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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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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Time Trial Love

This week has seen the last of the Club Time Trial Series.

What on Earth am I going to do with my Thursday evenings now?

Well, according to one of my mates (who only discovered my blog the other day  – yes I am talking about you!), I should go train seeing as I have some big swims coming up and a half iron triathlon!

I only started part way through last year and rather enjoyed time trailing more than I thought I would so I rather looked forward to this year and it still holds the same appeal – although this year I’ve gone in with a mission of going for the Championships. I think I’ve got it simply through default to be honest.

It is actually a bit sad that the series I’ve done has seen so few women race and few from my own club in it too. It is a rather sick kind of fun – the whole time you race you think ‘why am I doing this?’ but there is something rather satisfying post race about pushing so hard and trying to ride a bike fast. It is a strange way to spend an evening though. That much is true! From those in speed suits, disc wheels, aero shoe covers, pointy (ok ok aero!) helmets through to those like me who rock up with bright pink socks, her favourite road bike, cake and pie, meeting up in a roadside lay-by, setting off at minute intervals. Despite all this though – every single person there that I’ve spoke too or passed has been so welcoming and supportive – no judging, all there with the same intention – to ride bikes as fast as they can.

Finally raced my TT bike in an actual TT race and ended up with a personal best on that particular course by 2 minutes!

I have a confession though. I’m being sucked into marginal gains.

I have a horrible feeling I may end up with a disc wheel and a speed suit.

Cycling is a ridiculous hobby/sport.

(Apparently I’ll be racing CX this year….)

 

 

The Weekend That Was Supposed To Be

Holkham Half Iron was today.

I was supposed to be racing it.

I didn’t.

Anyone that has been following this blog (hahahahaha) knows that I transferred my place to Outlaw X in September. A most wise and excellent choice. To the point that although the weather looked perfect – I didnt feel bad about not doing it. Although I did remind myself that I need to run.

So what did I do instead?

I surprised myself.

It is becoming a bit of a bad habit to say yes to the random things my mates suggest. About a week ago one mate sent me a link to race he had signed up for – up near Consett on Derwent Reservoir. Asked if I fancied it – and camping (with my new tent). Well bit of a daft question. I read through and debated it – but then it dawned on me I could use this to my advantage.

I decided I would use this as the perfect opportunity to head north (what a surprise!) and go cycle in my favourite part of the world – Northumberland.

I decided not to race but still go and camp and support my mate racing, while also riding my bike.

It was actually quite hard getting myself up and out on the Saturday morning to be honest – there was a little voice in my head wondering whether it was worth the money (fuel) and time going all the way north just to ride for a few hours when I could do a 40 mile ride at home. I had already printed off some OS maps just to keep in my pocket as I don’t have a cycle computer, and my bike was in the car – sod it. I overrode the little voice of doubt and thought it would do me good to go.

It was. Road trip central. I set off at half 7, donned in lycra from the start. I stopped at Scotch Corner as per normal and got some funny looks – which considering the lycra was unsurprising. I made Beadnell for 10.45. Driving North makes me so happy!

The weather was absolutely lovely but as I sorted out my bike and got ready to go (this is quite a quick process when you are on your own!) I realised that my route meant that I was going to be cycling back with a headwind!

Ah well.

My route was taking me towards Boulmer via the coast and then back round towards Lesbury and up to Rennington before heading over North Sunderland and into Bamburgh – this was a long tough slog actually – headwind and up hill – but the view was worth it (see the picture!). The other thing that made it worth the slog was the tail wind from Bamburgh through to Beadnell and some amazing speeds and top 10s on Strava!

It was bliss! I stopped eventually at the harbour in Beadnell for an ice cream before cycling back round to the car and heading back to Derwent Reservoir. It was mixed feelings though – it was an epic ride in terms of scenery and just sheer enjoyment – I was over the moon with myself at cycling so far away from home (without the usual back up) on my own! But equally – I really would have liked to have had someone to share it with. The joy of a good bike ride is like nothing else!

However I was feeling – it definitely helped reset the happiness/wellbeing button in my own head.

So looking forward to riding up there again and planning my next trip up there!

