Swim Love and Soul Food

It’s no secret that my biggest sporting love is swimming. It’s something I’m reasonably good at and have no qualms about going training – in fact, its one of the few things that can get me out of bed at 5.30 to go train. Lockdown was a bit rubbish in terms of 3 months of no swimming and what with swim events pencilled in, I was like a child at Christmas when I got back in a pool – despite OW swimming for several weeks in the run up to it!

Anyway, last few weeks I’ve been a bit, well, not so much in love with swim as normal. Don’t get me wrong, I have been loving training and being back but there has been a sense of something not being quite there – missing the challenge/goal – not sure, but that changed this morning.

Background first though because it has been an epic weekend overall… Three or four weeks ago, one of my also-keen-swimmer/triathlete mates asked if I was doing Coniston Epic Swim again. Five minutes later, ‘Yes!’. This then resulted in me texting another mate to see if he was in too. ‘Yep, count me in!’. This is what happens. Like a snowball. Accommodation was sorted. Work was sorted. All systems go.

Arrived in the Lakes, in Coniston to be precise, sometimes on Friday evening. Alcoholic beverages were consumed (much to my mates amusement and my lack of a proper tea….), cake was eaten and many laughs were had. Saturday arrived and with it the most glorious, sunny, hot day. I sat nursing a hangover while the others planned. Which then resulted in a walk up a very large hill in the sweltering heat but equalling in some good quality soul food and some stunning views!  ‘Pasta party’ tea and a wander down to the lakeside to check just how still the water water and how warm before nightcaps and finally bed – for which I was more than ready! Shattered but happy!

I slept right through to my alarm after yesterday’s efforts, not waking at 5 as per usual. Snooze. Reset alarm. Made myself get up and eat. I am not really a fan of porridge but it was quick and easy. I sat, very quietly and tried to eat. Coupled with some pre-race/event nerves… while the others milled about quite happily. The weather wasn’t a great (rain!) but considering we would be wet anyway, it didn’t really matter!

On to the swim though – Epic Events Coniston Swim – 3.8k of glorious OW Lake swimming. My swim time was at 8.30, a bit later than the others. We had decided best bet was to actually drive across to the start rather than walk – which turned out to be a very wise one. It was still mild despite spots of rain and slowly we got changed and headed to the start. We had separate waves, based on swim times so I was the last to wander down. ‘Covid-secure’ is now the buzz word for events and kudos where it’s due, Epic Events had done a good job with the organisation. Wandering over at the set time meant that we could stay spaced out easily and the briefing had been on Facebook, which we had actually watched, the night before. Swim cap and timing chip collected, flip-flops deposited – time to swim and nerves disappearing and the lake looking ever so inviting.

OMG – the water! For the Lakes – it was truly topical – 19 degrees. No need to acclimatise – and as still as a mill pond. It was better than expected and unlike anything I’d swam in up there before.

This is where the love came flowing back!

Lap 1 – First few buoys/straight seemed to take forever, the first lap even. Obviously turned out to be the fastest but still. I spent the first lap thinking, ‘well, this really is lovely but…’ and thoughts that went through my head included, ‘argh, I’m not going to find my mojo and I’ll get bored’/’I am so hungry (normal swim response)’/’how am I going to do three laps?’/’This is going to take forever’/’OWWWWW MY SUNBURN’ – Yep, epic sunburn on my shoulders.

Lap 2/3 – Mojo well and truly back. My longest swim recently had been 2.7km, the distance didn’t worry me so much this morning, I knew I could do it and was stubborn enough but by lap 2 and 3 I was on a roll. Still having the thoughts about wanting food, but my pace and stroke seemed to just flow and work. Thoughts now changed to food and what I was going to eat later and ‘oooo might actually beat last years time’ as well as ‘oooo the S&C work with Ben is really paying off!’

The warm water and stillness of the lake really was joyous. I was heading for the last corner of the swim course and I could feel that I was actually quite sad that it was finishing – but as I neared the finish line, a quick glance of my watch told me that I wasn’t far off beating my time from last year. I still felt quite strong as I neared the finish – and that felt the wave of disappointment wash over me… but then as I finished, got out, and wandered back to meet my mates, I was grinning from ear to ear. Nothing beats a good OW swim like that. Swim mojo and OW Swim mojo back firmly in place.

