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The basics

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28-29_Triathlon_Technique

Most of you will have come into triathlon from one of the three disciplines it incorporates – for most people this is running or cycling. You have some experience of racing in ‘your own’ sport, consider yourself to be fit and want to start stretching and testing yourself a bit further.

Then comes the crunch. Not only do you have to start relearning two other sports (most of us have had some experience of all three disciplines at some time, even if it was way back in our school days) but you have to discover how to combine all three and start treating them as one sport.

Now matter how fit you consider yourself to be, you will benefit from improved technique in all areas of triathlon. A few simple technical improvements in your swimming, cycling and running will help shave valuable seconds and minutes off your race time but most importantly will harness your fitness and energy in the right way.

Sheer guts and determination can overcome poor technique to some extent (although more often than not this will lead to injuries) but good technique can achieve the same results – meaning you have your strength stored up for when you need it most.

Simply put, do you want to be an athlete who trains to the limit then falls over the line exhausted in a disappointing time or do you want to train smarter and smoother and see real results on race day?

Use this section to get the basics correct for your two ‘weaker’ disciplines, but also revisit your strongest discipline to look for any improvements you can make. Remember you now have to train across three disciplines, which means the time previously dedicated to your sport will be reduced. So, for instance, if you came into triathlon from a running background you may now find yourself out on the road only two to three times a week instead of five or more because of the time you need getting your swimming and cycling up to scratch. Good technique can counter this drop in quantity.

And there can be no better place to get things right than at the transitions. Progressing from the water to your bike and later from your wheels to your feet can make or break your race. It’s not only the time you lose by fumbling around at transitions but the momentum you lose as a result. A nice, smooth transition that goes as planned, can act as a mental boost and keeps your mind focused on the real job at hand.

For most of us new to triathlon, swimming is the least favourite part of the race. Concentrate on a smooth stroke and getting your body position, leg kick, hand entry and breathing right and swimming, even in open water, needs hold no fears.

Cycling offers many opportunities to improve your technique so take time to look at all the aspects you will encounter, from hill climbing to downhills, to cornering to drafting (when allowed). Save a few seconds at every corner, every climb and every descent and your race times will tumble. Again, smoothness is everything, so work on your pedal stroke and eliminating the ‘dead spots’ (see pages 42-45) at the top and bottom of each pedal cycle, which waste so much time.

As you tire, an efficient technique becomes more and more important. As you enter the running phase of the triathlon, confidence in your technique will help you overcome fatigue and carry you home. Work on the small elements of technique during your running training and learn to listen to your body to see works for you. Keeping your style loose and relaxed is the key, and it will hold you in good stead as you approach the final, gruelling part of your triathlon.

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From a busy lifestyle to race day

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running cover

It’s pretty simple: if you do not train consistently you will not see the improvements or get the results you want in your running. The biggest obstacle you can face in getting consistent runs under your belt is a busy lifestyle. But it’s not impossible to go from thinking you don’t have time to even breathe to training hard, entering a race and, who knows, even hitting the infamous ‘wall’ yourself one day.

In general most people have to fit their runs in around family and work. This is where you have to be creative. Many runners get their long Sunday runs out of the way before anyone else is up so not to impact on their family life. Even if you do run early, as long as you eat properly after training you will feel great for the rest of the day. Other tips are to run into work, or if you live too far for that then get off the bus or train en route to work and run in the rest of the way. If you pick your children up from school, try to go early so you can run near to where you are picking them up. If you take them to after-school clubs take your running shoes with you. Get your training days established with gentle jogs before you start the running programme. You will soon discover there is time to run.

Race-day preparations

In simple terms be organized. Have your running kit and everything else you need prepared the day before. Know what is provided at the race and what you will have to take (you will need pre- and post-drinks and food, and for the long races a comfy pair of shoes to put on after the race). Have all this in your running bag so there are no late panics.

If you are racing away from home and need any accommodation make sure it is pre-booked and you know the logistics of how you are getting to the race line, where you leave your running bag, where you are collecting your bags from, and how you are getting back. The big events are incredibly well organized but if you have 30,000 runners heading towards one start line, there will always be some problems getting there.  Allow plenty of time to get to the start as you do not want to be stressed before a race and use
up valuable energy.

