Grrrrrrr!

I haven’t posted for a while but have a couple of gripes to share….

I was contacted during the week by the group leader of a local ‘Weight Loss’ group asking if she, mentioning no names, could promote her group (and the benefits of her organisation’s approach to ‘healthy eating’) to parents and junior runners at Southampton junior parkrun using ‘flyers and special offers’. When I explained that I wouldn’t allow a commercial organisation to do this, she said that I’d misunderstood her and that she didn’t intend to promote the group and meant she’d talk to the parents about healthy eating. Hmmm, why the mention of flyers and special offers then? Having made it clear I wouldn’t condone this as we want to keep events simple, free from commercialisation and not open the floodgates to other commercial organisations wanting to jump on parkrun as a means of touting for business, the group leader said she’d try the Southampton event! Excuse me for stating the obvious here but I’d consider that many people who have made the choice to get up early on a Saturday morning to complete a 5k run may also be considering a healthy lifestyle already. Having said all that, there’s clearly a synergy between healthy eating, lifestyle and exercise and many dieters looking to get active should consider parkrun as a means of introducing a regular fitness activity into their weekly schedule or enhance their existing physical activities.

Lo and behold, I spotted an A-frame promo board for the group leaders slimming group as I was helping to pack up and as I left the car park at the end of the event. Had the group leader been trying to promote her group just out of sight after all at the junior event? It appears that she had! Hmmm! Surely I’d made it clear that such promotion wasn’t welcome? Also, you’d think that targeting families whose children weren’t already active on a Sunday’ll morning might prove more beneficial. Clearly, parkrun is a low hanging fruit for such promotion.

My other gripe relates to dog poo! We’re very fortunate to have a great park to host the junior parkrun but one major issue we have every week is dog poo. It appears that a large percentage of dog owners who walk their dogs at Riverside Park, Southampton don’t ‘bag it and bin it’. Prior to the start of every event, the event team have to do a sweep for poo and bag and bin countless little unwanted messages from the finish area where we also hold the pre-run briefing. However, that didn’t stop me from standing in some once I’d set up the course with Daniel just off the path lurking in the slightly long grass. Grrrrrrr! That was annoying enough. However, the icing on the cake was Daniel getting home with his friend Anisha both covered in dog poo from where one or more dog owners had left piles by an area that a lot of the children play after the run. When I say covered in it, I mean from head to toe. Hands, clothing and shoes.

Rants over.

HOWSC 100 sprint Tri 2014

Yesterday, I completed my last triathlon of the season, the HOWSC Sprint Triathlon. I had originally intended to do the Olympic distance but after the Challenge Weymouth Middle Distance, I felt like a bit of a rest.

The event is another TryTri event and now in its second year. Based near Fordingbridge, it takes about 30 minutes to travel to the event from home. As a local event, several triathlon friends were taKing part. Although I was doing the Sprint distance, there was a Novice event and the Olympic distance. Tamsyn, Stuart, Teri, Steve and Liz were all competing in the Sprint with Suzanne, Jenny, Sonia and Katherine doing the Olympic.

I slept really badly and got up just before 5am. My plan was to leave at about 6am and get a good spot in transition. As it was, I left home 5:50am having loaded the carlr the night before. The journey was nice and quick and I arrived at about 6:20am. There was already one line of cars in the car park adjacent to the transition area as I arrived although no one had reached their bikes.

I wandered through the field to registration to see a, friendly face, Donna, who signed me in. There was a choice of freebie, a mug and coaster, a buff or a water bottle. I went for the mug although in hindsight which I’d gone for the buff.

Having registered, I headed back to the car to get my bike ready for racking. This involved a quick check that everything was secure and that the tyres were pumped up.

I made my way to transition, helmet on head and found a spot on the Sprint rack near the transition exit. It took a while to get everything in place and I prepared a few extra layer fort the cycle and run just in case the forecast sunny weather didn’t materialise.

Once set up, I headed back to my car to get my swim stuff ready. That just meant putting my wetsuit, cap, goggles and deck shoes in the boot. As I wandered around the site, I bumped into Jenny from STC and Run Camp.

I soon speed Teri arrive and one she had started racking, I went over to say hello.

As Teri finished off, we spotted Tamsyn, Stuart and Liz racking too at the far end of the rack near transition entrance. I’m not sure what their rationale was.

By this point, Katherine and Suzanne had arrived too. It was almost a reunion of the Challenge Weymouth gang!!

I bumped into Gareth Sylvester-Bradley and chatted with him a little about how he’d been doing and also about my middle distance experiences. It’s always good to chat with Gareth and even though he’s at the elite end of triathlon and I’m definitely at the other end of the spectrum, he couldn’t be friendlier. His post about the HOWSC Sprint Tri is well worth a read.

We all wandered down to swim start to see Suzanne and Katherine off.

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Olympic distance competitors heading for the first buoy

Once the Olympic distance triathletes were heading off on their swim, we headed back to prepare for our race. This meant me going back to my car to get my wetsuit on and then back to transition to make sure I was all set up. I chatted with Teri once I was ready and tried to slow her down as she was starting to rush a little. Once Teri was set up we wanted down to meet the others and then headed down to the swim start area to get our timing chips and listen to Ben’s race briefing.