And confirmation that I can still swim a reasonable distance in a decent time.

Just as important though – plan was in place for bacon sandwiches for second breakfast.

In my eyes – everything this morning was just a winner.

Roll on Ullswater 3 mile!

Lil’bit of Turbo love in…

Seeing as I can’t swim – the bike has been getting all the attention. This week though – well – I thought doing two spin sessions, a virtual TT and a 50km virtual club ride was an excellent idea….

The two spin sessions – Monday and Thursday – went well – really enjoying them and loving the fact that I am getting my cycling legs back. These have become weekly staples in my week where everything else is a bit up in the air. I’ve even managed to tag along to some Zwift group rides too. More on this later.

But on Friday, sporting DOMS, I decided that doing a virtual club TT on Zwift was a wise idea. I love time trials. I love the feeling after putting the effort in. I love the single mindedness of the effort. I love the fact that its just you against the clock, it takes the pressure off thinking about what everyone else is doing. I had also forgotten JUST HOW HARD they are. In fact, I think turbo based TTs are actually harder. It also reminded me how rubbish I am at warming up before hand. It wasn’t even that long an effort! But a race mind set kicked in, in a way that it doesn’t if you are just training or riding (proving that as soon as it’s a ‘race’ mindset and effort changes). It still hurt! By the end I was wondering how the planned Saturday morning ride was going to go!

The weather on Saturday mooning, although cooler than last weekend, was almost nice enough to tempt me to sack off the virtual club ride with chat over discord so I could ride outside. I resisted though. I often work Saturdays and I miss group rides – I miss riding with people! So just before 10am this morning, set up with two water bottles, discord app up and running with headphones and sat on the turbo, so began 2 hours 13 minutes of staring at a screen and turning my legs. Longest turbo session to date and only manageable due to the virtual and distance company of knowing that six fellow club members and mates were doing exactly the same thing.

Major kudos to anyone doing longer sessions and the 24 hour challenges! The same times and distance is certainly easier outside – if only because my backside hurts less! I mean, I was happy to finish but seriously – roll on being able to go out on actual group rides!

So now I am sat here, Sunday morning, with a wee bit of a to do list and still tired legs. I was debating actually going for a run today and having a bit of a go at the IM virtual race as it’s a sprint distance this weekend however, I think I really just need to chill and stretch out! So yoga and stretch is penciled in for later on and I am going to potter through my To Do list and rest.

(And MAYBE run tomorrow….)

CTS Northumberland 2020

My worst 10km race ever.

Not really the worse thing ever though. Anyone who knows me or has read my blog know that I haven’t really run at all since September due to an ongoing injury/issues so I wasn’t expecting anything reasonable and nor was I expecting to be able to run all of it. It is still my favourite race and the most beautiful place ever.

So apart from it being a poor time, what was different from previous years?

The weather – well, a headwind ALL the way and everything from snow, sleet, rain, sun and rainbows. Just about every season in a day. I was very seriously contemplating DNS.

The company – this year I managed to talk two mates into coming and doing the race too. It was one of them that stopped me from DNS and is the most calming person to be around. I knew he would love the race and the scenery and felt justified in my ‘persuasion’ tactics from earlier in the year (I have been trying to persuade him up here for the last year). I didn’t run with them but them being there and a group of mates being at the end and staying for the weekend made it worth it.

My fitness – my run fitness is dire but my knee did not hurt – I am taking this as the biggest win ever.

The Coastal Trail Race in Northumberland is my favourite 10km (this year 11.2!km) run ever and the fact that I think I may have converted/persuaded a few more of my mates to come again next year makes it even more special.

 

For the Love of Cycling

If you were to look at my reading list this year, it would consist mostly of cycling related books. I have been to see Beryl at the East Riding Theatre and have just watched David Millar’s Time Trial. In fact, it’s his book, ‘The Racer’ that I am currently reading and has had me wondering what I find so fascinating about cycling.

I know I do triathlons – I do actually enjoy them even if I do hate running. Swimming and cycling win out for me every time though. My biggest love is swimming. I make no secret of that. Cycling though, has an appeal of it’s own.

