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The Brutal Half

It’s been oh so quiet … Since Itera I have not been doing much. I learnt my lessons after the last expedition race I did (the Terrex in 2010) and this time I wasn’t getting back into anything too quickly. So I spent 3 whole weeks eating, sleeping, pottering to work on my bike and not much else.

When I did my event planning for the year, I thought perhaps I could combine Itera training with iron-distance triathlon training. So I kept my eye on an event near my dad’s house in Llanberis 5 weeks after Itera, which I could enter at the last minute providing I had recovered well and was feeling fit.

As it turns out, I did recover well, and managed a good strong week of training after my 3 weeks of recovery. But the event I had in mind (the Brutal) wasn’t just normal iron-distance; the run had large chunks off road and finished with a run up and down Snowdon with a buddy. To be honest, I didn’t have the motivation to race that hard for that long and face another few weeks of tiredness. I hadn’t done any specific training and was feeling pretty satisfied with the year from a ‘big race’ perspective. I was also starting to feel good again and had my eye on quite a few events for the rest of the year!

Is it me, or is it still quite dark?!

Is it me, or is it still quite dark?!

So instead I entered the ‘half’. Half the distance, half the laps (I’m not a big fan of laps), half the price and I could run Snowdon at the end by myself. I innocently thought I could just bash this one out, feel good for the rest of the weekend and carry on uninterrupted 🙂 .

On Friday we ended up walking down through the woods to town twice, once to register and once for the briefing and to set up kit in the transition marquee. I managed to get a lift back up the hill twice though, despite my dad’s poorly leg!

The first ‘brutal’ part of the event was the start time. I set off from my dad’s house to pedal down the hill at 05:25. Urgghh! It was still dark and the road was twisty and gravelly. I stayed safe though and had plenty of time to find a space to rack my bike (it was pick your own spot, I went for last rack, second frog from the end) and double check all was still as I left it in the tent. We each had our own chair – very unusual! But this event not only had people out doing the full distance, but also some doing double that again, and not finishing until late on Sunday. OK, I admit, as well as debating between full and half I did also consider the double … but sense got the better of me.

The lake wasn’t cold for the swim, about 16ºC. My main problem was not having worn a wetsuit since my last triathlon on 29th June and having done just three swim sessions since the end of July, 8 weeks before. My arms felt constricted and a bit heavy, but I got on with it. We were confused at the first turn by all the orange buoys – which one was ours?! I swam a bendy line but got back on track. Two laps later and just 2 minutes slower than I had planned I was running across the field into transition.

Getting in. Last time I did this here it was midday, sunny and I was not in a wetsuit!

Getting in. Last time I did this here it was midday, sunny and I was not in a wetsuit!

Me going round the buoy at the end of lap 1 - halfway there

Me going round the buoy at the end of lap 1 – halfway there

A quick changeover and I set off on the bike, with Andy cheering. About 200m later I was still feeling a bit weebly wobbly from the swim, was worrying about whether I should have tucked my jersey under my race belt and noticing I could see the lake on my right and thinking I might be able to glimpse long course swimmers. Next thing, I looked up to see I was heading towards the kerb at high speed. There was a wobble, I don’t know exactly what happened, but I knew I was going down. Smash! I catapulted head first onto the pavement. My immediate thought was ‘I’ve hit my head, I’ll have to stop’, immediately followed by things such as: Is my new jersey ripped? Are my shorts OK? I’ve dropped a bar. There’s blood. No broken bones. Lucky I wore gloves else my hand would be full of holes. I’m not unconscious. Is the bike working?

Transitioning out of the high class event marquee

Transitioning out of the high class marquee

Pretty quickly I was astride my bike, tucking my jersey in (didn’t need that thought distracting me again) and cautiously pedalling along the course, away from transition. My tri bars were a bit askance, but usable. My arm hurt to rest on them, but was bearable. My elbow and knee were bleeding, but moving. There were no holes in my clothes. The brakes and gears were working. I carried on. The next 25 minutes were slightly hesitant. I ate and drank and monitored myself, especially when I saw a few stars. But then I decided, if I’m still doing this, I need to get on with it. I started to watch my speed and keep the power up.

Each lap had a flat bit, a short sharp up and down then a long ride along the beautiful valley from Waunfawr to Beddgelert. Then there followed a long steady climb. As my dad has told me, it was graded for a horse and carriage, so you can ride a lot of it on your tri bars in something other than your lowest gear. Over the top and it’s a fast, twisty descent back to the start. I had to do 2 laps.

At the start of the first long climb I had just caught another girl. I ate a bit and planned to ride past on the climb. But she pulled away!! I lost her somewhere over the descent, but she must have paused as she went round for lap 2, perhaps to pick up a bottle, because she popped out just in front of me again. I came past and opened a gap but then there were traffic lights on red. She caught up and went by on the hill. I decided to just work at my own pace along the valley and keep her in sight. Although the gap between us varied a bit, it was never more than about 100m.

I assumed she would go again on the climb, but I think she had worked harder knowing I was there this time and was perhaps a bit more tired. In fact, the results say we both went faster the second time around! I was holding the distance between us, and then somehow managed to catch her. We exchanged a few amicable words, then I passed and came into transition with a slender 1:20 lead.

Still riding, and upright this time

Still riding, and upright now

The first part of the run was round the lake. It was flat on the first side, then up a steep road and into the woods, with variable gradients and surfaces. Andy jogged next to me for a couple of minutes, which was nice.  I was in a lot of pain as I’d had stomach cramps since the end of the swim. Sometimes this happens and I don’t know why. It wasn’t because I’d eaten gels and bars either! I’d had two bananas, a big square of sticky rice cake, a porridge bite, a mouthful of a bread thing and water and Nuun (electrolyte solution). I could hardly stand upright but eventually it eased as I ran along the lake shore. As I slowed to go through a gate I realised I was quite dizzy … I had another porridge bite and then a bit later a gel. I was gasping for water but expected the feed station as we turned off the road.

The girl I had overtaken on the bike caught me up on the road hill. She was looking bouncy and I was dying! I know running is not my forte, so had expected to be caught given how well she climbed on a bike. I had no choice but to let her go. At the feed station I gulped 2 cups of water and 1 of squash and felt better. Running back to the transition field I was actually feeling OK!

The easy way up, explicitly forbidden at race briefing

The easy way up, explicitly forbidden at race briefing

To go up on the mountain, we had to carry compulsory kit and pass a medical check. As I ran in, I was asked ‘do you need to see the medic?’ I assumed this meant, ‘are you ready to go up the hill?’. I looked confused and said ‘but don’t I need to get my mountain bag first?’ (as this also got a quick check). Back came the reply ‘you’re bleeding!!’. Oh yeah, I’d forgotten about that. But the blood had mostly dried up by now and I was on a mission. I got my bag and went for my official check. The medic asked me more than once … are you sure you don’t want it treated? … But I said no, it had been like that for 4.5 hours already, it could wait a couple more. I was allowed to go!

Tired and bloodied!

Tired and bloodied!

