If you've competed in a race and want to write a report, even if it's only describing the course for people who might consider doing the event in future, please do.
You can e-mail your report to the webmaster for publication together with any digital images you have of the event.
Survival Of The Fittest race reportReport by Keith Brewster
I used to love tearing around adventure playgrounds as a boy but apparently this is no longer acceptable behaviour for a thirty something year old man, especially with the sort of ‘tash I’m currently wearing. I think this is why I enjoy these sort of obstacle course races so much and I’m not the only one. There were about 10,000 entries for the Survival Of The Fittest race at Battersea power station split up into 27 waves doing the 10k race during the day and 12 waves doing a floodlight 5k in the evening.
I went in the 2nd wave and wanted to get off near the front of my wave, the first obstacle was a load of hay bales almost immediately after the start line so I thought there could be a long delay and potential carnage mid field! I was actually at the start line ready to go with ten minutes to spare much to Beth and my parents surprise, I don’t think I’ve ever not been rushing around before a race with only moments to spare. So I got a good start and over the bales without incident then there was a bit of running before the next obstacles. I started working my way through the fast starters as they realised there was another 9.5k to go, settling down to a more realistic pace and was up to 2nd place by the second obstacle. I could see 1st place with his green trainers a little way ahead but couldn’t close the gap and he stayed out of reach for the whole race.
Unfortunately I didn’t see “green trainers” tackle the 3rd obstacle, a massive paddling pool which we had to wade through about thigh deep with a net floating in the middle. The marshal shouted “Under the net” and I obediently dived under the water, leaving me soaked with 9k to go and a bit earlier than really necessary, it turns out the sensible way to tackle that was to crouch down and lift the net up, leaving your shorts dry!
I was quite surprised to catch the tail end of wave 1 at about 1.5k (they’d had a 15 minute head start!) crawling through some tunnels but the race then opened up through Battersea Park, the only obstacle for the next few kilometres was a steeple chase in the park. After a bit more running we were back at the power station and there were some sand bags, cones and beer barrels to be carried and all sorts of things to climb over and through including some scrapped cars, one of which looked suspiciously like our last car. We had to climb in through the back window, out the front and slide down the bonnet. My favourite part was a series of wet wooden ramps to clamber up and slide down, I’m such a child!
The race was surprisingly hard and I was feeling pretty exhausted and battered by the final obstacle, the famous 8 foot wall. I took a moment to gather myself though and just had enough strength left to haul myself over the top and drop down to the finish line, wet, muddy and bleeding!
There are loads of these sort of muddy, “adventure races” cropping up but Rat Race who organised this race are organising the mother of all obstacle course races next year, the Dirty Weekend next May. With 200 obstacles over 20 miles it’s going to be like the Ironman of the adventure race world! They’re saying expect finishing times between 4-12 hours. Sounds good to me...
(Note from webmaster: I hope that doesn't clash with our race weekend (18-19 May) when it's all hands to the deck)
Winter Ballbuster duathlon race reportRace report by Lisa Collins
Ballbuster is five 8 mile laps around Box Hill (1 x run, 3 x bike, 1 x run), starting from the car park opposite the café. Regular club riders will be familiar with parts of the course - the race takes you
along Box Hill Road, then it’s all left
turns onto Headley Road, Tots Hill, Lodge Bottom Road and Zig Zag Road. The standard is very high with some pretty unbelievable winning times, and people come from all over the UK to race there.
It was absolutely freezing (even for a Yorkshire lass) when we got there at 7am. Our numb fingers were fiddling with race numbers and timing chips with the dexterity of an elephant. My training had been curtailed by injury and a cold so I wasn’t as prepared as I’d like, and after a week sitting on my backside I was on the edge with all that pent-up energy. After a moment’s silence on the
start line in respect of Remembrance Sunday, the race began and I was relieved to find all my bits working. In fact, the only hiccup was that my gel insoles were so cold they were like planks of wood in my shoes, and it took a mile or so of ungraceful stomping for them to warm up and soften!
The first run was faster than planned, but not dangerously so. I still felt I had plenty in the tank. Transition took a little longer than usual as
gloves and jacket had to be worn. I was
happy to get aboard my steed, with the sun breaking through on the frost and autumnal leaves like a pretty postcard, and I was making good progress
until an attack of cramp in my left leg took me by surprise. I’ve never had cramp on the bike before and discovered that trying to stretch out while pedalling is, shall we say, interesting! I didn’t know what else to do except ignore it, but the moment I exerted any effort it bit me back. I was half laughing at myself, half groaning for most of it, trying to cycle with one leg.
By the third lap I was much better (isn’t it funny how the body can change like that?) It was astonishing to see the leading men heading out on the run. By the time it was my turn, my insoles had gone cold again so cue more robotic stomping. Not sure what the answer is for that particular problem, so answers on a postcard please!
I was gobsmacked to catch up to John about half way through the run on Lodge Bottom Road. John says this encouraged him to go faster (see, I try to help as much as I can!) That stretch was the hardest part for me - it was endless and there
are no landmarks to tick off. I felt sick
too, no doubt from the cocktail of gels,
jelly beans and beetroot water sloshing about in my stomach - it’s a miracle I didn’t throw up! My Garmin also conked out at around 8km, 43 minutes in, so I lost that encouraging measure of progress. Having started slowly I’d gained speed, but now I was in the dark.
Support around the course was great from the marshals, dog walkers and cyclists alike. However, there was only one water station on the course which hadn’t even been set up for the first run. It’s a long, hard race and a lot of competitors were dropping like flies; I’ve never seen so many DNFs in a race. Fortunately, being a goody two shoes, I’d come prepared with a nutrition belt.
It’s the only time that John has ever beaten me on the bike, and I’ve beaten him on a run, and by a happy coincidence we crossed the line at the same time. He assures me he will not be beaten at Pirie 10… we’ll see!
Team Outrageous Winter Duathlon - Cyclopark
Report by Selwyn Smith
I thought I'd get a little Duathlon sharpener in before Jekyll & Hyde and mentioned it to Grant and off we went on Thursday night.
If you've got a job with 'flexible' hours, it’s a great opportunity to check out the Cyclopark - I defo recommend it.
There's four more before Christmas! Only 40 mins away from Crystal Palace (somewhat longer in rush hour though!!!!).
It’s a friendly ''no frills' type race but you get to race on the newish, smooth Cyclopark for £15!
We turned up with plenty of time before the start but I still managed to be late for the briefing. No problem, I'll follow everyone else, no way would I be first, or so I thought!!!
It’s a 2.5km/12km/2.5km eye balls out duathlon, so we started off quite easy checking out our competition who all sped off at the start! But soon started winding them in until we close to the front.
Not including the winner as he was actually good, the other podium spots became a race similar to the London Olympics Tri with Alistair (me), Jonny (Grant) and Gomez (guy in Brit cycling gear) making a break.