Before long, we were in the water. It was pretty chilly. Far cooler than Lakeside had been 3 days before. I’d forgotten just how muddy and squishy it was underfoot. Not the most pleasant feeling! I found myself a little too close to the front of the pack and tried to move back a bit. Having wished Liz and Teri good luck, it was time to pose for a photo and then the ‘starter’ counted down from 10 and we were off. The swim course was a 750m course comprising of 2 laps around very easy to see yellow buoys. It was such a difference swimming in a flat, calm lake after the sea at Weymouth. Being able to see the buoys was a definite advantage. With 100 in the event, there were a lot of swimmers around me and I felt as if I must be swimming ok to still have swimmers around me. I could see a good percentage of swimmers ahead although many weren’t too far away. The 2-laps went by pretty quickly and I didn’t feel too tired as I swam for shore. Many thanks to fellow STC member, Jonathan Northcott for helping me out of the water. Another top bloke!!

I soon recognised Teri immediately in front of me. Teri had had a good swim too. We’d make it to dry land in about 16 minutes and just had the run to transition before we could get on our bikes. I’m pretty sure that the swim course is a little over 750m (especially as I can’t swim in a straight line at the best of times!) The run to transition is a little longer than I’d like and includes a sharp little incline which does its best to sap any energy!

I ran into transition and headed for my bike. As I was only a couple of bikes down from Teri, I was able to keep track of how she was getting on. Although I had a cycling jacket and fingerless gloves set up, I decided against both and got out on the road as quickly as I could. This worked in my favour as it meant that I left T1 before Teri. I wasn’t sure whether Tamsyn was ahead of or behind me.

The bike course was rather nice! I’d heard it was undulating but compared to some of the inclines at Challenge Weymouth Half, I’d say that the course was much flatter; not flat you understand!! There were a few cross roads where we had to slow down and one where I had to stop completely but overall, wheels were turning at all times which felt good. Unlike the middle distance at Weymouth, I didn’t feel as if I were being overtaken much. Having said that, with no distinction between race numbers, it was really difficult to tell whether those I was being overtaken by or overtaking (yes, I overtook some riders!) were competing in the Sprint distance event.

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An unflattering side view of me on the bike – must lose a few lbs!

The one lap loop was an improvement on last year’s two-lapper although I didn’t have the advantage of knowing 3/4 of the course. That was no bad thing though.

As I approached the end of the cycle course, I looked down and realised that I’d not taken on any fluid. This wasn’t great as I’ve suffered from cramp before having not hydrated. Too late to worry now so I took a large swig of water (with High-Five Zero in it) and hoped that it would see me through the run.

As I ran into T2, I saw Donna who was now making sure that cyclist and runners didn’t meet in any nasty accidents! Jon was also close by doing the same.

My T2 was rather slow! I have no excuses. I took the time to put some socks on! Having got two nasty blisters at CWH, I wasn’t going to make the mistake of not wearing socks. No sign of either Teri or Tamsyn so it looked like I was ahead of them.

The run course was two laps starting around the field where the race HQ and transition area was and then around the lake where we’d swum. The course was mostly on grass with some trail and a very short section of tarmac. It’s quite energy-sapping and as the temperature was rising, I wasn’t going to be running too fast. My goal was to finish the run in under 30 minutes. This was based on a goal time to complete the event in 1 hour 40 minutes (based on 18 minute swim + 2 min T1 + 48 minute cycle + 2 min T2 + 30 minute run). I knew that I was about 2 minutes ahead of schedule so had some time to play with if things went wrong on the run. However, the plan was to keep moving and not let myself stop and walk!

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Practising the Ironman Shuffle

Having completed the first lap, I knew that the end was in sight. I maintained my pace and plodded until I got back into the field where the finish was only 100m away. As I headed for the finish, I heard Steve shout some encouragement and I ran to the finish gantry. At 1:35 on my watch, I counted down the 60 seconds in the hope that I’d get to the gantry in 1:36 but didn’t quite make it. In the end, I finished in 1:36:08 which was almost 4 minutes faster than I’d hoped. Very happy with that. I can’t really compare times with last year as each course for the swim, bike and run was different to last year.

Teri and Tamsyn finished about 4 minutes after me shortly followed by Liz and then Stuart who’d had the misfortune of getting not one but two punctures on the bike course. We then watched Katherine, Suzanne and Jenny finish their Olympic distance event. Great results all round. Just before heading home, I had another conversation with Gareth who’d finished in 2nd!

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Tamsyn, Teri and I showing off our medals (race number well positioned so that’s all I’m showing off)

Swim + run to T1: 00:17:16

T1: 00:1:38

Cycle: 00:48:26

T2: 00:01:20

Run: 00:27:27

Total: 01:36:08

Yet another great TryTri event well executed by Chris, Ben and the team. Many thanks to all involved.

Eastleigh Aquathlon – September 2014

Having completed the Challenge Weymouth Middle Distance Triathlon a couple of weeks ago, my season is coming to an end. However, I’ve still got a few events to go this year. These are:

HOWSC 100 Sprint
Wolf Run
Gosport half marathon

Since the middle distance event, I’ve not really done much training and with the last aquathlon looming this week, I decided that I’d definitely commit to doing it. However, that didn’t stop me from trying to find several excuses to not go during the day. Fortunately, I chose to not too listen to the ‘devil on my shoulder’, packed my kit and headed down to Lakeside along with Denise and the boys and dog who had decided to come and watch.

