Archive for the ‘Sport’ Category

Festive Fifty 2019

Tuesday, December 31st, 2019 | Sport

The Festive Fifty has a special place in our hearts because it was the first sportive that Bogdan and I did. It needs that special place because otherwise who else would be mad enough to do a sportive in winter?

Plus, this year we had a super-domestique on the form of Jon. He warned us that he was going to be taking it easy and on his slower winter bike, but we still struggled to hold his wheel. This was also the first year we stepped up to the 80km route (50 miles).

The ride itself was a mixed bag. I’ve switched to an ISM saddle and it is pretty good for being down on the aero bars but terrible for being sat upright. I had to ride a lot of the course on my drops to get my body tilted forward enough to relieve some of the pain. The 40-50km stretch was tough; after that, it started to ease up. The first 50km was almost pan flat. Then we got a few hills, although I use hills in a very loose term.

The photographer came out of nowhere, hence looking at my computer at the time.

My clothing worked well. Under Armour winter base layers with a gabba and rain cape over the top. Pretty quickly I had to take the rain cape off. My toes stayed toasty, too. Unfortunately, my new Sealskinz gloves broke almost immediately.

Our average speed was 26.3 kph: quite a lot faster than we tottered around at 23 kph last year. It was not as busy as last year, which is a shame, especially for the children who now won’t be able to afford heart surgery (the event was a fundraiser for the Children’s Heart Surgery Fund).

Nice company, and a nice way to round out the year. Now to wash my bike…

The 49ers are hot again

Saturday, December 28th, 2019 | Distractions, Sport

Back in the day (like ten years ago) the 49ers were good. We had Jim Harbaugh at the helm and he was ace. He took us to the championship game consistently, and almost won the 2013 Super Bowl.

Then we went 8-8 and the 49ers fired him. And we entered the dark ages. 5-11 under Jim Tomsula, 2-13 under Chip Kelly, and 6-10 and 4-12 under Kyle Shanahan. Luckily, by the third coach in three years (we’re the only NFL team to ever do that), they decided it might be best to pick one coach and give him a chance.

Third season in and Kyle Shanahan’s team is on fire. We went 8-0, with the only unbeaten team being the Patriots, and even our losses have been close: a missed field goal in overtime allowed the Seahawks to finally deliver us a loss. And the Ravens and Falcons only managed to take the lead at the last minute.

So, it’s great to be a 49ers fan again.

With one distinct downside. I pay a lot of money for NFL GamePass, which allows me to stream all of the games. However, Sky Sports show two on Sunday evenings and these are blacked out on GamePass. When we were crap, nobody wanted to show our games. But now we’re got again, Sky Sports are once again showing the 49ers games. You can’t have it all, I guess.

Hyde Park Harriers cycling gear

Friday, December 27th, 2019 | Sport

As Hyde Park Harriers Triathlon continues to grow, we’ve been expanding our club kit.

I was a little worried about ordering because when I ordered my tri suit, it took months to turn up and I missed a lot of races. However, I did get a full apology, and ultimately the club decided to stay with our current provider. It’s a monopoly, so it was either take the chance or not be able to wear the club kit.

This time things have been better: it turned up just before Christmas meaning I had it in time for the Festive 50. And it looks pretty snazzy. Yeah, I’m old, “snazzy” was a word when I was a kid.

I haven’t worn the jersey on a ride yet as I also picked up a Gabba in the Black Friday sales (and Elina has now bought me a long-sleeved jersey for Christmas, too), but I have been wearing the arm warmers which seem to do a good job.

Roll on summer when the club rides start again.

Swim, swim, swim

Thursday, December 26th, 2019 | Sport

I have been pretty quiet over the past few months because I have been busy with a lot of stuff. I’ll blog about most of that, but one thing I have been putting a lot of time into is my swim.

I have problems breathing through my nose, and so for many years, I thought it was going to be literally impossible for me to do a good front crawl. I was going to focus on it last year, but then I signed up for The Yorkshireman and prioritised improving my cycling.

This off-season finally gave me the opportunity to nail it down. This included private lessons at The Hilton and their silly 14-metre pool, working with my previous coach, Lucia, and workshops with Jack Maitland as well as one booked in for next year with Morgan Williams.

But mostly it has involved a commitment of getting in the pool three times a week for the final three months of the year. That’s a lot of swimming, as well as a lot of walking to and from the pool, washing my hair and trying out my kit ready for the next swim.

The effort has paid off, though. From feeling exhausted after 100 metres, I found I could confidently swim 400 metres, and then 1,500 metres. These are important milestones because these are the two distances that come up most often: pool-based sprints and standard distance open water events.

Most of all, though, it is a testament to anything being possible if you have enough perseverance. By and large, if you do a thing enough times, you will get there.

Abbey Dash 2019

Thursday, December 26th, 2019 | Sport

I love the Abbey Dash as it is a great chance to get together with the running club over a few beers. It’s almost a shame there has to be a run before it.

My 10km run PB was in a strange place. Officially, it was 49:47, set at the 2017 dash. But in 2018 I ran 47:36 at Wetherby Triathlon and 47:12 at World Triathlon Leeds this year. Where they short? Too down hill? Or just my best runs?