Whizzing around the floodlit cycle track, all that Herne Hill Velo training really came into effect and we dropped Gomez. Alistair led into T2 only to be overtaken by slick footwork by Jonny. Then Gomez appeared from nowhere and it was a three-way battle on the run with no-one else in sight! We think Gomez had a similar counting ability to Grant! It was a bit suspect him running with us as I'm sure we lapped him on the bike! Not sure if I mentioned earlier but Gomez was about 11 years old!
In came the Brownlees' plan to go off hard (bit quicker than a walk!) and drop Gomez - which worked! Poor Jonny had been penalised (a few too many heavy nights recently), so the race was handed to me!
Great fun as you can tell from my over-enthusiastic write up! But defo be back for more, was punishing but rewarding at the same time.
I was chuffed with our second and third placings until it was pointed out our competition was a bunch of 'very young' or very old adults. Official results not available yet.
Gravesend Cyclopark is a great set up, with lovely facilities - they even offer a Zumba class if partners don't fancy watching the race! So lads, get ya dancing shoes on!
Worlds Race Report - Auckland - 22 OctoberReport by Rob Parry Results
As I queued at the Malaysian Airlines check in desk at Heathrow and sized up the competition around me, just having said my goodbyes to the entire member base of my fan club who had come to see me off (my Mum, her partner Bob, and Emily), I couldn’t help but think that this was a very long way to be going for a sprint triathlon!
28 hours, two flights, a quick stop at Kuala Lumpur Airport for noodles and a refresher workout in the hotel gym (that was quickly packed with GB age groupers who had obviously had the same idea), a batch of sleeping tablets, a breakfast of “either scrambled egg, or curried prawns and rice - except we’ve run out of eggs”, and no idea what time zone I should be in, I finally arrived in Auckland.
As we were travelling on the main GB Age Group flight with Nirvana Holidays, we were treated to the traditional Maori welcome in the form of a haka-style display from the indigenous Auckland tribe. Kia Ora!! After a short trip to the official Team GB hotel, I met my roommate (Jim Bishop, a 40-44 age grouper from Bristol), and we wasted no time in unpacking our bikes to get in a quick recce of the bike course. We had our first experience of typical Auckland weather on this ride: blue skies and sunshine, then clouds, then rain and high winds, and then sunshine again. New Zealanders call it “four seasons in a day”; I called it “UK weather on steroids”! As I clung onto the handlebars and leaned into the wind, I was starting to regret the decision to bring my deep-dish wheels.
Six days with nothing to do except prepare for a race is a very long time it turns out; especially when that race is a sprint triathlon. There was a huge expo that was running all week, with a number of small events taking place each day in the build up to the elite races over the weekend, and the age group waves on the Monday. Aside from the aquathlon, this week was filled with recce rides and swims of the course (or “bike/swim famils” as they are known out here), a couple of easy runs, and a lot of sitting around in the team hotel and discussing things like course profiles, gear ratios and tyre pressures.
Around us, the whole city was buzzing with triathlon, with (triathlate) celebs-spots and bling bikes a daily occurrence. The opening ceremony gave a good sense of the scale of the event, and it was fun being part of the Parade of Nations, despite there being more people in the parade than there were spectators watching it!
The day after landing, and onto my warm-up event: the grandly titled “ITU Aquathlon World Championships” (ironic because there was no direct qualification criteria for this race). I nearly backed-out after deliberating over the value of going hard so soon after landing, but decided to go ahead after a number of competitors told me that the age groupers only use this event as an easy course recce. Yeah, right! - I thought, after the schooling I received in the swim followed shortly by another schooling on the run (helped slightly by subsequent news that it was over distance by 300m). Still, it felt good, and an 18:19 run split around a twisty 5.3k course was up there somewhere with my PB.
The day before our race day was the Elite Men’s race, and excitement was already building in the hotel following a number of good results for the GB Junior and Women Elites. I bumped into Johnny Brownlee in the lift just 3 hours before start time, and asked him how he was going. He told me he was feeling good, was happy about the torrential rain and wind, and couldn’t wait to get out there. “Watch out, Gomez!” I thought to myself, and I wished him good luck. I couldn’t get over how calm and friendly he was – definitely a role model for the sport, and a great demonstration of how to deal with pressure, given that he needed a good result against Gomez to become the series World Champion. It certainly helped put our races into perspective!
Straight after the elite race, the 3000 or so age groupers lined up at the HUGE transition to check our bikes in. I wasn’t ecstatic about leaving my bike out in the rain and sea air overnight, especially seeing as we weren’t allowed to cover the bikes at all, but at least it meant there was one less thing to think about come race day.
Race day, and the usual super-early start. The winds had died down a bit, and with no rain in sight, we were hopeful for better conditions then the pros had endured. It was still dark, but transition was buzzing with activity as athletes set up their stations and recced the various ins and outs.
All of the GB team in my age group had been allocated spots next to one another, and this was the first time that I’d been able to put faces to all the names I had seen on the BTF website. Great chance for some introductions and maybe a bit of banter? Not from this lot it seemed, not today! I tried briefly but gave up, as it seemed that talking to your opponents at this stage of the day was not the way it was done. I’d love for some of these guys to have bumped into Johnny this time yesterday!
Onto the race. The swim was a 750m out and back in the Auckland harbor, with a deep-water start and one hand having to touch the elite’s dive platform. Transition was crazy-long – longer than the London Triathlon, with a thin carpet hiding a number of dangerous obstacles like tram tracks. The bike was a technical one lapper with a number of hills and a few dead-turns, all on silky-smooth tarmac, which was exposed to the winds from the sea along most of the route. An equally long T2, before a single-lap 5.3k run around the marina, with endless sharp turns and more tram tracks and other obstacles to avoid.
Before jumping into the water, I made sure to say good luck and shake the hands of the guys either side of me. It would surely help when we started playing underwater rugby with one another! I normally hang back in the swim, but this was the Worlds, and I hadn’t come all this way to give it any less than 100%!
The fog-horn went off, and I pushed off as hard as I could, and didn’t lift my head to breathe or sight for at least 10 strokes – instead being guided straight by my two new friends. I’d never felt this good at the beginning of an open-water triathlon before. I was getting knocked in the head from both sides with every stroke, and I now had someone whacking my foot, but I wasn’t phased at all like I normally would be, and was actually keeping up for a change! As we made a push for position around the first buoy, I even started to overtake the guys either side of me!
As the course left the shelter of the jetties at the turn point, the swell picked up considerably, and sighting got tougher. I turned around the second buoy and headed for the end, and got my head down and pushed as hard as I could. Keeping pace with all those around me, and even passing swimmers from waves that started 3 minutes earlier, and then a few from the wave 6 minutes earlier. I felt awesome at this point – surely a PB??! I leapt out of the water and checked my watch – 13m+? How could that be? I had swum the course in 12m25 3 days before. No time to dwell now, as I was gearing up for my favourite leg.