We left home at 5:30pm and arrived shortly before 6pm.

I was one of the first to arrive and spoke to Michael Akers about the Weymouth Half tri before lots of regular started to arrive. I was a little torn between spending time with the family and socialising so apologies to anyone I didn’t say hello to.

Once I’d register, I headed down to transition and put my wetsuit on. I’ve put on about 3/4 of a stone on recently due to bad diet so it didn’t slip on as easily as it had mid-season. Must get back in control of what I’m eating.

I then turned on my Garmin to find that the battery was dead. Grrrrr!

Ben delivered the race briefing as Chris arrived (due to the darker evenings, the races was starting half an hour earlier than advertised) and we headed to swim start.

The water was quite cold as we got in but not quite as cold as I was expecting which was a pleasant surprise. The slow swim to the start area gave me chance to say hello to Liz, Jenny and Katherine. It was also good to see Steve from STC at the event.

I found myself a little closer to the front than I’d have liked and tried to move back a bit. This was unsuccessful but given the fairly small number of participants it wasn’t too much of an issue.

We waved while Ben took a photo whilst we tried not to sink and then we were off.

Within 200m, the lead pack were swimming away and I felt I was being left behind. The weight gain and less visits to the pool are definitely taking their toll. The swim was 2.5 laps as I was doing the long distance event. It was unclear whether there was anyone behind me but I hoped I wasn’t last.

On my last lap I overtook someone. It was a first at any lake swim as far as I could remember. They may well have subsequently overtaken me later of course. The swim to the exit always seems to take an age even though it’s only a short distance. Ben gave some words of encouragement and took a photo as I emerged from the lake and I started to peel off my wetsuit as I ran to transition. I won’t share the photo as I look awful!

My transition was very slow. I’d bought my wrong running shoes and has to do up the laces rather than just slip them on (thanks to elastic laces). I sat down to do this and decided to not put socks on which could have been a mistake given I still have the blisters from 2 weeks ago.

As I started the 2-lap course. I couldn’t see anyone ahead of me. I had some catching up to do. My aim was to try and not get overtaken.

As I got to the start of their tree tunnel, I could make out two runners at the far end. Was there a chance I could catch them up?

Over the 2 laps, I slowly got closer and worked out that it was Steve from STC ahead with Katherine ahead of him. As I got to the bowl, I was getting fairly close with Steve less than 50m ahead. It took me most of the 2nd lap to get to Steve’s shoulder and as we got to the last 100m or so, I ‘opened up the throttle’ and ‘sprinted’ for the line overtaking Steve in the process. Unfortunately, my speedy arrival at the finish wasn’t captured on camera. Maybe I was just too quick or the photo was too blurry.

Without my Garmin I had no ideas how well I’d done. I congratulated Steve and then headed down to the transition area with Connor to collect my kit. It was good to catch up with Chris on the way down.

I was happy with my effort although I didn’t know how well I’d done. Shortly after getting home, Chris Sees left me know my result. 43:29. A little sedate and a minute or so slower than the last aquathlon I did in August.

Next up – HOWSC 100 Sprint Tri

Lordshill Road Runners Track session #1

It’s been several weeks since I last trained on the track. I love these sessions and was going weekly as part of Thursday morning Run Camp sessions. However, attempting to focus on training for the half distance triathlon meant that I decided to stop doing Run Camp until late September.

However, Lordshill Road Runners’ Club Coach, Ben, had organised a monthly Wednesday night session at Southampton Track and I decided to give that a go. Although less frequently, it has the benefit of being free as the club pay for the exclusive use of the track for an hour.

As I was still recovering from Sunday’s Challenge Weymouth Half Distance Triathlon event, I did briefly contemplate an evening at home but as the DOMS had subsided and my blisters on both insteps were both starting to heal and less sore, I went against better judgement and headed for the track leaving home at 6:20pm to battle the traffic across town.

I arrived at 6:50pm, parked and walked down to the track chatting with Lou along the way.

After a quick toilet break, I was joined by Teri as she jogged by. As she caught up with me, she suggested I might like to jog too to warm up. I did and immediately felt the blisters being rubbed by my shoes. It could be a painful evening.

As we got to the track, Ben was resting after a session he’d just completed so we chatted with him. Before long, other LRR started to join us until there was a group of almost 40 of us. It was going to be a busy and popular session.

As it got to 7pm, Ben described the evening. We’d start with a warmup lap of the track, do some dynamic stretches and then do the intervals.

Once the warmup and stretches were over, we prepared for the first of two identical sets comprising of:

90 seconds fast (e.g. at 5 or 10km pace)
90 seconds recovery
90 seconds fast
75 seconds recovery
90 seconds fast
60 seconds recovery
90 seconds fast
45 seconds recovery
90 seconds fast
30 seconds recovery
90 seconds fast
15 seconds recovery
90 seconds fast

We’d then get 3-4 minutes recovery before repeating this set. The intent was to cover the same distance in each fast interval with less recovery time.

With a range of pacing abilities and 40 of us on the track, it was quite crowded on the track but we coped. We alternated running the fast intervals between anti-clockwise and clockwise with the intent to finish where we’d started.

In the first interval, I covered about 325m which I was very pleased with. In the second, I overdid it a bit and got to 400m! After that I tried to consistently hit 325m each time which I managed.

