Chris Worfolk's Blog


Round Sheffield Run

July 7th, 2022 | Sport

Round Sheffield Run is a multi-stage trail race that starts and ends in Endcliffe Park, Sheffield. It is a stage race in that there is 20k of timed stages with another 4k or so of walking in between. It’s Sheffield, so it was pretty hilly. I finished in:

01:46:38

Happy with that. The course was busy, especially on the single-track sections, so there was a lot of getting stuck behind people. It also made it difficult to see upcoming roots and quite a few people took a tumble. The feed stations has bananas and jelly babies. I’m not sure I would do the event again, but it was okay. I think they missed me on the race photos. Or maybe just decided I’m not photogenic enough, lol.

Man Vs Coast

July 6th, 2022 | Sport

Man Vs Coast is a 36-40k adventure race from Marazion Beach to Land’s End. It’s my A- event for the year: not as important as Copenhagen but still one of the big events I have been focusing on.

It’s predominantly a run but includes six trips into the sea (be it wading or jumping in), a very small amount of climbing and a couple of rope bridges to traverse. Rat Race describe it as one of those obstacle course races except that the obsticals are the Cornish coastline.

Registration

Registration took place the day before in Penzance. They have quite a long mandatory kit list and checked everyone’s kit before we were allowed to pick up our numbers and satellite trackers. The queue took quite a while but luckily it wasn’t raining while we queued.

Race day

I parked up at Land’s End and took the shuttle bus to the start. I felt a bit sick at this point so when we arrived at Marazion I got a hot chocolate and a brownie which helped settle my stomach. It rained most of the morning and there wasn’t much shelter. I got the 7am bus but you could have got on the 8am but and still got to the start comfortably, even if you were in the 9:00 wave as I was.

They had an open-topped trailer where you could drop a finish line bag so I kept my warm clothing on for as long as possible before sticking it in my bag and handing it in. The rain did stop before the start, which was nice.

Part 1: 0-14k

The race starts with a run along Marazion Beach including wading out to waist-deep water and climbing over a sea wall. There was a second sea-based activity further down the beach where we had to dip under an inflatable so this was a full immersion. At each of the sea-based activities, there is a bag drop so you can keep your kit a little drier.

After this is turned off the beach. To get under the main road into Penzance we climbed into the river and walked up the river under a set of two low bridges. It wasn’t quite hands and feet crawling but pretty low. I nearly knocked myself out on a pipe coming out of the bridge; a moment the photographer was good enough to document.

After this we were onto tracks and roads. I stopped to empty the sand out of my shoes before we took the long climb from the south coast to the north coast. At the top, the first feed stop was waiting for us. They were well stocked: crisps, cakes, sweets, fruit, flapjack bars, water and electrolyte drinks. Finally, there was a cross-country stretch to bring us to the north coast.

Part 2: 14-20k

This part was hard. We dropped onto the South West coastal path but calling it a “path” was generous. The terrain was very technical with the route being filled with rocks and often at steep inclines. I felt like I was moving really slowly here with each kilometre taking anywhere from 8 to 12 minutes.

There was a water activity where we had to wade out and around an inflatable. The water seemed a lot colder on the north coast and the rocks were super-slippy so it was slow going.

At one point, we either left the path or it disappeared completely and we had to climb down a very small cliff and back up again. it was only maybe 4 metres, so if I slipped I would only fall my own height. But that feels like quite a lot when you have only been bouldering once!

At least the views where beautiful, overlooking the rugged coast line below.

Part 3: 20-33k

Mercifully, the trail got better from here. it was still very up and down but the paths tended to be gravel and far more runable. We went passed some of the old tin mines and ruins of old stone buildings.

I was slightly delayed in getting through one gap in a wall when a horse decided it was going to block it. Thankfully, it did eventually moved when I asked it to. Some of the paths are cut into the cliffside themselves so a little nerveracking being so close to falling down a cliff.

One section was the “vertical kilometre”. Honestly, if It had not been labelled I couldn’t have told it apart from the rest of the hills on the course.

