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Team Lochland Runner – Itera Top Tips

Team Lochland Runner all got together for a training weekend recently. Included on the itinerary were sharing our top tips for expedition adventure racing and planning our strategy! Chloe is new to expedition events, but we have all been in different types of races and can always learn from each other.

I thought I’d share these in case you’re interested in the kinds of things we’re thinking about, or are looking for inspiration! Let us know if you have any questions or other top tips you would share 🙂

FOOD

This is one we talked about many times! I for one like to know where the next meal is coming from and don’t go anywhere without snacks. However, in an expedition race you have to think about what will keep well in your kit bag for a week and make sure there are savoury items on the menu. We may also need to take opportunities that present themselves on the way. We’re just concerned about how well-endowed the race route will be with handy cafes! Since finding hidden cafe gems is one of my special skills, I will have to make sure I don’t spend the pre-race weekend researching detours …

With me being vegetarian and Chloe vegan, it is an extra challenge to think of good ideas and this is still a work in progress. Knowing that hot water is usually available in transition, some of our savoury ideas so far are:

Instant noodles, instant mashed potato, cup a soup, couscous, rice cakes, oatcakes with peanut butter, meals from Tentmeals, Firepot and Summit to Eat (I can vouch for at least one of these being very edible…), German rye bread, flavoured cooked rice pouches…

Sweet things are easier as we can use gels and bars and energy drinks in moderation. Lochland Runner are also helping us out here with Born products. Variety will be key!

FEET

… or more specifically, blister prevention!! Everyone has their own theories on this. Our consensus seemed to be:

  • Get shoes and socks off feet quickly in transition to let them air
  • Have crocs or similar to wear in transition
  • Either talc them or moisturise them
  • Treat hotspots quickly en route with either Compeed or gaffer tape
  • Avoid woolly socks (I find tight fitting, quick drying compression socks work well)
  • Stay hydrated
  • Have a spare pair of running shoes to change pressure points
  • Take sterilised scalpel blades and wipes to burst any big blisters that do appear…

Jon gets his feet up and has a power nap – an essential adventure racing skill

CLOTHING AND KIT

Our discussion about this was more general, as we have to use what we are comfortable in and have tested well. Ideas we shared were:

  • Take shoes for paddling, especially if there is any portage or walking involved (which we now know there will be!)
  • Take two different pairs of shoes for running. If one pair are a bit bigger it can help with swollen feet later in the race
  • Expect to be cold … colder than you expect! The effects of tiredness, night time and low food intake will all affect how warm we feel. I am still surprised how many of the photos from the race in Wales feature trousers and waterproofs …
  • Have spare brake pads for your specific brakes
  • Have enough battery power for your lights
  • Pre-pack food into bags that will last about one stage so you can just take one out in transition
  • Have a heavy duty waterproof bag to shove your backpack in and strap down on paddling stages
  • Pre pack clothing into clear, labelled bags like short sleeves, long sleeves, shorts, trousers
  • Pack as much as you need in transition bag, but no more! The more you have to rummage through or choose between, the longer transitions will take
  • A tick remover per team is essential – they just love the damp Scottish heather and bracken. You need to keep checking and get them out within 24h to minimise risk of Lyme’s disease
  • Caffeine tablets of some kind might come in handy as you pull your fourth all-nighter in a row!
  • Take lip balm, you will not regret it

GENERAL STRATEGY

Well … I obviously can’t reveal too much here, it’s top secret 😀

However, my advice is to definitely discuss this and make sure everyone has the same idea about what you’re trying to achieve. You also need to be realistic about your collective abilities and what to expect from the course so that you can make smart decisions. Although you can’t predict what will happen, having a basic fall back plan and common goals will help make decision making easier.

I’d say things to think about include:

  • Any aims for finishing position in the field
  • Long course / short course
  • How much sleep to expect, when and where
  • Pacing and degree of ambition for different stages
  • Towing and kit distribution
  • Navigators (lead / back up and in different disciplines)
  • Transition process (what order to change, eat, sleep), including ‘checkout’
  • Team roles

Finally, always keep an eye on the details and don’t forget about your hairdo – no washing for a week with plenty of rain, sweat and river or sea water mixed in! I always go super short – I’d better go and get booked in for a cut 🙂

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Itera 2019 Team Introduction

This year my main race will be Itera Expedition race in Scotland in early August. It’s for a team of 4 and we’ll be on the move for 5 days, trekking, mountain biking, kayaking and possible other modes of transport or activity that have yet to be revealed! Here’s a wee introduction to our team and our thoughts about the race.

