Archive for the ‘Sport’ Category

How many tags do you need?

Wednesday, May 16th, 2018 | Sport

If you’re sick of hearing about the Tour de Yorkshire by this point, don’t worry, this is my last post on the subject. Whenever you do a sportive, the organisers give you some tags to put on you or your bike. But, in the case of TdY, it seems they need to go everywhere.

Here is the first one. It goes on the front of your helmet.

Here is the second one. This one is a timing chip that goes on the side of your helmet.

Number three, this one goes on the front of your bike.

Number four, this one goes on the back of your bike. It is not very well designed as it is almost impossible to fit a saddle bag, reflector and tag on your seat post.

And finally, the race number that goes on the back of your jersey.

Surely there must be a simpler way to do this? It took me nearly five hours to complete the sportive and about the same amount of time to get all of the tags off.

Tour de Yorkshire 2018 pro finish

Sunday, May 13th, 2018 | Photos, Sport

After finishing the sportive, we went down to watch the pro men’s race finish.

The first man through was St├ęphane Rossetto who went on to take the stage win. This was on Burley Road, a few hundred metres from the finish. The chasing pack weren’t too far behind.

Tour de Yorkshire

Friday, May 11th, 2018 | Sport

Last week, I completed the Tour de Yorkshire sportive. The medium route, 84km (90km once I had ridden door-to-door) was not only the longest ride I had ever done, by some 10km, but also included a fierce 1,200 metres of climbing.

It started up at Woodhouse Moor, where they had a small event village and meeting point. Due to the number of people that took part, there was a long queue to get started. It took about 30 minutes from joining the back of it to getting on the road.

Once at the front, we were off. The route took us along Meanwood Road up and up to the ring road, where we crossed and headed up towards Eccup and then on towards Harrogate. We climbed through North Rigton and the rolling road towards Beckwithshaw where the first feed station was located.

It was a pretty crap feed station. There was around a 40-minute queue for water, and the food available consisted of crips, bananas and Jaffa cakes. Certainly not up to the standard of other sportives.

Back on the road, we turned west on Penny Pot Lane and then north again to Menwith Hill before starting the journey homeward via Blubberhouses. The scenery up there is spectacular. Once you get on top of the moors, you can see for miles.

The hills

The road between Blubberhouses and Otley is a hilly one. By this point, the long route had re-joined us and so the road was filled with medium and long route people. Even though these were all cyclists that had chosen a harder option than the short route, people began struggling. Many people got off and pushed their bike up Snowden Bank.

I miscalculated the road we were coming out of Otley on. For some reason, I had gotten it into my head that we were taking the main road. It had Tour de Yorkshire signs all over it, after all. But we didn’t. We went straight out of the back of Otley and up Chevin Bank. 1750 metres at an average gradient of 9.4%. It just kept coming.

And, after all of that, we then went straight back down the hill to Pool in Wharfedale where the second feed stop was located. This one was better, with sausage rolls, pork pies and jelly babies. And, more importantly, reasonable access to water.

The final stretch included another tough climb: Black Hill Road into Arthington. This one was only 1500 metres at an average gradient of 7.2%. But that is deceptive because it starts off shallow and them ramps up the higher you go. The 90-degree bend half way up is rated at an eye-watering 19%. This was probably the hardest climb of the day, although I suspect that was because I already had Chevin Bank in my legs.

The finish

Finishing on The Headrow was amazing. I had enough in my legs to open up my sprint. Maybe I should have savoured the moment, but it felt great to pretend to be a pro racing for the line. Unlike the big runs in Leeds, there weren’t that many people finishing. So, when I raised my arm in victory and everyone cheered, there was a cause and effect thing going on. Thank you to everyone who cheered us home!

Results

My official time clocked in at:

4:42:54

That’s nearly 12 hours ahead of the so-called winner Greg Van Avermaet. Some would argue that doing the medium route of a one-day sportive is a lot easier than the four days of substantially longer routes that the pros did. But he had teammates and a peloton to protect him, I did it all on my own.

My average moving speed was 19.5 kph, although that is door-to-door, not just the sportive. It’s pretty slow compared to the 23.4 kph I managed in York-Leeds-York (and any objective measure), but it was very hilly.

Conclusion

I think the Tour de Yorkshire is my favourite sportive so far. In part, its a number game. They claimed to have 5,000 riders taking part. It certainly was busy and it’s nice to ride with other people. A common problem with sportives is that, even if you have 500 people, when you spread them out over 100km, there are not many of them around. It gets lonley. Here there was none of that. The feed stations were poor, but the finish was excellent. And the scenery was beautiful.

Parkrun #153

Wednesday, May 9th, 2018 | Sport

The weather has warmed up. Why did I ask for this again? I hate the warmth. This was a terrible idea.

