Posts Tagged ‘yorkshire’

The Yorkshireman

Friday, June 28th, 2019 | Sport

Last Sunday, I completed my first full distance triathlon. Full distance, also known as iron or Ironman, is a 3.8km swim, followed by a 180km cycle, and finishes with a marathon. It takes the elites about eight hours while normal people get 17 hours to complete it before the cut-off.

It’s been a crazy few years. In 2017, I saw the Ironman World Championships pop up in my Facebook feed. I didn’t really know what it was, but I watched it and thought “that looks cool”. One month later, I did a GO TRI at Temple Newsam. This was followed by a sprint distance in April, a standard distance in May and a middle distance in September.

It was never supposed to happen this fast. But then Freebird announced they were launching a full distance race in Yorkshire, named The Yorkshireman, and I decided the opportunity to take part in the first Yorkshireman was not to be missed.

Pre-race

I arrived on Saturday as we were camping the day before and of the race. The campsite was a bit of a walk from the event village but had toilets and showers. There were no queues at registration but there was a mandatory 20-minute race briefing video to watch.

Once that was done I was able to rack my bike and my bags. I was worried the bags would be a bit small to fit all of my kit in as I was doing a full costume change between disciplines. However, they were very generously sized. We were also able to go down and see the swim start with a guided tour taking place every hour.

We took part in the inaugural flat cap run, which was predominantly an event for children. It was a 900-metre run starting and finishing at the event finish line. Venla picked up the lantern rouge but also won her age group as she was the only toddler taking part.

I got to bed about 9pm but it was an hour before we got Venla to sleep and a bit longer until I drifted off. I got up at 4:30 and had some cereal and half a banana before heading down to the race start. Oh, and two immodium tablets. Never forget the immodium before a big race.

The swim

The swim was the hardest part of the race and the hardest swim I have ever done.

We gathered by the river bank and my parents appeared to cheer me on. As we jumped into the water I made my way to the back of the pack and jokingly asked “is this where the normal people start?” which gave us all a giggle.

The swim started with a long stretch upstream. The current wasn’t strong but it was noticeable. I tried to keep to the side to stay out of the fastest current but in doing so I kicked a concrete jetty and hurt my foot. At the turnaround bouy, I stopped to do a gel.

On the way back I tried to keep more central but still struggled. I was tired, aching and cold. I tried to speed up at one point but almost immediately cramped up and had to get some help from the water safety crew. So much for the gel seeing that off.

Worse, I had drunk so much of the River Ure by this point that my bladder was bursting. You may want to skip to the bike section if you don’t want graphic detail. Every stroke felt like I was being kicked in the bladder. You might think “well, why not just go, you’re in a river after all”. I would agree, but if you have ever tried to wee in a wetsuit, you will know how difficult it is.

Twenty years of being an adult have taught me not to wee myself. You need to relax. But you cannot relax while you’re swimming. Even if you stop and tread water it is super difficult. I had even practised in some of my open water sessions but not been able to do it.

To complete the swim, I needed to get back to the start then go downstream and back up again to complete the final 400 metres.

Unfortunately, by this point I was in so much pain, so cold and so fed up that I thought about giving up. I stopped to tread water and decide what to do. “Just swim over to the jetty and all the pain will be over,” a voice said to me. I seriously considered it.

Somehow, I convinced myself to struggle on. Reminding myself of the six months of training helped. As I made it to the final buoy, my bladder decided it had had enough and finally opened unconditionally. I think I emptied half of the River Ure back into it. I shouted “come on Chris, you can do this” and the water safety crew took up the chant, too, cheering me on.

Transition 1

I was helped out of the water two hours after I had jumped in. There were less than 100 of us doing the full distance, but nearly 500 doing the half and by a stroke of good luck for me, they started two hours after. Thus, as I was hauled out of the water, hundreds of middle distance athletes who were waiting to get into the water clapped and cheered me on.

I managed a bit of a run into the transition tent, collected my bag and collapsed into a chair in the changing area. The guy sat next to me had brought a supermarket pot of pasta and a fork to eat it with. I took a second bathroom break to empty the remaining River Ure out and then collected my bike and set off on the road.

The bike

180km (112 miles) is a long way. I had ridden two 160km rides in the build-up to the race but this would by a small margin be my longest ride ever. Pretty quickly into the bike I realised I wouldn’t be hitting my nutrition targets as my stomach didn’t want to tolerate so much food. I stopped every 15km to stretch my back out and used those opportunities to eat, too. That made for roughly 12 stops and I counted down.

