Baldock Beast Half Marathon Race Report

Well hello there, it’s been a while!

The Baldock Beast, my first race of the year, (well, apart from a couple of 5k races around Norton Common that I haven’t bothered writing race reports for.)

No photo of my breakfast – a thousand apologies, I will endeavor to rectify this oversight next time out.

I entered this race back in December, as part of my Brighton marathon training, and almost immediately regretted it.  “The Beast”.  I wonder why it’s called that?  Oh, it’s because it’s a big hilly bugger! Great!

Training’s been going pretty well though.  I’ve been putting in the miles.  In fact, January 2014 has been a record mileage month, just under 130 miles, and I’ve been logging some decent length runs too, so was confident of the distance, but not impressed with the look of the hills either.  The weather had been pretty dodgy recently t00 – flooding in places, and very high winds, so I’d been closely watching the weather.  The forecast for today was cool – creeping up to 4c by the 10am start time, and winds of about 10mph, so not too bad.  There’s always the “What to wear?” conundrum.  I opted for tights, compression top, t-shirt, jacket, and hat and gloves, as I do feel the cold, especially if it’s a bit windy.

My good friend and training partner, Tom, picked me up at 9:15.  It’s only a few miles to Baldock to the start of the race.  When we got to Baldock, Tom said “So, have you got the race numbers?” as I picked them up yesterday.  “Oh f*&k!  I’ve left them at home”.  Oops.  Big oops!  Tom hammered it back to my house, and I jumped out to grab the race packs, and it was pedal to the metal back to Baldock.  We parked up, and had half a mile or so to march to the start point.  By the time we got there, we had just enough time to queue for the porataloos, and get to the start line.

The race started at 10am sharp, and we were off.  The first couple of hundred metres were actually downhill, but that soon changed!

Up we went, up a bit more, and up again.  Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t ALL up hill.  But the first half definitely felt it!  There was an odd bit of respite now and again from the climb, and thankfully the uphill was offset a bit by a bit of a tail wind.

The first mile passed in 9:17, and the second in 9:15, which would turn out to be the fastest  – hardly surprising really – the first miles are often the quickest in a race.

Being a bright sunny day, it was obvious that I was overdressed, and it felt much warmer than it was forecast.  I had peeled off the hat and gloves pretty early on, and before long the jacket was around my waist, as I was overheating, and my heart rate was starting to creep up a bit quickly.

I was really struggling on the hills.  If it wasn’t for Tom, I’d have been walking very early on, but Tom kept me going, almost dragging me up the hills.

We climbed 500ft in the first 10k.  Despite this, I was really pleased to complete the first 10k in just under an hour. At around the 10k mark, we went off road for a bit – a nice bit of mud and cold puddles to slip and slide in.

We looped back, and started to head back towards Baldock, and it became very apparent that we’d been enjoying a tailwind!  The headwind was cutting, and quite cold.  Thankfully the second half of the race was as much downhill as the first half was uphill.

It felt like we were flying downhill, so much easier and faster than the slog uphill, despite the wind.

We passed the 10 mile marker in 1:35, so needed to run a 25 minute 5k at the end to sneak under the 2 hour mark.  No chance of that!

We did manage to hold our pace though, and get to the end in 2:05:03.

I’m pretty pleased with that.  By far and away my hardest ever half marathon, and tenth in total.  And my second quickest.

Here’s a photo of the finishing line

Finishing line

Finishing line

And here’s my running buddy Tom, enjoying a well earned (free) sickly syrupy drink:

Tom

Tom

It’s all about the data:  http://connect.garmin.com/activity/446045563

As I’m marathon training, I was a few miles short of my mileage goal for the day, so I decided to run home.  Probably not the best plan to run home after a race really, but I wanted to get at least 17 miles in, as I’m away next weekend.

I did run the 3.9 miles home Baldock still wearing my race number and medal:

Finally home

Finally home

Advertisements

2013 in review

Well, what a year!  I could regale stories of woe, of intimate chaffing, and public defecation, but I’ll save that for the directors cut.

2013 has been a great year for me.  I’ve raced more than ever before (16!), and the variety of experiences has been fantastic, from a 3k relay race, up to a 20 mile training run in the sleet, or a 50 mile bike ride in the howling wind.  And swimming, I’ve done some of that too!  In pools, lakes, rivers and reservoirs.

The highlight of the year though has to be joining the club, Freedom Tri, and meeting a great bunch of people.  The support and friendship that I’ve gained as a club member has been invaluable, and long may it continue.

So, 2013 in numbers:

60 swims, totaling 41 miles
211 runs, totaling 1,013 miles
61 cycles, totaling 827 miles

Some in perfect conditions, some in rain, some in snow, and some in pub garden weather, but taking into account the rough and the smooth, I’ve enjoyed every single mile (apart from some of the terrifying swimming)

Back tracking to this time last year, I set out the following goals:

Stay injury free – (work in progress – a few niggles, but nothing show stopping)
Have an alcohol free January – done (and September)
Have a meat free month – nope
Get down to 14st 4lbs (200lb) – nope
Grow some vegetables – done (tomatoes, courgettes & lettuce)
Run a sub 2 hour half marathon (PB 2:06:24) – done Silverstone half 03/03/2013 1:57:19
Run a sub 50 minute 10k – nope
Decorate my living room – done
Run a sub 24 minute 5k – nope
Run a sub 7 minute 1 mile – done 6:43.8 on 21/10/13 in training
Do some open water swimming – done
Wash the car – done – wife paid someone else to do it
Finish a sprint tri – done (5 – 2 pool based, 2 open water + an Olympic open water tri)

So all in all, a very good year.  I’m finalising my goals for 2014, so will post those up before long.

Cheerio!

Oh, and here are some blog stats.