I don’t really follow the actual racing itself all that closely. I cannot name riders on teams like some people can reel off football teams and their members. I don’t even ride as much myself as I should/would like. So why the interest?

My degrees at university were history and I specialised in social history on the whole, mostly women. It’s people. It’s the social history, It is the stories behind the riders, the history behind  the races, the achievements of individuals and teams. The sheer ridiculousness of it all. The personalities and characteristics of the riders, as a whole, and the mystical beast that is the peloton.

It’s the developments, the technology, the individuals testing boundaries. The tradition against the modern and the issues that come with that.

It is also the freedom that comes with riding a bike, sharing the joy of riding a bike with mates, the racing of said bikes. Who’d’ve thought I’d love a good TT? Im not particularly great at them but I don’t care.

I am sat looking at (one of) my bikes sat on the turbo as I type – I want to get better and I want to do my FTP test…

 

I should go do it.

 

I Spy

Most of my generation and older will be familiar with the I Spy books by Michelin (or rather now by Collins in association with Michelin) and if you are not familiar with the books, you should certainly be familiar with the game.

I have spent a LOT of time at triathlons and other various races, at which, hanging around can just be simply quite boring. There have been a few occasions when I have been with mates where I have mentioned that I should write my own I Spy book for others in a similar position but equally as an athlete racing – playing I Spy is pretty fun!

So, here it is. It is, as it stands, a bit of ‘tongue in cheek’ and as much as I would LOVE to publish this as an actual book, I am not sure Collins would be too game for it. I may just email them any way to ask.

I Spy…..

Pre Race

  • Registration Tent – filled with hardy volunteers, mostly lovely and supportive – especially at Tri Club organised races. They understand!
  • Lost race licences and stressed athletes looking for said race licence (pre-race nerves).
  • Sleepy looking spouses and families who have been dragged along for the day.
  • Someone eating a banana/gel/breakfast.
  • The über-keen triathlete, rocking up with a full TT bike set up, with matching disc wheel for a super-sprint.
  • Lost safety pins. You can never have enough. Really!
  • The panic-strikened athlete who has forgotten *inserts important piece of kit* = panic-strikened athlete.
  • Discussion of race tactics – this is just a scare tactic…
  • Technical officials telling people to move their kit! Don’t try to mark your spot people! It’s just not on…. although that bright pink bar tape….
  • Race briefing – nod and turn up – usually a wise idea (like reading the race pack).
  • Maps of the race – because sign posting may be hazardous or you may want to just scare yourself about the elevation…. that you didn’t check before you raced.
  • LONG queues for the toilets – and possibly even someone sharing wet wipes – this happened at my last big race. He was a hero.
  • The athlete asking someone to help them into their wetsuit/zip it up. Common occurrence!
  • The athlete who has forgotten their body glide and asking if anyone has any lube to help them out!

Swim

  • Forgotten or lost googles. Take two pairs. This is sage advice.
  • The swimmers doing breast stroke – and feeling smug that your front crawl is OH SO GRACEFUL.
  • People swimming. Obviously.
  • Lost swim caps!!
  • Pontoons/deep water starts.
  • The swimmer who put a swim time down that was a bit too ambitious. We all know someone who will do this, claiming adrenaline will kick in on the day….
  • The swimmer who does extra laps in a pool based tri or swims a lot further than needed in OW. I know several who have done this!
  • A swimmer getting kicked. Inevitable, especially in open water. Rude people. Just rude – although some people see this as a sport in itself.
  • The swim being cancelled due to blue green algae or some other reason. Come on people – we are supposed to be hardy triathletes. Who wants to do a duathlon?
  • Swim cut short due to weather/other reason unfathomable to mankind – although at the inaugural (and only) Edinburgh 70.3 – I saw the sea and, well, yeah… wise move!
  • Swim buoys that cannot be seen. Without my glasses, I am NOT going to see that buoy around that far distant corner….
  • Kayakers – wise people. Usually lovely too. Major kudos to those supporting LONG swims.
  • A swimmer going the wrong way! (Bonus points if more than 3 swimmers are following) – watch the buoys people – I’ve seen this happen.
  • Flipflops littering the start line. Honestly do NOT understand why getting from T1 to the start isn’t given more thought in some races.

