Chris Worfolk's Blog


Evolve mixed team relay

October 3rd, 2019 | Sport

So, here it was. My final race of the 2019 triathlon series. As a season finale, it made for an excellent choice: the mixed team relay contained 49 teams, 10 of which were from Hyde Park Harriers. With the Blue Lagoon being an intimate venue, it meant an afternoon of hanging out with the entire triathlon club. A perfect end of the year.

The weather could not dampen our spirits. But it tried as hard as it could. It rained the whole day, only easing off towards the end of the event. This made for a wet and cold wait until it was my turn to jump into the water. Luckily, my turn came just before I started getting too cold and once I was racing I felt fine.

Cat led our team off strongly. She was one of only two athletes to go without a wetsuit and one of the first out of the water. She handed over to Matt who continued to smash it for our team. Julie put in a speedy third leg and it was down to me to not lose too many places before crossing the line.

Photo by Atmospheric Images

The swim went well. I did mostly front crawl, with a quick breaststroke break in the middle. I was over my predicted time, but that was because I miscalculated as my pace was spot on.

The bike was a mixed bag. My power meter was not working so I spent the first 100 metres trying to restart my Garmin with no success. After that, I got my head down. Mostly on the aero bars. There was just a stretch of open fields after the crossroads where I occasionally had to come off them due to crosswinds. 29.1 kph is not that faster overall, but being within 3 kph of Curtis feels like a victory. The biggest challenge was keeping my heart rate down: it was 190 when I came off the bike, which is typically what I would run at.

Photo by Atmospheric Images

The run was a bit of an unknown. I do not usually run such short distances, so I figured I would be about six minutes. In the end, I was 6:20 which seems spot on given the conditions. The run route took in the trail route around the back of the lake, which produced ankle-deep puddles flanking muddy banks. My lovely white trainers will never be the same again. I also had to ease off a little on the finishing straight so we could line the team up for the finish.

We crossed the line hand-in-hand. Our time was 2:42:05, which was good enough for 23rd place overall. Thank you to Cat, Julie and Matt for racing with me and I am looking forward to more mixed team relays next year.

Is IRONMAN too corporate?

October 2nd, 2019 | Sport

IRONMAN is a trademark of the World Triathlon Corporation, a privately owned business. It should not be confused with the International Triathlon Union which is the international governing body for the sport. This is why Ironman distance races are often called things like Lakesman or described as iron distance or full distance.

Several people I know have adviced me to be wary of IRONMAN-branded events because they are a “bit wanky” and too up themselves. Having recently completed IRONMAN 70.3 Weymouth, I have had the chance to observe this up close for myself.

Is the reputation justified? In my opinion, they are good events. But I understand why people think that about them. Below, I will break it down.

Price

Let’s start with the big one: price. Once you add in the ACTIVE.com registration fee, I paid £280.80 for IRONMAN 70.3 Weymouth. That is a lot of cash.

The average triathlon costs around £50. But things get much more expensive at middle and full distance because of the logistics of running a race for 8-17 hours, and the changing tents, toilets, nutrition and other costs that they run into.

But even so, £280.80 is a lot. Consider that for The Yorkshireman, I paid £285. That was a full-distance race. If you want to do the half, it is only £145. Cotswold 113 is £164.

Super expensive compared to other middle distance races then.

But do you get more at the IRONMAN events? There are a couple of things. Slightly more porta-potties. They had them at every aid station. Sundowner had none but The Yorkshireman had plenty, but not as many as IRONMAN.

IRONMAN close the roads. This is nice as 90km is a long way, and the only other races that do this are the shorter Redcar and World Triathlon Leeds. That said, most triathlons take place on roads with almost no cars and we were not allowed to cross the centre line, so I am not sure it made a huge difference.

We also received a backpack and a finishers t-shirt, so two gifts. The backpack is very nice and I have been using it a lot. The t-shirt is a bit rubbish, though, I suspect to drive us to buy the nice t-shirts from the merch store.

So, £130 for closed roads and a backpack. It’s hard to conclude anything other than that we are paying a lot for the brand name.