There were tons of spectators crowded around the exit of T1, no doubt hopeful for a few eventful bike mount attempts. Don’t mess it up now! On safely and time to get my head down. Everyone had their age group letter marked on their right calf, so it was easy to see who you were racing against. I was on the hunt now for the letter F! It wasn’t long before I started to catch some of the faster swimmers from my group, and as we approached the first hill, I jumped out of the saddle and swung the bike from left to right. The rest of the bike leg went well, and I had taken back quite a few places before heading into T2. Time to bring on the pain!
I’d gone into the race telling myself that no matter how much it hurt, I would give it everything on the run. My main worry would be that my old stress fractures on my fibulas would flair up on this hard course, but instead it was stomach cramps that had come from nowhere, right from about 200m in. I was ready to push through the pain, but any attempt to raise the pace left my completely breathless. Just as I turned a corner, in front of me was an Aussie from my group doubled-over and throwing up. At this point I decided to play it safe and cruise home.
Not a minute had gone by before that same Aussie tore past me at a pace that I knew I had no chance of matching. Okay, that’s how you do it! No matter how much I tried, I couldn’t dig deep enough to raise my pace though. Back to survival mode. The support on the course was awesome, although I couldn’t help but feel that I was letting down every bearer of a GB flag, as I jogged past them. A few Kiwis and Aussies with the now-dreaded ‘F’ on their calf tore past me at was must have been close to 3:10min/k, and I knew I was done for.
With about 500m to go, I gave it one last push, and staggered over the line, totally forgetting to style it out for the finishing camera that was streaming live on the internet! Job done – could have gone better (over a minute slower run than in the aquathlon), but then could have gone much worse. The air was buzzing that evening with tales of punctures and crashes, and there were a few very somber –looking age groupers around the hotel!
The post race party was basically just one big swap-shop, with everyone desperate to exchange their team kit with ones from other nations. Some were even weaving through the crowds with their still-wet tri suits raised above their heads! I got down to business, and walked away with polo shirts from Mexico and Brazil. The awards ceremony was long but great to watch, and gave us the chance to see all of the gold, silver and bronze medalists from each group. Hmm, I would quite one of those! One day maybe (yeah right). The biggest cheer of the night was when the solitary finisher in the 80-84 group took the stage to receive his gold medal – really inspiring stuff.
Racing at the Worlds – competing not just for yourself but for your country, with countless cheers of ‘Go Team GB!’ directed at you - was an unforgettable experience, and I can only hope that I get a chance to do it again. As the 4th GB in my group, I missed out on pre-qualification for London next year by one place, with third place just under a minute up the road (argh that one minute lost on the run!). Oh well, just means I’ll have to target the qually races again next year. Bring it on!
Ironman World Championships - Hawaii - race reportReport by Lauren Whitmore
Despite being the World Championships I was actually more relaxed about this race than any of my previous Ironman races. Training has gone really well since I qualified by winning my age group in Wales last year. It was the first time I’d made it to an Ironman start line without an injury so I was excited to see what I could do. Given the depth of the field (with many of the fastest amateurs actually training full time) I knew I wouldn't be challenging for the win, so I could just ignore everyone else and stick to my own race plan.
Getting into the water as the sun came up and looking back at Kailua Pier and down Ali'i Drive was very cool; the crowds
were 3 or 4 deep for
at least a mile around the bay. The start line was extremely crowded; everyone wanted to start at the front. I'm normally one of the first women out of the water and the years I spent playing water polo mean I don't worry too much about a bit of a punch up at the gun (or cannon in this case!) as the field usually thins out pretty quickly. In this race though most of the field are "good" swimmers, which made for 3.8km of pure survival, just trying not to drown or get knocked out. I finally made it back to shore with 62 minutes on the clock (I normally swim 54-55 minutes), glad to be alive and eager to get out onto the bike.
The bike course (180 km) is an out and back along the Queen K highway. The first 40km was fast and relatively non-eventful other than being passed a lot, which I'd already mentally prepared for. I arrived in Hawaii two weeks prior to the race to acclimate to the heat and get used to the winds, but it had been slightly cooler than expected, and very calm on the days that I'd ridden. Race day was predictably a different story, and the wind meant just travelling in a straight line was challenging. The trick was to watch the riders up the road, observe when they suddenly went from upright to a 45 degree angle and brace yourself when you got to that point. Despite being pushed onto the rumble strips at the side of the highway several times, I stayed on my bike. My bike split of 5:38 was reasonable (the fastest pro women rode 5:06), although I'd hoped to be slightly faster the conditions meant that it was still all about survival!
For the first few miles of the marathon my legs felt great, but I felt like I was running in a furnace. I was definitely getting the full experience of the Kona heat + wind double whammy! At every aid station (each mile along the course) I chucked water over my head and emptied two cups of ice into my bra and down my shorts. Despite the heat, I was running faster than planned, so I kept repeating a mantra of slow down and relax.
After an out and back on Ali'i Drive the course goes back up onto the Queen K, which means rolling hills, zero shade and few supporters. The lava fields seemed to stretch endlessly, and the aid stations now seemed far more than a mile apart. I'd settled into a good pace and a big PB was on the cards if I could just hold it together. The odd dying animal noise did slip out occasionally, but I was in manageable pain territory and always felt confident I could tough it out. Running the last mile down Ali’i Drive was one of the best experiences of my life, and I was absolutely delighted to cross the finish line in 10:36:39.
Prior to the race I thought finishing in the top half of my age group would be good, so I was surprised (and very happy!) to find out that I’d finished 12th (of 51) in my age group, and 2nd British amateur overall. It feels great that all my hard work off, and I’m definitely ready for a bit of a break. I can already see plenty of areas for improvement though and I’d love to get back to Kona again in the future!
The other Kona race report – Hawaii 6-7 OctoberReport by Haydn Whitmore
It was really painful to be in Kona watching everyone else getting ready for their big day knowing that I wouldn’t be taking part. However supporting Lauren was amazing and I had fun doing a couple of small local races myself.
The first was a 1.2 mile non wet suit swim at the Kukio Beach Resort and I had no thoughts of glory here as my swim is pretty awful and this race turned out to be really competitive. White sandy beach, warm blue sea with lots of tropical fish made this event a real pleasure. A very civilised, ‘in water’ start made it a pleasure although as we turned at the first buoy there was a bit of chop that saw me breathe in water a couple of times. Along the coast to the final turn and back in to the beach fringed by palm trees saw me finish in a time of 38 minutes which I wasn’t too unhappy about. The winner came out in 20 minutes!
The swim was simply preparation for a very generous Hawaiian brunch served on the beach with music playing in the background. This is definitely how all races should be. It was then off to collect Lauren just up the coast who we’d dropped off earlier to do a three hour bike session on the Queen K highway up to Hawi and back.