On the lower slopes I was sweating profusely and very glad it was an overcast day. Andy appeared again for a bit and gave me some encouraging words. After he had gone, Kev (another racer) caught up with me and very kindly accompanied me to the top. He had done this event last year and could give me pointers on what was coming up and how fast to expect to do it. He also kept me motivated to move when I felt like stopping (as I didn’t want to slow him down) and checked I was alright in woozy moments. I felt a bit sick but also realised that tripping over my feet and the dizziness when I paused were due to lack of food, so I made myself eat some more.

We overtook crowds of tourists, including someone in a onesie. Really? There were cigarette butts on the floor, and Kev remarked he wasn’t sure if he was impressed or horrified. People kept asking me if I was alright and I kept thinking I must look dreadful, until I remembered the blood all over my leg. We didn’t run for long as it got pretty steep and my legs were tired. My calves were also threatening to cramp and I was extremely grateful that I had taken my poles with me! Given how I felt when I stopped using them to eat I definitely know they were helping.

Ascending into the mists

Ascending into the mists

Because you come back the same way you go up, you can see where everyone else is. After we saw the leading lady going down, it took us 6 minutes to get to the top. It was quite cold and wet, as the cloud and fog were heavy. I told Kev to go down at his own pace. I know my descending isn’t great. I wasn’t giving up though, as visions of being caught in the Coniston race played on my mind and Andy had told me off earlier and said not to settle for ‘third is OK’. 3 minutes after I’d turned, I saw the next lady going up. We said hello, and I wondered how much faster going down was than up!

Now I knew I had to go for it. This was one of my aims for the race. I wanted to remember how it felt running off the Brecon Beacons on a tow behind Sam at Itera. If I could do it then on day 5 with blisters, I could do it now for sure! Off I went and actually kept Kev in sight all the way. I passed the halfway house. I almost got calf cramp again, several times. I almost face-planted, but didn’t. I reached the road. Still only one person had come by.

I allowed myself to check over my shoulder and could see ‘someone’ about 200m behind. I was determined not to give in, and my poles click-clacked on the steep road. We reached the first row of houses and it was maybe only 300m to go. I nearly got cramp again! So I had to moderate my speed and try and work out how to land and pick up my foot not to set it off. Then there was the finish archway, and I was under and I was second. Yay!

Flat out

Flat out

Compared to my target times I had done alright. A couple of minutes down on the swim (due to lack of specific training), and a few more on the bike (due to crash, cramps, lack of ‘fast’ riding recently and fighting a bug the previous week, I think). My lake run lap was spot on target. My mountain run was much slower – but I had underestimated the difficulty! It didn’t stop me being proud of my descent and of holding my time compared to 3rd. Interestingly, my overall placing for the mountain was lower than for the rest of the race, but 10 minutes would have lifted my place for ‘Snowdon only’ by 16 spots. People’s times on this section were close together. My race against 1st was lost on the run, but my race against 3rd was won on the swim.

Everything hurts

Everything hurts

Now I only had the matter of getting up off the floor and seeing the medic. ‘Pouch’ did a fantastic job of checking for broken bones then patiently cleaning and bandaging my wounds before I hobbled home. The next day I could hardly move. This was a combination of all the bumps and bruises (road rash, holes and scratches on my left shin, knee, hip, arm and shoulder and right arm and elbow), stiff tummy muscles from the cramps on the bike and all the usual soreness from running up and down a big mountain! Never has getting dressed and standing up and down been so difficult. Lesson learnt: pay attention to where you’re going on a bike and don’t underestimate the difficulty of a 7.5h long event called ‘Brutal’, even if it is only ‘half’ of something! 😀

Thanks Pouch!

Thanks Pouch!

Many thanks to Brutal Events for putting on an event with such a great atmosphere. Also to Andy Kirkland for the photographs (click on the link for a gory knee close up shot)!

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Foxlake Triathlon

❗ Warning: too much fun alert!

After the disappointment of the weekend before in Coniston, I had had a slightly gloomy week. By Friday night my legs were still hurting and I feared for my left quad which was verging on painful. However, I had signed up for the Foxlake Tri event – relay and solo.

There was not a lot to suggest this race would suit my strengths – as each full triathlon lasted less than 20 minutes and I’m an endurance athlete! However, there were some twists. And it was organised by Durty Events, which meant there would probably be some mud involved.

Discussing the route and correct dibber usage with Jo

Discussing the route and correct dibber usage with Jo

The first event was a relay in the same format as the Commonwealth Games. Four athletes per team, and you all do the whole race once. The second event was a solo race with multiple rounds.

To prepare, there were a few things I had to do. Firstly, my rear mountain bike tyre was not holding air. A facebook plea produced an explanation, a remedy and an offer of a tutorial on how to fix it (sealant supplied). Huge thanks to Ewan for this, it was easy peasy and I am no longer scared of this job!

Secondly, this race was so short that time in transition needed to be minimised. This meant wearing the same shoes for the bike and run. But I had no decent mountain bike flat pedals! Glen helped me out here, loaning me a set of pedals from his own bike. I collected them from his girlfriend on Friday night and decided the pot of grease also laid out was a hint that I’d better not let them get jammed on! (as if 😉 ).

Other modifications to my usual routine included no socks and no gloves. Fortunately the recent weather and the small size of lake meant the water was lovely and warm, and wetsuits were optional (I opted out)!

Our club (ERC) had targeted this race for the relay teams, all ably organised and coordinated by Alistair. In the end we had 5 teams of 4; 20 people all creating a sea of red around the briefing area. I am not convinced the club trisuit is the most flattering design on me and my women’s specific black number is more comfy, but I wore it anyway to make sure I was identified in the right tribe!

Getting everyone together to register was a bit like herding cats, as we all set off at different times to ride round the bike course and see what it was like. We registered with not much time left before the start – and I was going first! Luckily, with a minimal transition and no wetsuit, there wasn’t a lot to get ready. In the water and I was only just checking my goggles were on properly and wasn’t even at the line when Paul shouted “GO!!!”. Yikes! I quickly got going but had missed the front group!

Getting in (I'm in the red suit)

Getting in (I’m in the red suit)

Not to worry, I was soon out of the water, avoiding falling in the special hole just before the bank, and was through transition and onto my bike. The course was a lot of fun. A fast part by the lake, then a windy bit of singletrack through some trees, with lush green fronds brushing at your legs. Then a very fast double track section with a few big muddy puddles to catch your wheels! Finally, a zigzag up and down a bank 3 times with some technical little bits to watch out for – a tree stump, some loose ground, gravel and a slidy bit on the final turn back into the field. I had overtaken Alistair and Andrew from ERC, and another man I didn’t recognise. One of our guys was claiming ‘he had a mechanical’; to be fair, I did see him off the bike doing something with his chain!

Leading the relay at the end of the bike leg

Leading the relay at the end of the bike leg

I just about remembered to take my helmet off and was soon running. All worries about my legs had been forgotten as I wound through the woods and heard the announcer shouting “you can see the lead person flitting through the trees over there!”. I waved, thinking: are they talking about me?!

