Archive for the ‘Sport’ Category

Tour de France 2021

Thursday, July 29th, 2021 | Sport

The story of this year’s Tour de France was Mark Cavendish. Why? For two reasons. On is Cavendish’s amazing comeback. After years of trying to recover from Epstein–Barr and everyone writing him off, he returned to form to win four stages at The Tour.

This is particularly notable because it equalled the long-standing record of Eddy Merckx for the most Tour de France stage victories. This is a huge achievement for anyone but Cavendish wasn’t even supposed to be at the tour: he was only added to the Deceuninck–Quick-Step when Sam Bennett pulled out.

The second reason that this year’s tour was all about Cavendish was that Tadej Pogačar crushed everyone in the general classification. He finished with a gap of 5:20. In the past 20 years, the only other rider to win by more than five minutes was Vincenzo Nibali in 2014.

Euro 2020

Wednesday, July 28th, 2021 | Sport

Technically, football did come home as he finally was at Wemberly. And, for the first time since 1966, England was in it. What a time to be alive.

The England team did themselves proud. Not only were they unbeaten until a final that could only be settled by penalties but their behaviour outside of the game has been a shining light in an era of high political corruption. My favourite part of the tournament was where a very small minority mocked a German girl for crying and the public raised £36,000 for foreign children via JustGiving to show that minority what we thought of that.

The final didn’t go quite as many of us hoped for. However, we can all take some comfort in England going 1-0 to start, thus allowing me to get a £25 consultation bet on Italy to win. While I would rather have seen England win the tournament, the new Rapha base layer that paid for is a big comfort.

Outlaw Triathlon

Tuesday, July 27th, 2021 | Sport

Outlaw is a full distance triathlon that takes place at the National Water Sports Centre. A 3.8-kilometre swim, 180-kilometre cycle and 42.2-kilometre run around the scenic Holme Pierrepont country park and wider Nottingham region. What better way to spend a Sunday?

The swim

The swim takes place in the regatta lake which seems to be some kind of water-based plant nursery. I was swimming quite far out and I was still grabbing handfuls of the stuff at points.

It was long and hard. I had a wee panic attack on the out lap and had to switch to breaststroke to get my breathing under control. Having dealt with that, I allowed myself a quick look at my watch only to discover I was only 36 minutes in! Thankfully, I managed to settle down and the return leg was a little easier.

My intention was to speed T1 up a little (by my standards). I had gone with my tri shorts so that I could wear them for the entire race (previously I had done a full costume change). Somehow, I took longer. It did not help that transition was over 600 metres long: 1,300 athletes were mostly on two rows of racking that stretched along the lakeside. Wrestling with my top, applying sun cream, taking care of my feet and snacking on non-portable foods added up quickly. I did avoid sunburn, though, so probably worth it in the end.

The bike

The bike starts with a beautiful lap of the lake before heading out onto the roads. These were great. They’re not fully closed World Triathlon Leeds. But we did sometimes have a lane coned off, or the roads were quiet, and at almost all of the junctions, they had traffic management stopping cars and giving us priority. I think I only had to stop once at a roundabout and then only for a few seconds. There were a couple of roads where cars were holding me up but it usually kept moving as side roads were closed to stop them from turning.

I was religious with my nutrition and made my way through OTE, Clif, Haribo, Torq gels and several bottles of Lucozade.

The course was fast and flat. Technically, there was one hill in it which briefly maxed out at 11%. But nobody from Yorkshire would describe it as a climb. I spent a lot of time on my aero bars simply because it was more comfortable: the lack of elevation meant I could spin at a reasonably high cadence and protect my lower back.

The discomfort was mostly in my bottom from being sat in the saddle for so long. That and a kind of low-level-pain boredom. Only in full distance can you get to the two-thirds point, 120 kilometres in, and think “only the last little bit to do now” and yet still have two hours of cycling ahead of you. I might need to look at my cleat position, too. It was stressing my plantar fascia and for a nine-kilometre stretch, I unclipped and rode on the flat side of my pedals so I could move more onto the ball of my foot.

