Archive for the ‘Sport’ Category

God’s Own Backyard Ultra

Saturday, May 21st, 2022 | Sport

A backyard ultra is a type of ultramarathon in which athletes have an hour to run 6,706 meters and get back to the start line for the next lap. If you don’t make it back in time, you’re out. The race goes on until there is only one person left standing; everyone else is a DNF.

I think I originally dismissed the event as being too close to Race to the Castle. But when that got cancelled, and Elenor wouldn’t shut up about it, I decided it was worth another look. By this point, I had already invited a bunch of friends over for a Eurovision party and so I would have to drop out after 11 laps. I said to myself “what’s the point if I can only run 72 kilometres.” Then I heard myself saying it and decided that was probably plenty of running for normal people 😂. And the whole discussion might be academic as I might not make it that far.

The first six laps

If you’re going to go deep at a backyard ultra, the entire first day is basically a warm-up. But it doesn’t feel like that. Probably because, again, three hours of running is a very long run to most people.

I ran the first lap with Kevin who was looking to get his second ultramarathon in the books (which he achieved!). The course heads down the canal and then loops back through Bramley Falls Woods. There is just over 90 metres of elevation gain per lap, which is not horrendously hilly. But for someone like me who mostly trains on the towpath, it’s pretty hilly!

After sussing out the course I switched to my Nike Vaporflys and went out in search of glory. This proved trickier than I imagined: some of the crossroads in the woods left me unsure and it took me a while to spot the red ribbons that guided the way. While experienced trail runners would have zero problems, again towpath-boy over here felt pretty proud that he had successfully navigated a marked course.

I was eating some heavy food at the start: sandwiches, fridge raiders, stuff that I would normally avoid in triathlon but works well in a slightly slower event.

Lap seven

The seventh lap is a nice milestone because it takes you through the marathon distance. Except it didn’t go so well.

Halfway through running through the woods, I tripped and hit the deck. One of the benefits of trail running is that you have nice soft dirt to fall on and so I got away with some grazing of my leg and dirt all over my hands, left leg and left arm. No broken skin or any use for the first aid training I was on last weekend.

It did knock the confidence out of me a little, though, which slowed me down. My energy levels crashed towards the end of the lap so I knew I needed some sugar. This was an issue because I was getting back in 45-50 minutes which gave me 10 minutes for food and a toilet break. But after lap seven I had to fit in washing the dirt off, assessing the grazing on my leg, and eating more than I normally would have on a given lap.

Laps eight and nine

After lap seven I switched to my Hoka Bondi X for some extra-cushioned running. I was tired by this point, though, and kept tripping over more things. No further falls but I started to rattle my confidence.

Then on lap nine, I fell over again. I didn’t go down, but I did roll my right ankle, which is the one I broke in December. For a minute I thought “oh no, it’s all happening again”. But I decided to spend a few minutes sitting in the dirt to see what was going on. The pain went away and I had full functionality of it so luckily I was able to continue running.

A big thank you to everyone who stopped to check on me, help me back to my feet and the marshalls that came to find me. I was back up and walking by this point but I felt well-looked after nonetheless.

Laps ten and eleven

After lap nine I had given myself permission to crack open the caffeine. I only do this when I know I have enough caffeine to maintain the caffeine buzz for the rest of the race. This is usually halfway through the marathon at Ironman but impossible to tell if you were going for the win at the backyard.

The Red Bull tasted so good. I think it perked me up a bit as I stopped tripping over things. That said, I was using a deliberate strategy of pushing a little harder on the towpath and a little easier on the technical descents, to mitigate any issues.

By the end of lap ten, I was eating mostly sugar, not wanting any other fluids or food of any kind, and generally feeling like my stomach was getting tired of this nonsense. It was a warm day so I was drinking twice as much as I usually would but it still did not seem to be enough (but my wee was still a lovely straw colour, so who knows).

Lap eleven was one of mixed feelings. I knew it was my finish line which is always a bit of a boost, but I was also tired, sore and ready to stop.

I think if I didn’t have a deadline, I could have done some more laps. But maybe not too many more: my right hip was sore in the same way that eventually forced me to stop running at Endure24 two years ago. It was definitely more sore at this point back then, but still noticeable enough that I think it would have become an issue down the line.

The end

I completed 11 laps which is officially 73.77 kilometres. Garmin measured less distance which I attribute to GPS in the woods. That’s not quite as far as I did at Endure24, but the longest I’ve done being out on course the whole time (if you discount the short breaks between laps).