For the half- and full marathons a warm-up will not be necessary as you should start slowly and build your pace gradually. For 10 km runs you will need a good 15 minutes warm-up, building up to race pace for the last few strides. Add a gentle pre-stretch and then you will be ready for the off.

Hitting the wall

When you were worried about your busy lifestyle, you never thought this would be a problem did you? In reality the wall should only be a problem in the marathon. In simple terms, hitting the wall happens when your glycogen levels (carbohydrates once they have been converted) start running out. Glycogen is your main source of energy when running endurance events and once this is depleted your body will revert to using fat stores as energy, which can leave you feeling very flat and unable to perform at the same intensity. This typically happens at about the 30 km (about 19 mile) mark because a body can only store approximately 2,000 kcal of glycogen, which runs out at about this distance.

You can get your glycogen levels up with sports drinks and gels. The general rule of thumb is to take a sports drink before the race and a gel every 6 km (about 4 miles) or so. However you must try this in training (your long runs are an ideal time to practice) and carefully follow the instructions on the gel pack. They all vary on frequency of use, some have caffeine in, which may not agree with you, and you will need to drink water soon after consumption for most gels.

The other way to prevent your body hitting the wall is through training. By training aerobically for long periods of time your body will adapt and get used to using fat as an energy source earlier. This will then enable you to preserve some of the glycogen stores for longer.

The City that Knows How to Dance

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Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires

Second only to Brazil’s Sãu Paulo when it comes to largest populations in South America, the greater metropolitan area of Buenos Aires is a huge 13 million and counting.

The city itself, though, is a much more agreeable three million or so. Large it may be, but Argentina’s capital is far from a sprawling Sãu Paulo. In fact first-time visitors to the city, used to the clichéd impressions of South American cities are struck by just how stylish Buenos Aires is.

And is it any wonder really from a city smack in the middle of the region that gave us the sensual tango dance? Although there have been adaptations and variations of the tango, Argentina (and Uruguay) remains the home of the dance. Visitors to the city can enjoy displays of the dance in venues all over the city or go one step further and learn from the masters. Courses of varying lengths are on offer twinkle toes…

In fact you are going to need nimble footwork while staying here, if only to cross the massive Avenida 9 de Julio. There are so many lanes that pedestrians have to cross in stages via various safe crossing islands. Now you know what those frogs in the early PC games felt like.

When not dancing the tango, or crossing Avenida 9 de Julio, you’ll be needing a beer, which is handy because Argentina produces the very agreeable Cerveza Quilmes. For popular and busy nightlife areas head to San Telmo and Puerto Madero.

The city has a stylish café scene that will remind you of France or Italy and these cafés are a great place to start off the afternoon or evening because this city parties late. Try a mate (an infused drink enjoyed through an elaborate ‘straw’) or if you fancy something stronger simply ask for a aguardiente (firewater). Hey, now you’re dancing…

A Beautiful Life

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Cape Town

Life’s pretty good for Capetonians. Nestled against the imposing Table Mountain and flanked by the Atlantic Ocean and Indian Ocean, visitors very quickly declare that this is a city that has it all.

Beautiful warm summers, plentiful rains, an abundance of wine farms nearby, good-quality restaurants, a vibrant nightlife, sandy beaches and beautiful scenery, international sporting events, excellent shopping, affordable prices, and it has to be said, very beautiful people. It’s not a bad list is it?

The locals even put a positive spin on the wind that can whistle down the streets with ferocity sometimes, dubbing it the Cape Doctor because it blows away all the germs and keeps the city healthy. It’s no wonder that so many visitors end up staying or buying holiday homes in the city.

The V&A Waterfront, an ever-growing complex of shops, offices, restaurants and bars, is a magnet for tourists who enjoy the waterside location, the working harbour and the relaxed, cosmopolitan atmosphere. This is said to be the busiest tourist attraction in the country and it’s easy to see why. It is from here that you can get ferries to Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela and other leaders of today’s South Africa were imprisoned as they fought to free the country from apartheid.

