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Friday, May 15, 2015

DNF TP100: Why I Didn't Finish My 100 Mile Race

The Day The Bottom Fell Out Of My World or The Day The World Fell Out Of My Bottom 

I had no injuries, my training had gone really well and I had spent hours and hours preparing my drop bags and choosing the right kit. I taped my toes up and had lubed everywhere so thoroughly that when I went to use the portaloo before the start of the race, I’d almost slid into the hole.

Before the race with Jilly, me and Tinu
So my excuse for dropping out of the Thames Path 100 at checkpoint 1, 12 miles into the race? 

My complete inability to keep any food or water in my body. Despite already eating 6 (my complete stock for the TP100) Imodium tablets, bad things were happening. Every time I took a sip of water, I had to run and find a loo. I couldn’t get food down. This wasn’t just an upset tummy, this was a furious tummy.

I was having visions of shrivelling up like a raisin from dehydration. The face of mother Teresa, the vision of Scott Jurek but the toilet habits of a 10 week old puppy.

Mother Teresa (Source)
All that preparation and training unravelled in a moment. I couldn’t push and bully myself through 100 miles of not being able to eat or drink. But it made it an easy decision. No agonising over what to do. 

But gutted. I felt truly gutted. I knew that there was the possibility of a Did Not Finish at a race of this length but didn’t expect it to apply to me. Not arrogance, just optimism and high expectations. I didn’t expect to come into work the week after NOT having achieved a belt buckle. I run. It’s what I do. Not this day. 

To drop was an easy choice, but not an easy reconciliation. I’m going over it and over it. Could I have gone on? Yes, but not for long without being able fuel. Should I have started knowing I wasn’t well? Probably not, but sometimes it’s just nerves.

It wasn’t all bad though. I met up with old friends, made new friends and met online friends. I ran a few miles with Naomi who had done so brilliantly in the race last year and saw her as she came through CP2 and I was waiting for my lift home. She was very sympathetic at my plight and went to hug me, then remembered I’d dropped out because I was sick. So patted me on the head instead. It made me laugh and made me like her more. 

Me and Tony Bowe of Northbrook
I met Justin who had a great race ... up to mile 95 and who had to drop when his knee just refused to move like a knee should. Tinu, the inspiring and brave lady who is moving towards the 100 marathon club. Rodrigo on his way to the Grand Slam – 4 x 100 milers this year. Louise, the ultra runner and parkrun tourist extraordinaire. Tony from Northbrook who had an amazing race and who has just discovered His Distance. Ultraboy owner of the most garish footwear and singer of West End musicals. Jilly the RMR ultra runner. Cat ultra legend. Rhianon who I always seem to see part way through races and Susie and Shaun, the MdS superstars and adventurers. Leila of Aid Station 1 who has made me look forward to Giants head Marathon more through her cider tales and Donna of Centurion who – despite the risk to upholstery and vehicle – gave me a lift to CP2. I hope your shin fractures heals quickly. And of course to Boo and Ash for putting me up for 3 days and being amazing. Thank you all. It would have been a lot worse without you.

And thank you to Simon, my crew who wasn’t and Anna, my pacer who wasn’t. And Lily my 5 year old who told me she knew what was wrong: “You're just tired and need some kisses and cuddles.” 

This post has turned into a babble. The positives, I have no injury and the only damage from the TP100 was to my pride. And my arse.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Runner: I Label Myself

I saw a post recently that made me sad. It was labelling runners. A friend had said she wasn’t a marathon runner because she hadn’t run the whole way in a marathon. I don’t like labelling people. It judges them, puts them in a little box and it’s unfair. Everyone’s story is different and we don’t all fit the little boxes.

Labelling excludes people more than it includes them and running is the opposite of that. I’m not sure why it should be but it is. If you run, you’re automatically included in the community, in the pack.  

I train alone most of the time but I know that despite this, if I see a runner on the street, they’ll probably nod or wave whether they know me or not. I know that my running friends will listen to my training woes and offer helpful suggestions to problems, I know that when I fail in a race, they’ll be there to offer support. We may never all get together, we may be miles, even countries apart but we’re a community. A group. A collective of lycra clad, trainer-obsessed runners. And we’re all in it together. 

We may run for different reasons, for a new personal best time, to win a race, to do something we’ve never done before or for peace of mind or to keep the sadness away or to feel the burn of effort in our lung, our legs, our hearts ... but we’re in it together. And we all know the satisfaction of our footfalls on the paths.

