KMF 10km and Road trips with friends

As part of my apparent ongoing road trip May adventures, this weekend was the club trip to the Lake District, or more specifically, the Keswick Mountain Festival.

In some way, shape and form, there were 9 of us milling about the festival village mid afternoon, chatting about the weekend and generally being sociable (like this is anything new!), and was followed by lunch in the town centre, but not before an awesome weekend with a great bunch of people.

Friday night, five of us went to watch Graeme Obree speak – mostly about his hour record 26 years ago but touching on other subjects. I had wanted to see him for ages and it was really worth waiting for. Saturday was chilled for some of us –  the Swim sessions for Keswick Mountain Festival (KMF) has been cancelled due to algae so some of us went off to do Keswick Parkrun (which is a lovely out and back along the old railway). One of us was racing Fairfields Fell race and the rest of us milled about either wandering into town and then on to some open water swimming in a very cold Buttermere, and the rest of us ended up getting lunch in Ambleside. Tea was curry (not wise pre race day!) and then a late night in the hostel drinking and chatting away – a very chilled day.

Sunday was race day.

Three of us had signed up for the 10km race at 10am.

Sunday morning came around. We went down to breakfast and checked the weather (and forecasts), got ourselves packed and ready and headed off to the festival village. Three racing, three spectating (this grew to 6 spectating the finish line which was awesome!).

We went down to the ferry to take us over to the start line – I was on the second boat as I’d had to rush round to the bag drop and I had been waiting for my mate at the hostel to get himself ready so we’d been later setting off.

Landing further up Derwentwater, the race wasn’t quite a ‘run back to the start’ but more of a run away and up, then back. I knew it was going to be a tough one as the race took us over Catbell’s Terrace. The sun was out, the weather was good and conditions under foot couldn’t have been better. I’ll admit I felt a bit nervous – I usually do. I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to fair either!

The race started and was pretty crowded, the first 4km the runners were all quite close as there was little room for over taking and a lot of walking uphill (I’ll put my hand up here and admit I was one of them) – for me, I could walk some of these climbs quicker than run them, and make up the time on the decent. And boy were those fun! The scenery was, without a doubt, worth the climbing today. The view from Catbells is one of my favourites anyway but despite it being hard, it was really enjoyable. I loved some of the more technical descents – and I think this is possibly the only area in running that I may actually be better than one of my mates at – and he is a far better runner than me!

The last 4-5km were a lot flatter than the first – but did include some tarmac and my feet let me know they were not happy about running on tarmac in trail trainers. I grinned and bared it until the route went back on to gravelly trail.

I even managed to run the finish line uphill and look fairly strong still – if the photos are anything to go by!

The organisation of this race was pretty spot on – I cant fault it, but if you don’t go to the festival, £38 can seem like a lot of money. I also made the mistake of ordering a medium tee for the finish as they were offering female specific tops – mistake right there. A small would have fit. Ah well.

Lunch became order of the day (after devouring post race pancakes and getting changed) so six of us walked into town, reflecting on time well spent and enjoying what was left of the weekend.

I feel I can sum up this weekend for me in seven words – Ate lots, drank lots, ran lots. Happy.

Cant ask for more than that!

 

Coniston 14 – PB!

It was a PB – just! Half marathon distance – 2:35:54 – official race time – 2:45:41.

Coniston 14 is a road run – around Coniston in the Lake District. It was this or Keilder Night Sky and I missed out on a place (my own fault) at Kielder. Regardless, Coniston 14 was going to be another solo road trip and another epic.

Alarm went off at 5.30, I hit snooze. Finally dragging myself out of bed, sorting kit, sorting the car and eating breakfast, I was out of the house for 7.10am. As is normal on such road trips, the music was loud, the mood high and second breakfast awaited at Scotch Corner Services. A routine/ritual that signals road trip!

I rocked up a little later than intended to Coniston – made things a bit more rushed than I would have liked but to be fair, there was only me to sort so wasn’t really a big deal. Parked up, got myself sorted, went to the loo, had a chat to some other ladies in the same queue and wandered up to the start line – still wandering up when the whistle went – although my plan was to start near the back and just plod it out.

