Archive for the ‘Sport’ Category

The Amphibian

Wednesday, September 15th, 2021 | Sport

The Amphibian is an open water swimming challenge run by Evolve Endurance at the Blue Lagoon. It is a one-kilometre lap of swimming and you have four hours to complete up to ten laps.

I would like to be a marathon swimmer. Until a few months before lockdown, I thought it was literally impossible for me to swim front crawl because of a nasal issue. When I mastered it, it really changed what I thought was possible. And a marathon swim (generally thought of as 10k) would really top that off. But could I get ten laps done in the time limit?

Mass starts are back and I refuse to start at the back of the crowd because that gives me an extra 20-30 metres to swim. So, I ended up right in the washing machine with arms and legs going everywhere. Between the battle for position any drafting effect I completed the first lap in 21:34.

The water was over 20 degrees. Lovely and toasty. Despite this, I felt a slight chill after the second lap and decided to keep the work rate high to maintain my body temperature. From this, I think we can safely conclude that the Norseman is not in my future until I spent a lot of time doing cold water acclimatisation!

After that, I settled down to a consistent pace of 23 minutes per lap. Starting and finishing the fifth lap was exciting because I had never swum more than four kilometres before so this was a new record for me. I set myself five laps as my target with anything above this being a bonus. I went through the 5k mark is just over two hours.

I had one more good lap in me and then after six kilometres, I started to feel the fatigue. My pace slowed down to around 27 minutes per lap. I was chafing a little in my right underarm. Adjusting my suit did not help but flushing it did. But everything else was getting tired, too.

Because swimming is gentle on the body, I somehow thought that I would not be as sore as when I ran my first marathon. But my whole upper body was getting tired and sore. But the most soreness came from a place I did not expect: my cheeks. Three hours of blowing out air under the water were taking its toll and my whole face was tired.

After completing lap eight, I was clear I was not going to make ten. Knowing that nine would be the limit made it slightly easier psychologically. But tired arms and the feeling that my left calf was cramping made it difficult to push. I was very glad to reach the beach area for the final time.

I finished in:

3:56:23

I was the second-to-last athlete out of the water. It was a challenge rather than a race so there were no placings as such. But of the 78 swimmers that started, I came 22nd. The 21 athletes ahead of me completed all ten laps. This included Leigh with a 3:36:57 swim and Gareth from Wakefield finishing a couple of minutes ahead of me. Everyone else did fewer laps and who can blame them: nine is the most amount of work you can do without being able to call yourself a marathon swimmer 😂.

This is the final Evolve event meaning that I have done every single one of theirs this year. It has been so good to get back to racing (and they ran some during 2020 as well!). Thank you to Bev, Morg and all of the volunteers and water safety crew for making the events possible.

Wiltshire Down Adventure

Tuesday, September 14th, 2021 | Sport

Adventure race number two! Like the Chilterns Adventure it is a sprint-based scorienterring event composed of trail running, mountain biking and kayaking. You have five hours to get around as many checkpoints as possible.

I started on foot and decided to tackle the checkpoints in the woods as they were clustered closer together, even though it would make for more challenging navigation. Things started well and I made it around the first few. The forest was beautiful.

After that, I missed a turning and had to retrace my steps before finding what I thought was R12. I was nowhere to be found. I spend like ten minutes looking for it but nothing. Worse still, the mud swallowed my feet.

By this point, I was fed up and cursing having driven all the way down to Wiltshire for a stupid race. It then occurred to me that I was probably hungry. I ate something and found the next checkpoint so I am not sure what made me feel better. In the end, it turned out I probably was in the correct place as multiple other athletes could not find it and someone said it was pretty well hidden.

After transition, I headed out on the mountain bike. Most of the race at Questars is getting to the kayak transition and back so I set off following the roads picking up four checkpoints on the way. It was made easier by a long descent. I made it to KT early despite having a little jog between the area where we leave our bikes and the kayaks themselves.

There were three checkpoints up the canal and two down. I made the strategic decision to turn around after getting the first two upstream ones to ensure I had enough time to get the downstream ones, too. In the end, I got back with 12 minutes to spare so maybe I could have collected them all. More importantly, I actually spotted them this time: last time I got all the way upstream without seeing any and had to pick them all up the way back.

Kayaking was still hard. My quads hurt a little less this time but my lower back really lock a hammering. My flexibility makes it difficult to reach forward with my upper body, which you need to do to take the work into your core muscles rather than your arms. I also kept catching my right thumb on the side of the boat which hurt like hell.

The KT transition team were lovely (all of the marshalls were) and one of them even recognised me from the Chilterns Adventure and remembered that that had been my first race!

On the way back, I had a choice to make. I could take the road route all the way back, miss any further checkpoints but not having to deal with any off-road cycling. Or I could go the off-road route and pick up some more. This was a battle: part of me said to challenge myself as I was doing this to push my boundaries. But another part said that I was here to have fun and it was okay to enjoy myself.

