Ranty McRantface

Product Review: Huub Big Buoy

Posted on November 29, 2015. Filed under: product review, Ranty McRantface, swimming, triathlon |

I have never done a product review before. I probably won’t do one again. Personally I don’t find them that interesting. But sometimes needs must.

As seems to be de rigeur when writing a product a review I shall make full disclosure. I received no payment for this blog and got no free shit either. As will be abundantly clear in the reading.

It’s also worth disclosing I have become increasing bemused and dismayed by the commercialisation of triathlon. I have no objection to people making money out of a growth sport but the spawning of Any Old Shit has been quite incredible. People buy Any Old Shit they neither need nor will benefit from in the hope of a fabled marginal gain. Tri magazines loaded with product advertorials have simply become Any Old Shit Mongers. And every product is supported by the most vapid pseudo-science (that which we called marketing guff in the old days) “proving” why their particular brand of Any Old Shit is the New Big Shit.

So, with that baseline you can conclude that I am a fair-minded, independent reviewer. Or not. That’s your choice.

Anyway. If you have never come across a pull buoy before then allow me to be the first to enlighten you.

A pull buoy is a swim training aid that you place between your thighs to either isolate your arms to build upper body strength or to support your legs. The first pull buoys that I used in the late 70s were two white foam cylinders held together with string. By the 80s they had developed into solid figure of 8 constructions. They really are that simple. And I was as surprised as anybody that they had been “scienced”.

Here is a confession. I was weak. Normally Any Old Shit doesn’t get under my skin. I am immune to the bizarre cults of Garmin and Huub and Compressport and Jack Oatbar. But it did during the summer. With practically no swimming in my shoulders I was facing a 5k open water swim. I had no time to build the diesel engine. I was built like a diesel engine. But I could build some shoulder strength with big paddles and a pull buoy.

So I bought a Huub Big Buoy. Because science.

“You can now alter between drag loads by utilising Hydrodynamic shaping and you can choose buoyancy focus between the legs with two differing size end curves”, they say.

They go on, “For larger swimmers and leg sinkers, traditional pull buoys just don’t cut it and offer little assistance in improving body alignment”.

Boom. THAT’S ME! At a little (ahem) over 15 stone, just under 6 foot and with legs that are filled with concrete and lead this was designed JUST FOR ME. I needed a big boy Big Buoy and all the body alignment and stuff. So I spent £19.99 on it for me own customised, uber-scienced piece of triathlon magic.

And then I didn’t use it.

That is until Project Swim A Very Long Way Repeatedly got underway. Training has been going well, times are dropping like a stone and it became time to do some strength work so I cracked out the Huub Big Buoy.

There are two things you notice when you open the Huub Big Buoy.

The first is the total eclipse of every available light source. This thing is huge. It didn’t even fit in my swim bag like my old trusty speedo pull buoy did. I guess that it only fits in the Huub Triathlon Dry Bag which is scientifically engineered with black hole technology to create a tardis effect (that bit maybe made up. Or not)


The second thing is that it is emblazoned with “A MASSIVE 34 NEWTONS OF FLOTATION”. Now I don’t know about you but that means nothing to me. It could have said A MASSIVE 3 NEWTONS and I would have thought it was massive. OR A MASSIVE 34 MARSHMALLOWS OF FLOTATION and I would have been equally impressed. Or not. With hindsight I got marketeered. Marketing dressed as science. Marketoscience.

Anyway, to the pool with it.

I have been a swimmer in various guises since I was 7. I am now 44. I have swum at districts, nationals, a couple of Ironman, Escaped from Alcatraz and across the Firth of Forth. So I have a pretty good idea how to swim and how to use most training aids.

After a warm up I started a buoy and paddle set. From the off I was incredibly uncomfortable. I felt like a scorpion with my toes and legs curling over my back to touch my head.  And I felt really unbalanced – every roll of my hips felt like I was going to tip over. 1000m later I concluded that I must be using it wrong.

I consulted the web. I wasn’t.

Next session the positional discomfort was still there. I felt awkward in the water. I never feel awkward in the water. Positional hydrodynamic oscillation the marketoscientists would probably call it. By the end of the second session my lower back was aching. Two days later I still felt it.

Third session was the same. But after the third session my back was so tender that it affected the way I walked for a couple of days.