Part 4: 33-38k

As we approached Sennen the route dropped down onto the beach and we were running in soft sand again. The first activity here was body boarding: you had to grab a body board, run into the sea and board back in. Unfortunately, most of the body boards were snapped in the middle and there were was not much surf to be had, so I didn’t get very far.

At the end of the beach there was a large rocky section where we had to climb or jump for rock to rock. This was a long section that took a while to traverse. At the end, there was another water activity where we had to duck under a line limbo-style.

The final activity was just around the corner and involved climbing down another little cliff and traversing two rope bridges. They move a lot! There were only a couple of metres above the rocks but that felt pretty high at the time. Finally, it finishes with a cliff jump which again was only 2-3 metres high but that’s a lot when you’re standing there, so I treated myself to climbing into the water lower down and swimming over the other side.

After this, there was a climb back up the hill that brought the Land’s End visitors centre into sight.

The finish

The route took us up past the buildings around Land’s End and into the event village to go under the finish arch. Everyone gets a free finisher photo (the others you have to buy) and a cup of “award-winning” soup. Rat Race admit they don’t know who gave the soup said award but it was probably for the weakest soup in the world 😂.

My official time was:

5:36:01

It is a run, not a race: Rat Race publish results in alphabetical order and any comparison of the timings are meaningless because the activities are all optional so you could go much faster by skipping the trips into the sea. That said, I was moving faster than most participants: 116 out of 800.

My watch clocked the total distance as 37.95 km with 1,222 m of elevation gain. Technically, it is not even a marathon, but I would rate the difficulty as up there with the shorter end of ultra races.

Conclusion

The event was challenging and well organised. A lot of people asked me “was it horrible” on account of the cold water and having your shoes filled with water and sand. But not of that really came to pass. The water did not feel cold (except on the north coast) and I soon warmed up again. My shoes soon drained and although they stayed damp the whole time, I didn’t pick up any blisters. I was sore on Sunday but not overly so.

Some of it was fun. But I really signed up to push my comfort zone: trips into the sea, wet feet, climbing, cliffs, rope bridges, point-to-point races, all of that was uncomfortable and I wanted to push myself, which I did.

Love SwimRun Llanberis

June 19th, 2022 | Sport

Love SwimRun Llanberis was my first swimrun, an advantage-style multi-sport event which includes several sections of running and swimming with no transitions: you swim in your trainers and run in your wetsuit.

While the UK baked in the consecutive days of the hottest day of the year, North Wales stubbornly hid behind clouds. The water temperature remained at 14 degrees (compared to 22 at my local lake) so I came as prepared as I could with a thermal neoprene vest under my wetsuit, calf sleeves and neoprene gloves, but still worried I might freeze to death.

Run 1

Despite raining at registration on Friday, Saturday was reasonably bright and rain-free. We set off on the first 2k run with me in the last position. I moved up as the run went on but having already donned my swim cap I was very toasty by the end of the run section. We headed into Llyn Padarn for our first swim and the water felt pretty pleasant after that.

Swim 1

Entry to the lake is slippy on the slate and not something you want to fall over into. The 550-metre swim section took us along the coast to an exit that was even more slippery. A giant slopping rock meant that the only way we could get up it was to queue, lie on our belly and attempt to get some purchase on the far edge, pulling ourselves up along it.

Run 2

Into run section two was no kinder: this was only 2k but went straight up a muddy hillside that was overgrown with nettles and thorns. It then continued in some tarmac before heading straight back down the hill on a technical descent that frequently became artificial steps.

Swim 2

The second swim headed straight across the lake. The far shore is often further away than you think of it. Mercifully, this time it wasn’t and the swim over was fairly brisk. The 450-metre stretch heads over and into a narrow cove that gets so shallow you have to walk across it. And yes, it’s very slippy slate. You can then swim again to the exit where the first feed station is located.