Heading away from the city, you will find wine farms till your vino heart’s content in the Stellenbosch, Constantia, Paarl, Robertson and Worcester areas.

Popular city beaches are Camp’s Bay and Clifton, while Bloubergstrand, Noordhoek and Boulder’s Beach (where you can sometimes swim with penguins) can be found further out.

Introduction

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The big concrete terracing at Akritas Chloraka (bottom of Cyprus Division 2) is baking hot so I’m sitting on a stray bit of cardboard. There are maybe 100 fans dotted around in the area where my cousin Lewis and I, and thousands of flies, have settled to watch the game against the second-placed side from Larnaca. Just in front of the children aiming toilet rolls quite accurately at the halfway line is a guy hopping about selling tickets. But whether they are for the match (the turnstiles were unmanned) or for a raffle is unclear.

About the same number of people are dotted around on the terracing behind the goal, a bit of concrete that seems to hang on the hillside. Well, actually, it does hang on the hillside, as the whole stadium is cut into a massive drop from what is little more than a village, situated a few miles from the tourist town of Paphos. The stadium is rubbish, the football is rubbish and youngsters from the home side’s youth team are throwing things at the opposition’s big wigs who are sitting in front of me.

But I love every minute of it because I am a football lover. And if you love football, you know going to a game is about way more than football itself. It’s about laughing at the opposition striker when he misses an easy chance (come on, that’s the best bit), the beer before the game (hang on, maybe that’s the best bit) and providing the perfect excuse for getting home late (sorry, that’s the best bit). It’s about discovering there’s a second division team called Akritas Chloraka just up the road from where you are staying and astonishing the locals that you even care. And strolling up the road to watch them, then following their results on the internet for years to come.

Akritas Chloraka are not featured in this book. But football lovers across the world are always looking for any excuse for a beer, a plane trip and a chance to laugh at the opposition striker missing a sitter.

So welcome to this offer of 26 countries, 49 cities and 61 clubs not a million miles from where you are sitting right now.Featuring clubs from Barcelona and Real Madrid to IFK Gothenburg and Lyon; cities from London and Milan to Villarreal and Haifa; and countries from the east of Europe to the west, north and south. They’ve been chosen for their footballing ability and the city’s visitability. And also because more of us than ever want to go away, watch a match and enjoy ourselves in a place that isn’t where our season ticket tells us to go and who to watch.

Of course there are some clubs missing. Is it anyone’s fault Uefa has expanded more than the Roman Empire? But hopefully this is a list to tempt your taste buds and stretch your Easyjet account.

 

All Change

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The whisky industry is constantly changing. Now it’s the new world’s turn to reshape it.

Caracas, Venezuela, 2am Friday night. Pneumatic breasts and curves the like women’s magazines have abandoned long ago. The women can’t believe their looks and the men can’t believe their luck. I am in San Ignacio, the city’s main entertainment and shopping complex to the east of downtown, a collection of 17 (I am told) bars and clubs, and numerous shops. Apart from the sound of South American-accented Spanish in the air the clubs are like many others around the world: suited, brooding hulks on the door, music pounding to vibration level, and excited partygoers all dressed up and hoping to get the nod for entry.

But here the queue is not dipping in to its pockets to pay a cover charge. No, the currency of entry here is whisky. And to name drop, the preferred currency, the US dollar of Caracas club country, is Johnnie Walker Black (closely followed by Buchanan’s and Old Parr). You want to come in? Then order a bottle of Johnnie on the door. It’ll be delivered to your table with glasses, ice and water for the group. How civilised. There were seven of us so the entry price was two bottles.

A few days later, in a trendy Tex Mex restaurant in Puerto la Cruz, a five-hour drive north east of Caracas, a group of young women huddled around a bottle of Buchanan’s chatting. The food is spicy fajitas and burritos, the wallpaper is a black and gold Striding Man pattern.

It is fresh approaches to whisky, from countries unencumbered with how things should and shouldn’t be done, that will reshape the industry in the coming years. Slowly, slowly, the old rules will no longer apply.

