Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Wetsuits and tri kit

This is getting frustrating. After the initial burst of good fortune, and finding out some really interesting stuff on shoes and bikes, I seem to have come to a dead halt when it comes to wetsuits and tri gear.

I find this really surprising, as I would have thought that wetsuits in particular would be the easiest thing to find. Swim wetsuits and surf wetsuits aren't a million miles apart, and you'd have thought that surfers (what with surfers against sewage, and so on) would be some of the first athletes onto the green revolution. However, it's almost impossible to find anything out - none of the swim wetsuit companies openly declare what materials their suits are made from, and so even though there seem to be non-petroleum based materials like geoprene available, it's impossible to tell whether anyone's using them... which says to me that they're not.

If anyone knows anyone who can help me get started on this, I'd really appreciate it. Not quite sure where to turn from here.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Heart-warming moment...

Yesterday I put a post on the Evening Standard message board under the article about me, mainly because a few folk were having a pop and I wanted to show that I could take it (much as I appreciate my best mate's mum wading in and having a good pop on my behalf - go Eileen!)... and today, it was nice to see one of the first of the critics receiving my words in the spirit they were intended. Just goes to show, if you're nice, people are nice to you. Pop along to the article and scroll to the bottom. Would be nice to meet Bob H, he sounds like a good fella.

On a less positive note, I'm really struggling to find decent kit to do the actual event in. Apparently there are massive problems inherent in the making of lycra, which is a bummer. Not quite sure what I'm going to do about that one. Plus my shoulder's pretty sore, though the physio I went to see yesterday knows his stuff, so hopefully will be sorted soon. And to cap it off, there's only one eco-hotel in the whole of Spain, and obviously it's not on the Costa Brava (rather surprisingly, it's on the Costa Blanca!). Hmm.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Fame at last!

Thanks to the lovely Daisy Dumas and the Evening Standard!
Check out the article here

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Bit concerned...

Evening Standard article is due to run tomorrow - it seems to have gone from being a pretty tiny thing to actually being quite a feature (they rang again to ask for more content). On the one hand this is great, as I'm sure it makes it more likely to be picked up by other people, more likely to raise more money, etc... but on the other hand, should I come across as a total [insert unpleasant word], there's an increased likelihood of people noticing.

This is a particular concern given this morning's photo shoot in Hyde Park, where one of the shots was of me coming out of the water at the Serpentine. I have a horrible feeling it's going to be chosen, and that the general out-take is going to be something along the lines of 'he looks like he thinks he's Daniel Craig, but actually he's seriously scrawny and ginge... and why is his face so red?'

That would be slightly uncool. Oh well.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

A productive training session...

Hit the road to Winchester with training buddy Tom and a group of his mates yesterday. Good ride, if a little urban at the beginning - and Tom and I got a little over-competitive at the end, so the legs a bit sore now! But made some new friends and got some useful tips - apparently Speedo are working on some recycled/ethically sourced lines, so I'm going to find out a bit more about that, and I was tipped off about Torq, a gang who started out as a fitness consultancy, but now make ethically sourced, organic and fairly traded energy products. Which to be honest is something I didn't think would exist!

Friday, 17 July 2009

Why am I doing this?

Don't worry, this isn't me getting all existential and depressed when I'm still more than two and a half months away from the event. It's more that I've been chatting to Daisy Dumas at the Evening Standard, who think they want to do a piece on me, and I think it's worth taking the time to reflect a little on what my reasons - conscious and otherwise - really are for this slightly silly undertaking. I think there are 3 reasons.

A big part of it I think is about the relationship between exercise and the environment - my relationship, and other people's I see around me. I was reading Joanna Macy this morning, and she talks about how some of us exercise to exorcise, using sport to numb and distract ourselves from our concerns about what's going on in the world (others of us use TV etc in similar ways). I think this is definitely true of me; sport has been a distraction mechanism, and so I want to change my relationship with it, so that my sport represents an active expression of my values and beliefs rather than a respite from them. I believe the crises in the world are such that I have a moral responsibility to face them in everything I do. So it is about me to quite a significant extent.

But it's also, more importantly I think, about how it is possible to appreciate and savour nature even in the midst of a London lifestyle, and on a daily basis. As I run through Hyde Park and along the Thames in the morning and evening, and swim in the Serpentine, I am able to refresh myself with what really matters to me, and appreciate the beauty of these places. I'm perfectly willing to admit that I'm a pretty extreme example, but if I can fit in enough running, cycling and swimming in the London area's wilder places to do an Ironman, and do a fairly full-on job at the same time, I think I'm hoping to provide some inspiration that anyone can get out and find their version - even if it's just walking the most scenic part of your journey home every now and then... Of course, some people never get that opportunity, and that's why it's the Wilderness Foundation I'm raising money for, so that I can be a part of making it possible for people who really wouldn't get the chance to experience these things otherwise.

Finally, it's becoming increasingly about discovering and celebrating the inventiveness that some people and companies are showing in response to the global crises we find ourselves in. The idea to make bikes out of bamboo, and to use your company's profits to help other people learn to do the same; the bravery to jump ship from a major TNC powerhouse and make shoes the way you believe they should be made... it's really powerful stuff. It's this kind of 'Phoenix Economy' behaviour that gives me faith that we'll find a new way to run society, far more than geo-engineering solutions that would temporarily extend the window for our present unsustainable approach (although we might need them too!).

Sorry, bit of a long one today... but hopefully a bit of an insight into what I'm all about!

