Alnwick Sprint Triathlon

Where to start?

At the beginning.

In the beginning there was…..

Haha ok maybe not. So it may have come to some people’s attention that North or ‘The North’ is my favourite place to be. More precisely – Northumberland. In fact the temptation to move there increases regularly. As a result it should come as no surprise that entering Alnwick Sprint Triathlon was a bit of a no brainer! I’d set a reminder on my phone – which didn’t work so originally missed out – until I spied over social media that some more places had become available as people hadn’t wanted them. Bingo! This was months ago.

Fast forward to the day before.

Accommodation was booked and sorted – I arrived in Northumberland in plenty of time. All good you’d thing – I was too early to go to my accommodation so decided to drive the bike route. Well what a BAD idea that was. I knew it wasn’t flat but argh – talk about putting the wind up myself. Undulating is a rather mild word for it! Either way – it was a scenic route but it did put the wind up me and result in some frantic texting! This kind of set the tone for the rest of the evening.

Stayed in my favourite village – Beadnell – at Farne Lodge – what a gem of a find! I’ll be back over the summer! Really nice rooms and didnt need breakfast so was more than happy – although a little gutted my mate couldn’t make it. In all honesty I had a bit of an emotional wobble about life which again was solved/helped by some conversations with mates and I snapped out of it.

I had some jobs to do work wise (I had taken laptop) so sat and worked through a bit of the to do list then headed over to the pub next door for tea and some Guiness – why not? I took a book and just sat chilling on my own – looking distinctly like billy-no-mates.

Netflix and bed.

RACE DAY!

My first triathlon in nearly a year. I really think I am one of the laziest racers in the club. Alarm went off, I hit snooze. I thought about moving and wondered how close I dare leave it before dragging myself out of bed and getting up. Ate some food – thought that was wise! Pulled on my trisuit and some trousers before loading the car and tootling off to Alnwick. The joys of knowing the area meant no worrying about getting lost and knowing exactly where I needed to be and how long it would take. Bonus points really.

Rocking up on my own was a bit novel. I HAD read the race pack re registration and the briefing but after liberating my race number and my bike and racking up in transition – someone kindly reminded me I needed to be at a race briefing! Perfect planning there.

Thankfully not before leaving my long sleeved jersey with my bike. I hate being cold on the bike. Even in a race.

Briefing done, Let the waiting game commence!

My swim wave was 8.30 – I’d put down 7:30 swim time when I entered which put me in the 5 wave – out of 7 or 8 so heading towards the top half. The wave in front – one lass was quite slow in finishing, leaving no time for any warm up so it was a case of straight in. After focusing on my form – I was annoyed that I forgot in for the first 150m. Then it clicked – higher elbow, more power, pull and relax – then things eased up and I managed to keep on the toes of the lad in front – I’d let him over take. Stopped my watch dead on last stroke – 7:19 thank you very much! I was over the moon.

Then I buggered up my watch. I use my watch in triathlon mode so little that I forgot how it worked – so trundled through transition with the full intention of keeping warm on the bike (so that could have been quicker…). It took me half a km to get my watch on to cycle mode but….

The bike had almost given me nightmares but there was no point in sacking it off – I needed to do it. Turns out though that as tough as it was – it wasn’t as bad as I expected. It was as undulating as it was scenic and in the end I was genuinely happy with my finish time – my average pace as 15.8mph which was better than I was expecting. My attitude on the bike is better than running – I seem to be able to push through the pain on the bike more than I do the run.

Talking of the run.- I faffed into transition – and as I set out on the run – remembered just how awful that heavy leg feeling is off the bike. I really should remember to do brick sessions. Either way – the run was four laps of the local secondary school – a long slow gradual uphill with a corresponding decent and in all honesty – once I got into it, managed to maintain somewhat reasonable pace for me, but I will admit I spent the last half an hour never wanting to do a triathlon again. I was properly miserable at one point! And so glad to see the finish line! At least the sun was shinning and. there was a good support crowd! The race photos are definitely amusing!

Of course after finishing – without having a support crew there, a flurry of texts went out with ‘I NEVER WANT TO DO A TRIATHLON AGAIN’. Obviously two hours later once normality had been restored I took most of this back!

Biggest worry now is actually getting enough training in for Holkham. Any chance I can take the next 7 weeks off work?!

CTS Northumberland – Race Day Review

This is my all-time favourite race – and the only race I have done three times on the trot.

Coastal Trail Series Northumberland incorporated 4 different distances – 10k, Half Marathon, a Marathon and an Ultra and takes in the beautiful and scenic Northumberland coastline. It is so well organised and enjoyable that I keep coming back!

I drove up in the morning – as always, meeting my mate at the services and driving up in convoy. A cold and foggy start changed as we headed north and the sun burnt off the fog and the skies cleared. I always feel happy in Northumberland, although driving across from Beadnell to Bamburgh, I felt a bit choked up as memories from last year flooded back. I knew there was a bit of a risk this happening but on the whole, it was good to be back.

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The finish line flags

Parking up at the bottom of the Castle, walking up and registering, I was a little gutted that we weren’t inside Bamburgh Castle like in previous years (I later found out why – no Warden to let us in, and the stables were being converted into a bar!). The sun was glorious and as it was so mild – I decided to run in capri pants and t-shirt.