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The course elevation for Coniston 14

I’ve decided I need to get more familiar with looking at the profile of races – this will become clearer in a minute. I was expecting the second half to be harder. In the car driving over, you drive part of the course and there was a little voice in the back of my head whispering ‘what the hell have you signed up for?!’ Undulating. That would be one word for it! Before the start there were a few frantic texts out to friends along the line of ‘arghhhh” and ‘wtf have I signed up for?’.

The first four miles – well. They were both awful and hard and great all at the same time. You only need to look at the elevation to see why but it was constant up and down – then it got better but for the first 4 miles I really did wonder whether I would make it round. My glutes started twinging (another reminder that I need to do gym work!) first. I really did worry.

Then suddenly I found a bit of run mojo and I found some sort of pace that was comfortable and I started to enjoy where I was and what I was doing. Wonders will never cease, and slowly the miles started to tick by. Don’t get me wrong, my feet were not particularly happy – but around the mile 9-11 mark, I had some really good chats with different people and at mile 10-13 I ran with a chap called Tim, another cyclist from Lyme runners who was selling his track bike – Coniston was his longest ever run – we walked a huge hill – see photo of the elevation, but ran back down and into Coniston – where I left him to get to the finish.

What did I learn though while running this course?

  • Running can occasionally be enjoyable. I could probably have pushed harder too.I need to run more hills – and do some strength work.
  • Tailwind Nutrition in my water (I wore a running vest – not many did but it was so worth it) – it’s awesome. Top running fuel – no bonking or major hunger pangs at the end – really impressed me – as I have mostly used it on the bike. No bad guts either.
  • I miss running races – I haven’t really done many for a while – but it was nice to be out with others running!
  • Local, smaller events are usually better (this isn’t anything I didn’t already know!).
  • The Lake District makes for fab races!
  • I can actually run a hilly half marathon.

Slightly sore and uncomfortable – all the marshals and the course were fab – lots of support and cheering – and possibly one of my new top fave races – although not knocking CTS Northumberland off its perch!

What was even better – I knocked about a minute of my half marathon PB – and on a hillier course (Brass Monkey = flat – but I had barely trained for it). I am really looking forward to Edinburgh half marathon now!

I just need to get the cycling sorted (my epic road trip home involved picking up a new bike….)

 

Velodrome Fun

I’ve been on a mission to do and try new things and so when the Velodrome at The National Cycling Centre was mentioned – there was no chance I was going to miss that!

I had debated staying in Manchester last night and having a mooch around but decided a 6am alarm and picking up friends for a road trip was a better idea. The car was backed – cycling kit, helmet, bottle of water, baking (obviously!) and said friends picked up – the velodrome awaited.

It was eerily quiet there actually. We were early but not quite the first there – hiring shoes and waiting for everyone to turn up, chat turned to nerves. We got changed and headed to get our bikes and as we walked up in to the middle of the velodrome nerves really hit as I saw how steep the banking was. The same nerves as I get before a race. We all got track bikes, put our shoes on and headed up on the the side of the track, lined up along the grab rail and were given an introduction to track cycling.

I was starting to wonder if I would remember everything. We set off, one by one. Pushing ourselves off with our left hand and turning the pedals. Its the first time I’ve been on a track bike but also the first time on a single, fixed speed bike with no brakes. Bit of a shock to the system. Two laps on the concrete later and we stopped again – next bit of knowledge before being allowed on to the boards.

I did a couple of laps on the light blue boards at the bottom and slowly ventured up, moving up on the straights. Oh my! You are convinced when you look at the banking that you will never be able to get round or that you’ll have enough grip, but the more you go round, the braver you get. It actually didn’t take long for me to start sneaking up the banking – I even made it to the top – it was so much fun. Hard work but fun.

The nerves went and I spent the whole session wishing I was as fit as I was at the end of TT season. Flying round the track knowing I was no where near as fast as the pros has given me a new found respect for the professional track cyclists. The space of the velodrome and what we were doing just seemed so special – especially when doing it with a bunch of mates. One friend, who was so nervous, spent quite a lot of time on the light blue boards at the bottom but eventually braved moving above the black line and towards the red and blue – I was so proud!

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!

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!

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!)