Famously, in 2003, Diageo announced that it was the quantities drunk by the Spanish (and demands from the Johnnie Black blend) that led to single malt Cardhu becoming a vatted malt. It was a move that sparked furious discussions about standardising rules among members of the Scotch Whisky Association in the classification of whisky across the industry. Spain is Scotland’s biggest export market worth around £300 million a year, but it nevertheless still came as a surprise that one country’s consumption of one whisky could spark such a stir in the industry and get one famous whisky to change its years of history in a one fell swoop.

There would have been similar stirrings earlier this year across Scottish distillers at the news that Japanese whisky had been named the best in the world ahead of its more esteemed rivals. The international competition is organised by Whisky Magazine and has 16 industry experts involved in a blind tasting of more than 200 whiskies. Yoichi 20 Year Old, distilled on the shores of the Sea of Japan, won the single malt award – the first outside of Scotland to do so – while Suntory Hibiki distilled near Sapporo (of beer fame) picked up the best blend award. Exactly what changes were made as a result of the news is unknown but it would be a surprise if Japan’s honour didn’t cause more than just some Scottish head scratching.

So what does this all mean? Quite simply, the way the industry works is being shaped by the new world of drinkers. Whether it’s the way Venezuelans drink it, the amount of a particular single malt the Spanish drink or the success of the Japanese distillers, the main players in the game – Scotland, Ireland and the US have to sit up and take notice. And adapt.

It’s an industry that understands adaptability or it wouldn’t have thrived for hundreds of years. It knows how to survive and it knows how to change to survive. So is it ready for the next big wave of influence: India and China?

Shailendra Singh, is MD of Percept Ltd, an influential Mumbai marketing agency, and a man who mixes with cricket stars and former Miss World’s. He drinks whisky. I asked him what it was that drove India to become the biggest whisky market in the world.

“With a dynamic changing social scenario there is a growing chunk of singles and young couples with disposable and double incomes, and nuclear and split families in the city,” Singh explained. “The idea of entertaining out and loosening up with a crowd over a drink has found great popularity with the young upwardly mobile brigade.”

Mandeep Grewal, brand ambassador for Johnnie Walker and responsible for growing the brand in the British Asian market agrees. “Punjab state has the highest per capita whisky consumption in the world. Unfortunately, the whisky is consumed in high volumes with no knowledge about the product at all. Whisky brands just play a role in exhibiting the social status of the consumers.”

The same drive by status is also one that can be expected in China, and expect its significance in the industry to grow. John Lamond, Master of Malt, points out in his Global Report elsewhere in this book that exports into that market grew by 1030% between 2001 and 2006. The base off which it grew might be small, but growth like that cannot be ignored, nor fail to influence the industry.

There is a significant difference between the two markets, notably a thriving local whisky industry in India, protected it must be said by the huge tariffs imposed on imported spirits by the Indian government, which run into hundreds of percent. So a lot of the drive to the top has been due to successful Indian brands such as McDowell’s No.1, Signature, Bagpiper and Seagrams Blender’s Pride.

Singh, however, says the rich and famous still stick to international brands like Chivas Regal, The Famous Grouse, Cutty Sark, and so on. (Although certain Indian premium whiskies like Royal Challenge & Antiquity are also popular among this crowd).

He also recognises an important factor that will influence both India and China significantly: the influence of immigrants from these countries.

“Jack Daniel’s is the most well-known American whiskey brand in the country today. The brand has capitalised on a youth appeal in relation to rock music to attract its target segment. This whisky has a number of Indians returning from the US as its brand ambassadors and evangelists, having experienced the product on home shores. Presently, bourbon sales are driven largely by Indians returning from the US.”

China, like India, has shown that its people can thrive across the world, yet continue to retain links with their home country. It’s an important factor in changing habits and in many ways importing beliefs on what carries status.

I’ve seen the effect easily enough myself. The influence of Canadians working in the Bermudan financial system means bars are full of cries of “[Canadian] Club and ginger.” Other visitors in turn import the drink back to wherever they come from. And so habits spread.

Then there is the influence of food (covered in Trend 3 in more detail). Curry is too broad a term for the cuisine of India and beyond but if whisky is seriously going to crack that market it simply has to become accepted as a drink that is good with its food.

