As a first timer to the 70.3 triathlon distance (half Ironman distance / middle distance) I wanted to find an event within a reasonable distance from home that was nice and flat (no point in adding any extra challenges into the mix) and with a swim in calm water as most of my open water swimming is in the sea, so a nice fresh water reservoir would be a welcome bonus. This left me with the Grafman Middle Distance triathlon in Grafham, Cambridgeshire. Although it is nowhere near Cambridge, it is a lovely little village.
With a few sprint triathlons under the belt, the middle distance really is a new discipline to train for. My first ever half marathon was just 2 weeks before the event and went without too many problems but swimming this distance and staying calm is definitely a challenge.
The registration process the day before the event was very simple and quick; the entire process only took around 4 minutes. It was nice to be able to walk into the transition area, find my number for the next day, and have a look at the swim start and course.
The swim is a mass swim entry, which means running in and plunging into the water and racing off in a pack. I decided to hang out on the left of the pack and take a wide lap to avoid being pushed and shoved too much. The swim also includes an "Australian Exit" which means after one lap you leave the water, run past the crowds of people and the waiting photographers, only to jump back in and swim another lap.
Leaving the water there is lots of support and people to help you out if needed.There are marshals pointing to the transition area and plenty of support in the bike area. It was a really nice atmosphere; very friendly and with a good buzz about it all.
The cycle section is on roads open to traffic; despite the traffic being very light, the few motorists who attempt to drive the same way as the cyclists it causes a bit of bunching. Being a non-drafting ride it is pretty hard when you can not overtake and there are several people in front. There wasn’t too much of the course like this and after 30k the riders seemed to space out.
The drink/gel stations were pretty efficient; you do not need to stop to be passed water or energy gels. Towards the end of the ride, I was worried I had made a wrong turn because I couldn't see any cyclists, but the marshalls are fantastic and I was directed the correct way and eventually saw a few cyclists in the distance.
Finally, the run. The toughest part of the run for me was the last 5 or 6km when you pass the finish line and run away from the sounds of the tannoy and music. It had been a tough race so far, but I was nearly there. Like the ride, the run is a few laps back and forth with water and gel stations at either end.
All good things come to an end, and unfortunately that included my original Huub Archimedes wetsuit. Well to be fair, I could have used it for another year or maybe even longer but it was Christmas and I thought "time to treat myself". My original Archimedes has been through half a dozen triathlons but mostly a fair amount of sea swimming. And to get to the sea where I live you need to squeeze through brambles. And brambles and neoprene are not friends.
Climbing through brambles is one way to shorten the life expectancy of your wetsuit.
Being an early adopter I treated myself to the original Archimedes when they were first out. Especially when I learnt I was going to be wearing the same size as the Brownlee brothers. But that is where the similarities between the Brownlees and myself end. Huub wetsuits come in all sorts of size variations so you can really get the best fit for your frame.
When I first put my leg into the suit I thought, "Uh oh, wrong size" but there is purposely a lot more size in the foot/ankle which is a big welcome. It is especially hard putting on a wetsuit when you are standing in the cold at the side of a lake balancing on one leg. I personally wear my wetsuit fairly high up the leg and so the extra space in the leg of this wetsuit is a definite improvement. I haven’t tested the time it takes to remove the wetsuit yet but I am sure this will help kick the wetsuit off when in a hurry. I have seen the Brownlee brothers removing the lower half of the wetsuit with just their legs, kicking it off at the end whiles simultaneously putting their helmet on. And I am sure that comes with plenty of practice. But when you are spending a big chunk of cash on a second skin kicking it off may not be for you. When I remove my wetsuit it is more of a slow peel rather than a big kick. But I have never won a triathlon and my T1 creeps close to 5 minutes.
Where I typically swim it is in the Thames Estuary. If you are lucky the water is as calm as a lake. Very strong current in one direction. But when it is nice and calm the jet skis are out and since last year when a jet ski towing a water skier almost took my head off I swim with a bright orange swim buoy. I couldn’t recommend one of these enough. You can put valuables inside. They will let people spot you when there is no chance of seeing you.
For example, the following photo I am about half a kilometre away. All you can see is the swim buoy. If it is wavy then there is even less chance of spotting a swimmer. Not to mention the swim buoy will actually keep you afloat if required.
Anyway, back to the Huub Review.
As I have only swum once in the new wetsuit I haven’t had the time to practice speedy exits out of the water making the most of the quick release zip. The zipper at the back if you didn’t know uses their breakaway technology. So you can pull up with the cord and the entire back opens. This is great for getting it off in a hurry. When it is not great is when you are solo putting on your wetsuit and you pull the cord up too hard and have to take everything off to re-thread the zip and start again. A bit of practice will teach you just how far you need to do things up.
My first swim in the Archimedes II was amazing. This truly is like a second skin in the water. Apart from a little hit of cold down my spine, the fit, comfort, and flexibility are perfect. It is not too tight around the shoulders which is very important for good swimming performance.
There is definitely an improvement in flexibility and reading on Huub there are reasons behind it. Some of the updates from the original Archimedes include:
The Archimedes // has a 25% reduction in the neoprene thickness of the panels around the side, the back and shoulders, utilising 1mm Chloroprene foam and the most flexible lining materials available delivering less effort for more stretch.
The X-O Skeleton delivers structure and control to reduce snaking, power loss and directional waste by gripping and holding the pelvis and hips.
Calf Release and Bicep Release
The Calf Release has been increased in volume by 25%, giving the calf more coverage of the lower modulus with non-restrictive super thin nylon. The thickness was reduced to below 1mm to ensure natural calf movement; this improves kick by lack of restriction and significantly reduces the risk of cramping during swim and transition.
