ITU London pre-race

May 30, 2015

As I got up this morning and started getting ready for today’s race I realized something felt different. The pre-race nerves aren’t there instead a nice buzz of adrenaline!

The first Tri I did I was panicking so badly, trying to remember everything I might need. I laid out my kit the night before and virtually counted it into my kit bag and then didn’t get much sleep as I went over the fact that I wasn’t a good swimmer and hated running ( not really very good traits in a Triathlete ).

Last night I had a couple of pints with friends after our final Lead Climbing lesson, cooked some pasta and went to bed.

It obviously helps that the race isn’t until this afternoon but the fact I am just looking forward rather than frightened is very refreshing.

Last year I trained pretty hard with the aim of beating previous times and doing my first Olympic distance race.

This year I still want to do better but more than that I want to have fun doing it! The swimming lessons at the local pool mean that not only am I technically a better swimmer but I also feel so much more confident in the water. The run too has become enjoyable, primarily thanks to the wonders of Parkrun.

So I’ll still be aiming to beat 1h30 but I sure as hell want a smile on my face at the finish line!

Find out how it went on the day in my Race Report


Restoration Women

January 21, 2015

I watched a fascinating TV show last night presented by the historian Dr Lucy Worsley called Harlots, Housewives and Heroines: A 17th Century History for Girls.

In the programme Dr Worsley talked about life for women in the mid 17thC focusing on a series of intriguing women including a traveller, a playwright and a soldier.

If you’re in the UK you can watch the show on BBC iPlayer from the link above or alternatively read more about the series in her article.

One of the women mentioned is Aphra Behn and after just a quick glance I’m already hooked. Take for example the first sentence from her novel The Lucky Mistake…

“The River Loyre has on its delightful Banks abundance of handsome, beautiful and rich Towns and Villages, to which the noble Stream adds no small Graces and Advantages, blessing their Fields with Plenty, and their Eyes with a thousand Diversions.”

The Lucky Mistake by Aphra Behn

The Bodleian has a digitised copy of a 19thC edition of her works:
“The plays, histories and novels of … mrs. Aphra Behn. With life and memoirs,
London, 1871”. You can download PDFs of the volumes from the Bodleian catalogue record. The Lucky Mistake is in volume 6 and starts on page 224.


Garmin Barcelona Triathlon

December 4, 2014

Maybe I’m overconfident, or maybe it’s because I just enjoy taking part and don’t (yet?) take it too seriously, but my ‘pre-race day’ is fairly simple:

  • go for a run
  • unpack and repack everything
  • travel
  • have pasta for dinner
  • lay out everything for tomorrow’s race, several times, until I panic that it’s getting late and then sleep fitfully for a few hours.

It was a pleasant change to not be traveling the day before the race.

Morning Run

To go for a run the day before is something that pretty much everyone says you should NOT do. But I am not a confident runner and so want to make sure that I don’t freak out on the day. I set off for a short 5km run just to get a feel for running in Barcelona. I headed off to Avinguda de la Diagonal, a lovely wide boulevard with a pedestrian/cycle centre section. There were quite a few people out running and it was obviously a popular place to go to exercise.

A few kilometres in I realised that actually I felt really good so instead of turning round and working my way back to the apartment I carried on to the end of the road — where I found a small park “Parc de Diagonal-Mar” which had an amazing metal sculpture almost like a roller-coaster track running round and over a small lake. The apartment we were staying in was right around the corner from Segrada Familia which meant going back up hill from the sea front. The only problem with running along Diagonal was the number of traffic light controlled crossroads so you had to stop (or sprint) every few hundred yards. On the way back I went a slightly different way so that by the time I got to the apartment I had covered a full 10km.

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/embed/611049522

Sight Seeing

After showering I set off to visit the Fundació Joan Miró. The Miró museum is in the Montjuïc region and can be accessed by Funicular — or at least it is supposed to be! I got to the Paral·lel metro station only to find that the Funicular was closed and instead there was a bus replacement service outside the station. I left the station and you could see where the bus was going to leave from by the huge crowd milling around by the side of the road. I dutifully stood in line and then as the bus pulled in 100 tourists from round the world decided that they were too important to queue and pushed towards the doors of the bus. The driver then pulled forward and only opened the front doors so all their pushing was in vain and I ended up getting a seat. The journey up Montjuïc was pretty twisty and I was glad to have decided against just walking (which was my initial reaction to the closed funicular).

The Fundació Miró is an amazing building, huge gallery spaces with high ceilings. They have works from pretty much every phase of his life which means they range from absolutely mind blowing to ones which, personally, were a bit too weird.

Fundació Joan Miró

View of Barcelona from the roof of Fundació Joan Miró

They have a few pieces outside and the view out across Barcelona was stunning — couldn’t have asked for a nicer day.