In the UK, Kingfisher beer thrives thanks to the huge number of Indian restaurants. Cobra, it’s fair to say, was probably invented largely on the back of their existence. Trend 3 shows whisky can be a drink to pair with whisky and JW’s Grewal already sees the potential. “Whisky has a great potential in the UK restaurants, “ he says. “Success to me would be when restaurateurs would confidently recommend consumers different style of whiskies with variety of dishes. I believe that the future would be looking at specialist Asian cuisine rather that all the Indian food bundled into one word ‘curry’.”

Amrut Distilleries, an Indian company that uses barley grown in Punjab and Rajasthan, has already marketed its own single malt at Indian restaurants in Scotland, in a bid to follow the Kingfisher success. Who (and where) is next?

Matching it

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After many years, have whisky and food pairings finally come of age?

Let’s just say I was sceptical. When food and whisky pairings first hit popular street, I probably wasn’t alone in thinking it was just a marketing gimmick. There was just a little bit of ‘wine can do it so why not us?’ This goes with this, this goes with that and we sell more whisky. And, why not? Then a few years ago in Cape Town, whisky writer Dave Broom introduced me to the whisky and oyster combination, one of the more famous of the pairings. The iodine sea taste of the oyster really does go well with whisky. And damn good fun it was as well, as we downed the mollusc and dram as shots, one after another.

Whisky and food pairings have been around for a number of years although it is, of course, impossible to pinpoint exactly when it became ‘popular’. Craig Paterson , chef and owner of Cape Town’s Beluga Restaurant, says in South Africa it’s been in the last five years as drinkers have sought to find out more about whisky. American whiskies, it must be said, seem to have embraced whiskey-food combinations a lot more wholeheartedly than others and Jim Beam’s Scott ? boldly says, “Jim Beam has been an ingredient in both food and drink recipes for centuries.”

But it is Wendy Neave, the restaurant and events manager at the Amber restaurant in the Scotch Whisky Heritage Centre in Edinburgh, who perceptively links the rise in pairings to the change in how people have approached their choice of ingredients that end up on their plate. “Whisky and food pairings seem to have come onto the scene within the past few years, perhaps at a time when there has been a renaissance is the appreciation of local seasonal cuisine,” she says. Sparked by environmental concerns about flying out-of-season produce around the world, and egged on by celebrity chefs promoting the idea, it is now de rigeur at dinner parties to present what’s fresh and available from where you live, not what’s being grown 24/7 in a greenhouse in New Zealand.

Which is the perfect boost for whisky and pairings. Whether your thing is fresh Scottish salmon with a 12 Year Old Speyside malt or hickory ribs with your bourbon, something feels inherently right about combinations that have obvious regional connections.

But there is still a long way to go before every Tom, Dick and Whisky Harry can reel off the names of their chosen dram and dish in the same way they do with “white wine with fish and red wine with meat.” Wine after all has got such a headstart in the game. As Neave says, “Wine has been the traditional accompaniment to food for a long time and changing attitudes is not easy. I would not say that matching whisky to food is widely accepted. Within the realms of enthusiasts and the industry it has now become the norm, but go into a restaurant on a Friday evening and everyone is still drinking wine with their meal. At Amber restaurant we have more success than most in encouraging people to try a whisky with their meal, but this tend to be with cheese or dessert following wine with the main course.”

But there are enough signs that this is no longer a novelty. Beluga is one of many restaurants that hold regular whisky dinners, mainly in association with the whisky companies granted. And in the UK, the Scotch Malt Whisky Society’s (SMWS) pairing evenings have become famous for innovation, with evenings that have matched game, curry and even chocolate at not only their venues in Edinburgh and London, but many other cities including Durham, Liverpool, Manchester, Derby, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Swansea and Belfast. With branches worldwide, you can also take your pick from sushi in Osaka, Christmas dinner in Melbourne, a grill party in Zurich and tapas in Stockholm.

