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Thursday 16 August 2018

Trionz Magnetic Band: Totally Snake Oil ... but I'm not taking it off.

I got an email from Trionz asking if I wanted to try one of their magnetic bands. I'd get the band for free and would write a blog. I don't get paid for this sort of thing but would get to keep the wristband.

I wasn't sure. So I would wear a rubber band with a magnet in it which would do magical things to my blood? Sounded a bit far fetched. I decided not to decide immediately, had a read up on it and decided that it was probably snake oil … in other words, that it was something that couldn't possibly work and if it did it was only because the person using it, believed that it did. But hey, what's the worst that could happen, right?

I asked for one of the bands and agreed to write a blog but told Trionz that I would (as usual) write it honestly. If the band did nothing – as expected – I'd say that. Easy peasy. 

The band arrived. I'd chosen one of the cheaper ones: a red and black wristband which was made of stretchy rubber and which had some magnets in the larger part at the front which rested against my wrist. It looked very much like a festival band or a charity band – one of the rubber ones that delight children and which you get for donating £2 to a chosen charity. 

I put it on. I didn't magically become an Olympian or a mermaid OR an amazing cyclist. Meh. Nothing lost. I kept the band on and noticed a few other people wearing them too. It was a bit like noticing someone driving the same car as you – you have your own and you notice others. A few athlete friends were wearing them, a paramedic, someone else at tri club ...

Then I realised that I'd been sleeping better than I had for a month. Nothing to do with the band I'm sure. 

Then I had my favourite run for months. And a decent swim. Still nothing to do with the band. I'm almost positive about it. 

It hasn't been the only change I've made to my diet and training this year. I've sorted my nutrition out. I've been training properly after a year off. I'm getting more settled at work.

But the training has been coming on. And on. And on.

And now I'm scared to take the band off. It might be nothing. But then again it might be something. 

And in the meantime, I'll keep my magnetic band on.

Ride London 100, Rugby Challenge, Les Stables ... still scared to take it off ...

If you want to have a look at them they're here:

The Coventry Way: Exploding Bladders & Appalling Navigation

I love the Coventry Way 40 mile run. It’s a circular loop which rings – Surprise! Surprise! -  Coventry and it’s mostly on grassy trails, lumpy fields and tiny hidden paths. I’ve run it three times but I’ve still got only the vaguest idea of the route. My pub-and cake-radar is exemplary. But my trail-memory is truly appalling. 

How smug I was laying this out for the photo while on the kitchen counter, my water bladder was pouring orange water everywhere ...

I didn’t have the finest preparation; finishing work unexpectedly after midnight without having packed or prepared a single item. Meh ... I’ve run ultras before, right? What could go wrong?

Not checking the water bladder I was using and finding I'd used the leaky one I keep meaning to throw out and forgetting about doing it was one of the things I did wrong. Luckily I discovered this BEFORE I left the house but AFTER I’d filled it and packed my ultra vest with snacks leaving me contemplating my cake and bars floating around in a vaguely orangey smelling pool of water on the side in the kitchen. I wasn’t entirely ecstatic upon discovering this and woke up the husband with such foul language that he probably assumed that I was in a kind of swear battle with a sarcasm and profanity fluent sailor with Tourette’s specific to water bladders and ultra running. 

I rushed to try and sort the mess, not realising the sudocrem I had applied to my toes so carefully was leaking through my socks and leaving white (and very difficult to remove) footprints on the carpets around the house. 

After adding some more even more imaginative profanities to the ones current floating in the air around the house, I was discovered by my husband on my hands and knees with white feet furiously scrubbing the carpet with baby wipes while my water bladder was washing bars and snacks along the side in the kitchen in an citrus-scented tidal wave. 

Yeah. Sexy feet. *boke*

Leaving a trail of destruction in my wake and the kitchen in an appalling state, I finally got to the village of Meriden two hours later than I’d wanted and a bit concerned about whether race registration would close before I got there. As mentioned I’d run this event three times previously and the registration was in the same place as it had always been - in the Queens Head pub in Meriden. A village of approximately 100 houses. Could I find this distinctive and very familiar pub? Could I hell. After raging at myself I plugged in the sat nav which promptly directed me onto the 15 second drive to the pub. As I was so late absolutely everyone else had disappeared over the horizon having already started their races.