The following morning we were back in town for the PATH 10km run which took place on part of the IM course along the famed Ali’i Drive. Even though it was early morning it was warm and humid. A simple out and back run it was a mass start onto a path beside the road and starting mid pack I ended up reeling people in and passing for the whole of the race which always leaves you feeling good. It was tough in the heat but thinking about doing a marathon later on in the day you realise just how hard the IM here is. Clocking in at 43min and second in my age group I’d enjoyed the run and again was pleased to see the after race refreshments included loads of fresh fruit and Kona coffee.
Race week in Kona is really special, and race day compelling so if you ever get the chance – take it.
Having been here, I’ll probably have to have another go at qualifying so I can take on this awesome course sometime in the future... just not next year.
Streatham Common XC Champs - Race report
Report by Lisa Collins
Streatham Common XC Champs comprises four laps of the park including a loop into the woods. It’s challenging and fun; billed at six miles but actually over six and a half (size does matter) the lap format makes it feel fast, and ticking off the eight hills is certainly satisfying!
It’s a fast downhill start, and then you enter a game of ‘guess the route’. If I’ve one minor criticism of the race it’s a lack of clear markers on parts of the course, which caused several errant runners and John to take an extended tour of the common (I know it was a pretty day but, come on boys, stay focussed!)
I was among the top five girls from the start and aimed to keep it that way. Although the best ones escaped, I kept pushing and believed I was in the running for 3rd if only I could drop the rival who was cat-and-mousing me (there’s always one isn’t there?) She was weaker up hill, so on the third lap I injected some distance between us on the flat, making it impossible for her to close the gap when we hit the next slope. My evil plan worked and I was thrilled at the prospect of a podium finish in the XC champs; but I crossed the line to be told I was 4th! I was gutted. There was yet more confusion when the first version of results put me 3rd but the current version says 4th. Always the bridesmaid, eh? (Until next May anyway).
I guess the small CPT presence was due to the Super Saturday. Nevertheless we had a vocal presence in the form of Andy, who stayed to cheer us on after finishing the fun run with his little boy.
All in all, it was a good day for us. John and I both improved on last year, but then he’s a sub-19-minute-5k man these days!
Challenge Henley race report
Report by Hans Geberbauer
If you look at the results listing, you will note that plenty of members have tackled an iron-distance race this year and of those, quite a few have done it for the first time. You have approached this momentous challenge with quiet fortitude, minding your own business and letting others mind theirs as you prepared for months and months. And then you all did your race without much further ado and let your results do your talking. I, by contrast, seem to have reported every detail of our preparation, every sportive ridden with special mention of each climb, pothole and sheep encountered, every awkward stroke at long distance swim events, every failure to deliver a mid-foot strike on a run, even posting some holiday snaps. And why stop now? So here it goes, the stroke-by-cadence-by-stride report on Challenge Henley.
I had ambitions to be quite technical in our preparation. We did the lactate tests, figured out our heart rate zones, had the bikes professionally fitted and then life intervened and it all seemed a bit complicated, so we ignored all of that and just did lots of cycling and enough swimming to be completely confident that we'd be able to handle the distance even if the water was cold or rough. I kept up most my running routine, Wim figured he'd have a slow run anyway and ran little. I booked sportives and races to peak with long distance events in August.
Although things had gone to plan, nerves crept in as the race approached and my body hit the panic button, conjuring up minor aches and infections. On Saturday, I left it unaccountably late to leave for Henley for registration and bike racking. We missed the race briefing and a massive tailback into Henley might have prevented us from registering on time, so I sent Wim ahead on foot only to realise my mobile had very nearly run out of battery so co-ordination might become difficult.
Eventually we made it to T1 to hand in our bikes. As we set them up, the groove on one of Wim's pedals went and it was impossible to get the pedal in. We were 90 minutes from the deadline for racking. I threw his bike back into the car and rushed the 3km back to registration where I had seen a bike mechanic. The mechanic had gone on walkabout. When he appeared, he ummed and ahhed. Did he have a spare crank? No. They had new tri bikes set up at the stand. I was getting ready to buy one on the spot when the mechanic managed to get the pedal on the crank. Profuse thanks, quick phone call to Wim, race back to T1. The bikes go in a few minutes before the racking deadline. We bump into the Smiths and Puseys and the mood brightens. We're all set but after a glitch free year of racing, we had almost blown it.
On race morning, we tried to get into T1 for a final check on the bike only to be denied admission. We had failed to pick up wristbands at registration. No matter that we had race numbers, timing chips, race number tattoos. Each official consulted drew in an even more senior official and I started launching into the "I've spent a fortune on this...". Eventually, they relented (after the race, we picked up our bikes without anybody checking the wristbands so not sure why quite such a fuss needed to be made).
And finally, in perfect weather (cool, dry and slightly overcast) the race gets under way. The water is 16 degrees, the current is against us on the first half of the swim but not particularly strong, the navigation straightforward. Just before the turn buoy, the stronger swimmers from the second wave start catching me and I try not to get flustered. On the way back, the easy bit, I manage to go wide and it seems difficult to get back to the line of buoys. As I head into the changing area, I see Wim already in his CPT cycling shirt, and shout "Das was total Scheiße" which draws a playful rebuke from a marshal ("That much German I understand!"). But Wim shows me the time: we are exactly on schedule. He takes off.
I do a final check of my T1 bag and see a spare race belt and number. Odd. I've put mine on already. Oops, I've put on Wim's and he's taken off without one. I head out, jump on the bike and catch him after 10km to hand over the number. Now we settle into the bike. The course is three laps of 60km consisting of two spokes of out-and-backs with dead turns at the far end. So what you climb up, you come down, making pacing easy. We'd raced part of the course before and recce'd the whole lot with Neil, Kati and Mark Thomas in July. This proves invaluable on the day as the tarmac is mostly terrible, and not always in obvious ways, but we are unfazed. The ascents are not particularly steep, but some drag on. It feels easy. For 40km, I hang 50m or so behind Wim, then I pass him just has Kati (who had started in the wave after us) catches up with us. She and I exchange places for 40km, then she drops me.
I do the first lap too fast and dial back a little but suddenly reckon a sub-7hr bike is possible. The second lap is still strong. I tire on the third lap and start to stiffen up, so I get off the bike and stretch. Three minutes well spent. I'm elated and roar down Christmas Common into T2.
I take my time in T2. Panic sets in. Why run a marathon just after a long swim and near epic bike? It starts well enough and I am delighted to see Abby who had come out to Henley in the afternoon. By km20, I walk and can't get running again. Selwyn and Kirsten cheer but I am at a low point. I do the maths: at 6km/h walking pace, I have three hours ahead of me. I will finish in the dark. All the great work on the bike will have been for nothing. A spectator shouts "Come on, Hans, you CAN do this." I start running again and don't stop for the remaining 20km. I claw back some places. When I realise a sub-13h finish is possible, I pick up the pace and the last 4km feel fast and easy. I see Wim start his last lap so I know he's doing fine and head down the finishing chute with a huge smile on my face.
