Wednesday 28 September 2011

Scotland Coast to Coast adventure Race

Last weekend was my first dalliance with adventure racing, it should have been a group of 4 of us - Me, Quiz, Steve and Andy all drunkenly entered this race last Christmas as a challenge to train for. We entered ourselves as "Team Cock" (we were drunk, it seemed logical)

The event we found was called Scotland Coast to Coast - the idea was to cross from one side of Scotland to the other on foot, bike and boat in either a day or two days - we of course went for the one day option - it wouldn't be a challenge otherwise right? The event was starting at Nairn with a 7km trail run, followed by a 48 mile road ride, then a 2mile Kayak/Run, a 33 mile bike (with 16 miles off road), then a 14 mile Trek/run and finally a 1 mile kayak.

Trouble was, none of us trained for it. Well not specifically. Mark has been injured, moving house and other stuff. Andy has been training for half ironman distance triathlon (so has no excuse) Steve  has been off the radar and I have just been pissing about on my mountain bike all summer. But it wasn't going to be a serious event and it was bound to be a great piss up.

One of my bestest friends, Penny had organised us to stay in a friends cottage for a couple of nights before the race and booked a hotel for the night after the race to have a big ol' piss up so it was all sorted and we just needed to get up there. Mark wasn't going to race now as his old man knees weren't going to be up to it but was still up for the piss up. The others half heartily said they'd still be doing it.

I'd decided some time ago that I would borrow a cross bike from Swindon Road club as there was a long section of off road which would be too much for my lovely carbon road bike, but there was also a LOT of road work,which I didn't think would be much fun on a mountain bike. So a cx bike seemed like a good compromise. I picked this up from Andy just over a week before and we went out for a long ride on the Ridgeway, which I thoroughly enjoyed - except I felt like I was cheating on my mountain bike riding along the route I take that on. A bit like cheating on your boyfriend and going to your favourite restaurant....

The guys and I kept talking about trying out kayaking as this was part of the race, but the months kept passing by. I had a friend of a friend who offered to take me out on Bristol docks but still time passed by, other things came and went and before we knew it the race was a week away.

I contacted the guys and found out none of them were up for doing the event anymore, I still wanted to do it but wasn't sure about doing it on my own. I still hadn't tried kayaking, I had barely done any running, I'd been drinking and smoking heavily but Penny was still up for it if I was and some other friends said I should still do it, and plus I wanted to prove something now to them stitching fuckers! ;-)

The Sunday before I did a 10 mile run with a friend plus a mile to his house, a mile home, then 4 miles to my folks, so I felt a bit better then that I had a few miles in my legs, albeit none of them off road and all of them flat (the route profile is pretty mental and 95% off road)  Monday I finally got in a kayak - in the Bristol docks  in the tail end of a hurricane! I basically spent an hour either spinning around or fighting the current back to the docks followed by days of sore arms. Tuesday I went to Ashton Court on my MTB for a hammer around and then finally decided that I'd definitely go to Scotland. I had nothing better to do and Pen had gone to all the trouble of sorting out accommodation.

So Wednesday, I went to stay with Penny and Davut and my future husband (Robbie - or George, whichever will have me) had dinner, drank lots of wine, then Thursday Penny and I drove up to Scotland. It was a loooong way. We stopped off in Stirling to meet Sam for lunch, then he took us to his local bike shop as I realised I had no spare inner tube for this borrowed bike, he had heard of the race and thought me mad, he suggested riding the cross bike on full tyre pressure and whacked 65 psi in for me. We then carried on the long but stunning drive up to the cottage on Loch Dromer. It was so pretty, the view from the cottage was gorgeous and the views all the way up were amazing, I was like a kid in a zoo "Oohh look! A waterfall!"

I'd been on twatter that day and tweeted about my lack of trail shoes and thought I'd be fine. The response was "beg, borrow steal some trail shoes, it's steep and slippery!" Hmmm.... I did some more (too late) research and it seemed to be the general consensus - what a dickhead.

At the cottage I cooked some dinner for me n Pen - this is a first except for breakfasts because Penny is the best cook I've ever known, she said it tasted OK, so she's either a very good friend or was very hungry. We drank a couple of bottles of wine, and went to bed. Friday we got up, had breakfast and Penny informed me my tyre had deflated. So I investigated said tyre and found a colossal thorn stuck in the tyre, which had obviously when pumped to a firmer pressure pushed into the inner tube, which was much better to happen the day before than on the race! I changed the tube, but had trouble getting the tyre back on the rim, it seemed to be the wrong inner tube.

We  headed off to Inverness to get me some trail shoes (always do a race on new shoes) and pop to a bike shop for another spare tube and to get them to put the tyre on my rim - which even the mechanic had trouble with! then on to Nairn to register and stick my bike in transition.

I had no idea of what I was meant to do really and there wasn't a great deal of guidance from the people at registration. I guess having read the briefing many times now I sort of understood.

Pick up race pack, drive the 8 or so miles to cawdor castle to rack bike. I  also changed over my pedals and was going to swap my saddle to my own as the one on there was hideous, decided I couldn't be bothered, bunged my bike in my transition area.
Everyone else had left their transition bags on their bikes already, but I'd planned on dumping mine off in the morning. Did they know something I didn't?

After racking we went to get some dinner from the pub (and a couple of glasses of red) then drove home timing how long we needed in the morning (about an hour). On the way back we stopped off at this beautiful gorge, I used this opportunity of walking a mile or so to break in my new shoes. They felt pretty good, and more importantly looked ace!

We went back to the cottage, had some more wine whilst getting things sorted for the next day (laying out kit, nutrition, spares) The weather looked like it was going to be a bit shit so I left exactly which clothes I was going to take til the last minute in the morning - you had to carry all your stuff with you, including fuel as it was totally self sufficient in that respect so space was limited to just my camelbak rucksack thing. We were going to have to leave at 5 in order to get to cawdor castle to drop off my transition kit then to the start for 6.30 so a good nights sleep would have been useful.