Most of us in this pic hadn't met before Equinox 24

It never ceases to amaze me that we can come from such different starting points, have such different aims but be able to talk so freely. The 12 minute miler and the 6 minute miler sharing their tales of their latest parkrun personal best or the ultra runner and the club runner discussing nutrition race strategies. Even the solitary runner feels this bond, knows that they’re part of something bigger than themselves.

The Boston Marathon Bombings showed the solidarity of runners. We all mourned the hurt and the felt the horror of it. Miles away, countries away, we were all shaken by what happened to normal people, running people, OUR people. And again it demonstrated our community, our inclusiveness. 

So please don’t label us. If we have finished a marathon, whether we ran the whole way, stopped for a few steps at the water station or had to walk for a mile we’re entitled to call ourselves marathon runners if we want to. Please don’t try and take our achievements away with your words. Your opinion may not matter, but why would you want to hurt someone for their amazing achievement?


So let’s agree just to give ourselves one label: runner. 

Friday, May 8, 2015

Finally Comfortable in Lycra

I feel quite comfortable in my lycra now. I feel at home. I don’t really care when people stare. I’ll be past them soon anyway. 

But I remember caring. I remember getting my first pair of capris. Pulling them down a bit so they covered a bit more. Are they meant to be this short? This tight? People can practically see my pants.

I didn’t start running until I was 30. It was scary. How do all these people know what to wear? Where to buy shoes? Are there running rules? And HOW does a person actually snot rocket?

It helped when I realised I have a finite number of f**ks to give. Caring about what an unimportant someone else thinks about my running is not important to me. What someone else thinks is none of my business. Me, my look, my running is none of theirs. 

But we remember the negatives, the cheap insults and forget the positives so easily. How is this right? We fight so hard to snatch an hour for a run, we worry about our goals and we struggle to take the first step towards these. 

When I’m struggling on a run, I try to remember running when I was a child. Effortless freedom. This is my chance to recapture this. To run through the puddles, to smile just for the chance to be out in the rain. I’m a runner, these things are allowed. My lycra, my license for lunacy. No limitations.

I see people running when I’m driving and I wish I could be running instead. And then I realised. When I’m running, people are envying me too. They don’t care about the red face, the jiggly bits, my unmatched kit. They see the freedom, the effort, the sweat. They see my footfalls on the trails and pavements and wish they were taking these footsteps. But they’re mine. 

Source unknown

Set the goals that scare you, that you will need every ounce of effort to achieve. Stretch and soar and you will do things you never thought you would. Or could. 

Don’t hesitate, don’t stop. My Mum always says “Look confident in what you’re doing even if you’re not and other people will assume you are!” She was right. Don’t stop, don’t falter. Don’t let the sarcastic applause the catcalls, the insults get you down. 

These people would do what you’re doing if they could. They can’t. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Pretty Kit: Jimmy Design Kit Review

One of my friends, Jo made a good point recently when I was admiring her pretty kit after the Wattbike test. "I spend a lot of my time in my training kit", she said, "so I wear something pretty that makes me feel good as well".

I thought this was a great point. 

I don’t mean you have to pick pick prettiness over function, but when you get the chance of kit that offers both? Go for it. 


This picture isn't me. Wish it was. I'd be showing EVERYONE this six pack.
So when Jimmy Design contacted me to ask whether I’d like to review one of their Sports Bras. I had a quick peek and immediately said “yes please”. While women’s running kit has come a long way and now comes in a multitude of colours, MY running kit (except for my socks of course!) tends to be mainly black. It’s like I’ve regressed back to school PE kit. Except for the daps. 

I’m not harbouring a secret desire to go back to school days. I don’t want to ‘Go Emo' (I simply haven’t got the time to apply THAT much black eyeliner) and I certainly don't intend to look as though I wish to double as a pallbearer at a lycra fetishist’s funeral. (Although I DO have a secret desire to be a ninja) My kit tends to be picked mainly for function. 

So I picked the prettiest top I could see. This top is described as a yoga bra and while not being a yogi? yoga-er? it looked PERFECT for hot evenings on the turbo trainer and for running in the hot sunshine on the marathons and ultra runs I’ve got planned this Summer.