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,900 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 48 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Bedford Harriers Half Marathon 2013 Race Report

Hello again, you’ll be glad to hear that this was my last race of the year, so I’ll be shutting up for a bit soon 🙂

Race prep had been good for this race – I ran the distance at the Ashwell half a couple of weeks ago, so was confident I had the miles in my legs.  We were out last night at a dinner party with friends of ours, so had a bit of a late night, but was very well fueled on a delicious meal of anti-pasti, a Italian beautiful sausage dish on pasta, and an Amaretto torte.  I was very well fueled indeed.

Good news!  I remembered to photograph my pre-race breakfast feast, so here it is, in all its glory:

Breakfast

Breakfast

Porridge with Nutella and mixed seeds, a strong black coffee, and a pint of cloudy wee hydration drink.

Soon after breakfast, I was off in the car to Bedford.  It was almost daylight by then, and got there in auto-pilot.  Thankfully I woke up just in time, and didn’t drive straight to my office and head to the race car park.  This was another park and ride races, where you park a couple of miles away from race HQ and the race organisers lay on buses to the start.  As I was so early, I was on one of the early buses, and got to race HQ just after 8:30 – a bit keen for a 10am start.  I arrived at the school that was hosting the race, I grabbed my timing chip, and went into the school hall.  I saw Chris from Freedom Tri, and we had a good chat.  Chris is a good bit quicker than me, so once we’d hung about at the race start for a bit, he headed towards the front.

I spotted my mate “last bus” Jay arriving just before the race was about to start, who writes the awesome Born to Plod blog.

We’d arranged to run a bit together, as we’re similarly paced, and it was good to catch up.

The race started promptly at 10am, and we were off.  It was busy at the start.  There were 2,000 places available for the race, but it wasn’t sold out, as they were accepting race entries on the day.

There were a lot of people ahead of us, as we placed ourselves towards the back of the pack.  The first mile was pretty much flat, and involved trying to find a bit of open road to run out own pace.  Mile 1 passed in a respectable 9:24.  Mile 2 was downhill, and the pace showed – mile 2 was the fastest of the race for me, flying by in 9:09.

Alas the flat and the downhill passed for a bit after the second mile, and miles 3, 4 and 5 were uphill, but it didn’t affect the pace too much, logging the miles in 9:18, 9:39 and 9:37 respectively.  Hills aren’t too bad for me – we do a lot of hill work at the Freedom Tri run sessions, so it didn’t hurt too, too much.

After 5 miles, Jay was feeling a bit more sprightly then me, so he went off ahead.  I saw Jay disappear into the distance.

For some reason my pace immediately dropped.  I got stuck behind a slower runner during the 6th mile, which was mostly single file along a main road, logging mile 6 in 10:24.

I got chatting to a chap wearing a t-shirt from the Olympic triathlon that I raced in September.  This was his first half marathon, and he was a bit worried he was going too quickly.  We were chatting for a while, and even though he’d never ran a half marathon before, he’d entered the Zurich Ironman triathlon next July.  What a loon!  I suppose you meet them every day though! 😀

There was thankfully a bit of downhill during mile 7, so I sped back up slightly, but I had slowed down to over 10 minutes per mile.  I did, however pass the 10k mark in less than an hour, which I was really pleased about, and the half way mark in less than 1:04, so was hopeful of cracking on at the same pace, and maybe matching my finishing time from Ashwell a fortnight ago.  The guy that I was running with commented that he just ran a 10k PB!  He probably had started off too quickly.  Soon after half way in, I let him behind, as he was struggling on the uphill.

From mile 9, it was pretty much downhill, which I was ready for!  I sped back up to 9:xx minutes per mile and managed to stay there for the rest of the race.

I even had a bit of a sprint finish, the 14th split of the race, which my watch measured as 0.16 mile was at an average pace of 7:56, so pretty pleased with that!

My official finish time of the race was 2:08:19, which wasn’t a PB, but was a course PB from when I ran the race in 2011 by almost 8 minutes, and also a few seconds quicker than I ran Ashwell a couple of weeks ago.

At the end of the race, I was presented with a handy duffle bag:

2013-12-08 13.18.14-1

I had a look around for Jay and Chris after the race but couldn’t seem them, so headed off back to the bus.

All in all, the race was great!  Great to run the distance again, and great to see a few friends.

Bedford Harriers put on some great races, and I really hope to run their Oakley 20 mile race and their 10k again one year.

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/413498245

1013 out of 1232

Ashwell Multi-Terrain Half Marathon Race Report

I thought I was done with races for the year, having had a pretty busy debut season of triathlon, and lots of club activities with Freedom Tri, but as I’m running the Brighton Marathon next April, I thought I better get back up to distance sharpish, so entered the Ashwell Multi-Terrain half marathon (and the Bedford Half Marathon in a fortnights time).

Well, training has been vague and non specific for this race. Up until last week’s 10 mile training run, I hadn’t ran further than 7 or 8 miles in one run since the beginning of May, so a 13.1 mile half marathon might be a bit of an ask! Having had a busy season of triathlon, the longer distance running had to be put on the back burner for a bit, as I’ve been doing a fair amount of cycling and swimming over the summer, and there just aren’t enough days in the weekend to squeeze all the training in.  I think

Race prep had been similarly tricky. I’ve been suffering with a niggly back for the past few days, and that combined with a very late night last night, taking my daughter Erin to a gig at the O2 in London, I was pretty well knackered before I got to the start line.

At least the race was nice and local, so didn’t have to get up at stupid o’clock. However, as there was no parking at the race HQ, the organisers had layed on busses from Baldock to the race start.

After my usual race day breakfast of porridge and a coffee, I arrived in Baldock just after 8am, and got the bus to race HQ, and picked up my race number, lucky 173.

I met up with some tri club mates, and had a good chat and catch up.

I’d arranged to run with Rachel from the club, as it was her first half marathon, having only raced 10k previously. As it was a 2 lap race, hilly and partly off road cross country, and we were both carrying niggled, we decided to start off steady, and see how the first lap went.