The sessions definitely got tougher with the shorter recovery intervals. I was really looking forward to the long rest between the sets.

I love the track. STC do a weekly track session on a Tuesday evening as well which I may consider. With the evenings getting darker, the floodlit track offers a safe running surface which also mean that the coach can keep a watchful eye over participants.

I completed the session having run every interval at a good pace. I did overdo the first 200m of the last interval and almost fall apart over the last 100m or so. D’oh!

It was great to see lots of running friends and chat. Running alone really is nowhere near as fun as with a group.

Overall, a great session. Will it replace Run Camp for me? No! The two are quite different.

Run Camp track sessions have a max of 6-8 on the track and are weekly. You pay for that exclusivity and it’s worth it. However, the LRR sessions provide a great opportunity to get on the track in a coached session for free. I do fear the sessions will get busier and busier though.

Challenge Weymouth Half Tri – part 2 of 2

So, where did I leave you in part 1? On tenderhooks no doubt!! As I recall, I had exited the swim and was getting changed for my bike leg. This involved peeling off the rest of my wetsuit, putting on a cycle top, my cycle shoes, gloves and race belt (already stocked with 4 energy gels and some energy bars) before putting my wetsuit, goggles and swim cap into my bike bag. I took a few sips from a bottle of energy drink that I’d left in the transition bag and ran out of the changing tent to search for my bike. I’d counted how many rows I’d have to run past to get to it and found it fairly easily as there were far fewer bikes in transition as I arrived.

I got to my bike and put my helmet on before touching the bike (a golden rule of triathlon) and then unhooked my bike and ran out to the mount line. Safely past it, I climbed on and cycled off. Within seconds, my knee started rubbing the edge of one of the energy gel wrappers. 4 hours of that and it would have cut me to the bone.

As I turned out of Lodmoor Park and onto the road adjacent to the seafront, I sped up and ripped off each of the gels and put them in the back pocket of my cycle top. Next time I’ll find a better way to attach the gels to the top bar…

The first bit of the cycle leg was flat but once I reached the end of the run turnaround point, the cycle route started a gradual climb away from the sea. It was pretty easy and my legs felt fresh. I’d done lots of kicking as I swam to the shore to try and get the blood circulating as much as possible so that I wouldn’t have trouble getting upright and this had certainly woken them up ready for the run.

The climb lasted for almost 10K and peaked at 168m (from sea-level). There were some rather challenging sections including Ridgeway and the desire to get off and walk up one incline did cross my mind but I kept on pedaling and pedaling. Onwards and upwards. Ever upwards! It felt great to get to the top and to know that was the worst climb of the route over. I’d made it that far and there was no going back.

cycle map

I’ll not bother to describe the course as the map above does a much better job than I can. Given that we were going clockwise, I was surprised at how many left turns there were. The course was very well managed with marshals at every junction and no issues with other traffic. I had right-of-way at every junction and roundabout.

At about 1/3 of the way, there was an out and back section that was quite narrow in places. In fact, there had been a collision at one point half way along and an ambulance was on scene. That meant stopping to let other cyclists from the other direction through.

Once I got to the turnaround point, I headed back southwards and soon saw Tamsyn and, shortly behind her, Jan. Tamsyn had done a great job of catching up as her swim wave started 5 minutes after mine. My goal was to try and keep her behind me for the rest of the cycle course!

The next section was pretty flat. I hit the half-way mark in about 2 hours and 5 minutes. Slightly behind schedule but given the first half of the course had more ascents than descents, that was fine.

There still appeared to be too many left hand turns and I was wondering whether some of the signs had been misplaced at one point! My hips were starting to ache and I was getting saddle sore. It felt good to be over half way around the course but I can’t say that I was enjoying the ride too much. The weather was good though and there wasn’t any wind to write home about so I really couldn’t complain. I took any opportunity to stretch and get out of the saddle that I could.

Once I’d got close to Wareham, I knew the roads we’d be taking most of the way back to Weymouth. I’d struggled on them on the ride with Chris but that was largely due to the fact that at that time I’d cycled about 60 miles already. I tried to recall if there were any really challenging ascents but couldn’t remember any.

On the ride, I kept taking energy gels about every 30-40 minutes and downed 1500ml of water/energy drinks over the whole duration of the cycle leg. I should have probably had more of the latter but did the best I could. They say that it’s far better to hydrate on the bike than the run. Advice duly heeded.

Soon I passed a sign showing that Weymouth was 12 miles away. My Garmin suggested it was 9. I was hoping the Garmin was right. The rest of the ride was uneventful apart from seeing another sign saying Weymouth was 7 miles. I hoped it was 4! It turned out the Garmin was right and before I knew it, there was a roundabout where there was a choice of returning to T2 or starting a 2nd lap of the bike course (for those doing the full Ironman distance). I followed the signs to T2 and immediately questioned myself as to whether that was right. It was! Phew!

Before I knew it, I was back on the road that ran parallel to the promenade and Lodmoor Park was visible in the distance. I glanced across to the Prom to see runners. I’d get my chance before long. My hips were still achy and I wasn’t really looking forward to a 25km run.

