IBIZA! Part One – ETU Championships

Getting of the plane at Leeds Bradford Airport a couple of days ago was a bit of a shock to the system. Six days of glorious sunshine and warm weather, watching friends race and generally chilling – fabulous!

I will be honest – I wasn’t sure what to expect. Ibiza’s main reputation is that of party island but all the main clubs had their closing parts around the weekend of the 6th of October and as we arrived, many bars and hotels were closed or closing for the winter. It is quite a strange feeling being somewhere that is slowly closing down.

Clearly not there for the party scene, this week Ibiza has been the host to the ETU Championships – which was actually the reason for me being there. Initially this trip had been planned and booked while still with the ex. When he left me, I had him cancel the original holiday so I could rebook it. After seeing my mate’s hotel, I wish I’d rebooked into their hotel (it was lush and would have been worth the extra expense. Lesson learnt there!). Anyway, back to the important stuff – the reason for being there was the fact that some of my friends and club members had qualified to race representing GBR in their age category, so I headed out to go and support. A most excellent excuse for a holiday.

We touched down in Ibiza on the Saturday – the first day of the championships. The first race to affect our group was the Standard Distance Duathlon in Santa Elulia on the Sunday. When I arrived it was to find my friend, who was racing, slightly panic stricken – the transition had moved (washed away off the beach the night before due to an unusually high tide) and confusion over the race route, which had changed numerous times. Either way, push come to actual shove, everything went well, and certainly better than the previous day’s sprint duathlon by all accounts. We took it in turns cheering my friend on as me and her partner kept and eye on the children playing on the beach (a whole afternoon in the sun on the beach was blissful). At the end however, we all made a beeline for the finish – to which there was a total of 10 of us cheering her in to a marvellous sprint finish! First day of racing over, my friend could start enjoying her holiday!

The second race I was in Ibiza to watch was the Aquathon on the Wednesday evening – and what a glorious evening it was for racing! A 1km swim and a 5km run, with three club members racing into the sunset, it was always going to be fast and pacy. Eight of us stood waiting patiently near one of the switch backs for the race to start – and waiting for one of our club members to pass us. While we waited and watched, it was inspiring to see the elites go past but also the parathletes too. We had a good vantage point and were at one of the quiet points – until our first club member and friend ran past, at which point we made a mad dash to the finish. We were so close! Most of us managed to get stood on one of the seating blocks along the front and had an excellent side line view of one of the switch backs as well as the finish line, both of which provide amazing moments, sprint finishes and some more amusing moments. We were also an excellent home cheering crowd for our members as we watched and cheered loudly. All doing well as the sun set.

Race Day.jpg
Duathlon

Once everyone was in though we all made our way back to our own hotels but not before agreeing to catch up for drinks. Well, I say that. One was staying with family and one disappeared off drinking with other age groupers into the Irish bar that was still open along the front. The rest of us meet up at one of the hotels along the front where they were staying to celebrate the end of season and the fact we were all in Ibiza. Cocktails and laughter flowed – included one of our club coaches (I feel my work as social sec here is done!). It was about 1.30am before I rolled back at my own hotel, with a 6.30 alarm for our transfer to the airport. I wasn’t really looking forward to the impending hangover.

An impending hangover that, thankfully didn’t materialise – more just tiredness! I was actually quite gutted to leave in one respect, knowing that some other club members were just heading out for the Middle distance race on Saturday, but alas, all good things must come to an end and as we boarded the plane, I was debating whether I should book in some races abroad next year – although after seeing the stress that can comes with racing abroad – I know I will need to be mega organised!

Decisions decisions!

‘Don’t make a permanent decision for your temporary emotion.’ Unknown

I’ve been meaning to write for a few weeks, but as always, life gets in the way. I’m about to fly out to a small island in the middle of the Med to support friends who are racing.  Discussing this and next years race season with one of my friends last Tuesday has made me realise I really need to decide now what I want to do next year race wise. It has been on the back of my mind for a few months really but my training is currently aimless and even though I know I should be building my base fitness – what am I building it for?

This is where the quote comes in above as being quite apt. As for permanent decision – not long after the split up, I bought another bike (ok not a permanent decision but still!) and I bought a business (a slightly more permanent decision!). Why is this relevant to my training/life/race decisions? Well, the thing is, I’ve been debating going long course next year and to me, this is a bigger commitment than the business – maybe not so much money wise, but certainly time wise. I’ve a half already booked (its not up on my ‘Races’ page yet for various reasons) – I’m doing this with some friends. I know I can be race fit for this as my base fitness has improved massively already since the summer. I’ve proved I can do the distance in the swim and the bike – running is just the thing to conquer next.

The issue is – what else do I want to do?

There are so many awesome races out there that I could do.

I’d like to go long course, but I’d like to do Coniston End to End swim. I’d like to do Red Bull Time Laps too. I’ve even been asked about doing Brecca Swim Run at Coniston.

I’ve not wanted to make too hasty a decision as if I do go long course, it has to fit in with my half-iron in July and my life in general. If I do go long course I also need to make far more serious commitment to training but it also means I have to be more careful planning out the rest of the season so I don’t over do it.

I need to be making the decision and soon.

I always said 2020 would be the year, but that was 12 months ago and a lot has changed, but I am worried that I am thinking long course next year to prove a point and therefore potentially for the wrong reasons. I know I have nothing to prove but still. Experienced and unexperienced friends alike all have their opinions but even on their advice, I still need to make the decision. And soon.

Having never properly planned my race season and going with the flow, this is proving to be a tougher decision process than I thought! Maybe five days on a sunny island, surrounded by friends and triathletes will help me make my mind up!

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…..

Playing at Pines

‘And at the end of the day, your feet should be dirty, your hair messy and your eyes sparkling.’ Shanti

After waiting a week to have a proper play on the new cyclocross bike (now known as the Ridders), the mudguards came off, the chain was given a quick clean and the brakes given a bit of adjustment – the time had come to actually go and play. The bikes were bundled into the back of the car and the mini road trip to Sherwood Pines was done.

I had been looking forward to this all week. I am not a fan of mountain bikes really, coming from a roadie background, I don’t think this is that surprising. So the cross bike was really a more natural choice. I initially felt a bit out of place – ours were the only CX bikes there and I’ve never ridden in SPD Mountain bike cleats but that passed. Quick. Initial start wasn’t good – one cleat on upside down had resulted in frustration in not being able to clip in, but once rectified, it was time to go and play.

Heading to Sherwood Pines has been on my To Do list for quite a while – but with it being down in Nottinghamshire, I never really got chance to go. Sherwood Pines is a lot flatter than Dalby Forest, and we initially started out on the Blue route – well, my bike handling skills need some work but on the most part – it was so much fun! In my head, it was the cycling equivalent of trail/XC running. I was not really far off. Absolutely loved bombing around the course and not really worrying about speed – so much so I was wishing we’d done two (next time). Even had a bit of a cheeky play on some of the red route sections.

I love my roadies – don’t get me wrong, but this was just so much fun! I’ve got to do some serious practise but for a first attempt, it wasn’t bad! Itchy feet to be back must be a good sign right?

As for having a go at racing – I think it is definitely on the cards – especially after talking to one of the club members this afternoon. I feel this can only be a good thing for my road cycling. I am, however, glad that it hadn’t been awful weather before hand!