As this was a fairly small local race, with only about 200 runners, there was no massive queues for the toilets, which was a bit of a result, as that’s often a problem.

It was cold, so we stayed in the shelter of the baggage barn for as long as possible, and left it to the last minute to go to the race start. We duly lined up for a 10am start, and put ourselves at the 2:10 finishing marker.  The race started promptly, so we weren’t hanging about in the cold too long.

The first part of the course was on concrete, but that soon ran out, and we were straight into the mud. It wasn’t raining thankfully, but it was very sticky underfoot, and there was a good bit of slipping and sliding. We did see someone go down early on in the race, but fortunately she jumped straight back up again and was able to carry on OK.

I was mistakenly wearing road shoes with my elastic triathlon laces, which are great for a speedy transition in triathlon, but was very worried about losing a shoe to the mud. I felt my foot come out of my shoe a few times, but luckily they stayed put.  The mud track was pretty much bang on a mile.  We passed the first mile marker in 9:56, so based on that, we were pretty much bang on target for a 2:10 half.

Here’s a pic of my feet after I got home.  It really doesn’t do the mud justice, as I’d cleaned off the worst of the mud, and walked a lot of it off.

Mud!

Mud!

After the mud of the first mile, we turned onto road. I’m much happier on road, as I’ve always done most of my training on road. The second mile pretty much all downhill, that combined with being on road, we nailed mile 2 in 9:20.  Mile 3 was mostly uphill. It was a fairly long and grueling hill, but thankfully we’ve done quite a lot of hill training in the Freedom Tri run session, so we were fairly well conditioned.

3 and a bit miles in, and we passed the water station.  The organisers were providing water and hydration drinks, so I necked a cup of hydration drink, and we cracked on.  The rest of mile 4 was flatish, then mile 5 turned back to uphill – the second proper hill of the lap.

We passed the 10k mark in just under an hour, and the half way mark in about 1:03.  Still on target for sub 2:10.

Although we had spoken before the race of only doing 1 lap, this was never mentioned during the race. Rachel and I just motored on onto the second lap, and back onto the mud mile.  I almost lost my footing second time around, which would have resulted in me getting VERY muddy, but thankfully I managed to pull it back.

The second lap was unsurprisingly similar to the first:

Mud
Hill
Drink
Hill
Drizzle
Finish

This is the first lapped race I’ve done when I’ve not really minded the laps.

The second half of the race was a bit slower than the first, as fatigue was kicking in and the lack of training was starting to show.

Despite slowing down a little bit, Rachel and I managed to run every step of the race.  We completed the race in a chip time of 2:08:42, which I was very pleased with, and really proud of Rachel for completing her first half marathon 24 minutes quicker than my first half.

All in all, the race was very well organised and very friendly.  It was only the second time the race had been ran, and it showed that a lot of thought had been put into it.  At the finish line, there was plenty of bottled water, bananas and protein bars being handed out to all finishers, and a nice medal and rubber wristband.  I’ll definitely be coming back for the third installment of this race next November.

Here’s me and my medal once I’d arrived home:

Medal :)

Medal 🙂

The organisers had even arranged for free sports massages at the end, so I jumped at the chance of having my legs battered.  I was wincing as my calves were pretty sore while they were being smashed, but I’m sure I’ll be grateful of it in the morning.

This run has taken me to 30 miles for the week, and 900 miles for the year.  Maybe I will hit 1,000 for the year.  With 5 weeks to go, and another half marathon in a couple of weeks, this could be on.

Position: 149 out of 169 finishers.

Medal: Yes! 😀

PB: No.

Here’s the vital Garmin data, for all you stats fans:

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/408299400

Freedom Tri Club Duathlon

Well I don’t normally blog about small, exclusive, club races, but I’ve written a fairly detailed debrief to my mate Paul, so decided to use that email as the basis for a race report.

The club only duathlon was due to be raced on a mid September evening, but was rescheduled to Sunday morning due to losing light too early.

The weather for the week had been pretty lousy, and the forecast was for heavy rain.  I posted on the club forum that I was a fair weather cyclist, and if it was raining when I woke up on Sunday morning, I was staying in bed.

Some Rain

Some Rain

I was promptly quoted rule #5, and thought better of skipping out.

This is peer pressure in action – these guys are going to have me sniffing glue and shoplifting by the end of the week!  I jest, my club mates from Freedom Tri are an encouraging and supportive lot, and their gentle cajoling was taken in the spirit intended.

The weather was actually OK on Saturday morning, so I was hopeful that it might be OK on Sunday morning.

I couldn’t have been more wrong!

The alarm went off at 7am, and I jumped out of bed and looked out of the window.  It didn’t look THAT bad, but to be fair, it was still pretty dark.

I crept out of the bedroom, then crept back into the bedroom to grab running tights to put on under my cycling shorts.  I have no idea why I didn’t just put on my cycling tights, but never mind!

I forgot to photograph breakfast, but it looked a bit like this:

Breakfast

Breakfast

Nutritious and delicious.

I had already decided that I was going to ride to the start of the race, as it was only a couple of miles away.  I was going to get wet anyway, do I thought I might as well get on with it.  In the 10 minutes or so I was riding to get there, I was bloody soaked already!

The duathlon is a run/bike/run, and thankfully this one was quite short – 3k run/10k bike/3k run.  The run is partly on the Letchworth Greenway, and partly cross country.  The bike leg is the Standalone 10k loop, just starting at a slightly different point.

Getting off my bike at the start, I fiddled with my watch a bit, and thought I’d successfully put it into multi-sport mode. There was so much rain on my glasses and the watch, that I couldn’t really see what I was doing. Somehow I managed to start it straight away, so was off to a bad start.

The race was handicapped, starting with the slowest, the at 5 minute intervals, to try and group the finish together.  I was in the second wave with three other club mates, Angela, Anna and John.

