Posts Tagged ‘triathlon’

Brownlee triathlon centre launch

Thursday, October 18th, 2018 | Sport

After my first visit to the Brownlee cycle circuit I found myself back there for the launch of the triathlon centre. It’s not really clear what that was. It looks the same. But, in any case, British Triathlon was providing some free training.

There were three sessions: transition, run and bike. I will be changing the way I do things based on the transition session but it was the bike session that was most useful. It was led by Coach Morg, who runs Blue Lagooners and the Evolve triathlons and really helped me build some confidence with leaning the bike over and taking more speed through the corners.

World Triathlon grand final 2018

Wednesday, September 26th, 2018 | Sport

ITU World Triathlon series is the top tier of triathlon racing. There are eight races each year, of which the final one is the grand final. How you win is complicated: you get points depending on where you finish and you can take your top five races, plus the grand final, in which the points are worth more.

The end result was that the women’s title came down to two people: America’s Katie Zaferes and Britain’s Vicky Holland. Zaferes just had the lead, but it was so close (and everyone else was so far behind) that whoever finished first out of the two of them would become world champion.

Holland had an amazing swim, keeping up with the lead pack (normally she has to chase them down later in the race) and the two remained in the lead pack throughout the bike. Holland had an amazing transition and set off on the run in the lead. However, Zaferes gave it everything she had and caught and passed Holland within a kilometre.

Holland was not done, though. She held on at 10 seconds down from Zaferes and Gentle and as the kilometres slowly ticked away, Zaferes was unable to hold the pace and Holland got herself back into the race and passed her, ultimately beating Gentle in a sprint finish.

The men’s race was a little easier to predict. Mario Mola is unbeatable. Even with Kristian Blummenfelt rocketing off the front in the bike and giving himself a minute’s advantage, Mola comfortably ran him down to yet again deny Blummenfelt his first World Triathlon victory.

An impressive Vincent Louis went with Mola and ultimately out-ran him to the line. It’s not often you see someone outrun Mario Mola. But I’m sure becoming a three-time world champion will have been consolation price enough.

The weather was a little chilly on the Gold Coast. As a result, World Triathlon Leeds was officially crowned as the hottest race of the year. It certainly didn’t feel like that when we jumped into the lake at 7am!

Nidderdale sprint triathlon

Sunday, September 16th, 2018 | Sport

Nestled in the far side of the small town of Pateley Bridge is a school and leisure centre. Which, every September, play host to the Nidderdale sprint triathlon. As it is such a beautiful area, I decided it was worth making the effort to race there.

It’s been a long season: this would be my ninth triathlon, making a total of four sprints, four standards and one middle distance, plus a bunch of Go Tris are duathlons. And, if I had known I was doing my first middle distance race the week before, I would have thought twice. But, as I signed up for this one long before, I decided it would make a nice cooldown event to finish to the year.

We decided to make it a family day out. It’s been baking-hot sun for pretty much every race I have done so far. But the first race that Elina and Venla joined me for looked like this…

Still, if we thought we had it bad, the leisure centre staff had to clean all of the grass and mud up after we had gone.

The swim

The swim was 400 metres. This would normally be 16 lengths but the Nidderdale pool is only 20 metres long, making it 20. We were set off at regular intervals and I was just starting a length when the guy behind me set off at pace. He tagged me to get past on his return length.

The only problem was that he couldn’t keep the pace up. Within a few lengths he was struggling and I had caught him. As I only had two lengths left I couldn’t be bothered to tag him back, but the woman behind me did. Let this be a lesson to us all: pace yourself at the start or you’ll find it rather embarrassing when everyone catches you up again.

The bike

Given where Pateley Bridge is, the bike course was surprisingly flat. A few rolling hills and a little climb at the end, but mostly it followed the road along the side of the reservoir, making for beautiful viewing.

It has been raining all day, it was still raining and the roads were covered in surface water. In my mind, that was a good excuse to descent the hills at a sensible pace. Other athletes felt differently though and came screaming down the hills. So, I lost about four places there, despite being a much stronger climber. Towards the end, I took a few places of my own.

Unfortunately, just before the end, my chain dropped and I had to unclip, climb off and put it back on. I got back on the bike and rounded the corner to see I was at the end of the bike leg: almost close enough to just run it in.

My shoes were soaked by the end from all the surface spray. Maybe I should have worn my tri shoes with the holes in the bottom to drain water.

The run

I felt good on the run. Nobody passed me and I overtook plenty. One marshall even commented about how fast I had come back, which is not unusual for me because my swim and bike times mean I am started with the slower athletes, but once I hit the run I am in my element.

The results

I was 74th overall, out of a field of 167. My total time was:

1:26:23

The winner was 1:02:15. My splits were 12:42 for the swim, 2:02 for T1, 46:23 for the bike, 2:08 for T2 and 23:07 for the run. All of that is pretty good, especially for a race where I was taking it easy.

12:42 for the swim doesn’t really represent my actual time as you come out of the pool and into the sports hall, where you can put your shoes on, before crossing the timing matt and going into transition. So my swim time was really sub-10.

