Posts Tagged ‘running’

Love SwimRun Llanberis

Sunday, 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.

Wuthering Heights Wander 2022

Thursday, 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.

Keswick Mountain Festival

Thursday, 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:

God’s Own Backyard Ultra

Saturday, May 21st, 2022 | Sport

A backyard ultra is a type of ultramarathon in which athletes have an hour to run 6,706 meters and get back to the start line for the next lap. If you don’t make it back in time, you’re out. The race goes on until there is only one person left standing; everyone else is a DNF.

I think I originally dismissed the event as being too close to Race to the Castle. But when that got cancelled, and Elenor wouldn’t shut up about it, I decided it was worth another look. By this point, I had already invited a bunch of friends over for a Eurovision party and so I would have to drop out after 11 laps. I said to myself “what’s the point if I can only run 72 kilometres.” Then I heard myself saying it and decided that was probably plenty of running for normal people 😂. And the whole discussion might be academic as I might not make it that far.

The first six laps

If you’re going to go deep at a backyard ultra, the entire first day is basically a warm-up. But it doesn’t feel like that. Probably because, again, three hours of running is a very long run to most people.

I ran the first lap with Kevin who was looking to get his second ultramarathon in the books (which he achieved!). The course heads down the canal and then loops back through Bramley Falls Woods. There is just over 90 metres of elevation gain per lap, which is not horrendously hilly. But for someone like me who mostly trains on the towpath, it’s pretty hilly!

After sussing out the course I switched to my Nike Vaporflys and went out in search of glory. This proved trickier than I imagined: some of the crossroads in the woods left me unsure and it took me a while to spot the red ribbons that guided the way. While experienced trail runners would have zero problems, again towpath-boy over here felt pretty proud that he had successfully navigated a marked course.

I was eating some heavy food at the start: sandwiches, fridge raiders, stuff that I would normally avoid in triathlon but works well in a slightly slower event.

Lap seven

The seventh lap is a nice milestone because it takes you through the marathon distance. Except it didn’t go so well.

Halfway through running through the woods, I tripped and hit the deck. One of the benefits of trail running is that you have nice soft dirt to fall on and so I got away with some grazing of my leg and dirt all over my hands, left leg and left arm. No broken skin or any use for the first aid training I was on last weekend.

It did knock the confidence out of me a little, though, which slowed me down. My energy levels crashed towards the end of the lap so I knew I needed some sugar. This was an issue because I was getting back in 45-50 minutes which gave me 10 minutes for food and a toilet break. But after lap seven I had to fit in washing the dirt off, assessing the grazing on my leg, and eating more than I normally would have on a given lap.

Laps eight and nine

After lap seven I switched to my Hoka Bondi X for some extra-cushioned running. I was tired by this point, though, and kept tripping over more things. No further falls but I started to rattle my confidence.

Then on lap nine, I fell over again. I didn’t go down, but I did roll my right ankle, which is the one I broke in December. For a minute I thought “oh no, it’s all happening again”. But I decided to spend a few minutes sitting in the dirt to see what was going on. The pain went away and I had full functionality of it so luckily I was able to continue running.

A big thank you to everyone who stopped to check on me, help me back to my feet and the marshalls that came to find me. I was back up and walking by this point but I felt well-looked after nonetheless.

Laps ten and eleven

After lap nine I had given myself permission to crack open the caffeine. I only do this when I know I have enough caffeine to maintain the caffeine buzz for the rest of the race. This is usually halfway through the marathon at Ironman but impossible to tell if you were going for the win at the backyard.

The Red Bull tasted so good. I think it perked me up a bit as I stopped tripping over things. That said, I was using a deliberate strategy of pushing a little harder on the towpath and a little easier on the technical descents, to mitigate any issues.

By the end of lap ten, I was eating mostly sugar, not wanting any other fluids or food of any kind, and generally feeling like my stomach was getting tired of this nonsense. It was a warm day so I was drinking twice as much as I usually would but it still did not seem to be enough (but my wee was still a lovely straw colour, so who knows).

Lap eleven was one of mixed feelings. I knew it was my finish line which is always a bit of a boost, but I was also tired, sore and ready to stop.

I think if I didn’t have a deadline, I could have done some more laps. But maybe not too many more: my right hip was sore in the same way that eventually forced me to stop running at Endure24 two years ago. It was definitely more sore at this point back then, but still noticeable enough that I think it would have become an issue down the line.

The end

I completed 11 laps which is officially 73.77 kilometres. Garmin measured less distance which I attribute to GPS in the woods. That’s not quite as far as I did at Endure24, but the longest I’ve done being out on course the whole time (if you discount the short breaks between laps).

At this point, I waddled off home, grabbing as many juice and ice lollies from the shop as I could. I felt grim once I got home and had to sit on the balcony for a bit to avoid growing up. Standard exhaustion/dehydration kind of stuff.

Congratulations to Keith Robson who finished 32 yards. Thank you to all of the organisers and marshalls for putting on a great event! And thank you to the people who brought the ice pops and the chips: it truly is a team sport.

