Triathlon X Half Relay Antics

‘Empathy is about finding echos of another person in yourself’ Mohsin Hamid

I’ve rewritten this post more times than I care to remember before publishing. For various reasons – including being too wordy! September was a very busy month – three out of five weekends saw me travelling to the Lake District, all because of some link to the Tri Club, so not all bad.

So, why was I back in the Lakes?

The last Bank Holiday in August, a group of us went open water swimming. Not an usual event considering we’re triathletes, but this time, one of my friends – who doesn’t like swimming at the best of times, had a mini panic attack in the water. This led to a conversation about the fact that she had signed up to Triathlon X half and how she felt she couldn’t do it anymore. Two of us offered to do it for her if she could do it in relay. That turned out to be me. I had planned to come up anyway to cheer her on as I had nothing else on. So a couple of emails back and forth later and I was entered into Triathlon X half to do the swim! Now, TriX has a reputation. It is possibly the hardest triathlon (half and full) in the world. I definitely had the easy part. To put it in perspective, I was done with the swim by 8.44 – she was only finishing at 5pm – and she is an Age-group standard athlete for duathlon. If you want to see the elevation involved, I would just go search it if I were you.

Back to the race planning  – after a few conversations back and forth, I booked my own accommodation. It’s the first time I’ve stayed in a YHA on my own in a dorm room. I wasn’t sure what to expect but it was actually ok. It is nicer having your own room but for £27 and to be located right next to the start line, I wasn’t going to complain. I hadn’t booked breakfast knowing that I would be swimming and up early (6am to be precise). I also didn’t check out when I left for the swim. Knowing I’d be finished before 9am, I decided to wait so after swimming I could go get a shower. This turned out to be the best plan ever – who doesn’t want a warm shower after swimming in a cold lake?!

Drinking coffee and eating some oaty breakfast bar I heading over to transition and met my friends. Dressing in neoprene – literally head to toe – hat, gloves, booties as well as wetsuit was more than novel compared to normal. I had been feeling ok about the swim until the night before. Then nerves started to kick in. Although I’ve been swimming again more regularly, this was going to be my longest continuous swim since Leeds Tri in June (1500m) and the water was a lot colder than I normally like to swim in.

The actual Swim 

I can now say I have a far better understanding of what my mate feels about OW swimming.

Not that I am not empathetic – just that I have a better understanding and wish there was more I could do to help her.

Water temperature was 13.3 degrees. Coldest I’ve been swimming in for a long time, especially any distance! It was definitely warmer than it was in April though. It was a deep water start and there was about 135 of us but there wasn’t too much of a washing machine effect as normal – although I started near the back. I spent the first 3/400m wondering what on earth I was doing? Debated getting out, decided I hated OW swimming, wondered how I was going to make it all the way round etc etc. It was awful. I’m not usually negative when I’m swimming but the first part was just awful. If this is even a fraction of how those who dislike/hate swimming feel – wow. This was bad enough and I am a fairly confident swimmer and love being in the water normally.

I finally found some sort of rhythm after I got past the first triangular buoy at about 800m and started to enjoy it. I was surprisingly warm (thank you neoprene!) and took it steady – to try and save my shoulder. The last 200m were cold and long but I was apparently smiling when I got out. Was a bit annoyed with myself as my time was 44.17 and I know full well I could have done a sub 40. My mini stress at the beginning and have to physically stop a couple of times to sight properly and get my bearings definitely didn’t help. My shoulder still isn’t perfect either but it’s only twinging a bit at the moment. I really need to rest it up I think and make sure I keep stretching it out.

I will point out though, that I was smiling when I got out – and dare I say it, I finally managed to enjoy it!

Racing in relay

Racing in relay was new, but the nature of the race (see comments about about elevation), meant I was actually quite glad I’d finished. I definitely feel I had the easiest part of the race. There was a picture of my friends stood watching the swim looking so worried. It turns out they actually were. A few got out during the swim and DNF’d – that worried them. The temperature worried them. My mates nerves got to her. The picture in question is worthy of a caption competition to be fair!

I got out of the water and hung around long enough to see my friend disappear up the road on her bike and I went and got a shower and changed. It was going to be quite a long day. I wasn’t completely on my own though. My day consisted of eating and drinking and generally wandering about until about 5pm when my friend finished. I do not know how she did it, and I am in genuine awe of her achievements. She is so unassuming, quiet and quite shy – I don’t think she realises her own strength, stubbornness and determination. I suppose that’s why I love her, and was more than happy to jump in a cold lake for her. I’d do it again too!