When it turned up it was softer than I’d expected which was a good thing and the colours were printed on rather than being inherent to the fabric. It has two inserts that can be removed so if you wanted to wear it as a low impact sports bra you would be able to without worrying about the thickness of the fabric. 

The fit was comfortable and flattering and it wasn’t too restrictive. Best of all I enjoyed wearing it for the warm up on the turbo and when the session got tough I FORGOT I was wearing it. Which is how tops should be for turbo sessions. 

It’s pretty, it’s comfortable, it’s flattering, it’s cheap. Thank you for the free top to review Jimmy Design ... I shall shortly be buying another as for £15 they're a bit of a bargain! And if you’d like one too they’re available from Amazon here

I feel feminine wearing it and it's a far cry from the monotone black kit I’m used to wearing. You wouldn’t confuse this with my usual PE-esque running kit. 

And as such it brings back none of the old fear of school and the terrifying Physical Education lessons. I was having a bit of a discussion with friends on twitter recently and how I was pretty sure I’d probably still get picked last for PE. Unless there was a team for running in straight lines in which case I am all over that. 

Coordination is just not one of my strengths. I like running because it’s not complicated. Which is another reason for wearing pretty kit. Anything that draws attention away from my flailing legs and what I’m actually doing is all good in my book. If I can get people to say “Ooh I like her pretty top” instead of “Huh? Is that supposed to be step aerobics? And has she just fallen off the step and knocked that woman off her step too?*” then I count it as a good thing.

*This has actually happened to me. And one of the twitter girls @Lilbeeloo67 actually got kicked out of step class for this sort of thing. Wonder if she got put on the Naughty Step. Fnar fnar. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Coventry Way 40 Miler: Flouting the 5 Second Rule

This race was made up of:

Flouting the 5 second rule. 
If you shout “FIVE SECOND RULE!” really loudly after you’ve dropped food, it is absolutely impossible for any germs, dirt, poo or otherwise vile things to attach themselves to it. The louder you shout it, the longer you have to retrieve your food. I suspect people could hear me picking up my jellybabies from Northampton. 

Yes I KNOW it looks like the photographer is drinking a beer ...

Kicking tree stumps.
If you don’t donate at least one toenail during an ultra then you’ve jinxed yourself for the rest of the season. It’s like a disposable bodypart offering to the Running Gods. Therefore it was entirely on purpose *cough* that I kicked that hidden tree stump at 32 miles. The swearing after kicking said tree stump was like a prayer to said Running Gods. Honest. They like it better when you use really imaginative words. 

*mutter “cockwomble” grump “badgerbollocks” whimper “stripy strumpet” mumble* 

Navigating without using the map book
The joys of actually knowing a run route! Having run the Coventry Way in the pitch black and bitter cold in December and nearly losing all the interesting parts of my body to frostbite and crying when I found the pub closed was totally worth it. Almost worth it. Worth it except for the closed pub bit. 

Also thanks to running with Mike, we didn’t get lost ONCE. Except for at the start when I took the wrong junction off the M6 and ended up in Birmingham instead of Coventry. Note: I live SIX miles from Coventry. Shhh don’t tell anyone or they’ll realise how shit my navigation is. 

Mike ran the WHOLE way like this. On one leg. 

Actually RUNNING Most of the Route
It really helped knowing the way as didn’t have to stand still bickering about which stile to climb or field of cows to brave.  Although we did stick strictly to Ultra Rules shouting “Ultra Rules!” whenever we came to a hill and refusing to run up it if gradient was steeper than a speed bump. If a marble would roll down it we were walking it. And probably eating snacks at the same time. It’s sensible planning, right? No point tiring legs out on mole hills and speed bumps. Climbing those is EXHAUSTING. *cough*

Doing Aid Stations Like Pros
Basically this consisted of a slow motion version of supermarket sweep but with picnic tables and my grubby, grabby little hands instead of a supermarket trolley. And with eating as I went along for maximum food intake. 

You know how people say they don’t lose weight during marathon training? Well in ultra marathons you can actually put on weight. 

Shortest Ultra 
Coventry Way 40 was due to be my shortest ultra marathon. I was a bit concerned about this as my legs tend to get a 2nd wind at about 50 miles ... and this race was 40 miles long. It wouldn’t be much good if my legs whisked me out of the shower about an hour after I finished and insisted on a trot down the road. And the neighbours would probably complain at soap suds on their roses. 