I stopped at aid station four just to try and kill the loneliness and take a minute to just not be on the bike anymore before taking on the final leg back to transition. T2 was a much-welcome sight. I took almost as long in T2 as I did in T1 and I have literally no idea how because I can’t really remember it. I didn’t eat anything or change my outfit (other than my shoes) but the time just disappeared.

The run

I walked the first few hundred metres as I ate some crisps and then set off in earnest. Some on-the-run maths suggested that if I ran a 4:17 marathon I could finish in under 13 hours. I had no idea how possible that was. I ran a 4:40 marathon at Yorkshireman but I was on for around 3:40 at Evolve Trio when better rested. I thought if I kept myself roughly in the game we would just see what happened.

What happened was it hurt. A lot. I was somewhere in the 5:30-6:00 range, plus walking the aid stations. I grabbed a High5 energy drink and a slice of orange at each one. My plan was to make it to 20 kilometres before moving onto coke (sweet caffeine) and for once I made it. By that point, I was doing High5 and coke at most of the aid stations as I could feel my calves tightening up.

Around 12 kilometres in my stomach started churning. I found a portapotty but I was so dosed up on Imodium that it didn’t help. I kept running. With it being a two-lap course, I was expecting to spend the first lap being overtaken by faster runners on their way to finishing their second lap. But almost nobody did. Most people were walking. A few were running at a much slower pace than me.

Despite a constant feeling that I was slowing down and that there was no point trying because I would never manage a 4:17 marathon, I kept trying to accept the pain and keep moving in the hope that it would pass. It did not pass but my watch kept saying 6:00 per kilometre and I reached the 32-kilometre mark I at least gained the comfort of “only one more hour of this”.

By this point, I could have potentially done some run-walking. But not much of it and I wanted to allow some time for emergency toilet breaks, the course measuring as longer than 42.2 or any cramp that would force me to slow down. So, I kept pushing knowing that if I got to 40 or 41, the adrenaline would push me through the final 10 minutes.

The finish

They should make the finish chute a kilometre long. A whole day of suffering for a finish that lasts 30 seconds. There were 30 great seconds, though. There was a big crowd cheering me down the line. It is impossible to take it all in. I wish I could freeze that moment in time, or at least remember to pause and walk it, but I was so fatigued, caffeinated and excited that it was difficult to think straight.

You might expect that crossing the finish line is the end of the suffering. But (in my experience) that is not the case in long format racing. If anything, it gets worse. my body stiffens up and it is hard to get up and down. And I just feel ill. It took me two hours to stomach anything and that is a surprisingly quick time frame compared with previous races.

My final time was:

12:50:05

My splits are below. While I am counting this as my fourth full distance triathlon, I compare it to my first in the table below. Both Woolenman and Evolve Trio are more recent but their event format was slightly different so Yorkshireman is the most compatible.

Discipline Outlaw Yorkshireman
Swim 1:37:20 1:59:17
T1 18:05 16:11
Bike 6:31:33 7:31:12
T2 17:00 8:23
Run 4:06:07 4:40:07
Total 12:50:05 14:35:12

That was good enough for a top-half finish: 502 out of 1053. My run split was the 136th fastest. And nearly 200 athletes took even longer than I did in transition 😂.

What’s next? I’m not sure. I have IRONMAN Copenhagen booked but I have also got everything I wanted out of full distance triathlon so not particularly inclined to do another. Time will tell.

Questars Chilterns Adventure

Thursday, July 8th, 2021 | Sport

Like many people, I watched World’s Toughest Race: Eco-Challenge Fiji with Bear Grylls during lockdown and thought “that looks cool”. When I mentioned to Mark from Cycle Care Leeds, it turned out he was a serious adventure racer and recommended Questars as a good beginner-level event. So, I signed up.

