Archive for the ‘Sport’ Category

24.1 kilometres

Monday, August 6th, 2018 | Sport

Last month, I went out for a 24-kilometre run. Specifically, I went out for a 24.1-kilometre run, which meant I would set a new distance record by 0.1 of a kilometre.

It was the day the rains came after the long heatwave. I set off at 7:30am and given it was so early on a Saturday morning and raining heavily, you might think I would have the canal towpath to myself. But other endurance athletes are, of course, as crazy as I am.

The rain continued, including two brief but torrential downpours that left me soaked to the skin. Thankfully, I had lubed in the correct places to stop any chaffing and despite my ankles being a bit sore from driving in Finland, I felt fine in all respects after the run. My 162nd Parkrun featured in the middle of it.

The levels in the Leeds Liverpool canal were shockingly low. You can see some of it from the photo, but it’s not the clearest example. At some points, it was a good half a metre below the usual level.

I could clearly see the bottom for long stretches. No bodies, thank god. I did see several hundred tyres, though. They were every metre for a good hundred-metres. There were so many in there, I wondered whether they were put in there intentionally because it must have been a massive fly-tipping exercise to get them all in.

You can check it out on Strava here. And, while you’re there, why not follow me? Please be my friend, your kudos are the only thing that validates my ego…

Tour de France 2018

Tuesday, July 31st, 2018 | Life, Sport

It’s not been a strong start to the season for me. Sure, I knocked out my first metric tonne at the Flat n Fast 100, but at grand tour level, my performance has been lacking. My fantasy Giro team put up a mere 3,878 points compared to John’s 6,091. Despite me picking Froome and him taking Dumoulin.

Luckily, Le Tour has gone much better for me. I thought about taking Froome, but he consumed a huge amount of points. G, on the other hand, seemed rather undervalued given how good he is. Turns out that that was a good decision.

Armed with G and Dan Martin on GC, Kittel and Sagan in the sprints, and Gilbert, De Gendt and Barguil in the mountain break-aways, I set forth. Chad Haga and Wout Poels rounded off the team. In the end, it clocked in at 6,899 points, most of which coming from Thomas and Sagan.

And the racing was pretty good, too. Great to see a Welshman on the top step!

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

2018 World Cup in review

Friday, July 27th, 2018 | Sport

I enjoyed this year’s World Cup. It all flew by so fast, though.

Almost as soon as it has begun it seems like the three games a day awesomeness is cutting down to two. It’s not like I could watch three games a day with university, work and family commitments, but it was nice to know I could in theory.

England didn’t win, and that was disappointing. But at least they went out the correct way. Whenever England score, I always bet on the other team to offset the potential disappointment of fluffing it up. Thus, when Croatia did manage to overturn England’s lead, although I was heartbroken I was also at least in profit.

Football will come home. It was originally invented in England under the name “foot waff”. But, admittedly, it is not coming home for at least another two years.

France were worthy winners. They played a lot of great football and it was entertaining to watch.

Allerthorpe Sprint Triathlon

Tuesday, July 10th, 2018 | Sport

Allerthorpe is a village about ten miles outside of York. They are hosting a series of triathlon over the summer, including this one, the Allerthorpe Sprint.

The swim wasn’t great. Few venues have the luxury of the beautiful clear waters of the Blue Lagoon or the size of Waterloo Lake. In this case, the lake was small, requiring two laps for the 750-metre swim, murky and shallow: you could walk a large amount of the swim.

T1 wasn’t smooth, either. I got everything done and then realised that I hadn’t vaselined my toes, so I had to take my shoes and socks back off, do some toe care and then put everything back on.

Once on the bike, things started looking up, though. I was really pleased with my average speed of 28.6 kph that I set at the Evolve Quarter and at the start of the bike section here I thought to myself “if I keep training hard, I’ll hit 30 kph eventually”. As it happens, I did just that. Faster even, as I managed 31 kph.