I turned into Lodmoor Park and rode to the dismount line. Having successfully unclipped, I handed by bike to a stranger in the vague hope that I may never see it again! Once we parted ways, I found my ‘run’ transition bag and headed back into the change tent to remove my cycle gear (helmet, gloves and shoes) and put on my cap and running shoes. As I’d entered the tent, I’d seen Tamsyn roll in on her bike. She’d caught me up on the cycle. I gave her some words of encouragement and as I got ready for my run saw Tamsyn run out onto the final leg of her event ahead of me. I hoped that I’d be able to keep her in my sights for the rest of the run.

I could go into great detail about the run but it wasn’t pleasant! My hips were aching. Seeing almost the full distance we had to run from one end of promenade to the Pavilion and back wasn’t much fun!! Also, I’d forgotten two things in transition. Firstly, I’d left my cycling top on and was sweltering. Also, I’d forgotten to put socks on and almost immediately into the run I could feel sore spots developing on each instep. I have to say that the combination wasn’t great and it wasn’t long before I was taking regular walk breaks. This was going to be tough. The thing that kept me going was seeing friends out on the course as well as Eleanore, Katherine, Ant and Lyndsey who were supporting us and lots of very supportive locals (including ex-work colleague Sandy and his wife).

With our names on our race numbers, it was great to hear personal shouts of encouragement along the way. The run course was 2 and a half laps. The first 1/2 lap was from Lodmoor to the Pavilion and then then two laps from the Pavilion to the turnaround point and back. I have to say that had there been an opportunity for a short-cut I would have been tempted to take it at various points during the run but with timing mats at either end, that wasn’t a viable option!!! Darn!!

running lap 1

© Sandy Sproule

running lap 3

© Eleanore Coulthard

running past finish

© Katherine Anteney

Having completed 2 laps, I was back at the swim start at Lodmoor and was heading to the finish. I’d refueled at every water station on the run course but missed out the last opportunity as I wanted to hit my 2:30 target. I’d like to say that I’d paced it perfectly as I crossed the line in 2:30:08 but the reality was that the course wasn’t the advertised 25km but closer to the correct half marathon distance of 21km. I’d paced myself for a 25km run rather than a half-marathon though.

I’ve no idea why the Race Director thought it was 4km longer than it actually was. That can’t be accounted for by GPS errors even on a 2.5 lap course. However, it does make me wonder whether the full distance run was the correct length.

OK, so here are my vital stats for the day:

  • Swim (1.8km): 00:53:38
  • T1: 00:06:53
  • Cycle (90km): 03:59:55
  • T2: 00:03:13
  • Run (21km): 02:30:08
  • Total: 07:33:48

Overall, I was just shy of 4 minutes outside my goal time (forgetting that the run course was shorter than expected!) I was very happy to complete the course and staggered up the steps into the Pavilion to collect my race T-shirt. I was greeted by Tamsyn who was recovering from her excellent performance having finished in 07:24:54. Well done Tamsyn.

Having chatted with Tamsyn and James for a while, I headed out as I had to get to Denise’s parents to pick up the boys to get them home to bed before it was too late. As I left the Pavilion, I spotted Eleanore and then chatted with Gary, Roelie and James for a few minutes before heading back along the promenade to Lodmoor to pick up my bike and head home.

post event groupie

© Katherine Anteney

Half Ironman distance triathlon completed. Happy! I could have gone faster. That’ll have to wait until next year though. More training. Longer runs. More time on the bike tackling more hills. Lots to do! Just need to find the time!!

In hindsight, I really enjoyed the event. It was really well organised. I couldn’t have chosen a better located hotel. It was great to have so many triathlon friends at the event. The bike course was challenging but not unduly so. The sea was far worse than I expected but I now know that I could swim in pretty much any conditions! The run was great because there were so many spectators along the course and lots of opportunity to see friends as we went backwards and forwards along the prom.

Would I consider a full Ironman now? Not a chance!! I simply don’t have the time to commit to the training and don’t think I’d manage a marathon after a 3.8km swim and a 180km bike ride. Maybe one day. Until that day, I’m considering a marathon for next year but am not committing to one! I’d like to do some more half distance events too. Have a couple in mind. Maybe Weymouth again as it’s close to home. Anyone fancy joining me?

Challenge Weymouth Half Tri – part 1 of 2

My big challenge for the year was the Challenge Weymouth Half Triathlon. Having only competed in sprint distance triathlons, this was quite a big step up from what I was used to.

This is the first of a 2 part post about the event. I’ve written it at about 2am so please excuse and typos etc as I’ve not checked it yet. I’ve also borrowed some photos from friends that were also at the event. Hope that’s ok!!

My training for the event fell apart after about 8 weeks due to my back injury, work and any other excuse I can think of sharing. I did my best to get my training back on track but really didn’t do the training justice. Before I knew it, the weekend had arrived and there was no turning back.

Fortunately, several triathlon friends were competing (Tamsyn, Stuart, Gary, Roelie, James, Liz, Suzanne, Dean, Jan and Paul to name as many as I can currently remember!)

I had found a Premier Inn which I hoped was close to the race venue, Lodmoor Park, and was pleasantly surprised to find that the hotel was adjacent to the park.

As Denise was surfing in Devon for the weekend, I dropped the boys off at their grandparents on the way down to Weymouth. My plan was to drive down, park in the local ‘Park and Ride’, take the bus to the seafront and then register at the Pavilion before heading back to the car to then drive to Lodmoor Park to rack my bike.

