Chris Worfolk's Blog


Avondale Forest parkrun

September 26th, 2022 | Sport

Avondale Forest is a park in County Wicklow. It is about a 20-minute drive from Ashford if you find yourself in Ashford. The course features two loops but a single lap with a slight repeat in the middle, so mostly you are running around terrain you haven’t been on before. It’s all off-road using the gravel paths. There are some hills but none of them are overly steep or long.

Corkagh parkrun

September 19th, 2022 | Sport

Corkagh is a park located in the west of Dublin. It’s a good size and the course is two loops of opposite sides so you run back up the straight you ran down initially but beyond that, there are no loops. There are frees, fields and ponds to run past so it’s all very nice.

I’m still feeling under the weather and running in my easy-pace shoes, so I was pretty happy with 22:11.

Mod Security converts PUT requests to GET requests

September 18th, 2022 | Tech

Recently, I was on an admin system on one of my websites and noticed that some of the AJAX requests had stopped working. They worked for fetching data, and creating it, but I could not update to delete anything. I tried another website. It happened there, too.

Initially, Slim was telling me it was a 405 Method Now Allowed. But I could see I was sending a PUT and the exception said it must be of type PUT. Very weird. In the end, I decided to output the $_SERVER[‘REQUEST_METHOD’] to see what was going on. It said it was a GET request.

I pulled up Paw, my desktop request client, and manually sent a PUT request to a file I had created to print the request method. It too said GET. By this point then, I knew that it probably Apache converting the request from a PUT to a GET. Or more likely that I was sending a PUT but it was returning a 403 Forbidden as a GET request for some reason.

The answer eventually came in the form of Mod Security. It uses something called OWASP ModSecurity 2.9 Core Rule Set v3.3.2 which allows GET and POST requests but denies PUT and DELETE requests. I am not sure why this is as they are legitimate verbs to be using, but when I altered this to allow PUT requests, everything started working fine again.

Ullswater SUPBIKERUN

September 17th, 2022 | Sport

SUPBIKERUN is a multisport event that includes stand-up paddleboarding, cycling and running. Their final event of the year takes place in Ullswater in The Lake District and it was to be my first SUPBIKERUN event.

They have a standard (3k, 20k, 5k) and a long (6k, 40k, 9k) version. Despite never having been on a paddleboard before, I signed up for the long version because I didn’t want to drive all of the way to the Lake District to only run 5k. The event had historically involved mountain biking but this year they added a road bike version as well, which is what I signed up for.

Saturday

The event is designed as a weekend where you can sign up for a beginner tutorial session, a masterclass or a SUP yoga session. This is all included in the ticket price. Unfortunately, I didn’t realise that the classes would sell out so I didn’t book my place in time to get to do any SUPing on Saturday.

Sunday

Race day. It is a very relaxed event: your transition times are not included in your result, for example. This was carried through into the race itself. There were 8am, 9am and 10am start times but you could turn up pretty much whenever and wander down to the lake to get started. Officially, there was going to be race briefing 10 minutes before the start but this never happened.

Transition was just in a field with no fencing and no security. Nothing went missing but it was a very different atmosphere to triathlon where there is one entry/exit point from transition and they check your wristband coming both ways for bike security.

I thought I was the only Harrier in attendance so it was lovely to run into Charlotte who was also setting up in transition. She ended up finishing over an hour ahead of me but in my defense, I was doing the long course.

SUP

There was a short briefing down at the lakeside about the SUP course. It was a straightforward affair: two buoys spaced 1,500 metres apart and you did one or two laps of them depending on your distance. If you have your own board, you can get started whenever you are ready. Those of us hiring boards queued up to receive one. This was somewhat pot luck as these reuse other competitor’s boards (with their prior consent).

Once I was on the water I was up and away. You start near Pooley Bridge at the north end of Ullswater and have a very scenic view heading south on the lake. The view looking back towards Pooley Bridge is less dramatic but still nice enough.