Team Name: Team Lochland Runner

Team Members: Rosemary Byde, Jon Ellis, Andrea Davison, Chloe Rafferty

Team Information:

We are supported by Lochland Runner, who supply innovative brands for sports like trail running, swimrun, OCR, and orienteeering.

I raced with Jon in Itera Wales – but one of our team members was Paul McGreal who is otherwise occupied this time round (he’s one of the organisers)! Andrea is an Open Adventure regular, has expedition race experience and is making her comeback. Chloe is our secret weapon … she runs events company LoveSwimRun, lives in North Wales and can often be seen out in the mountains biking, climbing, running or swimming.

The most important thing in forming our team was making sure we had similar goals and expectations and that we all have a similar ethos and approach to working together. We’ll be putting that to the test with a training weekend later in June 🙂

Special team skills include engineering, mountain leading, sewing, an obsession with detail, a love of maps and more than one person trained in optimising solutions to problems! As the race goes on, I am sure we will discover many more talents amongst us.

Personalised team map buffs! Can’t think of anything much cooler than that.

Why did we choose to do this and what are our expectations of the race / Scotland?

The Scottish highlands are a wild and beautiful place and we all want to experience more of it. We know we are going to the perfect location for an epic adventure that Paul, Tom, James and the team are sure to deliver.  The anticipation and excitement are already growing.

Whilst the rest of us have done similar races before, this is Chloe’s first time. She’s alternately terrified and excited and can’t wait to race as part of a team. Although the effects of sleep deprivation and how to stay fuelled as a vegan are on her mind, she has been primed for special ‘visual effects’ (sleepmonsters) and someone has promised to carry emergency flapjack supplies 😉

Even though it is the first week of the new school year, Andrea is making her expedition race comeback before she gets ‘too old’! Sleep is on her mind too, as she doesn’t want to miss out on the memories.

However, Jon and I clearly remember the fun, camaraderie and amazing landscapes we moved through last time and nothing was going to stop us entering again …

We’re all relishing the challenge and anticipating the sense of achievement we’ll get from doing the event. We’re going to be pushing ourselves and it has been the motivation for some of us to increase our training, pick up new skills or reacquaint ourselves with old ones. I for one know that whilst I still soldier on with hamstring rehab for running, my mountain bike is seeing significantly more action than recent swimrun years have afforded!

Our expectations are that we will finish mid pack. The most important things are for us to work hard, help each other, make the most of our collective abilities and never stop trying until we get to the finish line!

Finally, one person has already mentioned the dreaded ‘M’ word … we’re all hoping that we’ll be moving too fast for any midges to catch us for breakfast!

Testing out buff and making sure it was one of ‘mine’!

Scurry to the Sea

Andy and I were seeking inspiration for our Sunday long run. Izzy did Scurry to the Sea last year and I liked the idea of it, but it looked sold out. However, as people cancelled and told the organiser, he released spaces … so at about 2030 on Saturday night we grabbed two spaces to do the race early Sunday morning!

Scurry Bag

This set off a flurry of activity, checking logistics and working out a route. The race has 3 checkpoints and free route choice in between. I mainly based my decisions on the route the top people took last year (via Strava stalking). Then I also had to help Andy learn how to use the route following function on his gps, as he had a minor panic about knowing the way.

And so very early on Sunday we were up, cycling over to Musselburgh to register and get a coach up to the ski centre. The route is straight up to the top of one of the hills in the Pentlands (Allermuir), then back via two prescribed points to Musselburgh at the sea, finishing with some obligatory beach running torture.

High tech start line!

The field seemed to be largely made up of Portobello Running Club people! No one wanted to stand on the start line so I edged forward … At the starting signal off we all went, soon power walking the steep bits. I was in 5th place out of the girls and as we turned at the top, I could see there was a bit of a gap to the next. Down we went, and as the terrain got easier and less steep I could see Andy’s friend Sarah up in front. Grace, another friend, had vanished.

As I went along, my watched beeped every km and it looked alarmingly fast. I was concerned I wouldn’t be able to keep this up, but it was downhill … I thought I could catch Sarah and was slowly making ground. As we got to some traffic lights and she hesitated over the route I caught up and showed the way. Out of the feed station I was slightly ahead until the next lights, and so on!