It was down in the Chilterns so the three of us decided to make a weekend of it. Thanks to a rolling COVID start policy, my race did not begin until 11:31 so I had plenty of time on the morning of the race to get ready. One kit malfunction: one of the Salomon soft flasks leaked and so I could only carry around 450 ml of water in the remaining one. That said, once I arrived at the revenue and the clock was ticking, everything happened much faster.

I had a specific kayak slot towards the end of the five-hour time limit so I concluded I had to run first as the kayak transition was a 10-kilometre cycle away.

The video

Trail running

I didn’t get a chance to look at the map before I started and my experience of orienteering was a couple of YouTube videos and a long phone call with Steve Rhodes who offered me plenty of helpful advice. I decided to head off in the same direction as most people, reach a checkpoint to prove I could read and follow a map and then work it out from there.

Luckily, the first control was easy to find and from there I was able to see a clear loop that wound bring me around several checkpoints and back in time for the two hours I had allocated to running. I got lost once or twice but quickly managed to find my way again and hit the two-hour window perfectly. The biggest problem was working out what was a public footpath and what was someone’s garden.

Mountain biking

I had rented a mountain bike from Cycle Experience. It was a nice enough bike but could have really done with an ass saver for the muddy parts and a bottle cage so I could take a bidon with me. It took me a bit of time to get the saddle right and in general, my lack of skills on a mountain bike were evident.

Some bridleways were gravel and dirt tracks, or wide forest tracks. Others were winding overgrown footpaths covered in rocks, roots and branches. on the latter, I did not have the skill to navigate them. One particularly narrow track had deep mud, a barbed-wire fence to one side and a huge amount of nettles to the other. Any fall would have ended very badly, so I decided to get off and push at that point.

I got chatting to someone before the race who said he had brought his cross bike and was going to avoid the trickiest terrain and stick mostly to roads and hard surfaces. I probably would have scored more points if I had done the same but as it was I made it to three controls. Not a total disaster given I got lost far more on the bike and ended up late to my kayak slot.

Kayaking

Everyone says that you need to engage your core when paddling or you will tire your arms out. For me, it was my quads that were screaming. I am not sure whether it was how I was sitting, or whether I am simply the first person ever to be too inflexible to kayak. Trying to master the basics, I made it 1500 metres down the canal without seeing any controls.

Luckily, on the way back I spotted two, with may have been the only two given the distance I managed. I felt a little more in control on the way back and I did not fall in the water, so definitely something I would do again.

The finish

Arriving at the kayak point late meant I only had 30 minutes to make it back to the finish. I stuck to roads on the way back and navigated without any problems, with a little careful checking of most junctions. I put my bike back into transition and sprinted for the finish line, crossing it with 72 seconds to spare!

In reality, I had more time than that as the kayak transition is deducted from your time but I wasn’t sure how much buffer I had when I finished. My score of 395 was good enough for 30th out of 59. Not too shabby for a first-timer and ultimately, I had fun, which was the aim of the race.

Kit list

If you want to see how I packed for the race, check out this kit video:

Summer Mile

Tuesday, July 6th, 2021 | Sport

While I have run 50-mile races before, I have never run a single mile as fast as I could. Given how many people at running club talk about the Summer Mile, I decided it was time to change that.

Before the race, I suggested to Toby that I would like to try and hit six minutes. He said he had never managed such a time. This statement worried me quite a lot as Toby can run a marathon an hour faster than me. Luckily, he can now also run a mile much faster as he proved in a later heat.

I positioned myself near the back but soon found myself overtaking some of my fellow competitors and even found myself on the heels of JP by the one-kilometre point. In the end, I finished in:

5:38.0

That was gun time, my actual chip time was 5:36.3. I was really pleased as it was good enough for the 8th fastest Harrier (out of 40) and ahead of some of the runners I look up to in the club. With COVID, it’s difficult to know where everyone is at with training. I didn’t do any training for this, and indeed sandwiched it in a one-hour easy run that followed a 50-minute swim, but I don’t mean to suggest I wasn’t trying: I’m three weeks away from Outlaw so I’m in the best shape of my life. I know others haven’t been so lucky to stay motivated during lockdown.