I set off on my own which was a novelty and actually quite nice as there was no need to justify my run speed – or lack of it. Well … it was nice for about 10 minutes, after which I promptly got bored. 

After a bit of a trot on my own, I finally saw a runner in front of me which was a relief as had thought I might not see another person all day. Often runners often set off two hours before the time I'd started and I'd resigned myself to a bit of a lonely day thanks to my dreadful organisation, leaky water bladder and terrible navigation skills. Caught the other runner up and found out his name was Andy which I promptly forgot and had to be reminded about when I called him Steve (sorry Ste- … Andy) and we appeared to be running around the same speed so we decided to run together for a bit.

I proudly announced that I had run this route three times and DEFINITELY knew the way … and then proceeded to get lost at EVERY junction until it was tactfully decided that I should run BEHIND Andy who would be in control of the race directions. 

In my defence I knew MOST of the way, just not the part 10 miles from the start as I was normally catching up with friends for this bit and listening to all their news so chatting rather than navigating … Yep. I may be rubbish at navigating but I'm brilliant at making up excuses justifying my terrible navigation.

We started coming up to walkers doing the trail at around 12 miles in. It was obvious from the gaiters up to their knees and the massive backpacks that these guys were out for a LONG day. I have a lot of respect to these girls and guys and it’s a long time on your feet walking 40 miles. 

It was a nice sociable run, we leapfrogged a lot with 'Mr Lakeland Red T-shirt ' (who later identified himself as Darren) who was running a cracking pace but having a 'dodgy tummy day' and  having to duck into various bushy bushes along the way. He'd usually zoom past us and then he'd zoom past us AGAIN … having been hidden by a bush at some point as we'd passed. 

We got a bit excited at around 11 o clock as the drizzle stopped briefly and the sun seemed like it was coming out but it was a false alarm, probably the glow from an open pub door … so we settled down to more drizzle. 

Some of the trail went over wooden bridges which were a bit slippery, the wooden planks sodden due to the previous rain and mud trodden into them from other people passing across them. The trail can be tough sometimes as it goes across rough – for Warwickshire! - terrain. However, a plus side of starting later was that the trails across the lumpy ploughed fields had been mashed down by the previous 200 walkers and runners so this  made progress much easier than hopping from clod to clod. 

It was nice to see Claire and her friend Hilary from Lancashire at around mile 20 heading along a stony track coming towards Brandon. We stopped for a brief catch up and the promise of a pint at the end. Always good to have an incentive to finish a race strongly … and with the promise of cider.

Jo Steele, one of the most trail-loving people I know was at the checkpoint in Bulkington and we had a chat and she didn't even pinch the last glass of cola this time. Things were looking up!! (I'd seen Jo last year and she'd been quicker than me in one of the aid stations and had nabbed the last sip of cola …!) I'd been a bit worried this year as I'd started so late and was concerned that the aid stations would be closing up or not replenishing their food as a lot of people would have already come through but my fears were unfounded … every one was still as well stocked as if there were 150 more people behind me in the last stages of starvation. 

I had packed myself some food this time and had gone with peanut butter and avocado wraps. Separately though. Together sounds like a taste sensation but not a good sensation. A retching sensation. They were good and still tasted ok squashed flat in my run vest. Andy was probably grateful too as the peanut butter stuck my teeth together for a while so he had a couple of minutes of quiet. 

The weather last year had been very hot, but coming up to the Coventry Way this year there had been some substantial rain. Up until the start time, there had been several diversions in place due to course flooding and I had been a bit concerned as wouldn't know the way with the diversions … however it appeared I didn't know the way without the diversions so that was ok. And just to get really confusing, the diversions had been cancelled as the water had gone down so now I really, really still didn't know the way. So that was all right then.

However, it was still a bit mushy in sections and I managed to step in pretty every sheep poo in Warwickshire so I wasn't leaving the course with dry feet. Or any sheep dung untrodden. 

I'd asked Simon if he wanted to meet me where the Coventry Way passed onto the canal at about mile 26 by Nettle Farm. Last year this us where I'd started to find the run tough and I'd done the adult equivalent of throwing my toys out of the pram (throwing my handbag out of the car window on the M6?) so I thought it would be nice to have some company at this section. As it was, I was running with Andy and Darren for this part which was nice so we all had a good chat for this section which is usually a bit of a boring drag  after the pretty fields and lanes.