Before I knew it, I had tagged my next team mate and was under the finishing arch!

There followed a whole lot of fun cheering and watching the battle between ‘ERC men A” and “ERC ladies 1”. I passed over to Erin, who came back covered in mud from a fall only witnessed by her boyfriend in the other team (we suspected foul play!). Next up was Elise who battled it out with Mitch the whole way despite some navigational mishaps. Finally, we handed over to Andrea who got cold shock but was still gaining fast on Chris as she swam a mix of backstroke and breaststroke – and then overtook him as she took the long route round!

This format was really good for spectating; you hardly had to wait to see people between disciplines. It was also sunny at this point, which made life easier. We were neck and neck until the 4th leg, when sadly the men pulled away. But still, our girls team was 2nd overall and 1st ladies! Awesome. ERC also got 1, 2, 3 and crowded out the podium … cool.

Fastest girls team

Fastest girls team

ERC mob the podium!

ERC mob the podium!

Something I didn’t anticipate was how cold I’d be even after putting a load of clothes on. Mary lent me a jumper for the day even though she was heading off after the relay. “You’re about the same size as me” she said, as I looked at it, dubious that I’d even get it on. Well, turns out I am actually a bit too large for a “Gap Kids” hoody, but I could just about wriggle in and it kept me warm nonetheless! 😀

Onto the solo race after a longer than anticipated wait (should have gone and got food instead of just a snack after all). I think Paul (the organiser) was sort of making this up as he went along. Round 1 was 4 random heats and I was in heat 3. We sploshed into the lake from a pontoon this time and I raced round with a chap called Alan. I just beat him to it, winning the heat.

Swim exit, round 1

Swim exit, round 1

Round 2 (3 heats) and everyone was petitioning to only have 3 rounds instead of 4 (the original email said 5 or 6!). I wasn’t too fussed either way, but rain was forecast, it was all taking quite a long time and people were dropping like flies, so it seemed a sensible option. We set off and I was in a heat with Alan again. This time he just beat me to the line.

Smile for the camera!

Smile for the camera!

Round 3 was the final one and we were sorted into an ‘A’ and ‘B’ final. I was in ‘A’. Alan had promised he was going to really go for it on the swim this time and I should try and draft him. I hastily got into position at the start, and I did try … but then he was off without me! I wonder if I could have hit it harder, but I’m not sure. Anyway, 4 men including Andrew from our club were in front of me as we started biking. By now it was pouring with rain and the course was a bit slipperier. I was annoyed at myself for dabbing on one corner, but it was no big deal. In the end I cruised into the finish a comfortable 4th place, and 1st female.

Since I am a numbers sort of person, I was pleased to see this evidence from the day:

Foxake splits

After all these shenanigans we finished 2 hours early and I was even able to get a lift back to town with Andrew, which meant I could fit in a long-overdue visit to my pals for dinner. It was worth it even though I had already paid for my train ticket back. I can only apologise to his wife for all the mud that went into a pristine looking car …

Full results here (relay) and here (solo) and many thanks to Louise Smith and Andy Upton for the photos.

Coniston Old Man Triathlon

This was a race where my legs rebelled against my requests!

When I first considered this race, I was going to make it a ‘B’ race. This means it would only be of moderate importance. However, there was a race I wanted to use to train for Itera on the same weekend as my preferred race, so I changed this to an ‘A’ race. This meant I was targeting it. I generally only have two A races a year (coach’s instructions).

Everything had gone to plan in the lead up to the race. I had been doing run training on a consistent basis and managed not to catch any bugs. 10 days before the race I went down on the train to ride the bike course. What a shock to the system! It was definitely tough. It was good to know what was coming up though, and it spurred me into resting well and saving every gram I could to make those climbs easier.

Fast forward to race day and I had done a lot of prep. All the extra kit I had for the recce was left in the tent (multi-tool, mudguard, mini lock, phone, coat etc). I had even bought a smaller, lighter seat pack and had a haircut on Friday! In total I think I was ready to start the race carrying nearly 2.5kg less 🙂 .

Swim – 2km in Coniston Water

Target 35 mins
Actual: 32 mins, 7th out of water, 1st female (just!)

This was my favourite and most successful part of the race. The water was pretty warm compared to my last open water swim at Portobello (which is in the North Sea and generally colder than English lakes 😀 ). I was striking out alone after the first 400m or so as the people I was drafting dropped off the pace and I couldn’t catch the lead group by that point. We had to do two big laps. On the return leg of each I had trouble sighting anything as the marker was so far away and I couldn’t see the swimmers in front. I felt I might be veering wildly off course, but by sighting off a small headland, soon enough the buoy came into view.

Transition 1 – run across a field and up a hill!

Target: 8 mins
Actual: 7:23

I even managed to eat a banana on my way up! Other than that, the transition was unremarkable.

Bike – 71.5km, 1500m ascent

Targets: Really good <3h, Realistic 3:02, “OK” 3:08
Actual 3:09, 29th overall, 4th female

There is a lot of climbing on this course. I generally like climbs, but here two of the hills are very steep (up to 30% in places) and are not much to my liking. I wobbled up Wrynose and completely missed Chris Boardman, who was apparently giving everyone a little cheer!

Warning! Steep hills await you.

Warning! Steep hills await you.

Hardknott pass, winding up to the horizon

Hardknott pass, winding up to the horizon

My target times were based on a 70km course and I also got held up at a red traffic light for a little while.  So my time was actually OK compared to target, but my legs did not feel ‘zippy’ like they do when they are good. This is hard to explain, but when everything comes together and I ask my legs to do something hard, they just respond and I feel great. On this day, right from the first proper hill I could feel that things weren’t like that!

I had to fight and had low moments when I even thought ‘what if I just stopped?’ (Of course, I never would!). On the plus side, I rode my own race and didn’t respond when both Sally and Bonnie came past (I expected these two girls to be contending). I also ate well, snacking on the feast of various treats I had prepared on Thursday night.

Riding up Wrynose

Riding up Wrynose

However, by the end of the ride I had slight stomach stitches and my back was very sore. I think this was from riding such steep hills out of the saddle, which I’m just not used to. I had kept stretching out on the bike, but it’s not so easy to do this effectively when you’re on the move!

Transition 2

Target: <1:30
Actual: 1:45

Run – 18km off-road hill run

Targets: Really good <2:30, Realistic 2:35, “OK” 2:50, Bad >3h
Actual: 2:57, 26th overall, 5th female

View of what we had to run up and round

View of what we had to run up and round

My plan was to finish the bike in my target time feeling like I had something left for the run. Unfortunately, given the ‘disobedient leg’ situation, I started the run feeling pretty tired! I set off anyway, and soon got hot, really hot. Luckily, I recognised the signs from the 2 day in Wales last year, when I got a sort of heat stroke or heat exhaustion from running too hard in hot sun. At the first stream I could easily reach, I stopped and scooped cold water all over my head and neck and face and arms. I also started drinking a lot. As I reached higher ground there was a wind and it was a bit cooler. I was very grateful for this!