Run 3

The third run section completes the easy half of the figure-of-eight loop that takes you back past the start and the first feed station. I grabbed some crisps and a gel from my back pocket. It is only 300 metres and you stop in the middle of that for the feed station so there is not much chance to warm up. That’s relevant for the next section…

Swim 3

Now we are into the proper swimming. We have left the sprint racers behind and it is just the long course athletes taking the 1k stretch down to the far end of the lake. There is no turns, you just keep going until you run out of lake. It reminded me of swimming in the rowing lake at Outlaw: it just keeps going and going.

I started to feel a bit sick during this swim and also get cold. We had not warmed up in run 3 and this time I was in the water for 27 minutes so I was very pleased to have done with it by the time we reached the swim exit. Luckily, the slate here was only moderately slippy.

Run 4

The final run section constituted the main body of running. We started with a few kilometres of flat, albeit with a wooded climb in the middle. I used this chance to unroll my tow float and pull our a Yorkie bar. With hindsight, a few more chocolate bars would not have gone amiss. I tried to keep a descent pace here, while eating, to get my body temperature up.

After the first three kilometres, you start to climb up towards the slate quarry. It’s not a scrabbling with your hands climb and the surface is good underfoot: but is relatively sleep with a series of switchbacks to get to the top. Then you are treated to a little bit of flat before arriving at feed station two: time for another gel and some jelly babies.

The views up here were amazing. We were lucky that we got a clear day. I didn’t take a camera on the event but here is a photo from the castle looking over to the quarry we ran up.

The downhill starts on a gravel road and I tried to run hard down here to keep my body temperature up as I knew we were then going into a steep technical descent through the woods where I was back to carefully picking my foot placement at little above walking speed. The climp up was a lovely chance to chat to some of the other competitors and share stories.

Swim 4

Onto the final swim. At 1.1k this was the longest swim section but was maybe a little easier psychologically because we swam along the shore to a buoy and then turned, knowing that all we then had to do was cross the lake to reach the finish line.

I felt even sicker here. I am not sure whether it was the amount of lake water I had drunk by this point but I found that if I concentrated on exhaling continuously while in the water I felt a little better. A bit of wind caused a very slight chop on the water: nothing major but it did make it harder to breathe.

Turning the final buoy was an exercise in patience: I wanted to push harder to get the thing done but if you go too hard you can often end up cramping or tiring, so I tried to tempo it into the finish.

The finish

It was cold when I finished! As ever, I thought I had brought enough warm clothes but then wished I had brought more: I ended up wearing a merino base layer, hoodie, rain jacket, changing robe and towel all layered on top of each other.

My finish time was:

3:15:53

I was in the water for less time than estimated, but running for significantly more as I walked a lot of the steep uphills and technical descents. I don’t think I’m going to be a champion swimrunner: I was 60th out of 83, with additional DNF and and 25 DNSs.

That said, I did win! Despite finishing an hour and 12 minutes behind the winner, they also have a series of lucky dip prizes to encourage people to stick around for the medal ceremony and my number was the first to be called out of those that actually had stuck around. As such, I had first pick on the prizes and went for the bobble hat.

Thoughts on swimrun

All of this running in your wetsuit and swimming in your trainers business was fine. That said, on a hot day it would have become very toasty very quickly. Carrying your tow float was more of a pain in the ass. Even though I brought some carabiners to clip it, it still bounced around and sometimes I ended up carrying it.

Specifically for Llanberis, I wouldn’t want to have worn any less as the water was cold after you had been in it a while. I’m doing Manvers Lake next month and I will see how that compares: it is a more beginner-friendly affair with shorter swims and water that should be a lot warmer.

Love SwimRun seem well organised: I didn’t know how well you could manage a water safety team with a spread out field but there was always a kayak nearby and plenty of marshalls on course. Wearing a bib vest was better than having to mess around with a pinned-on number or race belt, even if it did make it a little harder to get to the chest zip on my wetsuit.

AAT level 2

June 18th, 2022 | Life

My certificate has arrived. It turned up damaged unfortunately but not badly enough that it’s worth my time doing anything about.

Sub7 / Sub8

June 17th, 2022 | Sport

Since Kipchoge broke the two-hour marathon barrier, albeit in non-world record conditions, there has been talk of doing a similar thing with full distance triathlon: could men go under 7 hours and could women go under 8 hours? Given this would involve taking 20+ minutes off, rather than the couple of minutes #breaking2 required it seemed like quite a challenge.