Fresh from Middleton Woods Parkrun last week, I was determined to run a fast one this week. And luck was on my side. The first Saturday of the month is a pacer month. This month included only three pacers but one of them was perfect for me: the 23-minute man.

In April, I took a minute and a half off my PB but even then, I knew I could go faster. So, I set out following the pacer to see how long I could hold on for.

It turns out the answer was about 2.5 km. Halfway through the second lap, I started to lose touch with him as my legs just wouldn’t keep up the speed. I slowly slipped behind, maybe 5-10 seconds over the next lap. This doesn’t sound like a huge gap now, but it felt like one at the time. I knew if I could just keep him in sight by the 4km mark, I stood a chance.

Once we hit that point I got a second wind and slowly started reeling him in down the back straight. It took the top of the park, too, but as we rounded the final corner onto the finish straight I went around him on the outside.

No sprint finish, just a desperate battle to keep the pace and stay ahead of him. I doubled-over just after the finish line and the volunteers had to shepherd me along to get me out of the way of other runners. But I had done enough.

My new PB was:

22:39

This time, I don’t think I can run any faster. I’ve set a Parkrun PB that reflects the best performance I can give right now. I’m pleased with it. It gives me an age grading of 57%, which still leaves me 3% adrift of my Dad’s best effort.

Here’s an updated graph:

I only remembered to take the obligatory selfie after I had set off running home, hence why it looks so bad.

Open water swimming

Friday, May 4th, 2018 | Sport

In Finland, open water swimming is straightforward: you get drunk and then at midnight, jump in the nearest lake. Some swim, some don’t. But that’s just nature’s way; it’s survival of the fittest. Over in Britain, it seems a little different.

I wanted to get some open water practice in before the triathlon season gets any further. So, I booked into the Blue Lagooners down near Pontefract. Here’s me trying on my wetsuit beforehand.

It was cold. Very, very cold. But not as bad as I imagined. The wetsuit does a great job of keeping you warm. It was only my hands and feet that were frozen. This made for quite a challenge when it came time to get out, as trying to get a wetsuit off is difficult at the best of times, but even harder when your hands are numb.

The venue is nice. They have a 250 metre and a 500-metre course. The changing rooms are just huts on the lakeside. The staff are friendly and provided a lot of useful information on getting the most from the session.

I managed 1,500 metres in the end. Although, for some reason, my Garmin recorded it as 44 metres. I’m looking forward to future events and, more importantly, to the lake warming up a little more.

First 80km ride

Thursday, May 3rd, 2018 | Sport

With the Tour De Yorkshire just days away, I set out to complete my first 80km ride. Not only would this be my longest ride yet but it would also involve even more hills than usual. So, the last thing I needed was problems with my gears.

Unfortunately, that’s what I got. I’ve been having problems with my gears for a while and, despite getting it “fixed” by Evans, it hasn’t got any better. In fact, it’s got worse. I couldn’t use first gear at all. So, I had to complete the 1,000 metres of climbing in second or higher.

But while it did slow me down, it didn’t stop me. I headed up through Otley all the way to Blubberhouses, taking in climbs of up to 14%, before heading east to Harrogate and back down to Leeds.

My legs were gone by the end of it. Finishing my ride down the canal towpath I struggled to hold 15 mph on the flat.

Nevertheless, job done. It wasn’t quite a replication of next week: it was 80km rather than 86km, and, more importantly, it was 1,000 metres of climbing rather than 1,200. Still, I feel like I can go into the sportive with a lot more confidence than I had before.

Britain is doing really well at ice hockey right now

Tuesday, May 1st, 2018 | Sport

Britain, with its notoriously mild climate, is not a place that you often associated with ice hockey. And you would be right. We’re not great at ice hockey. Leeds doesn’t even have an ice hockey rink. But you might be surprised how well we’re doing.

We actually have a good pedigree at ice hockey. We’re one of only eight countries to have won the world championship, although it has been a while since of more recent, and indeed only, victory in 1936.

More recently, we’ve been out of the top division of world ice hockey. We haven’t been there since 1993, where we came up from the third division (confusing called 1B) in two successive years.

This changed last year when we went unbeaten, dominating famous hockey nations such as Japan and Netherlands.

Things looked a little tougher this year as we entered division 1A. But not so. We kicked off the tournament by beating Slovenia 3-1. We then took a 6-1 drubbing by Kazakhstan, before beating Poland 5-3 and Italy 4-3. Some of these teams are countries that actually care about ice hockey.

Going into the final game, it looked like three teams would end on equal points, and we would miss out on promotion being the third team. Hungary was winning 2-1. The campaign seemed to be all but over.

Then, with just 15 seconds to go, a nightmare for the hosts as Robert Farmer found the back of the net to bring things level.

After a tense overtime period, it fell down to a penalty shoot-out. Three fantastic saves by GB goalkeeper Ben Bowns left Hungary on the losing side of a 3-2 scoreline to skyrocket Britain to the top of the table.