Start line

At the second feed station she accelerated away and opened a gap, which I was holding but making no impression on. She had two teammates with her too! At this point my pace dropped somewhat, though it was more of a step change and stabilise than a terminal nosedive.

All the way along the main feature had been the HEAT. I was boiling and shade seeking. Despite two drinks stops I had some of the water I was carrying ‘for emergencies’. I probably should have had a gel as well, but by the time I decided that, I just wanted to concentrate on getting this thing finished!

Straight up the hill in a sea of Porty vests!

A familiar voice behind on a cycle path cheered me up as a cyclist I know came past yelling encouragement (thanks Sandra!). As I slowed to scale the bridge over the railway I felt quite dizzy and the only option was to keep running or slump to the ground! I gave up on catching Sarah at this point and concentrated on getting to the finish line.

As we turned onto the beach, there it was. But it took a long while to come … as I fell over the line I headed straight for the nearest shade and lay down, squirting water on my face and drinking. 20 minutes later I was feeling alive enough to get up in time to cheer Andy in.

The face says it all …

A great little event, much more taxing than it looked on paper, as I had DOMS for a week afterwards! I was pleased to finish 5th female and 1st vet (14th overall), for which I got an Active Root bottle and sachet and a bottle of something more bubbly! Grace and Sarah were in 3rd and 4th respectively. Well done all 🙂

First vet!

Full results here. Thanks to everyone involved, all the volunteers, the organiser Peter Ness and Kate Freedman who took the photos. After some post-race analysis I am tempted to do it again if I am free next year, if only because I have spotted about 5 places to take a fractionally faster route 😀

Bowhill long duathlon 2018

This one was the race I should have done when The Beast came and dumped snow on us instead. Fortunately, I was still able to make the new date and Damien stepped in to get me there when it turned out my lift couldn’t! We even managed to safely negotiate the clock change and arrive in very good time, if still a little bleary-eyed.

For my warm up I went and investigated the tricky singletrack section at the end of the bike leg, which I remembered from last time I did this race. Hmm, I did not do a great job, though I did see which bits I was likely to have to jump off and run down!

The start of the race was a bit of a jostle and I felt like hoards of people just whizzed away from me up the hill, which affected my confidence. All I could do was keep working at it and keep Caroline (my series rival!) in sight. Sure enough, I eventually came past her as the hill went up and up.

A flattish, bumpy and wet puddly section followed, and I hesitated as a guy came through and cut me up. I was trying to keep pedalling hard when Caroline retook the lead! More hills followed – she pulled away as I had to walk, I caught up as she walked … We entered the top of the singletrack together, which I knew was not to my advantage 😀

As she disappeared I walked / ran / scooted and sometimes even pedalled, although I also fell sideways at one point. My best moment on this part was actually riding the final corner and tree roots after working out the best line in warm up. I nearly skidded on my cleat at the dismount line and transition seemed to take forever as I fumbled into my running shoes.

I thought Caroline would be long gone, and indeed she had gained over a minute on that tricky bike section. Skills pay off! However, we were wearing matching coloured tops and I caught fleeting glimpses of her through the trees up ahead. I was trying to go fast but my shins started screaming at me. I wanted to sort of relax my legs but it was impossible, going uphill and working hard over the terrain!

The run route on this race is an out and back. We turned into the twisting uphill section through the trees and I could see no one. But when we popped out, there she was again. I think I even started gaining just a little bit to the turn and back down …

But then returning to the trees she knew where her strengths lay (on foot, as on bike!) and when we emerged she was well out of sight. I think she must have hurdled the logs I clambered over! I only saw her once more, far in the distance, so instead I focused on beating the guy I’d been going back and forth with for a while!

2nd female and 2nd in the series to Caroline, who played it smart and was better on the technical terrain than I!

I had a jolly time and was pleased to have entered again this year. Now just an Open 5 to go before all focus turns to my first big race of the year – my second ultra – 80km up and down mountains in Snowdonia. Can’t wait!

Falkirk Scottish National XC + Foxtrail 13k

Falkirk – 24th February

Having enthusiastically ‘warmed up’ to cross country, I signed up for the Scottish nationals. They were easy to get to (Falkirk- trains every 15 minutes) and, even better, were 10km long and the same distance for men and women.

The day was bright, dry and sunny. I got there early and had time to potter a bit, peer at the map and jog a lap of the three lap course. It was mostly firm and grassy, with the occasional muddy patch and one or two little steep hills. Apparently this was very benign conditions compared to some other years!