On the second lap, a ferry went passed at the other side of the lake creating some bow waves. These move really slowly so you can see the coming doom approaching you for several minutes. They then hang around for ages as they bounce of the shoreline and come back. I dropped to my knees while these passed and then got back to standing. The wind picked up a little just before the turnaround point but the crop wasn’t big enough to cause any problems.

There was no mandatory safety kit for the paddle. Some people wore personal flotation devices (PFDs) but there was none available if you were hiring a board and it was too warm to wear a wetsuit. This did not bother me because you lease yourself to the board. But if you are new to SUP or take safety more seriously, it might be a bit disconcerting.

Bike

The bike course could perhaps have done with better signage.

It leaves the transition area and procedures through Pooley Bridge and around part of Ullswater before heading in-land into the hills. As I road out, I saw other competitors coming back the other way. After completing the hills I descended back onto the road, where there were no signs, so just followed the road back to transition.

At transition, there were no turnaround signs for lap two so I headed down as far as the timing mat to see if one appeared. It did not. And I was only at 16k by this point. I turned around and re-traced my steps, this time looking to see if I had missed any signs but again, I didn’t see anything and found myself back on the same road doing another 16k lap.

Looking at the route after, there was a turning somewhere so I should have taken which would have made the lap distance up to 20k. And this explained why the feed station was missing. However, judging by the number of competitors I saw coming the other way (there were only 20 of us doing the long road course), most athletes missed the turning and did the same thing I did.

As for the turnaround point, I saw something on the opposite side for the mountain bikes who came in for the opposite direction but which would not have been seen from the road bike direction. So, this could have been it. But it was just in the middle of the road, so did we just do a cheeky U-turn? Perhaps this would have been explained in the race briefing if there had been one.

Aside from the problems with finding the route, it was a lovely course. You got some good views of the lake and the climbs were relatively short. They did get steep in parts, with the toughest gradient going up to 16%, but it wasn’t there for long.

Run

The run takes you up Arthur’s Pike. Half way up for the standard distance or all the way up for those of us on he long course. The first 2km is straight up the hill. It then levels off a little and moves at a slightly more gentle gradient going diagonally up. But either way, the first 5k just goes up and up and up. I ran some of it and power-iked the rest, which was still fast enough to gain a lot of places.

The views from the top were spectacular, taking in Ullswater, Pooley Bridge and well beyond. It is then followed by a 4km descent back down to the finish line.

Depite the glorious sunshine, the recent rain made the course boggy. I didn’t come back covered in mud PECO-style but there was enough water that my feet were soaked. The descent was relatively untechnical, though. It was trail but I was never worried about sliding or losing my footing.

Finish

Despite the tiring climb, I felt good once I was back on the flat as even the fairly simple trail on the descent meant I wasn’t working at 100% of my cardio capacity. Elina and Venla arrived just in time for a high-five as I crossed the finish line.

My overall time was:

3:58:23

But meaningless given I missed 8km of the bike course. Transition times are not included in the time we are given hence my “result” time and “overall” times are different.

Discipline Time
SUP 1:16:21
T1 6:55
Bike 1:29:03
T2 7:12
Run 1:13:00
Overall 4:12:29

I had the slowest SUP time of anyone in the long course (road or mountain bike). It’s like swimming: everyone just seems to effortlessly move much faster than me. My bike time was pretty competitive but would have been much slower if I had done the actual course! That said, it’s difficult to know how many people did. Only four of the 67 people doing the long course ran under an hour so I was happy enough with my run. Ultimately, I wasn’t pushing hard for any of it; just trying to have fun.

Conclusion

SUPBIKERUN aim for a very chill vibe and they achieve that. Everyone was friendly and the whole thing was peaceful: a beautiful paddle, some scenic lakes and hills on the bike and panoramic views on the run. None of it felt rushed.

There is a downside to being so chilled out, though. Without the strict race briefing drills, nobody really knows what is going on (or where the bike course goes). Some people will like that, others not so much. Also, if you’re coming from the triathlon world with your super-bike and expecting strict security to keep it safe, you won’t find that here.