Before leaving England I had, with the help of my friends, put together a list of sights and had unfortunately found that the Olympic Pool had just closed for the end of season but I was very close and still wanted to see the Olympic park so afterwards I headed just a short distance further up the road. First I came to the athletics stadium, built for the 1992 Summer Olympics. You could look out over the grounds but not go down to the track. Outside, the Olympic park itself is huge with various water features and a massive paved area with gigantic columns. And then on the edge is the needle.

Montjuïc Communications Tower

Montjuïc Communications Tower

After a brief wander I headed back down the hill to the replacement bus and onward to lunch…

While true athletes will probably react to the next bit in horror (or possibly with jealousy), as stated earlier, I don’t take it very seriously.

I had arranged to have lunch with friends at Cal Pinxo — a restaurant in La Barceloneta which was just down by the sea.

Lunch

Cal Pinxo Starter

Padrón Peppers, squid rings and more…

We shared a mixed starter with Padrón Peppers, the food equivalent of Russian roulette where most of the peppers are quite mild but every so often you get a hot one, and a selection of deep fried items, including squid rings, sardines etc. Absolutely delicious, and truth be told I would have been happy to have just had more starters they were so good. But the reason we were here was the house speciality — Paella.

Cooked in a large steel pan like a flat bottomed wok they plate up first then bring the pan to the table for you to help yourself to seconds — hence the photo only has half left. A couple of beers and a pudding latter I was seriously full!

Paella

The main course — Paella

After an amazing lunch I made my way along the beach and then went in search of ProBike — a bike shop a friend had recomend at lunch — as I wanted to get a cycling shirt from Barcelona to add to my ever growing collection.

I found a sports shop on the way which was huge so spent a while having a look round there and then just up the road was ProBike. It’s a good job I have a little bit of self restraint as they had some great stuff — both bikes, acessories and a decent amount of cycle clothing. Was tempted by the Movistar dark blue top but they only had it in small sizes and no matter how many miles I swim, bike and run it would never fit! But they did have a ‘ProBike Barcelona’ shirt in a retro colour scheme which was perfect.

The night before the storm — Literally!
I headed back to the apartment and stopped at a supermarket to get some pasta for dinner. Then it was time to check through everything and try and get a decent night’s sleep.

Race Day

The weather report suggested that there was going to be a pretty bad storm on the Sunday but so far there had been no sign. Even as I got up and looked out the window it was dark but with clear skies. I gathered all my kit and set off in the darkness for the athletics track which was to be transition. There were a handful of others cycling along until, based on my memory of the road map I headed streight on at a junction and was on my own for a moment but then it was so cool as more and more people joined our convoy like bicycle flash mob! As we got close to the sea front there were a few spots of rain and by the time I had started racking my bike the heavens opened. It was a full on tropical storm with lightning and thunderclaps separated by less than a second. The organisers stopped anyone from going near the bikes as they were worried that the bike racking — which is esentially a framework of scaffold poles — could act as a lightning condunctor. We all pressed ouselves against the wall aound the trackside and tried to take shelter but by this point I was sodden. There were mumblings about would the race be cancelled or delayed or mabye the swim section replaced with a run — somthing that filled me with abject terror — I would rather swim in a storm than have to do an more running than absolutley necessary! In the end they just delayed the race though instead of saying what time the waves would start they just kept saying that the start was being delayed by 30 (then 40…) minutes and each wave would set off 5 minutes after that. The problem was no one knew what time the first wave was supposed to have started, as it was the elite only wave, in order to work out the new start times for our own wave!

Eventially we were allowed back into the main transition area which was once the grass area inside the athletics track but was now a rather muddy swamp.

At least everyone was in the same boat so to speak and the rain had slackened off a lot. As the sun started to rise the skies cleared and it looked like it might actually be quite a nice day for a race.

I put my wetsuit on and made my way to the start area. All the previous races I had done the start was in the water — that is you float about a bit, gather behind an imaginary line and then the gun/whistle/claxon goes off and you start swimming. The Garmin however is a beach start which means, on the signal, you have to run into the water and ‘dive’ in.

The start was horrific with people swimming into and even over each other.

I had made the common mistake of being very close to the front of my wave. Before my first triathlon I did a training day with Virgin Active down at Richmond. One of the first things they said was hang back at the start ‘cos it will get hectic — so much so that even in the simulated start someone ended up with a black eye!

Anyways, in the first few races I did and found that I should be about ⅓ of the way through the wave. By London 2014 my swimming had improved so much that I was in the first half dozen and stayed there for the whole of the swim. Difference was that London is very often the first Tri people have a go at, especially charity fundraisers so I was given a false sense of security. So I only allowed one row of people between me and the start rope. A couple of the other competitors just ambled towards the water so I ran like I was David Hasselhoff this meant by the time I hit the water there were only 2–3 people in front of me at which point I was like ooh look at me I’m gona win this wave! Uh, nope. Oh my god it was mayhem as the ‘walkers’ flailed like a cross between the energizer bunny and a combine harvester. They obviously knew what they were doing though as they made progress through the field and by the first buoy a dozen had barged past ( or more correctly ‘over’) me.