Falkirk XC mass start – so many people!

A mass start saw everyone charge up the first hill. Someone who clearly knew me said something as she passed but I didn’t catch it! (turned out it was my friend Grace). Other members of the club were also cheering on corners which was most encouraging. As we went on, I started to pass people, each time focusing on the next person up ahead.

After 1.5 laps I fixed my gaze on a small group in front who were gradually getting closer. I decided if I was able to reach them and then hold position, I’d be happy! Someone yelled out that I was looking really strong, which made me feel great and sure enough I then caught and passed the little group.

We were now two laps in, but suddenly I felt a bit fuzzy wuzzy and knew I was pushing it just slightly too hard! The only solution was to back off a touch and hope the people behind didn’t notice… They noticed!! I was overtaken again but was getting over my wobble.

Final lap done and dusted and a strong sprint finish saw me finish in 63rd place (out of 271) and a time of 46:04 mins (I recorded the course a little long at 10.5km). Results. Pretty happy with that and think I’ll do a few more next year 🙂

Foxtrail 13km – 10th March

A couple of weeks later and the Beast from the East had been and scattered races in its wake. Andy was heading to the final Foxtrail race of their winter series, a 13km based at Foxlake. I had been due to spectate the first time round as it was the day before a race of my own. However, now I was heading over at a loose end and managed to get a last minute entry.

The weather was no longer white and snowy, but raining and windy! We all huddled shivering at the start, though the fun warm up got us all moving. I did a few of these last year, my best position being 5th, and that in the much longer events. However, as Nicola Duncan sprinted off, I found myself next to two other girls. I passed one of them on a twisting trail through the woods and was working hard to keep up with the other.

I had checked the course map beforehand and had a rough idea where we were going. Unusually, the wind was coming from the east, which meant we had a headwind most of the way out and a tailwind on the way back. I stuck behind this girl (I found out later that her name was Claire), getting as much shelter as I could. I was working a bit harder than I might have chosen, but decided it was worth it to hang on as long as I could. It turns out that her pace was strong and consistent. We steadily caught other runners as we made our way out along the course.

At some point she pulled aside to encourage me to pass, but I genuinely didn’t have the energy to do so! We met a couple of other guys and ran with them instead, turning round a field at the far end and retracing our steps over the bridge I hit my shin on during some other race … The memory of the pain still made me wince!

Now we had a tailwind and I tried to relax. I did eventually pass Claire and encouraged her to stay with me. Through some dunes, rising and falling before turning into the woods. At this point I could hear two girl’s voices behind me, so I knew I had not opened a significant gap. Then Nicola ran past! She had gone the wrong way and just come back on track. I thought I should call out and let her know she was back in the lead, but I had no breath and by then she was too far ahead to hear.

Top three, muddy legs!

I kept working and really loved the section where the route followed a narrow and winding little path along the edge of the coast. I was nimble and my shoes were perfect for gripping the sheen of mud. I knew the course turned back on itself at the far end and was bracing myself for the return of the headwind, this time on my own 😉 What I didn’t know was that it would be on a rough and squidgy track, recently churned up by a farm vehicle!

As I took the final bend into the woods, I glanced over my shoulder. I seemed to be clear of other runners and enjoyed the last stretch to the finish.

I hung around to collect my little bag and stand on the step!

Couldn’t believe I had managed to place 2nd female / 8th overall. Results. A lot of people hadn’t been able to make the rearranged date, so I thought I had just been lucky with who had been able to turn up. But my pace was only a touch slower than that at the XC and when I compared my time to the first 13k in the series it was still pretty good. Think I just love racing when the weather is ‘bad’!

I quickly showered and got changed into all my warm, dry clothes. I just missed Andy finishing, but hadn’t wanted to risk getting a chill. A hot cup of tea and prize giving later, and we were back on the bikes and pedalling for the train back to Edinburgh and a large café lunch 🙂

Large lunch to refuel and warm up post-race

Thanks to those who took photos – from the Edinburgh AC photostream, Andy, a friend of someone at the Foxtrail race and me!

Bowhill duathlon – medium 2018

So much seems to have happened since we went down to Bowhill for the second in the series, but it was only two weeks ago! With many (fun!) races in succession and a lot of travel for both work and leisure, I’m feeling the load in life and falling behind on reports, so will keep it brief!