Transition  (T1)

  • Lost athletes. Walking transition before a race is a GOOD IDEA for a reason.
  • Athletes fiddling over watches – common in T2 as well. I’ve only just got the hang of mine.
  • Athletes who sit down to put on cycling shoes – again this is me. I am a very lazy triathlete.
  • The triathletes who have managed to master the art of keeping their shoes on their bike and put them on as they mount.
  • The technical official reminding people to put their helmets on before touching their bikes.
  • The athlete getting told off for mounting too soon.

Bike

  • A hybrid/mountain bike – especially in super/sprint triathlons – sometimes the sign of a novice/doing it for the sheer hell of it. It goes to prove that it doesn’t matter if you haven’t got the swankiest bike – I love seeing people getting involved.
  • An aero bike/TT bike – love the variety actually and the ‘oooooo that’s nice’ – I don’t get bike envy much any more but can appreciate a nice bike. It’s more amusing though in small local races when it might not be so serious that some people take it so seriously… if that makes sense.
  • Clip on TT bars – I’ve given mine away to a mate now I have a TT bike. I never really got on with them in terms of my position on the bike, but definitely useful and not to be sniffed at.
  • Trainers! Not every triathlete is there with cleats etc – does make for SPEEDY transitions though.
  • Drafting in a non-drafting race – just don’t. It isn’t a group ride.
  • Pointy helmets – you know what I mean! Aero/marginal gains! I will admit that I have been looking at new helmets…
  • Full kit w*nkers – I have nothing against this – I am just too tight to buy full club race kit. In all honesty though, in triathlon, it could just be a club trisuit… always good from a support point of view though as it makes athletes in your own club easier to spot and often volunteers and general supporter are far more likely to support in terms of ‘Go York!’ etc.
  • Lost water bottles. Easy done.
  • Gel wrappers strewn on the road side – actually against the rule – and littering is bad anyway – you managed to carrying this far, you can take it home!

Transition (T2)

  • A technical official or volunteer reminding someone to take their helmet off
  • Stretchy/Elastic laces – time saver in T2 if you are that keen.
  • Wetsuits strewn all over – it tends to still be reasonably tidy after T1…
  • Bikes racked wrong way.
  • Someone scoffing a gel or food before heading out to run.

Run

  • Run/walkers (this was me at my last race!) – nothing wrong with this at all.
  • Runners flinging themselves down the descents. This happens all the time anyway – free speed!
  • Walking runners until they see support or get near the finish line.
  • High-fiving support especially from small children.
  • Awesome support banners – way more common on the run – love them! The more insulting the better!
  • Someone handing out haribo/jelly sweets – yes we love you.
  • Amazing marshals who are dancing and enjoying it as much as you aren’t – there was one couple at Outlaw X this year on the back section of the run who were just incredible – I do not know how they kept it up.
  • ‘Only a parkrun left to go’ – yes I know – knowing doesn’t help!
  • Stretchy/elastic laces – mentioned again as they are just cool.

The end!

  • Hands up in the air in celebration of surviving – you all know what pose I mean!
  • The joyous support crew who finally think that they can go home – we all know that this is a big lie and that there is about to be lots of faffing and reviewing of said race.
  • Post race queue for a massage – thankfully I was so late/slow, the queue was minimal – I quite often skip them though.
  • Athletes who put on their race t-shirt on as soon as humanly possible, along side medal – yes you!.
  • Comparing results with friends/clubmates/rivals/enemies, and comparing to the nth degree.
  • Someone making excuses for times – everyone is usually guilty of this at some point. My run time at my last race was due to injury – but I was expecting a DNF.
  • Someone doubled up about to be sick – obviously raced hard and given it their all (me post XC or a CX race).

 

Other random things to look out for:

  • Bored spouses/children who have been brought along under duress with the promise/lure of food.
  • Varying degrees of race t-shirt bragging. Martyn Brunt wrote an article for Triathlon 220 on the subject of race t-shirt hierarchy.
  • Limping.
  • Athletes wondering around in Dryrobes or similar – they really are nice bits of kit post race!
  • A mass of VW Transporters in various colours. Definitely a popular mode of transport – I keep jokingly saying that if I had £5 for every one I saw/spotted on the road, I would be a well off woman. I stand by this, as my trip to the gym alone would have made me £20 tonight.
  • People consuming random looking concoctions post race.
  • Random things in post race goodie bags/pre-race goodie bags.
  • Random post-race prizes instead of a medal eg. A paperweight…..
  • Race branding on the most random of items (Ironman I am thinking of you!)