Overtaking the Husband
This is guaranteed to cheer me up. Saw The Mister at about mile 22 on the canal path section. I felt a bit mean about waving and leaving him behind but not ‘mean’ enough that I would slow down and run slowly with him. There’s ‘feeling mean’ and then there’s ‘cocking your race up’. I blew him a kiss as I left though. (I didn’t think shouting “Na na na na na” would have gone down very well.)

Seeing Friends On Route
There’s a lot to be said for a local race. We saw family. We saw friends. We even saw the man who I waved at in the car park thinking he was Dave. He saw me too and I couldn’t have been running fast enough as he had time to ask “Aren’t you the person who waved at me in the car park? Do I know you?” We ran behind Monika for ages although I didn’t even realise it was her until I saw a photo on Facebook. We saw Amy and Dave from Northbrook, lots of Kenilworth Runners and we made a new friend who was 72 and who did the Coventry Way every year. 

Amazing Support Crew
The aim was to stroll through the CPs doing our Food Hoover Strategy but without hanging around as we had The Amazing Sheela as Support Crew and she very kindly agreed to cart around food, kit and be Vaseline Angel. (Proffer the tub not application of said Vaseline – she’s kind not insane). Richie ran with us for the last 3 miles despite having raced an insanely hilly 7 miler and nursing an injury and Steff and Simon and Sally of Kenilworth Runners did LOUD CHEERING. 



Cider & Glory
Was very surprisingly 2nd lady! Woo!! Very pleased with that! No cup or prize, instead a massive dose of smug. And a pint of cider at the end. 


The Coventry Way is a 40 mile race which is a loop around Coventry ... but you’d never know it. It’s about 90% trails and footpaths and it’s full of stiles, pedlars bridges, farm tracks and hidden ways. You cross through the edges of villages occasionally but it feels very rural. It’s flat but interesting. You can find out a bit more about it here.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Wattbike Test at Inspire2tri: On Pain of Fire, Ants & Excrement

I'd stripped off in public. Something that would usually NEVER happen. Unless my clothes were a) on fire b) covered with ants c) covered in poo. And even then it would probably have to be someone else’s poo. 


Inspire2tri

However, my reason for stripping off wasn’t too do with insects, flames OR excrement. It was something much scarier. I was going to do The Wattbike Test. The equivalent pain of racing a 5k PB ... but condensed into 3 minutes. And in front of other people. 

I was going to be hotter than microwaved coffee hence the strip down to shorts and crop top but I was hoping the results would make it worth it.  

I was warming up on the turbo for 20 minutes on a structured warm up with the 10 other people in the room. The studio was filling up with the sounds of acceleration on the sprints, heavy breathing and nervous farts. Well my corner of it was, anyway.  


The Farty Corner

Coach Mary had planned it so we all started the warm up at different times. This way we’d have 20 minutes of spinning on our own bikes on the turbo and be ready to go on with the same preparation each. We had 2 Wattbikes in the centre of the room with our turbos ringed around them. A bit like a cage fight but with more pedals and farting. But about the same amount of sweat and desperation. 

The Wattbike Test is 3 minutes long and from these results I’d have accurate heart rate information which would mean I could make sure I’m training in the right zones. In other words making my training as efficient as possible. I’d know I was doing my easy rides easy enough and pushing hard enough on the REALLY horrible turbo sessions. I’d be able to judge it by my heart rate now through the readings I’d be getting on my watch via my HR monitor strap, rather than on my rather less accurate scale of ‘a bit sweaty’ to ‘legs feel wobbly now’. 

However as a result of going far too fast on the warm up due to a mixture of nerves and the adrenaline of watching other people do their tests on the Wattbike first, I was now boiling hot. I wasn’t ‘glowing’ or ‘perspiring’, I had reached ‘revoltingly sweaty’. Loz on the bike next to me and I exchanged glances. Yep. The vests were coming off. Being super organised triathletes *cough*, we’d worn cropped sports tops underneath in the event of an emergency (bee attacks, tummy button fires) and this was an emergency. A Wattbike emergency. We were in fact exposing far less skin than the average Victorian swimmer, but we were also in a roomful of athletes. Slinky, non-sweaty, buffed athletes. 

Sod it. We were BOILING. 

*Tops off*

People were just going to have to ignore any wobbly bits I was displaying. None of the INTERESTING wobbly bits, mind you but probably wobbly nonetheless.