Looping a Lake and Heading Up Hill

Undulations and more undulations.

Took the bike up to the Lake District the other weekend – this proved interesting. My friends tried to persuade me up The Struggle – for those that do not know of The Struggle – it’s down as one of the top 200 Climbs in the UK, rated 8/10.

I did one lap of Windermere and got to Ambleside and refused point blank. My knee was already twinging from the mere 1700ft of climbing I had already done so I wondered back to the YHA we were staying at.  This left the two lads to go off and do it. I was quite glad when I got back that I hadn’t – I was talking to one of my friends when the lads rolled in. Looking wet and shattered!

This weekend I did a 30 mile circular route round North Lincolnshire – slightly hilly but same issue – dodgy on hills and dodgy left knee. What was also frustrating; I hadn’t ridden my bike in a week and I could feel it! I haven’t ridden anywhere near enough in last three weeks.

This has brought to the fore a few things….

  1. I need to do more hills and more climbing. This is nothing new to be honest. I am a bit of a rubbish climber.
  2. I need to work on my glutes – I think this is why I am suddenly having issues with my knee. Knee issues, apparently, are usually caused by weak glutes. Definitely my case with running, could be with cycling. Don’t think it’s my bike fit – its not long since I had one.
  3. I quickly get unfit on the bike. I haven’t ridden as much as I would like in the last few weeks. Partly because I’ve been busy, partly the weather. I suspect it is time I got the turbo out.
  4. It is officially winter kit season. I was cold on the bike yesterday. Shorts, base layer, summer jersey and arm. warmers – just not enough.
  5. As above. Cycle more hills. Cycle more.
  6. There aren’t many female cyclists in Lincolnshire. My 30 mile bike ride saw me get top 10 female positions on 8 different segments. Now, I’m a reasonable ok cyclist but that many? On one ride?
  7. I need to sort out the cleats on my shoes. I nearly came off my bike on a major roundabout – I slipped off the pedals thinking I was clipped in as I stood to get a move on around the roundabout. Serious wobble and thoughts I was actually going to fall. I’ve a nice bruise there now though…..

Anyway, despite all that, winter season is starting to draw closer, especially as today is the first day of Autumn. I don’t mind colder weather cycling as long as I’ve the layers on but I really do need to start putting the hours in on the turbo I think. I’ll be getting signed back on to Zwift but a friend has recommended Sufferfest. Either way, with Holkham half on the calendar and cyclocross to maybe brave… I need to start training again and stop being so lax!

Reluctant Runner

‘I’m taking some time off for a little rest and then I’ll consider my options. I wan to go slowly. There are a number of possibilities and I hope there will be more. I want to consider them carefully and slowly.’ – Martin McGuinn

This is a quote from a business man I believe but I think it applies quite nicely to my running. I’ve decided to give myself a break from running. Running is not my favourite discipline nor my strongest. After recent events, I have been wondering why I am pressuring myself to run when put quite frankly, I don’t want to. My run mojo fluctuates much like the British weather and at the moment it is non-existent. I would rather swim or cycle. Making the decision not to run in September has taken a weight off my shoulders I didn’t realise I was carrying.

I am hoping that a self-imposed ban on running will help me find my mojo to want to run. This has been coupled with the decision not to run in this years Cross Country league – even though it’s one of the few running things I do actually enjoy. Too many links to the ex to really be bothered to deal with. You can’t do everything! I also want to spend more time on the bike, swimming and climbing. It will serve my wellbeing more. This doesn’t mean I’m giving it up.

A break means that I can some back hopefully with some more motivation. I am already finding that I’ve slightly itchy feet to go run. I’ve my first race in February in my favourite part of the world, and a few other races booked/pencilled in so I can afford to take the break. I may have found myself a new running partner as well and my friend is planning on using me as her case study for her PT course so I think I am looking forward to starting running again with a improved mindset!

I know I don’t have to justify why I’m not running but actually writing it down helps it make sense and holds me a bit more accountable in the long run. There might just be other people out there like me wondering if it’s going to have a negative impact – so lets wait and see – I might come back looking forward to building it up again (I always lose run fitness pretty quick).