Starting the run, still looks like 'running' here

Starting the run, still looks like ‘running’ here

Apart from my problems with the heat, the uphill was as hard to get up as the ones on the bike. I felt like it was Wrynose all over again! My legs were burning, but I was accompanied by a couple of guys who kept me motivated to carry on pushing. As we reached the ridge, a few people caught up and I stumbled and nearly fell hard, only just saving myself. This happened twice, then I realised that my brain was probably addled due to lack of glycogen. I hadn’t been eating for a while due to the slight cramps coming of the bike. These had now gone away so I munched some more snacks.

I had been in 3rd place for several hours, but on the descent of Coniston a girl just flew past me. She cheerily asked “is your ankle OK?!” I thought, er no … this is just how I always run down hills! There was nothing I could do to respond. I wanted to stop trying then, but didn’t!

Hardly 'running' any more

Hardly running anymore

I've got nothing left in the tank!

I’ve got nothing left in the tank!

I felt the run had been a bit of a failure, as I was well off my target time. But the girl was the only person to pass me on the tricky part of the course, and the results later showed that my relative placing for the run stage overall was actually better than for the bike. This is very rare for me and suggests I was either having a really bad bike, or a better run than it felt!

As I got back to lower ground, I started cooking again, but I had no water left and there were no handy streams so I had to just tough it out. I was determined to run all the way, including the uphill finish which is a sting in the tail! As I crossed the line, my legs crumpled underneath me and I am rarely so relieved to be able to stop.

Overall

Targets: Really good 6:10, Realistic 6:22, “OK” 6:35, Bad >7h
Actual: 6:48, 25th overall, 4th female

I was left feeling a bit flat after this race, as I put so much in but didn’t really enjoy it and didn’t feel I had performed to my potential. I also can’t pinpoint any clear reason for this. These things seem to matter more when you’ve decided a race is important! However, my coach said “you only fail if you fail to try”. I certainly wasn’t falling short in the effort I put in. Afterwards I had sore legs right up until the next weekend. This is certainly one race that you don’t bounce back from two days later!

Big well done to top adventure racer Sally Ozanne, who smashed the race to finish first lady and 4th overall.

Finally, don’t worry as my next post will be all about a race where I had a lot more fun :D.

Haglöfs Open 5 Hamsterley Forest

The two-week run up to the January Open 5 event went better than usual for me. I traditionally get some sort of bug around this time of year. This time was no different, but I managed to shake it off quite effectively. I also came to the race straight from 2 weeks of Christmas holiday. This meant I’d only had a mountain bike to play on and consequently had done a lot more Open 5–like riding than usual. My head and legs were tuned!

I got a lift to the race from Alan, who fortuitously lives near to my mum and also has a nice barn not too far from the event centre. We hadn’t met before and I was very grateful for the help. We went up on Saturday, got settled and I stuffed myself with pasta before a quick trip to the pub (orange and lemonade; I’m a ‘serious’ racer, don’t you know 😉 ) and into bed. In the morning it was very frosty and icy on the roads, so it took as little while longer to get there than expected. Lucy was already ready and waiting for me.

Does this look like serious planning?!

Does this look like serious planning?!

We picked up the maps and had a quick plan. I think for once we both felt more like catching up with friends and chatting! The start was a couple of km away down a hill. It was still cold, so I was glad to get running.

We went straight up a hill, with me desperately trying to find enough air to talk and run at the same time. After the first control we were out onto open moorland. The ‘footpath’ was vague / non-existent and we were soon lifting our legs up over the heather.

My ankles held up well, but it was rather hard work and we weren’t moving very fast. This influenced our decision on route choice as we headed a long way out to the corner of the map along well made paths. After a 3km run downhill on a fireroad where I was still having trouble keeping up with Lucy (it’s not just the rough stuff!), I was tired for a different reason. ‘Are we nearly there yet?’, I kept asking. We decided to pick up a 15 pointer that was more or less on the way home, then got slightly misplaced looking for the final control worth 30 points. We made our way through low hanging tree branches, waded across a large river and squelched around until we found it. I was on the tow for the last 20 minutes and was glad of the extra assistance.

A typical view, heather, heather, heather

A typical view, heather, heather, heather

We joked that this was Lucy’s day to make me run extra instead of me making her bike extra! We got into transition after 2h15 compared to our normal target of 2h. The bike map was awkward with high-value controls at both ends of a map stretching across the diagonal. If we had known the control values before starting, I think it would have been better to bike first – but that decision is already made before you get them!

It was uphill again, with Lucy trying out a new-to-her 29er bike. There were some loud crunching noises and comedy spinning legs as gears were changed in the wrong direction, and one no-harm-done fall as the cleats failed to disengage. The biggest problem was the chain suck after we had been through mud, which caused a few stop-dead moments.

The route included a couple of sections of red grade singletrack which were a lot of fun. I whooped a bit as we flew along. I misjudged the quickest route between two of the controls in the forest and we met up again with a couple of friends we had passed going the same way. Then I saw James Kirby the photographer and was so excited! He missed us last time …

Big Grin!

Big Grin!

After a while the cold was getting to us. We had more stops than usual to put on coats and try to make cold fingers work with fiddly zips and buckles. I was conscious Lucy wasn’t her usual zooming self but there wasn’t much I could do about the cold, other than hope for another uphill … which only meant more hard work! At least the nice couple out for a walk cheered us up when they said: “you’re doing much better than the last lot who came past!”

We finished with a road section around Hamsterley. I took the opportunity to give a few helpful pushes where I could, but my legs were starting to pop as well. We got back to the finish only a few minutes late and made good use of the trail centre bike wash.

At prizegiving, we found we had won our category, though our overall score / placing was a bit down on where we’d be on our best days. Looking at the ways other people went, a more circular run across the heathery stuff might have been better. These things are easy to work out later though, sitting at home with a computer and a cup of tea! It just shows how getting the right strategy is such an important part of these races. You make reasoned decisions and live with them. The impact can vary from ‘slight’, to ‘get away with it’, to ‘disaster’!

I still had a great day out and really enjoyed both the running and biking. My spirits were immeasurably higher than last month and it was the best way to finish off the holidays. I knew it was a tough day as I was rather light-headed when I finished and needed to eat immediately. I was also barely capable of doing anything the next day, even after pizza and 11h sleep 😮 .

I headed home in a car full of podium placers – me, Chris (male pairs) and Anna (female pairs). Second set of thanks for a lift in one weekend 🙂 . It was good to get back home!

One last comment on this race – I was testing out my new (Christmas present) Amphibia X-Bag. It’s designed as a triathlon transition bag but also worked perfectly as an Open 5 transition bag …. My run pack and kit, my bike pack and kit, shoes, water, spare jacket, bits and bobs – all swallowed up into one bag and I could still pedal with it comfortably over my shoulder. I’m looking forward to putting it though its paces some more this year 😀

Hamster bag 1

Hamster bag 2

Where did the year go?