T2 and the run were smooth, also. I was about 25 minutes in the run, which clocked in at a little over 5km, so I’m happy with that given the heat.

In the end, my time was:

1:30:17

My spreadsheet predicted I would be around 1:33:11, so I was pleased to be ahead of that. But it was disappointing that if I hadn’t made the mistake in T1 I would have gone sub-90.

I am happy enough with Allerthorpe as a venue, too. Which is good news because I am back racing there at the start of August and again at the start of September.

Evolve Quarter Triathlon

Thursday, June 28th, 2018 | Sport

Last week I was back in Womersely for the Evolve Quarter Triathlon. It’s described as a quarter, rather than a standard/Olympic distance because it’s based on a quarter of a full distance: that means 1,000 metres, 45 km bike and 10.5 km run.

The Blue Lagoon is a beautiful place to swim and made a great venue for the sprint race last month. Due to the warm weather, the water temperature was up to 23 degrees by the start of the race. At this temperature, it’s technically wetsuits banned according to British triathlon rules.

It was a mass start from deep water. As we set off, the entire field swam away from me. One other competitor soon slowed down, though, and I was able to overtake them and come out second-to-last out of the swim.

As we hit the bike, I stayed ahead for 15km before moving to the back of the race. But it wasn’t to last long as I passed two people, and later a further three. Overall, the bike went fantastic. I finished in under 1:35, with an average speed of 28.6 kph. This smashes my previous best pace of 27 kph at Wetherby Triathlon.

The roads were mostly quiet, with a few busy stretches. No stops required, and the road quality was consistently good. The maintenance engineers on the level crossing very kindly agreed to set up the traffic lights to allow the racers to come through without stopping.

Then came the run, though. After two hours of racing, it was 1:30pm in the afternoon, the sun was at its height, and a complete lack of breeze provided no wind chill from the 25-degree heat.

Despite applying suncream as I ran, my first kilometre was the fastest. After that, the heat got too intense and I was forced to drop the pace. As went on, I got slower and slower. Time and time again I was convinced that I needed to stop and walk. And time and time again I somehow found the strength to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

I made it to the aid station at 6 km and stopped to down two glasses of water and some energy drink. Off again I went, burping with the amount of liquid I had just consumed. Two kilometres later and a race support car offered me an orange juice, and I downed that, too.

In the end, my run split was 55 minutes. 7 minutes slower than normal. However, I passed the fast biker and three other people on the run, and, it turned out, someone who got lost, too. And even the guy who won said he was 9 minutes slower than normal and had to stop at the aid station, too.

In the end, I finished 20th out of 30, with a time of:

2:57:40

I was chuffed to be under three hours. Although it is a little different from standard distance, it seems comparable.

After the race, we cooled off in the shallows of the lagoon beach. Evolve events are awesome. Really friendly, a great team of marshalls and a beautiful location to race in. Not to be missed!

Why do video assistant referees wear full uniform?

Wednesday, June 27th, 2018 | Sport, Thoughts

If you’ve been watching the World Cup, you may well have seen inside FIFA’s VAR (video assistance referee) control centre. Here a team of officials sit watching computer monitors so that they can double-check the on-pitch referee’s decisions in case they have missed something obvious.

You may have also noticed they are wearing full referee’s kit.

Why? You could argue that as they are set in a control centre in Moscow, sometimes 1,000 kilometres away from where the game is happening, there is little need for a dress code. Or, at least, little need for one that stipulates the traditional outfit of a referee.

But here are two reasons why it is better to wear the kit.

First, it puts them in the right frame of mind. Refereeing is a difficult job. You have to be impartial and fair. You have to make decisions that are difficult: did he use his arm to his advantage or was it a genuine accident that the ball struck him there? Is that fair wrestling for the ball or a foul? These are grey areas that often have no obvious correct answer.

In sport psychology, we talk about getting in the right mindset. When you are doing mental imagery/visualisation exercises, for example, the best thing to do is get the athlete to put their kit on and go to the field where they will play. It makes it more real.