If I was to do it again, I would probably want to mix and match the distances. With the SUP and bike course being two laps, I felt like I could have done one lap and been happy with that. But I wouldn’t want to miss the views from the top of Arthur’s Pike. Also, I would download the GPX to my bike computer 😂.

Penrith parkrun

September 16th, 2022 | Sport

Last weekend we headed to Ullswater for an event. The closest parkrun is Penrith. In some ways, it is a shame to come to the Lake District and run around a sports field. But it was well-attended, people were friendly and I had a good time.

It was the opposite to Fairview parkrun: I only managed 23rd place, despite running a faster time, but that was good enough for 2nd in my age group.

Dublin

September 15th, 2022 | Travel

I was recently offered a PhD by Trinity College Dublin so last month we quit our jobs, put our stuff into storage and moved to Ireland. It did not go well. Dublin is expierancing a massive housing crisis and there is nowhere to live. I will blog about that later, for now, here are some of the highlights.

The crossing over to Ireland was relatively pain-free. I have heard horror stories about trying to get into France but thanks to the Common Travel Area, things are still pretty chill in the Irish sea. Importing goods may be another matter. It was even easier on the way back: we just drove off the ferry and into Wales.

A lot of the coastline around the Dublin Bay is very picturesque. Especially Sandy Cove in Dún Laoghaire. We stopped by James Joyce’s tower (the location of the opening scene in Ulysses) where the museum curator was shocked to discovered I had actually read Joyce’s novels.

We had to be conscious of budget so there wasn’t much fine dining. But we did check out both Abra Kababra and Supermac’s, both of which were surprisingly good.

Transport around Dublin is a mixed bag. There is a lot of traffic and pedestrians have to wait for ages at pelican crossings. There are commuter trains, but the real public transport to be had is by living on the DART (an electrified light rail that runs along the coast) or one of the two Luas lines (the tram system).

Fairview parkrun

September 14th, 2022 | Sport

Until I ran Fælledparken parkrun last month, I had never done a parkrun outside of the UK. Now I have done two. Predictably, for Dublin, it was raining heavily. The course is three laps round the outside of the park.

I thought about doing a fast one but I didn’t feel good after my warm-up and only had my easy distance shoes with me. As it was, the fastest time was just over 19 minutes so I wouldn’t have been able to keep up in any case. I felt stronger as I went on and finished in 22:32. Good enough for 6th overall but being in M35-29, I was still 4th in my age group.

Queen Elizabeth II, 1916-2022

September 13th, 2022 | News

I’ve got some time for The Queen.

I’m no Monarchist. I’m a paid-up member of Republic and demand my right, under both the UN Declaration of Human Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights, to elect my leaders. Those same declarations also grant us the freedom of expression to share the many anti-monarchy memes that have been floating around and if you are offended by them, maybe you should stop being such a snowflake.

But all of that aside, it also seems reasonable to celebrate the life of Elizabeth II. The strongest criticism that anybody has been able to muster so far is that she didn’t personally dismantle the monarchy. And to be fair to her, neither did any of us. And no, I don’t think it was any easier for her than it would be for us.

She did provide a lifetime of service to her country. 70 years of service: she worked up until the day she died (having to invite Lizz Truss to form a government would probably push me over the edge, too). She showed true leadership, most recently when sitting alone at the funeral of her husband while the prime minister was partying in Downing Street.

She gave us a glimpse into what leadership could be, one of the contributing factors to her surviving 15 British prime ministers.

And her life was remarkable. She was internationally loved. In fact, given the length of her reign and the exponential growth of the population, it seems likely that she was the most loved human being ever in human history. Part of that comes with the title. But some of that comes with the relentless ambassadorship that she provided.

IRONKIDS

August 27th, 2022 | Life

Alongside the main event, IRONMAN Copenhagen run a 4-18-4 sprint triathlon and a children’s event named IRONKIDS.