2013 in numbers

RaceResultsGraph

LiftsCar

DisciplineDistances

 

Travelling

2013 in words

Best triathlon overall

Trophy
***Trident Tri, Ripon***
Why? For great organisation, reasonable entry fee, free camping and entry to the fancy house and gardens, equitable treatment of the women’s race, fast course, cash prizes, post-race cool-off paddling pool. What more could you ask for?!

Most fun triathlon

Trophy
***Craggy Island Tri, Kerrara***
Why? You get to swim to an island with no roads, race round an interesting off-road course with captive spectators and run over a hill with stunning views.

Biggest disappointment

ThumbsDown
***Slateman triathlon***
I had made this race one of my two target races for the year, but felt I under-performed compared to my capability. I learnt from it though!

Biggest achievements

ThumbsUp

  • Aberfeldy Middle Distance Tri. My second target race of the year. Despite being ill, I gave it all I could. Couldn’t have been prouder of my Scottish Championship bronze!
  • 220 triathlon magazine article published.
  • Shropshire Open 5. The series final racing with Lucy. We had been gradually improving and this was where it all came together in a fantastic performance.

Best new experience

***Dundee half marathon***
Well, I have done a half marathon before, but it was very many years ago! I entered this one at short notice and surprised myself at how much I enjoyed it and how well I did. I even squeaked into the top 10 of a proper running race with a large field!

Top 3 gripes

  • Split female waves in open-water races
  • Drafting in non-drafting races
  • Quality of veggie food options at races! (special mention to Wild Rover Food though)

Best and worst aspects of training

🙂 Mini adventures
😦 5:15am alarms to go swimming

Most under-rated form of training for triathlon

***Adventure Racing!***
I don’t know how I’d keep fit and motivated all winter if I didn’t have an Open 5 to look forward to every month 🙂

Thoughts on prizes

Prizes
I really like purple Haglöfs carry-alls, snugly bodywarmers, Tricentre vouchers, buffs and beer for Andy and excuses to spend cash prizes at the women’s specific triathlon store tent. I am not so keen on free entry to a race in 5 days time, 236km from where I live.

Big Thank Yous

For coaching:
Scott

For fixing my creaking body:
Kirsty, Graham, Ola

For spectating supporters:
Andy K, mum, dad, Chris, Heili, the Weetman clan, Laure

For lifts to and from races in order of first appearance:
Tom, Ian, Glen, dad, Pete, Andy B, Andy M, Lucy, mum, Jon, Stuart, Peter, Chris, Jo, Elizabeth, Chris & Anna, Marc

2013 in pictures

Snowman Triathlon 2013

The new incarnation of this race in Snowdonia is not to be underestimated. By the time I finished, I was exhausted and craving sweets, Pepsi and baked beans.

The water for the 750m swim was on the cold side, but not unbearable. I couldn’t decide where to position myself though. The shoreline on our left jutted out and we had to swim between that and a buoy on our right, before angling left to the next buoy, where we turned right. To the left, and I would get trapped in shallow water against the shore. To the right, and I might get squeezed as we passed the buoys.

_DSC3963

I opted for the middle, which was a mistake! The hooter went, we sprinted, I got mangled, shoved, and pushed under water. I nearly panicked but had to hold my nerve. It was all made harder by the fact we were swimming into a strong headwind. There were lots of white horses making the water even rougher than it already was with the flailing arms and legs. As we turned right I was being physically pushed and elbowed. I got a bit fed up and started fighting back, giving a few elbow shoves of my own. It finally got easier after this and I worked on swimming harder.

Get me out of here!

Get me out of here!

Compared to last year, the bike course had been more than doubled in length to 69km and included some significant hills. We had driven round it the day before, but it didn’t give the same sense of steepness that the legs felt during the race!

The first section was uphill into a headwind. A group of guys came past drafting, but I just tried to ignore them. We were soon on a fast, twisting, almost single lane descent. I was very pleased that no cars tried to come past and I got down safely. The next section was slightly downhill and very fast.

Suddenly two girls came past together, working hard. My competitive urge kicked in and I picked up the pace to stay near them. We turned to go up something described as ‘the wall’ in the briefing notes. I hoped here that my standard road bike compared to their TT bikes might help … but they were strong bikers and halfway up we were still together. I changed gears and heard a funny noise. I glanced down and saw a tough little stick wedged around my rear derailleur. The timing couldn’t be worse! I had to stop, get off, yank it out – and by then they were gone and out of sight. From chatting later to some of the other competitors who also saw them pass, they stayed close for a lot of the ride. In some ways I was glad I wasn’t tempted to tag along and risk falling foul of drafting rules (7m is a big gap). I might also have been too tired to run! On the other hand, I was on my own again and mentally battling to keep my pace.

Hills and high speed!

Hills and high speed!

After a bit of a ‘wobble’ I made sure I ate and drank everything I had on me and it had a good effect. I got up the big long hill past the slate caverns, overtaking a couple of men on the way. Some lovely people in the middle of nowhere were clapping. When I waved I got a fabulous cheer. Most welcome! The descent on the other side was amazingly awesome. I glanced down at my gps a couple of times and saw I was going at over 80km/h! Wowee. A record. 😀

I was feeling good now and fired up the final hill to transition, keeping my average speed well above target.

Setting off on the run I saw Andy, who shouted encouragement at me. We had to run to the top of Moel Siabod and back down again. Climbing the mountain was much harder than last year. I think this was due to the longer, hillier bike. Every time I attempted something faster than a shuffle, my lower back screamed at me to stand up straight – which isn’t helpful when you need to lean into the hill to run! Eventually things got better. The top of the mountain was shrouded in fog and it was blowing a gale. I was cold but didn’t stop to put my jacket on. It did illustrate why there were rules to take full windproof body cover though – which I’m sure many didn’t from what I saw them carrying (or not!).

Just starting the final section

Just starting the final section

Turning at the top I descended quite well – for me. The killer of this run is the final section. You’re almost back where you started, when you have to take a detour through the forest on a fireroad that demands you run fast. My legs were burning but I was determined to finish hard! In the end, my run time was slower than last year, which I was disappointed about. However, I really had nothing left at the end and felt I couldn’t have done much more. I was 5th female (though funnily, first in my age group as I was beaten by 4 veteran ladies!).

Jane Hansom took a well deserved win with a flying run. A natural fell runner in the making?! Rhian, who was in contention for the series had tummy problems on the bike and decided not to run up a mountain. It must have been a tough decision for her. The two fast cyclists, Rebecca Slack and Suzetta Guerrini took the other podium spots. Results.

I'm tired...

I’m tired…

My confidence took a bit of a knock knowing there were a few girls way ahead on the bike. It is usually my best leg of the race. I also thought I might do better with the longer distances. In fact, reviewing the results in context compared to the full field, my bike was good and it was the run which really let me down – as is often the case! I also finished 31st overall, out of 175 (27th fastest bike), which is alright.

