Archive for the ‘Sport’ Category

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.

Parkrun #148

Monday, April 2nd, 2018 | Sport

The weather did not invite running. It had rained overnight and it was still raining when I woke up. Worse, I felt terrible. I normally feel pretty poor on the way there, but this time I had to walk some of the way there. Even my watch agreed that my condition this morning was poor.

Still, I had set off early so that I could start right at the front and I didn’t want to waste it. As the other people around me discussed whether it was too muddy to attempt a sub-17 or not, and prepared their starting stance (one leg bent, leaning slightly forward) I thought I would at least sprint off with them and see how it went.

As it turns out, not many people did come rushing past me. Although, this could be due to the reduced number of people that had braved the weather. I kept my pace just within the limits needed to set a new PB (personal best) and a gruelling five kilometres later I crossed the line, punching the air.

As it turns out, I was way ahead. Although I was only 10 seconds per kilometre ahead of where I needed to be, because I start my GPS at home and keep it running until then, it didn’t factor in that I ran the first section and the last section of Parkrun way above this pace.

I hadn’t just beaten my previous PB of 24:36, I had crushed it. It now stood at:

23:08

It almost seems too good to be true. But, reexamining my Garmin data, and comparing it to what I’ve been doing in training, it seems to fit. Indeed, potentially I could go faster: I wasn’t feeling great (though you often aren’t when you set a PB) and I had my rain jacket on. Or maybe I can’t: we’ll find out soon!

Here’s an updated graph:

Next week I may or may not be able to do Parkrun depending on whether it clashes with the Bramley Baths triathlon, and the week after that I will have to go easy in preparation for Skipton. So, it might be a while before I get to run another fast one. We’ll see how it compares.

Canal Canter half marathon

Wednesday, March 28th, 2018 | Sport

On Saturday I ran the Leeds Liverpool Canal Canter, organised by It’s Grim Up North Running.

I’ve set some big fitness goals for 2018, including running a sub-2 hour half marathon. It was looking like I would smash this really early as the Sir Titus Trot took place on the first Saturday of January. 6 days in and I could nail one of my goals. But, alas, I injured my foot and had to miss the race.

This was my next opportunity. Things didn’t start well: there was a big queue for registration. I thought 45 minutes would be enough time to get registered and prepared for the start time, but it wasn’t. So, I came to the line flustered and having forgotten my energy gels.

Armed with nothing but a handful of jelly babies from the water station, I set off. The start reminded me of Parkrun: hundreds of people trying to fit down a narrow canal towpath. I felt sorry for the cyclists coming the other way. But, as the race drew on, everything thinned out.

Despite going off faster than in training I managed to maintain the pace the whole way. In the end, I clocked in at:

1:52:24

This is slightly below my watch’s time of 1:52:36. This knocks the socks off my time of 2:03:42 from last year’s Leeds half marathon. They are not directly comparable, though. The Leeds half is much hillier and takes place in May when the weather is a lot warmer. So, 11 minutes is a hefty chunk to take off, but I wouldn’t be running the Leeds half as quick as I ran this.

Regardless, though, it is a new PB, strikes off a big fitness goal for the year and means that I beat Eliud Kipchoge to the sub-2 hour mark. Sure, he’s doing the full marathon, but then he’s a professional marathon runner from Keyna and I’m a computer programmer from England, so in terms of how hard it was to beat the 2-hour mark, I think it’s similar (and I did it without cheating).

Post-race, there were was a huge selection of free cake to be had.

The custom medals are pretty cool, too.

York-Leeds-York sportive

Monday, March 19th, 2018 | Sport

Last week, I took part in the Velo 29 York-Leeds-York sportive.

The name suggests that you ride from York to Leeds and back to York. Which you do, if you do the longer routes. However, this only being my second sportive after the Festive Fifty, I decided to do the short route. At 65km, this was still the longest ride I had ever done, albeit be only five additional kilometres.