I could barely sleep, all day I'd been feeling so nervous and sick. Perhaps I needed more wine. I hadn't felt like this for a long time, I rarely get nervous before races but this was something totally outside my comfort zone. A friend sent me a text saying "it's just riding, running and playing, you like all that stuff" which was dead right and cheered me up.

In the end I got about 3 hours sleep and was up at 3.45 making my porridge, peering out the window into the pouring rain! Fantastic. It didn't show signs of stopping when I woke Penny up.

For the run I was wearing skins, with some flappy shorts to try in vain to disguise my colossal arse, a tshirt, baselayer and my funky new trail shoes.
Into my transition bag went the following: cycling shoes, bib shorts, 2 x waterproof jackets, gloves, change of leggings and top for the 2nd run and my camelbak.

We loaded up the car and set out in the pissing rain, feeling sick once more, but also a bit excited, we were cutting it a bit fine as we got to cawdor transition at 6.10. I ran my stuff in, used the portaloo back in the car and onto Nairn. It was nearly 6:25 - eek! We parked up right next to the start line as people were activating their timing bands, I ran over and did mine, and queued up with the masses. I suddenly realised I didn't have on my race belt, and shouted Pen to grab it for me, she ran off to get it, ran back and came skidding on her bum back with it! Well there's one way of getting some attention from the boys!

The Race

Run 1

Before I knew it, the race had started.The rain had slowed to a drizzle.  I had planned on keeping it steady, but my new shoes and the adrenaline made me go bounding off across the field. I was passing by people, I checked the garmin, and I was doing 7:30s, this would be fine if it wasn't for the fact that it was going to be a long day or not if I kept that up. I pulled it back a little and settled into a more sensible pace. After about half a mile of pavement we took off onto a gorgeous piece of single track trail through woods and along rivers. I was thoroughly enjoying myself - why hadn't I tried trail running before now? The pace was being dictated by the person in front as there wasn't really any place to overtake, so we were pottering along comfortably. As soon as we hit the single track I was glad of my trail shoes. I'd have for sure been on my ass in my road shoes. Ducking under low branches, hopping over tree stumps, I was in my element. I man in front of me hit the deck, I jumped over him before I landed on him. Stopped to help him up, made sure he was OK then we set off again.

I was already looking forward to the run later on in the day. I couldn't stop grinning. It felt so good, I've not enjoyed running for ages and finally I was again quite unexpectedly. The rain was still drizzling down but refreshingly, as the daylight started to get brighter. There was a small section of road up into transition which I hated, I wanted to be on the sticky trails.
I tagged my wristband on the timing device and set about the ridiculously slow transition which was to come!

Transition 1

Trying not to get my feet wet or dry kit wet was a task.

Trail shoes off,
bib shorts on over skins
tshirt off

(woah! who's that gorgeous bloke!?)

waterproof jacket on
gloves, helmet and bike shoes on
then to ram everything else into my bag and tie my running shoes to it.

Despite being in the mid to front runners back, people who came in long after me, got out on their bikes before me. (including a solo girl I'd noticed - I should probably keep an eye on her)

Bah! who cares. I've got all day. (Or until 4pm to reach the final cut off in order to complete the race)

I finally got out on the bike, the rain was a bit harder again as I set off. At first I felt quite good, and smug on the cx bike with loads of people on their mountain bikes.

Penny was waiting just round the corner and gave me a big yell and wave and told me to get a fucking move on!

The next 48 miles all I wanted to do was get off that fucking bike and onto the last run.

The route was fantastic, the most beautiful scenery I'd ever seen (so far), lovely roads, some big climb, the rain had stopped and the sun was shining brightly. All that was missing was my lovely road bike.

The cross bike was like riding through treacle. The knobbly tyres rolling about as fast as a brick. The saddle causing much soreness to my undercarriage, and the miles ticking by so slowly I wanted to cry. I'm certain everyone passed me on that first bike stage. There were sections when I'd feel good, but mostly I wanted to cry. I resented the bike, I wished I'd brought my hardtail,  at least I'd have been comfortable and probably gone faster.

I saw the girl from the transition area, and made it my duty to overtake her - luckily she was shite at climbing so I left her behind on the monster climb near the end of the bike leg and I pleasantly said hello and asked if she was enjoying herself and she just made this strange grunt. Only to be overtaken by her on the even bigger descent. Once more I hated the bike, I'd really been working on my descending on my road bike over the summer but now I had no confidence, the brakes weren't reliable enough on the drops, so I had to use the ones on the tops of the bars, which were narrow. So I just braked all the way down trying not to slip on the wet road. The descent went all the way from about 1200m down to the valley floor to the kayak area at Loch Ness, a bit of meandering through and we were directed into the next transition area.

Transition 2

Bike hung up, untie shoes from bag, swap waterproof for dry, windstopper, trail shoes back on, dump stuff in a pile and off for a kilometer mile run to the kayak lake along a really pretty cobbled street, along a canal and past some pirates (I missed them but Pen showed me some pics later). I was dying for a slash when I got there but the toilets were locked. A guy said I could go behind his van so I did, when I pulled my shorts down I discovered that I hadn't taken off my flappy-hide-the-colossus shorts! No wonder I was in so much pain!

Kayak 1

Life jacket on, and down to the shore. I was offered someone to pair up with, but I said "No, I wanna do it under my own steam"

"you sure?"

"Yes, I'm nails" ha what a cock

the kayaks were different to the one I'd tried out earlier that week, they were sit on instead of in, they were much easier, the lack of wind and current helped too and before I knew it I had paddled half way across the lake route.