The weather was mixed. Early on the sun came out and I spent some time at one stop putting suncream on. Later on, it looked like it was going to rain, although it held off throughout the bike.

The bike section consisted of an out section, three loops and a back. There was a feed station on the loop which I used to change my two sports drink bottles for another sports drink and a water bottle. I also took a bathroom break on the final lap.

As well as my scheduled stops, I stopped twice to help people. One guy had got his chain jammed in his front cassette. I couldn’t offer much but moral support and go back to the marshall nearby, but he sent me a message after the race to thank you for stopping. The second time, some poor guy on the half had accidentally done the bike loop twice, rather than once, and was now lost.

Frustratingly, on both occasions, Garmin put me on the previous lap, so I had to calculate my own distance to go from then on. My Garmin also crashed about 10 minutes into the ride but luckily restarted after another five minutes and worked okay from them on (apart from the distance issue).

Parts of it were long and boring. I used my mindfulness practice, and occasionally a bit of singing. A mixture of rock and Eurovision. Sometimes I wanted to give up, especially when it was time to start another lap. I could come back and try again next year. But I reminded myself that if I did that, I would have to do that damn swim again.

Towards the end, I was getting hungry and my back was really hurting so I stopped at 30km, 20km and 10km before finally making it back.

Transition 2

On returning transition, I got the pro treatment as they were racking everyone’s bikes for them. I grabbed my bag, threw my running kit on and headed out, finding my family at the exit to transition waiting to wave me off.

Unfortunately, they had to wait a little longer as immediately turned to take yet another bathroom stop, before finally starting my run.

The run

By this point, it was 4pm. I had until 11pm to complete the race but if you were starting your final lap after 9pm you had to do a slightly different route. Even though it was the same length, I wanted to do the “real” route, so I figured if I put in two speedy laps I could walk the remaining two and still do that.

At the first feed stop, I grabbed some energy drink, jelly babies and crisps. I began running at an easy pace of around 6:30 per kilometre and decided to walk each aid station where I would do another cup of energy drink. I completed the first two laps in around 1:10:00 per lap. Each time I came back into the grounds my family were there to cheer me on.

In my pre-race plan, I had banned myself from having any caffeine until halfway through the run. So, I was pleased to arrive on the third lap and start replacing my energy drink for coke. I did some more maths and realised that if I put in another lap of 1:10:00 I could walk the final lap and still do a sub-5-hour run split and sub-15-hour overall. So, I kept running.

As I finished the third lap, I took a final bathroom break just as it started to rain. Luckily it was only light with the heavier rain staying away until just after I finished. I walked for a bit, chatting with a guy who was also doing his first full distance.

But I couldn’t stick with walking. I was feeling alive. I was actually going to finish this thing. Although I started mixing in some more walking, I did some of my fastest running here, too, putting in several sub-6-minute kilometres.

The finish

As I entered the grounds for the final time, my dad met me a few hundred metres from the finish and we ran side-by-side to the rest of my family and then joined into one big group to cross the line together.

It felt surreal. It was amazing, of course, but also it didn’t really sink in straight away. And despite the excitement, you’re also utterly empty, you feel sick and tired and everything aches.

I collected my medal, my t-shirt and my time. We then went to the registration tent so I could get a massage and eat some food. My parents had brought the car down so that my mum could drive me back to the campsite. Venla was so excited that she was running around until midnight.

I was pretty wired, too. Between the excitement, the caffeine and sound of the rain on the tent, I tried and failed to sleep until 2am. At that point, I gave up and went and sat in my car for two hours and listened to an audiobook. At 4am, I finally managed to fall asleep and slept until 8-9ish.

Recovery

When J woke up on Monday, I felt pretty tired and ill. I managed a slice of toast albeit very slowly. We drove back to Leeds and went to McDonald’s for lunch, which I found a big struggle to get down, too. It was only that evening I felt I could eat normally again.

Then there was the soreness. I got another massage on Tuesday, but my legs and back continued to ache for the next week.

The result

The headline figure was my overall time:

14:35:12

My spreadsheet put me anywhere from 14.25 hours to 16.75 hours. But I didn’t really believe this was possible. I was sure it would be longer. So, it was a lovely surprise to get it down to the lower end of the estimates.

In terms of placing, this put me 56th overall. 93 registered, but only 79 started and only 70 finished. Surprisingly, this put me 3rd in my age group. It was out of a total of 6 but I will take a top half finish! The winner, Chris Cope, finished in 09:28:02, 45 minutes ahead of anyone else.