The briefing was long and thorough and because the buses were running late, I did get cold waiting to get bused to the start however, once down there and once running, I knew I’d be ok. It is genuinely the only time my mate has seen me smile before a run! Much to her amusement.

The start line was nearer the harbour this year (making the course 400m shorter with alterations to the finish line) but we didn’t have to wait as long on the start line to get going. I will point out now that anyone who has read recent blog posts or follows the Twitter feed, I spent two weeks very ill and did very little training for 4 weeks. Unlike last year where I actually trained! Regardless I wasn’t nervous, I just enjoy this race as a run.

We set off and my pacing wasn’t too bad. I know the area quite well and knew what to expect. People say running on sand/trail is harder – and it is, but somehow I seem to enjoy it more and run better. The first half of the race went well but there is always a but. After the checkpoint at Seahouses, I could feel the familiar feeling of burning on the ball of my right foot. By the 7k point I was really feeling it. I knew there would be a blister and I knew where I had gone wrong. I’ve been using Tri-slide (this is so much better than body glide) with my road trainers due to ongoing issues and didn’t need them with the socks I was using and neutral shoes. By 8k I was wishing I had a Shotblok or something just to eat, like last year. I don’t normally for this race but going at lunch time I was hungry by the time set off. What was most glorious about it though was just running the race, in the sunshine, in February in a t-shirt!

There was no major disasters or anything – I felt a bit sick – I was definitely working. The last 600m has always been horrific and nothing has changed. The race photos were actually pretty cool and I was smiling on them. I was glad to finish though – I always am!

The fish and chips with mates at the end was just the icing on the cake!

IBIZA! Part Two – The Holiday

Six days in Ibiza supporting friends racing did mean there was some free time to mooch about. If you read Part One, then you will, if you hadn’t already realised, that Ibiza is in the process of closing down for winter. We were staying in San Antonio. The closing parties of the clubs on the island had been the first weekend of October and many of the remaining bars and hotels were. gradually closing up. Some of the bars and hotels that were open on the Sunday were, by Monday, closed and boarded up.

With Ibiza slowly winding down, we were not sure what to expect. Ibiza isn’t world renowned for it’s culture as such, so we made the most of chilling and a bit of exploring. Many books were read! So, what did we do?

SUP – Stand Up Paddle boarding. I messaged one of my friends who was out on the island for same reason as me and asked him if he fancied it. Turns out he was. So Monday morning, we both found ourselves on the south coast of Ibiza SUP’ing. There was a group of about 10 of us in total and we could not have asked for more glorious conditions. This is the third time I’ve done it but this was definitely one of the most amazing locations – crystal clear waters, beautiful bays and blue skies as far as the eye could see. It was also very quiet, a few boats dotted here and there but overall, very little. Peaceful and chilled, with a little bit of exploring and some caves to wind through. If you ever get the chance to SUP in Ibiza – it is worth it. It wasn’t expensive either although one of the things I noticed compared to the UK – lack of form signing and buoyancy aids.

Ibiza town – my friend visited some of the museums but wasn’t really impressed – lots of little shops and definitely the hub of the island – rather enjoyed my cocktails in Hard Rock Cafe too! The old town, and the castle, really are beautiful and the views are amazing. You need to be fairly fit though to get to the top. Well connected with buses too (which are so cheap – they are subsidised and busy).

Boat cruises – we did the ‘Sunset cruise’ with one company but it wasn’t really sunset when we got off – it was a three hour cruise to the west coast of San Antonio and around some of the smaller islands. It stopped at one of the popular family beaches to drop off/pick up some people but it also stopped in a beautiful bay so people could get off and swim. Was rather annoyed I didn’t take my swimming costume but hey ho. It was really lovely to be out on the sea and seeing the island from a different perspective.

Swimming – one of the highlights for me personally was swimming in the sea. Along a lot of the coast line, there are areas cordoned off from boats and shipping to allow people a safe area to swim in. Monday night I got a text from one of my friends who said that she and a few age groupers where going to go and swim and would I like to join them. I was hardly going to pass that up! I’ll admit – I could have swam without the wetsuit but in one respect I am glad I did as it gave me an insight into just how buoyant you are in the sea, with a wetsuit. Twenty minutes later – 1km OW swam. Fastest OW swim in a while. Although swimming with the speedy age groupers reminds me that I’ve still some work to do!

Run – I did my first run outdoors for a while early on Tuesday morning – and what a place to run! Sun already shinning and plenty of areas/space to run safely around the bay. Five kilometers in the bag!

Aquarium – My friend (who has 0 interest in racing/sport) and I walked round to the aquarium. Apart from the slight novelty factor of it being in a cave and there being a poor injured turtle in there, cant say I was overly impressed, however…. the walk around the bay to get there was lovely. I was tempted to do some geocaching while I was there but thought I’d best not subject my friend to that!

Would I go back?

Yes. Yes I would, but I would definitely hire a bike and cycle – a lot. I was quite envious of my mate cycling about everywhere, even though it was really hot! I would swim more and definitely hire a car. I would also go more in season – even though it would be a lot busier – just for choice of places to eat/visit and I would get myself round to Cafe del Mar and watch the sunset properly! I would also choose a better hotel. Would I stay any longer than I did? Probably not but then it isn’t a long flight.

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.

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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!