I kept up a steady pace, not particularly fast as this was my first 1500M in the sea. By the first buoy we were quite a way out from the beach and the waves were starting to become hard work. The next section was parallel to the beach and really had to fight the waves. Coming up to the next turn point I was just plowing onwards and, not being able to see much through my goggles past about half way, I banged into one of the course safety canoes which was a bit embarrassing! Dipped my goggles so I could de-mist them and made it round the turn to head back to the beach. I splashed onwards comforted by the fact that I had just overtaken a few stragglers from the previous wave (each wave has a different colored swim hat) so I knew I wasn’t going to have the slowest swim time. Not a hundred meters further and I felt a bang as I, yes you guessed, hit my head on a canoe again! The tide was dragging me sideways more than I realized and so I started sighting more often until I finally reached the swim exit. It was then a short jog back to transition — where I would grab my bike — while unzipping my wetsuit and getting it to my waist so save time.

Swim Over

Swim Over

Even though the rain had stopped and the sun was out the ground of the transition area was very muddy. I fumbled trying to get out of the suit while at the same time avoid the puddle by my bike. Put my glasses on and could now see the mess so I chucked a half bottle of water over my feet and tried to wipe off the mud and got my socks & cycle shoes on. Next helmet on then it was time to grab my bike and run / splash my way to the bike start.

Cycling in the sun

Cycling in the sun

The bike route was absolutely fantastic but as a ‘draft legal’ race the bikes were scarily close together. The road was drying out but the hairpin bends where still dangerous especially where they crossed over the tram tracks and many people struggled whereas the miles of cycling in the English weather definitely helped as I moved through the field. There where 4 laps of the bike and it took me about an hour so there was a lot of overlap between waves with people struggling on their 4th lap at the same time as those with fresh legs on their first. There where a few groups with a full on team time trial train and they where seriously quick. I managed to hang on to the back a few times but struggled to maintain the pace in the traffic but as I started to get a feel for the course I had an absolute blast especially sprinting out of the hairpin bends!

At the end of the fourth lap I made my way back into transition dumped the bike and swapped shoes from bike to run. The ground was a little drier by now and I avoided most of the big puddles.

Despite the previous day’s run my legs felt good, no doubt helped by drafting a little on the bike. The route was lovely and unlike the bike was thankfully an out-and-back rather than multiple laps. The turnaround point was up hill at the Arc de Triomf and it really felt special running up to it. The sky had cleared completely and could feel the sun on my shoulders as a carried on — glancing at my sports watch to see not just how far was left but my overall time. It looked like if I could go a little faster I would hit the magical 2hours30 which I had missed by just 5 minutes in London. I was amazed as I was sure the sea swim wasn’t good enough but it gave me an extra burst of confidence and so I pushed on. As I passed the 8km sign I was starting to struggle and had all but abandoned hope of 2:30 but the watch was saying my pace was good. With 1 km to go I was overheating and wanted to slow down so much but I knew there was only another few minutes to go and then it would be over.

That last 5 minutes felt like an eternity and then I could hear the crowds at the finish line and the finish chute came into view I pushed and started to sprint for the line only to realize the finish line was actually still quite a ways off there was still another 200M to go and I had the painful realization that I might burnout before the line. No must keep going I Can Do This.

Finish with a smile!

Finish with a smile!

I crossed the line and was so happy to have finished. I starred at my watch in disbelief — it looked like I had done it in under 2:30! No I must have started it late or maybe paused it accidentally in transition.

I knew it was close and that was good enough for me. As I picked my way throught the crowds to get back to my bike with the medal hanging round my neck I was so proud.

As I got my phone out of my bike to call my friends who were spectators so we could meet up I saw there was a text on the lock screen:

"Nat:0:29:33, TR1:01:22,Bici: 1:06:54, TR2:03:27, Cursa:0:47:44 Garmin Barcelona Triathlon"

A sub 30 sea swim despite nearly knocking myself out (twice)? Wow, and a run which was nearly 6 minutes faster than London. This all looks promising…

The total? Well let’s just say I was happy with this line of the txt —

"Felicitats, Mark Temps: 2:28:59"

I had done it by a whole minute!

It took a while to navigate the crowds but I eventually met up with my friends who had kindly brought some fizz.

Triumphant

Triumphant

A brilliant end to what at the start had looked like it was going to be a disastrous day.