The bike time would have been a bit faster if I hadn’t dropped my chain and my 5km PB race time is 22:39, so to be only 30 seconds behind that feels like a great result.

The aftermath

The season is over and I never have to ride my bike again.

I probably will, of course. But I’m looking forward to taking a break from training and being a bit more flexible in what I do and when I do it. And, of course, having done nine races, a bunch of Go Tris and half a dozen sportives, too, if I do continue it would now be entirely justifiable to do so on a new, fancier bike.

But for now I’m looking forward to sitting on the sofa all winter and getting fat.

Sundowner Triathlon: My first middle distance race

Wednesday, September 5th, 2018 | Sport

A middle distance triathlon is a 1,900 metre swim, 90 km bike and 21 km run (half marathon). In old money, that’s 1.2 miles in the water, 56 miles on the bike and a 13-mile jog. It’s the thing that Alister Brownlee is moving up to. And, in a moment of madness over the summer, what I signed up to, too.

Preparation

Even though it is my first year doing triathlon, I feel pretty well versed. I had already done three sprint distance and four standard distance races, so I knew what to expect. My August was full of big sessions: 100 km bike rides, 30 km runs and one never-ending day when I cycled to Bolton Abbey and back before doing a 10 km run.

The preparation was more than just physical training. I upgraded my bike to clipless pedals, something which I had been meaning to do anything but this gave me the push. Wiggle delivered palettes of nutrition to my house so that I had enough gels to get me through the training sessions and the race itself. I revised my own sport psychology course.

A week before the race, it looked like disaster had struck. In my final training run, a 36 km slog, my calf muscle began playing up and eventually left me limping. I should have stopped, but I didn’t because it had gradually come on. If something goes pop, you know you’ve done real damage. But if something just hurts more and more, it’s often fine. As it happens, it wasn’t fine and kept hurting all weekend.

So, I had a decision to make. Did I try to race on it or not? If it had been the start of the season, then probably not. But, as it was the end, I decided I would try and get back to training and see how it felt. I got back in the pool on Tuesday, back on the bike on Wednesday and went for a short run on Thursday. It held up fine. Between rest, strength exercises and a physio session, I had got lucky. The big day arrived…

The day itself

Sundowner starts at noon. You have eight hours to beat the cut-off time, so it’s designed to coincide with the sun going down, hence the name. This is a much more civilized time to start a triathlon. Not only did it mean I could get up at 7am, rather than 5am, but it also meant that instead of starting the run in the noonday sun, we started it at 4-5pm when the heat of the day was starting to pass.

I arrived in Allerthorpe just after 10am, where I met up with the Hyde Park Harriers who had just completed the Sundowner Sprint Triathlon. Registration and racking my bike were uneventful.

The swim

Things were eventful from the start. About 100 metres into the swim one of my fellow competitors had a panic attack, so I had to stop and summon help for him. This meant I had lost of the feet of the large swim in front of me and it was a hard chase to get back on.

Things were quiet after that until the last few hundred metres of the swim when the pack of faster swimmers from the wave behind me caught up. There was nowhere to hide: there were dozens and dozens of them everywhere you swam. You couldn’t help but accidentally kick people as they groped me from behind.

Despite stopping at the start, I clocked in at 50:20, which was right on target.

The bike

90 km is a long way to cycle. The nice thing about York is that it is pan flat. Even compared to the Flat n Fast 100 it is super-flat. No wonder the entire place floods.

The downside is that there are no hills to break up the wind. So, while it was an easier bike than the Tour de Yorkshire, there were some tough stretches when you were battling a headwind and the tailwind that I assume we got at some point did not compensate.

Most of all, though, it was the sheer length of the bike that made it hard. I counted down in 10 km increments, which is when I took my feeds. But, to reduce the monotony, I also counted down in 10%s (81 km, 72 km, 63 km, etc) as well as quarters, thirds and halves. That way, I was never more than 9 km away from my next milestone and usually a lot less.

By the end of the bike, I was uncomfortable. My back was aching, my bottom was sore and I was fed up with being on a bike. Unfortunately, I had budgeted for a bike fit, but only at the end of the year, so my position is not yet ideal.

I finished the bike in 3:34:01. Not a great time but safely within the cut-off.

I’m not sure why I look like a giant in this photograph.

The run

Finally came the half marathon to finish things off. This is what I was most nervous about because I thought if my leg was going to give up anywhere, it would probably be the run. And that would have been a lot of suffering for nothing.

I was pretty tired by this point, so I decided that I would walk past the aid stations as I took on food and drink, and then run all of the rest. This tactic worked well although the definition of where an aid station started and finished gradually got longer as the race went on.

I wasn’t sure whether I should keep running or not. Part of me wanted to be able to say I had run the whole thing. But another part of me wanted to say that I had been strong enough to recognise when there is a time for compassion and allow myself to walk.

In the end, my pace calculations settled the debate. As each kilometre ticked by, I worked out how fast I had to run to be within my target time of below seven hours. By 19.5 kilometres I had still had over 20 minutes to do the last mile. So, I allowed myself to walk the next 500 metres before running the final kilometre.

I finished the run in 2:08:54, which felt good given my half marathon PB is 1:52:24.