In the end, I compromised. I took the road route back up the big hill and then switched onto a byway. This started by going uphill through farmer’s fields with big gates I had to open and close. Most of it was grass and dirt track with big groves I wasn’t sure whether I should ride in or not. It ended with a fairly steep downhill covered in rubble. I hit a big rock on the way down and nearly came off. After that, I decided I had pushed my boundaries enough and it was now time to push the bike. But I managed o find some grass by the side that made it easier to descend and finished off the hill that way.

I picked up a final checkpoint before climbing back up to transition to finish the race with a couple of minutes to spare.

Canoeing at Leeds Dock

Sunday, September 12th, 2021 | Sport

Leeds Dock has been hosting some canoeing sessions and they’re a lot of fun. I struggle with kayaking because it does not suit my flexibility but being able to sit up makes it a lot easier. A single-sided paddle sounded annoying but it works really well and, for a novice, makes it easier to manoeuvre the craft if anything. Thank you to Chris for leading the sessions.

Camino de Santiago

Saturday, September 11th, 2021 | Sport

Last month, I polished off the Camino de Santiago virtual challenge. 774 kilometres of running over five months of running. I think I might just finish off my current Conqueror challenges for now and find something else to do. It has become a bit routine and they keep adding new ones, so completing them all is an impossible task.

Remote 5k world record

Wednesday, September 8th, 2021 | Sport

Like many of you, I took part in the “most people to run or walk a remote 5k in 24 hours” world record attempt on Saturday 4 September. And we were successful! I don’t think I will be describing myself as a “world record holder” but it was a fun challenge to be involved with.

Andover parkrun

Tuesday, September 7th, 2021 | Sport

Last weekend, we headed down to Wiltshire for a Questars race. However, as my start time was not until noon, we headed over for a cheeky parkrun in Andover. I successfully managed to take it easy (for my newfound speed, anyway) and took 26 minutes to get around. It’s a nice course: flat and reasonable scenic. Very well organised and marshalled, too. Thank you to all of the volunteers that made it a lovely experience.

Dalesman Triathlon

Thursday, August 26th, 2021 | Sport

My third and final full distance triathlon of the year. It was a little Déjà vu as I booked it last year as a replacement for Copenhagen but Dalesman was then cancelled too. I ended up re-booking this race a few weeks before when I again couldn’t get into Denmark. I went in with the intention of having some “fun” rather than to set a time.

I couldn’t find any accommodation in Ripon so I stayed at home and drove up in the morning, leaving the house just before 4 am. This made for a long day!

The swim

Two and a half laps of the lake in the middle of Ripon racecourse. There was a lot of plant life and reeds. Even more so than Outlaw as at least in Nottingham, you can swim away from them. But at least here the water was clearer than I have seen at any swim and so you could see what you kept grabbing handfuls of.

It all went well: only a few swimmers lapped me and those that did gave plenty of room. I was a little chilly towards the end. I did successfully do a wee while still swimming, though, which was a big timesaver compared to having to stop and tread water.

The bike

The bike was hilly. Almost 2,000 metres of climbing compared to 850 at the salt flats of Nottingham. To an extend that is just how Yorkshire is, although Newby Hall where the Yorkshireman is based is right next door and has a much flatter bike course. Garmin classified seven stretches as climbs, and it was a two-lap course, so 14 in total. Nothing too bad, though: we did go through the moors but they were all short and not too steep. Nothing compared to coming up Chevin Bank, for example.

I certainly felt the sting, though. It was my slowest average moving speed of any full distance. Even slower than my first ever, but thanks to fewer stops, I was still faster overall. My average power was slightly lower than Outlaw (149 Watts vs 157 Watts) but the normalised power was higher (184 Watts vs 172 Watts) showing the stop-start effort as went up and down the hills.

I spent a lot of the time on the bike thinking about my life choices. Every time I finish a long-distance race, I somehow forget how much it hurts. And then I find myself back in this situation. Other strategies for passing the time included singing along to some Billy Talent and re-writing Harry Potter as a Mary Sue fan fiction.

I ate more solid food than I planned. My gel flask had leaked and I could not find any on the first aid station so I was making do with energy bars, sweets and sports drinks. I felt sick pretty much the whole race but barely anything came up so I just kept putting more fuel in in some kind of dare game with my stomach.

The run

The sun came out for the run. It also rained. I was trying to take it easy but also aware that if I ran a 4:33 marathon I would go under 14 hours. This was appealing even though I deliberately came in with a few of having fun. I ran when I wanted to and walked when I needed to without focusing on the time.

I was planning to drink Mountain Fuel energy drink at each aid station but the only drink they had was water, so I went for a combination of water and mini sausage rolls. On lap two I grabbed my Lucozade from my special needs and then on lap three I pulled out my bidon filled with Red Bull. That first taste of caffeine was the highlight of the race. I gasped so audibly the woman in front of me turned around to see what was going on.