 

I am sure I have missed some bits off here to be quite honest, so I may add to it. This list has been in my head all summer – I jokingly said about adding bike brands are some are more rare than others (Ridleys are pretty thin on the ground in triathlon but in CX, common as muck!!) but then this would be a VERY long list.

Outlaw X – first 70.3

I absolutely loved it!

I should leave it there but I am not going to! Full, rambling review needed while it is fresh in my memory. It wasn’t fast but I didn’t DNF and thats the main thing!

Official times – just to get them out of the the way…

Swim 00:41:30 T1 00:11:05 Bike 03:34:11 T2 00:08:03 Run 03:00:03

Background

So Outlaw X wasn’t originally on the cards – it’s a new race but its one that I deferred to after not being ready for Holkham – which proved to be a wise move despite the cost. I was supposed to be doing Holkham with a friend but what with one thing and another, it didn’t happen. I’ve also been suffering with a knee injury and not run for about 5 weeks. Coupled with this, I found out the ex’s girlfriend was racing – great – at the time it felt like an absolute punch in the guts after managing not to race near home all year. Bloody typical that my first 70.3 would mean they were there – a flurry of texts to mates and I soon got over it. Timing wasn’t great in one respect as was only three weeks after swimming Coniston end to end.

Registration and the day before

img_2638Luckily for me, one of my mates had booked Outlaw X – which meant we ended up going down together – which turned out to be great for me simply because actually my nerves were a bit shot and I was a bit ‘argh’ in the run up to it and a bit of a moany cow about my knee. Both him and my mates had a bit more faith in me to get round than I did! So actually going with someone else racing worked out well.

Registration day though was a beautiful warm sunny day (yes I did catch the sun) – which was deceiving as the forecast wasn’t so great for Sunday! The registration was at Thorseby Hall and it was such a gorgeous location! The briefing, number collection and general organisation was spot on. Racked the bike, walked transition to make sure I knew where I was going – none of us could see the lake – this was a bit weird, had a good natter with people, went to the briefing and then went to find our accommodation and some tea, as well as check we had our race kit ready. The ex bumped into us and tried to make conversation, I pretty much ignored him and let my mate do the talking. So far so good, nerves almost all in check!

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Race Day! 

Well I probably wasn’t great company at 5am the morning of race day. We were up and out by half past 5 and I was trying desperately to eat – which wasn’t really happening. Think I managed about half my porridge. We rocked up at Thorseby and headed to transition to sort our stuff out. Thankfully I don’t tend to faff in transition too much but everyone was looking up at the clouds debating the weather – I left two waterproofs out over my kit and hoped for the best. My only actually criticism of the transition was that the bag drop area could have done to have been covered – especially with weather forecast (a lot of people didn’t have dry clothes at the end and a lot of bag drops recently have been covered)

Swim…. 41:30

As previously stated, no-one had seen the lake before the race – you couldn’t see it from transition either – so it was an unknown to all of us! Due to the edge of the lake being SSSI, we had to get into the water via a pontoon for a deep water start. It was actually a nice morning and stood with other competitors who were clearly a lot faster than me, I had actually calmed down – probably something to do with wearing my wetsuit. I am not a massive fan of mass starts and although we were waves – I think I was in one of the biggest! I wasn’t sure how my shoulder and back would hold up so never intended on pushing it but did my fastest OW time of the year, with 2k in about 40 minutes. It was a bit of a weird course and the water was pretty weedy but not really cold or bad – swum in better places but swum in worse so fairly average. Lovely location though and managed to draft off some hips.

T1 – 11:09

Ridiculously slow I know but that includes 500m hike from the lake to T1. I walked it. Not wanting to risk my knee and knowing that in all honesty, if I had run, I wouldn’t have been that much faster! Then I had to try and dry my feet enough to get my socks on. Then walked up to the bike mount line, again – not much point in running. Successfully ignored the weak cheering from the ex. I MAY HAVE GLARED.