All went to plan and it was good meet Tamsyn, Stuart and Dean near the Pavillion before I registered.

Registration was a breeze although I’d accidentally  taken my old BTF Licence and ended up paying £5. D’oh.

Once I’d signed in, picked up the multitude of transition bags and signed my name alongside the signatures of many other competitors, consumed a pint of Erdinger along the seafront, I headed back to catch the bus back to the park and ride where I picked up the car and drove to the hotel. My room overlooked the bike racking area which was empty at the time.

Having checked in, paid for a breakfast and checked out my room, which had a great view onto the transition area and bike racking, I went down to rack my bike amongst the millions of £s of other competitor’s bikes in the knowledge that the saddle on some of the bikes cost more than my bike.

room from hotel room

Having racked I spotted Tamsyn and Stuart and we attended an informal overview of the changing and transition procedure. It was all a little confusing. As with lots of mass participation events (or so I was told), transition between each of the disciplines involved bags. Each was coloured and we had a red cycle bag which we placed our cycling clothing in, a blue run bag and a green street-wear bag. These were to be left in designated areas and then picked up as we entered T1 and T2 where we then proceeded to the changing tent to swap clothing as required. I’ll explain more as I detail the day itself.

So, that was racking done. Stuart and Tamsyn very kindly offered me a lift back to the centre so that we could attend the race briefing which was held in the Pavilion building where we’d already registered. I hadn’t given this much thought and expected a small percentage of participants to attend and for it to consequently be held in a small room. How wrong was I?

As we entered the door, it turned out that registration was being held in a theatre and it must have been attended by every participant. There was no room for spouses, other family members or children. It was full to bursting.

race briefing

The briefing was given by the Race Director, Alan, and the Chief Technical Official whose name escapes me (and would add little to this post should I recall it!)

The briefing was excellent. Very informative and amusing in many places. It lasted over an hour but didn’t seem too long and was pitched very well. At the end, there were lots of questions raised which we waited to hear about. The only unwelcome information was than the run distance had crept up to 25km (it should really be 21km)! OMG!

Having received that bombshell, we left the theatre to drown out the bad news with another Erdinger. Before doing so, we joined a few of the others for a chat and a group photo.

post reg groupie

© Photo by Janice Goble

Having discussed the over-lengthening run course, everyone disappeared to their various hotels and I walked the mile or so along the seafront back to my hotel.

As I walked, I looked out at the sea and saw it was a little choppy. This bought back memories of two sea-related incidents from my past. One was as a child when my twin brother and I were in a rubber dinghy which got overturned and I thought I was drowning before being rescued by my dad and the other episode was on a holiday in Greece where I was windsurfing and the wind picked up and I got swept out and tried desperately to get back into shore before resorting to trying to swim back with the board dragging behind me. Rather than get back safely under my own steam, I was rescued in a safety boat. Oh happy days!

As I got close to the hotel, I checked out the swim course, admired the waves, prayed that the sea would look like a mirror in the morning and received a text message from Eleanore who was camping out in the Brewers Fayre whilst waiting for Gary (her partner), Roelie and James to rack their bikes.

I went to join Eleanore and we chatted over a drink. Gary, Roelie and James arrived and we chatted some more. I haven’t really spoken to James that much in the past but he’s a legend. Really friendly, funny and good company. Roelie is too. As are Gary and Eleanore. And Tamsyn and Stuart. And Liz! Do I need to go on?!

The time was flying by and the others all headed back to their hotels and I returned to my room to try and work out what to put in each transition bag and then headed back to the Brewers Fayre for a meal. It was surprisingly quiet and I chose a pasta option to find that they’d run out. I decided on Tikka Masala instead and then subsequently hoped that it would not be a mistake the following day (it wasn’t).

Once I’d eaten, I decided to recce the eastern part of the run course along the promenade. It was quite breezy and as I’d not run for a few days, I decided to run/walk the mile or so to the turnaround point and then do the same on the way back. I was quite pleasantly surprised that the out wasn’t as far out as I’d thought but did Google map my position and compare it to the course map just to be sure.

swim start 1

run recce 2

run recce 1

I headed back to my room, once again looked out at the spectacle of 1800 bikes racked and ready for the following morning.

It was time to get my transition bags sorted once and for all. As I’ve mentioned before, we had 3 bags. For those with too much time on your hands, this is what I packed:

Cycle bag – cycle shoes, gloves, race belt with race numbers, sunglasses, gels, energy bars and a cycle top

Run bag – running shoes, socks, gels and a cap

Street bag – swim goggles, cap, trousers, T-shirt, hoodie, sun cream

I also put my numerous water bottles in the bathroom ready for filling the following morning.

Having packed everything else I had bought but didn’t need, I decided that it was time to relax, climbed into bed and took a look through the race booklet and turned off the light at 9pm in the hope of getting some sleep.

As it turned out, I slept like a baby. By that I mean waking every hour crying! Ok, so maybe there were no tears or screaming but it was certainly not a great night’s sleep. However, I know I did get some sleep as I dreamt about waking up, looking down at bike racking to see half the bikes missing and the thieves pretending to do star jumps to elude my expecting it was them involved with loading lorries with their two-wheeled lot.