I didn’t realise my cock up with my watch until after the first half mile or so, so reset the watch, and just put it in “run” mode.  I wouldn’t have the splits for each leg of the duathlon, but I wasn’t going to stop to mess about with my buttons.

The run was tough. It was only 3k, but cross country, parts were pretty muddy, and it was quite hilly.  Running across one of the exposed fields, the wind really took it out of me.

I did manage to catch up with Alison and Jackie though – the two girls who started 5 minutes before me.  Out of my foursome, John and Angela had gone off ahead, but I had pulled slightly ahead of Anna.

The first run was over in about 16 minutes, and then it was time to change shoes, get the helmet and gloves on, and get out on the bike. Getting into cold and wet shoes and gloves was pretty grim, and took a good bit longer than a transition should.

I was out on the bike after a couple of minutes, and zooming along through the rain. There was a pretty horrible headwind in places, and the rain was hurting my face. I’m sure it wasn’t cold enough, but it did feel like it was hailing at one point.

Anna and Jackie got out of transition ahead of me, and Chris overtook me about half way through the bike leg. I managed to get ahead of Jackie again, and speedy Jane who started 5 minutes after me overtook me towards the end of the bike leg.

Back into transition to ditch the bike gear, and after emptying the rain water from my running shoes, I was back out across the fields. I couldn’t see a thing – the rain had steamed my glasses up, so I decided to take them off to carry them.  My vision generally isn’t great, but felt less impaired without the glasses!

I was overtaken by Gareth about a third of the way into the second run, then I didn’t see any of the other competitors until the end.

I got back to the finish, to be greeted by my club mates.  After a couple of minutes, we were all finished.

It was still chucking it down, so after a few minutes of chat, we called it a day.

I rode home, slightly faster than I rode there, and had a bath to dry off.

I have no idea of my finish time or position – the results haven’t been posted on the club forum yet.

Here’s my Garmin link – http://connect.garmin.com/activity/389638195

I hope I got in under the hour, but I think it’ll be a bit tight!

Standalone 10k race report

 

So, back to where it all started – my favourite race of the year, the Standalone 10k.  I ran this race in 2010 as my first race, and have ran it every year since.

It’s a very friendly race, the North Herts Road Runners seem like a very friendly bunch, and they’ve been organising the race for donkey’s years, so it’s a very slick operation.

Despite having done loads of training for triathlon this season, my distance running has been massively neglected over the past few months, and I’ve only ran the 10k distance a handful of times since my last half marathon at the beginning of May, so I’ve not been that confident about the distance.

I’ve had a year long goal of running a sub 50 minute 10k, and had been hoping (hoping rather than training!) that the Standalone 10k would be the perfect time to do it.  The training hasn’t been there though – I haven’t ran a decent paced 5k for ages, let alone 10k, so the prospect of accomplishing this goal seemed unlikely on this occasion.

Spin forward to Sunday morning, and being so local, it felt like a lie in – the start time was 9:30, which is late, compared to the crack of dawn triathlons.  I had the usual breakfast of porridge and a coffee, and we headed out at 8:30, collecting Tom en route.

I’d cycled over to collect our race numbers on Saturday afternoon, so we didn’t have to queue up to register on the day.  This is quite a big race – I think there were 1,400 places available, and it was sold out, so there were a lot of people about.  There were a lot of supporters too – friends, family and children bowling up to cheer on the runners.

I met up with a load of old school friends who were running, as well as club mates from Freedom Tri.  Sam and her Mum, Pat, headed towards the back of the pack, as Sam’s been suffering from various niggles, so the goal for them was to just get around.

Feeling optimistic, I lined up at the start between the 45 and 50 minute markers, and it was soon time to start.  The klaxon sounded promptly at 9:30, and we were off.  I set off with Emma, Tom and Nick.  The lads soon disappeared off into the distance, and I ran the first 2 miles with Emma.  She was unfortunately suffering with a bit of a niggle, so we parted company, and off I went.

Miles 1 and 2 were 8:19 and 8:24, so a bit off the required pace of 8 minutes per mile to get under 50 minutes.  I managed to pick up during the 3rd mile, recording my quickest mile of the race at 8:16.  I think I overcooked it a bit though, because I was struggling by this point.  I crossed the half way 5k marker in 25:47, and half way in, I started feeling really hot.  The sun was blazing down, and I was dressed all in black, which didn’t help.

I was slowing down, and getting hotter, and miles 5 and 6 are pretty much all uphill.   Self preservation kicked in, and I decided I was going to have to walk a couple of the hills.  I walked 3 times in total during miles 5 and 6, and they took me 9:06 and 8:55 respectively.  I only walked for 0.35 miles in total, over a time of 3:44, so my walking pace is 10:40 per mile.  Not sure that’s right, but never mind.

I managed to pick up the pace for a strong finish, and the final 0.23mile too me 1:34, so a pace of 6:46 – one thing I am happy with! 😀

My official finish time was 53:31, so a personal best for the distance, and a decent personal best of the course.  At the finish, there were plenty of bottles of water and free bananas, as well as a very good quality technical t-shirt memento.

I am disappointed not to have gone sub 50, but would have needed a miracle – the training just hasn’t been there.  Considering what I’ve done this season, I’m pretty content.  I have done neither the miles or the speed work to deserve a sub 50, but I will aim to get there by the end of the year.

To give an idea of my progress, here’s my results from previous years Standalone 10k races.

2010 – 1:09:24
2011 – 0:56:18
2012 – 1:11:39
2013 – 0:53:31

And here’s my all important Garmin stats.