I wanted to put that question to rest and so resolved to go out at 47-minute pace. The 22:30 ai ran at parkrun the week before suggested I should be able to run a 47:04 but I was worried that a year of Ironman had eroded my top-end speed.

The weather is always cold so this year I came prepared. The day before I popped down to a charity shop and bought a hoodie to wear before the race. There was a little rain before the race, but otherwise cold and sunny: PN conditions.

This year, the start moved from Wellington Street to The Headrow. Julie says this is the way it used to be. This meant cutting out the congestion point around Cardigan Fields. No speed bumps to jump this year.

My target pace was 4:42 per kilometre. My first km was downhill and came in at 4:32 but I then slowed down to 4:49 for the second. I tried to pick the pace up but couldn’t and slipped a few more seconds behind all of the way to the abbey.

I went around the turn at 23:40, ten seconds behind target pace. I was hurting and wanted to give up, but convinced myself that it might get easier, and even if it didn’t, I wanted to get as close to those triathlon times as possible: 47:10 would still be a PB after all.

The return journey starts with a downhill and I put in a 4:30 kilometre. After that, I didn’t slow down. Harriers kept screaming my name. I was head down racing, it thank you to everyone who did: I did hear you!

By kilometre seven and eight ai had realised that I was slightly ahead and just needed to keep it going. That was a scary prospect given there was a slight climb to The Headrow but I hoped I could rely on the adrenaline of being so close to keep me going.

I kept checking my watch to try and hit the perfect pace. I did not want to go too hard and blow up. I turned on the Galileo tracking (Europe’s GPS satellites) and my watch was pretty spot on with the distances.

As I crossed the line, I stopped my watch and looked down. It read 46:12. I couldn’t believe it. I have no idea where I found that minute. My official time came through via text 30 minutes later.

46:11

I am happy with that. It represents the fastest 10km I could run right now. I paced myself the whole way, pushed hard and kept a consistent heart rate of around 190 bpm.

Thank you to everyone on the route that was cheering us along.

Since the event, it has turned out that the course was 23 metres short. Even with an additional 23 metres, it would still be a PB, so I’m counting it.

Goole Triathlon

Sunday, October 20th, 2019 | Sport

Goole Triathlon is a sprint race that takes place at the start of October. It starts with a 400 metre pool swim in Goole’s leisure centre (which has a massive slide in it!) before taking in the pan flight sights on a 20km bike and 5km run course.

My dad was there, along with his friend Tim, to do their first sprint distance. I clearly need to stay on my toes as their times were not too far behind mine! Venla came along to cheer them home.

Chicago Marathon 2019

Thursday, October 17th, 2019 | Sport

Chicago is one of the six marathon majors in the world, along with London, Berlin, Tokyo, New York and Boston. Why this is, is unclear. Nobody turns up to Chicago. The London route is lined with supporters the entire route. In Chicago, you can hear the footsteps of the athletes on the TV camera because there is no other sound.

That did not stop Brigid Kosgei, however. The London marathon winner shot out of the gate and refused to slow down, coming home in a new world record time of 2:14:04. This smashed the previous record of 2:15:25 that has been held by Paula Radcliffe since 2003 by 1:21.

On the finish line, Radcliffe congratulated Kosgei and said she always knew this day would come. I think collectively, as white people, we all knew this day would come, too. Radcliffe’s previous record was itself phenomenal, being over 3 minutes ahead of Catherine Ndereba’s 2001 world record time. It had stood for 16 years. The nearest anyone has got to it until now was Mary Keitany with 2:17:01.

Notably, of the 10 fastest marathon times ever for both men and women. Radcliffe’s time was the only one not set by a Kenyan or Ethiopian. Whatever genetic or cultural factors allow Africa to produce the world’s best distance runners, Radcliffe has been the only person in the world who was able to keep up with them. On the men’s side, you have to go back to before I was born to find a non-African world record holder.

But all records fall eventually (except Jerry Rice, obvs), and Brigid Kosgei’s incredible performance puts her nearly three minutes ahead of any time other the Radcliffe. That’s a huge gap. Will it too stand for decades, or give other runners the self-belief that they can run faster, too? I’m excited to find out.

1:59 Challenge

Wednesday, October 16th, 2019 | Sport

Back in 2017, Eliud Kipchoge led the charge at the #breaking2 event, the first attempt to run a sub-2 hour marathon. On that occasion, we came up 26 seconds short. A the time, I was desperately trying to run a sub-2 hour half (for the record, I did).

Two years later, and Kipchoge arrived in Vienna for the 1:59 Challenge. If the attempt in Italy was well-planned, it was nothing compared to this. Sponsored by INEOS, Dave Brailsford from British Cycling was brought in to mastermind the entire operation.