During the night, I contemplated how long it would take to complete the challenge. With a 1.9 swim, I estimated that bad on my previous weekends lake swim that this would take the same time of 45 minutes. For the cycle, I estimated 4 hours. This was entirely based on the time it had taken Chris and I the first 90km of our 83 mile ride from Southampton to Weymouth a couple of weekends before.

My PB for a half marathon is 2 hours plus a number of seconds. I estimated that as I’d have a couple more miles to run that I’d add 20 minutes in and then add 10% on to account for the fact that I’d not be running on fresh legs. In fact, my legs might be completely mashed. Give or take a minute, that meant 2:30 for the 25km. Adding on 10 minutes for transitions that came to 7 hours and 30 minutes. I’d read that the average time to complete a half Ironman distance event was 6 hours so my estimate looked very sedate. In fact, it matched the average time for someone in their 80s :-S

My alarm woke me up at 5am. Yes, woke me up! I snoozed for another 10 minutes and then got up and showered. I then self-applied my race number tattoos to each arm (they are used primarily for identification if hauled unconscious out of the sea), put on my STC tri suit and t-shirt and shorts and then checked all my transition bags. In the process I struggled to remember where I’d left my keys and wallet so ended up going through the bags again.

Just before 6am, I went to drop off the transition bags and check out my bike.

bags

© Photo from Liz Carter

On the way down to hotel reception, I spoke to another competitor who asked whether I’d heard the announcement that the swim course was being shortened for the full distance competitors due to rough conditions and that there was a possibility that the swim leg might be cancelled completely. A decision would be made later about the swim for the half distance event once a better idea of the conditions had been established from seeing the full distance competitors struggle. This didn’t sound good. I didn’t want to see the severity of the conditions and hoped that the sea would calm down before my wave set off. As well as the course adjustment, all start times were delayed by 30 minutes.

Having heard the good news, I headed to transition.

bike racking

© Photo from Liz Carter

This gave me the opportunity to check my bike was in an ‘easy’ gear and add some gels to the top bar using elastic bands for easy removal on the go. I added my water bottles (containing water with High Five energy drink powder) and I was all done. As I headed to the Brewers Fayre for my continental breakfast, I saw and spoke to Mike from STC and his girlfriend who described the conditions. I then got a text from Eleanore to say that the group were camped out in the pub already.

I wandered around trying to find them but they’d gone back to their vehicle to do something so I grabbed breakfast after finding a large table with enough room for all of us to for around.

pre run groupie

© Eleanore Coulthard

Within a few minutes, Eleanore arrived so we chatted whilst consuming breakfast which for me consisted of a croissant, fruit, yoghurt and a Costa Americano.

Before long, we were joined my the rest of the group and the table was full. We had about 90 minutes until our respective waves were due to enter the sea which gave ample time to worry about the swim and the rest of the event. I was getting worried about the fact that I’d not run long for several months and hadn’t run anywhere close to half marathon distance since the previous November and had never run further than 14 miles. Too late to worry about it now though.

At about 7:45am, we got into our wetsuits (after several toilet trips) and headed out to see to the swim start area. The area was very busy and we didn’t get to see the sea until about 8:15am shortly after a group photo, spraying all around me with sun cream and dropping our green ‘street wear’ bags off.

pre-event groupie

© Eleanore Coulthard

As we walked into the beach, we said our final goodbyes, shared some hugs, good luck wishes and tried not too look at the crashing waves. Hmmm.

choppy sea

© James Nicolas

This was going to be interesting.

The green wave were called forward and Suzanne, Roelie and I walked to the start line. We shared some anxious glances and waited for the start horn to go off…

3…2…1… Honk!

I waded into the sea. It was difficult to keep upright. I imagined it would get easier once I was in the water but getting to a point deep enough to swim in was going to be challenge enough. At least whilst stood up I could see the buoys over the rolling sea. It became pretty obvious that sighting was going to get very difficult very quickly. Combined with the waves, current and lack of being competence in swimming in a straight line without lab ropes, there was a good chance I could be swimming much further than the 1.9km course (I forgot to mention that although the full-distance competitors had their course halved, the rest of us had to swim the full 1.9km).

As mentioned, sighting was very difficult. Not only were the buoys yellow and difficult to see anyway but only 1 in 5 attempted to sight the buoys gave a clear line of sight. More often than not, all I could see was a wall of water ahead of me. Fortunately, there were lots of kayaks out in the water and several of them were guiding swimmers back in course.

The first buoy was probably 400m from the shore. I’d estimate I swam an extra 50-75m to get there. Maybe more. The conditions didn’t get any easier and on many an occasion, I took a stroke to find I was lifted out of the water, catch and pulling in fresh air to be dumped back unceremoniously back into the sea.

I got to the first buoy eventually and tried to sight the next one. I had to stop and bob about for a couple of seconds before I spotted it and then ploughed on. Fortunately, there was only about 100m I swim to get to it. The conditions were not much better as the sea rolled threatening to take me off course.

Having rounded the 2nd buoy, it was time to head back to shore. There were a few things to use to sight and that made things a little easier. Shortly after I rounded the buoy, the lead swimmers from the following wave started swimming over me. I wasn’t concerned. I figured that I could follow them as they were clearly better swimmers than me having started 5 minutes after my wave.

This approach worked and I think my attempts to swim in a relatively straight line were quite successful.