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/386788824

 

 

NiceTri Anglian Water Standard Olympic Triathlon – Grafham Water

In a moment of madness and misplaced self confidence, I entered this race back at the start of may before I’d done any open water swimming, under the illusion (delusion?) that swimming in open water was just a formality.  The penny didn’t really drop straight away that this race being a “2014 European Qualifying Event” meant that the field of triathletes would be so high quality.  Still a very friendly and inclusive bunch though – I’ve never experienced any snobbery as a runner or as a triathlete  – I think people in general are very nice, and sharing a common interest at whatever level, means there’s no room for it.

The distances for an Olympic triathlon (also called a standard) are 1,500m swim, 40k bike (24.9 miles), 10k run (6.22 miles).

Training has been pretty awful for this race – I’ve been nursing a calf injury for the last few weeks, so have had to cut back on my running.  The weather was terrible last weekend, and we’re running out of daylight for running in the evening, so my bike hadn’t seen the light of day in the fortnight since my last triathlon.  My swimming is so terrible anyway, that it’s not going to improve much in a couple of weeks.

I’d only swam the race distance in open water once, and that was back in July.

Spin forward to race day – I was up at 5:45am, and out by 6am.  The bike was already in the back of the car, and everything was packed, so I was out the house without waking anyone up, or having to do much.  I arrived at the race HQ at Grafham water at 6:30, and went to register straight away.  I was given a red swim hat, as this race was split into 3 waves for the men – purple, red, orange grouped by age range, and all the girls together in pink hats.  My wave was set to start at 8:40, so time for a bit of hanging about.  On the way to registration, I took a snap of the water – looks cold and misty, but thankfully pretty still.

Grafham Water

Grafham Water

I went back to the car, and decided to have breakfast before sorting the bike out in transition – there seemed to be time to kill, so didn’t feel the need to rush really.  For these early morning starts, I’ve started taking a pot of instant porridge along, and a flask of hot water.  Here’s Lidl’s finest instant porridge.  It’s pretty ghastly, but a bit of fuel in the tummy.  I also scoffed a banana, and had some hydrating water.

Podge

Podge

Once that was troughed, it was time to set the bike up.  I was determined to have less gear this time around to faff with, and I did try to be neater:

Bike racked

Bike racked

After racking the bike, it was coffee time (sorry, no photo), and I bumped into fellow Freedom Tri member SJ.  We had a bit of a chat, and I predicted that she’d overtake me in the water, even though her wave was starting 20 minutes after mine.  I also saw Chris from the club too, and had a bit of a chat too.  Chris pointed out how rutted the ground was in and around transition – there were loads of rabbit holes, and there was actually a couple of blokes going round with a spade and a bucket of mud, trying to patch it up while people were setting their bikes up.  I hope everyone got away with it, but I would not be surprised if a few ankles were injured today.

Before long, it was time to don the wetsuit and goggles, and head out of transition for the race brief.  As it was cloudy and overcast at this point, I decided to not bother with my sunglasses, leaving those in my transition box, and leave my normal glasses on the bike.

Before the race, there was information on the NiceTri website about a shrimp infestation at Grafham Water, which while safe to swim in, it does need to be contained, so wetsuits would have to be dipped in a Milton solution to sanitize them after the race.  Fair enough I thought, but time can instill worries, and before I knew it, I’d built up in my mind that I’d be swimming through this:

Shrimp!

Shrimp!

The first, purple wave got off, and a few minutes later it was time for us reds to get in the water, and assemble in the deep water start area.  As is my way, I put myself right at the back of the pack, and we were soon off.  The water felt quite cool – 15C, so a couple of degrees cooler than I’m used to.

The shrimp weren’t actually very big thankfully, but there were a lot of them.  Literally billions of them.  They made the water murky, and very bitty.

I could feel them in my beard.  It was a deeply unpleasant sensation.  It didn’t seem to bother most of the other triathletes, but it did put me off a bit.  I found myself wanting to keep my head above the water more than usual, so did some breast stroke/freestyle mix and match swimming.  Despite that, and my zig-zag style of swimming – still being unable to sight properly or steer in the water, I was out of the water in 40:07.  I was overtaken a lot though, by pretty much all the people in the orange wave, and a good few (majority?) of the girls in their pink hats.  I did overtake a bloke in a purple hat though – he must have been having a very bad day for me to overtake him.  He must’ve been swimming for well over 50 minutes.  I had fully expected to be taken over by everyone in the swim though – my swimming is pretty terrible, especially when compared to a high quality field.

I managed to get out the water, and the sun was shining.  I had to find my transition box, and dig around for my sunglasses – not very slick at all!  I should have been more decisive, and left both pairs with my bike.  I am pretty precious with my glasses though, as they’re not cheap, and I would be proper lost without them!

After that faffing about, I was soon out of my wetsuit, and although a bit wobbly on my feet, I was soon toweled off, and into my bike helmet and cycle shoes.  The transition area was quite close to the bike mount area, so there wasn’t too far to run with the bike.  Before I knew it, I was zooming along the rural Cambridgeshire roads.  I caught up with SJ on the bike, and overtook her (albeit briefly!).  As predicted, she had overtaken my on the swim, (or I suppose in transition), so even though I was very temporarily ahead of her, she was in reality already a full 20 minutes ahead of me!  She soon overtook me, and I managed to keep sight of her for a few miles, but she was a good bit quicker than me on the bike as well as the swim.

The bike was hillier than I thought it was going to be.  It was one of those rides that felt like it was pretty much all up hill.  There wasn’t a lot of wind, but I did notice a headwind a few times.  I don’t know if I was just tired from the swim, but the bike did feel like a bit of a chore.

The course was basically 2 out and backs – up to a little village, do a small loop and back past transition, then up to St Neots, all the way around a roundabout, then back to transition to ditch the bikes.  I do prefer a course that’s just one loop.  I find it very demotivating passing transition, as I feel like that part of the event should be over.  For that reason, I try to avoid races that are laps as much as possible.

