was 6 weeks ago and feeling pretty disappointed and stupid.

I had to try it, the sportsman in me wanted to believe the better prognosis, and maybe it would’ve been ok if I’d done less? Who knows? I only know that now I’ll have to be patient and may even use the crutches as instructed by the first doctor for a few days.

I feel that everything I’ve seen and read on the Internet is not correct or just not right for me too. It looks as though I’ll have to be content with swimming this summer.

I spoke to my neighbour (the man I met in the pool – see previous post) and found out that he’s a professional open-water swimmer, and a member of the best swimming team here in Brno – Kometa! He said he’ll be able to put me in touch with their team, and with a coincidence like that I should be very grateful…….

Categories: Uncategorized

Another training twist

Yesterday was a very strange day. In the morning I picked up some crutches from the hospital but didn’t have the heart to use them. I looked at people in the hospital who really needed them and felt like an idiot so I carried them to work with the idea that I’d use them if I have to walk a lot. Then after work I went to see another doctor for a second opinion. He told me he thinks there is no sign of inflammation or of tendonitis – which was a big difference to the first doctors opinion! He said I might have a heel spur and sent me for an x-ray to check. I showed him where the lumps are (but he couldn’t feel them), and told him that it doesn’t hurt and he told me to go for a run and see what happens! He said if it swells up he’d have something to look at and if not then it must be ok.  Now that was exactly what I wanted to hear!

So the crutches are laying around and hopefully wont be needed. This morning I went for a jog for about 6-7km and it seemed ok, so I went for a bike ride for 2.5hours and it still doesn’t hurt, but (I think) the hard lumps are still there. I’ll take the x-rays to show him on Tuesday so I’ll go for a run again before that and hopefully he’ll give me the all clear.

This year has been very frustrating with a lot of highs and lows already but I think I will learn a lot about my training limits and hopefully sign up again for Roth next year. This could also change my goals for this year, and for fund raising ideas as if I’m fit enough I could do a long bike race instead.

I’ll keep you all posted on my plans.

A new challenge?

April 29, 2010 1 comment

After a few days of consideration and more worrying news that I shouldn’t be walking to allow this problem to get better, I wonder why all the web sites i read recommend cycling. I’ve been doing some cycling but I’m sure that walking is causing my achilles to stay bad. The doctor recommended crutches but I feel like a fraud when it doesn’t hurt. I now wonder if I’m actually imagining a problem that isn’t there.

It doesn’t look to me that I’ll be ready to do any triathlons this year but I don’t want to spend a month sitting around if it will get better while I do something. As a TEFL teacher, travelling from class to class and walking around classrooms is part of my job and it’s difficult to stay off my foot for a month. Maybe I’ll ask for a second opinion before I follow the doctor’s advice! I know I’m a typical difficult patient but after training through the winter I’m disappointed to be sidelined during the nice weather.

So I’ve been doing some research into a new challenge that I can take part in this year and found long distance swimming, or ‘dalkove plavani’ in Czech. In the summer there are competitions I can try which are open water swimming competitions. They are different to triathlon because competitors cannot wear wetsuits whereas in triathlon it’s a very important accessory which helps keep you buoyant, keep you warm and helps you swim faster!

So I think this might be a different challenge for me to try – my main concern at the moment is the water temperature! and the other is the distance – 5km! Over a km longer than the swim I was preparing for (with a wetsuit).

I have a lot of respect for these people, as the sport sounds very difficult and they must be very tough people. Some of the swims are as long as 20km, which I can’t even imagine!

Anyway, to take part in one of these events and try to raise some money for charity, I’ll need to join the Czech Distance Swimming Association, and luckily (maybe!) at the pool this morning I met a couple of people in a local team here in Brno and one of them leaves in my block of flats…… so I might have found a contact to help me in the first stage of this new mission….

Disappointment…. this year

April 26, 2010 Leave a comment

Although my achilles is feeling much better, it still gets bigger when I walk a lot or do too much exercise. I’ve been cycling a bit and it seems ok but I still can’t run and it looks like at least 2-3 more weeks off so I’ve decided to cancel my place at Ironman and reassess my fitness next year. I’ve also had to cancel an olympic distance race in Austria that I was planning to do in May.

I’ve bought a new triathlon training book called ‘Going Long’ and if I can get fit again during this summer then I will consider signing up again next year – but only if I’m feeling fit and healthy in the autumn.

It’s been a blow to my confidence but I’ve read in a few places how high the chances of injury is for triathletes, and at Iron distances it’s 91 percent – so now I’m just one of the majority! And at least it doesn’t seem too serious, I’m still hoping to do some smaller, shorter events later in the season. 