This wasn't so bad. Round the corner I could see the shore again, and paddled myself over, clambered out with some help from the marshals, ditched the life jacket and ran back round the lake and for another kilometer or so back to transition

Transition 3

Filled up my camel bak, changed shoes again, had a flapjack bite or two which were being offered and pocketed a few jelly babies for later (my friend Sally Pinegar (nutritionist) of Fit Naturally fame had given me a nutrition plan for the event and I'd been fuelling on gels until now, I'd packed a sarnie which I should have had by now but couldn't be bothered earlier to get it out of my bag.)

Bike 2

I was looking forward to this much more than the previous bike, off road is where I'm happiest on a bike these days but again I resented the cross bike. It had ruined the nice bits of road riding and now it would ruin the fun bits of off road. I'm being a bit hard on it, as when it was on track or fire road it went like shit off a shovel, and I found myself really enjoying the single track and descents. I was passing people who were pushing the full sus mountain bikes  down things. What was that about!?

A group of about 6 of us kept yo-yoing past each other and we begun bantering a bit. Some of them really weren't enjoying themselves, despite what I said about the bike, I was actually having a brilliant time. But still I was looking forward to that run!

I joked to one of the guys who was complaining "ah but we have a half marathon to look forward to in a bit!"

After about 20 miles off road climbing and descending, praying the big rocks wouldn't perish the tyre, the bike route went back on road and with some more climbing and some incredible views, just 10 miles to go to Fort William.

Once more I saw the girl from transition, once more I took her on the hill, once more she made that weird grunting noise as I whistled by cheerily asking how she was doing.

It couldn't be far now, as we rode through the town centre and lo there was a sign saying "time off" which meant the timer stopped and we could go and get a cuppa, change our clothes and stuff before the final run. Also there was Penny! It was so good to see a friendly face, she must be bored shitless. I got off and walked with her through to transition and chatted for a bit.

Transition 4

Once in the transition area, there was a snack bar, and all I wanted was a snickers. Really craving it. So I got one, nommed that then went to get changed. I took my time once more, washed my face of salt, full dry kit went for a wee, and whilst in there I heard someone come in, and they evidently looked at my stuff, saw it was me and there it was - the weird grunting noise. Now I was pretty sure it was a grunt of annoyance that I was ahead of her.

But she was in and out of transition mega quick! I packed up my wet kit, put what I'd need for the run back in my camelbak (a few gels and some water) took my kit bag and bike to the transport lorry and had a little chat with a couple of guys there.

"Run" 2

I felt great now, the run was here! I'd come in well before the run cut off,  My legs felt good, my mood was still high so I set off at a jog. People were walking, I thought it was a run? I overtook a couple of guys who were umming and ah'ing whether to run yet or not, I joked with them to get on with it, and bounded across the field and they commented back about being "chicked" then started jogging too.

Through a gate at the end was Penny again, taking snapshots of me at my worst. I said I'd see her in a few hours, thinking I was being generous with my time.

Round the corner I realised why the run was actually penned as a Run/Trek. The route went straight up Ben Nevis!! I had a stitch from the snickers bar.

I didn't actually mind though, I climbed on up, varying between trotting, jogging, walking, scrambling. I bounced past one guy who said "you're going to run it!?" - "I'm going to try"

I overtook lots of walkers, recreational and racers. It was pretty mental but I still loved it. Up big rock steps, then we took a right and came back down it, this was harder than the up. I had to really concentrate on the technical descent. Being careful not to misjudge the big boulders.

A short bit of road then back onto the trail, below me I saw the "grunter" again, and made an effort to catch her. She was walking. The track turned into a fire road climb, I jogged on past, then past a couple of the lads I'd been riding with earlier. I jogged on up, then gave up for a bit as it got steep and marched on up. I didn't want the grunter to catch me, I was feeling competitive now.

For the rest of the route, there was very little place to actually run, the route was technical and tough and more suited to hiking, but still I was absolutely in love with it. I just wished I had someone there to enjoy it with, I felt a bit sad about that. If the guys had been there, we'd have been having such a laugh.

clambering up steep rocky steps, trying not to fall back down the other side, tottering along rocky river beds, splashing through streams.

I was running quite low on water in my camelbak so I started to drink from the streams running off the mountains, I felt like Bear Grylls! I kept stopping to take in the awesome views, kicking myself for not taking a camera.

I was still overtaking people who were struggling. One man was in a particularly bad way as I came bouncing along saying "It's only another 10k!" I stopped to make sure he was OK, I asked if he was drinking plenty and to have some thing to eat, offered him a gel, but he said he couldn't keep anything down. I offered to walk him to the finish, but he said no to carry on. To be honest I'm not sure he would have finished at the pace he was walking.

A little way down the track was a marshal with some water, I told him there was a guy struggling back there who might want some help.

I carried on trekking, I could see two people in front, who I seemed to be catching, but then I'd round a corner and they'd be a bit further away again. So I made it my mission to catch them and did a bit more jogging where I could. My legs still felt brilliant, but the terrain just wouldn't allow it.

I finally caught them and slowed to a walk and chatted to them for a while, discussed how fucking awesome the day was. We all stopped to admire the valley we were traversing. We looked across the other side and we could see what looked like lemmings, traipsing up the most enormous climb I've ever seen. The guys informed me that we had to go a mile down there to them their rubble, then a 2 and a half mile climb to the summit (gaining 1500m) before only a mile descent to the road then onto the kayak.

The dots on the other side of the valley looked to be barely moving.

We all trotted on a little, crossed the river and started making away up the long long ascent. It was pretty boggy in place,my foot disappearing into wet peat, climbing up natural springs. Again stopping to take in the views.