My splits were as follows:

Section Time
Swim 01:59:17
T1 00:16:11
Bike 07:31:12
T2 00:08:23
Run 04:40:07
Total 14:35:12

That gave me the 30th fastest run split, which again I’m pretty pleased to be in the top half.

And one more record for the books: apparently, I am the first official Hyde Park Harrier to complete a full distance triathlon (i.e. the first member to race under the club name to do so).

Event organisation

The event organisation was first class. From the moment we arrived at Newby Hall there were staff and marshalls everywhere. And they knew what was going on. There was no queue for registration. There were people helping out and showing you where everything was in transition. There were marshalls on every junction of the 140.6-mile course (well, there were loops, but it’s still a lot of course) and three people on each feed station handing out drinks.

Everyone was encouraging and friendly. They printed out names on our race numbers and the marshalls used them to cheer us on by name. The event village felt pro quality and there were plenty of toilets, the lack of which really annoys me at other races.

In short, Freebird did an amazing job organising it.

Another highlight of the race: the medal was in metric!

Thank yous

A bunch of people to thank here:

First, my wife. I made sure to seek her permission before signing up for the race because ten hours of training per week is a huge amount of training. I don’t think I shirked my share of looking after Venla, but it did mean that when it wasn’t my turn, I was invariably out training rather than spending time with her.

Second, my parents. They came for the weekend, were up at 6am to cheer me on at the start and still there at 9pm. They were there when I finished the bike and for every lap of the run. When they weren’t cheering me on they were bringing their car up to drive me back to the campsite or cooking me some post-race sausages. They were the ultimate support crew.

Third, everyone at Hyde Park Harriers triathlon club for the encouragement over the last two years.

And finally, all of the marshalls, volunteers and team at Freebird Events for putting on such an awesome race.

Summary

Now that I have had a chance for it to sink in, I am super proud be an ironman (well, technically, a Yorkshireman).

A lot of people have asked me “are you going to do another one?” The answer is, I’m not saying never, but I don’t have any plans. It hasn’t put me off. But I would need to get my swim sorted before doing another. And it is a lot of training to commit to. Finishing a marathon didn’t inspire me to do anymore and I’m not sure this will, either. But I’ll see how I feel next year.

Would I recommend full distance? No, because I don’t want you blaming me when you get halfway through a race and decide to curse my name :D.

Further reading

I have separate blog posts on fuelling for the race and how do you keep going for 14 hours.

Driffield Triathlon

Friday, May 24th, 2019 | Sport

Driffield is a town in East Yorkshire and home to one of the first Freebird events of the year: Driffield Triathlon. It is on the same weekend as Evolve Sprint, Harrogate Triathlon and the Leeds Half Marathon. Busy weekend! In the end, a sizable contingent from Hyde Park Harriers decided we would make the trip.

It was a lovely day. A little cold at first but the sun was shining and it got warmer as the day went on. In the end, I came home having caught the sun on my forehead.

I still had a cold so I wasn’t sure how I was going to perform. The swim went well. I couldn’t get into rhyme at Tadcaster but things went much better here. I was placed with competitors of a more similar level, which helped.

The bike was fine, too, the hills were gentle and I took it fairly easy. The course was only around 17 km so it looks like a fast time. My run was just slightly slower than Skipton, which I think is a good result given I was feeling under the weather.

I was the first Harrier home, though some would argue this was because I set off an hour before everyone else. Meanwhile, Naomi won her age group.

My finishing time:

1:15:56

Here are my splits:

Stage Time
Swim 10:35
T1 02:39
Bike 36:36
T2 01:37
Run 24:28
Total 1:15:56

After the race, the club convened at Water Lane Boathouse for a social.

Tour de Yorkshire 2019

Friday, May 10th, 2019 | Sport

Last year I completed the medium route of the Tour de Yorkshire, making it the longest ride I had ever done by some 10km and the highest I’d climbed at 1,200 metres. This year I was planning to do a similar thing: the long route features 123 km and 2,400 metres of climbing.

It was decisively colder than last year when I came away with sunburn. I wasn’t planning on too many layers but in the end went for a full Under Armour base layer top and bottom with my rain cape in my jersey pocket. Thank god I did. 20km in I had to pull over and put the rain cape on, and it stayed on for the rest of the day. I should have taken my winter gloves, too.

I met Bogdan at city square at 7am and we cycled up to the start, getting through the queue and onto the load about 7:45. The first section of the ride was easy, although I did find myself needing a rather urgent bathroom break as we approached the first feed stop.