Wim comes in 1h 20mins later. Another competitor (Martin Blythe) had taken Wim under his wing 15km from the finish and encouraged him all the way through to the end - a wonderful gesture of sportsmanship. Wim was the youngest competitor and won his age group (his third AG win after Crystal Palace and Bexhill!).
Special thanks to Selwyn and Kirsten who had stayed on after competing in the Henley Half and didn't leave until Wim had finished - that was really appreciated! Ever patient Abby scooped us up, piled us into the car and drove us home. Fellow CPTers finished ahead of us, stealthy Rob Hicks coming in at just under 12h and Kati Pusey who looked in control throughout about 15mins later. (We also had quite a turn out for the Henley Half but except for Mark Thomas I didn't see them during the race. It seems to have gone OK for everybody although Neil suffered a minor mechanical.)
Now what? We are happy with our results (although we were comprehensively chicked, not just by Kati at Henley but by Katie Crowe as well, racing tougher IM Wales on the same day). Wim will likely retire from long distance triathlon and focus on his A-levels and TKD. He feels he's not so old yet that he has to engage in dramatic feats of endurance just to prove that he isn't dead yet. I'll try again, but I will miss Wim in swim sessions and on those long bike rides...
Vitruvian race report
Report by Haydn Whitmore
The Vitruvian - Middle distance tri – 8 September 2012
(1900m swim, 90km bike, 21km run.)
What a setting! Rutland water blanketed in a shimmering mist as the sun came up over the surrounding hills for a great day of racing. This just couldn’t be better.
Having completed IM UK six weeks before this was my test to determine if I could recover sufficiently to race competitively following the IM. I took three weeks ‘rest’ just doing whatever I felt like which was mainly mountain biking and lake swimming then followed up with weeks 8, 10 and 12 of my IM training plan which seemed to go well. So what would the race have in store?
Fortunately the water was warmer than the stated 18 degrees and I managed 38min for the swim, not fantastic but not desperately bad for me of late. Out onto the bike and the rolling course was fast and fun in the sun as two laps flew by in 2hrs 35min. Chris Hall started in an earlier wave and I was trying to catch him on the bike but he was obviously having a good day and going well.
The run around the lake is a nice flat two loop out and back course with plenty of aid stations and I crossed with first Peter King and then Chris on the out section. Towards the end of the first lap I crossed with Ella Fields who was doing her first middle distance event and running well. I was to see them all two more times before the finish but still didn’t manage to catch Chris.
I was working really hard not to go off too fast to avoid blowing up and eventually found a guy from Yorkshire who was going at about the right pace. It felt so slow but that was my plan for the first 5km so I stuck with it to the first turn around point then gradually built the speed right through to the end. What a fantastic run. Even in the heat I felt good and was able to push hard to the end with a time of 1hr 43mins so this strategy definitely worked well.
I still felt good at the finish and met Chris before going for a welcome cool down in the lake – brilliant for helping the legs recover.
Ella came across the finish to be pronounced a ‘Vitruvian’ a short while afterwards still looking strong.
This was without doubt my best race of the season having got everything just right and it was an added bonus to finish inside my target 5hrs and second in my age group winning a trophy and a bottle of wine. It’s getting it right on the day that really gives the satisfaction whatever the placing. So I now know how to prepare to race after an IM event.
If you’re thinking of doing a half next year I can definitely recommend the Vitruvian. It sells out really quickly and I can see why – great organisation, setting and course. It also doesn’t cost an arm and a leg to enter. To top it off it’s also a nice quick course which is great for your first middle distance experience.
There be pain in them thar hills
The King of the Pennines, Hardknott & Wrynose and Burgess Hill Rumble
Report by Hans Geberbauer
Not to be outdone by Mark Thomas for using holidays as an opportunity to inflict pain on ourselves, we headed north to ride the King of the Pennines, a 100 mile and over 11,000ft vertical elevation ride through the Yorkshire Dales.
It was my first time back in the Dales since 1993 (a barely remembered pointless phase of my life when I was an undergraduate and Wim-less).
Wim paced us with impressive restraint over the undulating sections through rolling hills and the beautiful villages of honey-coloured stone, preserving our strength for the ascents which were truly epic. None left out a 25% gradient for at least part of the way up. All were up wide open hillsides where you knew exactly what was coming miles ahead.
Most descents down the fells were fast and sweeping with excellent visibility of the road ahead, and smooth road surfaces throughout, allowing Wim to hit almost 80kph at one point. Our strength held up really well on ascent after ascent as we worked our way ahead amongst the riders.
Unfortunately, an endless, steep downhill got the better of me and I came off the bike (luckily in sort of slow motion, with only assorted live stock for witness), leaving my back wheel bent out of shape although it would just about still roll without rubbing on the frame. Thankfully, the next feed and repair stop was not far. Wim was relieved to see me (he had been waiting for some 20 minutes), I was pleased and surprised to see our own Keith Brewster manning the station and passing me into the hands of the mechanic who trued the wheel as best he could.
At this stage, it had been raining for hours and we had 30kms and a major climb to go, but there was no question of not finishing this glorious sportive. We've done a few this year but the King of the Pennines stands out for the scenery (even in the rain!) and the sublime quality of the challenge (well done Evans).
The King of the Pennines is probably only bested for grandeur by the Fred Whitton sportive that takes in all the major passes of the Lake District in a single ride. And speaking of Cumbria, we headed over there to conquer Kirkstone Pass from the North West as well as up a vicious approach from Ambleside that is officially known as The Struggle.
On another day, we set off from Seascale, a miserable little village on the Irish Sea to conquer the climb of climbs: Hardknott. Ever been cheered by car drivers while you take up the entire width of a very narrow road? They waved, they gave big grins, thumbs up, shouts of encouragement ("Go Bradley"), they filmed us as we weaved up the hill among them in a slow motion, grinding up 30% hair pins.
It's one of the finest things I've ever done. Naturally, we wore full club kit for this momentous occasion.
Unfortunately, what goes up must come down and the descents from Hardknott and Wrynose are long, windy and steep, so I again opted to get off and push the bike down the hill for part of the way.
Back home, since we couldn't join the club ride to Bexhill, we signed up for the Burgess Hill Rumble instead, 94 miles through Sussex and Kent well known to us by now. Kidds Hill (the Wall) seemed easy, York's Hill was conquered (during the King of the Downs, this hill defeated me and I had to push up) but still had a sting, as did Cob Lane, a short but very steep climb near Ardingly. After a week of cycling up North, and back on my carbon Canyon, our Southern hills seemed much easier to tackle.
To my intense irritation, we managed to miss a turn at the very end of the ride, an unwelcome first, but perhaps forgivable after a long season. Our preparation for Challenge Henley is now done, for better or worse!
Almost the Brownlee brothers - Waterside Tri race report
Report by Hans Geberbauer
We are almost like the Brownlee brothers. Although, for one thing, we are father and son, not brothers. For another, we didn't win. We lost (as in: coming last) - so, as I said, almost like the Brownlee brothers.