As for more possibilities – not having to find time to run at the moment means other possibilities are becoming available. Climbing and running a business are starting to fill in the gaps and the prospect of some swim/bike races are looking like they could be fun! Of course this means that I will have to eventually find time to fit in running again, but hopefully the will to do it will return more strongly and with all the S&C work I am doing, hopefully my fitness will also be in a better place!

Funny thing this running break murlarky – I already feel better about it!

Broken by Bouldering

‘Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.’ Neale Donald Walsch

I was asked, last week, if I fancied going bouldering.

‘Why not?’

So last night I found myself at Hull’s Rock City, with good company and no clue what I was letting myself in for. I already knew my upper body strength was dire and I knew I would probably end up hurting but I’m usually game for trying something new, and after going and playing at Pines last week, I was even more game.

I turned up, only to be told I looked nervous. Well to be fair, I was probably did look more nervous than I actually felt but either way. In we went, I signed my life away on Bouldering membership, paid up, got my climbing shoes and was lead into the deep beyond of Rock City’s front counter.

Shoes on, chalked hand and glasses off.

Well what can I say? Tried some of the level 2s, they were ok, then I started to realise just how poor my shoulder/arm muscles are. Moved on to some of the level 3s and started to see why it was actually pretty good fun! Don’t get me wrong, my toes and my fingers started to hurt, and even my arms and shoulders by the end, but figuring out routes and actually climbing them – I really can see the attraction of it!

I was definitely feeling out of my comfort zone! Although once I realised that actually I could do some of these climbs and the main issue was my strength (this wasn’t that much of a revelation to be honest), I actually started really enjoying it. After an hour though I really was starting to feel it – I can see some long term advantages of climbing though. My swimming will definitely improve with climbing, and I very much suspect my cycling will benefit too. Definitely want to go back! I very much think that I will end up back there sooner than I think I will – same with Pines too. I do ache this morning though. Worth it though.

This winter will be cross training at it’s best I think…..

I just need to actually go do some running now (so I’m off out on the bike instead!)

 

Oh, and respond to the email/sign up for Holkham Half Triathlon…..

Ellerton Park – Swim little fishes swim!

Swimming has its educational value – mental, moral, and physical – in giving you a sense of mastery over an element, and of power of saving life, and in the development of wind and limb.’ Robert Baden-Powell

Swimming, over the last few months, has been a blessing and a heart saver. A lot of my friends swear by running as cheap therapy but for me, it’s always swimming. My swim set, how much I swim, where I swim, how much effort I put in – the ability to actually swim ‘mastery over an element’ is my therapy. I really can switch off when I swim and focus on the moment and what I am doing. It has helped my mental wellbeing after everything that’s happened and it has helped my physical body get physically fitter. Not so sure about the moral benefits, other than being able to take the moral high ground after an early morning set before work!

As such, I always feel the need to share my love of swimming and finding little gems. Today, myself and seven other club members headed over to Ellerton Park to go and swim. My friend wanted to so we opened it up to the club and in the end eight of us rocked up to swim.

For those who haven”t heard or been to Ellerton Park, it is not far from Scorton, Richmond in North Yorkshire. It really is a hidden little gem! Clean, quiet and open all day – what is not to love?

I really should have asked everyone how far they swam in order to get a grand total – I know that I did four laps (my longest OW swim of the year at 2.3km) and that one mate did 11 laps, and another 5, so theres 20 between three of us. I also heard later on that another club member had gone across in the afternoon and enjoyed it.

It was a bit of a trek to Ellerton Park from home, however, as I think I’ve mentioned before – I think it will become important in next year as I train for my planned A race of the season. Apart from been clean and quiet – it has, as stated above, long opening hours. It is definitely worth a trip.

Quick run down….

Location – Ellerton Park, Scorton, Richmond, North Yorkshire, DL10 6AP

Cost – £5, cash only.

Facilities – Changing/shower room, steps into the water, burger van (varied opening hours – so don’t count on it!), not far from local cafe though, with Tri-ology located above it.

Spotters/lifeguards – no. Definitely worth taking a tow float/mates to spot.

Swim loop – 530m loop around 3 buoys, clockwise, can get a bit choppy.

Opening times – If I remember rightly, the season is usually March to September, and opening hours at rough 9 to 6, give or take an hour. I’ll try to double check next time I’m up there – but regardless – you can swim all day if you want!

Water quality – really highly rated – and you can tell when you get in! No pool/lake fever for me at all. Definitely a major selling point.

Parking – yep – and a decent amount of it too.