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Shoes and the Phoenix Economy

I've come across a really interesting company on the shoe front. END Footwear is a new company in Portland, Oregon, founded by a guy who left Nike because he just felt that there was no way they could overcome all the baggage they had - by which I mean the pointless complications and inefficiencies locked into their design and delivery framework. It seems he was underwhelmed by the idea that Nike's 'revolutionary' Considered Design programme would, at best, "reduce waste in the company by 17%, and increase the use of environmentally preferred materials by 20%" by 2020.

Far be it from me to criticise - from where Nike are, that's a considerable effort. And 17% of Nike's waste is a lot of savings. But in a world where we need seismic change (40% reduction in carbon emissions by 2020 is now a target some call too limited), this isn't enough.

Taking this into a wider context, I recently came across a fascinating paper on the Phoenix Economy, the essential hypothesis of which relates exactly to this phenomenon. In a world where incremental change is not enough, the argument seems to run that we must let some things fail - and trust that better solutions will rise from the ashes. The Obama administration is #1 in the Phoenix Fifty. Check it out.

What's great about END (who don't feature in the Phoenix 50, but perhaps will one day!) is that they're really good running shoes as well, which sets them apart from every other ethical shoemaker. Their newest line (pictured above) has just won 'Best Runner's Debut' from Runner's World magazine in the USA.

Monday, 13 July 2009

It's not easy being green...

This is a phrase that's increasingly becoming a dull truism, but sometimes you get reminded of it in ways that really are hard to ignore.

I spent this weekend down in Cornwall, training hard - 150km on the bike through the Cornish hills on Friday, then long walks on Saturday and Sunday, as the aim at the moment is all about getting my body used to being in constant exercise for long periods of time.

While I was there, I spent some time at the Eden Project, Tim Smits' spectacular creation, conjured from a bleak disused quarry site. It was truly impressive, and inspiring... but...

Eden's greatest success is also its greatest failing. They are so keen to take an even-handed view of everything that I ended up feeling like I didn't know what I could do about it all. The arguments for and against biofuels (low carbon vs potential deforestation) were arguments I knew about already; what I hadn't for some reason realised was that soya crops were part of the same issue. Which means even veggie burgers are something you have to be really careful about sourcing - going veggie isn't the simple solution it seems!

This is a small thing really, but when I put it together with the issues I'm having trying to source equipment that I can believe in just to do a triathlon, it all adds up to feeling quite intimidating. And if I, a committed greenie, feel like that, what are others going to think? Hmm. Maybe I'm just tired from not having slept on the overnight train - will try to make my next entry a bit more upbeat!

Thursday, 9 July 2009


...are the biggest fear with a project like this. I've had some unfortunate injuries in the past, nearly missing the 2002 boat race with a back/rib injury that's never really properly gone away. It's a harsh reminder sometimes, you can do all the training you want, but if your body gives up on you, or something unfortunate happens and you just tweak something, that can be it.

Having these slightly doomful thoughts today because my shoulder is for some reason causing absolute agony - had an abortive attempt at swimming this morning, after a week focussed on the run, and it really wasn't a good idea. Not sure what I've done to it, as it felt pretty much fine a couple of days ago, but one to keep an eye on. Don't want to be making faces like the Danish lad who binned out of the Tour with a broken wrist yesterday!

Wednesday, 8 July 2009


Going to get started on the shoes while I wait for a reply from the bike folk (might try going straight to Calfee Design if I don't hear a response in the next day or so, have learned from the Evening Standard that the makers are the ones to talk to really).
Surprisingly, I think this is going to be the most difficult one, though I've got a few leads to start with. The problem is that to run marathon distance (and train for it), I really need to make sure I've got the right support - but the big guys are all big corporates, with fairly impenetrable CSR information. Had some encouraging words from Tim though:
One additional and to me obvious strand is in the eco credentials of whichever brand produces your kit (shoes, trackie etc). Nike as you know took a massive battering over labour standards, they are all competing to look good in that area. No idea what additional eco questions they are asking, nor whether supply chain issues come within your thinking on ‘eco’ but I think it would be interesting to explore.
Of course, when you are talking with the various companies about their supply chain and eco issues – you don’t need at that point to promise to wear their kit. Support is going to be key at the end of the day – but you can still get them thinking quite a lot in the meantime?
Will see what I can do...

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Travel - done! Now for the bike...

Good news - Eurostar are in and supportive!
Next challenge is the bike. I've been tipped off about Bamboo Bikes, which look really exciting. Because bamboo inverts the normal tree structure, and is hard on the outside, empty on the inside, it's perfect for making bikes - it's basically a naturally occurring bike frame. Pic above is from their site; they even look good. I'm going to ask them to lend a bike, for a bit of training time and for the race, and potentially look to auction it afterwards... I'm pretty standard size for a triathlete, so something should be possible I'd hope, especially if we can get some good PR going... We'll see!

Monday, 6 July 2009


Right, first stop travel.
I've done some work with Eurostar in my alternative guise as a comms strategist, and I know they need to start promoting travel beyond Paris, Brussels and Lille... so let's see if we can get them involved in some way, maybe a bit of PR support so I can get a few other sponsors on board.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

It begins...

It begins! I've paid my entry fee, I've got my training plan from Tom, and I'm committed. Now all I have to do is a) turn myself into a machine, and b) get things going with a bit of support, so the eco-ironman becomes a reality.
My starting points are: getting there by train, and then finding an eco-bike and some sort of eco-wetsuit (probably made of recycled fibres)... have to plot who to get those off.
I'm going to be raising money for the Wilderness Foundation again through this, so let's see how we go!