Anyway, last Sunday, while you were all swaning about Bewl Water (or Dorset, in the case of Mr Thomas), Wim and I tackled the Waterside Long Distance Tri, involving a 2400m swim, 121km bike and 30km run on the coast of Essex.
After the high winds on Saturday, I was concerned we'd end up with another duathlon, but Sunday was sunny with only a light breeze, setting us up for a lovely swim in the North Sea amongst sailing boats with only the tide adding an extra challenge. There were fewer than 20 competitors for the long distance event, so we knew it'd be lonely. I acquired such a big kayak escort on the last 600m of the swim (which I think was long by a few hundred metres) that I was sure I was the last man in the water but was delighted to find that I wasn't. I was even more delighted to see that Wim's bike was already gone when I got to T1 - a first even though he has always been the better swimmer.
The bike course was three flat and furious laps of 40km, with the few awkward junctions very well marshalled. It was time trialling heaven, exactly what my Canyon was made for. Unlike myself. I have had it fitted and ridden it at Bexhill and the Sussex Half-IM as well as a long sportive or two but those courses were reasonably short or technical enough to require frequent shifts of position and I found the bike light and stiff and super responsive if a touch uncomfortable on rough surfaces. On this course, I could have, and really should have spent the entire time on the aerobars. However, after 25 mins, rather alarmingly I had lost all sensation in my private parts. Later, my left shoulder started playing up. So I ended up spending a lot more time on the hoods than the course warranted and was grateful for every opportunity, however spurious, to get out of the saddle - another fitting session will probably be in order.
As usual, I got carried away a little on the bike even as I thought I was being very careful, rarely riding on the big ring and always spinning a high cadence. Unlike on our many rides and races in Sussex and Kent, there is practically no opportunity for freewheeling and three hours of non-stop pedalling took their toll (I really should spend time on a turbo trainer) so I had to ease off on the last lap, even though I had Wim in my sights by then.
The minute I got on the run, it was obvious I should have held back on the bike. In addition, the heat was beginning to be noticeable - I mean, who would ordinarily start a 30km run race at noon in August? The course, three laps of ten, lead through some fields and quiet country roads to the sea wall which it followed for 6 or 7 kms. The ground was a lot more uneven than I had anticipated and the sea wall path was completely exposed, with no water station between km 3 or 4 and km 10.
Thankfully, some light clouds shielded us from the mid-day sun and the breeze cooled a little bit but it was brutal nonetheless. I hobbled through the first 10km in 1h4min and was ready to give up. I grabbed a water bottle to carry with me for the second lap and started what Wim and I like to call tactical walking. It's walking, but in a thoughtful, purposeful sort of way, the smart man's way of running really (I must share this insight with Mo Farrah when I next bump into him in Crystal Palace park, like after the Aviva Grand Prix).
Once I was out of sight from Abby (who really deserves a medal for hanging out in Middle-Of-Nowhere, Essex, for 10 hours so we could do our race) and the transition area, the humiliation of walking wore off, my legs slowly recovered and I figured a mix of running and walking would still leave me finishing within 10 hours.
Knowing the course helped to break it into manageable chunks for the second and third lap and I focussed on not getting lapped. I even enjoyed the somewhat bleak beauty of the coast line, lovingly decorated with a nuclear power facility and WWII pillboxes.
On the final lap, I made it my (modest) aim to at least finish the run in under 4 hours while wondering where everybody else was. As I stormed to the finish line among volunteers busy packing up, I saw my bike racked entirely by itself. Wim, it turned out, had sensibly decided to call it a day after 20km of running. Everybody else bar one other DNF had finished before me.
Now, this may not be the conclusion that immediately jumps to mind but I think we're ready for Challenge Henley. As long as the weather isn't extremely hot or windy and we remain resolutely unambitious on the bike (7h30), we should have no trouble finishing. Because we can always do some tactical walking to see us to the finish line...
Swanage Classic Triathlon
by Mark Thomas
You know how sometimes your memory can play tricks on you?
I remember a picturesque race across lush downland and skipping along sunny cliff tops all preceeded by a smooth swim in crystal clear waters. Well it was sunny on the run (I think !).
The waves thrashed the shore but once I fought out beyond them to the intermittently visible first buoy, things settled down a bit. I am sure I made the same mistake last time but the return leg of the out and back sea swim was tricky to sight and I must have a done at least 100m extra for free.
Up onto the beach and level pegging with a fellow anaesthetist from Somerset donning his white aero helmet.
Then out onto the bike. It is worth getting a glug or two of drink before the climbing starts (salty water in the sea!) and then it is basically steady climbing for 15km before the turn back. I managed to keep white aero at bay on the way out but my heavy week's riding claimed its cost as we turned back and I was overtaken by aero and another chap I know from Windrush tri club (Charles).
The head wind on the way back made me check my brakes weren't permanently on more than once (memories of a tough ride in Mallorca earlier in the year) but we were back in Swanage 39km later and now onto my favourite discipline….
The magic powers of Stuart's aero helmet soon became evident as I passed him coming out of T2. Windrush Charles posted a very quick bike time (fresh back from Alpe D'Huez) so catching him would be harder work.
The run course has changed slightly so we headed up a stone step pathway onto the top of Studland and then out to overlook the 'Old Harry' limestone stack. The steps are a killer. I 'power-walked' most of the way up. Charles was barley visible in the distance and I pegged him back with 1km to go. We had a great race and I only narrowly upheld CPT's reputation.
I was 5 secs off 2nd in the AG (if only the run was longer……or the bike shorter…..or me a bit faster….).
As an aside here, I should make a public apology to my family who had to relive the what if's regarding that 5 second gap most of the way back to London.
There were prizes for the first two in the age group…nothing for the sad git who could only manage 3rd.
All in all, a memorable race. But as I say, your memory can play tricks on you.
Bewl Triathlon Report by Karen Ayers
We had a great turnout of CPT racers at the inaugural Bewl Triathlon for both the Standard and Sprint races. Lisa encouraged entries to gain valuable points for the Club League and to test the event as a possible venue for the 2013 Club Championships.
Unfortunately Lisa was unable to race, but with a croaky voice and a very nasty cough, she came along to cheer us all on. Jon and Mitch swapped from the Standard to the Sprint and afterwards I think a few others wished they had too!
Bewl Water is a great venue for a triathlon. There was plenty of water in the reservoir and it was a pleasant temperature, although the swim was short (by my calculations it was closer to 1200m, as I can only dream of swimming 1500m in my recorded time).
There was quite a long run from the swim exit back to transition, which was up a little hill with a nasty mixture of gravel, rough concrete and grass to run across.