Thank you for reading, I hope you found it interesting — or maybe even inspiring! I would love to hear from you so please do leave a comment

Mark


Cycling round an f1 track

October 2, 2014

I don’t normally post about my training but this was as exciting, for me at least, as any race i have done…
I always though it would be amazing to cycle round a race track and last year I read about the Silverstone 24 Hr* — a bike ride around the Silverstone f1 track, unfortunately the dates clashed with something i was already doing but it made me think — are there other racetracks you can cycle round? Well it turns out the answer is yes.
The first one i found that lets pedal bikes onto the tarmac is the iconic Laguna Seca Raceway in California with their Twilight Cycling. These are monthly events where for $10 you can ride round for a couple of hours (5:30–7:30 pm or 5–7pm in winter).

Then i found out about Bicurcuit at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. Held Tuesday & Thursday throughout the year (except race weeks) you can either buy a season pass or a single session for €5.

I already had my bike with me for the Triathlon and although I flew in / out of Barcelona on Tuesdays I would be there for one of the Thursday sessions!

So with that i asked my friend about getting there and she said just to take the train (the same line as the airport) from El Clot to Montmeló which is quite close to the circuit.

So i headed off in my cycle kit and decided to go for a quick ride round the city as it was still quite early in the day. I cycled up to Park Güel (seriously steep) and then headed to El Clot station, which is where i made my first error. I carried my bike down the station steps and looked at the map to get to the right platform and realised that this was a metro only station. Oops. Headed back up the steps and tried Apple Maps on the iPhone and there just a few hundred yards was another station “El Clot – Arago”. I cycled over and this time noticed the sign post outside had another symbol — which i took to be for the rail system. I went down the stairs into the station and Indeed it was, so i got a ticket from the counter and went down more stairs to the platform. There was a train in and i tried to run down the steps but there were too many people getting off the train. It said Airport on the platform sign and this reminded me that me friend had said it was the airport train i needed. Turns out it was lucky i missed that train — after i got down to the platform i looked at the stop list and the airport was in the opposite direction! I had misunderstood in that it was the same train line as the airport not he actual train to the airport. Nearly a big oops but got a way with that one.

The circuitShort ride latter i arrived at Montmeló station and went outside, fired up the Maps app and set off for the circuit. A short while later there was a fork in the road for East or West circuit entrance, no idea so had a look at the Bicircuit webpage and it said West so quick u turn and took the West road. As i got closer i could hear the sounds of a race car engine tearing round the track. I went past a few of the race-day pedestrian entrances and then came to a mini round about where the main gatehouse was. I was quite a bit early as i hadn’t banked on getting from the station to the circuit so quickly. The guard would’t let me in so i had to wait until 6pm — the official start time. I cycled along the boundary road and found a place where you could see a glimpse of the track and brief flashes of what appeared to be a single seater open wheel car roaring round.
I cycled back up to the gatehouse about 6 and tried again — no, not yet he indicated that while he could hear the car(s?) on track I could’t go in. By this time a few more people started turning up in cars with bikes wedged in the back. It looked like most where regulars as they got out of their cars to chat and change into cycle kit.

After the track fell silent (it was now about 6:20pm) i tried again, nope not yet. If i hadn’t been so early and / or i had been able to actually see the track properly i wouldn’t have minded but i was now getting a bit fed up waiting.(Note to self: Bicircuit starts at 6:30 in winter, so was not actually a late start)

Eventually another guard came from the direction of the circuit up to the gatehouse and they had a chat, did a load of paper work then finally he waved me over. I paid my €5 and he opened the barrier.

Uh, now what? I cycled down the slip road and under the track saw a tiny a4 sized sign saying Bicircuit and followed it. A second one followed and i was in a car park surrounded by chain link fence which had a small gate that had been tied open. OK, Looks promising i though so headed through it. Next think i know is a painted arrow on the wall saying “Pit Lane” followed that and…Oh My God. I am sat on my bike in the pit lane of an f1 track!!!
IMG_7326IMG_7324

IMG_7340IMG_7332

No one else had arrived yet and there were no marshals so i just cycled off round the track.
It was so so cool I had done an entire lap on my own before i even saw another person! They had parked up and got their bikes out and then cycled out into the pit lane and were circulating in bunches. There are a few local clubs (full team kit ) doing draft training and a farther son pair as well as a few older blokes on mountain bikes having a chat as they went round.

It was surprising how much elevation change there was, and in places this made it quite hard work but swooping down through the final chicane into the finishing straight is something i will remember for a long time.

IMG_7340
I cycled 6 laps down the start finish straight & down the pit lane. It was still quite warm and i had nearly finished my water bottle so went in search of a refill. There is a shower block and toilettes behind the pit garages, near the start of the pit lane, but notices on the taps indicated the water was not safe for drinking. Also I could’t find any vending machines so if you do go remember to bring your own supplies. I returned to the track and i did a couple more laps as the light faded.

8 laps of Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya

8 laps of Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya

It was a great (if a little lonely) evening and something i would definitely recommend to cyclists who have even a passing interest in F1!