Around The Park, Around The Clock 2022

Thursday, May 5th, 2022 | Sport

Last year, Toby organised Hyde Park Harriers’s first Around The Park, Around The Clock, a backyard ultra that consists of 5km loops that take place on the hour, each hour, for 12 hours. While this makes it somewhat easier than other backyard ultras, there is obviously no such thing as an easy ultramarathon.

This year it returned in the same format with ten of us taking on all 12 loops and many others joining us for many of them and the accompanying club picnic. Well done to Sam, Jon, Chloe, Robyn, Jed, Curtis, Rich G and Toby for completing all of the laps.

The weather was slightly kinder this year. There was no heavy rain at the start and it as a touch warmer, too, ending in a pleasant summer evening but without any sunburn.

Thank you to Naomi and Steve for the photos.

Roche Abbey trail race

Thursday, April 14th, 2022 | Sport

I booked the 32k Roche Abbey trail race as a prep event for Race to the Castle. Unfortunately, five days before the event, Race to the Castle was cancelled. But it would still be a useful test of the legs after breaking my ankle in December.

It was a three-lap course. We took the first few hundred metres together before the eventual winner accelerated off into the lead. I settled into third place but was down to sixth by the end of the first lap as everyone found their pace. After the second lap, I moved back up to fourth as the other runners slowed down. It was annoying. If they had left me for dead I could chill out. But being close to the podium I wanted to keep pushing.

As we approached the aid station on the final lap, I saw the third-place runner ahead of me. He wasn’t moving too fast and stopped entirely when we reached the aid station. This would have been fine but I was hurting by this point, too. By the halfway out-and-back, I was 3.5 minutes up but I was running out of energy myself and had to do a bit of run-walk.

As I went up the big hill through the woods I realised I had run out of water. Probably the first time ever! For some reason, I had done my maths incorrectly when filling my bottles that morning, so I had estimated my water intake correctly but did not put enough water in the flasks. I was about 20 minutes from the end so there was nothing to do but push on.

In the end, I was still moving faster than everyone behind me and finished 10 minutes ahead of fourth place. Unfortunately, Grim Up North are now only giving out trophies to the winners, but it’s still officially a podium for third overall.

Roundhay PECO

Monday, February 21st, 2022 | Sport

Having made the first, very dry, PECO at Middleton Woods, my ankle was finally fixed in time to make it to the final PECO of the year. It was a lot muddier! Luckily I had my Saucony Exodus but ultimately I don’t think there are any shoes that can deal with the volume of British mud.

Thanks to Anne for taking photos.

Grim Leodis half marathon

Wednesday, February 9th, 2022 | Sport

The Grim Leodis is a It’s Grim Up North event with both a marathon and half marathon distance. As I am now allowed to run on my ankle yet I set out to walk the half.

It turns out walking is hard. I managed to maintain a pace of close to 8:00 per kilometre and, despite starting at the back, overtook six people. But because the muscles used for walking are different to that of running I was pretty sore on the Sunday! I managed to complete the course in:

2:53:24

It’s a nice route. The first six kilometres are towpath but it then switches onto trail all the way up to Apperley Bridge and then comes back along the Leeds Country Way before rejoining the canal.

Congratulations to Indi who took the prize for Hyde Park Harriers as first lady.

Running d-day

Tuesday, February 8th, 2022 | Life

I can run again. Hurray!

Christmas Cracker 16k

Tuesday, December 7th, 2021 | Sport

I’ve had an amazing triathlon season this year and so it was only fair that I had a difficult off-season. Not long after I recovered from my first cold I picked up a second one which was one of the worst I have had. It’s a cold, so that’s still not bad in the grand scheme of things, but still kept me from training for 10 days.

By the time the Grim Up North Christmas Cracker rolled around, I couldn’t wait to get running again. But I was also concerned that after two weeks of not doing much I wouldn’t perform too well. Sunday turned out to be surprisingly mild and I went leggings and a t-shirt for what I hoped to be a fast-paced affair. I managed a 10-minute warm-up and a breakfast of Red Bull and energy gel.

Nobody seemed keen to lead out so I set off from the front and led the race for the first 50 metres. Another athlete then came past me. Joel then overtook us both and I followed him through to take back second place. He accelerated away building about a 30-second lead over the first few kilometres and then the gap stabilised. I was running on the limit but decided to push hard to halfway and then ease up on the way back.

I was maybe closing the gap a little at the halfway point before Joel put the hammer down on the way back and re-opened the gap. I was running with a blister on my left foot but thankfully the pain in my chest was so overwhelming that my foot pain was very manageable in comparison. The gap established again and I crossed the line 30 seconds down and 3 minutes ahead of third place.

1:10:31

I was hoping to average somewhere between 4:20 and 4:22 per kilometre and I came in at 4:21. This was my first ever second place, besting the third place I picked up at the Hubble Bubble half marathon a month ago.

Since COVID, Grim Up North have been splitting the events over two separate races, one on the Saturday and one on the Sunday. If I had run on the Saturday, I would have been three minutes clear of the field and the winner from Saturday would have not made the podium in our race. But that’s the luck of the draw. All we can do is our best and know that the more times we do that, the luckier we will get.

Post-race care was good as usual: they had a BBQ on for this event a well as the usual sweets and drinks.