We were making slow progress, but chatting along all the while, one of the guys went pretty quiet like the way I get when I'm on the brink of bonking. I offered him a gel, but then they stopped to have some solid food. I waited with them, and took some pics for them. There was no rush to get back now, we'd make the final cut off easily.

The climbing went on and on, just when you thought you were going to reach the summit, it went up some more. Was it me, or was the air getting thinner? No, it's me, take on some more fuel. it's still a few miles plus a mile kayak. We climbed up further until we were in the clouds, "scotch mist" Penny calls this. Finally we reached the top and with a "wooohooo!" i jumped about a bit, and then looking down to see the most spectacular view of the day. The sun shining down on the valley, rain drizzling down on our heads, the coast in the background and the huge dramatic mountains surrounding.

The next mile was probably the hardest bit yet, a steep descent down wet, slippery marshland. My legs were trying to run away with me, so I had to trot and walk in places. About half way down I heard some scampering behind me, I already knew what it was. I tried to quicken my pace but I stumbled and scared myself and with "ooh, take it steady" grunter pissed past me! Shit.

There was no way I was going to catch her on this scary descent, every time I tried to pick up speed I stumbled so I decided to get down safely and let her take it.

I was so annoyed though!

Eventually the marshland turned back into a rocky track, then it skipped out onto the road (which again I immediately hated)

About a kilometer on road round the lake and onto the final section of the race! I overtook a guy struggling and tried to gee him up to no avail.

When I got to the kayak transition there were no other runners there, but I was tired and didn't think I would cope paddling alone so I waited for the guy I'd overtaken and asked if he wanted to share a kayak.

He did, so I chose a pink kayak and asked if he wanted the front or back - he took it from behind.

Sitting down was hard on my quads.

Paddle paddle paddle.....The guy at the back started whinging.

"Oh, ow ow ow! My back! oh my back hurts!! I have to stop!"

so we stopped, he shimmied about, paddle paddle paddle then "ow ow ow! my baaaaack!"

oh for fucks sake. This happened a few more times before I said "look, I'm tired too and the sooner we get back the sooner we're finished. you rest if you want, but I'm going to keep paddling"

So I did.

We got a little way across the lake and the current was really pulling us the wrong way, which made it even harder and made him even whinier! I was pulling hard on the right side of the kayak to keep straight.

He was moaning. Eventually he got comfortable (which was in a reclining position) and started helping me. But I was getting tired and crabby too, the current was being a bastard. The coast guard yelled at us to go round the buoy - man it was miles to go still and yet the current was still tugging us the wrong way. No one else seemed to be having this problem as a couple of kayaks sped past.

He stopped again, I kept paddling, it was fucking hard work, and the dickhead had the cheek to start making small talk

"where are you from?"



"NO! SwinDON!" I snapped. "Look, lets just paddle and get back."

We had about 100 yards to go and the current finally let us go, and we pulled into the shore. I felt so relieved as I made some "nnnneeeeeeeeeaaaarrrruuuuummmm!" noises to the cute Marshall pulling us into the rocks.

Whingy man apologised for "not performing" I assured him that it wasn't the first time I've have that  problem with a bloke. Grateful to have my sense of humour back I bounded up the bank and ran across the finish line into the arms of Penny.

Photo, medal, tshirt. Was tempted to leave the bike behind for them to eBay but since it's not mine I thought better of it. Hobble to the car and back to the hotel, shower, and wine time!

Fantastic event and by far the most enjoyable race I've ever done, and I think I'm going to try a proper adventure race next year if  I can find anyone mad enough to do it with me.

I owe Penny a huge thank you too as I'd not have done it without her amazing support xxx

Sunday 6 March 2011

The Spring Ballbuster Duathlon - 5th March 2011

I've not entered any races for ages, particularly running ones as I'd felt my running was too shit as I'm really heavy at the moment (have been for the last 18 months to be honest) and I'd be disappointed with how shit I'd do. I wanted to do the Winter Ballbuster in November but I didn't feel I'd do myself justice and my running was terrible.

This has been my favourite race since I first did it in 2009, I've no idea why, cos it's fucking hard, and it fucking hurts. Here's the report from the last time I did it

I revisited it to remind myself of how I trained for it back then and reminisce and make comparisons.

My preparation for this hadn't been ideal, but I was looking forward to it. I only decided I was definitely going to do it 2 weeks ago so when I got paid I entered it. I had planned on losing weight before doing the event which hasn't happened - I think I've actually put ON weight! So I had no high expectations of bettering the last time I did this. I've been out on the piss a lot, and my training hasn't really been specific, I've only done one long run in the last 8 weeks as I'd been focussing on short fast stuff and I'd been having some knee pains on long runs, so wanted to get rid of that. I should have been marathon training now but that's gone out the window too, so I've been doing lots of fun stuff playing on my mountain bike, and barely touched my road bike all winter due to the icy conditions and because I've been having so much fun on my mountain bike.

So with only one hill session on each the bike and run, nights out on the rum, not distance riding and no brick sessions I wasn't heading into the race in the best shape oh and being a stone overweight (at least) the week before was no place to do anything long or try and lose pounds so I tapered. I don't really do this well but I remember that last time I busted my balls I tapered and it helped and it's a long race, you need to be fresh for it. I managed to organise lifts to work for 3 days, allowing my legs to rest but still do some short easy sessions on Monday and Thursday on my commute to work. The temperature had dropped a lot on last week but the forecast was clear, sunny and not much wind, just cold!

I had intended staying with Suzie Friday night as she lives really close to the event but my Dad's car which I normally borrow had to be scrapped so had no means of transport - luckily my Dad is brilliant and said he'd drive me on race day. This however meant a 4am alarm call to get there for 7 - the race was an early 8am start! I had meant to pack the night before but as always I didn't get round to it, so the usual last minute throwing of stuff into bags as Dad turned up. We loaded up the car and set off, I ate my porridge on the way and tried to snooze but the sat nav kept disturbing me.