The relief was immediate. But short lived. My turn on Wattbike of Death. 

Me being me encountered a problem. 1 minute into my 3 minute test – the point where I thought my eyeballs were boiling – Coach Mary realised that the HR displayed on the bike wasn’t mine. The perils of having 10 other people in the room also wearing HR monitors. 

So off the Wattbike, back onto my own bike for some easy spin and to let my heart rate drop back down from ‘hummingbird’ to ‘extremely nervous’. Or at least from ‘hum’ to ‘thunder’. 

But on the plus side, I’d had one go on the bike, hadn’t fallen off and it was already adjusted to fit me. I was impressed. It had taken 30 seconds to set it up (less than the average spin bike!) and through a few easy changes, it would fit both the 6ft Adam and the 5’4 me. At least I didn’t have to worry about not being able to reach the pedals.   


This isn't so bad ... (Source: Inspire2Tri)

Recovery time up and back on the bike. 3 minutes doesn’t sound long, does it? 0.5% of an exam. The length of time a crème egg lasts in my house. The time from leaving the house to realising your mobile is on the kitchen counter at home ...

But 3 minutes is a VERY long time.

And it’s very difficult to pace.


Ok ... this isn't quite so much fun now (Source: Inspire2Tri)
I knew that I would need to be trying my hardest to get the most accurate results I could, but it would be crazy to do my usual thing of flying off as hard as possible at the beginning and then dying about 45 seconds later. I’d need to go hard but try and pace myself to last the 3 minutes. And for 30 seconds it was fine. It was really fine. And then I realised I had to do that FIVE MORE TIMES.  

I really hit the all time low when Coach Mary announced I ‘only’ had two more minutes left. ONLY two minutes? That’s two minutes in which it appears my legs will simply give up on me, shrivel up, die and fall off. Two minutes in which my eyeballs appear to be forcing themselves down my nostrils. And 2 minutes in which I will simply suck all of the air from the room and die on the floor trying to fill my lungs.

And then it was over. 

I had no ideas of the figures on the display, I had been keeping my eyes purely on the cadence looking to hold the same revolutions-per-minute on the pedals. I was dimly aware that the display was flashing away, the same way I was aware of the cheers of the others as they encouraged me onwards and as I had encouraged them but it wasn’t important. The important thing had been keeping going. However now I WAS interested in the results. Wattbike users report significant gains in performance after training on a Wattbike (source), being able to keep an eye on the key variables and using the information you’re given as a tool to help efficient training are just two of the benefits. 

Summary:
Max Minute Power (MMP): 274w
Max Heart rate: 176BPM
Power/Mass:                       4.72W/kg
V02 max estimate:               3.2 l/min, 55.6 ml/kg/min
MET:                                  15.9

But more importantly for me were my heart rate zones:

Training Zone HR (bpm)
Recovery            <106
Zone 1 Basic 107-114
Zone 2 Basic 115-132
Zone 3 Intensive 133-144
Zone 4 Intensive 145-157
Zone 5 Maximal 158-165
Zone 6 Maximal 166-176

Using these accurate training zones, I would be able to check I was riding at the right intensity while training. I have the terrible habit of trying to do everything at top speed, far too fast and not getting the benefit of the work I’m putting in. With this data, Coach Mary would be able to check that I was behaving myself and shout at me with terrible accuracy when I was slacking off or trying to do everything at high speed. And I would have no defence. The data would speak for itself. 

However, it would be me reaping the benefits. Rather than lots of junk miles, my training could be refined and now my sessions could be targeted. I could ensure that my training was pointing me directly at my goal. 

Now I knew what I SHOULD be doing. All that I need to do is actually to do it. 

Monday, April 13, 2015

Not All Girls Are Made of Sugar and Spice ...


No idea of the source of this but I LOVE it!
Not all girls are made of sugar and spice and everything nice ...

Some girls are made of adventure and beer and brains and no fear ...

#LikeAGirl

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Bicester Triathlon: Urine Tide Lines, Biblical Weather & Bulldogs.

Men were passing me on the bike leg of the triathlon. I’d expected to be overtaken, but bizarrely they all seemed to be grinning. Or gurning. How strange. 

Had I got my helmet on back to front? My trisuit had maybe split up the arse?

Then I realised. They weren’t gurning OR grinning. The headwind was so strong, our mouths, open for breathing were being blown around. It was the cycling equivalent of blasting a bulldog with a leafblower. 