And the Americans, oh the Americans, we can always rely on them to change things at pace. Their style could be described more as whisky-food integration than pairings. Of course it’s not uncommon to use Scotch in recipes but it’s the American distillers who have gone a step further. Visit the popular restaurant chain TGI Fridays and you’ll find a range of Jack meals in the section called Jack’s Grill (JD’s Chicken, JD’s Ribs and Shrimp and so on) as well as a JD’s barbeque sauce among others. And it all makes sense really, after all, who doesn’t think of barbeques and Jack when they think of the US?

And it’s the American industry’s enthusiasm that probably gives whisky pairings its greatest boost. Scott ? says “We [at Jim Beam] always encourage experimentation with food, just like with our bourbons. Fred Noe, seventh generation Beam family distiller, would say that if you make a face when you drink it, you should try cutting it with a bit of fresh water or a mixer. I haven’t seen many bourbon recipes for delicate [white] fish, but that’s not to say that it hasn’t been done or at least attempted. I can envision some spicy prawn or scallop recipes though… might have to try that tonight!”

It is attitudes like that which open up markets; and Jim Beam have backed their words. In 2004 Thanasi Foods announced the release of Jim Beam Soaked Sunflower Seeds, a snack product soaked in the whiskey and available in three flavours; Original, Barbeque, and Jalapeño. Later that year the company added Jim Beam Soaked Beef Jerky to the range. Jim Beam also has a licensing agreement with Vita Food Products to manufacture and sell Jim Beam barbeque sauces, marinades, mustards, steak sauces, hot sauce, wing sauce, pancake syrup and glazes. Vita also produces a range of Jim Beam hot smoked and fresh, marinated salmon. Another company, Top Shelf Gourmet, specialises in Jim Beam bourbon-infused fresh pork and poultry products, including Jim Beam Bourbon Barrel Ham, Pulled Pork, and Pulled Chicken. And Bradley Smoker produces a line of smoking briquettes made from actual Jim Beam Barrels, and Jim Beam branded smokers. Whisky now officially embracing foods anyone?

One man with a challenge on his hands when it comes to whisky and food is Mandeep Grewal. He is brand ambassador for Johnnie Walker with a role to nurture the portfolio within the British Asian market, which inevitably will include some tie ups with the nation’s favourite food, ‘curry’ (the all encompassing, if inaccurate, term for south Asian food). He has conducted a few whisky-food matching evenings and is looking to develop more on regular basis in the future. It’s not an obvious tie up, but then the spiciness of both is an obvious door opener. Originally from the Punjab region of India, Grewal also identifies the following flavours: “I work with creamy vanilla (mostly found in the Lowland Malts or Grains), fresh fruits (from the Speyside malts), rich fruits (from the Highlands) and the earthy smokiness (from the Islands or Islay Malts). You can have two views about matching food with whisky. One is to match the closest flavours in both (food and whisky) to complement each other and the other is to bring out the two extreme flavours.

Knowing the strengths in flavour of different whiskies when it comes to food can only help choices and the whole experience.. It’s the variations between the types of whiskies – Irish, Scotch and American – as well as the many differences within the sectors which can make pairings such an exciting part of drinking whisky.

For Paterson, in Scotch it is the dryness with fresh fruit aromas, vanilla, toffee, cinnamon; in Irish the lightness, so it’s the aromas of fresh cut grass, floral, honey and citrus; and for American it’s the toasted oak, vanilla and caramel flavors.

Scott ? says, “While Jim Beam shares similar characteristics with Scotch and Irish whisk(e)y – namely in sweetness and possibly wood – it contains noticeably less earth in both nose and mouth. Bourbon as an ingredient in food and cocktail recipes has a tendency to draw out or amplify flavors, especially in hearty meats and sauces.”

And if you are still struggling to pick up the tastes in whisky and food, Paterson offers the following advice: “To many people, when they have their first sip [and mouthful of food], I’d be honest and say their palate is not mature enough so they are really not sure what they just had and rather go for something that has a sweeter taste or a cocktail.

“I say have another sip, savour the whisky and then, once you discover the underlying flavors and you actually start to understand what and how pure whisky is your palate becomes mature and actually starts to develop. That’s when you will start to understand [what is happening between the whisky and the food].”

Sounds good to me. So what are we waiting for…