The Bicep Release has an improved modulus to further enhance the panel’s ability to create a natural flexed recovery arm and efficient arm flex for the catch.
Low Neck Line
Changes in stitching patterns and the reduction in neoprene thickness of not only the back but the shoulder and side panels from 2mm to 1.5mm and a complete redesign in the underarm gusset.
Garmin's new Forerunner 935 is a top-of-the-line triathlon watch designed for serious athletes and people who deeply care about using training statistics to improve their racing performance when it counts.
The Forerunner 935 is designed for elite athletes who are at the top of their game, and this is reflected in the calibre of technology that this watch boasts. It features a built-in barometer and altimeter to provide elevation changes and monitors your performance so that you are alerted if you are undertraining or overdoing it. Very technical features such as ground contact time balance, stride length, vertical ratio, and even more truly set this watch apart from its competitors and show how it would make the perfect companion to a dedicated athlete.
This watch, like other watches in the Forerunner series, features wrist-based heart rate monitoring and all-day activity tracking such as step count so that you can track your progress all day and even all night. It's waterproof so that you can wear it swimming, and offers both indoor and outdoor options for all three disciplines- swimming, cycling, and running. The multisport features mean you can switch sports at the touch of a button and use it for brick workouts as well as triathlon races.
The battery life on other Garmin watches such as the Forerunner 735XT is a little questionable as it doesn't seem to last as long as you'd expect from a triathlon watch, however on the 935 that definitely isn't an issue. The Forerunner 935 boasts a 2-week battery life when used just as a watch, and up to 24 hours in GPS mode meaning you could complete a full ironman or ultra marathon while tracking and not have to worry about losing your progress.
Weighing in at 49g, this watch is a little heavier than some of its siblings like the 735XT, and the watch face is much larger meaning it is not quite as suitable as an everyday activity tracker or even just as a watch. It has an extra button too which means it's a little more complicated to use, however this just reflects the fact that this watch is not designed for your everyday gym goer and is meant to be used thoroughly and to its full potential by a competitive athlete or coach.
The Garmin Forerunner 935 is an exquisite piece of technology and features advanced training information which is sure to boost the performance of its wearer if used correctly. Its attractive design means it can be worn all day, and the built-in heart rate monitor and step tracker means it even covers the all-day activity tracker market that is so popular at the moment. It's definitely not for the faint hearted and is better suited for serious athletes and prolific competitors in the sport of running, cycling, and triathlon. It loses a few marks from me as it's a little too big to be comfortable all day, and the rubber strap meant I got a sweat rash from continuing to wear it for long periods of time after training. However, the technical information remains unbeatable and very impressive.
Battery Life: 9
Technical Information: 10
Value for money: 10
Overall Score: 46/50
The Garmin Forerunner 735XT delivers everything you could want from a triathlon watch and more. It is designed for elite athletes and people who are serious about their training progress, but it is suitable for the more casual exerciser too. It provides wrist-based heart rate monitoring, all-day activity tracking, and will take you from one sport to another with just the touch of a button.
The 735XT is more than just a running watch. It records your stride length, time balance, and more while running (although many of the running metrics features are only available when the watch is paired with a chest-based heart rate monitor), and will calculate your VO2 Max and predict race times based on your training history. It also offers lactate threshold estimates but, again, you will need an additional chest-based heart rate monitor for this which is not included in your £399 purchase of the watch.
The Forerunner 735XT is smart and will connect to your phone seamlessly through Bluetooth to provide notifications from your phone, automatic uploads to Garmin’s online community, and live tracking of your training. Syncing the watch with your phone is very easy and has worked every time without any issues for me. The GPS signal is very strong and the watch links up very quickly so that you can get on with your sport without having to wait around for your watch to be ready.
As a multisport watch, the 735XT is not as advanced as some of its siblings like the 935, but it still provides excellent support. It has a triathlon function so that you can time your transitions and switch between sports with just one press of a button. This feature also translates to duathlons and brick workouts for your training. If you only run, then this watch is perhaps too unnecessarily advanced for you, and you'd be better suited to a Forerunner 235.
The all-day activity tracking is a fantastic bonus feature on this advanced watch. The wrist-based heart rate monitor works all day while you’re wearing it and will provide you with a resting heart rate, recovery heart rate, and a graph of activity over the last 4 hours. This is really useful for heart-rate zone training, especially as the stats provided after your workout will tell you how long you were in each heart rate zone while you were active. The watch also provides you with an estimated VO2 max which is great for serious athletes. Part of the all-day activity tracking also includes step count which can be a great incentive to move more, especially on rest days. The watch also syncs with apps like MyFitnessPal so that your daily calorie burn is automatically taken into account when you track your food for the day.
A Closer Look
The watch itself is light at 41g and the watch face is not as big as some of the other Garmin watches like the 235 or 935, so it is better suited for all-day wear. It has a rubberised strap for comfort, although once you're super sweaty after a tough workout, you don’t really want to keep it on as it gets a bit uncomfortable. The various displays are user-friendly and although the watch has a lot of features, they’re easy to find so you don’t feel like you're missing out on useful training information.
The battery life of this watch could be better, especially as it’s designed to be used for triathlons; I wonder whether it could last a full-length Ironman event.
On the whole, I am so impressed by this watch. Garmin has found the perfect balance between the casual running watch and the advanced athlete's companion. It gives more than its cheaper counterpart the 235 and is more user-friendly than the more advanced 935. It is perfect for serious triathletes but can also comfortably be used by people who may just be getting into the sport or who just like to swim, bike, and run. It has the option of more advanced training stats if you really want to go into them while keeping the useful everyday information at the ready.
Battery Life: 6
Technical Information: 9
Value for money: 10
Overall Score: 44/50