A big thank you to everyone at the club and beyond who volunteered to make the event happen, especially Sam for organising. Thanks too to Anne for the photo.

White Rose Classic

Friday, July 2nd, 2021 | Sport

The White Rose Classic is an annual sportive organised by Ilkley Cycling Club. I chose to do the medium route but it was still a challenge: only 133 kilometres of riding but with over 2,300 metres of climbing along the way.

It took me six hours to get around the course. This divided into three parts. The first two hours were a sociable ride with other riders around as we headed over some familiar roads to Grassington. Most riders then split onto a different route and I didn’t see anyone else for an hour. This was lovely: the roads between Grassington and Settle are beautiful and I had them mostly to myself. The final two hours were hard. I was empty, despite munching my way through 2,000 kcals, and it was a case of getting my head down and suffering for the final 50 kilometres.

I was very pleased to get back, especially as they were serving hot food to all competitors. Nice preop for Outlaw in four weeks time. We did have timing chips but I am not sure what happened to those as they do not seem to have published any results, so I am using my Garmin edge for numbers.

Here is a comparison to the 2019 Tour de Yorkshire which had a similar profile.

Stat White Rose CLassic Tour de Yorkshire
Distance 132.71 km 123.24 km
Climbing 2,341 m 2,384 m
Moving time 5:46:39 6:21:44
Average moving speed 23.0 kph 19.4 kph

Also, I may have a new least favourite climb: High High Road out of the back of Settle goes up to 15%+ and then just stays there for ages. At least it made Lang Bar feel easy by comparison.

Evolve Sprint 2021

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2021 | Sport

Another excellent COVID-secure event from the Blue Lagooners team. Only myself and Jay racing from Hyde Park Harriers but that is company enough. This was a warm-up for Jay before doing a middle distance aqua bike the day after and a nice relaxed race for me too as we move ever closer to Outlaw.

The swim

It was a staggered start in any order meaning there was a mixture of abilities. I usually avoid the packs but now I’m a more confident faster swimmer I tried to swim into the pack a little more and get involved. This did mean some other swimmers were groping me but nothing serious. and a speedy 16:17.

The bike

I thought this went quite well although the results suggest a lot of people were going faster. I spent plenty of time on the aero bars. and was pretty happy with how I judged my pace. I kept my average moving speed above 31 kph.

The run

I gout of T2 in around 2 minutes despite going for socks and regular laces. I went out too hard on the run but somehow managed to keep it rolling. The sun came out and I began to regret not putting sunscreen on. I finished the run in 20:39, which would have been a 5k PB but the course measured 4.91 km on my watch.

The result

My total time was:

1:19:11

Which was good enough for 41 out of 112 athletes. I am not sure the course was exactly the same the 2019 event but I have put it up for comparison.

Discipline 2021 2019
Swim 16:17 20:49
T1 1:53 1:17
Bike 38:22 43:38
T2 2:02 0:47
Run 20:37 24:18
Total 1:19:11 1:30:46

I have deliberately sacrificed my T2 to put my faster shoes on but clearly, I have let my T1 slide as well! Everything else looks good, though.

Cycle Sense TT: Tadcaster

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2021 | Sport

I finally made it to a second Cycle Sense TT last week! It did not go well. But it could have gone way worse.

it was a Thursday evening and the skies were grey with a chance of rain. However, I don’t have any clear or photochromatic sunglasses. Do not blame me! I have spent nine months trying to find a way to get a pair of Smith Attack MAG or Roka R1s but neither of them supplies their full range to the UK. I am not big fan of the Oakley look and Rapha do not do clear lenses. What am I supposed to do?

As a result, I decided to race with no glasses. However, as I started, the rain came down and got quite heavy halfway through. I was struggling to see so I reached into my pocket to pull my sunglasses out. This combined with my second piece of poor planning: keep my car keys in the same pocket. They came out with them and fell into the middle of the road. Luckily, the cars behind me missed them. But I had to stop, take my bike off the course, run back, recover my keys, get back to my bike and get back onto the road and up to speed again.