As I got close to shore, the crashing waves made it difficult to get ashore. That was soon followed by the difficult of trying to stand up and get into the beach. Fortunately, assistance was on hand and I was hauled out to run along the beach to go through it all again. Oh joy!!

swim after lap 1

© Eleanore Coulthard

The second lap did seem slightly easier. I’d suffered it once and knew what to expect. I felt I swam a straighter course between buoys and used a little less energy. Shortly after the 2nd buoy someone swam over me at 90 degrees heading offshore. He stopped and I pointed towards to next buoys and told him that was the direction he was supposed to be swimming in.

There a great video of the sea conditions and our wave at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qfMNhurT6W8

Once ashore, I peeled off the top half of my wetsuit and ran to T1. As I got there, I picked up my cycle bag and went into the changing tent, peeled off the rest of my wetsuit and sat down on an unstable bench and got ready for the 90km/56 mile cycle ride.

This post has gone on and on for more that either myself or you the reader can probably cope with so I’m turning this into a 2-parter.

Lordshill Mile 2014 #4

I’ve had a hectic few weeks and need to write some more blog posts but thought that I’d quickly post about last night’s Lordshill Mile event.

Right up until 15 minutes before I left the house, I wasn’t sure whether I’d run at the event. Daniel and Connor weren’t sure whether they wanted to go but then decided they would and that they’d both run.

I’d spent my lunchtime preparing for the event (collating signs and finish funnel, updating the magic-mile website for the new event and preparing my briefing notes.

We left home at 5:20pm and arrived about 20 minutes later and walked to the Hawthorns at the same time as Pete and Chris.

While I set up the finish funnel and results processing equipment, the boys played in and around the stream.

Other volunteers started to arrive as well as runners from Lordshill and a few from other clubs.

Chris had asked that I give the event briefing so I did that before the first of the two waves.

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We had chosen to have the slower wave first aimed at those expecting to complete the mile in over 7 minutes. This was the wave that Daniel, Connor and I would run together. As we headed over to the start line just north of the Cowherds, both boys were keen to run. The number of runners in the wave was much more than I expected and there were a few participants who should have considered the 2nd wave including Becky and Tom.

As we lined up at the start, Daniel and Connor help my hands and we were ready.

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Chris counted down to the start and we were off. Fortunately, Daniel let go of my hand fairly quickly and I suggested he run on. He agreed and gradually pulled away.

Connor kept looking around and I had to keep reminding him that he tripped over at the last mile event he attended and I had to carry him across the finish line crying (Connor not me!)

As we ran around the course, Connor held my hand for most of the way and on occasion decided to try and race me. At one point, he almost tripped us both over. D’oh!

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When we reached The Flats I reminded Connor to be careful of the sleeping policemen and with 100m to go suggested he sprint to the finish which he did! As he reached the funnel, he got lots of encouragement from those stood around the area and promptly tripped over in the funnel. Numpty!

Daniel had finished about 45 seconds ahead of us with Connor and I crossing the line in 10:30.

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As the boys went off to play (aka wrestle), I went to process the results before mentally preparing myself for wave 2; the wave I’d run at race pace… hopefully.

With the results processed, it was time to join the others racing in wave 2 on the walk to the start. Teri had very kindly offered to look after the boys and told them the one and only rule. No fighting. They broke the rule within seconds and had to be reminded in a very (mock) stern voice of the rule!

As we lined up for the start, Teri got the boys to practice shouting ‘go’ several times and we waited for the countdown. We were off… until a false start was announced as Chris spotted a group from British Military Fitness taking up most of the path 200m ahead.

We waited for them to peel off onto the grass and held back as a couple of female Nordic walkers went by. In fact, they’d held their position for 200m or so and had no intention of moving across the path to allow us to start with one of the women barging into one of the runners and muttering as she reached us at the start line. She was clearly making a point about her right to use the footpath which is completely fair. However, had a runner barged into her, I’m sure the council would have received a complaint.

Anyway… Once the two ladies had passed, we were set off. It wasn’t long until the wave spread out with me at the back. I wasn’t too far behind Mick Anglim and kept most of the runners in my sights for the full distance.

I was giving it my all and wanted to PB. Before I’d set off, Becky had let me know that she’d PBd in the first wave in 6:31. This was my target to beat as it was a second quicker than my PB!

As I got within a few hundred metres of the finish, I summoned up all the energy I had and sprinted for the finish line. It was going to be close!

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I crossed the line in 6:27! Boom! I’d PB’d and gone faster than Becky. I didn’t let her know first of all and when she asked I said about 7 minutes. I was spent and the boys insisted on showing me the conkers they collected. I was more interested in trying to recover but tried to sound interested. I suspect I failed on the latter.

As I headed for the gazebo to process the results, the sweat was dripping off me (too much info?!) Once done, I made my way back to Becky and Lottie and Becky asked me what my finish time was. I showed her my Garmin which showed 6:27! :-P Sorry Becky!! Of course had I not run in the previous wave I may have been quicker…

It was then time to pack up and head home. Another great Lordshill event and one I’m proud to be associated with. We had a handful of runners from other clubs and I hope more will participate in the series next year. The events are free and fun and have no barriers to entry. If you’ve not already registered, why no do so today at http://www.magic-mile.co.uk

Many thanks to Emily Smith for the photos!