IMG_7348The third error (after the station and early arrival) was on my way back to the station. There was a bit of one way road then a sign for Montmeló so i thought, erroneously, that i was going back the way i had arrived. I cycled quite a way until i was on a slip road for AP-7 ( the spanish equivalent of a motorway). By this time it was pretty dark and i uttered a few 4 letter words in frustration. I looked at the maps app and saw the problem — the ‘quickest’ way back to Montmeló was indeed to go one junction along the motorway, the sign had sent me round the northern tip of the race track ( as in further from where i wanted to be). I cautiously walked up the hard shoulder with all my bike lights in full christmas tree mode and made it back up to the C-35 a much more civilised road. I then cycled back round the track and on towards the station, stopping for a rather refreshing pint (well, two halves) at Bar La Ruta on Carrer Vic not far from the Montmeló station.

Notes:
* The Silverstone 24hr charity ride was cancelled and many people lost their entrance fee.


Wiggle Portsmouth Triathlon

September 4, 2014

For such a new race the Wiggle Portsmouth Triathlon is excellently organised with a lovely route. I took part in the inaugural race last year and thoroughly enjoyed it and had been looking forward to it since I entered back in February!

One feature that I especially like is that you rack your bike in transition on the day before the race. This however did add to my troubles as what should have been a simple train journey became a huge hassle.

I packed up my kit and cycled to Oxford station a little after lunch only to find that all southbound trains where delayed. I was forced to traverse Reading station a couple of times and then a change at Guilford. Anyway long story short  I arrived at Portsmouth & Southsea station with 15 minutes to get to registration. Had a quick look at a map and headed off to the sea front.

There where still loads of people at the event site and it was a simple process to pick up my race packet with a rather fetching bright pink race hat. I stuck the race number (765) onto my bike and helmet and went to put my bike into transition. The racking is numbered which is great as you are guaranteed a space.

With my bike dropped off I had a look at the wiggle shop trailer and luckily they had loads of race belts as I somehow have misplaced mine. I sat outside and had a coffee then walked the short distance to my hotel.

The room was rather small but the bed was comfy which is really all that matters. I had a shower and headed out for something to eat.

I had had a late lunch and didn’t feel like a restaurant meal before a big race so just went to a super market and got a few pasta salad pots and some instant porridge for breakfast. Oh yeah, and a bag of vanilla custard doughnuts!

Slept pretty well but still woke up before my alarm went off. Boiled the kettle and had a coffee and the porridge.

I decided to just pack all my stuff instead of leaving a bag at the hotel so i could just go to the station after the race.

The weather was cool but sunny which was perfect. At some point my luck will run out but so far every Triathlon i have done has had perfect weather for my race. Though on some of the cycling events I have not be so lucky.

I was feeling good about the race despite having scared myself the evening before after looking out at the swim course.

One slight hiccup was that i had thought i would do the bike & run sock-less to save a few seconds (see my previous post about the quest for 4 minutes 30 seconds). I had in my infinite wisdom done the Oxford Parkrun on Saturday morning and did the run without socks to check that my trainers where comfy enough, and while i did set a new PB (stupid before a race i know but something just clicked and it felt really good) i also got a blister on my little toe. Oops.

The swim takes place in the Solent1 and allegedly the organisers picked the date specifically to have the best tide conditions for the race. I went out fast and just kept the turnover rate of my arms as high as i could. A sea swim is much harder than a lake or other open water swim. The tide was quite weak so looks like they had picked the right day!

The flat bike section is almost a figure of eight shape (without an actual cross over so i guess more like a pinched oval) and for the Sprint distance you do three laps. The Esplanade road back along the sea front was quite windy but with a great view out to sea.

Catching my breath

Catching my breath

Portsmouth 2014 Run

Not far to go now

Lovely flat bike route

Lovely flat bike route

 

Portsmouth 2014 Finish

So so close

The run goes along the sea front past the amusement arcades, and unfortunately, past a fish and chip shop. Oh how i wanted to stop and just get some fish & chips! It then carries on into Old Portsmouth with a few twists and turns with a water station before turning back and passing through the Battery — the original fortified sea wall.

I was very slow with my initial pace off the bike and tried so hard to make up for it in the final stretch as i could see my stopwatch getting closer and closer to 1 hour 30 minutes.
I nearly cried as i rounded the final corner to realise that the finish funnel snaked round the field adding at least 200M still go! There was no way i could get to the finish in time.

I crossed the line and stopped my timer – it looked like I had over shot by about 30 seconds!
After picking up my goodie bag and t-shirt i went to the timing booth to get the final time. I had just missed out on my goal.

I am so so proud of my swim time. The bike was similar to last year and the run was rubbish. To be fair it was entirely my fault the run wasn’t good — should have taken the Parkrun easy on the Saturday. Anyway my overall time was a great improvement over last year so I am very happy. And next year i only need to improve by 26 seconds!!