After dreading the canal for so long and actually finding it fine, the next 10 miles flew past. As an additional bonus, I had forgotten about the caravan checkpoint which came as a lovely surprise and I scoffed as much food as I could in delight for having an additional opportunity to. Sweetie-ed up, we set out on the last leg and the final checkpoint which was 3 miles from the end. 

We found Richie at mile 38, who I've previously run 1.5 Coventry Ways with before so that was nice and we spent a happy few minutes having a catch up and before we knew it we were all flying down the final mile to the pub at the end. It sounds lovely having a final downhill mile at the end of an ultra, but actually it's never as nice as it sounds as by that point my legs are all “get me into the pub at the end, dimwit” and I have a hard job persuading them that the best way to get there is by running as they've gone all jellied with excitement as being able to stop shortly. 

One of the great things about the Coventry Way (have I mentioned the pub?) is that it starts and finishes at the Queens Head pub. There's usually a crowd of supporters who cheer you in loudly and with enthusiasm and with their pints in their hands. It's another reason to get there as quick as you can before the support crews drink the pub dry.

Another bonus is getting fed at the end. I get a hot meal and the chance to catch up with the other runners under a nice dry marquee as I scoff a hot potato and cake with my shoes and socks off. Plus it's a local race so there are lots of familiar faces so I get to have a nice catch up and hear about everyone else's exciting races. 

Me, Darren and Andy at the finish. 

I'm lucky to have such a nice race local to me and it's one I look forward to every year. Used it as my last long run for marathon training last year. Might do the same next year. Coventry Way, you're a cracker. 

Wednesday 15 August 2018

Southam Triathlon: My Garmin is a GIT

I'd had almost an entire year out from triathlon and was concerned that I'd forgotten how. Drown, fall off, fall over was pretty much what I remembered. If I did the first one properly, then I wouldn't even need the second and third disciplines of falling off and falling over. 

I'd not planned to do this event but had recced the bike course with Rich, a friend from Rugby Tri Club a few weeks earlier and had particularly enjoyed beating him up all the hills (only because he was ill but I'll take my wins where I find them). In fact it was something I'd been keen to repeat if Rich could stay ill for another week, so I'd entered Southam Triathlon. 

I don't tend to like sprint triathlons as they're maximum heart rate the whole time which basically means that although you're only racing for just over an hour, they hurt the WHOLE TIME. However, the race is over fairly quickly, the recovery is fairly swift and it's good transition training. Plus they're not a bank-breaking cost and this one was local too.

I didn't however tell anyone I'd entered (particularly not my tri club buddy in case he started hill training) but mainly because I'm a bit pants at short distance races and wanted to keep my crash-and-burn nice and quiet.

As per my usual race prep, I arrived ridiculously early. This is great for finding parking spaces but is terrible for finding coffee and loos open. Luckily on this occasion both toilets and coffee were available so things were already looking up. Particularly as there is a direct correlation between them and I tend to drink more coffee when anxious. And needing a wee makes me REALLY anxious. Wear wellies around me if I look nervous.

I set up my bike in transition early and did my standard 'standing around for 15 minutes just bike staring wondering what I forgot' while familiar faces racked their bikes around me. Despite my nerves it was lovely to see so many friends from Rugby Tri, Cov Tri and Spa Striders around. 

It was an early season race so weather followed suit with rain, cold winds and draughts up the tri suit. I decided I'd had my 'bike staring' time so got into kit and was standing at pool edge 30 minutes early as it was the warmest place in the area. Also I had NO CLUE how the 'swim 100 metres and swim under the rope' thing worked so wanted to watch and get an idea of what to do.

As usual the time was going massively slow, then in the 20 minutes before I had to start I went warp speed. I popped into the pool and told myself it was just 100m to swim, then swap lanes … and another 100m to swim … it all has to be mind games with me. I have to concentrate on the 'here and now' when I'm racing otherwise I start worrying about whats ahead. And that's no good in triathlon otherwise I start 'trying to save my legs for the run' or some such bollocks. I just have to go hard as I can and not be a wimp on the run.