As I got everything ready the night before, I decided it would be best to change my front brake pads. Andy criticised me for doing so only the day before a race, I countered that this was me being organised and that in the car park on race morning would be the wrong time. In the car park on race morning, I contemplated my flat tyre, inflated less than two hours before…

Hmm, on the advice of all the engineers surrounding me, we chucked in a bottle of sealant, gave it a shoogle and hoped for the best. I decided to ignore the laughs and ‘helpful suggestions’ about the lack of bite in my front brake and the state of my jockey wheels, and set off for a warm up spin up the first hill.

Back I came, covered in mud and water splashes and I was ready to go! Paul was away, and the race was ably started instead by Diane, who gave us the usual patter, instructions and safety briefing as we all jostled on the line. Setting off up the road, the front of the pack seemed bigger than previous years and took a while to string out. Round the first bend and I was being bumped from both sides and my wheel was buzzed from behind! I got assertive, stuck my elbows out and made some comment or other which did the trick as I soon got a place in the line.

I was climbing well, and thought I was first lady for now. I could still see Jon up in front of me too. We turned onto the slidy, muddy track and I stuck to the unlikely-looking but better line that I had sussed out during my warm up. Then I got stuck behind someone slower and it was impossible to overtake! I bade my time and came round him later. A few big puddles, then the turn down a big descent.

I was taking it carefully, as mud flew into my eyes and my bike seemed to be bending beneath me. It wasn’t of course, it just felt like it! Caroline flew past and I did my best to keep her in sight as we did some twists and turns through the woods. A sharp turn up a steep bank and I heard what I thought was a female voice shouting ‘on your right!’. I moved over to the nasty rough line just as they stumbled and stopped. Somehow I managed to power up and chase after Caroline again.

I was gaining along the road, then we turned onto some more singletrack. Every tricky bit she pulled away, every easy bit I pushed hard to close the gap back up again. As we approached the house I knew we were nearly there. One last oomph to get onto the road, and I took the lead as we went into transition.

Now I was in the position I don’t normally like … running scared! I shot out of there like a frightened rabbit and started racing up the hill. Somehow though, the legs felt better than they had on the cross country the day before. It might have all been relative as this time I was passing other people instead of hanging on for grim life! I had no idea how close anyone was to me, so I just went for it.

Down the big descent and one or two people passed me. However as soon as it got easier again I overtook again. We crossed the road, tantalising close to the finish, then headed off onto a never ending fire track, seemingly in the wrong direction.

Before long though, we popped out at the lake. I could hear footsteps behind me gaining fast – luckily it was a bloke. I enjoyed this part of the run, feeling strong as we wound our way in and out of the trees. Final time up the bank and into the finish.

Woohoo, a win this time albeit falling off the first page in the overall standings! Caroline came in 2nd, not feeling her best after a bout of flu. We’re now evens in the series so it will be a head-to-head in the final race in a few weeks time!

Thanks to Marc for a lift, Marc, Ewan and Jon for bike critique 😉 and Durty Events for another smashing afternoon out!

A tale of two cross country races (run not bike!)

Along with a resolution to get back to training sessions with the running club, I had paid my membership fees for both Edinburgh AC and Scottish Athletics last year, with a view to doing the occasional race. The club is big and successful and I wanted to feel like part of a team. Finally an opportunity came round – an XC race on a day when I wasn’t somewhere else in the country doing some other event…

I duly signed up for the 3rd and final race in the East District League, plus the Scottish Masters – oh yes, I just sneaked into the age category for that one 🙂

The first was at Broxburn. I was picked up and off we went, with the amount of snow increasing the further west we drove. The day was gloriously sunny and the course covered in the white stuff. We didn’t have a lot of time, and after faffing to park the car, go to the toilet, find the start, get a number … there was not a lot of time for warm up. Instead of doing a full lap I ended up doing half a one and sprinting back to throw off final clothes and line up.

Think this was early on before I felt so bad! Photo: John Lenehan

The start was fast and furious, with lots of jostling of elbows. I went out much too enthusiastically and after about a km felt like I had made a mistake. I slowed down and tried to regain control, though it was difficult with constantly changing terrain, level of snow compaction and mini hills! I started to feel slightly better, though these things are all relative. Round we went on lap 2. Halfway I thought I was going to be sick and I was willing it to all end. But I couldn’t just stop, so I pushed on! Never been so glad to see the finish line – 36th and just about counting for the club’s vet team.

This was my first XC race since university, so it had been a long time. I was shocked how tired I was for the rest of the day, despite running less than 6km. What a workout, but it was fun, honest!