The perfect location had been selected: a straight road with two roundabouts at each end. The perfect time of year had been selected, with a 10-day window to get the right weather. A team of seven pacers would run with Kipchoge at all time, in a Flying V formation with two runners at the back. The idea was that this created the perfect shape to protect Kipchoge from the wind. A team of 41 world-class runners were brought in, each asked to run a 5km in 14:10 (2:50 per kilometre). A car in front of the runners projected lasers on the ground telling each runner where to be.

In the end, Kipchoge finished in 1:59:39, making it the first-ever sub-2 hour marathon.

It won’t stand as a world record. This is because pacers were swapped in and out, nutrition was delivered via a bike and there was only one “competitor”. This makes it much easier than a real race where you would have to have your face in the wind once the pacers dropped away, and dodge around other runners to pick your nutrition up from a table at the side. I also heard a rumour that the special Nike shoes may not be legal in a marathon, but I am not sure if this is true or not.

Regardless, though, running 26.2 miles in under two hours is an incredible achievement. I’m a little disappointed as I always wanted to be the first person to run under two hours. But, realistically, it is starting to look like I won’t be able to do that anyway. Since I have been a runner, there has been a lot of debate as to whether sub-2 was even theoretically possible. Many people said it wasn’t. Now we know.

What does a year in triathlon cost?

Sunday, October 6th, 2019 | Religion & Politics, Sport

If you have done some triathlon, you may have noticed that it is dominated by white people. There is very little representation for minorities. One reason could be the cost. Triathlon is expensive. I am not talking about the super-aero bike, or fancy wetsuit, or all the other gear you need. You can get by without most of that. But just entering races is expensive.

In this article, I will break down just how expensive it is, based on my 2019 season.

Registration fees

The biggest cost is registering for races. I did 15 races this year.

Race Fee
Skipton £38
Driffield £54
Tadcaster £45
Leeds £95
Yorkshireman £285
Allerthorpe sprint £54
Castle Howard £99
Redcar £42
Allerthorpe Classic £64
Coalville £46
Sundowner sprint £54
Evolve sprint £40
Nidderdale £47
Ironman Weymouth £281
Evolve mixed relay £20

That makes for an eye-watering total cost of £1,263. Bear in mind that my registration fees are slightly lower than some other people’s because I have already paid for a British Triathlon race licence, that typically saves me £5 on each race. That cost me £40 but has since increased in price.

It is also worth noting that almost half of my fees came from two races: my full distance race and the IRONMAN 70.3. So, if you wanted to stick to short format racing, you could 10 races a year for £500. This is still a lot of money, though, and requires you to avoid big-brand events like World Triathlon Leeds and the Castle Triathlon Series.

Are these fees justified?

On the whole, yes. Some people have argued that £50 is too much of a race. But if you think of the logistics of triathlon: water safety crew, swim caps, a secure transition to avoid bike theft, timing chips, aid stations, bike mechanics and (often, but not always) free photos, there are a lot of costs.

Once you move up to full distance, there are even more considerations. You have to have changing tents, overnight security so people can rack the day before, marshalls on the course for 17 hours, a tonne of nutrition, 180km of road to cover, massages and food after the race, toilets everywhere just to mention a few.

That said, some fees are suspicious. Why does the Castle Howard triathlon cost twice as much as other standard distances races? Why does IRONMAN 70.3 Weymouth cost twice as much as other middle distance races?

Other hidden costs

As well as race registration fees, there are some other hidden costs that I think often get forgotten about.

Transport. Most triathlons take place in rural locations where the roads are quiet. This means you have to drive to them. It is difficult to car share because you need to fit the bikes in the car. So, you need to be able to run and fuel a car.

Parking. About half the races I did had free car parking. The others charged extra and while it was typically a small amount, that is another £30 to add on over the course of a year.

Nutrition. This is not a big issue in short format racing. But starts to add up when you are doing long format (or running a marathon). For my full distance race, I took 18 gels and 4 energy bars. At around £2 a pop, that is £44 worth of nutrition in a single race. For Weymouth, I took 8 gels and 1 energy bar, so a much more reasonable £18.

But then there are the drinks, too. I take two 750ml bottles filled with a carb drink. I often discard these bottles at the aid station bottle drops, which means an additional £15 per race. Plus, you need to do long training runs and rides. Which means you need to pay for nutrition for these, too. I did two 100-mile rides and an 80-mile ride as prep for my full distance, and those could well have been £30 per ride in nutrition.

Conclusion

Twelve hundred pounds on registration fees, plus several hundred of nutrition, is an incredibly large amount of money. People can spend a lot on their hobbies, and that is arguably justified if it brings them a lot of pleasure. But that is not even including all the equipment and fancy bike stuff I buy.

Of course, few triathletes race as much as I do. And many stick to short format racing. But I know there are people who do not race as much as they would like to because they cannot afford to. I do not think this is because event organisers are ripping people off (maybe some are). But it is no surprise that the sport is full of rich white people.

2019 UCI Road World Championships road race

Saturday, October 5th, 2019 | Photos, Sport

The final race of the World Championships was the men’s elite road race. Road races are not always the most exciting because the peloton rides together, so you get one big bunch and it is all over in under a minute. However, as it started from Leeds city centre, walking up to The Headrow at 9am did not seem too big an ask.