At this point, I waddled off home, grabbing as many juice and ice lollies from the shop as I could. I felt grim once I got home and had to sit on the balcony for a bit to avoid growing up. Standard exhaustion/dehydration kind of stuff.

Congratulations to Keith Robson who finished 32 yards. Thank you to all of the organisers and marshalls for putting on a great event! And thank you to the people who brought the ice pops and the chips: it truly is a team sport.

Big Fat Bike Ride

Thursday, May 19th, 2022 | Sport

The Big Fat Bike Ride is a sportive organised by clothing brand Fat Lad At The Back. Bogdan and I did the same event back in 2018 when it was known as Up North Yorkshire sportive.

Last time we took it easy with the 40k route; this time I pushed onto the 80k one. Still fairly short all things being considered. It was well worth it. beyond Kettlewell is when the scenery really gets beautiful. The route was similar to the White Rose Classic which is probably the most beautiful sportive I’ve done.

it is a lumpy route: no big climbs but no real flat either. I felt much better on the bike than I did at Tadcaster sportive and was able to put out an extra 20 Watts of average power which is a good confidence boost with the triathlon season arriving.

I also made a video about it:

Tadcaster Triathlon 2022

Friday, May 6th, 2022 | Sport

The triathlon season is back! 10 Harriers turned up to race with another three of Harriers volunteering and being a smaller event than Skipton, it made for a social atmosphere where it was easy to find each other.

I wasn’t sure how my legs would hold up after completing Around The Park, Around The Clock the day before. However, I woke up feeling relatively fresh. And by that I mean I wasn’t overwhelming sore or achy. I did have to re-do my elastic laces so that my swollen feet would fit in my shoes, though.

I turned up 1:45 in advance to try and see everyone off and allow plenty of faffing time while I remembered all of the little touches: opening the velcro straps on my shoes, syncing my bike computer, having the final pre-race gel and pre-race wee, etc.

The swim

Tadcaster sets swimmers off in waves at 5-second intervals and it is annoying because that means someone is almost instantly on your toes. Luckily, this year I was the last of four so did not have that pressure. Someone overtook me on the last lap, though, which logically means she must have swum 18 lengths.

In the end, I came out of the water in 8:36, so pretty close to the 8:30 I had predicted. Everyone else was well ahead, so in future, I might deliberately underestimate my pace so that I end up with swimmers of similar ability.

The bike

The bike felt pretty good. Only two people came past me and I took one of those places back. I have not practised on my aero bars much over winter but I was able to use them without issues.

That said, my ultimate time was disappointing: 27:38 which was 99 seconds slower than 2021. That was a mixture of fatigue and fitness. I did not work quite as hard this year (165 bpm vs 173 bpm) but was also putting out a lot less power: 202 W vs 247 W.

The run

I set off on the run with some gentle expectations. At this point, my legs started to feel sore and so I did not want to push too hard because these events are supposed to be fun. I went through the first kilometre in 4:43 and roughly maintained this pace throughout factoring in gates, bridges and other chokepoints.

The run contained some interesting obstacles including a field full of cows, several of which were standing right on the footpath. It also finished on a set of steps.

After we crossed the finish line there we were handed a warm pie and a jar of chutney. Nice way to end a race.

The result

My final time was:

1:12:04

I was feeling pretty good about the race until I compared it to last year’s results. Not much gain on the swim and a significant loss on the bike. The run and overall are not comparable to last year the course flooded and the 6k trail run was replaced by a sub-5k road run.

Stage 2022 2021 2019
Swim+ 12:07 12:30 12:21
T1 01:03 01:10 02:36
Bike 27:38 25:59 28:41
T2 01:16 01:49 01:31
Run 30:02 22:54 32:32
Total 1:12:04 1:04:20 1:17:38

Recovering from a broken ankle, ongoing ear and kidney issues, focusing on ultrarunning rather than cycling and having done an ultra the day before are all good reasons to a be a bit slower this year. But hopefully, I can get some cycling form back once Man Vs Coast is out of the way.

Or maybe I’m just getting old. This race marks the start of my fifth season in triathlon and 48th event overall. Not sure who I order my 50 t-shirt from in two races time…

Thank you to all of the volunteers who made the event happen and see you all at World Triathlon Leeds!