This is what a bulldog looks like when it's being blasted by a leaf blower. AMAZING. (Source)
I’d expected the weather to be a bit rainy, but I hadn’t expected the wind to be quite as strong as it was. There were WAVES in the puddles and sideways trees. The course was a great one and was very flat – but unsheltered. Which meant the wind could really have fun trying to blow me backwards while I desperately tried to cycle forwards.  I’d hoped for a bike PB over the 20km with all my turbo training over the last few months, but today I’d be happy with not ending up in the hedge or under a lorry. Actually moving forwards was to be a bonus. 

I’d suspected things weren’t going to go my way when I’d had to stop my bike in traffic within 5 minutes of starting, unable to overtake the stationary line of cars waiting to turn right at the roundabout at the end. The man in front of me whom I’d been trying desperately to catch since we set off turning into a dot in the distance. Bloody traffic.  There was nothing I could do about it though. I waited until I could start moving again, put my head down and started pedalling like a dervish. 

The morning had started so well too ...

There were crème eggs at registration. There were toilets without queues AND with loo roll. I’d even passed a sign to a village called ‘Hardwick’, the surname of my coach which I’d taken as a good omen.

AND I’d made a new friend. This was unintentional and the poor chap didn’t have much choice in the matter. It had been break point. In the car, I’d realised I probably should have popped to the loo before leaving home. 

FORTUNATELY, there were plenty of service stations on my journey ... UNFORTUNATELY I’d forgotten my bike lock and didn’t dare leave the bike unlocked on the back of the car. 

Same dilemma when I got the venue. Transition wasn’t yet open and I didn’t want to leave the bike unlocked on the car in a field or unlocked against the wall outside the loos. 

I had the brief thought about whether I could fit my bike into one of the toilet cubicles. Then decided it would be impossible to actually go to loo with the cubicle filled up with bike.

Then I spotted George. He looked reasonably trustworthy. And he had his own bike. He didn’t need 2, right? (Don’t ask a triathlete this question) I had three options. 1. Take bike into toilet and attempt acrobatic style wee while balancing over bike 2. Leave bike with trustworthy looking stranger.  3.Wet self while trying to decide.  

I took option 2. And New-Friend-George was promoted to Bike Babysitter. 

However I may have peeked back out of door to see whether he was attempting to cycle away on his own bike with mine tucked under his arm. He wasn’t. 

I found the loos and got myself registered – they were giving out FREE crème eggs!!! - and then did my own spot of Bike Babysitting as New Friend discovered he had same lock-less problem.

The children’s triathlon had started so I watched them coming through transition with their bikes and heading out for the run. It was pouring with rain, the wind was blowing trees sideways and the massive heavy metal barriers kept blowing over. And there were small children running in trisuits. Basically in swimsuits with legs. I’d brought my own trisuit but had been planning on putting a couple of layers over the top. 

I spotted a small child shivering.  Dressed in a small red trisuit, he had finished his race and was recovering in a sheltered corner out of the howling wind. “Weren’t you cold in just a trisuit?” I asked sympathetically looking for an excuse for me to wear my nice thick bike jacket over the top. He looked up at me. “Yes” And holding up a MASSIVE medal. “...but I won.” That was me told then.  

Transition opened at 10am. I always feel better when my bike was racked and kit set up, although in this weather it was unlikely to stay set up. The bike were swaying on the racks due to the strong winds and kit boxes were already scattered across the field. I set up my shoes, towel and other bits and pieces inside a bin bag and held it down with my heavy Huub tri bag. If the wind managed to blow my fully laden tri bag away then the bikes would already be in the trees. 

My bike is the one with the white saddle. 
I’d already had a narrow squeak thanks to the weather this morning. The registration envelope had got so sodden with the rain that the bottom had fallen out and I’d been unknowingly trailing helmet stickers and fliers all around transition. Luckily someone stopped me and handed me my timing chip “I think you might need this ...”. Ah. I retraced my steps and recollected my damp items. Like a breadcrumb trail but with race information and stickers instead of crumbs.