If you want to make a VAR feel like they are on the pitch, making real game decisions, which they are, stipulating that they wear their usual refereeing kit is a great place to start.

Second, it gives them legitimacy. Systems like VAR are always going to get criticised for the mistakes they make and ignored for the many times they get things correct. It is easy for fans to look at them as bureaucrats tucked away in a tiny box, thousands of miles away from the action, and vilify them for any decisions they don’t like.

This concern is why they replay the footage that the VAR officials are watching and the superimposed lines showing how they make decisions about whether someone is offside or not.

Similarly, by putting the officials in full kit, it shows the fans that these are real referees doing a legitimate refereeing job. Thus, it makes it easier for fans to accept adverse decisions.

Rothwell Parkrun

Monday, June 25th, 2018 | Sport

Last Saturday, I headed over to Rothwell for the Parkrun. It’s been running since last summer, making it the baby of the Leeds Parkruns. Or at least it was until Middleton Woods launched in April. And another launching soon. But who’s counting?

I had a triathlon the day after so I decided to drive to one rather than run there. Given I was already in the car, driving somewhere else for a change of scenery is my prefered option. And, a hadn’t done Rothwell, it seemed like an excellent choice.

I liked it. First, it’s flat. One slight hill, probably a smaller rise than Woodhouse Moor. If that is the case, that would make it the flattest Parkrun in Leeds which are, on the whole, all on hills.

Second, a lot of it is on grass. Not great for speed, arguably, and not so nice in the wet. But kinder on the body.

Third, it is fairly small. 188 runners in the field on the day I did it. At Woodhouse Moor, which regularly attracts 400-500 people, even running a sub-24 is unlikely to put you in the top 100. At Rothwell, my 23:28 gave me a position of 27th, and second in my age category of male 30-34.

The only thing that didn’t go too well was the pace. I was aiming for 24-25 minutes so that it would be a nice easy run. Something I nailed in Skipton. But I got a bit carried away in the final kilometre and sped up.

The other issue with Rothwell is there is limited parking. But given there seems to be a huge amount of on-street parking all around the park, it doesn’t seem like the big issue that the website made it out to be.

World Triathlon Leeds elite races

Saturday, June 23rd, 2018 | Sport

Long after us age groupers had packed up and gone home, they gave the elite racers a chance to race the same course at World Triathlon Leeds.

It’s a very spectator friendly course in Leeds because they make them do seven loops of the course on the bikes and then four loops of the same course on the run. So, if you can get a good spot, you can see everyone come past eleven times.

Many people opted to view from The Headrow where they could enjoy the sunshine while watching the race. We’re from Yorkshire and Finland, and we have a Yorkshire-Finn baby, so we chose Greek Street, which was firmly in the shade for the entire day.

The barriers they put up are brilliant. I wish they were there all of the time. We could let Venla run around as much as she wanted without fear that she would run out into the middle of the road and get knocked over by a car (or in this case a bike, or a runner).

It was awesome to see Vicky Holland and Georgia Taylor-Brown take a one-two for Team GB. Not quite as perfect as if Jessica Learmonth had won it, given she is the local girl, but still a superb result.

In the men’s race, both Tom Bishop and Marc Austin ran awesome races. Bishop came home in 6th, which I think is his best ever result in ITU.

Unfortunately, Johnnie Brownlee had to pull out with stomach issues. In fact, a lot of athletes who had swum in the River Trent in Nottingham on Thursday had the same thing. It struck a chord with me because I assumed I had food poisoning last month. But it was only a day or two after I had done Wetherby Triathlon in the River Aire.

World Triathlon Leeds

Friday, June 22nd, 2018 | Sport

Back in November last year I was wondering whether multisport might be for me. So, I took part in the inaugural GO TRI Temple Newsam duathlon and decided it was fun enough to register for the World Triathlon Series event that was taking place in Leeds next summer.

