Chris Worfolk's Blog


Naas triathlon

September 27th, 2022 | Sport

As Chrissie Wellington always says “just because you’re homeless in a foreign country, you can still do a triathlon.” She’s never said those words exactly but I think the sentiment is implied. So, being in Dublin, I signed up for the Swim Smoith Naas Triathlon, a sprint distance race that takes place at the end of September.

It’s pool-based but still includes a 750m (30-length) swim followed by a 20k bike and 5k run. I had hoped that Trinity Triathlon Club would be racing there so there would be some friendly faces but they were off doing a freshers’ week bike ride so a solo adventure it would be (with my cheering squad in the car, of course!). Registration opened at 6:30 and bib numbers were handed out in order so I was number three. I then sat in my car for a while because I couldn’t find transition. Some poor lass was wandering backwards and forwards trying to find it before eventually a crowd gathered and led the way. There was supposed to be a map in the race handbook but it had been missed off.

Most of my triathlon gear is in the UK so I had to improvise: with no race belt I had to safety pin my number to a t-shirt I could pull on after the swim. I only received one number and four safety pins. Two of which I then dropped down the side of my gear stick to disappear forever. Which meant I had to pin my number to the front with only two pins and hope for the best.

The race briefing was late, which was great because then I didn’t feel guilty about a free-race wee even though I was supposed to be on the pool deck by then. Luckily, I wasn’t the only one. The start was a little chaotic. There were four people in each of the five lanes. But it was a mass start. And there are no overtaking mid-lane. I suggested we arrange ourselves in predicted swim times and this worked well. Despite the chaos, our lane marshall was lovely and I kept hearing her shout “go Chris” at the end of each lap.

I sprinted the last few lengths to get my heart rate up before emerging into the cool Irish morning air. It was freezing before the race, but luckily up to 8 degrees by the end of the swim. I didn’t have any of my fancy tri shoes so I had to sit down like a chump and tie my laces on the pair of bike shoe I did have in the country. I also pulled on some arm warmers and my race number t-shirt and was on my way. Even with all of that, I think I still went through T1 faster than some of my early races.

The bike course was reasonably flat. I came off the aero bars for a few of the hills but mostly I was able to stick it out. It was a simple out-and-back. Roads were not closed but there were garda at both ends slowing traffic (there wasn’t much) and when I stopped for a red light the marshalls instructed me to go straight through it. The road surface varied. At one point, my bike started shaking and I wondered whether I had a slow rear puncture. But then the road surface went silky smooth again and I realised that was the cause.

T2 involved more lace-tying and then I was off onto the run. This was also a simple out-and-back with very gentle hills. I didn’t have my super-shoes but my Hoka Bondis got me through. I warmed up on the run in my arm warmers and t-shirt over tri top but not to the point I was overheating. And certainly not enough for the old cup of water over the head trick at the 2.5k aid station.

Post-race goodies included a bottle of water, a banana and a t-shirt. It’s a nice technical shirt with thicker fabric on the front and back and more breathable fabric under the arms.

They didn’t hang around dismantling transition after the race. Most people still had their bikes checked in when they took the barriers away. However, it was a more relaxed event than most and there weren’t many expensive bikes in there. I’m used to being dominated by super-bikes but at this, mine was one of the higher end ones.

The race haven’t released any official results but according to my watch my time was:

1:21:37

And my splits were:

Discipline Time
SUP 17:10
T1 4:34
Bike 37:50
T2 1:40
Run 20:23

Overall, it was a fun event. A little bit more chaotic than British events but plenty of focus on safety: bikes were checked when racking, clear signage on the race course and plenty of marshalls. And all of those marshalls were very friendly. It’s a lovely way to end the season.

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.