My bike was racked on the field under the rugby goal posts. There were no rack numbers – it was first come, first served. As soon as transition opened it was like a Next sale. Chaos. What is it with triathletes and elbowing? Seriously guys, calm down! You’re not in the open water now, you know! *Surreptitiously kicks man in ankle for good racking spot* 


As soon as everything was set up, I wandered over to the pool to watch the swimmers. I was really impressed with the spectating area. Loads of space to watch the swimmers and it was warm. Important if you’re hanging around in swim kit. And it was here I had my favourite surprise of the day! My friend Rae had come to cheer me on! I’d come to the triathlon on my own so it was wonderful to have someone cheering for me! Thank you, thank you!

I got changed and got myself down to the pool edge. The triathlon had started at 8:30am but due to the staggered start I didn’t get into the pool until 12:30. Which due to the nervous swimmers was by this point about 90% urine. I’d heard Coca Cola was good for killing water germs, but at this point the only thing likely to save me was neat bleach. I was expecting brown tide lines when I got out of the pool later. 

Pretending I'm not nervous ...
The earlier swimmers had been 2 to a lane and it had looked quite sedate and calm while they swam perfect breastroke. It all looked a bit different now. Swimmers thrashing up and down and a man with bright pink calf guards zipping up and down the nearside lane. Hats hadn’t been supplied at this triathlon so there were multiple coloured heads bobbing around like Christmas baubles.

For once before a race, I didn’t feel nervous. I felt sick, but not nervous. I knew that I might hate every second but unlike my only other pool triathlon I was confident I could actually swim 400m this time and whether armbands would be allowed wasn’t so much of a concern. Before I knew it I was being called up along with 5 others and it was my turn. 

Pic by Rae
I slipped into the pool and took a couple of seconds to adjust my goggles and get my face under the water. Yep. 90% urine.

And we were off. The swim was ... unexpected. I felt comfortable. I could do this. Maybe not gracefully or without a bit of thrashing around, but I could do this. Maybe the wee made the pool easier to swim in. Who knows but as I exited the pool after my 16th lap I remembered to stop my swim watch and looked down to see 7:47 – a new swim PB. 

Pic by Rae

After the nice warm pool area and a run through the leisure centre past the plastic palm trees and kiddie pool, going outside was a nasty surprise. Running over the muddy grass and stony tarmac in bare feet to the transition area, the cold rain and the wind chilled my damp skin.

Pic by Rae

To get to the bikes, we ran around 3 edges of the square transition area and it was very easy to find my bike under the towering goal rugby post. As soon as I got to transition, I sat down to get my socks on and bike shoes on. No point falling over and knocking my own bike off the rack. Besides I’d probably get disqualified for touching my bike without my helmet on. Even if I was lying across it sideways with all my kit underneath me.  The talc in the shoes and socks was a blessing as it meant I didn’t have to waste time drying my feet, but could just roll my socks on (Thanks again Veggie Runners!). Bike jacket on (sorry small child in trisuit but I’m a WIMP), number belt on, helmet on. No sunglasses required today. 

I ran out of transition holding my bike saddle. Or I thought I did but the photos show that I appear to be holding the handlebars as well. How I managed to avoid tripping myself up on the pedals I don’t know. I was probably concentrating on trying to run in bike shoes with rigid soles and 2 lumps of plastic attached while sliding around on wet tarmac. Who knows. The expression on my face in the picture is mainly confusion so maybe I was trying to work out the meaning of life or something. 

Or possibly wondering why the trees were bending sideways and what all this cold wet stuff coming from the sky was. 

Pic by Rae

And then I was being overtaken by the bulldog leafblower cyclists.I didn’t mind being overtaken by the men so much. I’d known I would be overtaken after all. Cycling isn’t my strong point. In fact I don’t think I have a triathlon strong point, but if I had, it wouldn’t be cycling. The first few past whummed past me with their disc wheels and sperm helmets, then the next wave with road bikes and aero bars, then the ones with mountain bikes and baskets ... and then a lady overtook me. 

Don’t get me wrong, I am proud of being a girl. I love being able to wear heels and dresses, to run in pink kit. And I love chicking the blokes to a finishing line. But I don’t like being overtaken by other women. The irritating thing, is that it’s inevitable, I’m just not good enough at cycling to NOT be overtaken. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it. I got a bit of a move on and managed to keep her in sight for a bit but not for long. I consoled myself by overtaking everyone else I could see. Including all the girls. The overtaking rule only works one way, you know ...
The cycling was HARD. I dislike running in a strong headwind, but cycling in it was worse. It felt as though I was pushing against an invisible wall, but every time I passed a gateway the sideways gusts blew me across the road. I consoled myself with the fact that everyone had the same conditions. That we were all equalised by the weather. If the trees whipping around hadn’t driven the point home, the waves coming towards me in the puddles was a clue that it might be a bit blowy out. 