Portsmouth 2014 Medal

Final Time 1 hour 30 minutes 26 seconds

Next up I have a nice ride round northern France — I’m doing the Wiggle French Resistance with a mate. Then it’s the big one — Garmin Barcelona!

1 The Solent is a strait separating the Isle of Wight from the mainland of England. Wikipedia — Solent.

All photos except the last are by http://solentsportsphotography.co.uk


Four minutes thirty seconds

August 27, 2014

This weekend I will be competing in the Wiggle Portsmouth Triathlon. I did the Sprint distance last year and will do the same again on Sunday, which according to the BBC Weather site should be a nice sunny day.

My aim was to finish in under 1½ hours but I missed that goal by 4 minutes 30 seconds. That was down to several factors, it was only my second triathlon, it was the first time swimming in a wetsuit in the sea and i had only ever run 5k once before. Despite the elusive 4½ minutes I did quite well and placed 92nd out of the 231 finishers.

After my quite frankly awesome performance at the London Tri earlier this year i have high hopes of beating my previous time. My swimming has improved so much since last year but i have not had any practice doing a sea swim. Pretty much the only thing i hate about Oxford is that the nearest beach is 68 miles away. It doesn’t sound like much, but the furthest you can ever be from the sea in England is 70 miles!

My bike ride was all out — it’s the best bit for me and the Portsmouth bike route is on lovely flat closed roads — so I don’t think there is much time to be gained there, maybe 30 seconds.

Four Minutes

On paper I can do the 750M swim in under 20 minutes ( London was 1.5km in 30 minutes, but starting & getting out water is always a struggle so not going to be half that time). Now that would easily put me under one & half hours total BUT if the sea is as rough as last year then it will be a struggle and even a calm sea is nowhere near as fast as in a lake or dock. So i have to assume my swim time is going to be marginally better than last year but not super duper awesome — lets say for 24 mins instead of last year’s 25:44.

Two Minutes Fifteen Seconds

On fresh legs my fastest ever 5k is 22:35 and my last couple of Park Runs have been 22:45ish. Based on how much the swim and run takes out of me and my London 10k pace I might be able to do it in 25 minutes.

Forty Five Seconds

I won’t be as nervous this time so transitions should be a tiny bit faster, maybe i can save another 5 seconds.

Forty Seconds

Getting close but I need to find another 40 seconds…

  1. swim like the kraken is behind me;
  2. ride like a New York messenger;
  3. run like a wolf is chasing me.

Option one would appear the easiest but the risk is that I won’t swim a straight course, thus taking longer, also might never make it to the bike!

Hmm, what about option 2? I already go flat out so the only speed to be gained would be at the turn points and that’s just going to end in a crash.

Option 3 it is then. Can I do a 24:20 5k without having a heart attack before the finish line.

Lets hope I can lose those four minutes and 30 seconds…


Henley Mile Swim 2014

August 21, 2014
Lovely day for a swim

Lovely day for a swim

When I was a kid on holiday if we went to the beach, or down to Devon where my grandparents lived, i would head straight into the water. More often than not i would spend too long in to water and would be told off.

You must come out of the water before your lips turn blue!!

I never learnt but i was happy turning blue so it didn’t matter. Like most kids I learned to swim at school and still have a 25M freestyle certificate somewhere in a box of childhood mementoes. I also remember doing a mile swim at school but that is just a distant memory now.

I have done 3 triathlons ( Blenheim 2013, Portsmouth 2013 & Blenheim 2014 ) and am building up to doing the Olympic distance one in London in August 2014. I have been taking swimming lessons since the beginning of the year and have spent a few evenings doing open water swims at Oxford Wakeboard and Ski club. Sadly it is all but impossible to cycle there as the two main roads are both heavy commuter traffic with no cycle provision at all, so have had to really on the kindness of my Dad giving me lift!

The swim in an Olympic distance triathlon is 1.5 km — a distance i have not yet completed in open water. So it was this in mind that I signed up for the Henley Mile. A 1 mile downstream swim in the Thames.

Looking up the course from the finish

Looking up the course from the finish, note the Orange buoy is only 200M away!

The start time was pretty early and being a Sunday there were no trains from Oxford until after the event had finished! After a brief look at hotels in Henley, I decided the cheapest plan would be to get a train to Reading the night before, stay over and then take a taxi to the start in Remenham meadow.

The B&B was minimal in the extreme but then it was also under £40 worse the second ‘B’ in B&B was a let down as the cafe is closed on Sundays. So after dragging myself out of bed, having a pot of instant porridge (at least there was a kettle in the room) and a shower i went outside and waited for my taxi.

The taxi driver was a little bemused as to why I would want a taxi ride out into a field at 7 in the morning, and was then incredulous that it was so i could swim a mile down the Thames. At this point I was beginning to agree it was a bit of a crazy idea.

As we approached the registration area there were a surprising number of people there and with that i took my bags out of the Taxi and went off to register.