However, the way they set up the challenge made things a little easier. They chose four athletes: Kat Matthews, Nicola Spirig, Kristian Blummenfelt and Joe Skipper (who stepped in for an injured Alister Brownlee just a week before) and gave them 10 pacers each. Importantly, they could also use the pacers for drafting.

This meant that they hit their targets almost with ease. The special wetsuits, swim pacers, nutrition on a bike were all nice extras. But the thing that really made the difference is that Joe Skipper had eight professional cyclists doing a team time trial in front of him. This meant they circled the track at 55 kph with the athlete on the back only needing to put out 280-300 Watts to sit in the draft. That’s still way more power than I could put out but less than they would usually racr a full distance triathlon at.

Blummenfelt finished in 6:44:25 with Skipper three minutes behind him. On the women’s side, Kat Matthews finished in 7:31:54 with Spirig also three minutes behind her. So, the barrier was broken easily in the end. But in no way comparable to a regular full distance race because the drafting made such a huge difference. Potentially they could go even faster as the swim conditions were not ideal and if you matched Skipper’s superior bike team with Blummenfelt’s run you would have a faster combination.

Wuthering Heights Wander 2022

June 16th, 2022 | Sport

I first did the Wuthering Heights Wander last year to expand my trail running experience. It is an 8-kilometre loop that you can do any time from Once (like I did last time) to lots of times (for the ultra distance). This year, I was there for the three-loop course.

The course starts with a climb over the hills and down to the Bronte waterfall. I was fifth by the time we reached it but once we got to the top of the hill it changes to a downhill road section so I opened up my stride and moved up to second. I held onto this until almost the end when I had a chat with fellow HPH-er Michelle. As we were chatting the guy in third came past me so I had to sprint off to reclaim my second place!

I finished in:

02:30:39

Not quite as fast as last year but I did run three times farther!

Organisation by It’s Grim Up North Running was pretty slick with the exception that they couldn’t get hold of any toilets due to the Jubilee weekend and having no card facilities for the barbeque.

Professional Ethics course

June 15th, 2022 | News

My new course, Professional Ethics for Helping Professions, launched today. It is designed for therapists, coaches, teachers and other helping professionals who want to know how to keep their clients safe: we’ll cover safeguarding, contracting, professional bodies, insurance, data protection, equality and diversity, and much more.

You can preview the course here or watch the trailer below.

World Triathlon Leeds 2022

June 14th, 2022 | Sport

There are not many things worth getting up at 6am two days in a row. But World Triathlon Leeds is one of them.

Saturday

Saturday was all about the cheering and a big family affair: my dad and sister were in the sprint and my mum and auntie were in the GoTri. We also had two family friends racing and three Harriers: Stu, Hanna and Yvette. I’m terrible at spotting faces so I was pretty pleased that I spotted most of them at the swim exit and on the run. Knowing people’s swim caps and wetsuit brands in advance is a big help.

It was pretty chilly so I had to go home at lunchtime and put some warmer clothes on. I made it back in time to watch the elite race. They changed the course direction this year meaning that they came down the hill on their bike. The result was the bikes came past at 60 kph. The blurs looked lovely, though.

Sunday

I was in the Yorkshire wave at 8:20, which still meant getting up at 5:45. Luckily, there were no queues to enter the park, register or get into transition this year.

We were back to a mass swim start this year so I let the rest of the field go before setting off. It only takes about 50-100 metres before they realise they have gone out way too hard and I start picking them off. By the first buoy, I had found someone’s feet to sit on. It’s different from swimming by yourself as you have to match the accelerations but otherwise felt pretty comfortable. Apparently, I was one of the few athletes that remembered to swim all the way up onto the swim ramp.

T1 was tough. They somehow made it even longer and even though the water was a luxurious 18 degrees, my cold hands failed to get my wetsuit off, even after I sat down. That cost my nearly a minute.