The bike leg was done in 1:24:21, and according to my watch I averaged 16.4mph, but according to my watch, the course was a couple of miles short.  Not sure what happened there.  Being a European qualifier event, I’d be surprised if it was measured incorrectly, and I’m sure I didn’t deviate from the course.  Weird.

I faffed about slightly less in the second transition, and was out and running in 1:16, which I think is a bit of progress.

The run was tough going.  It was surprisingly hilly.  I had in mind it would be pancake flat, as it’s around the reservoir.  There were also swarms upon swarms of midges and flies around the run course too.  I must have eaten a good few, which was completely unavoidable.  The run was also 2 out and backs  – a mile out and back, then past transition and a 2 mile out and back.  Again, still not a fan of laps, and this was even worse, as it the run took us through the carpark, and straight past my car after about 2 and a half miles.  I could have so easily got in the car and gone home at this point.  I was done in from the challenging swim and bike parts of the race, so the run was bad.  I set off too quickly, completing the first mile in 9:00 and the second in 9:51  I had to walk a number of times for the rest of the run leg, but the walking didn’t completely destroy my time.  I completed the 10k run in 1:03.  A few minutes slower than my 10k PB, but I’m not the sort of bloke to get a 10k PB at the back of a triathlon!

I was cheered in by John and Angela from the triathlon club, who had came out to support us, as well as Chris, who had finished a good bit before me.

We found SJ for a group photo (which I’ve shamelessly nicked from Angela who posted it on the club Facebook page):

Freedom!

Freedom!

Not sure why I decided to try and be “normal” height!

Here are my official splits:

1,500m swim: 00:40:07
Transition 1: 00:02:50
40k bike: 01:24:21
Transition 2: 00:01:15
10k run:  01:03:02
Total time: 03:11:38

So, would I do this race again?  NO!  The swim was horribly shrimpy, the transition was dangerously rutted, the bike was hilly, and I disliked the out and back, and the run was hilly and I disliked the out and back.

Would I do another Olympic distance triathlon?  Maybe.  If I could find a course that I liked the look of.

Oh, and here’s the race memento – a good quality technical running top, in handy high-viz.  This will come in very useful as the nights draw in – I’ll be doing a good bit of training in the dark in the months to come:

Be bright, be seen :D

Be bright, be seen 😀

NiceTri St Neots Sprint Triathlon 2013 – Race Report

I wasn’t really expecting to be racing again so soon, but I do like a race, and when one of my club mates suggested it on Tuesday, I thought “Why not?”, so signed up.

The distances are: 750m river swim, 25k bike (15.5 miles), 5k run (3.11 miles).

I got there nice and early, arriving at 6:30am for an 8am start.  I went to register, collect my race numbers and timing chip, then had a mooch about, to familiarise myself with the flow of the transition area a bit – where to exit on the bike and run, etc.

Here’s a pic of the river – it was slightly misty at dawn, and the grass was damp and dewy.  I spoke to one of the other competitors who said it was 9c when the arrived.

River

River

It was the first time I had swam in a river, so was a little bit apprehensive – worried about the current, as it was an out and back swim, starting down stream for the first half, turn at the buoys, then swim upstream back to the transition area.  There were also a load of these fellow about:

Swan

Swan

These guys can break your arm by all accounts (urban myth?), but either way, I did hope they’d make themselves scarce when we were in the water.

I got papped while setting up my bike in the transition by club mate and coach, so the next photo is credited to Gareth Charles of Freedom Tri:

Before the race

Before the race

Once set up in transition, I thought I’d nip to the little boys room.  Unfortunately, the queue was massive:

Queues

Queues

8 portaloos for 300 odd competitors, plus supporters really isn’t enough.  That is my only criticism of the race though – everything else was spot on.

It was soon time to assemble for the race briefing.  Tri-suited and wet-suited up, I had to ditch the glasses, and make my way to the river bank.  I can’t hear very well without my glasses on, but I assume the race briefing was: swim up and down a bit, steady on the bike, try not to do anything stupid.  I’m sure that was the gist of it.

We queued to enter the water, and in my usual style, stuck myself pretty much at the back of the pack – I’m not that quick in the water, so pointless being any further forward.  The water was pretty grim.  Quite shallow, and a lot of leavings from our white feathered friends had been churned up by the swimmers at the start.  I looked down at the water, and my initial thoughts were “I’m not putting my face down in that”.  It wasn’t quite knee deep in swan crap, but I did sink into it, up to about mid calf.

The starting klaxon sounded, and off we went.  I was reluctant to get my face in, so did a bit of breast stroke to start with, but as we got going, the water seemed a lot clearer, so I went for it.  Swim, swim, swim, swim.  The downstream went absolutely fine.  It felt like I was swimming pretty quickly, and the outward leg of the swim was soon over.  We had to go around a couple of buoys at the turn, so I edged my way around those – it was a bit of a scrum.    Now to swimming upstream, it didn’t actually feel much different at all.  Thankfully the River Great Ouse that runs through St Neots isn’t that fast flowing, so I don’t think the return leg took much longer than the outward leg.

I did have a bit of a problem when I got to the end of the swim though.  I was following all the swimmers in front of me, and went between the buoys, rather than around both of them.  To get my attention, the canoe based water marshal thought it fit to whack me with his oar.  He somehow positioned his canoe in front of me, so swam into his canoe.  Thankfully my face smashing into his canoe brought my attention to the error.  I was turned around to go and swim around the buoy, but I think a load of other people may have got away with the unintentional shortcut.

We were hauled out of the swim, and ran across to the transition area.  For some reason, I couldn’t find the string on the zip of my wetsuit for a minute, so that was a bit of a fumble.

I did manage to get out of the wetsuit, and quickly toweled off and got my socks and cycling shoes off.  I was already in my tri-suit already, and as it was a bright and sunny morning, decided I didn’t need to bother with any other layers, so I was soon out of transition and off on my bike.