So much so, that two weeks later I was in Kilmarnock for the Scottish Masters Championship. In between I went and raced for 10 hours overnight on a wild hillside, but that story will have to wait until my next post. I was also rather well stuffed with Polish perogi the night before, which I was hoping would turn out to be some sort of rocket fuel.

I entered this to make up numbers for the W40 category – three to count. Sadly one got sick in the morning and couldn’t make it. This meant no team for us as, despite having four W50s, we couldn’t nominate one of them to run down a category.

Mass start down a hill! © Mike Scott

Well, I was there now, so I might as well go for it! Learning from last time, I was a bit more conservative at the start. We all settled down after a km and positions didn’t change much after that. After the delights of the snow in Broxburn, this time we had gloopy mud and a grassy field that sucked your feet in ankle deep. There was also a steep climb and my favourite section twisting through some trees.

Two laps again. My legs were heavy and I had thoughts going through my head that I wasn’t recovered after the previous weekend, and what about tomorrow when I had another race lined up. Nothing I could do though, so I ploughed on. This time I was comfortable charging into the finish straight, buoyed by the shouts of some of my clubmates. Or maybe not, as afterwards I felt queasy again and had difficulty breathing normally! 17th, which I thought sounded quite good, until I remembered that I was practically the youngest there 😀

Jenny came 4th overall and the W50 team (Jill, Sue and Karen) did brilliantly, easily winning the team prize for their category. W40 – well, we need to get more people out next time because we had potential! The event was really well organised by Kilmarnock Harriers and the course was interesting, so I’d go back.

Still smiling at the end 🙂 Photo: Alex MacEwen

Thanks to all involved – host clubs, Enid and Karen for organising the teams and entries, Richard for the tiffin that got sent over in his absence and tasted fantastic, the people who gave me lifts, all the other athletes who cheered, photographers and Alex for making sure I did not do too much on Thursday! I’m sure it must be good for me somehow, I might do one again 😉

It’s not all about the running: Perogi / rocket fuel fest

Foxtrail Nocturnal Ultra – Relay

Race three of five in my pre-Christmas splurge was the Foxtrail night ultra, which we entered as a 3-person relay team. After first persuading Izzy, Marie got the call. And after convincing her that it was not an all-nighter and was not on Sunday, she was in!

Dream team, ready to race!

The race course was 4.9km laps on trails in the dark. Some people were doing it solo, but I am saving my first ultra to be a big loop instead of many little ones! We arrived in good time and got set up in the start / finish / handover / party marquee. The plan was to start on single laps, monitor our pace and adjust as necessary. The goal was to finish 15 laps within the 6h time limit, so that we could fit in a final 16th lap. There was no published start list, so although I knew we had a dream team, I did not have a sense of whether it was dreamy enough to be gunning for the win!

Marie speeding off to a fast start

We decided to go off in descending speed order, which meant Marie started. I knew she’d enjoy the bustle of elbowing her way through in the mass start! I warmed up and waited anxiously at the handover. In she came, in a fast time and second lady. I flew off and soon caught the other female team in the woods. Up ahead I could see my friend Neil, who had joined a male team at the last minute. He was wearing something luminous and easy to spot! I couldn’t catch him, but was pleased to see him as he can run a straight 5km a lot faster than I can …

Handover to Izzy who was ready and waiting; that set the pattern for the rest of the night. I had set up a spreadsheet to check our progress and make sure we were on target. Everything was going to plan, so I couldn’t be happier 😀 In between laps I updated the numbers, ate, chatted and made sure Marie was ready to go. She always was, despite her tendency to suddenly undress or run to the toilet 3 minutes before Izzy was due back!

I knew my first lap speed was unsustainable. The second felt better, but I dropped more time again on every lap (about 5s/km on average every time). That was a bit disappointing, but I realised others were dropping more. We got an update after 6 laps and we were leading the women’s field! This brought a beam to my face. On lap 3 I overhauled Neil just after I whooped my way through the mid-lap DJ rave barn. I wondered if I’d regret it, but didn’t – our pacing was better and we finished a lap ahead of their team 😉

It was not as cold as it might have been (well above freezing) and the forecast rain was little more than light showers. This meant I survived by throwing on a big coat between laps and getting progressively stinkier in the same running kit …

Lap 4 was painful although I overtook a couple of other relay runners, including internet / Newcastle Glenn who seemed to have breath to chat to another runner! We were, of course, lapping the solo runners at regular intervals. I felt a bit bad to be speeding past knowing I was doing a fraction of what they were, but everyone was so polite. Some said well done and I’m sorry I had little more in me than to grunt a reply.