The mystery of the Phantom Phaeton

I have been getting some ribbing from some mates about the actual existence of my TT bike that I bought for an absolute bargain in April. Admittedly it was a bit deserved. This beauty of a speed machine has been sat in the garage doing noting but looking pretty since I bought it because I knew I needed to get a fit done.

Getting a fit on my TT bike has not been at the top of my priorities but then my mate sent me the details of a local coach who did bike fits for £65 – too good a price to pass over.

So with that, decision was made and I booked an appointment.

I wish I had done it sooner! Or rather known about Mark sooner. Really great service and even looked at my cleats.

Far more thorough than fits I’ve had done elsewhere.

Firstly – a good chat! My plans/aims with the bike – or what would I predominately be doing with said bike (does make a difference), my current fitness, my flexibility, height, weight, stats, length of inner leg etc, followed by taking all the bike measurements as it stood. Oh and sorting out the position of the cleats on my shoes. They were well out!

Then came attaching sticky reflective dots for the camera to pick up when filming me cycle. That was the first part.

The second part consisted of then tweaking measurements, positions, stem length and height and saddle. Essentially bringing everything in – my initial concern was that the frame would be too big for me (its a small Ridley Phaeton T) but no issues.

And this is exactly WHY I haven’t ridden it until I had a fit. What a difference and far more stable/comfortable position. I really cannot fault my experience – and I have all the details of my fit and measurements and a new saddle to test as well as a stem to try out. So I need to go ride it now – this I am VERY excited about.

When I got home – I did go do a quick spin around the block. With more practice and training I reckon I could really nail some decent speed in the next year or two.

I am beginning to wonder if I am becoming a cyclist who swims rather than a triathlete or a swimmer who cycles…. Not that it matters!

Enduring Inspiration

I am never going to be particularly fast – I know that – not the fastest swimmer, not the fastest cyclist, not the fastest runner. Seeing gains and improvements is always satisfying but the ‘fastest’ at anything isn’t my style. I could go for endurance though – and I suppose this is why I find endurance athletes the most interesting and most fascinating.

I follow quite a few endurance athletes via social media such as Nicky Spinks and Sean Conway. I’ve also met both of them. I’ve also recently been reading Mark Beaumont’s books, so when I saw he was on a book tour – there was no way I wasn’t going to go.

For those of you who might not of have heard of him, Mark Beaumont is a well known adventurer – most famous for his cycling exploits – included racing Africa as well as two around the world cycling trips – most recent one being Around the World in 80 Days – an amazing feat (go read his books!).

I am not a fan of driving into Leeds to be quite honest but this was worth it. Parking up at the Light and walking across the Carriageworks Theatre I arrived in good time. Which always amazes me as I usually cut these things quite fine.

Either way, what followed was broken down in to two parts – the first half gave background to how Mark Beaumont got to the point where cycling the world in 80 days became a possibility. Everything that had gone before leading up to it. Working out what was possible – what the intention was. Not just breaking the previous record but setting a goal and working out what was possible – like he said, good project management. It was genuinely fascinating – I am currently half way through the book but it won’t spoil it I don’t think!

Then the second half focused solely on the 80 days – the difficulties and how it was actually possible – I could have sat and listened for hours – how it seemed actually possible to develop and create your own trip on your own terms was what really stood out to me. Considering how much I love a good road trip made me think about how much I missed having a tent! I’ve been moaning for a month or two about how I left a perfectly good tent at the ex’s! Not amused.

This nicely leads on to the fact that I actually won a tent last night. Vango currently sponsor Mark Beaumont so there was a competition to win a tent – tweet or Instagram a picture from the evening with the hast tag #forwhereveryougo and you stood a chance of winning.

Possibly the best tweet I have ever written – though from my other twitter account!

So come the end of the show I went off to claim it and actually met him. I am rarely shy but I was last night. Ooops.

I also got talking to Ed Pratt who has cycled the world on a unicycle – honestly – that to me is mega crazy – over three years. My biggest question was along the lines of – whats your cadence like on a unicycle?! I am genuinely intrigued – and I would love to go see him talk. That might be my next trip….

Anyway – if you haven’t read Mark Beaumont’s books – I would really recommend you do! I’m off to plan my next adventure!