The distance varies by age with under threes doing 300m (often carried by parents), 3-6-year-olds do 600m and the over 6s do 1k. It’s a pretty tame affair compared to the 2k Venla runs at junior parkrun but she was keen to take part.

Registration didn’t really work. We turned up at 10:30 for an 11:00 start and joined the queue. It didn’t move much and got longer and longer behind us. By 11, they gave up and just started spraying bib numbers and safety pins at everyone.

The event itself was a little more organised. They had a fun warm-up before the run started. The course was an out-and-back followed by a loop around the building to the finish arch. It was a nice touch having an inflatable IRONKIDS-branded finish line.

The pit-and-back went well but the loop of the building was carnage. There was a municipal maintainable vehicle parked on the course. One kid fell over and then half a dozen others tripped over him, going down like a pro peloton crash. Luckily, we were behind and managed to dodge it all.

Every child got a medal and a drawstring bag that Venla did not let go of for the rest of the holiday.

IRONMAN Copenhagen

August 26th, 2022 | Sport

IRONMAN Copenhahen is a full-distance (3.8/180/42.2) triathlon that takes place in Denmark. You swim in Amager bay, cycle through Zealand and run around the waterfront of the city centre. I registered for this race back in 2019 as a way to challenge myself to race in another country. After an additional two years of COVID delays, it was finally here.

Registration and racking

IRONMAN events are an entire weekend in themselves. On Friday, we headed down to Amager Strandpark to register. They have six waves based on swim times and you get to pick which wave you want to be in at registration. I went for wave 5 (1:18-1:24) despite planning to swim a 1:40, as I wanted to avoid weak swimmers who constantly stop, switch to breaststroke and generally get in the way. They had an incorrect date of birth for me, which also happened in Weymouth, but that was soon fixed.

We headed back down to the park on Saturday. This time, I cycled down. The cycling infrastructure is great in Copenhagen so the only challenge was navigating there. Luckily, I found a pack of other athletes heading in the same direction and followed them. Getting to the park and back so many times was a pain as it was about 6km from the finish line where we were staying. Bike check-in consisted of racking our bike and swim-to-bike bags, and dropping off our bike-to-run bags that would then be transported to the city centre.

Race day morning

It was a beautiful morning as the sun rose over Amager. I had pre-booked a taxi to get me to the start line and luckily it arrived right on time. Pre-race was pretty chilled as the only things I needed to do was set up my bike computer, place my nutrition on my bike and add a few bits to my bike bag. That allowed plenty of time to get through the 20-minute toilet queue.

The commentators proudly and repeadly told us that it is the only IRONMAN event that takes place in a capital city. I’m not familiar with all of the IRONMAN events but I’m pretty sure Tallinn is the capital of Estonia.

I did not want to carry bottles of Lucozade across borders so I took some gels and bars and decided to buy the rest in Copenhagen. I managed to find some Powerade and Lay’s crisps which did the trick. Alongside that I had bags of Haribo, Rawvelo brownies, the last OTE Duo I had been saving for this and a mixture of Torq and Moutnain Fuel gels.

There was a swim warm-up area next to the start where we could get in and do some strokes before setting off. It was shallow and warm. The official water temperature was 20.3 degrees, which is a couple of degrees warmer than usual and almost too warm for swimming in a wetsuit.

The swim

After all the waiting, finally it was show time. Pre-race, I was worried they wouldn’t get us in to the water on time and therefore we would have reduced cut-offs (roads gradually start re-opening at 14:00 regardless of what time you start). However, they were ahead of schedule and my 7:40 wave was all in the water on time.

It was a hard start to the swim. The first buoy was all about people finding their lanes. But as we came up to the first bridge marking the 600m I felt panicked. It felt like I had been swimming for ages (it was probably 15 minutes in) and that I hadn’t even made a dent in the distance. I thought about swimming to the shore and getting out. Then I got myself into self-coaching mode and decided to do some easy breaststroke to bring my heart rate down. After all that, I was the annoying athlete who switched to breaststroke! But at least I was out of the way by this point 😂.