The 40km bike was advertised as a fast course, it might have been fast but it was by no means flat. None of the hills were too demanding, steep or long but felt slightly harder on the second lap! There were some unexpected roadworks on the route with temporary traffic lights. Marshals were on hand to record competitors who were stopped and a promise was made that times would be adjusted accordingly, but this hasn't happened yet. I was lucky first time round but had to stop on the second lap and Ruki had to stop both times. Unfortunately Martin (and a few other cyclists) missed the entrance back into Bewl Water when the marshals directed him to continue. He thinks he did an extra 3-4 miles before heading back in the right direction.
Martin had overtaken me on the bike, then I'd gone past him again on a downhill, before he overtook me again and disappeared into the distance. With a two lap run, I thought he must have had a really good run but he then explained he was actually behind me and on lap one too.
The website said the run route was flat and scenic within Bewl Estate overlooking the reservoir. I'd been thinking about changing from the Standard to Sprint race as my two weeks as a Games Maker had been hardwork and I hadn't done anywhere near as much training as usual, but the promise of a flat run made me decide to stick with the Standard race, especially as Bexhill had been turned into a much hated duathlon.
I ran down the hill from transition expecting to run across the flat dam and round the banks of the reservoir. I was really surprised to see runners ahead of me running down a hill and then up the other side (longer and steeper than the Crystal Palace parkrun) and this had to be done twice. I talked myself into running up the hill, doing an Ironman shuffle, telling myself it would flat when I reached the top. How wrong could I be?! The route continued off-road through woods, it wasn't hilly but it was certainly undulating. The Sprint racers completed one lap so I got to see most people running in the opposite direction and the faster Standard racers lapping me on their second run.
When Martin caught me up he'd decided his race was over and he was just finishing as a training exercise. He ran with me and kept encouraging me. My pace was much slower than his but I'm sure I ran faster with him than I would have done if I'd been running on my own, although a couple of soggy jelly babies gave me a bit of a burst after the second turnaround!. Martin did most of the talking while I plodded away behind him. I did take offence when he told one of the marshals that he'd brought his mum out for a run!! Even shuffling as I was, I hope I looked more like his older sister than his mum! He very kindly let me cross the finish line ahead of him.
Congratulations to Jon, Greg, Suse, Cathy, Cathie and Emily (on only her second ever race) on their podium finishes. Tim had a very good reason for missing the race (see article).
The race definitely got the thumbs up for 2013. Next time I'll be better prepared and ready for those hills!
Last Sunday, Wim and I did the Epic version of the Wiggle Haywards Heath Howler, a 100 mile sportive with some 2400 metres of climbing. The day began with a panic over a mechanical issue on Wim's bike we discovered while lined up at the start (luckily before we crossed). The Wiggle mechanic fixed it in no time.
It's this support, plus the signage, the feed stations and the ability to call a repair van (not that we've ever had to) that make these sportives appear good value to me - I don't think I'd be able to get myself out for these long rides. Plus they are a great way to get to know new routes without having to worry about getting lost.
Ascending Ditchling Beacon was a first highlight for us, having never done it before. I passed loads but was humbled to find the guy I had heard glued to my back wheel on the way up to be an older chap in a cotton t-shirt riding a steel bike with mudguards and all and even a pannier... .
After some cruising about at the foot of the South Downs, we turned north, leaving behind a nagging headwind but soon enough hitting the long climb up Ashdown Forest. We were rewarded with the long and simple descent to Friar's Gate but were immediately sent back up to the ridge, this time for a run down Kidd Hill (the Wall). I am not the most adventurous descender at the best of times but, being quite tired already, I found that a touch terrifying. It took me a long time to catch up with Wim.
The last 30km seemed to take forever but our finish time compared well with sportives earlier in the year - and we had managed to miss the torrential downpours that marred the women's Olympic bike race.
MY RACE? Well I’m afraid I blew it! My goal was to win my age group and go on to race Kona but I only managed second, 9 minutes and 17 second behind the winner. I felt good at the start, my training having gone well all season despite the weather.
At the time I thought the swim had gone well (as far as me and swimming go anyway) apart from getting really cold and having to dry off more than usual to get the blood circulating in T1 and don my CPT gilet (they are brilliant) for the bike.
Out on the bike the sun soon started to peak through the cloud and I felt amazing. Sticking to my power strategy on the bike I lapped up the course with the local support, scenery, and passed bike after bike. I still felt reasonably good on the final loop and went into T2 fairly confident.
A good transition and I was out on the run only to discover that my Garmin couldn’t find a satellite and I hadn’t a clue how fast I was going for the first 20 minutes. Too fast was the answer, and I paid for it as my quads tightened and started screaming every step of the way from about the 10km mark. Perversely going uphill was less painful than going down and I ended up with a mix of walk and run. It’s times like this when the support really counts, spotting family members along the way and the lined support all along the run route cheering you on to keep going.
I’d also read an article (not during the race I might add) debating whether it’s your muscles that really are in trouble at a time like this or your brain that decides you’ve done enough and should slow down so making your legs hurt to save them for later, so I decided to just keep running as hard as I could and hope my brain was just trying to con me.
Running down the finishing chute, high fiving all the kids along the barrier felt great until I saw the time of 12hr 9min. I’d I never even contemplated going over 12 hours but an awful swim time of 1hr 25min (my slowest ever), a decent bike leg of 6hr 20min but slow run of 4hr 14min sealed my fate. Actually the swim did for me – I was 10 minutes slower than the winner out of the water.
Would the winner take up his Hawaii slot? It was nail biting stuff at the awards ceremony as they announced nine age groups would roll down. It was not to be however, the sharks in Hawaii will not be getting me for bait this year.
I did enjoy the race, and it showed me again how a few lost seconds here and there through imperfect race execution really is the difference between coming first or second. If I can get my swim time down to a more reasonable 1hr 10min or better I may be tempted to go long again. Wanaka sounds good, but definitely not next year.
OK I promised a report on Bolton as a race venue for IM UK for all those threatening to go long at some time.
I guess the first thing to say is that this is not an easy course, and was actually made harder this year by adding to the run course. Both the bike and run are hilly.
To give you an idea of how hard, the winning time was 8hrs 55min, a good hour over most ‘quick’ courses and having raced IM France in Nice (known to be a toughie), I’d rate Bolton as being harder due to the hilly run.
Pennington Flash is a nice lake swim although there were a few weeds to negotiate. It wasn’t very warm though so I was pretty chilled by the end of the swim – my fault for staying in so long, I know – but most would find it ok.
The bike course is a point to point to a three loop section followed by a short leg to T2. I really enjoyed this and the views over the moors were brilliant. There is only one major climb at the start of the loop and some fast sweeping down hills, with the rest of the loop rolling. Road surfaces were better than I expected and while there were some ‘open’ sapping sections they were mostly fairly smooth and fast.
The run is again a point to point to a three and half loop course which takes you into the town centre each time and back out up a killer hill which most people walked. This is a tough run.
Support from locals on both the bike and run was brilliant, not quite as good as Austria, but not far short.
One thing to note about the course is that you have split transitions. T1 is obviously at the lake but T2 is about 25km away which is then about 20km from the centre of Bolton where the race finishes. This makes getting about to drop off race bags, rack bikes, check out transitions, go for a lake swim, and eventually collect your bikes rather tedious.