Finish line

Both The Outlaw and The Yorkshireman allow you to run down the finish line with your friends and family. IRONMAN is very clear that if anyone does that, the athlete will be disqualified. This is the thing they get the most shit for.

To be fair to them, they did address this issue at the athlete briefing.

They said their reasons were twofold. One, they did not want any non-athletes impeding an athlete that might be trying to set a qualifying time for the world championship or to represent their country. This is a consideration other races may not have.

Second, they said if the athlete collapses and needs medical attention, they do not want to be dealing with children or loved ones when their medical team have work to do.

Other races manage these logistics, but at least IRONMAN are upfront about their reasons and having heard them, I can understand why they may choose to do that.

Cut-off times

In any long format race, you have cut-off times you have to meet or you fail to achieve the title of Ironman. That said, how much they are enforced varies from event to event. I know Freebird let people finish well after 8pm at Sundowner, for example, and told me they would have kept the Yorkshireman finish line as open as long as needed.

IRONMAN seems a mixed bag. Even though I was well ahead of the cut-off when coming out of the swim, a marshall was yelling “you need to get out, we’re closing the doors in 3 minutes”. That said, the last athlete came across the line at 8:23:something, even though the cut-off time was 8 hours.

Sponsors

Everything is sponsored. The aid stations are Enevit. The swim, bike and run sections are individually sponsored by Roka, Ventum and Hoka.

I don’t really have a problem with this. Sponsorship is a part of life in sport. In some ways it was good: when we finished, we got Domino’s pizza. It is a little annoying that Enevit provides all of the nutrition, though, as it doesn’t seem to be available in the UK, so I could not try their products in advance.

Event size

2,700 athletes took part in Weymouth, according to IRONMAN. It is a similar size to Leeds. The downside is that there is a lot of organisation around this regarding registering, racking, etc. And it took them an hour to get us all into the water.

But it has advantages, too. The crowds were bigger than almost any other event. World Triathlon Leeds is the only one that musters as much support. People yelling out your name and some encouragement is very welcome seven hours into a race.

Conclusion

I like pretty much everything about the IRONMAN event. It was well organised, smooth and there was plenty of support. It was a high-quality event and still a pretty friendly affair. I would recommend their events.

That said, it is expensive. And given the organisation at The Yorkshireman was pretty much as good, I can only conclude that the extra money is mostly because of the brand name.

2019 UCI Road World Championships

October 1st, 2019 | Sport

As the cycling world championships were just up the road in Harrogate, we hopped on the train to go watch the elite men’s time trial.

Time trials are quite good for spectators because they release the riders at one-minute intervals. In contrast, in standard road races, the peloton rides together, so you have to get there in plenty of time, they all come through at once and then they are gone.

I’m doing this new thing where I try to enjoy my life, rather than create a photographic record of it, which meant I was shotting on a little GoPro, rather than my massive DSLR and f2.8 superlens. The pictures were predictably mediocre, but it taught me to use burst mode on the GoPro.

IRONMAN 70.3 Weymouth

September 30th, 2019 | Sport

I first took up triathlon after watching the Ironman World Championships and thinking that looked like a tough challenge. I had a rough schedule in my mind: do an Olympic distance next year and think about Weymouth the year after.

As it happens, I ended up doing my first middle distance race in my first year and my first full distance race this year. But I was keen to do Weymouth anyway as that had been the goal at some point.

If nothing else, it was still a challenging course. A sea swim and an undulating bike course would be much harder than Allerthorpe. Especially as last year was the weekend they cancelled. Leo South due to gale force winds. IRONMAN halved the swim and advised people to use their shallow wheels.

Preparation

I arrived in Weymouth on Wednesday. We were staying for a week, combining the race with a family and friends holiday. I took a spin down the promenade on Thursday morning to suss everything out.

Being there early meant I could register first thing on Friday morning, avoiding any queues. I also took in the Friday evening athletes’ briefing. On Saturday, we had specific time slots to rack our bikes, but there were no queues at 1 pm even if you were not in your slot.

I had a splash around in the sea on Thursday and Saturday and a bit more of a swim in my wetsuit on Friday. I also did Weymouth parkrun on Saturday morning.