From then on it got easier. As we headed up the bay towards the inlet it got weedy and shallow. At the final turn buoy most people got up and walked. At first I was determined to swim the whole thing. Then I thought self-compassion might be a better skill to develop. In the end, the practicalities of trying to swim when everyone else was walking was too much and I decided to get up and walk for a bit too.

One of the things I loved about racing in Europe was that all the signage was in metric. They had distance markers on each bridge, road signs every 10k on the bike course and kilometre markers on the run course, all without the hassle of having to convert it from imperial to standard measurements.

Transition 1

I was very pleased to be done with the swim. T1 went fine. I was in and out in under 12 minutes. That’s a long time for most athletes but over six minutes faster than I went through T1 at Outlaw. There was no messing about: change, sun cream, eat my crisps, have a wee and then the long run to get my bike and get on the road.

If you’re wondering “why not wee during the swim and save time?” I did. In fact, I spent most the final third of the swim urinating the entire time. Most of the Baltic passed through my bladder.

The bike

The first kilometre passed quickly. If only it all felt that easy. We went out through the city centre, industrial parts of the city and then onto the coastline. It was gorgcious. Riding through the city was lovely but then the coastline was beautiful beaches all of the way up. Afer that, we headed inland where the terrain was a little more rolling but took us through some lovely forests that provided shade. In total there was about 1,000 metres of elevation gain so fractionally hillier than Outlaw but still very much a flat course with no real climbs.

Towards the end of the loop you reach Geels Bakke, the course’s equivalent of Solar Hill at Challenge Roth. It is barely a hill but there were plenty of spectators cheering on the first loop, including one woman who came and ran alongside screaming, and music playing at the top. After this point there is the third aid station and then you either go on to your second lap or head back to the city.

Unfortunately, just after I had gone through this I opened my gel flask to take a second gel and then hit a pot hole. Gel went all over my hand and handlebars. It’s so sticky. I tried to wipe it off with a tissue but the tissue just stuck to it and made the problem worse. The only thing I had on my bike was two bottles of Powerade so, in the end, I resorted to washing it off with the sports drink and accepting that everything was going to be sticky until the next aid station which was a long way away.

When I finally got there, I grabbed a bottle of water and hosed down my arm, handlebars, aero bars and back pocket. The whole bike course was quiet: it’s IRONMAN so the roads are closed and there weren’t many other athletes. By lap two, the aid stations were quitening down as well. Geels Bakke only had a few spectators left. I went a bit off-script on the second lap and had a banana. I don’t like bananas but after eight hours of hard cardio your taste buds don’t care so much.

Transition 2

The final 10k was hard. I kept switching from “I’m nearly there, I can hold the aero position for 20 minutes” to “I can’t be on a bike for a second longer” and constantly riding out-ot-the-saddle to stretch my bag. At T2, volunteers were there to collect and rack our bikes at the dismount line.

This made for a pretty short transition but I wasn’t in the mood to go flying through, so I changed, put some more sun cream on, ate my crisps and carefully re-racked my transition bag before talking a leasuirly walk to the run exit.

The run

The run consisted of 4 x 10.5k loops that went south past the finish line, then turned up north and went along the docks before heading back to the T2/finish line area. You collected a different colour wristband on each lap so that by the end you had a rainbow to prove you had done the required distance.

The aid stations were poorly organised. On lap one, one of them temporarily ran out of cups. As the laps went on, this became terminal. Each aid station was a pot luck of what they had left. Some had Gatorade, some had Red Bull, some had water. The lack of cups meant they started using the hosepipes that had been cooling sprays to spray water directly into people’s mouths. With no cups left, they just started pulling 330ml cans on Red Bull on the table and I ended up running the second half the marathon with a can in my hand.