The finish

Official time:

6:48:13

I want to tell you that the finish was amazing and worth the endless hours of training and seven hours of hell that I had put myself through. And, for a split second, it did feel amazing.

But the truth is that triathlons, like marathons, don’t feel amazing at the end. Parkruns feel amazing. You’ve been working your cardio system hard for half an hour, and then you stop and the pain instantly goes away. Endurance events aren’t like that. Your muscles don’t stop aching when you stop moving. That’s not to say it isn’t worth doing. But the real reward comes when you wake up the next day, and every day, and get to think “wow, I actually did that.”

What I mostly felt after the race was thirsty. Within the first hour, I had downed four drinks: two J2Os, a can of Red Bull and a Lucozade Energy. A did a 500ml bottle o Coke on the drive back and two litre-sizes bottles of juice when I got home.

Not much else was going on. As a competitor, I got a hog roast sandwich and a dessert as part of my registration fee, at the afterparty. I made it halfway through the sandwich before I had to give up. It was heartbreaking to see good pork to go to waste but what else could I do?

The future

So, what’s next? I genuinely have no idea.

A full distance Ironman? Not yet. I am sick of training, sick of being on a bike, and sick of triathlon. I mean, not sick enough to not race Nidderdale next week. But sick enough to be glad that the season is coming to an end. And while I might be willing to do it all again next year, doing a full distance race would have to involve me doubling my training load. Middle distance is easy: I swim 2,000 metres in the pool, I might bike 100 km at a sportive and I like the half marathon distance. But I haven’t done any of the full distance even individually.

Another middle distance? Maybe. For the first 24 hours, I genuinely felt like I didn’t want to ever do that again. But like a mother who had slowly forgotten the pain of childbirth, I’m starting to think it might be okay to do another.

But right now we’re heading into the off-season. I’m going to do some running, but mostly I’m going to sit on my sofa eating Ben & Jerry’s and getting fat. And dream of the good old glory days when I beat the sun going down.

Allerthorpe Classic triathlon

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2018 | Sport

In July, I travelled to Allerthorpe, near York, to compete in the Allerthorpe Sprint Triathlon. Despite trying my hardest, a mistake in T1 wasted some valuable time and I came in a mere 17 seconds over an hour and a half. This time, I was returning for the Classic, a standard distance race. Would my performance improve?

For comparison, I managed 3:02:18 at Wetherby and 2:57:40 at Evolve Quarter. However, every course has different distances and every day has different weather conditions, so it’s difficult to make direct comparisons. This is especially true of Evolve which completely messed with the distances.

The swim was a two-lap horse-shoe-shaped course around the lake. This was better than the sprint, which just went around the edge, which is often too shallow to swim in. T1 went well and I was soon on the bike and away. I couldn’t quite maintain the pace of the sprint triathlon (over 30 kph average) due to the distance, but also because it was windier.

Finally came the run. 10km in the blazing heat of midday. I got about 4km in before I decided I was never doing another triathlon again. I had finished the bike in around 1:20, so I knew if I could do a good run I would sneak under three hours.

I started out running a sub-5 minute kilometre pace. But, as with Evolve, the heat got me to and I was forced to drop back a little. Not too much, though. I was running around a 5:10 pace, which would bring me home just within the window, even accounting for grabbing some water at the water stations.

Then, disaster. The 10km marker came and went and I was still 500 metres from the finish line. Despite a sprint finish to try and bring it home, my final time was:

3:00:15

Gutted. At least we were allowed to cool off in the lake afterwards. Although we had to share the lake and grounds with the world’s largest collection of hoverflies, which were everywhere. For my trouble, I got a blister and some sunburn, despite applying suncream before the race and again during the first kilometre of the run.

My official splits and split positions were 40:49 (240), 03:40 (225), 1:20:35 (204), 01:49 (184), 53:19 (94). That put me 191 out of 250 finishers (261 total). The winner, Dan Harbridge finished in 2:01:23 and the last person home managed 4:20:32.

I’m heading back to Allerthorpe at the start of September for another race. I think I’m owed a dry but cloudy day by now.

Triathlon For Beginners

Sunday, August 12th, 2018 | News

In June, I launched my Running For Beginners course. It has been a big success with nearly 2,000 students registering in the first six weeks and plenty of five-star reviews.

Following on from that, I’m pleased to announce my next new course, Triathlon For Beginners. Here’s the blurb:

This course will teach you everything you need to know to complete your first triathlon with confidence.

We’ll start right from the basics and build up to advanced techniques. We’ll cover swim, bike and run, of course, but also all of the bits that connect triathlon together and the strategies and secrets that will allow you to complete the entire event. Including:

  • How transition works
  • Building a training schedule with brick sessions
  • Strength, stretching and recovery
  • What nutrition and kit you need
  • How to use sport psychology to your advantage
  • Everything you need to know for race day

Whether you have signed up for a race, done a mini-triathlon, or just thinking about giving it a go at some point, there is no better time than now to start learning. Click buy now to get started. I can’t wait to see you inside the course!

It’s available on Udemy now, and you can check it out here.

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!

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.