Things were reasonably flat (Yorkshire flat) until we reached Summerbridge, at which point we encountered our first real challenge of the day. The road went straight out of the back. And straight up. Arguably, this was the hardest climb. it started at about 11% and just kept on getting steeper. Even at the top you simply found yourself on a false flat of 5%.

The road continued to go up and up in stages as we headed around Brimham Rocks. Finally, it dropped down into Pateley Bridge where the second feed stop was located. I stuffed my face, which was a bold choice given what was to come next: the legendary Greenhow climb.

I did Nidderdale triathlon in September and drove home via Greenhow. I remember thinking at the time “fuck me, wouldn’t want to do this on a bicycle.” Well, here I was doing it. It was hard. But, thankfully, the toughest gradients come in four distinct segments, and you get a chance to get your breath back in between.

One woman was going up on a mountain bike. I told her I was jealous of the gearing. She laughed and told me that pretty much everyone else that had gone past her had said the exact same thing.

The top of Greenhow was a cold, lonely place. We turned and headed towards Fewston Reservoir where we would join up with the medium route. By this time, everyone on the medium route had finished, though. As we struggled up Snowdon Bank, the clock continued to tick and the race looked over: almost everyone else left in the course was pushing their bike up the hills with a defeated look on their face.

The descent into Otley was a fast one. They close the pro finish line at 3:35 to get ready for the peloton coming through. And I was determined that I wouldn’t miss it because of comfort breaking. I certainly didn’t set any records, but the 56.8 kph I managed really pushed my comfort zone.

Then it was out of the back of Otley and onto East Chevin Road. The long 11% grind. It felt easier this year than it did last year, even on tired legs. It hurt but it was manageable. There was no fear that I would have to give up, only that I would have to enjoy a lot of pain.

By the time we reached the top, we had less than an hour to get to the line in time. We both gritted our teeth and put the power down and steamed down into Leeds, cursing every traffic light that made us stop. Then we hit Tinshill and found ourselves with yet another climb. This was too much and we had to take a short break. Within 10km of the line, we had almost made it. One last effort would see us through.

Again we climbed into the bikes and powered up to the hill before turning to descend onto Spen Lane and Burley Road. Burley Road itself goes up and down. The groupetto that has formed around us quickly worked out I was lying when I said this was “definitely the last little hill” but chose to believe anyway so that they could convince their bodies to make the cut-off.

As we entered the barriered section on The Headrow, the large crowds that had already gathered cheered and banged on the barriers as we crossed the line with just 10 minutes to spare. By the time we had collected our medals and chatted to Elin and John, who were on hand with some much-needed chocolate and beer, they were already clearing the tents away. But it did not matter: we had made it!

I had set a new longest ride ever, beating my previous best by 13 km. I had set a new climbing record, more than doubling my previous attempt, which was in fact last year’s Tour de Yorkshire medium route. And my lower back hurt so much that I could no longer bend down. But who needs a working back when you’ve just smashed the Tour de Yorkshire long route?

My official time was 7:40:26. We had two feed stops, and I spent some time catching my breath at the top of the climbs. But the total elapsed time since cycling out of my front gate was closer to 8:30. A tough day in the saddle but a very rewarding one.

Yorkshire pudding freakshake

Saturday, January 5th, 2019 | Food

Toby Carvery has outdone themselves. Their new range of desserts includes a freakshake that features a Yorkshire pudding with chocolate brownie in it.

Yorkshire Marathon photos

Wednesday, October 24th, 2018 | Photos, Sport

As it was my first marathon event, I decided to splash the cash on the official photos.

This one is near the start. You go from the university, into town via the Minster, and then out into the countryside. So, at this point, I’m feeling okay.

(more…)

Flat n Fast 100

Wednesday, June 6th, 2018 | Sport

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

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

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

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

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

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

Up North Yorkshire sportive

Friday, May 18th, 2018 | Sport

Up North Yorkshire is a sportive organised by Fat Lad At The Back. It starts from Ilkley and goes and out and back route, with a little loop at the top, around Burnsall.

We signed up for the 40 kilometres route (the other routes were loopier) as I didn’t want to take too much out of my legs before the triathlon I had the day after. This route had a modest amount of climbing in, 523 metres, so a lot easier than the Tour de Yorkshire.

The organisation was good. There was no queue to register and toilets and changing facilities at the rugby club. The feed stop was well stocked: sausage rolls, pies, sandwiches, cakes, fruit, and we got a hot hog roast sandwich when we returned.