After signing in and getting the right coloured swim cap, and then a timing chip from the desk just to the right*. I had a scolding hot coffee and and then sat about for bit before it was time to get my wetsuit on and walk to the start.

Temple Island, near the finish

Temple Island, near the finish

I left my rucksack at registration and headed off in my flip-flops. Now the event tents &c. were actually at the finish, just past temple island so we had to walk the mile upstream to the start line. And this is when it hit me just how far a mile is. After what seemed an age we still hadn’t got to the start! Luckily just beyond this little bridge was the start. There was a short race briefing and safety announcement and it was time to get in the water. Don’t think it was very cold but then a) I was wearing a wetsuit b) I don’t tend to notice the cold anyway!

And we’re off! A few people shot off like torpedoes and i suddenly felt very out of my depth, however i thought to myself

 I float so what’s the worst that could happen?

What a wonderfully positive attitude! It worked though and i felt good as my arms turned over again and again I had no idea how far i’d gone as it is almost impssible to focus on anything as your hear is turning to breath — in fact because i normally wear glasses I just go with the flow until i see a big orange (or sometimes yellow) buoy which means i need to do something!

You can just see the Temple Island in the distance.

Bridge before the start. You can just see the Temple Island in the distance.

I could feel the wetsuit constricting as my muscles tired and then i saw a man pull up along side me and it gave me the encouragement to kick onwards. The world was a bit of a blur by now but i could hear the odd shout from the bank as people cheered on friends and relatives and that too helped me on my way. soon i sighted what appeared to be the 200M to go buoy and made a last final push, however 200M is still a long way and i pushed too hard to early so that last 50M were agonisingly slow & painful.

The wave of relief as i tapped the timing gantry at the finish was soon replaced with exhaustion, i was shattered. The next step was to climb out of the river using a small ladder like at the side of a swimming pool. Just hauling myself up was an effort and i caught ( and cut ) my foot one of the metal steps.

After i had got my breath back, which took a while, I went in search of my glasses…you see in a triathlon I leave my specs on the bike ready to come back from the swim but in this instance because the walk to the start was so far i had kept my glasses on and given them to a marshall at the start. I unfortunately forgot his name which did’t help but after a bit of faffing around i found a chap who had been ferrying peoples flip-flops etc from the start back to the finish and he offered to give me a lift up to the start line so i could collect my glasses.

Proof

Proof!

So I found the chap would had kindly looked after my glasses and then as I walked back to the finish, along the course I had just swum I felt a huge sense of accomplishment. My first open water Mile swim.

Back at the event HQ they had a PC setup with a screen and printer where you could type in your registration id and get your swim time. Think i might be getting quite good at this swimming lark as I had been among for 30 minutes but it was a very respectable 24m50s. Under 25 minutes — Woo so pleased.

I also had a look at some of the stalls and decided to buy a Henley Swim t-shirt to commemorate the occasion, you also got a little named certificate and a wrist band from Open Water Clubs. ( Wish i had know bout these before as it would have been great to collect the set over the last year as i’ve gradually improved — maybe i can do them retrospectively…)

I then decide to head home and walked back up river to Henley and decided to treat myself to a pint at the Angel on the Bridge, and it was a MILE so another pint and some fish & chips! There was a poster on the wall for another swim called the Club to Pub – a bit shorter but with a small upstream section…think i might have a go!

So from my initial enthusiasm, on the day nerves to elation I thoroughly enjoyed the Henley Mile Swim and want to thank the organisers for a great day and I hope to be back next year!


* A think a few people didn’t see other desk and get their timing chips as at the start line a few people asked where i got mine from.


Blenheim Triathlon 2014

August 19, 2014

So one year on and I’m back at Blenheim! My wave was the last of the day which made things a lot easier than last year’s early start. My support team™ were same as last year Mum, Dad & my mate John. I dropped my rucksack off with my parents and then cycled the 6-7miles to Blenheim at a decent pace to get warmed up and ‘in the zone’. It is a nice easy ride along cycle track and then through the imposing gates of Blenheim Palace grounds.

After meeting up with Mum & Dad I racked my bike and then got ready for the race. The weather which had been threatening rain all morning gradually improved and by the time i was ready to go to the swim start there was glorious sunshine.

The water felt cool but not cold which was perfect. The initial shiver as i let some water into the neck of my wetsuit soon went away and i swam about in a “i am doing a warm up but not taking it too serious” way. I found myself rather near the front and decided I would go for it rather than holding back like last year.

Swim

As the klaxon went we all splashed away and i did my damndest to keep up, i *think* i was about 10th out the water which i was really proud of (the final result was 28th fastest swim across the 4 super sprint waves).

The hard horrible part about Blenheim is the run from the swim out to Transition where you collect your bike. It is a steep uphill run with a hairpin turn — Ouch! I tend to be quite dizzy as I exit the water and this means i need a moment to compose myself and it caught me out again this year.