Pre-race

Elina came with me to the start. I got up at 6 am, had a pretty boring breakfast and then headed out just before 6. When we arrived at the start, they announced the swim had been cut in half due to safety concerns. I am not sure what they were as the sea was calmer than Redcar. Lack of water safety crew, perhaps?

I set my bike up, dropped my finish like bag off and queued for a toilet. Finally, I put my wetsuit on and prepared for the race.

This was probably the hardest hard. I still had 30 minutes to wait as they had delayed the start due to the shortened swim, and then it took them a full hour to get us all into the water. Staying warm for this length of time is hard (star jumps in a wetsuit) and although they had carpet down, this only started just before the start line, so we were stood on stones for over an hour. By the time I got to the start, my feet were in agony, I was cold, fed up and ready to have a little cry.

I would have quite liked to give up at this point. Unfortunately, there were two problems with this. One was that even if I pulled out of the reason, I wouldn’t magically be transported back to my nice warm home. So, I might as well do the swim. Second, was that I don’t give up easily. It’s probably a personality flaw. But quite useful in this instance.

We finally reached the carpet where volunteers were letting people into the water one-by-one, to allow plenty of space between swimmers. I don’t think that happens in Kona.

The swim

After being in a cold and rainy beach for hours, the sea was lovely and warm to jump in. it was a triangular course with an out, along the waves, and then back into the shore. I took it steady using a mixture of breaststroke with some added front crawl whenever I decided I was moving too slowly.

I think swimming out into the waves is the easiest. Moving along the waves is hard because they keep slamming into your side when you are not expecting it. And swimming back towards shore gives you a quick bump forward, then a long pull back before the next wave.

Transition 1

I took 27 minutes in the swim (with a cut off of 35) plus 10 minutes of transition should have given me plenty of time to get changed and ready. Unfortunately, it was rather stressful as a marshall kept yelling “get out, you need to get out, we’re closing the doors in 6/3 minutes”, despite athletes still being in the water. I made it out and took a precautionary toilet stop on the way to my bike.

The bike

Weymouth is a tough bike course. It is a 90km circular route that just seems to go uphill all of the way. There was barely a flat inch on the course so I spent very little time on my aero bars. Some descents, but mostly climbs, including three categorised climbs (by that I mean they were marked on RideWithGPS). The hardest maxed out about 12%, so not Yorkshire-tough, but still unpleasant in the middle of a seven-hour race.

The hills did not give much time back: the descents were often narrow, muddy and covered in rainwater so blasting down them was difficult, especially with so many other athletes on the course.

There was a tonne of punctures. I have never seen so many people changing tyres on the side of the road. Luckily, my tubeless tyres and I did not run into any problems.

Because of all of the climbing, my lower back started hurting quite early on. This eased off as the race went on, and the pain shifted to my bottom being fed up of sitting on the saddle. Despite my overshoes, my shoes were squelching inside them.

I took a gel every 10 kilometres, planning to have a break to stop and stretch at 30km and 60km. As it happens I was feeling a little better by 60km so I carried on until 80km for my final stop-riding-for-a-minute break.

It was at least warm and the fact that I had dropped my gloves in a puddle during T1 did not matter as I did not need them.

Transition 2

I racked my bike and took another brief toilet break before heading into the tent. The fall of my left foot was hurting quite a bit but was fine once I got up and started running. There was less time pressure with this transition as I was well below the 4.5-hour cut-off.

The run

The run was 4.5 loops of the promenade, starting at transition and ended up at the other end of Weymouth seafront where the finish line was located. Early doors it was dwelling on my mind that 21 kilometres was a lot of kilometres but I soon settled into an easy rhythm.

We had all of the weather on the run. I took my suncream with me and ended up applying some more to my arms mid-run. An hour later and heavy rain washed most of it off. I felt rather tight in my legs so I alternated between isotonic and cola at the feed stations (or, on one occasion, taking both). I purposely walked each feed station but otherwise ran all of the way.

It was busy on the run course when I started but began to thin out the longer I was running. There was still plenty of volunteers and supplies at all of the aid stations. On the final lap, I treated myself to one last wee to make sure I was not distracted at the finish.