At some point I knew that barring any disasters, we were safe for getting in 15 laps before the final fireworks. However, I offered to Izzy that she could do 4 laps and I’d do 6 if she preferred (Marie was already lined up to do 6!). She gamely decided to go for the full house. So I set off on my 5th with an all-out last effort.

I was rewarded with a stitch, nausea and a final time slower again than lap 4!! After that I was rather relieved not to have another one to go, and managed to shower and change whilst Izzy ran her last lap. We yelled Marie out, grabbed some food, admired the firework display and waited for the finish! Great sprint into the tent.

Podium – all determined to fit on one step!

All our efforts were rewarded with 1st female team and 5th overall, as the last team to squeeze in 16 laps. Event video here! I had a jolly old time and still had energy to chat to Marie on the way back to Edinburgh. I’m a night-time sort of person. Next morning I dragged myself out of bed to meet for a sea swim and extended cafe stop – a delayed reward from the night before! Mind you, I was exhausted by then. Turns out doing 5 x 5km intervals is harder than it looks on paper.

A great race which I am sure will be back on the calendar again next year. Thanks to Foxtrail for organising, Bob Marshall and Andy Kirkland for photos, my team mates for being awesome and all the other racers for the friendly vibe.

Bowhill short duathlon 2017

I was surprised to find it was 2014 when I last did this race, but when we arrived it was like I’d never been away. Four of us went over in one car; three racers and one supporter / photographer! We were nice and early, which suited me as we got parked near the start and I had time to go out and ride my bike.

Start line – picture from Julius Gaubys

Even though this race starts with a run, I decided my time was better spent riding round the bike course. My heart would get going and my brain would get in tune with the course. I was glad I did as it was quite technical, especially in the first half. Knowing what was coming up and that I could ride it gave me more confidence later.

The first run. Andy spotted and cheered Caroline, but never noticed me!!

We all gathered at the start line, the hooter went and we all shot off up the hill. I was breathing hard but moved from 5th to 2nd girl. 1st was Isla, out of sight and never to be seen again until prize giving! After that effort, I was overtaken on the up and on the down so I was back to 4th! This route goes straight up a hill and straight down a hill, with plenty of gloopy muddy bits. I was slightly out of control on the downhill, but was really trying to do my best to stay in contact.

I think I was a bit slow trying to sort my bike gloves out, and by the time I left transition there was no sight of the other girls. I powered on anyway. People were flying past me, but then a train of us got stuck behind a slightly slower rider. I kept my cool and concentrated on using the saved energy to work hard on the uphills. This was the pattern: technical down: get overtaken. Straightforward up: overtake some of them back again.

Just starting the bike, with a glistening face

First Jon came flying past with a shout, then Marc, who didn’t recognise me. I was keeping up with him, though he got away at the end. I fell on a very slidey bit, but landed on my feet and narrowly avoided causing a pile up behind me. I unexpectedly caught one of the girls, Sarah, who was dressed incognito in black (just like me!). This meant I didn’t realise it was her until I was alongside. I said hello and worked hard as I passed.

Eyes on the finish line!

There was no sign at all of Caroline ahead in her turquoise top. Coming up the last hill, rounding the lake and preparing myself for the final steep sting in the tail, I thought I had 3rd, but worked it to the finish line. Turns out Caroline had taken significant time on me on the bike!

I couldn’t have worked any harder though, so I was satisfied. I’m not tuned up for this sort of crazy fast racing! 3.7km run, 6.4km bike and it was all over 😀 3rd female, 2nd vet, 1 box of chocolates and 1 bottle of beer.

Smiles at the end

Thanks to Paul / Durty Events for a seamless race with an amazing friendly vibe, Ewan for driving us over and Andy for most of the photos. Results here.

This was the first of four racing weekends in a row before Christmas! Next up: Foxtrail Nighttime 6h Ultra (Relay with the Dream Team).

Loch Lo Man standard distance triathlon

After what felt like a long break from racing punctuated by endless hours of training, it was time to toe the start line again. This was my second warm up / practice triathlon before Edinburgh 70.3, chosen primarily for its open water swim and proximity to Edinburgh. Unfortunately, registration was the day before and the start was horrifically early, so it was still a weekend trip!