Bike

Back in transition and strip off my wetsuit, put on glasses, cycling shoes & bike helmet grab the bike and run to the exit. Now, I am no professional so i tend to stop after the bike-on line get on the bike and then set off — no flying leaps onto the bike for me!

The bike circuit is the best bit as it is on the road that runs around the estate, decent tarmac, no cars, a couple of wicked corners and a beautiful view throughout. The bike is two laps which means the first one you go out quite hard , get a feel for the course and then the second one — BLITZ it. My bike split was 27th overall which was a little faster than last year but not by much, though I went all out on the bike then too!

Run

After the second lap you come to a halt and hop off the bike before running back into transition where I swap to my running shoes, and than off on the bit i dislike — the run.

Now this year I have been doing a lot more running. ‘More’ being a relative term, last year i did a couple of 3k runs to make sure i would be able to finish the distance and that was about it.
This year i have been doing the local Park Run which is a timed 5k held every Saturday morning and luckily for me the nearest one is just a few hundred yards from my house!

The irony here is that the run saw the smallest improvement — just 26 seconds faster than last year. However this year i didn’t feel like stopping half way round.

John and my parents where there at the finish line and, just as last year, I forgot to look at the big timing clock along side the finish so had no idea how long it had taken me. I was out of breath as I had attempted to sprint for the line as there was a guy running with me who really went for it. After a few minutes I felt tired but no where near as bad as last year so had i been quick? Did i push myself enough on the run or did i slow down too much. Was that why i wasn’t quite so tired…

Results

Well there was no need to panic, under an hour again and in fact the swim time was great, bike good and the run well, it was not a disaster:

Swim — 00:07:26
Bike — 00:26:34
Run — 00:15:23
Total — 00:57:06

So I completed another triathlon AND beat last years time!

Next up — my first Olympic distance triathlon in London…


Preparing for Blenheim Triathlon 2014

May 19, 2014

So it’s been a year since my first Triathlon, and I am returning to Blenheim this year. I am again doing the short Super Sprint race:

  • Swim 400M
  • Cycle 13.2km
  • Run 2.9km

Last year I astonished myself by completing the race in under an hour — albeit by only 20 seconds, so that makes setting a goal for this year quite hard. Obviously I want to at least match 59m40s (swim 8m49; bike 27m24; run 15m49).

I was 32nd overal and 9th in my age group, though this year I will be in the next group as I have a pretty big birthday before the year is out ;-)

This year I have worked hard on my swimming but not much work on the bike and run segments. A top 5 (age group) is probably too much to ask as that would need a sub 55 minute time!

So my goal? I really want to get the swim in under 8 minutes. To that end I’m going for my first open water swim of the year tonight.


Blenheim Triathlon 2013 — The Race

September 26, 2013

Part two — The Race (see also part one — prep)

Well what can i say? After racking my bike1 it was time to make my way down to the swim assembly point on the edge of the lake. After safety briefing and course description (basically turn at the first buoy towards the boat house) it was time to walk along the very wobbly pontoon and slip into the grey water.

After the initial shock of oh-my-god-this-is-so-cold I swam around a bit and remembered what they had said on the training day about if you’re unsure hang back a bit or stay to the side so that you don’t get crushed at the start, however i found myself dead centre right on the virtual line between the two markers!

Then the klaxon2 went and we were off! I managed to keep going forwards and about 1/2 way was starting to feel my arms ache as i had set off too fast trying to keep up with those around me.

Once out of the water i had a bit of a wobble as I tried to regain my balance and then there was a tortuous uphill run of a few hundred meters to get back to the transition area — and the start of the bike leg.

Found my bike easily and wheeled it to the start line where i wobbled a bit as i tried to get on too quickly and then set off. Stupidly i had my bike gloves but had not put them on in transition so the first problem was a mouth full of glove while trying to get up to speed. I had no idea how good or bad my swim was so i went pretty quick. Seeing as we were the first wave of the day it meant anyone ahead was motivation to overtake. First lap went well and then as confidence grew ( i.e. i knew the course now) i went all out — going as fast as I could for the second lap.

After an almost incident free transition ( forgot to take the cycling gloves off) I set off for the run section and my legs felt soo soo heavy. I fixed on a guy a little way in front of me who seemed to be going at a good pace and just tried to keep up.

When i finally got to the finish line i was so out of breath i forgot to look at the huge foot-high clock showing the finish time which meant i had no idea of my time!

In the end my final times where:
Swim — 00:08:49
Bike — 00:27:24
Run — 00:15:49
Total 00:59:40

I did the Blenheim Palace 2013 Super Sprint in under one hour! I was amazed, both how close it was but also that i got such a respectable time.

Finisher’s medal

Finisher’s medal

  1. As i have yet to find a way to swim in my glasses i had to leave them with my bike, which causes problems as then i can’t really see the swim course!
  2. It may have been a whistle