With the three big laps out of the way, the two smaller laps were easier. I decided to stop eating and hope my all-day fuelling would carry me through. I finally started feeling good (as good as you can 13 hours into a race) and gradually picked up the pace, running a 5:03 for my 42nd kilometre. The course finishes with a final “glory lap” around the transition and event village and I was all smiles. No slowing down, though, as I wanted that sub-14. I hit the finish straight with two minutes to spare and took a leisurely stroll across the line.

The result

I finished with:

13:58:21

Lovely to get under the 14 hour mark on a relatively hilly course. My splits were as follows:

Disipline Time
Swim 1:33:40
T1 18:51
Bike 7:24:42
T2 9:42
Run 4:31:26

After Outlaw, it was nice to get back to a transition that isn’t a kilometre long. Plus, my fastest full distance swim by several minutes.

The event

Organising a full distance triathlon is a huge task and can only be more difficult during a pandemic. So thank you to the TriHard team for putting it all together.

That said, there were niggles compared with IRONMAN, OBS or Freebird. Race information came out in a patchwork fashion and TriHard deflected emails: they asked us to wait until the final email promising answers, then sent a final email to say they didn’t have time to answer emails anymore. Water temperature was not checked in the morning. Transition did not open until 5:15, despite the race briefing being at 5:45. There was only one toilet in transition and I ended up queuing in T1. They had “Mountain Fuel” on the aid stations but this seemed to mean different things for the bike and run. Nor was it clear how many aid stations there would be. Multiple athletes got lost on the run.

None of this is a disaster and much of the event was flawless. And it certainly does not detract from the hard work that all of the volunteers put in, all of whom offered plenty of encouragement and were kind and supportive. Plus the photos were included!

Summary

Now that I am sitting on my sofa I am glad I did the race. But I am also looking forward to a little more relaxation and some shorter format races.

Evolve Quarter Triathlon 2021

Thursday, August 19th, 2021 | Sport

Last year, the Evolve Quarter Triathlon was my first of the year due to COVID cancelling or postponing everyone else. This year, it was race 14 in the 2021 WTS (Worfolk Triathlon Series). It’s so good to be racing again!

The swim

Mass starts are back. As mass starts have not been a thing for the past two years, this was the first swim that I was competitive enough to be in the pack on a mass start. It’s annoying. Bodies flying everywhere. An endless stream of athletes unable to sight. No serious incidents, though.

The bike

Pleased with this. Last year, I really struggled to stay down on my aero bars due to back pain that I was hoping I had eliminated with four months of daily stretching. I had not. But after twelve months of daily stretching, things are looking more hopeful.

Also, I was highly incentivised to stay on them as a tailwind helped us on the first half of the circuit and a headwind slowed us down on the second.

The run

Another happy performance. I wanted to take it easy on the run to save my legs for last week. And thanks to a solid bike split, I saw I had 59 minutes to run it in in under three hours. Even so, I took plenty of scalps and nobody overtook me.

The result

Nearly 13 minutes faster than last year and comfortable under three hours. The course was the same as last year: 1,000-metre swim, 47 km bike and 10 km run.

2:48:14

Here are my splits:

Disipline 2021 2020
Swim 25:39 26:27
T1 1:31 2:26
Bike 1:31:39 1:37:48
T2 2:02 3:38
Run 47:23 50:50
Total 2:48:14 3:01:09

The event was very well organised. There was no real queue to get in as all the volunteers kept the whole process moving with check-in, registration, parking, and checking of details and bikes all split into separate sections. We did have to wait until all of the half competitors finished the bike leg to retrieve our biles, but at least we could get our bags and car keys before then.

parkrun PB and Leeds Dock swimming

Wednesday, August 18th, 2021 | Sport

Last Saturday, Leeds Dock opened up for open water swimming. Jp, Graeme and I completed Woodhouse Moor parkrun then headed down for a dip.

As it was only my third parkrun back, and I have got a lot speedier since I ran a 22:06 in 2018. So, without meaning to but simply trying to keep JP in sight ahead of me, I ran a PB of 21:05. I think I could go faster as I was held up at the start, but I don’t want to pretend I wasn’t working hard!

I would sum up the swim at Leeds Dock as cold. But nice. I am dubious of their self-admitted guesses that it was 17 degrees. I would have guessed at 15-16 but could be mistaken. Once I was swimming, though, it wasn’t too bad. It was mostly the initial getting in and warming up as it was jumping in or use the ladder: no gentle bay area like you get at the Blue Lagoon.

They have a 240-metre loop and there were only a few other swimmers in the water so no traffic to navigate. The water was clean and weed-free. You couldn’t see the bottom but that’s true of basically everywhere I have swum.

Tokyo Olympics

Saturday, August 14th, 2021 | Sport

It’s not been my favourite Olympics but the Olympics is always good. Being on in the middle of the night, I kept accidentally seeing spoilers on social media or checking BBC news without thinking and that took a lot of the magic out of it. And the coverage was split between BBC and Eurosport.

However, I did stay up for the mixed team relay and that was amazing.