Sometimes I find it hard to judge my performance as there are so many variables. I can race and perform well but not place as high because of stronger competition or more depth in the field. Or maybe sometimes I just don’t perform as well as I could. This time, factors could include end of season accumulated fatigue or low motivation.

But in the end, I know I definitely feel ready for a break. Time for a week off work and 4 weeks off racing. 🙂

Post-race relaxation - making marzipan Chelsea buns!

Post-race relaxation – making marzipan Chelsea buns!

Thanks Andy Kirkland for the photos!

Anglesey Sandman 2013

A strong performance from me, but only good enough for 4th place. I have to remind myself that this still counts as a ‘short’ race! Plus, a little discourse on the importance of how the women’s race is managed in a high profile, televised event …

So I was down in Wales at my dad’s house to do the Sandman race again. Last year I had a terrible time; I was fatigued after 5 days of non-stop racing in the Terrex, I had a sore knee, it was wet, windy and cold, and I got a puncture.

Mostly my aim this year was to have a better time of it :-).

Andy was also racing, and I had promised him that this course truly did suit him. He was targeting it, but managing to stay relatively calm beforehand.

After I had set up transition, the TV crew wanted to do an interview. I duly obliged, and then took the opportunity to speak to them about parity of coverage with the men’s race (it had been almost non-existent for the Slateman earlier in the year). They were sympathetic, but said it was hard to get film of everyone on a limited budget.

Hmm, I'm sure I left my bike here somewhere ... (picture Andy Kirkland)

Hmm, I’m sure I left my bike here somewhere …

Into the race, and there were two waves. I have no idea how they were split, but there were a mix of men and women in both. We had a long walk down the beach to the start and I almost left it too late. Just a scrambled dip in the sea to get wet and check my goggles before I had to run out to get onto the start line. It was absolute mayhem swimming out to the first buoy and turning left along the shore, but I survived then concentrated on overtaking people. I would need to be much more aggressive to get a good start!

The transition went well and I was soon out biking. It was lovely and warm this year – so no need for an extra top. It was also much less windy, which meant there were far fewer problems with people drafting (cheating). I got mildly annoyed with a couple of men who kept overtaking me after I had overtaken them … but this is fairly normal.

I worked consistently hard, alternating drinking from my two bottles, one with water and one with Torq solution. I got a bit of a shock when the lid flew off one of them! Miraculously, I somehow kept the bottle in my hand, the lid in my teeth and only some of the drink sloshed all over me. I was also regularly chomping on a Clif bar. I had experimented with opening the wrapper, breaking it into bits and putting it in my trisuit pocket under my wetsuit. This would save hassle later in the race. It worked OK, apart from being slightly soggy on the outside!

No girls overtook me, but I didn’t pass any either. I was very pleased to see that the film crew might have taken on board some of what I said earlier. They came past filming me for a bit, then went up the road, presumably to the two women up ahead and the men. They also filmed me as I did my transition to the run, so I tried hard to play it cool 😎 .

The run started off with some fun on a new boardwalk. I was pleased that only a few men overtook me. But it was very hot, and the sun was scorching. How could we be running through woods but not have any shade?! I remembered from last year that it was flat for a while then climbed uphill to cross a road. That’s where the drinks station would be at 7km. I felt quite slow but kept plugging away. I had eaten two gels and was ready for a cup of water at the drinks zone. Only 3km to go, downhill, but this is where it got all sandy!

Finishing off the run

Finishing off the run

In the end, my run time was much better than last year, but slower than I had hoped. I knew I had worked hard though, as I remember telling one of the marshals that the run was ‘like torture’ and I collapsed onto the floor at the end for a breather. The cameras were there again and the interviewer was pleased with my dramatic finish! The announcer shouted that I was 3rd female. Time for another interview.

But I was keeping my eye on my watch. I knew the second wave had set off 10 minutes behind, and were wearing different coloured numbers. After a few minutes another girl came in with a green number. I was fairly sure that meant she was 3rd and I was 4th. A bit later, they announced that this was the case (at least they didn’t leave it until prize giving this time).

I bumped into the camera crew again and they were disappointed for me. “You were demoted!” they exclaimed. I think now they understood why I was frustrated that the women had been split into two waves.

I was beaten fairly by over 3 minutes. I had a better bike leg and on paper was ahead at the start of the run. Personally, I like the excitement of head-head racing, of knowing where I am in relation to the rest of the field and racing tactically. The psychology of competition helps me produce more than I am ever capable of in training. The best example of this in racing this year was at the Trident Tri in Ripon. I could see the leading and chasing women at every out and back point and remember riding like a crazy woman with fear, thinking I had to get as much of a cushion as I could for the run! It worked.

The organisers here put on a race with a great route and do a good job of attracting all sorts of people from beginners to elite. They are making the sport accessible and many competitors were taking it on as a serious challenge. It is just my opinion that the racing at the front end would be better if they put all the women into one wave. It would also make it much easier for the TV crew to create fair coverage. They now have lots of footage and finishing interviews of places 1, 2, and … 4. This makes it hard for them to put together a good story for the women.

Jane Hansom won, finishing 10th overall and miles ahead of me. Rhian Roxburgh (clear winner at Slateman) was 2nd, and Helen Talbot 3rd. Results. All three will be racing at the Snowman, so I’ll have my work cut out to break my Always Aim High podium duck for the year!

Me before the race. See how sunny it is?!

Me before the race. See how sunny it is?!

I didn’t expect Andy to be much slower than me. He started in wave two, so I ran back out along the beach and eventually saw him coming in. I enthusiastically made a loud noise with a clacking hand and cheered him on. He didn’t seem too happy though … oops. I refrained from running next to him and instead let him get ahead a bit, nipped up the sand dunes and met him at the end. He was a wreck. He hadn’t eaten or drunk nearly enough and seemed to have mild heat exhaustion. I sat him down and got him drinks and bits of orange and biscuits. But he was also bitterly disappointed with his race so it took a while for him to recover his usual buoyant mood. Here’s his report. I think I do deserve several gold stars though. I managed to refrain from saying ‘well, I did try to tell you that one bottle of water on the bike and two gels would not be enough’ …. at least, until a few days later! 😀

If your host is on a water meter and has a septic tank, then you can improvise with post-race wetsuit washing!

If your host is on a water meter and has a septic tank, then you can improvise with post-race wetsuit washing!

Thanks to Andy Kirkland for most of the photos.

Gullane Beach Triathlon

A bonus race with a bonus result!

After Craggy Island I had three weeks in my plan to get my calf sorted and get well before the next race. It seemed feasible.  At the race, Marie had mentioned she was doing the Gullane Beach Tri, which is almost my most local event, and asked if I was too. I wasn’t, but it made me think maybe I could, and I checked the website. Sold out and too late for the entry list.

I mentioned it to my coach, Scott, then forgot about it. A few days later I got an email.

Turn up on the day early – organiser says you will race.

Sure enough, this is also what the website suggested. Suddenly I was interested again! There was a risk to my calf though … so I waited until my first interval training since the half marathon, to see how it went. I was ‘controlled’ with my efforts, and all was well.