I love this time of year, the season is starting to change and the sun is finally coming up at a sensible hour. All those months of riding and running 20 miles a day for work in the cold and dark is finally getting paid back. The sun was beginning to rise, the temperature on the car said 0 degrees... brrr! It was going to be cold out there!

As we arrived at Box Hill I was reminded of how hilly the course is... we drove up "Zig Zag Hill" and I remembered how it hurt. What I didn't remember was how long it went on for! Two miles of switch backs, long hard slog up hill. But then I was reminded how close to the finish the hill is as we turned in to the car park.

I was looking out for Mike as I knew he was doing the race too and saw him crossing the car park to register so tooted and said hello, went to park, then join him in the queue to register. I've not seen him for a year since the "Twat Ride" we did this time last year, I told him he looked like he'd shrunk.
We registered and got given chips, numbers and a nice sweatshirt - got the top, might as well go home now...!
Back to the car to get my bike ready, kit in transition etc. All set up, I needed to change and another wee - it was 7:50 - plenty of time. I got changed, had a wee. Decided I needed to go again so did - better to do it now than have to stop on the run in a bush right? There was noone else in the toilets, and I checked my watch - shit! 7:58! I ran, back to the car where my Dad said he'd be waiting, he wasn't there, I chucked my bag on the floor by the car and could hear Klaxons going off! Shit! The race had started!
I ran to transition and put my gloves with my bike, inhaled half a jiz gel and ran to the start where I could see 200m away all the other runners! Shit shit shit! The organisers said "don't worry, you can still catch them!" as I ran across the field on my own yelling back "I thought I'd give them a head start!" I started my watch - the start wasn't chip timed, it was started off the gun so had no idea how much time I'd lost. But I pegged it across to catch up. Some guy shouting "go on 335" and laughing at my tardiness.
Within a few minutes I'd caught up with the back runners and started making my way through the rear of the pack. I was a bit annoyed at myself for being such a silly arse but I couldn't help but laugh to myself.

I'd decided against using my HRM as I've not worn it in months and I've been working on running by feel so let myself get into a nice comfy rhythm and remind myself it's a long event, don't rush it or I'll be battered for the last run (which I would anyway, but you know what I mean). My feet were frozen and felt like blocks of ice with every step, I tried to wiggle my toes but it wasn't helping.

By the water station I'd probably overtaken a third of the field and it felt good to be overtaking people so maybe it was a blessing in disguise that i'd started from the back. I checked my watch and it said 23 minutes, and heard someone's garmin bleep so assumed it to be about 3 miles. Satisfied with my pace I still couldn't help wonder if I'd be running better up ahead knowing I'd had a better placing. I focussed on setting my own pace and not getting sucked into the pace of people around me. I got chatting to a guy in a green top I'd drawn up next to and we were both hoping for a sub 4 time, he said this was his 3rd time but didn't think he'd make sub 4. We laughed about my missing the start and ran together chatting for a while. I found myself wanting to go quicker so picked up a little, we wished each other luck and parted company for a while. Miles 5 - 8 are pretty much all climbing, the hardest of them being from mile 6 - 8. I was aiming for 1:04 for my first run and 1:10 for my second (I'd have liked to plan an even split, but I know better)

The guy who'd shouted my number at the start was at the first hair pin of Zig Zah hill and recognised me and congratulated my running and catching up. I was feeling strong and powered up the hill. I wasn't sure how far it was to the end of the loop but checked my watch and thought I'd make my target time. There was a marshall on the final hairpin and she said "200m til the top" wow, I got up there quicker than I expected, I rounded the last bend and ran over the timing mat, I checked my watch 60:45 - awesome! I was over the moon, as I'd been assuming I'd really struggle with my running particularly given the hills and how little hill training I'd doe - and how heavy I am. I guess gravity is my friend going down hill!

The organiser also commented how well I'd done to catch up as I ran into transition and the guy in the green top was just coming through too and said "yeah, caught us up and over took" I felt good. I didnt fuck around in transition like I normally do. Helmet on, change of shoes, swap gloves, inhaled the other half of jiz gel and ran out.
Running across the field was awkward, I wear mtb cleats instead of road ones which makes it easier to run as the cleat is embedded in the shoe rather than outside of it, but they're still uncomfy to walk in and the were filling with mud. I reached the cobbles at the end and decided to carry my bike to save risk of puncture - it was also easier than pushing it over rocks.

I got to the road and went to mount, my cleats were full of mud so bashed them on the floor. My feet still hadn't thawed out and was a bit worried they'd get even colder on the bike.

I set off into a slight head wind and could hear my computed magnet tapping on the sensor everytime the front wheel went round. I assumed it'd dislodge itself eventually.

I couldn't seem to get any speed up on the bike so I tried to settle down, took on some drink and started chatting to the guy next to me, he asked what time i'd hoped on the bike - I said I'd like to do 90 mins.....I had thought this would be achieveable - i'd figured all that mountain bike hill climbing would have given me an edge..... how wrong was I! ha! The bike leg was horrid, on the descents I was really chicken, going round corners really tentative, climbing hills was ok, but I was too afraid to attack too hard know that there was still a long way to go.

I didn't let it get to me and I was still in good spirits. I overtook not a single person throughout the bike! I got to the last hairpin of the first lap and the lady marshall said "only 200m to go" and I laughed and said "and the rest" the guy next to me also laughed... knowing we had 2 more laps on the bike and another on foot.