There was a long queue to get to the start, so, with Bogdan stuck at the back of a slow-moving queue, I set off on my own.

It rained the whole time. By the end of it, everything was soaked. I had to dry out the money inside my waterproof jacket. My waterproof shoe covers had given way and become saturated. I tried my best to maintain a “make the best of it” spirit, but even that got wet eventually.

Velo 29’s event management

I only have Sportive HQ’s event management to compare against, but they seemed a similar standard.

There was lots of parking at the venue and it was easy to find a spot at York Auction Mart. This also created a large indoor space to set off from. They said there would be changing facilities, though this turned out just to be a few toilets with a long queue.

Setting off took a long time: I think Bogdan was 15-20 minute behind me, even though I had been hanging around for a similar timeframe from the start of the race.

The feed station was good. They had sandwiches, pork pies and cakes, as well as energy gels. At the Festive Fifty, they just had drinks and bacon sandwiches. However, I did miss the warm sandwich this time. When we got back, we got a small sausage in a bun. The medal and the free 5-minute massage were a nice touch.

The event was chip timed and matched up well to the time on my watch.

The course itself was a bit surprising. It was predominantly on-road, but sometimes we were taken off-road. This wasn’t a problem on my cross bike, but I would have been quite annoyed if I had been on a road bike.

At times the route was confusing. They make a big thing about the amount of signage they put out and there is a lot. However, there was so much that sometimes it didn’t make it very obvious which signage we were supposed to be following and which was for people going the other way.

My performance

I finished in 3:03:12, including a 12 minute stop at the feed station. This gave me an average speed of 22.8kmph and an average moving speed of 23.4kmph.

I was the 62nd person back overall (in a field of 1,139) but that is meaningless because most people were doing the medium or long route and most people were there to have fun rather than race (including me). Fair play to the seven people who finished the medium route (97km) before I finished the short.

Here is a comparison between my first sportive and this one:

Metric York-Leeds-York Festivity Fifty
Distance 65.13km 49.61km
Moving time 2:48:29 2:14:28
Elevation 221m 146m
Average speed 23.2 kmph 22.1 kmph
Average power 89 W 91 W

I’m not sure how to interpret these figures. I think they’re not great: I did maintain a slightly faster average speed and over a longer distance. And there are some good reasons I might have been slower: the weather was awful, there were some off-road sections, it was a new longest ride, I ran a half marathon the day before and it’s possible that Strava overestimated my speed at the Festive Fifty.

However, there are a bunch of reasons to be disappointed. My estimated average power was lower and there was no massive headwind this time. More importantly, both are just slow. I’ve done a lot of work on the bike over the past four months and yet I’m still barely making the triathlon cut-off pace even on courses as flat as York.

Conclusion

Given how wet and cold it was, I don’t think I did “enjoy” it. However, it was good enough that I think it would be a lot of fun in the warm and dry, so I will be signing up for more when the weather gets warmer.

Six Nations 2018

Saturday, March 17th, 2018 | Sport

Seriously, we’re three of the five teams that compete in the Six Nations, how did Britain not win?

Spin class

Tuesday, March 6th, 2018 | Sport

Last week I went to my first spin class. I was a bit nervous about going as I worried I would be the only man in a room full of women, and that everyone else would have done a spin class before. It turns out that some fears are justified.

I didn’t really get what it was about. With a regular exercise class, it makes sense. There is an instructor there that tells you to do different things. But what can you do on a bike? Do they just sit at the front shouting “pedal faster”?

The answer to that question is basically yes.

Sometimes you pedal slowly in a high gear. Sometimes you pedal fast in a low gear. Sometimes you stand up and sometimes you sit down. Occasionally you alternate between the two which turns into some kind of press-ups on a bike. The instructor is also there to be a DJ, synchronising the instructions to the music.

I like it as a workout. It pushes you harder than you can push yourself. And there was another guy there. He turned up late and looked like he had only come to support his girlfriend, but technically he was there.