I’ve already started toying with the idea of a new challenge for this summer, both to take my mind off triathlon and also to try to raise a bit of cash for Blue Dragon! More on that soon……

Categories: general information

A Big Decision to Make…….

March 30, 2010 Leave a comment

After a bike ride at the weekend, my achilles has grown again! It doesn’t hurt but I thought I should return to the doctor to see if it’s ok. He looked at it with ultrasound, and said that it’s just tired and recommended another 2-3 weeks of rest. Most of the doctors here overestimate time for recovery but even so, it’s getting very near the cut off for getting my money back for the triathlon (by the end of April)…. I’m thinking that if I’m not going to get fit in time that it will be better to get the entry fee back and give it to Blue Dragon and postpone the challenge until next year.

If I don’t do that then I will go through with it this year or forfeit the entry fee. I’d prefer not to do that, but I’d also prefer not to cause myself a long term injury either.

What do Blue Dragon do?

March 30, 2010 Leave a comment

Blue Dragon is an Australian charity helping poor children and families in Vietnam. Their base is in Hanoi, but they have other branches in other parts of the country.


Their main aims are to provide orphans a home and street kids and children from poor families a chance to get some kind of education.


Blue Dragon offers various education to kids, from learning English, or computer skills or sponsoring children from poor families to continue their education at school. Education in Vietnam is free for only 6 years. This could help them in their future working life, and help to break the cycle of poverty.


Blue Dragon is involved in finding runaway children (who tend to run away because they can see their family is too poor to look after all the children). They often go to a city to try to earn money shining shoes or something similar.

Trafficked children

Blue Dragon help to locate children sold into ‘education – to give them a trade ‘by their poor families; actually sweat shops and other unpleasant places of work by desperate families – who later realize what has happened and try to find their kids. Many of these families live in rural areas.

Other Activities

The first point of contact for many kids is the weekly game of football organized which any children can take part in. As well as this, they try to offer local children other life skills – eg. A UN statistic is that 40 children drown every day in Vietnam, so Blue Dragon helps teach kids to learn to swim.

A Personal Note

On my visit to the charity, I bought the Blue Dragon football shirt, and wore it later for lunch. I was very surprised to find a young waitress there keep looking in my direction while we were eating. When we finished she came over and asked if I knew Michael (the founder of Blue Dragon). I said no, but asked why and she told me that she had lived there and seemed very pleased to see the football shirt I was wearing!  – It was an eye opener for me, and a firsthand experience of how Blue Dragon is helping to train poor, young and underprivileged children to become independent and learn a trade.

They also help distribute food to people affected by natural disasters in the country.

So these are some of the reasons why I decided to support their cause.

For the Blue Dragon story: http://www.streetkidsinvietnam.com/blue_dragon_story.html

For more information on the charity: http://www.streetkidsinvietnam.com/

And if you agree that they are doing a great job out there, feel free to donate something to the charity:  http://www.theintrepidfoundation.org/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=19_34&products_id=77

The mysterious recurring injury…..

March 25, 2010 Leave a comment

After four days of bandages and cream the achilles problem seems to have completely disappeared, but now I firmly believe it is related to the other muscle pains I was suffering before Christmas. This took some time to diagnose as the doctor thought I had joint or back problems. I had x-rays, CT scans, physio and electro therapy. All the tests turned out negative and nothing helped for long.

Then I found I had a number of trigger points (hard lumps of muscle) in my calves and thighs which don’t hurt until they become active. When they do, they can really hurt you and also refer pain to other parts of the body. For me it originally felt like cramp in my calf which never went away. This time it felt like I had a problem in my achilles, but can also feel like knee pain or hip pain (I suffered with this before Christmas, only not too much) depending on which muscles contain trigger points. On Monday I went to my masseur and found that my achilles problem is most probably referred pain from my calf muscle.

Strange, you might say? I have done a lot of reading about trigger points since Christmas and it doesn’t seem so strange, especially among long distance sports people. I have never taken enough care of my muscles and now they are crying out for some attention!

The condition is called myofascial pain (or myofascial dysfunction) and it seems that once you realize you have them you can start to correct them. I have spent 2 days massaging one small area of my calf – which really hurt to touch, but now seems to be getting better. eg, soft and pliable, like a muscle should be instead of a tight knot which doesn’t move.

These problems account for a huge number of cases in athletes and also in normal people. I read some shocking statistics on the internet about this, so if you have some aches or pains which the doctor is unable to explain maybe you should see someone knowledgeable in this area.

At the end of this week I’m feeling much more confident that I will be able to continue training for my challenge. I’m even contemplating running the Half Marathon on Sunday, but I think it’s probably better to skip it. I’ve also bought a book from Amazon about self-therpay as I’m so pleased with the effects of the self massage techniques I tried on the internet webpage. I’ll keep you posted on my progress in this area.