I looked at my watch and the first lap had taken me 35 mins! yikes. That wasn't good. I wasn't going to make 90 mins but still I didn't want to push on too hard and mess up the run. I really wasn't enjoying the bike at all. I was half wishing I'd brought my mtb, I just wanted to be off the bike and back out running. I had loved that first run, give me more of that! I'd had some really bad saddle sore earlier in the week but thankfully it wasn't causing me any issues. My Dad was waiting at the top for every lap I came round which was lush, He's so great :-)
I decided to stop fretting about my time, just sit back, get round, switch off and look forward to the last run. My feet and fingers were now freezing beyond belief. I wiggled my toes to bring them back to life. The descents were particularly cold so I pulled my buff over my nose to keep some extra warmth in. I needed a wee on the last lap and decided if I could fnd a spot better to go during the bike than the run. So eventually I found somewere behind a wall and got off, my shoulders felt so tight as I straightened up.

Got back on and carried on to the end of the bike course. Thank fuck for that, I just wanted to be off that bike. How the hell did I do nearly 5 times that distance in the summer?? granted the bike course here was a lot harder, and the pot holes were terrible - nothing like the beautiful smooth roads of Switzerland. One thing I'd noticed this time was the absence of the crowd on top of the hill cheering. They made the race for me last time. The route was still well supported and I made a special effort to thank every marshal on my way round.

I tottered through transition - totter is the best I could muster, knowing my bike time was terrible I checked my watch and it confirmed just how terrible! wowza. I walked my bike back to the rack and hung it up, changed shoes once more took off helmet, took another jiz gel and grabbed a few haribo and stuffed them in my glove for later, dropping half of them on the floor.

I ran back across the field and onto my final leg. My feet were still cold but they were now numb. My legs heavy and rigid from the bike, I could see a few people ahead, so made my plan of just catching people ahead of me, getting a good rhythm going and getting through it.

My legs felt like they weren't mine. I couldn't find any speed in them, so I just focussed on keep an even rhythm and picking people off one by one. About 100m ahead of me was a lady with a great figure, we were running a similar pace and she too was overtaking people one by one, I wanted to catch her though. So picking people off...1.....2.....3,4,5......6.... etc I finally caught up with the lady about 3 miles in, I chatted to her a little, she was spanish, she'd done the event on a mtb! crazy lady. we ran together for a while overtaking people.....10, 11, 12, I went on past her....13.... she went back past me....12. I left her in front a while whilst we went up the first sharp incline. I was feeling quite empty, I only had two sweets left, and there was no aid station on the course, so was concious of bonking. I contiued past more people, counting 20 now. It was helping me keep my brain busy, so it wouldn't think about how my feet were swelling in my shoes, how my shoes were squishing my toes. If i just stopped and took off a pair of socks that would fix it, but I didnt want to stop. I couldnt stop. I wouldn't allow myself to walk. I passed the lady with great body once more, this time leaving her as we came to the last 2 miles of hill. I found man in green top again, he was walking, I encouraged him to run on with me for a bit, told him we'd still make sub four hours at this pace, he tried to keep going but said "go on, you're doing great, " and he fell back into a walk again.

A group of cyclists out for a saturday ride came past, one of them said to a girl in the group "don't worry it's not that steep" i laughed and said to her "who's he kidding!" to which she agreed as she rode past not much faster than the pace I was running - well by now I was mincing! The hill was sapping my energy, draining every ounce from my legs. i didnt' once cramp up though, just feeling the tank ebbing away. I caught up with a few more people walking and went on past, giving words of encouragement "not long now", "the pub will be open when we get to the top" there was a young guy in front walking, I said "come on, you don't want to get beaten by a girl" which perked him up and got him running again, til i caught up with him once more as he was again walking. He said he ws going to havea walk then catvh me up. The last stretch of hill, I wasnt' going to overtake anyone else, I had little fight left in me, and the people I could see ahead were too far to catch now.

A hot guy watching with his kids said "less than 800m" - "Woo!" looked at my watch - I was going to make under 4 hours. hurrah!.Just. Keep. Those. Legs. Moving. Forward.

Lady on the last corner said "200m to go" I said "yay! you're telling the truth this time!" and thanked her and trotted on for the last 200m.

I rounded the last corner and saw my dad - waved and went on through the finish over the timing mat, looked at my watch 3:57:35 - yay! Grabbed some water and found my Dad.

Found Mike, he did great despite some bike mechanical problems.

Here's my splits

Run 1 - 1:00:45 (which from the start gun is offiicially 1:01:45 - so I only missed the start by 1 minute!)
T1 - 2:14
Bike - 1:45:10 !!!!! This is shocking!! :D
T2 - 2:01
Run 2 - 1:07:15
Total 3:58:35

category place............ 1st !!!! Ok so there weren't that many in my age group but still - I won.... not sure where i was in the total ladies

How this compares to last time is really interesting....

Nov 2009

Run 1 - 1:00:41 (-4 seconds)
T1 - 3:18 (+1:02)
Bike - 1:36:08 (- 9 mins!!)
T2 - 3:19 (+1:18)
Run 2 - 1:07:08 (- 7 seconds)
Total - 3:50:36
category position - 5th

Weight difference + 1 stone!

My run times were almost identical which I find amazing. The bike time - atrocious! :D

I just looked up the guy in green top and he did 4hr 1 min so i'm happy for him too.

Still my favourite race, looking forward to the next one... after my legs stop hurting!

Monday 31 January 2011

Peeeee Beeeeeeee! :D

Yay! :-)

20:45. Didn't quite reach puke speed but near, feels great considering i'm way over my racing weight.

had a couple of beers after and really fancied a fag! :P then pedalled hard home buzzing :) In theory if i keep at it, lose kilos i could get under 20....?

Record turn out tonight too and Pb's all round :)

Patheon 5k Race Series

Quite soon after joining my company 3 and a half years ago, I started up a running group - I was training for reading half marathon at the time as was another guy from work. It was just a weekly run out from work during the cold dark winter to get some miles in without running such a high risk of getting arse raped, it ceased after Reading and since then I've just done my own thang.