Bike… 3:34:11

I made the decision to wear my waterproof on the bike. Not so much for protection from the rain but as an extra layer against any chill and I am really glad I did. I probably would have been fine without it but I genuinely felt strong and confident on the bike – even in the rain, but I think this is partly due to the fact I’ve ridden in worse. It may have rained but at least it wasn’t windy! It was undulating and some roads were a bit busy – I saw some rather interesting (read – dangerous) driving but it was mostly good. Think there might have been one or two accidents but with the weather I don’t think this is much of a surprise. The last 10km were hard though! Just endless. Even with my TT head on – I was glad to get off the bike. The new trisuit is actually reasonably comfortable but I think for any longer distance I would be tempted to have a full change of clothing! I fuelled my ride perfectly – so actually going into T2 I still felt full of energy – I really tried to pace myself on the bike and make the most of descents – but I have to say, Tailwind is awesome stuff!

T2 – 8:03

Yep wasn’t busting a gut out of T2 either – change of socks and race belt (really glad I took my running belt actually). Went to the loo, sauntered out without a care in the world but still smilling!

Run… 3:00:03

Ok ok the run was more walk than anything but with my knee not happy I wasn’t willing to risk running it – even on pain killers. Although in the end – the blister on my left foot on a toe hurt more! I ran/walked the first lap – so far so good, then walked more/ran the second lap with a lad from Darlington Tri Club (both motivating each other) and then I walked most of the last lap with another lady who, having not quite completing Weymouth 70.3 two years ago after chemo, was back with a mission to finish! The marshals stationed near the car part were epic – how they kept it up like they did with the cheering is beyond me! Again, managed to ignore the ex. Without swearing at him!

The route itself was actually really nice – again – no-one saw it until race day due to it being on private property but it was a mixture of road and trail and was just really lovely. I really hope they run this race again as I would like another go at full fitness – three laps and good cheer crowds.

The end!! 

I hadn’t suffered any cramp until the last 200m. Headed off to the finish line and just before the orange carpet got cramp! Sod it – I had to run the finish if nothing else and as I came round the corner – I got my own shout out – and was absolutely beaming – think my mate got a bit of a shock to be honest.

The adrenaline and pure fact I finished without DNF made my day – I can honestly say that even when I was out racing – apart from a wobble during the swim (the bike was my fave part yesterday) – I wasn’t ever thinking ‘I don’t want to. do this again’. I think the attitude in middle distance tris and longer is different. I really enjoyed the whole day! Even the rain. Sort of! I rescued my medal and T-shirt after a massage and went to find my stuff.

Absolutely buzzing! If it hadn’t have been persisting it down – I really would happily have stayed for the free meal but both of us were a bit like – shall we just go get KFC on the way home?

Although couldn’t manage much of it. When I did actually finally get home, I didnt quite have the energy to unpack properly and put things in the wash. Had a bath and basically collapsed on my bed.

The morning after

Tired, stiff and aching. Stairs are an issue and I still need to wash/clean my bike. Still buzzing though! The tiredness is real!

Actually looking forward to potentially doing another 70.3…. and I don’t really like running……

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Looking Ahead – 2020!

The title of this blog post and the nature of how this blog came about suggests that it should be about relationships and life and looking forward rather than back. Well, I COULD have written a post like that – and maybe I will as I have temporarily  given up on dating and have currently resigned myself to being single a bit longer (no bad thing) – although… no – this isn’t about that.

I like paper to do lists, I like paper diaries and I like paper wall planners. Although I have taken to using my phone diary a lot as it syncs to my laptop diary and I can print that off all colour coordinated and blocked out. Saves me a job! This has got me thinking – how to other people plan out their year?

I find that a huge wall planner, next to my desk in my office works best. Academic of course…

Its even got a basic code – races that I am interested in go on – regardless. As soon as they are ‘booked’ or confirmed – I put a cloud round them. Holidays have a line through them. It works! It really does! When I am sat working in my office (which, when it is tidy, is more frequent that it is at the moment) and I am wondering what my plans are/training needs are, I can quick glance at what is coming up – I can visually see the space/time between events – which makes planning so much easier. It also means that if I get my way then May next year will be bust and I need to save some serious money to do what I want!