Turbulence of Terror

My whistle went and I quickly overtook 2 people in the swim lane, probably as I went off like a rocket. One that quickly fizzled out, mind. I swapped elbows with someone at the pool end, in an open water kind of a way rather than a Frankenstein way but it's triathlon. I'm sure no-one took it personally.

I enjoyed this way of doing a 400m pool swim. Firstly, because it meant I couldn’t lose count of laps which I always do counting to 16, plus it meant that the lanes were less congested. If someone miscalculated their time, you only had to overtake them once. It was pretty simple and even having to duck the lane rope was very easy as you did it when pushing off the pool edge. 

Every person I overtook caught me up in transition as I was fannying about again. I try hard NOT to do this but cold fingers, trying to find bike shoes which have been booted halfway across transition by the earlier swimmer racked next to me and decisions such as 'spend 10 minutes trying to zip up jacket Vs freezing cold soaking wet on bike in April' take some time.

In case you're wondering, I decided not to bother with the bike jacket. I decided to do the equivalent of blow drying under a freezing cold hairdryer while pedalling like a lunatic. It wasn't quite cold enough for icicle bogies but probably could have had someone's eye out with the goosebumps.  

I enjoyed the bike. I always find it much easier on a course I know as don't subconsciously save something in the tank for any hills that may (or may not!) be in front of me. I set off fairly quickly, relying on a bit of speed to warm up and just concentrating on catching the cyclists in front of me. Southam Triathlon bike course is a lovely route with only two real hills - Snowford hill and Ufton Hill. They're both steady but neither are 'out of the saddle hills', they just slow you down a bit and warm you up. Perfect for a sprint triathlon course. It was a bit of a windy day and as usual I didn't notice the tailwind but the headwind felt like I was trying to claw my way through treacle. The car drivers were really courteous which was brilliant – very different to the usual cars out on a Sunday morning who seem to feel like a Sunday morning isn't complete without a few choice swearwords and a cyclist in the hedge. 

Got back into transition after a small take-off over an unexpected speed-bump, racked the bike, bike shoes off, trainers on and tried to sprint out of transition with helmet and glasses on. Promptly got told by a marshal to go back and take them off again. Just as well really as I hadn't realised and probably wouldn't have realised until I couldn't find my helmet in transition at the end. 

Despite being divested of half my kit, I kept my bright orange bike gloves on. I might have a chilly everything else but I'd have warm hands. Yeah I looked a plonker, but I was a plonker with warm hands. 

Surprisingly, the run felt pretty good. I guess this was because I knew there was only 5k of it. The terrain was wet grass which was sodden and muddy in places especially with the steady rain and 200 people doing 5 laps of 2 playing fields each. Runners had to collect 4 wristbands and then run another loop after this to finish. I miscounted and got confused about having to do a whole another lap after band 4. I thought it was 'collect a fourth band and then run up a finish chute' which was a horrible realisation when I collected my 4th band and realised that the finish chute was 1km away at the other side of 2 playing fields. 

Couldn’t check my Garmin for pace as it was showing me screen which I think it saves for race day which shows me absolutely nothing useful whatsoever. I don't like to affix a personality to my Garmin but it would basically be one of those people on the train who sits next to you and eats a smelly McDonalds and then gets their phone out and talks REALLY LOUDLY. Basically it's a complete git.

Look at this lovely lot! (Photo by Claire Walker)

I did realise that I sped up for the section by the finish funnel though as half of Rugby Tri seemed to be there and I got a nice cheer as I went past. Apparently I was easy to spot in my black and pink tri suit and MASSIVE ORANGE GLOVES. I don't think I help myself with my race photos sometimes.

I did same thing as I did for the bike and concentrated on catching the person in front of me. Whole run felt pretty good. Couldn’t really have gone much faster although could have probably taken time off without the hills and the mushy grass. Was glad with my choice to wear trail shoes for a bit of extra grip and they were really comfy. 

Last band collected, last lap done and I did my best for a sprint finish up the finish funnel which basically involves some gurning at the photographer and some appalling running technique. 

Yeah ... rocking the kit ... I've STILL got the orange gloves on too ...

Relieved to be over the line and even nicer to find out it was a sprint PB! Later found out was also 1st in AG and was 2nd overall as lady in front of me had accidentally missed a lap out of the run. Nice surprise for an early season tri.

Check out THIS bad boy!