As I headed to the finish, I found my friends cheering me on at the corner and Elina and Venla on the finishing straight. I stopped to give Venla a high-five. I punched the air as I crossed the finish line in what I hoped would look cool but, in reality, looked more like some strange body twist.

Apparently, I was “very excited to be here”, according to the commentator. And I was.

Post race

After the race, we were all given a few slices of Domino’s pizza. I managed to eat them which is far better than I managed after Sundowner. I went to say high to Elina and Venla, then went for a massage, picked up my finishers bag and put some warm clothing on.

I stuck around the finish line to watch the final finishers come across the line.

The finishers t-shirt was a bit rubbish, which I assume is to drive us to buy the nice paid-for merchandise available in the shop. Which I did, because it was lovely gear. It would have been nice to have a shuttle bus back to transition to collect my bike as the additional 2km kilometre walk was not a welcome one. But I made it and managed to slowly cycle back to our accommodation in time for tea.

The result

My official time was:

7:28:01

Which is 12 seconds faster than my time at Sundowner! But do not get excited too soon. Sundowner was a full-length swim, so when you add on the extra 25 minutes the swim should have taken me, my pace was slower.

I am happy, though. I knew Weymouth was going to be a hard course and did not expect to set a faster time than Sundowner, so this was in line with my expectations.

Section Weymouth Sundowner
Swim 27:06 50:20
T1 11:15 7:35
Bike 3:46:10 3:34:01
T2 11:44 7:12
Run 2:11:44 2:09:05
Total 6:48:01 6:48:13

That was good enough for 1,703rd place. It was a big transition and I had toilet breaks, so everything I would expect: slightly slower transition times, much slower pace on the bike due to the hills and a very similar run split.

Conclusion

This is a cool event and I am pleased that I did it. It was hard, too, though. If you go do something like Castle Howard or Helvellyn and think “this is a fun challenge” then you will love this race. But, if you think “this is why I love Allerthorpe”, you will probably want to stick to easier courses.

I think my biggest takeaway is that I do need to bring some clothing and footwear for queuing up in before the start of big races. And to work on my victory celebration.

Weymouth

September 29th, 2019 | Friends, Travel

It has been a few years since our last group trip. Venla did come to Anglesey, but only in utero. As such, we were long overdue for a getaway. I fancied doing IRONMAN 70.3 Weymouth, so it seemed like an excellent opportunity to combine the two.

Our accommodation was a The Bakehouse, ideally situated near the pavilion with the beach one hundred metres away on one side and the quay even closer on the other.

The weather was sunny for the first few days, and we hit the beach several times. We walked up to Nothe Fort and explored the museum.

Saturday included Weymouth parkrun, and a BBQ and Sunday was taken up by IRONMAN 70.3 Weymouth. The second half of the week was rather wetter. It rained throughout the race.
As a result, on Sunday, we headed to the Sealife Centre. This seemed like a nice, dry, inside activity. But not in Weymouth. Most of their exhibits were outside, including the penguins, seals and Venla’s personal favourite: the scary duck. We were rather glad to get home and dry.

Most of all, though, we just hung out. It was a great opportunity to spend a week with friends.

Weymouth parkrun

September 28th, 2019 | Sport

Our holiday in Weymouth gave me a chance to do some parkrun tourism. I wondered whether it would be incredibly busy with 2,700 athletes descending in the town for IRONMAN. However, it turns out most of them were too serious to do a parkrun the day before.

The course is a mini loop through the trees of Lodmoor park before and out and back that goes to the far side and then back to the loop. The sun was shining, and once you hid from the coastal wind, it was hot.

Everyone was friendly, and it was an enjoyable run.

Nidderdale Triathlon 2019

September 27th, 2019 | Sport

Nidderdale is a fun triathlon. Pool-based, surprisingly flat for a Nidderdale and offering the best finishers t-shirt of any race is have done, it is a great way to finish the season.

Last year it was my ninth and final. This year it was a warm-up for my two remaining races. The weather was much better this year. It was the only race I dragged Elina and Venla did last year and it rained the whole day. Not much sun this year either but at least it was dry.