It took us just over two hours to complete the loop, excluding stopping at the feed station. I enjoyed doing the short route as it wasn’t just me being overtaken by a lot of faster cyclists all of the time; I did my fair share of overtaking, especially on the hills.

This may well be the most beautiful sportive I’ve done. Tour de Yorkshire had some spectacular views, but some boring roads, as well. This was just beautiful rolling hills the whole way around.

I would recommend Fat Lad At The Back events. Of course, so far I have a sample size of one. But it was enjoyable and well put together.

Tour de Yorkshire 2018 pro finish

Sunday, May 13th, 2018 | Photos, Sport

After finishing the sportive, we went down to watch the pro men’s race finish.

The first man through was St├ęphane Rossetto who went on to take the stage win. This was on Burley Road, a few hundred metres from the finish. The chasing pack weren’t too far behind.

Tour de Yorkshire scenery

Saturday, May 12th, 2018 | Photos

Taken during the Tour de Yorkshire sportive. I think this is Thruscross Reservoir. There are definitely worse places to be cycling.

Tour de Yorkshire

Friday, May 11th, 2018 | Sport

Last week, I completed the Tour de Yorkshire sportive. The medium route, 84km (90km once I had ridden door-to-door) was not only the longest ride I had ever done, by some 10km, but also included a fierce 1,200 metres of climbing.

It started up at Woodhouse Moor, where they had a small event village and meeting point. Due to the number of people that took part, there was a long queue to get started. It took about 30 minutes from joining the back of it to getting on the road.

Once at the front, we were off. The route took us along Meanwood Road up and up to the ring road, where we crossed and headed up towards Eccup and then on towards Harrogate. We climbed through North Rigton and the rolling road towards Beckwithshaw where the first feed station was located.

It was a pretty crap feed station. There was around a 40-minute queue for water, and the food available consisted of crips, bananas and Jaffa cakes. Certainly not up to the standard of other sportives.

Back on the road, we turned west on Penny Pot Lane and then north again to Menwith Hill before starting the journey homeward via Blubberhouses. The scenery up there is spectacular. Once you get on top of the moors, you can see for miles.

The hills

The road between Blubberhouses and Otley is a hilly one. By this point, the long route had re-joined us and so the road was filled with medium and long route people. Even though these were all cyclists that had chosen a harder option than the short route, people began struggling. Many people got off and pushed their bike up Snowden Bank.

I miscalculated the road we were coming out of Otley on. For some reason, I had gotten it into my head that we were taking the main road. It had Tour de Yorkshire signs all over it, after all. But we didn’t. We went straight out of the back of Otley and up Chevin Bank. 1750 metres at an average gradient of 9.4%. It just kept coming.

And, after all of that, we then went straight back down the hill to Pool in Wharfedale where the second feed stop was located. This one was better, with sausage rolls, pork pies and jelly babies. And, more importantly, reasonable access to water.

The final stretch included another tough climb: Black Hill Road into Arthington. This one was only 1500 metres at an average gradient of 7.2%. But that is deceptive because it starts off shallow and them ramps up the higher you go. The 90-degree bend half way up is rated at an eye-watering 19%. This was probably the hardest climb of the day, although I suspect that was because I already had Chevin Bank in my legs.

The finish

Finishing on The Headrow was amazing. I had enough in my legs to open up my sprint. Maybe I should have savoured the moment, but it felt great to pretend to be a pro racing for the line. Unlike the big runs in Leeds, there weren’t that many people finishing. So, when I raised my arm in victory and everyone cheered, there was a cause and effect thing going on. Thank you to everyone who cheered us home!

Results

My official time clocked in at:

4:42:54

That’s nearly 12 hours ahead of the so-called winner Greg Van Avermaet. Some would argue that doing the medium route of a one-day sportive is a lot easier than the four days of substantially longer routes that the pros did. But he had teammates and a peloton to protect him, I did it all on my own.

My average moving speed was 19.5 kph, although that is door-to-door, not just the sportive. It’s pretty slow compared to the 23.4 kph I managed in York-Leeds-York (and any objective measure), but it was very hilly.

Conclusion

I think the Tour de Yorkshire is my favourite sportive so far. In part, its a number game. They claimed to have 5,000 riders taking part. It certainly was busy and it’s nice to ride with other people. A common problem with sportives is that, even if you have 500 people, when you spread them out over 100km, there are not many of them around. It gets lonley. Here there was none of that. The feed stations were poor, but the finish was excellent. And the scenery was beautiful.