That was it. I’m out, as Duncan Bannatyne would say if this piece of Any Old Shit had been flogged to him. A mere 3000m had a negative physical impact and messed with my feel for the water.  Not a remotely happy Big Buoy owner. Not a happy big boy.

I have bloody heavy legs. If I swim with a band I move through the water like a dredger. I can only assume 34 mega-marshmallows of floating newtons, or whatever, is required for much “larger swimmers and leg sinkers” than me. Like people who have actual, real iron for legs.

Now I have never been tempted to buy a Huub wetsuit despite The Science and the noisy celebrity endorsements. Indeed, the day that I contemplate buying a £550 wetsuit is the day that I am actually mental enough to swim open water in skin. But, herein lies an important point.

Huub say in their Big Buoy marketing “For athletes training for wetsuit swims the HUUB Big Buoy is the perfect training partner and allows swimmers to simulates the leg lift offered by HUUB wetsuits”. I take this just to be marketing guff; there is not a chance in hell that all these pros (who will have a damned sight lighter legs than me) are wearing these suits if that is how they make you feel in the water.

As an entry level drug to the methamphetamine of the Huub cult the Big Buoy is ineffective. If I was crazy enough to be tempted to buy a £550 wetsuit that bit of marketoscientific copy would put me off completely. Sometimes all publicity isn’t good publicity. Sometimes halo effects are not positive halos. Weird.

Let me sum it up:

Pros – if you take it on a cruise liner and that cruise liner sinks all of the crew and passengers could safely live on the Big Buoy until rescued

Cons – it wrecked my back due to it’s over enthusiastic Newtons (my fault obvs for not having heavy enough legs); it disrupted my swim technique.

So, here I find myself sitting on the fence about the Huub Big Buoy. KIDDING.  It’s shite. Would I recommend it? Nah, the hardwood floor in the above picture would be a better swim aid.

Seriously, as a swimmer, I can’t think of anything worse to stick between your legs in an effort to get stronger. Product fail.




If you are still looking for something to spank your Christmas money on I did write The Three Best Investments I Have Ever Made in Triathlon last Christmas.


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Posted on November 19, 2015. Filed under: 50womentokona, Ranty McRantface, Uncategorized |

Apparently it’s International Men’s Day. I have no idea why we need International Men’s Day. Perhaps, to celebrate our privilege? To rejoice in our ability to pee standing up? A protest against the shewees that threaten to neutralise our peeing super power? Who knows? Who cares?

Anyway, let me digress.

Two of the questions I was most frequently asked after my “When is an ironman an Ironman?” rant post were these:

“Why would you get a brand tattooed on your skin?  What if the brand became associated with something really evil?”

Good questions.  (Not really but lets play along and pretend they are).

Well my answer is simple. Other people may think that I have a brand inked on my skin, but I don’t. I have a reminder of a day in August where I fought every instinct to quit and did something that I never thought was possible. I don’t have a brand on my skin (others can conclude that I do but that, quite frankly, is their business and I care not one shit what they think) I have a momento. A reminder of what I can achieve. Just like the stunted toe nails that I have from my first marathon and the sunburn scars that I have from when I escaped from Alcatraz.

The second part of the question is far more interesting though.  What if Ironman became associated with something truly heinous?

Again, there are two parts for me. Ironman for me, as I explained in the previous post, is not a traditional brand. It is a spirit that is bigger than mere business.  The current custodian of that spirit is the Dalian Wanda Group who own the World Triathlon Corporation. The previous custodians were Providence Equity Group and then some of the originals who were involved back at the start in Hawaii – Valerie Silk and the very first race director and finisher Commander John Collins. There will be many more custodians of the brand in the future – some will be good and some will be arseholes.  However, don’t confuse Ironman, the event, the attitude and the spirit with the business.

To avoid confusion and to address the question slightly indirectly – I cant’t see Ironman becoming involved with something despicable but it doesn’t take a giant leap of imagination to see WTC doing something really dickish.  And the reason I say that is because they already are.

The World Triathlon Corporation is run by a bunch of privileged white males who, it would appear, consider themselves to be like Tom Wolfe’s Masters of the Universe.  Old fashioned, patronising misogynists.

Let me explain.

The Ironman World Championships are held at Kona every year. There are 50 slots for male pros at the championships and 35 for women.  “Eh?”, I hear you say.