I am VERY excited though – which probably means actually, dating would not be wise…

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Cyclocross Shock to the System!

Ok ok that is maybe a bit of an overreaction but still.

Today I finally managed to actually attend and race my first (and possibly last!) cyclocross race.

I was dragged there (nicely) by one of my mates who has taken my CX and upgraded it to a 36 on the front and an 11-34 on the rear so I couldn’t really not go – I even bought some new CS shoes. I have never been so worried about a race – so nervous and so ‘argh’ about doing a race. I had no idea what I was doing but a reasonable idea of what I was getting involved in.

img_2559I went to register and retrieve my number (21 again!) and paid for my race entry and chip before going and checking the bikes. We saw the juniors finish and then we were allowed to go to a pre-race run round to checkout the course. Well. That did NOTHING to help my nerves and used up valuable energy I could have used to race. Sometimes not knowing whats coming is good!

Again having no idea what I was doing, suddenly it was only 4 minutes to the start line – somewhere off in the distance and I had to make a dash for it – hanging on at the back the race was off. WELL. Baptism of fire.

I was not ready for that. At all. Down the hill, round the woods, up out of the wood, back down into some grassy descents before some sneaky awful switch backs and up back through some trees. And repeat. The grassy climbs were the hardest bit. REALLY hard. The wooded sessions were right up my street though – which is the same as trail running – gravel/trees etc – the other good thing though was that in 40 minutes I definitely made some improvements in my bike handling skills! As for position – I don’t think I was last female but I definitely was somewhere near the end!

It was basically 40 minutes of feeling absolutely sick and hurting.

After I finished I was wondering if I would ever do it again – I am not sure. Not yet anyway. I genuinely think that was harder than swimming 5.5 miles in Coniston last week!

Ah well. All good training!

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Chillswim Coniston End to End 5.25 miles

The 31st of August 2019 may go down as a day that I decided never to swim again.

Temporarily anyway. I’m waiting for sleep and time to dull the painful memories.

It’s already fading as it is and I am beginning to think that I actually might have enjoyed it – in a type 2 kinda way!

So the decision to do the End to End was made nearly a year ago. A year ago when I went to watch and support friends. I walked up a hill to watch from afar – little spots in the water in the far distance swimming beautiful calm water in a beautiful calm part of the world. I was wishing I was in the water – not watching!

I decided that I would have to give it ago, and low and behold, Saturday morning came round and I found myself stood next to a lake wondering what I had let myself in for.

This weekends adventure started as we left York – I say we, as there was one of my mates, his gorgeous pooch and myself, all packed and loaded into the car and on our way – and already planning/researching an epic trip for next year! We stopped en-route at a fish and chip shop in Kirby Stephen that has not seen any modernisation in about 30 years (except maybe the till). They weren’t bad for all I mock. The second stop was Kendal before arriving quite late into Coniston. By this time we had already learnt that the swim had been put back five hours due to the weather forecast which meant we had time for a drink and chance of a lie in. Winning!

Morning came round and breakfast consumed – we wandered down to register and investigate the water (walk the dog and attempt some geocaching – we even bumped into Sean Conway!) and waste some time. Milling about waiting is actually harder than it looks. Our complacency though backfired as we realised the time – quickly scoffing some lunch before getting changed (I have NEVER put a wetsuit on as fast in my life) and heading to get the bus to the start line.

For once I didn’t feel nervous. I knew I could do the distance but that it might be uncomfortable – my kit was all ok, ear plugs in, hats on – even booties – which was a good call! Checked in, scoffed a snickers, stuffed one up my sleeve and finally got in to the water and off. And a water temp of 17 – I knew I could swim in that happily!

So far so good. Managed to keep up with one of my mates to the second food station. Was struggling a bit with sighting and a bit off initially but the first half was quite uneventful – I cant say easy – it wasn’t and some of the food stations meant getting so close to shore you had to walk out of the water. The real fun came between miles 3 and 4 – the sun had been out for the first half and considering the rain and wind of the morning – the afternoon was looking promising. Then the wind got up and the rain started. One the plus side I saw a rainbow and didnt notice the rain so much! Mile 4 or rather at the 6km mark, my shoulder started to give me issues and I debated getting out and DNF-ing. I am a bit stubborn though and I could not have worn the hoodie if I had so I carried on and the last mile was the worst!