Ten perfectly paced intervals, with a special effort on number 9, just to see if I still could!

Ten perfectly paced intervals, with a special effort on number 9, just to see if I still could!

Next mission – getting a lift to the start early enough to get on-the-line entry. Marie offered to pick me up at 7 … too late I thought. I could camp the night before – but left work far too late on Friday to get sorted and get the train over.  Scott was going the night before to set up the swim course. Friday evening I texted Glen … and got the reply … we can pick you up at 6:30!!

I was (hopefully) going to race!

This coincided with my first full week of feeling well, so on race day I was high as a kite and bouncing off the walls.

A beautiful beach

A beautiful beach

After a high speed dash along the coast, we got there very early, I got a spot no problem, and a great position in transition at the end of a row. It was chilly, but I was confident it would warm up when the sun came out.

Hey! They're all following me!

Hey! They’re all following me!

The swim was really tough! I think I always say that, but this time I really mean it :-D. The waves looked tiny from the beach and there was only a bit of a breeze. This was my first ever beach start – we ran into the sea and it was wall to wall bodies. Then we headed into the wind toward the first buoy and I realised how wavy it really was. It made sighting tricky as it was luck whether I got a view of the orange marker, or the side of a wave. It was even harder on the way back as it was quite a long way between the buoys. I was drinking far too much sea water and completely failing to draft, as always! The course was two laps, and we had to run out, round a flagpole and back in again. I was shocked that I could hardly breathe when I launched myself into lap two.

 

Heading in for more

Heading in for more

Blackberry-lined transition run

Blackberry-lined transition run

Still, it was soon done and I was running up the sand dune and along a path back to transition. I was tempted to stop for a few juicy blackberries, but resisted.

The bike course takes in some of the country lanes of East Lothian. I passed teammate Louise, who was the fastest female swimmer. Then I was riding up the hill. I concentrated on keeping my speed up and trying to chase down someone in blue up ahead. He turned out to be a great carrot for me – as he’d get away a bit, I’d re-focus, pull him back a bit – until I finally caught him with just a few km to go.

My favourite bit was overtaking a man on a proper time trial bike with a big disc wheel on lap 2. You can have a fancy bike, but you’ve still got to pedal fast and no free wheeling!!

 

Transition carnage!

Transition carnage!

I hadn’t seen any other girls, but didn’t know what my position was until I started the run. This is when some of the marshals told me I was leading! Yay! My plan had been to have a hard swim and bike, and keep it steady on the run, if I could. This would be a good test of my calf without pushing it too hard. So I kept a decent pace, but took time to thank all the very friendly marshals. I was too out of breath to say much though, so little hand waves had to do.

The course was two laps, with an out and back at one end. I saw the other girls behind. Only one looked close enough to catch me. I kept going and was still in the lead as I set off on the out and back again. There was a little loop in some trees at the far end and as I emerged I couldn’t see ‘the girl in black’ going the other way. Uh-oh, I thought, she’s probably closing in and already on that loop! As I approached the last few hundred metres I looked over my shoulder and could see two people in black approaching. Things were no more defined than that! So I picked the pace up and pushed hard to the end. Good job I did, as Megan Mowbray had a storming run and flew in just 7 seconds behind!

You've been chicked!

You’ve been chicked!

A very exciting finish and a fantastic race for me. Fellow Celtman competitor, Laura Sarkis was third. Full results here. The prize was more than I expected – a £100 voucher for the Tri Centre. The free post race food even included a decent veggie option and I picked up another bottle of speciality beer for Andy.

Lots of the club were out racing and supporting and there was a great atmosphere. Thanks for all the cheers! Whilst we’re on the thanks, Lesley Marshall took some great pictures, Scott always gives good advice, whilst Kirsty works her magic on my legs when I keep abusing them. Finally a special word for Glen and Heili for picking me up so early. Couldn’t have done it without you guys :-).

Aberfeldy Middle Distance Triathlon

A Scottish Championship event for which I dragged myself to the start and in which I got a surprise.

This was my main target event for the year. In the run up most things had been going well. I got a pb at my club time trial. I was consistently doing harder swim sessions. Even my running was going OK, except when I slightly pulled a calf muscle ‘practising’ a half marathon.

The race was on Saturday. On Friday 9 days before, I noticed a slight sore throat. I thought nothing of it, though it was still there on Saturday when I went up to Aberfeldy to ride round the bike course. By Sunday I was struck down and barely made it out of the house to get food in. Yes, even when ill I thought the most important thing was to get some food so that I could cook and eat healthily for the rest of the week. How else would I get better?!

Unfortunately, this bug was more like something I’d expect in the first week of January. I got headaches, sore throat, a cough, croaky voice, wheezy, gunk in my chest … hmm … lovely. By Thursday I did feel a bit brighter, though on Friday I felt worse again. By now we were up in the area, sightseeing, but had to abandon plans and go back to the B&B for a lie down. Yikes!

I was determined to race anyway, so I registered and got ready to go. There were some advantages to being ill though.

  1. I was very rested – no training in the previous 7 days!
  2. I stopped worrying about my calf
  3. No energy or enthusiasm to get over-stressed about the race the week before or succumb to negative performance pressure

Race morning began very early. Too early. 5:15am is not my kind of time! We drove the length of Loch Tay to the swim start in Kenmore. By the time I had got kit out of the car, walked half a mile to the transition area and racked my bike, I was short of time. But I needed to go to the toilet and the queue was huge. I waited for a bit then gave up in a panic about getting my timing chip and missing the briefing. I got my chip and found Andy. He insisted I went back to the toilet. He was right, I suffered with tummy craps from at Celtman last year from not going when I needed to and it wouldn’t be good to get that again. Slowly the queue diminished, I went as quick as I could and then raced back down to the start. Andy filled me in on the briefing; “go round those buoys anti-clockwise”. And then I was getting in the water.

Swim start

Swim start

It wasn’t cold, but it was a bit of a swim out to the start line. After waiting a while the hooter went – some people had barely got in and were a long way off the start! Just like some other races I’ve done this year, it was rough and crowded. I was a bit surprised, as the start line was very long and we were heading all the way over to the other side of the loch. I expected to have more space! After the turn west at the first buoy we were going into the wind. It got choppy and harder to breathe, and still it was crowded. My goggles were nearly knocked off and someone else almost pushed me under.

Swim exit: on the right next to the people walking with my head just out of the water!

Swim exit: on the right next to the people walking with my head just out of the water!

On a different day in a more combative frame of my mind, I would have done better on this leg. As it was, I just swam and tried to survive. I could feel I was a long way down the field when I got out. Looking at the results later, this was indeed the case. Times aren’t much to go on as course lengths can be so variable from the quoted distance. In this event, it was definitely short, but my relative position told me I hadn’t had a good day in the water.

Later it turned out neither Andy nor Chris (my two supporters!) had seen me get out and they were having a bit of a panic. The organiser even checked the chip times to confirm I was on my way. On close inspection of Andy’s photos when we got home, we found one with me in it!