This added a lot of additional time on and I ended up with:

29:56

Two minutes slower than my first TT. Said performance earned me the lanterne rouge, placing 20th out of 20 riders and a full 1:29 behind the person in 19th. My power numbers were similar to the last time so I may well have come last even without said incident. And it is not like I crashed or got hurt, you know, beyond the bruised ego from it happening right in front of the photographer! He was very nice about it.

World Triathlon Leeds 2021

Wednesday, June 9th, 2021 | Sport

This was a weird race for me. For many people, World Triathlon Leeds is all they think about, and maybe the one triathlon they do that year. For me, coming just a week after my third full distance at Evolve Trio, all I was thinking about was how to survive my first 4-kilometre open water swim. Evolve Trio was mercifully split over the bank holiday weekend but that meant finishing on Monday, recovering on Tuesday, and only thinking about Leeds on Wednesday.

Saturday races

Even though I wasn’t racing on Saturday I braved a 6am start to get down to the mark and cheer people on. My dad and Tim and Andy were in the sprint race from 8 am onwards and my mum and sister were in the GoTri at 10 o’clock. This made for a tough day trying to run around the park to see everyone at various points. Especially when you are pushing a 4-year-old in a buggy!

It was awesome to see everyone finish. We might have to rename it Worfolk Triathlon Leeds after this.

I had been so busy with Evolve Trio and work that I didn’t even have a nutrition plan for the next day but luckily OTE had a stall in the event village that allowed me to stock up on goodies. After that we headed to a friend’s leaving do (he’s moving to Japan) and then a family BBQ, meaning I only got to pack my bags at 8 pm, just before I needed to be in bed for a 5 am start.

The swim

The new COVID arrival times made for a bit of a rush setting up in transition. But I managed to get everything done and down to the swim start in time. This was my first 1,500 metres that I was planning to do entirely in front crawl and for the first time I found myself getting jostled by the pack. I leaned away from but in future, I might try leaning into the maelstrom.

The swim went really well. I clocked in at 33:34, and I would usually be around the 40-minute mark, so around 6 minutes saved there.

The bike

I forgot how much the hills in Leeds get into my back. The first lap saw me put some power down but it was an absolute killer on my lower back. In some ways, it was worse than the 189 kilometres of last weekend. By the second lap, I managed to settle down a little, keep my cadence higher and get down on the aero bars a little more. And, to be honest, just eased off a little as I reminded myself this was technically a “recovery” race. I saved around another six minutes compared to my 2019 time.

The run

Even though I have done Roundhay parkrun a bunch of times, I thought the hill was more of a gentle drag. Then you hit it and it turns out it is a hill. Some gentle pacing help me below 5:00 per kilometre which I was pleased with for a run I didn’t go 100% on. Although the run route a slight elevation gain, compared to the usual drop into the city centre, it clocked in at only 9.5 kilometres, and so I was a couple of minutes ahead of 2019 here, too. Plus I had half the tri club to cheer me on down the finish straight.

The result

It is impossible to do a direct comparison between this year and 2019 but I have included the figures here. Obviously big improvements moving from breaststroke to front crawl. I think my running has come along more than my cycling. My 2019 run was my 10k PB until the Abbey Dash so beating that without going 100% felt like a pretty good result.

Discipline 2021 2019
Swim 33:34 39:25
T1 5:44 8:32
Bike 1:13:16 1:19:04
T2 4:52 4:02
Run 45:28 46:59
Total 2:42:52 2:58:00

All in all, 2:42:52 is a sizable improvement even adjusting for the course being potentially easier. That was good enough for 32 out of 72 athletes, but being in the M35-39 age group, only 5 out of 6. What a stupid age group to be in.

The aftermath

Perhaps the best part of the day was being able to have a sit-down, each as much junk food as I could fit in my stomach and spend time with my fellow tri club members. It has been a lonely 14 months since lockdown came in and so the return of racing as a club is a much welcome addition back into my life.