The bike leg was good.  I like the bike, although I feel like I’m under trained on the bike.  I overtook more people than overtook me on the bike, which is nice.  I don’t know if my running helps with the bike, but I seem to manage a fairly respectable speed.  It has improved though  – my average speed for this triathlon was 17.3 mph, compared to 16.7 mph last time.   It’s very difficult to compare triathlons though really, and arguably a bit pointless.  There is always a variation in the course  – amount of entrants, terrain, elevation, straightness, road layouts, etc, etc, etc, and absolute distances too – I’ve done 4 sprint distance triathlons so far this year, which have varied from 12.3 to 15.2 miles on the bike leg – that’s a pretty big difference!

The bike course was fairly flat, but there were a couple of short sharp climbs, which forced me down into bottom gear.  The bike was soon over, and I was soon back to St Neots to ditch the bike and helmet, and swap shoes.

In the rush, I forgot to take off my bike mitts, but I don’t really think that made much difference to my performance.

The run part of the race was 2 laps of the park.  Mostly on footpaths, but a few bits were along grass and mud tracks.  Thankfully it was dry – I think if it had rained, it would have been pretty muddy.

I’m not a big fan of laps, but it wasn’t too bad.  I think 2 laps of a run is my limit.  I don’t know how people run 5,000m on a 400m track.  It’s just a bit tedious!

The run was pretty uneventful.  I overtook a few people, and a few people overtook me.

Before I knew it, I was turning into the finishing straight, and was across the line.

There was a queue at the finish line to check on finish time and position, but I was more interested in the drinks and banana table, so bypassed the queue to check the times, and went straight for the refreshments.

I exited the finishing area, and was met by my fellow club mates, who had finished already.

All in all, a great event, very well organised.  I’d definitely do this race again.  My next race in a couple of weeks is also organised by NiceTri, so I’m confident that’ll be another great race.  The only problem with that one is that it’s an Olympic distance, so double as far to go!

Getting to the numbers, here are my splits from my watch:

Swim: 19:05
T1: 3:21
Bike: 51:07
T2: 0:52
Run: 26:37
Total: 1:41:02

Official gun time: 1:41:31

Here’s my scruffy transition area after the race:

Messy crap all over the place

Messy crap all over the place

 

Thing to do differently next time:

Put number belt on under the wetsuit
Gulp – fill the wetsuit with water getting out of the swim, to help getting it off
Don’t bother with cycling gloves
Take less stuff!

Freedom Tri Duck and Dash Aquathlon Race Report

Howdy folks

Sorry for being quiet for a while – I’ve been away on holiday, being lazy, and eating and drinking way too much.  But enough about that boring stuff, it’s race report time 🙂

The Duck and Dash is the Freedom Tri race of the year.  An aquathlon is a race which is a run then a swim.  There were a few races going on today – races for the juniors – the Ducklings, different distances depending on the age.  There are 2 swim distances for the seniors – the Duck, which is a 400m pool swim and a 6km run, and the Drake, which is a 600m pool swim and a 6km run.  There’s also a relay race, where different people do each leg of the race.

The venue for the race is the Letchworth outdoor pool for the swim, followed by a couple of laps of the Norton Common for the run leg of the race.  The pool is a beautiful 50m length – long enough to get a bit of rhythm.  I’ve been in the pool quite a bit this summer, as it’s where the club has their pool training sessions during the summer months.

Letchworth Outdoor Pool

Letchworth Outdoor Pool

Here’s the transition area:  Seems a little bit weird that there aren’t any bikes 😀

Transition

Transition

It was an early start for me today, although pretty much the most local race I’ve ever entered, as a club member, I was helping to set up.  The alarm went at 6am, and I left the house at 6:15, and picked up my club mate Matt on the way, and we were at the pool before 6:30.

We’d done quite a bit of the setup yesterday afternoon, but there’s still a lot that can only be done on race day.  I know these races don’t happen by magic, and take people to organise and set up, but I didn’t really appreciate how many people, and how much effort it takes to put on a race!  There was lugging about to be done, PA systems to be set up, the finish gantry to be built, flags to put up, and a whole load of other stuff to do.  Thankfully there were a load of club members and helpers, and as we all know, many hands make light work.

The Ducklings race started promptly at 9am, followed by the Ducks, and the Drakes started entering the water at 10 second intervals just before 10am.

The races start with the slowest simmers first.  I must have been feeling somewhat optimistic when I entered the race, as I put down my projected finish time for the swim as 12 minutes.  I should have jumped up the line a bit, as I was overtaken quite a bit on the swim, which was a shame.  Being hustled and bustled past in the pool interrupted my rhythm (it doesn’t take much!), and made me slow down, and let people pass at the turn.  I think if I have placed my time a bit slower I’d have been a bit quicker.  Funny how these things work out!

I’m in there somewhere:

Swimming

Swimming

I think I got out of the pool after about 14 minutes, and ran through to the transition area.  A very quick towel off, socks, shoes and t-shirt on, and I was off on the 6km run.

I’d ran the route the last couple of Thursday nights with the club, so knew the route was a bit of a challenge.  Much more off road than I’m used to, and a few sneaky hills in there too, so I knew I was going to be slower on the run.  I’ve also never ran a 6km race before – it’s a bit of an odd distance, so just decided to run it, and see how I got on really.

Here’s a picture of me that Sam took, running like a loon!

Running like a loon

Running like a loon

I’m not really a big fan of laps, but 2 laps of the Common wasn’t too bad.  The run was quite nice.  I knew quite a few of the marshalls, so was high-fiving as I went around, and I also chatted to a few club mates on the run too.

My run time was 33:01, giving a total time, including transition of 49:36.

All in all, I feel fairly happy with the time.  I do feel like I could have swam quicker, and ran a bit faster, but despite a bit of a feeling that I under performed, I do feel like it was the most enjoyable race I’ve ever taken part in.