After the Ironman I was pretty fucked to be honest, it took me a couple of months to realise just how fucked I was - it wasn't until I got my energy back, my life back, my sense of humour,  my sex drive, my periods and all the other things that vanished due to overtraining. I underestimated how much recovery I'd really need, I'd been training 15 - 25 hours a week for 6 months and I couldn't get into my head that it was OK to do nothing. So I continued training way too soon after the event - like a few days later, only to find 4 weeks later, I was proper fucked. Jaded, moody, uninterested. So I threw myself into going out, having fun, drinking a lot - you know - like acting my age! I was still keeping active but not stressing about training schedules or mileage I was just doing it to enjoy it - cycling and running to work (I'd got rid of my car) , mountain biking, rock climbing - not because I had to, but because I wanted to. You'll notice Swimming isn't mentioned..! It was liberating.

As a plan to get back keep ticking over I decided to set up a monthly Park run at work, so asked a few friends at work if they'd be interested, put up a poster and got a pretty reasonable response. Thus - The Patheon Park Run was born. It was a little bit of a selfish set up initially - to get at least one 5k effort run in to get some speed back into my weary long slow run legs. It has ended up being a sociable group of walkers/runners progressing into a running club after this last event.

The first race was at the end of October, I'd measured out a 5k route starting at work, running round the estate in a sort of figure of 8.

The results are as follows, with a little background of what I did between races.....

Race 1 - September - 20:55 (there was less than half a second between me and the guy who came 2nd)
Took up smoking. Went out a lot, gained a bit of weight. Did quite a few long slow runs, nothing fast, I knew I had london marathon in April so wanted to keep on top of my endurance.

Race 2 - October - 21:29 (got my ass whipped by a new runner to the group)
Took up smoking a bit more.... went out a bit more. Still cycling everyday and running when i fancied it (sometimes to and from work in a day - 9 miles in the morning, 9 miles in the evening)
Again smoking on th e increase, christmas parties, year end at work - swapped food for alcohol during the week. Partied hard. Had gone back to my old rule of "no smoking before I'd trained that day"

Race 3 - November - 22:01 - a knee niggle injury had cropped but didnt affect running too much til i did long stuff. but this day it was hurting so i said "i'll take it steady" I didn't
More xmas parties, working 2 jobs over xmas period so my day was like this for 2 weeks:
7am - cycle to work, 8-5 work, 5.30 - cycle home. Change, cycle to job 2, 7 - 1.30am - work. cycle home (in snow/ice), 2am - 6am sleep. For 2 weeks! I was fucked. I didn't run much during this time, partly cos my knee wouldn't allow it. mostly cos I was only getting a few hours sleep a night.

Race 4 - December : 22:30 - was really snowy, was the " Fancy dress Christmas Pub run" originally it was going to be a fun run of Drink a pint, run 5k, drink another pint. It was just a straight 5k in the end
I had most of xmas off training, did normal folk stuff, saw friends, hung with family, made snowmen...I'd done a few short runs, a boxing day race and not touched my bike for 2 weeks. I went to running club and kicked ass!

Race 5 - January - I'd given myself january to get back into it gradually, with a half plan in place but again nothing strict or regimented, my main aim now is to lose weight. I'd also a few weekends planned for birthdays, or with friends, a big work night out midweek, so I knew it wasn't going to be a clean month. My only strict rule was NO SMOKING. There's a clear correllation between ratio of smoking/drinking and my times. Not to mention being fatigued and injured (which my physio suggested was possibly a symptom of fatigue also)

Through january i've been having physio on my knee, it was intermittent - fine as long as I didn't do more than 10  miles. I went to have my gait analysed at my normal running shop, and turns out I'd begun to pronate which was possibly what was causing my knee pains. He also suggested that it was fatigue making me run sloppy.

So i bought new shoes and made a new plan. For the next 2 weeks I wasn't going to run more than 6 miles. But was aiming to run 5 - 6 times a week doing 3 - 6 miles, but work on getting some speed back in my legs to fire up my fast twitch muscle again and also to lose weight - I know my body well enough that it does not lose it if I'm training long - i didn't lose an ounce during Ironman or previous marathon training so I've decided that unless I can lose 10 - 14 pounds I'm not doing london, I've got a couple of other big events later in the year which i need to have the optimum power to weight ratio or I'm going to struggle.

So I'm back in the gym, speed work, not smoking and am going to see what happens next. I asked  the lovely Amanda what she thought of my plan of just doing short stuff through feb while I get my racing legs back with 10 milers being my longest in prep for the marathon should I do it and she thinks that since I've got a good endurance base it should be ok. So that's my plan for feb.

Final 5k race is tonight, so will update later to see how my non smoking, strength training, speed work plan is going! :)

Moral of the story - don't smoke. It looks cool but makes you run shit :-S

Tuesday 4 January 2011

Boxing Day Relay

It's been a long while since I've written on here or indeed done any races. This was more of a fun thing organised by a friend at running club - the following details were emailed round

I won't be there tonight but can I ask if you want to run in the Boxing Day Great Canal Relay.
Those who have been doing the race since it started will be interested to know that this year is the 80th running of the event!
For those who haven't done it before this is a 6-leg relay race which starts at Bradford-on-Avon at 9.30 on the 26th December.

The lengths of the legs are about 2.5, 5.5, 2.5, 2.5 5.5 and 5.5 miles (although most of those lengths are wrong)
It finishes at the French Horn at Pewsey Wharf at about 12.30 where we have a drink, some
food and the presentation of probably the greatest prize in running.

It's not a race that's taken seriously - in fact everyone is discouraged from winning as this is seen as un-sporting.