Yup.  WTC could solve this with a wave of the hand.  But no.  Instead the CEO, Andrew Messick, who I imagine struts around WTC Towers clad only in red speedos and Hawaiin Tropic like a bombastic Colonel Kilgore got the WTC spreadsheet monkey to fire up excel.

Now fair and equal seem fairly simple terms to understand but if you are a misogynistic dinosaur you call on the spreadsheet guy to come up with a formula. In a real company they’d probably have an algorithm but the numbers guys skipped class that day to do push ups.

“I know”, says spreadsheet guy, “if we apply the percentage that females take up in the general population of Ironman starters then 35 pro slots for women is fair”.

WTC spreadsheet guy drops the mic to spontaneous applause.

If he was in charge of the civil rights legislation you can imagine his algorithmic machinations – 50 seater bus, one Rosa Parks whining about getting on the bus…..input numbers, calculate, disengage brain…..2% of seats on the bus should be available for black women.  Halfwitted WTC logic.

No. That is not fair. That is a mealy mouthed equation that does nothing for anyone save to make WTC look dumber than they ever aspired.


Fair is equal numbers of men and women. That is just decent. We want companies to be decent right?

But also, if WTC hope to grow the number of women in the sport and I hope they do, then they also need to realise that fair allocation of slots helps that too. Strong pro female role models will breed participation. For the hard of thinking at HQ I have included a simple diagram.

Sure, you could discount the slots isssue as one faux pas. Albeit a pretty significant one. But it’s a pattern of behaviour.

If you, like me, sit down every year to watch the Ironman World Championships then you will have experienced the excruciating commentary. That is, of course, until you have extracted all the unintended hilarity from it and hit the mute button.  These dull old white guys make Statler and Waldorf seem engaging.  And respectful.

Their commentary is of the men’s race and the girl’s race.  The first man out the water and the first girl out the water.  Well, chaps, either call them boys and girls or men and women. Don’t be consistently patronising. “Pink it and shrink it” may be the attitude of most suppliers to the triathlon business but we can expect better from the governing body.  Much better.

Hell, “girls” like Leanda Cave got back on the bike after a brutal bike crash and chased back to the lead while a “hardman” like Chef Ramsay hit the showers after one hot shart. HTFU Gordy, it ain’t Ironman if you ain’t shit yourself. And don’t take up a place at the world championships without qualifying unless you are prepared to drag your broken, shitting, puking body 140.6 miles.

Should there be Ironman and Ironwomen? Personally, I don’t think so – it’s a unisex status like President or Prime Minister.  140.6 miles of hard graft gives not one shit whether you are a man or a women. But it should be fair.

So, there you go, I’ve managed to make International Men’s Day all about women.  It’s not normally the kind of thing I’d write about but it just seemed the right thing to do.

Always remember – Anything Is, ahem, Possible.





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Dear Garmin (You Chubby Ginger Tosser)

Posted on July 16, 2014. Filed under: cycle, first time ironman, Garmin, Garmin Forerunner, Garmin Ironman, Half ironman, ironman, Ironman Austria, ironman regensburg, ironman swim, Ranty McRantface, run, swim, vlm 2012 |

Dear Garmin


I have a problem.  And let me say it is you not me.  How many times do you have to let me down before I have to drop you in the bowl of an Ironman portaloo to fend for yourself?  This time you have pushed me too far.


I’ve always put my trust in you even when you don’t deserve it.  Back in the old days when I was a right chubby wibbly wobbly I got a Forerunner 50 and a foot pod to measure my progress.  We go back a long way so we can be honest and say that the calendar function was of far more use to me than the thousandths of seconds on the stop watch.  But, back in those days, you just worked.


Then when I was preparing for the Rome Marathon I decided to treat myself to a 405cx.  It saw me safely round what is still my marathon PB but did you record my heart rate?  Did you monkeys.


I have a Garmin Swim.  Probably my favourite piece of kit that I own.  But, then again, that was only an upgrade from a big black and yellow speedo sweep hand.  It’s basically a digitised sun dial.


But, here’s the thing – I am an Ironman.  Hell, no – I am a two time Ironman.  And Ironman timing is where you have really seized the opportunity to let me down in style.


Useless oversized ginger lump of shit.

Useless oversized ginger lump of shit.