The swim

Due to poor timing on my part, I only arrived at the poolside two minutes before I was due to start and was almost immediately in the water. I took the first half easy as I lazily drafted another swimmer before speeding up for the second half.

The bike

The bike course is rolling, but the rolls are small enough that you can spend most of the time on your aero bars. Only one Pearson overtook me, and he cruised past on his hoods even while I was aero.

On the way back, I ended up caught behind a traffic jam of cars trying to get over a narrow bridge. My descending was much faster thanks to the dry roads, though, and no chain drop in the final corner this year, either.

The run

Nothing much to report here. I did not push too hard as my endless cold was still dragging on.

The result

I finished with a time of:

1:19:42

That is around five and a half minutes faster than last year. Position splits were 112th (swim), 36th (T1), 39th (bike), 87th (T2), 51st (run) out of 170. That was good enough for 53rd place.

My splits were:

Section 2019 2018 Diff
Swim 10:54 12:42 -1:48
T1 01:07 02:02 -0:55
Bike 41:28 46:23 -4:55
T2 01:13 02:08 -0:55
Run 24:59 22:39 +2:20
Total 1:19:42 1:26:23 -5:41

My faster swim time is really T1 time: last year it was raining so many of us put our shoes on after leaving the pool but before crossing the timing mat.

Jimbob in Leeds

September 26th, 2019 | Friends

It’s not often that we have an eminent doctor of chemistry visiting Leeds. But earlier this month we were graced with James and Meg dropping by for a wedding.

This is one of the few occasions where we would deliberately want to eat British. So, we hit George’s. They put candy floss on everything, and the food was generally acceptable but mediocre.

We also hit Blackhouse for Sunday lunch. My beef roast was so bad I had to send it back. But they did replace it with a much better one and took it off the bill. I’ll happily go back but stick to a classic steak next time.

We forgot to take a picture, so here is a stock image…

Spatz Roadman overshoes review

September 15th, 2019 | Reviews, Video

In this video, I will review the Spatz Roadman overshoes.

I dislike cycling in winter because my feet get wet. And when my feet get wet, I become miserable. There is a solution: overshoes. Waterproof covers that go over your cycling shoes to keep your feet warm and dry.

Unfortunately, most overshoes fail to do this. They have two problems. The first is that they are not made tough enough to survive going outside in them and thus get holes in the bottom. The second is that your socks and leggings get wet and the water soaks down to your feet.

Spatz tries to solve this by making them knee-high. This completely covers your socks. The Roadman has the additional benefit of 4.5mm neoprene to keep your feet warm and reflective strips so that cars can see you when commuting in the dark.

I do not commute every day but I do get some long rides in over the winter weekends. Results are mostly good. They keep my feet warmer than regular overshoes. Below 5 degrees Celcius my feet still get cold after two hours but it beats what I was getting before. They also keep me dry. After half a dozen rides, they have developed holes in the bottom of the toe box, though.

To put them on, you need to put them on before your shoes, then put your shoes on and pull the overshoes down. I demonstrate that in the video. Spatz says you can wear them over or under your leggings. I recommend putting them under your leggings as that stops the water soaking down.

Tacx ANT+ antenna review

September 14th, 2019 | Reviews, Video

The Tacx ANT+ antenna is an ANT+ dongle that connects to your computer via USB. It is designed to allow you to connect your ANT+ sensors such as speed, cadence, heart rate, etc, to your PC or laptop so that you can run Zwift or any other computer-based bike training software.

The problem with most dongles is the drop-outs. This is a disaster for Zwift as it can ruin your intervals or worse when in a group ride, get dropped by the peloton, at which point you have no chance of getting back on again.

The Tacx unit tries to overcome this by providing a long cable so that you can plug it in and move it closer to your bike or smart trainer. It’s a heavy unit with a sturdy base so it will not get knocked around. The unit feels solid and high-quality.

That said, I was still getting drop-outs. If anything, they were worse than when I was connecting my gear with Bluetooth. The Garmin head unit on my bike receives the signal the whole time, so it only seems to be the computer connectivity that is the problem.