The bike started frantically. You climb up Park Avenue and once I was onto Princess Avenue my top priority was trying to stuff an energy bar into my gob. As a result, I didn’t settle until we reached Street Lane and I had passed the photographer. The bike course was rather windy but I managed to spend most of it on my aero bars. There was a big headwind coming down Stonegate Road and a big tailwind coming up it: as a result, I could descend at a comfortable speed and on the climb, I felt like I was flying. There was plenty of support on the bike course with Harriers at least four different points.

It was not quite a Vincent Luis-style crash but some poor guy went around the outside of the U-turn at the end of lap one and almost ran into a barrier on the far side of the road. On the second lap, I was ready for the photographer having hastily shoved another energy bar in going the other way.

T2 passed without incident. It was annoying to have to run so far in cleats, but JP assumes me that running in bare feet was no more joyful.

The run was the same as last year except in the other direction. This meant a steep climb out of transition (similar to running into town in the old days) but you are then rewarded with a long downhill. I made the strategic version to walk up the hill on the second and third lap. That cost me maybe 10 seconds per time, but also gave me enough recovery to peg it down the hill and I think there was a lot of time to be gained by running downhill effectively. I saw Graeme, Grace, Dan and Rafet on the run course and there was plenty of support on course from both Harriers and my family, too.

As we turned the final corner I was on 43:something and knew I ran a 45:something last year, so figured I might be able to get a run PB. Ths meant sprinting down the hill, but saving enough to look good for the photos.

I finished in:

2:42:43

Good enough for 18th out of 50 in the Yorkshire championship, but not as good as Ali who took second in his first ever standard distance race! Here is how I compared to last year:

Discipline 2022 2021 2019
Swim 34:18 33:34 39:25
T1 6:38 5:44 8:32
Bike 1:13:08 1:13:16 1:19:04
T2 3:58 4:52 4:02
Run 44:43 45:28 46:59
Total 2:42:43 2:42:52 2:58:00

The courses aren’t directly comparable. The 2019 event ran down into the city and the run direction changed between 2021 and 2022. The bike course also changed between 2019 and 2021. That said, I did beat last year’s time by a full 9 seconds! I had no idea until I looked it up later.

Afterwards, we had some lunch and watched the elite mixed team relay. It was freezing cold again but lovely to see the elites up close.

Summary

World Triathlon Leeds is probably one of the best weekend’s of the year. It’s right in the heart of the city so close enough that everyone comes out for it and there is something for everyone from the GoTri races to the elites. I hope Sunderland get as much joy from the event as we have.

Keswick Mountain Festival

May 26th, 2022 | Sport

The Keswick Mountain Festival is the UK’s premier mountain festival. How many mountain festivals are there, though?

I signed up for the 25k. I do not do a lot of hilly running but I thought “even if it is twice as hard as a normal 25k, that would make it a 50k, and I can manage that.” Luckily, it was somewhere in between. It was hard but not in the way I expected. The uphills were fine but the trail was quite technical: a lot of it was rocky or steep gravel descents which meant I was carefully picking where I put my feet.

This meant I was moving slower than I expected. When I signed up I put myself in the sub-3:10 category because I thought I could pretty much walk it in that time and how hard can it be to maintain a walking pace? Well, pretty hard when you’re worried you’re about to go flying. It was unrunnable. And yet, everyone else was running it. I didn’t want to do that because I was worried I would slip. But everyone else just got on with slipping (and they did slip!).

In the second half of the course, it got flatter and less technical and I was able to speed up. I hit the 24k point at around three hours and thought I would probably make it in under 3:10 after all. But the course turned out to be 25.5 km long so when I hit 25 k I could not see the finish. One last push and I crossed the line in:

3:08:38

Good enough for 176 out of 408.

The weather was okay. A little bit of train. In the UK, you sometimes get all four seasons in one day. But in the Lake District, you seem to get all four seasons every day. The route was beautiful with the caveat that I rarely dared to take my eyes off the trail.

I made a video about it that you can watch here:

Zwift Concept bike

May 23rd, 2022 | Sport

After 3.5 years of Zwifting, I’ve finally got my Tron bike.