Glen and I headed over to Loch Lomond and sussed out the swim area, the start of the run and the start and finish of the bike. The transition from swim to bike looked much longer than stated in the manual. I checked it with my watch. 750m, not 300m! I hastily formed alternative transition plans in my head.

It wasn’t so bad to be out west overnight, as we stayed with my pal Douglas and dined at a fine Italian place (burrata with roasted peaches and caramelised almonds with sage, don’t mind if I do). After really not enough sleep (about 5h) I roused myself, got kitted up and off we stumbled, slightly later than planned.

Race information about timings between emails and website was inconsistent. We needn’t have worried though, since we had plenty of time to park, get set up, queue for the toilet and get to briefing on time. Well, Izzy and I did. Glen followed later but still was on time, as it happened.

There had been some delay for the middle distance racers in front of us. They started late, but even then, after a while I was beginning to wonder why no-one had got out. Turns out one of the buoys was slowly drifting, drifting … They moved it as half the people on the last lap were still aiming towards it .. Hilarious to watch from the shore, though perhaps confusing when racing. I heard people say they had done 1000m extra!

Next it was our turn and I was rather hoping for 1000m extra, it might play to my favour. The water was warm-ish and the threatened compulsion to wear gloves, booties and neoprene hat did not materialise. This suited me as I prefer to swim without when I can. It also meant I could change quickly into shoes that I had waiting ready to pull on over my Gococo socks as I left the water.

As we started, my breathing felt laboured and I had to work hard to get in a rhythm. The swim played out as it often does. A front group got away, there was a gap, then there was me passing people on lap 2 until the gaps got too big. Apparently I was 13th out the water, but I was disappointed with my time. I’ve been working a lot on my stroke and being more consistent in training but it doesn’t seem to be paying off yet.

On the other hand, I had a storming transition. 5th overall. Message me if you want tips for next year!!

Fast T1!

Out on the bike and after some kerfuffle with my watch settings (it now thought I was running, but I couldn’t change that), I was off. The course was hilly and I felt like a snail, but not many guys were passing me. I knew at least two girls were in front as I had seen them in transition. I was right not to worry about my gears for the climbs, I got up them all without too much trauma. However, I bottled some of the descents, and Strava plainly shows where the girl behind rapidly made up time on me …

As the bike went on, I remembered to admire the scenery and to practice eating and drinking. But then it started raining. I had not realised that my handlebars became like slippery snakes when wet and not wearing gloves. I could either be safely on the tribars but with no ability to brake, or clinging to the outside bars (bull horns) with a death grip, as my hands slithered and slid. Lesson learnt.

Two girls flew past but I tried to stay calm even as I trundled along behind a tractor. We re-joined the main road and the traffic had got heavier since the morning. After a couple of close passes I made myself ride further out in the lane, trying to hold my nerve.

Overall this was a frustrating ride as my time was well down on my target. This despite a lot of extra biking since the race in Tranent taught me I needed to do some work in this area. I’m still unclear whether this is just technical (in)competence on the TT bike or also fitness coming into play. I lost a 6 minute lead to one of the girls behind me!

Bike to run

Anyway, it was time to run. I left transition just after one of the girls who overtook me. She was in sight for a few km, but was gradually pulling away. Another obviously did not intend to finish and had turned earlier. It was an out and back course, so it was easy to check positions. Emma Lamont, leading lady, was about 3km ahead of me! Then the next two girls fairly close to each other, but with a good gap to me. Round I turned, who was behind me? No-one for a long way, so it was a matter of pride and personal satisfaction to keep pushing on.

My watch beeped every km and although my shins were screaming (why? Another thing to sort out before the big day) and my legs and lungs were bursting, the clock does not lie and my splits were holding up nicely. Only dipped on the first and last km, as the route did a few twists and turns to slow us down. I even had enough energy to grunt some encouragement at Izzy and Glen as they passed going the other way,

Final position .. 4th female, 23rd overall. Results here. If there had been veteran prizes I’d have been first in that class, but there weren’t!! It was a good race, decent course and well organised. I wish my swim and bike had been better, but I still learnt useful things for July. My body was also telling me I had had a good workout as my legs seemed reluctant to hold me up for the rest of the day, even after administering macaroni cheese and chips!!

There’s not much time until Edinburgh 70.3, but somehow we’re squeezing not one, but two, swimrun races on back-to-back weekends before then! Bring on the sunshine, swimming and running.

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