It was my bike’s first race but she didn’t seem to be nervous. In fact she behaved like a dream.  I had no problems clipping in and out and after the hill-push-start of the other day, I’d also ensured I’d left the bike in the right gear. If only I could have managed better than what felt like 3mph against the wind.

As it was a looped bike course there was a section on the way back with a tailwind. Sweet. I made the most out of the fact I was finally out of the headwind and started pushing the speed up. The roads weren’t too busy but there were a couple of junctions I had to stop at. It just wasn’t worth risking it. Most of the cars were fairly courteous and I was very impressed with a man driving a silver Mercedes who drove onto the verge in his beautiful car to give the cyclists plenty of room. There were a few incidents though mainly due to the weather conditions but I did what I could to minimise my risk. 

After what felt like only a minute out of the headwind, I was at the roundabout turning left and starting the loop again. This time it felt much faster. Why do the second loops always feel quicker? I pushed round the second time, helped by knowing where I was going this time and within a blink I was heading back into transition.

Transition felt much faster this time. Bike racked, a quick change of shoes, helmet off and out of the run exit. A man ran out about the same time as me and he had a quick sideways glance and sped up. Huh. Trying to race me? I have pent up frustration for not being able to move on the bike! I may not being able to catch speedy bike lady so I’ll overtake you instead! Poor man. He was probably only going to offer me a gel or something. 

The run was 5 laps of a km out and back loop. It was nice being able to see where you had to go at all times but 5 laps felt a LOT. I had a quick check of my pace, but the strong winds meant that it was difficult to judge so I decided to run on effort and concentrate on cracking on. I’d secretly hoped fast-bike-lady would be a slow runner and I could exact revenge by zooming past and doing my evil laugh but no luck.  She was probably a lovely person, but I had fast-bike-riding-envy. I would NOT be sharing my gels with her. 

Pic by Rae
The first 3 kilometre laps took forever. May be exaggerating somewhat but they felt like forever. I felt like I could have done another 20km bike ride in the time it took me to do the first few loops. I decided it was my bike jacket jinxing me so I flung it at poor Rae who had come to cheer me on but instead had been demoted to Stinky-Sweaty-Bike-Jacket babysitter instead. 

The photographer was sitting at the turnaround point, I spotted him on lap 4. As a result my race photos are horrendous up until lap 3 and at laps 4 & 5 I’m gurning away at the photographer and trying to pretend I’m having a wonderful time and 80% of the way through a triathlon is my favourite place to be and I’m not considering walking / hurling or throttling fast lady cyclists AT ALL.  



On lap 4 the icy rain started up again. I’d missed it and it complemented the freezing wind well. 

On lap 5. Finally. One last push. Rae cheered me on (she’d spotted my Eyes of Death look on laps 3 and 4 and had wisely decided to cheer non-verbally for those 2) and I gave it one last push towards the inflatable arch (which must have been tethered with iron cables to stand the winds) and made it over the finish line  with the jubilant commentator announcing the finish of a “Sarah Brooker”.  

Hang on. Who?

Never mind. I’m finished. Where’s that medal?



And as a special treat, here’s the bulldog with a leaf blower video. This is what I think of when I get overtaken by cyclists in a high wind. 





Pros
  • Will be a definite PB course if the weather is decent as was so flat. But ... if weather is bad you have no shelter out on the course. Unless you’re in the pool!
  • Great for spectators, especially the pool!
  • Nice friendly race.
  • Parking is close to venue. 
  • Helpful marshals. 


Cons
  • Organisation: Swim times weren’t streamed until about 1 week beforehand. Transition opening times changed last minute (I would have had to have been at transition racking bike at 7:30am for a race that started at 12:30 which would have meant a 5:30am start). Great that these changed but better if it wasn’t last minute.
  • Some unusual results particularly on the run, the downfall of 5 laps is people lose count. 
  • No results on the day. 
  • If you’re going to shout people’s names out when they cross the line (a lovely touch!) please get them right. *huff*

Result
51/149 
6th lady 
2nd in AG

P.S. Fast-Cycling-Lady? You’re AWESOME. Please will you teach me to go as fast as you?