After the fourth feed station pain, boredom and negative self talk started. My shoulder was making me miserable, I was struggling to see the five mile buoy and I misjudged the finish – like a few others. I also needed the loo – anyone who knows me, knows how hard I find it!

It seemed to take forever. All hopes of coming in in under three and a half hours were shot and I just wanted to finish. I have never been so happy to see a finish line!

The photos of me exiting the water say it all!

My mate was waiting for me as I wandered out of the water, down the finishing shoot and to the exit – first two things to sort were my need to go to the loo and food. Both satisfied – we got the buses back to the registration point. Lots of people around me mentioned that they had found it harder than last year and the conversations since suggest that a lot of people were about 20 minutes slower than they expected – which makes me feel somewhat better about the the 3:50 when I know I can do it in under 3:30!

Achy and sore, both my friend and I wandered back to our cottage and got showered before heading out for a drink and then eating tea. Wetsuits in the drying room, fed and watered, bed called. I have never been more happy to go to bed!

Still woke up tired though, but less painful memories of the swim!

As for the event itself – considering the delays – communication was excellent, organisation was excellent, the volunteers and safety crew were excellent and the whole set up fab. It really was worth doing and is worth doing – just because!

And yes, I was glad I wore booties and had snickers up my sleeve!

Will I do it again?

Ask me in a week or two!

Coniston Epic Swim 3.8km

Well what a lot of random fun was had!

This weekend just gone, I spent in the Lake District with a friend and a group from a mountaineering association in a bunkhouse in Coniston. I only knew my mate but had such a lovely time meeting everyone as well as eating lots and swimming lots!

I travelled up with my friend on Friday, in the rain, expecting a wet miserable weekend, only for the weather to improve greatly. The main purpose of the visit being swimming!

Saturday I did attempt to run – badly – my knee is giving me some serious issues – walked over to Hawkshead and then later swam in the still waters of Coniston, before a mini epic BBQ.

This was the Saturday – more important was SUNDAY!

Alongside my friend, we had booked on to the 3.8km Epic Swim. All well and good. A good training swim for Coniston end to end apparently (I swam 4km in my local lake earlier in the week remind myself I could actually swim!). We walked down to the start line – flip flops are the most annoying footwear ever = to the point that I am almost persuaded that crocs might be a good idea.

We were probably cutting it fine to be honest – but having already got my registration pack (advantage of mate having a pooch that needed walking – he went and got them!) it was literally a case of listen to the race briefing, dumping my bag and getting in the water.

Well, compared to the night before, the water was just a wee bit choppy. The night before, despite the amount of rain, was fairly warm and very still! We were (reliably) informed that the water temperature was about 17 – and in all honesty, it wasn’t really cold. I had taken my booties and gloves just in case but didn’t feel I needed them.

The route had changed – but that made life easier – just three laps rather than one short and two long. Only issue was that the wind meant that the chop was against us for the first half of the lap, but then with us for the second – I haven’t ever swum in conditions like it so wasn’t sure what to expect. Swimming into waves above your head and trying to sight was certainly interesting but no where near as bad/hard as I was expecting!

I found the first lap quite hard – and had to keep reminding myself that I could actually swim and the time didnt really matter, it just seemed to take a while for me to find my rhythm and mojo. I did though and by the second lap felt more relax and in the flow of it. By the third lap I was desperate for a wee and very happy to be swimming towards the exit point. I cannot pee in my wetsuit – which has now become my more pressing concern about the End to End swim!

I got out thinking my mate had beaten me – he hadn’t – he was 50s behind me! I couldn’t decide whether I have enjoyed it or not but I rather liked the medal! I was, however, very ready to go to the loo!

It was worth it though as I indulged in three breakfasts – including a communal fry up.

I also really enjoyed just swimming. Its the first time I have done just a swimming event and I really enjoyed it – it made a change from just running or cycling events – maybe thats the way to keep the love of triathlon alive – by doing the various disciplines in stand alone events?

Who knows?

What I do know though is that water fleas are actually a thing, and possibly the cause of the nasty bites/bruises I am now sporting on my legs!