"Competitors" are encouraged to run in fancy dress although this is not in any way compulsory.

Please let me know if you want to run and if so how far.

You can run any number of legs, although to be fair, no one has ever run

more than six"

Nearer the date we received further info and the following rules (not "this years rules")

"This Year's Rules:

1 Start 9:30 on 26.12.2010
2 6 legs
3 1 to 6 Runners
4 At least one lady (or equivalent) per team
5 No prizes - Again! - but a "magnificent" trophy
6 Optional entry fee of £1 per runner (ALL of which goes to Charity)
7 Other Rules may be added at any time
8 All rules may be ignored at any time (except possibly the new rule 9)
9 Fancy Dress is encouraged
10 For health and safety reasons, anyone over the age of 105 must be accompanied by at least one parent"

I was down to do the last leg (5.5 ish miles) my runnings been hit n miss lately, with a bit of a knee niggle hampering things but marathon training is underway and I've managed one 18 miler and getting some commutes to work done which is 9 mile each way - since i have no car i have no choice but to run or cycle so it's a blessing in disguise perhaps.

Anyhow, i received a call on Christmas day from the organiser to say both our clubs runners for leg 3 had pulled out for various reasons so would i do that one as well. So I agreed, he told me it was about 3.5 miles... if you look above it says 2.5....?! whatever it was all for fun.

Boxing day morning and I wasn't very well organised as I was staying at my folks I had my kit with me but nothing really very fancy dressish. At home i had an elf and Santa hat I'd been wearing on my bike but that wasn't very original, so I stole pops car and nipped home and had a quick rummage. I pulled the fairy lights off my bike (I'd been getting festive on the bike) grabbed a green dress and green tshirt, the angel  off the Xmas tree, a string of tinsel and ran back out the door.

The sat nav took me where I needed to be for my first leg, it was minus 6 and there was snow everywhere, but it was beautiful. I'd become quite used to the cold weather cycling 20 miles a day for work and running sometimes 18 but it still felt cold. I sat in the car park and transformed myself into a Xmas tree. I looked shabby apples but it got the desired affect, shame the lights weren't really visible in the daylight or it mightve been better. Then angel pinned to my head and i went to meet the others at the change over.

There were about 10 teams  - lots of others were dressed up too, one lady was in a skimpy elf costume, she looked freezing!! Others were dressed suitably for the baltic conditions. The canal was one thick sheet of ice, the barges all frozen into place. It wasn't long before the first runner came through and changed over. In the distance I could see a caped man running our way, it was our number 2 runner. We were in 2nd place, he slapped my hand and i bombed off.

It was so pretty out, lots f walkers with their dogs and kids, i said merry Xmas to everyone i passed, looking like a right dafty! I soon became really hot and took off my gloves. I felt like a little bunny skipping through the snow. It was really nice, i was expecting lots of ice but the ice patches were few and far between. My toes were getting pretty cold though! The last half of my leg was up hill... i questioned this when i got back - how can a canal path go up hill!? Someone said "that's why i didn't want to do that leg" cheers. ;-)

I powered up the last hill to the next change over not far behind the front runner, I'd gained a bit of time on him during the run. A lady looked at my feet and said "i thought you had spikes on the way you came up there so strong" which was a nice compliment :) the angel's head had fallen off and i was really hot now!

Someone had driven dad's car to the changeover and we drove in convoy to the next one 3 or so miles away. I had time to drink some coffee and take a slash behind a bush. watched the leg 4 to 5 changeover then on once more to the final leg. I decided to run this one in just my running gear as it was really hot before

I was told it was a bit confusing, you had to cross some of the bridges, but "not this one", "make sure you don't go into the woods"
"so i go to the woods and then over a bridge?"
"is it not obvious?"
"can't i just follow the person in front?"

um.. no, our runner was coming in, we were in first place. shit.

Ok, i was off at a pretty quick pace, then i realised i had nearly 6 miles to go so pulled it back a little. The snow down here was much deeper and untouched. it was brilliant, i bounded through like a kid. So tempted to do snow angels but i could see someone in the distance behind me, i kept checking to see how quickly he was gaining on me, not fast but he was going to catch me at some point. I pushed on, not knowing which crossing i had to take, where the woods were. Bouncing through ankle deep snow smiling.

The guy was about 20 m behind me now and i wasn't sure where to go, i shouted back "is it this bridge"  - "no" he yelled i ran past it and there's no way over it anyway!

I did the same at the next bridge, again no. After this one he was right on my shoulder, i was tempted to hog the path so he couldn't get through but i let him past. I asked if he was the guy doing it solo but he was doing it in a pair. He had a nice bum and legs that went on forever!

I couldn't keep with him, so i dropped back further. I could see about 500m in the distance the finish area where the crowd were waiting. I could also see a little way behind me, another runner. I started to dig in, but it wasn't quite enough. I was blowing, I could hear him gaining on me, i pushed harder, my legs burning and my chest tight, he was right there on my shoulder. 100 yards to go... i pushed. Again I thought i could just hog the narrow path... but i moved across so he could pass, i tried to stick with him, i contemplated pushing him into the frozen canal!

He pulled away from me and with 5 seconds between us at the finish, we were both near to vomitting!

It was declared the closest race in the history.

The guy in the pair was dq'd cos he had no lady in the team, so we got 2nd and 3rd (our other team came in a few minutes behind)

We went to the pub to get a pint to find the pipes were all frozen so no beer :( so i had a rum n coke and waited for the rest of the teams to come in.

The man with amazing long legs was even nicer from the front. (his face not his member!)

The magnificent trophy was presented (the idea of it is that the winning team have to add something to it each year)

Next year they're thinking of drawing names out of the hat to decide the winners. :)

Here's what we could've won....

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This latest blog will be hopefully following my transwales experience. Enjoy with me :-)