I knew I needed a watch with a long battery life back in 2010 when I first decided to do Ironman.  I decided not to be shallow and set looks aside.  When people pointed out that you were orange and quite a substantial unit, the unkind yet prophetic even said you were fat and ugly, I stuck up for you.  When they called you a chubby ginger, I said it’s what’s inside that counts.  You came with me on runs, bike rides, on and off road and we swam in the sea, lakes and rivers  You even escaped from Alcatraz with me, gliding through San Francisco Bay like outlaws on the run from a federal penitentiary.  A modern day (rotund, ginger) Bonnie and rubber-clad Clyde.  We did 3 marathons together.  But you let me down EVERY time it really mattered.


Sure, like any ginger, you were temperamental.  Getting feedback out of you was like getting blood out of a stone.  Although a stone doesn’t need rebooted, manually reset, uninstalled, reinstalled, updated or balanced on a metal coat hanger while praying to the ANT+ gods.  While my heart should have been at the centre of your concerns you spent more time ignoring my heartbeat than listening to it; and occasionally you just made up completely random numbers like I wouldn’t notice.  Recording 35 beats per minute while climbing an 11% incline is like peering over the Daily Mail with faux concern and saying “yes dear?”.  And occasionally I had to sit in the garden for 20 minutes for you to find the satellites in a wide open cloudless sky.


F5F7A085B6BB30A4DEDCCEFFD5F54D_h498_w598_m2But normally you can trust your constant companion to turn up and support you in the most crucial moments.  So, you can imagine my disappointment when, 6 hours into the bike leg of my first Ironman, you made a noise like a Smash robot being strangled.  Not a short, sharp sigh.  No, more like long drawn out autoerotic asphysiation.  A taunting, sneering noise.  And when the noise faded your screen was clear.  Void.  Blank.  Vacant.  Your memory had gone.  If it wasn’t for the finish line photos and the medal there would be no proof that I had actually completed an Ironman.  There was nothing to upload to Strava.  I hold you solely responsible that I had to do a second Ironman.  Just to keep Strava straight.


You were still under warranty so you were replaced at the end of 2012.  I knew that you weren’t really the old you but I pretended that things were still the same.  As the London Marathon, the Escape from Alcatraz and many 70.3 came to pass I started to trust you again.  We trained together through last winter to get ready for Ironman Austria.  I smiled wryly in May when your strap sheared – a tangible sign, a fond reminder of the hours and hours we had spent on the road, the trails and in the water together.  But what a fecking waste of £15 replacing your strap turned out to be.  I tried to be nice and you shoved it back in my face.



Not only are you a deadweight on my wrist but you clash with the blue trim on my wetsuit. I hate you.

As I emerged like a swamp beast from the Lend canal one hour and seven minutes  into Ironman Austria (based on Ironman timing obvs because as we are about to discover Garmin timing was totes fecked) I looked down and was confronted by FOG.  The race photographers captured the moment for posterity.  Perhaps we should have a caption competition?


No worries, thinks I.  The fog will melt away during the next several hours of hot day.  Hell no, it wouldn’t go.  So, as it turns out I carry a heavy lump of ginger uselessness around Austria for 13 hours 53 minutes and 21 seconds.  Once again, Ironman timing not Garmin timing.


On returning home two remarkable things happened.  One – you automatically uploaded all my Ironman data (obvs not heart rate because that would be too fecking complete) without any need for the ritual sacrifice of a feral goat or a wire coathanger.  And then Two – you died.  To paraphrase Monty Python:   ‘E’s kicked the bucket, ‘e’s shuffled off ‘is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ choir invisibile!!  THIS IS AN EX-GARMIN!!


I’ve done two Ironman and you couldn’t be arsed to join me at the finish line for either of them.  That is a pretty shit way to behave after all we’ve been through together.  After all the time I spent defending you when people sniggered at you on my arm.  It turned it you were actually a big, fat lump of orange uselessness.


And now you’ve given me a problem.  I need a replacement, but I just can’t trust you any more, Garmin.  You will undoubtedly launch something sexy and new, but ridden with bugs, and then start developing the next big sexy thing leaving me with something expensive that *almost* does what it promised too.  Sure Polar, Suunto and Tom Tom are vying for my affections but, if I face reality, a Casio digi calc watch would actually have been more useful to me than you were.  Now I look at you lying on the shelf, lifeless yet sneering at me with your shiny new strap.  We shared some great times but I guess, in the end, you always were a chubby ginger tosser at heart.


It’s been fun but probably best we don’t talk any more.





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