Other important info – Can be weedy, going off past experience, spring water fed so although warm when sun has been on it, can be cooler quite quickly. Usually pretty clear. Quite deep – you cannot stand up unless you swim right to the side, and even then it is only a small ledge. You may find yourself swimming over divers and occasionally some boats may be in there. They only accept cash! This is also a venue for a local midweek sprint triathlon too.

Lured to the dark side of cycling

‘You can’t buy happiness but you can buy a bike and that’s pretty close.’ Anonymous

Yesterday was indeed a day of great happiness. For various reasons.

It started with a decent swim (all the best days usually involve swimming) at the gym, and was followed by a very long solo road trip. I say very long, it wasn’t too bad to be honest but the traffic was a bit rubbish. The swim and solo road trip weren’t the cause of the great happiness that washed over me.

It all started over a week ago – a message from a friend regarding a CX bike he’d seen on Facebook and a frantic text to me to tell me about it and persuade me to call about it. I did, and in doing so, I ended up travelling up to Newcastle to go look at a second hand, extra small, Ridley XBow (being a short female, second hand bikes that fit are quite rare!).

I had been debating cyclocross for cross training but it would appear I have been lured to the dark side of cycling after all it would seem as I came home with said bike. I came home poorer but also richer – nothing quite beats N+1 in all honesty. I was grinning from ear to ear all the way home! It helps that I like the paint job on it better than more recent models.

The problem is now, I need to sort out the mudguards – bike hasn’t been raced and used more as a winter hack/commuter and I think I need to tweak a bit with the saddle height. Saying that though, the lady I bought the bike off had a shorted stem put on it – which is what I had to do to my Ridley Liz. I also need to sort out the cleats for the shoes as I’m used to SPD-SL and these aren’t! Regardless….

Seriously excited.

Seriously gutted I won’t get a chance to play until the end of the week!

 

Best get a move on and up my bike handling skills!

 

What have I let myself in for?! (No one mention MTB – I fear the worse!)

Ride, ride, ride!

“Ride a bike. Ride a bike. Ride a bike” – Fausto Coppi, on how to improve

The only way I am actually going to get better on the bike is to actually go ride (I could say the same about running – I really need to work on that!). At the moment, I have no more races pencilled in for this year and as a result, I don’t really have a training plan. This has the advantage in that I can swim/bike/run as I like without feeling guilty but the downside in the fact that my running is being sorely neglected for cycling, swimming and gym work.

So with no races booked, my current dedication to my cycling and proving to myself what I’m capable off – a month or so ago I signed up for the York 100 sportive – 68 miles. I’ve done it before and enjoyed it so I thought why not!

The plan was to ride in from home, do the sportive, and ride home, rounding it up to 100 miles. This was the plan until this morning. In the end, I persuaded a friend to join me. He’s a bit of a beast on the bike. I finished on 80 hard earned miles.

I cycled to the start – all well and good. Met my mate, registered, and set off. All well and good. Made a very good pace out of town (my spin has improved massively and the TTs have paid off too) and headed towards some climbs. The thing with the York 100 is that it starts off fairly flat and finishes fairly flat, but has a very bumpy middle. There is nothing really major to actually report – it was really uneventful really, but there two observations that I want to make.

  1. Nutrition – I tried something different today. After being mocked for taking so much food that I realised today I genuinely don’t need, I did try some new nutrition. I’ve been a fan of High5 4:1 – it is good stuff but equally can be a bit sweet. On a recommendation, I bought some Tailwind (Caffenated Raspberry Buzz if you really want to know). I tried it in the pool – not so great – but on the bike, wow! Genuinely really impressed. It is a lot like rocket fuel. I took some extra but wish I’d had enough to fill a third bottle it was that good. I had a spare pouch of the High5 but missed having the Tailwind. My belly hasn’t felt badly and it wasn’t too sweet and sickly either. Going to stick with it and see how it goes.
  2. My cycling fitness – It has definitely improved this year, massively. But also over the last few years. 112 PR/2nd/3rds on Strava on that route – and more importantly, not once did I unclip up any climbs, including a very long climb out of Leavening and a climb out of Thixendale at 17% and with some help admittedly, I am also managing to maintain a good pace and dig deep at the end of a ride too. I am feeling very smug tonight. I also managed to average just shy of 15mph too. Former attempts at the York 100 have been so much slower and compared to my riding at the beginning of the year? Well. I am sooooo on it!

All in all, today was a very good day in the office!