Britain was going up!

Next year we’ll be playing in the championship division against the big four (Russia, Canada, Finland, Sweden) and many other excellent ice hockey teams from around the world. How will we do? Probably not too well. But at least we will be there: punching way above our weight.

Coverage in the UK

Say you did want to follow the ice hockey world championships. How would one do it?

Well, in the UK, the answer is you can’t. The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) offers a free video stream of all the games. But the UK is blocked from this because Premier Sports owns the rights. But they don’t show the games. They don’t even show all of the championship games. It is most frustrating.

The best we get is to sit and watch the IIHF ticker.

No wonder nobody cares about ice hockey in the UK.

Middleton Woods parkrun

Monday, April 30th, 2018 | Sport

On Saturday, I went over to Middleton Woods for their first ever Parkrun. It’s the 6th Parkrun in Leeds, joining Woodhouse Moor, Cross Flatts, Bramley, Temple Newsam and Roundhay.

The course is fun: hilly but it feels like there is more down than up. It’s a loop so I’m not sure how they have done that. Some of it is on “trail” but it’s pretty dry trail, so not something you would ever wear trail shoes for. It starts nears the bike hub cafe and goes down to the visitor’s centre and back.

162 of us turned up, of which I finished 31st. My gender position was 30. My warm-up was a little more challenging: I didn’t really know where I was going so I ended up coming back across the old golf course which was a bog. My feet were soaked before I even set off on the official run.

Skipton Triathlon

Wednesday, April 18th, 2018 | Sport

Skipton triathlon is often considered the first triathlon of the season and claims to be the UK’s largest pool-based triathlon with around 900 people registering to take part. For me, it represented my first professional distance event: I’ve done a lot of mini triathlons but this was my first chance to get my teeth into an hour-plus race.

I arrived two hours early to give myself plenty of time to faff around and get comfortable. The car park is Skipton auction mart, where we make our annual pilgrimage to Yarndale. It feels like the only bit of Skipton I ever get to see.

Despite all of my preparation, I made some silly mistakes. Foremost of them was leaving my goggles hanging on my handlebars: something I only realised once I was sitting at the poolside ready to go. I also forgot to vaseline all of the key areas and managed to misplace my energy gels. However, none of this was fatal to my race and I finished ahead of my target window of 1:45 to 2 hours.

1:34:02

This breaks down to 9:36 for the 400m the swim, 5:46 in T1, 53:05 for the 22km bike, 1:56 in T2 and 23:40 on the 5km run.

I’m pretty happy with all of that. 9:36 in the swim suggests I should swim without my goggles the whole time: perhaps some improvement is needed in my technique. 5:46 in T1 is a long time. But it didn’t feel like I was messing about: it just takes time to get your shoes and socks on, and I would rather take care of my toes than shave a few seconds off.

53:05 on the bike represents an average moving speed of 25.6 km/h. This certainly isn’t the 40 km/h the pros race at but given I often struggle to hold 21-22, I’m happy with the result. I was expecting the course to be hillier than it was as the GPS said 240m of climbing but it was actually only half that. 23:40 is only 32 seconds slower than my Parkrun PB, so no problems with the run.

For comparison, the winner finished in 57:26, so 36:36 quicker than me. I was 368th out of a total field of 759 that made it to the end. The lantern rouge finished in 3:35:13.

The event was very well organised. At every point there was an army of volunteers helping out with registration, poolside, checking people in and out of transition and marking the route. The event starts at 8:00am and the last person doesn’t finish until around 4:30pm, so the volunteers do an amazing job.

Bramley Baths triathlon

Thursday, April 12th, 2018 | Sport

Last weekend, I headed back to Bramley Baths for another Go Tri event. The first was an indoor triathlon that took place in February. This one was a more traditional affair with the bike and the run outdoors.

The distances were a 230m swim, 5km bike and 1.5km run.

We set off in waves three minutes apart. I was in the third wave. The swim went well. I was 5:30 despite getting stuck behind someone else, which suggests I should easily be able to hit the 11:00 minute target at sprint distance.

The first transition took two minutes. Seems okay given I had to dry my feet and get my shoes and socks off. But now all of my stuff is covered in talc.

The bike was a mixed bag. I forgot to stop my watch until I had racked my bike, so although my average speed is 21.1 kmph, I think it was actually more like 23 if I had recorded it properly. In general, it feels like I overtook a lot more people than caught me.

The run was good. I was 4:25 per kilometre, which is a faster pace than my Parkrun PB. I overtook two people with no places conceded.

The results

I finished the race with a total time of:

27:53

Which translated to 8th out of a field of 31. The winning time was 23:45, with the first female home at 28:46 and the last person home at 51:48.

The event

Bramley Baths did an excellent job of organising everything. There were loads of volunteers including people lane counting in the pools, managing and helping out in transition and marshalling the bike and run courses.