Around The Park, Around The Clock 2022

Thursday, May 5th, 2022 | Sport

Last year, Toby organised Hyde Park Harriers’s first Around The Park, Around The Clock, a backyard ultra that consists of 5km loops that take place on the hour, each hour, for 12 hours. While this makes it somewhat easier than other backyard ultras, there is obviously no such thing as an easy ultramarathon.

This year it returned in the same format with ten of us taking on all 12 loops and many others joining us for many of them and the accompanying club picnic. Well done to Sam, Jon, Chloe, Robyn, Jed, Curtis, Rich G and Toby for completing all of the laps.

The weather was slightly kinder this year. There was no heavy rain at the start and it as a touch warmer, too, ending in a pleasant summer evening but without any sunburn.

Thank you to Naomi and Steve for the photos.

Tadcaster sportive

Friday, April 15th, 2022 | Sport

The Tadcaster Sportive starts in Tadcaster (surprisingly) and heads out for two unique loops on the 60k route and three unique loops on the 100k. It is flat for the first 60k with all of the climbing crammed into the final 40.

Having not taken my bike outside for about six months, I wasn’t sure how well I would hold up riding 100k. The answer was okay, but not great. I got around fine but my power numbers were low and my average moving speed was only 22.9 kph: not the kind of speed I am wanting to hit in Copenhagen! Good fun, though, and lovely to be riding outside again.

Roche Abbey trail race

Thursday, April 14th, 2022 | Sport

I booked the 32k Roche Abbey trail race as a prep event for Race to the Castle. Unfortunately, five days before the event, Race to the Castle was cancelled. But it would still be a useful test of the legs after breaking my ankle in December.

It was a three-lap course. We took the first few hundred metres together before the eventual winner accelerated off into the lead. I settled into third place but was down to sixth by the end of the first lap as everyone found their pace. After the second lap, I moved back up to fourth as the other runners slowed down. It was annoying. If they had left me for dead I could chill out. But being close to the podium I wanted to keep pushing.

As we approached the aid station on the final lap, I saw the third-place runner ahead of me. He wasn’t moving too fast and stopped entirely when we reached the aid station. This would have been fine but I was hurting by this point, too. By the halfway out-and-back, I was 3.5 minutes up but I was running out of energy myself and had to do a bit of run-walk.

As I went up the big hill through the woods I realised I had run out of water. Probably the first time ever! For some reason, I had done my maths incorrectly when filling my bottles that morning, so I had estimated my water intake correctly but did not put enough water in the flasks. I was about 20 minutes from the end so there was nothing to do but push on.

In the end, I was still moving faster than everyone behind me and finished 10 minutes ahead of fourth place. Unfortunately, Grim Up North are now only giving out trophies to the winners, but it’s still officially a podium for third overall.

Ven-Top

Monday, March 21st, 2022 | Sport

Yesterday I completed the Mont Ventoux climb on Zwift. At over 1,500 metres, it is the biggest climb in the game and significantly higher than the Alpe du Zwift.

But more importantly, it means I’ve completed all of the routes in France. My goal was to complete everything in Innsbrook, France and New York by spring. Yesterday was the first day of spring, so technically I missed it by 18 hours. But I’m pretty happy nonetheless as I’ve also completed all but three of the Makuri Islands routes (at least two of which were only added since I started the challenge). Plus I’ve done everything in London except PRL full, which is not on my to-do list because 8 hours turbo trainer sounds utterly miserable.

Front crawl fundamentals

Thursday, February 24th, 2022 | Sport

This month, I’ve been running a weekly front crawl fundamentals workshop to help some of our less confident swimmers really get their heads around front crawl. It’s been a very rewarding experience because getting to see the same athletes on a weekly basis, especially with the homework they put in, really demonstrated some great progress. Well done to everyone who took part!

Roundhay PECO

Monday, February 21st, 2022 | Sport

Having made the first, very dry, PECO at Middleton Woods, my ankle was finally fixed in time to make it to the final PECO of the year. It was a lot muddier! Luckily I had my Saucony Exodus but ultimately I don’t think there are any shoes that can deal with the volume of British mud.

Thanks to Anne for taking photos.

Brownlee track day

Tuesday, February 15th, 2022 | Sport

I organised a track day for the club. Unfortunately, even for what as been a pretty miserable winter, the weather was miserable. My Stolen Goat jacket promised it was “practically waterproof” and really needed to be heavy rain to get through the untaped seems. But I had massage wet patches on my shoulders by the time I got home. Thanks Ally for for turning up!