Since then, I’ve been busy. I’ve done a bunch of GO TRI events, Skipton, Evolve and Wetherby triathlon, so I had already hit my goal of completing an Olympic distance triathlon. But it was gratifying to reach the race I had targetted for almost a year.

With it being an ITU World Series event, it was big. There was 2,000 of us doing the standard distance alone, plus many more people doing the sprint distance and GO TRI events that ran the day before. So big, in fact, that we had to go check out bikes into transition the day before the race.

You also had the chance to do a familiarisation swim on Saturday while checking your bike in. This was fairly relaxed: there were no rules, you could swim wherever you liked. I did two laps of the 750m course.

On the day itself there was mist on the lake, so they cut the men’s age group swim to a single lap of 750 metres. This was a little disappointing as I was ready for the full thing. But did mean that I only got caught by one of the waves setting off after me, which were spaced five minutes apart. So, at least I didn’t have a bunch of people swimming over me. The mist cleared up soon after and the women, who set off an hour later, got to do the full distance.

Tragedy struck at transition one, though I didn’t know it at the time. My timing chip bracelet fell off my ankle, so I don’t have an official time after crossing the swim exit map.

The bike went well. I managed to maintain an average speed of 26.5 kph. This is slightly slower than the 27 kph I averaged at Wetherby, but I am more than happy with that because Wetherby was flat. In contrast, I thought the drag up Stonegate Road would slow me down a lot.

Nobody was laughing at my low-geared cross bike as we hit the 8% section. Nobody laughed at any point; everyone was very friendly. Even the officials in transition were firm but fair when someone unracked their bike without their helmet on. No DQ, but he had to take his bike back, re-rack it, put his helmet on and start again.

I saw two or three mountain bikes on the course, so I wasn’t the only person there without a £5,000 tri bike.

I felt pretty crab when starting the run and I was glad that I had an additional gel flask to take with me. More aid stations on the run would have been nicer. The city centre run was cool: not huge crowds, but enough people cheering that it gave you a bit of a boost. Including Julie & Tim.

Thanks to the shortened swim, I made it home in:

2:43:00

This was comparable to Wetherby. 20 minutes faster, but then I saved 20 minutes on the shorter swim. The bike was also 4km shorter, but it was hillier and there was about a kilometre of running inside transition that added quite a lot of time.

More importantly, I finished more than seven hours before the so-called “winner” of the men’s race, Richard Murray. Sure, the elite race had a later start time, but in my defence, I did ask if I could switch to the elite race so that I wouldn’t have to get up so early.

Flat n Fast 100

Wednesday, June 6th, 2018 | Sport

Last week, I completed the Flat n Fast sportive in Thorne, South Yorkshire. As you may guess from the name, it is about completely a century in either kilometres or miles. I went for the slightly easier route, which totalled to 106km.

It was the farthest ride I’ve ever done. That said, it really is flat. There were less than 250 metres of climbing over the entire distance. Compare that to the more than 1,300 metres in my 90km Tour de Yorkshire ride. So, by comparison, this one should have been slightly easier.

I felt good for most of it, although the constant rain did gradually sock my feet. By the last 10-15km I was starting to feel the fatigue and that is the point we ran into a headwind. Luckily, I was riding with Bogdan so we could take it in turns to sit on the front.

The event organisation was so-so. It was well organised in terms they had a venue, signposts and marshalls. But the route was a bit rubbish. There were lots of industrial estates and busy roads. Maybe it is difficult to avoid them if you want flat ground but it doesn’t match up to the quiet roads and country views of previous events. There was one feed stop and one “tea, coffee and biscuits” stop. There was a big queue to get started, but that seems to be the case at all sportives.

Plus, two local residents had a go at me for being there. Apparently, they don’t like the event. “You can shove that bike race up your arse; waking us up at this time in the morning” one woman yelled. Because what human being is up at 8am on a Saturday morning?

Overall, I enjoyed the event. Sportive HQ make their events pretty affordable.