I think it’s due to having helped with the set up, being more part of the race, being in the club, and competing with club mates made it much more enjoyable.

Here’s me at the finish line:

Finished!

Finished!

I’ll definitely be there again next year, where it’s competing again, or helping out, it’ll be a great day on the race calendar.

Here’s the links for the stats of my clever little box of tricks.

Swim:  http://connect.garmin.com/activity/368628600

Run: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/368628606

 

The National Lottery Anniversary Olympic Park Run Race Report

The National Lottery Anniversary Olympic Park Run is a 5 mile race around the Olympic village, finishing in the Olympic stadium, crossing the finishing line a year after Mo Farah, Jessica Ennis and Ussain Bolt rose to Olympic glory!

There were 12,500 places up for grabs for todays race – a load were sold off on a first come, first served basis, then a load were offered out in a ballot.   I was quick off the mark, and managed to get my wife Sam and myself a place, and my mother-in-law Pat got a place too. I decided when we all entered the race that I’d run with Sam and Pat, so I wouldn’t be going for a specific time, as I’m a bit quicker than them.

Here’s a pic of the race pack, which turned up early last week:

Race pack

Race pack

Contents: race number, decent quality technical t-shirt, race guide, baggage tags, and spectator wrist bands – the race entry included 2 spectator passes, so we were able to bring the kids and my Mum and sister with us.

There had been a lot of panic over the weather in the week leading up to this race, as we’ve been enjoying a bit of a heatwave, with temperatures hitting 30c+ during the week.  I had ran on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday this week, so had some miles in the legs.  Monday and Tuesdays runs were at lunchtime, so I was out in the midday sun, so was acclimatised to the heat a bit.  Thankfully though, the forecast for this morning had been kind – cloudy and not too hot, with a bit of a breeze.

We had an early start – we had to leave the house at 6:30 to go off and get the train.  There were engineering works on the way down, so we had to get an early train to allow for delays.  A lot of people had the same idea – there were a lot of runners on the train, and as we approached the Olympic village, there were a sea of people wearing the blue t-shirts which were sent out with the race packs.

We got into the Olympic village nice and quickly.  When we were here last year when Sam did the first race at the Olympic stadium, security was really tight – bags were being x-rayed and searched thoroughly, so it was a bit of a faff.  This time thankfully, they were a bit more relaxed, bags were being checked, but they had a lot more security staff on hand to check people, so it was pretty slick.

In fact, the whole thing was very well organised – well marshalled, loads of toilets, and well thought out.  The organisers had erred on the side of caution with the weather too, and had brought in bottled water by the pallet load.  There was plenty of water to go around at the start, during the race, and at the end.

We sat in the stadium for a bit before the race.  Here’s a selfie of Sam and I – you can see the Orbit in the background.  I’d like to say this was intentional, but it was a happy accident that I didn’t notice until just now!

In the stadium

In the stadium

It was soon time to head off to the start.  We were all in the pink wave  – the last wave to start, and probably about 2 thirds towards the back of the wave, so there were  A LOT of people in front of us.  Unfortunately, a lot of these people were walkers, so a lot of people to try and get past.  I do think there ought to have been a walkers wave really.

After introducing the celebrity runners, Paula Radcliffe, Victoria Pendleton, Mel-C, the race was started at 10am by Olympic cyling legend Sir Chris Hoy.  The three waves ahead of us got set off, and then it was our turn – the pink wave.

It was an exciting start, but we were slow over the start line, and the course was very narrow at the start, so we slowed to a walk and a complete stop a few times, as there were bad bottlenecks, which was frustrating.  The first mile took us 12:56.

I was surprised and a little disappointed at how much of a building site the Olympic park was.  I know a lot of the structures were designed as temporary, but it does seem like a massive waste, and a shame that the buildings couldn’t have been reused.  The site does seem to be being stripped out.  I have no idea what the intentions are, but hopefully there will be a decent legacy left after the Olympics.

The field spread out a bit, and miles 2 and 3 passed without too many issues.  We did stop to walk a couple of times, and Sam had to stretch out, as she was struggling a bit.  There was a very nice mist shower on the course.  After this, the sun started to come out, and it was very hot in the sun.

After 4.5 miles, we turned to go down the tunnel into the stadium.  There was a lap in the stadium around the service tunnel, then the last 300m of the race was inside the stadium on the track.  This was definitely the highlight of the day.  As we came through the tunnel, Chariots of Fire was being played on a loop, which was fantastic!  It was a real thrill running around the stadium, and crossing the finishing line was pretty magical.

We left the stadium through another service tunnel, where we picked up our goody bags, which contained a nice medal, a pack of Belvita breakfast biscuits, a pack of pistachio nuts, a bag of crisps, foil blanket bottle of water and a few leaflets.

In the stadium

In the stadium

And here’s a close up picture of the medals:

Medals

Medals

And here’s a photo of Sam and I at the finish line:

Finishers

Finishers

All in all, it was a good day out.  The race was very well organised, and I think it was pretty good value.  Most of the race there were no supporters and very few marshals, but that didn’t matter, as there was such a lot of camaraderie and friendliness amongst the runners.

Would I do the race again?  No.  It was too busy, and too many bottlenecks.  I think if I was running on my own, and trying to get a decent time, I would find the volume of people and the bottlenecks very frustrating.  Also, it’s a bit “been there, done that” – I’ve experienced the race both as a spectator and as a runner.   The logistics of getting in and out of London aren’t great either – getting up early, and being hustled and bustled all day isn’t great.

I also think I’m losing a bit of love for races that are just runs – I’m enjoying the multi-sport aspect of triathlon so much more, that in comparison just running is a little bit dull.  That said, I would like to do another marathon.

Here are my numbers from today, not that it was anything about times today:

Official time:  01:05:52

59th in age group

6,431st man

11,214 finisher out of 11,839

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/345891776