I had a slightly slower transition than usual as I ate a banana to keep me going on the long bike. This is the first time I’ve done this length of triathlon so it was a bit of an experiment.

 

I enjoyed the start of the ride and got up the big hill alright. Everyone was sorting out their positions at this stage so about equal numbers overtook me as I overtook. Over the top of the hill and round the back of Schiehallion (a big mountain!) we were suddenly exposed to the wind. Some very strong gusts made me wobble and almost lose control of the bike. Small twigs were flying off the trees and bits of dust were getting my eyes. I slowed down and took the sharp winding descent rather cautiously.

The effort from the climb induced a minor coughing fit, but as soon as we got to the bottom I knew it was time to get my head down and get my average speed up!

Funny shaped course profile

Funny shaped course profile

This section of the race is very long and potentially monotonous. It’s a 35km lap of Loch Rannoch. The road is almost flat. The views consist of trees and water. By now I was riding almost alone. I tried to keep anyone who went past in sight for as long as possible. I also kept looking at my speed. I was consciously trying to keep it at about 34-36km/h. This was taking a lot of concentration as I ‘naturally’ seemed to want to go at about 30km/h!  But I knew it was a test to see if I could make my legs hurt like this and still run afterwards. I managed to drink and eat well here too – chomping on some bars every half hour. That liquorice allsports Mule bar was the business!

Over the final bridge into town

Over the final bridge into town

At the bottom of the return hill my overall average was 30.7km/h. I knew this would drop as I climbed. From my recce I also knew that even though the hill was steep, it was short! Pleasingly, I overtook quite a few people who appeared out of nowhere in front of me on the climb. But it was still blowing a gale and the going was much tougher than the last time I had been this way. At the top I was down to 29.4km/h – I had time to make up!

And so I descended back towards Aberfeldy at speed. The rain was coming down hard now and felt like needles pinging off my face. I scrunched my eyes up and hoped nothing would jump out in front of me! Coming back into town after a fast tailwind assisted run alongside the river, my average was 30.4km/h on a slightly long course. Before I got ill, I had done ‘dream day’, ‘realistic day’ and ‘bad day’ target times. 30km/h was my ‘bad day’ target time so I was pleased to be over that, at least.

And so it was time for the run. I started stiffly, with tight hip muscles and suddenly noticeably cold and numb feet. I tried to keep a rhythm and an eye on my pace. My new watch came in handy here! It bleeped cheerfully after every mile and slowly I could see the distance add up. Lots of things went through my mind on the run. Like: This road is quite dull and I would rather run up a hill. I should keep my arms high and my feet light. Where are the leading women coming the other way? Is it gel time? Where was that drinks station? Hmm, I wouldn’t fancy a marathon like this. Are girls with numbers 600+ in a relay even if their number isn’t red? Ow, my calf is sore again, but it lasted a while. Maybe this distance on a road isn’t so bad after all. Oh, this run suddenly seems so easy (mile 8). I am dying, can I stop yet (mile 9)?…

The finishing straight

The finishing straight

Finally I was back at the road junction where we turned towards town and the end was almost in sight. I had looked over my shoulder a few times and was fairly confident no-one was chasing me down from behind. I still worked hard to the finish. As it turned out, the next girl after me was having a blistering run – so I’m glad I never let up!

In the end, I was disappointed with my swim time, thought the bike was OK and was thoroughly relieved to have survived the run in what for me was a respectable time at an untested distance in a race like this (1:40 – though I measured the route a bit short at 20.3km). My overall time of 5:15 was close to my ‘realistic day’ target.

Waiting at prize giving, I thought I was 5th. So I was very surprised to hear my name being called for a Scottish Championship medal for third! This is because one of the girls I thought was ahead was actually in a relay, and another wasn’t eligible for the champs.

Yay! 🙂 It had definitely been worth taking the risk of racing when not 100% well, even though I felt awful the next day!

If I had had a good run up, I am confident I could have gone a bit quicker. However, the result would have been the same as Eleanor Haresign, Allison Stewart and Jen Stewart are all great athletes and finished in times ranging from 4:41-4:51. Something to aspire to – though first I need to work out how to find 5 minutes on the swim, 15 on the bike and 10 on the run! 😀

One question I had for this year was whether this distance would suit me. In my second year of triathlon I am still working out what I am best at. Well, so far I was definitely better at this than the standard distance and I did quite enjoy it. So there’s a good chance I’ll give it another go.

Next up – another championship race – this time the off-road tri, which I have entered for fun. It will be too short, but we get to swim across to an island devoid of roads for the rest of the race – how cool is that?! One thing is for sure, I will be attacking that swim if nothing else!

Knockburn Standard Distance Tri – Scottish Champs

No pictures … I will keep this race report short and to the point!

I entered on a whim, thinking it would be good race training for Aberfeldy. As it was, I went into it with a dodgy calf after my half marathon / St Mary’s Loch exploits. Being a championship race, most of the fast girls in Scotland had also descended. So my expectations weren’t very high!

Getting there

It was much further away than I imagined when I entered! But the time passed quickly as I chattered away to Jo (also from my club and driving us up there). Most exciting incident was that she had mislaid her cards, so I had to pay for the petrol. Being a non-driver without so much as a single lesson in my life, this felt almost illegal!

Swim

We swam to the start as a warm up, in a small man-made loch. We were all in a single wave, everyone fought for position as we headed for the first buoy, which was quite close to the shore. We squeezed through and then it was round and round for 2.5 laps. I was caught between swimmers at times, but didn’t panic. Fronds of weeds wafted beneath me. My time was OK, but not as good as the previous week.

Bike

Despite it being a course of three laps, it was fun. The roads were very quiet and surfaces were good. I enjoyed riding into the headwind on my tri bars (weird), though I saw people pull away from me on the hill. The descent with a tailwind was fast! I was pleased with an improvement in my average speed.

Run

I was scared of this. Faffed in transition putting my training shoes on (with orthotics inside, rather than my normal race shoes). Plodded out, along a rough track and straight up a road hill. Urgh … what hard work, I was fighting not to walk. It was hot. We got to the drinks station and a loop round the forest – it was about here I started enjoying it a bit more.

Jo caught me up but then had to stop to stretch out a cramp in her hamstrings. We were back on the road and downhill all the way to the finish. Soon we could see the loch inviting us down. I overtook a clubmate who I’d been following all run and then there was just one lap of the loch between me and the finish. My calf was actually sore now, but it was nearly over. I could hear footsteps behind me and they sounded suspiciously female – I didn’t look back but thought it must be Jo. It was, but I held her off by 3 secs as we crossed the line smiling 🙂

Results

I was 8th female. Jo was first female veteran. Penny from our club was first super-vet. Full results here. The race was well organised and had an interesting course. I recommend it. I was just relived to have survived with my calf seemingly no worse than when I started.

Just two weeks to go until Aberfeldy! There I’ll be lining up with Alice, who beat me here by 20 minutes, Eleanor, who took 8 minutes out of me at Trident and Catriona, who just came 3rd in the European 70.3 championships. What illustrious company!

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