It’s not uncommon for this to happen at races. But also makes me sad because if you want to be as inclusive as possible, you want your final athlete to get the same experience as your fastest. I think, if there was ever a next time. I would take a run special needs bag and place some caffeinated energy bidons in there just in case. I did this at Dalesman and it worked well.

The first lap felt good and Elina and Venla came to cheer me on. The second lap I felt empty. I had to start walking bits because I was so tired. I try to make it to the half way point before I start caffeinating and almost made it: I was at the last of the six aid stations when I switched to Red Bull. This perked me up for laps three and four. I was surprised at how much of a difference it made. Unfortunately, as discussed, they were out of coke and low on Red Bull by this point, so can-in-hand it was.

The support on the run course was good. People were cheering and some were reading everyone’s athlete bibs and calling us out by name. There was music along the course and I had a singalong to Never Going To Give You Up and Blinding Lights. There was even a Rammstein corner out by the docks.

The finish

I stopped at a porta potty with one kilometre to go so that I could freshen up and do my hair for the finish photo. Whenever I thought about finishing earlier in the day, I had to hold back tears because of what this race meant to me. I had been waiting 1,049 days to see if I could fly to a place I had never been before, manage all of the logistics of long-format triathlon and complete the race. But when I got to the finish line, it all happened so fast.

I heard the commentator talk about how excited I looked, but it was all such a blur that I didn’t even here him saying “you are an Ironman!” I should have walked it in like I did at Outlaw X. But no matter how slowly you try to take it, the end is always overwhelming and you cannot take it all in.

On the flip side, I did make it under the 13-hour mark. By 27 seconds. I barely looked at my watch all day as I was here to “enjoy it” so I had no idea what time I was on. So, it was a nice surprise when I found that out. Not quite as fast as Outlaw but faster than everything else.

12:59:33

Foolishly, many athletes went faster than I did and finished in broad daylight, which is horrible for photos. On the other hand, I and my fellow athletes who waited until 9pm to finish received the beautiful light of the magic hour.

The splits were:

Disipline Copenhagen Outlaw Dalesman
Swim 1:35:14 1:37:20 1:33:40
T1 11:45 18:05 18:51
Bike 6:38:29 6:31:33 7:24:42
T2 11:18 17:00 9:42
Run 4:22:48 4:06:07 4:31:26

I am pleased with all of that. My swim time was comparative with last year. My transition times were to plan. My run was never going to match Outlaw, which was an all-out PB attempt, and even taking it easy (whatever that means twelve hours into a race) I was able to run faster than Dalesman.

After the race, we received a finishers t-shirt, massage and plant-based burger that was all included in the entry fee. When toy finish a full distance you’re exhausted and night is on the way, so I pulled on my leggings, base layer, HPH hoodie and the bobble hat I won at Llanberis to stay warm. In the changing tent I heard someone say “I wasn’t expecting the bike course to be so hilly.” God help that guy if he ever visits Yorkshire. My night’s sleep wasn’t too bad given the caffeine and soreness but my aging body was limping around Copenhagen for the next two days.

Conclusion

This race was not just a race to me. When I first started triathlon in 2018, I did so more to grow as a person than for any sporting reasons. I wanted to prove to myself that I was stronger than I thought I was. Now I am sitting writing in an apartment in Copenhagen, itself a miracle on the background of how much I hate travelling, as a six-times IRONMAN triathlete.

It’s easy to start telling ourselves, “I’ve done it before, it’s no so hard”. But it is that hard. We’re just stronger than our self-doubt tells us. I like full distance racing because it is so hard and so long. You can’t just grit your teeth and push through for a little bit: you have to sit with the pain for hour after hour after hour. You have to make friends with it and get comfortable with it. And that is a skill that often neglect in life.

I don’t know if this is the end of the journey. But it probably is the end of a chapter. I’ve now done 52 triathlons, six of which were full distance, and achieved everything I set out to achieve. And I’m excited about the next chapter of my life which is going to have more of a dessert cookbook theme.