Keeping the pros in the park was also great for spectating.

Overall, a very enjoyable but tiring weekend. I was pleased to put my feet up on Monday and watch the triathlon on iPlayer.

Evolve Trio

Thursday, June 3rd, 2021 | Sport

Evolve Trio is a new event for 2021 run by the Blue Lagooners team. It is designed to be an accessible form of triathlon with the swim, cycle and run split over the bank holiday weekend with one on each day. Additionally, the course is split into four laps and athletes can choose how many laps they do, making the distance standard to full.

The swim

22 of us were on the start line on Saturday for 1-4 laps of the one-kilometre swim course. The swim is not my strong point: I did a four-kilometre swim in the pool before Yorkshireman, as well as a 3.5-kilometre open water swim in which I got cramp, then I did the Yorkshireman itself, which I also cramped and found pretty traumatic.

After that, I decided I would get in the pool and swim four kilometres every week. Then COVID happened and no lake or pool opened for more than an hour. So, my preparation was not where I wanted it to be. However, since the pools opened last month, I have managed to fit in 23 swims including a 10.5-kilometre week as part of the 7in7 challenge.

As a result, I was sure how it was going to go. But it went well! I got around in 1:35:58. That was good enough to pick up the lanterne rouge by 15 seconds. Potentially, I could go faster at Outlaw given the course is 200 metres shorter and there may be less stopping for snacking (may!). 12 of us completed the maximum four laps.

The bike

Sunday brought the bike course. It should have been 1-4 laps of a 45-kilometre loop. However, roadworks added an extra 47.2 kilometres, making it 178.8 kilometres in total. Officially it was sportive rules so it wasn’t cheating when a bunch of us were drafting a tractor. But tractors also go slower than we can cycle. There were other riders for the first hour but after that it was lonely. Thankfully, there were race vehicles on the course and the marshals cheering us on.

Womersley is flat so I was able to get plenty of speed. I went through the first 30 kilometres in under an hour and averaged 29 kph. Part of it was also increased power: at Yorkshireman, I output 153 Watts and averaged 25.3 kph and 156 Watts with an average of 24.4 kph at Woolenman. This time I output 188 Watts so I like to think that had something to do with going an hour faster and finishing in 6:37:46. Seven us of completed the maximum four laps.

The last lap was hard. Despite constant eating, I was still hungry and probably quite dehydrated by then. Or maybe the sunburn was kicking in on the few areas of skin that I missed, despite sun creaming three times. The final time I did while cycling: new skill!

The run

Finally, the run. Getting up at 6am was not my ideal bank holiday but it comes with the territory. The other days started at noon and 11am which gave my stomach time to settle. The early start was harder, though, and my stomach felt uneasy the whole way around. I still managed to eat enough, though and kept a good pace the whole way around.

Because of my sunburn, I decided to run in my Under Armour HeatGear base layers. Luckily, it wasn’t too warm and went between sun and shade most of the morning. I started feeling good in the final two kilometres when my mind settled down and focused on how close the finish was.

I finished the run in 3:38:30, more than an hour ahead of my Yorkshireman time and even further ahead of my Woolenman time. Six of us completed the maximum four laps.

The result

My total time was:

11:52:13

Officially, it was a personal challenge and there were no prizes. But unofficially, that was good enough for third place out of the six of us that completed all four laps of all four disciplines. Which meets my fifth place at Hubble Bubble.

Although it puts me over two-and-a-half hours ahead of previous full distance triathlons they do not directly compare as I was able to rest between each discipline. Also, the swim course was 200 metres longer, the bike course was nine kilometres longer but had much less climbing, and the run course was shorter. Still, it has been a big confidence boost for Outlaw.

I got a different medal for each event and they fit together like a jigsaw.

A big thank you to Bev, Morg and the whole team down at Blue Lagoon for keeping us safe and looking after us for the entire weekend.