Getting about the course to spectate is also a bit of nightmare.
Finally the weather was probably the best I’ve enjoyed at any of the my IM races with light cloud first thing giving way to clear blue skies from mid-morning.
So how does the organisation compare? Well you have all the familiar WTC IM core elements, expensive race entry, nice race programme, race briefing, pasta party, expo, finishing chute, food, massage etc. and awards ceremony including Kona slot roll down. 50 slots are available overall. And most things worked well. There were however some significant gaps which gave the impression of things being done on the cheap.
No transition plans in race info pack or at race briefing.
Bus transfers to the swim start from the Reebok stadium (centrally located between T1 T2 and the finish) and return for spectators. But nothing else for spectators to get out on the bike course or back on to the run course.
A narrow water entry chute which meant it took ages to get everyone in the water and when the race was started people were still swimming out. Swim out to T1 was over a mix of concrete, rough dirt track and grass/mud – no matting in sight – then the same for the bike out to the mount line.
Aid stations were erratically spaced and rather sparse particularly on the run course.
Limited food service at the finish (pizza, cake, melon. orange, apple) water, Pepsi.
Nowhere to get changed once you’ve picked up your dry finish bag .
You might think I’m going on a bit but when you pay WTC money I expect things to be right.
There are a lot of positives though:
The support teams, marshals, aid station people were all fantastic and couldn’t be more helpful or offer greater support through the race.
The bike course was closed on all narrow roads with some main roads one way and every junction was expertly manned to ensure no hold ups.
I stayed at the Reebok Stadium which is where the expo, briefings, party etc. is held and it cost of fraction of going to Europe or even further afield. (I thought I’d bought a slice of Switzerland last year by the time I got home.)
Travelling is obviously dead easy. No hassle with airports, bike bags/boxes, weight restrictions etc.
A really nice course if you don’t mind hills.
Excellent after race massage service.
So where does it fit in my four IM events? Austria remains in first place – fantastic organisation, venue, support, and course. Switzerland is a close second. France also beats Bolton into third place mainly due to the split transitions and superior organisation (but Nice will cost you an arm and a leg)
I didn’t race Wales last year but I did spectate and I’d also give this the edge over Bolton – just. I think it’s on a par with Bolton in terms of difficulty as it also has a hilly run course. It also has a sea swim.
I hope that answers a few questions. I don’t want to put anyone off doing Bolton but if you only plan to do one Iron Man go for Austria. The only problem is it will have to be 2014 now. Just far enough away for you to be able to be able to say yes and get a crowd together.
After my resounding failure at the last World Champs qualification attempt (Big Cow Sprint in Milton Keynes on 27th May), it felt like this time the triathlon gods were smiling down on me in Bristol for my last chance this year. A dry, overcast day after the eternity of rain we’ve been having; a super-civilised 11:47am start, and a lucky “CPT-Red” swim cap for the M30-34 wave.
This was the 3rd staging of the Bristol Harbourside Triathlon, hosted by TriBristol (the race organisation arm of BADTri club). The swim was on lap in the Cumberland Basin, part of Bristol's historic Harbour and adjacent to the Brunel Lock. The bike leg was 2 laps of a fast, flat TT course on a closed stretch of dual carriageway, up the side of the Avon Gorge and under the shadow of the Clifton Suspension Bridge. The run route looped along the towpath on the other side of the Gorge for a single out and back. The start, finish, transition and bike course were all within eye-shot of a closed section of a flyover, which meant that spectators (including my faithful fan club of three – my Mum, her partner Bob, and Emily) had a raised viewing platform that was better than anything that the ITU Elite series could offer! If you’re looking to race the Olympic-distance next year, then it’s double the same course.
After a luxurious lie-in, followed by a stately breakfast at The Grand in the City Centre, I was ready for action. Registration had been the day before, so there were no last-minute panics or uncertainty about where to be or what to do. The first wave for the Olympic distance races had kicked off at 7am, so there were already swarms of triathletes in all stages of their races by the time I arrived. The atmosphere was buzzing, with the perfect weather conditions bringing out a ton of spectators, whilst a couple of guys from BADTri worked the PA. Having seen Tim Thomas blast through transition only moments before, I was ready to rock.
The waves were organised into ITU age-groups, so there was time to weigh up the competition as we listened to the race briefing in the starting pen. There was no opportunity for a swim warm up; instead we were told to jump in and tread water for 3 minutes until race start. People around me were complaining about how cold the water was, but this only served to fill me with confidence as I thought it was quite pleasant! The water quality was excellent though, and the swim was luckily very non-eventful for me. I have been practising my sighting a bit more recently, and was surprised to find that the faster guys were taking a very bowed line to each of the buoys. In true “Tortoise and Hare” fashion, I took my own, straighter, line (As much as 5 metres from the pack in places), and as a result ended up exiting the water in 8th. A speedy T1 (given that I had remembered where I’d left my bike this time, unlike Big Cow) got me out onto the bike in about 6th.
The bike course was great for a full-on head-down aerobar-hugging attack. I soon picked off a few of my rivals on the first lap, and went anaerobic through the rollercoaster-esque section back at HQ where the spectators and voices over the PA lifted my energy. As a few more of my targets came into view on the second lap, I realised that I’d been hugging the left side of the course on the first lap for no good reason, and this was costing me time. I began cutting the corners like I was on a motorbike, with flashbacks of watching Bradley Wiggins’ assault on the TT stage 9 of the TdF, where the commentator repeatedly reeled off the ‘half-seconds saved’ each time Brad got his knee out as he shaved the kerbs. No doubt my average speed wasn’t quite a match for the mighty Wiggo, but it was enough to get me into T2 in 2nd place I think.
The adrenaline from this reckless behaviour, together with shouts of encouragement from Victor Thompson and Louise Alan-Smith, saw me through transition and onto the run with hopes of gunning for the win. It was only after leaving the buzz of the crowds and heading into the relative seclusion of the tree-lined towpath, that my body started to punish me for my over-exertions. The mind demons were doing a good job of convincing me that I would spontaneously combust (or some similar race-ending event) if I tried to go any faster, and when a guy who appeared to be in his early 30s breezed past me (shortly followed by another guy, then another…), I switched to plan B, and self preservation. The last minute sprint to the finish line did little to make up for the lost time, and the realisation that I had quite a bit left in the tank was frustrating to say the least! Oh well, lessons learned for next time (which will hopefully be in Auckland!). Just playing the waiting game now to see if it was enough to squeeze through, as the results have not been published yet, and even then they are, it takes a while for the BTF to update the Age Group registration page.
I cannot recommend this race highly enough. The organisation was the best that I have ever witnessed, and this includes M-Dot, ITU and other much bigger events such as London and Blenheim. Everything, from the emails in the weeks before the day, to the goody bag; the help, support and encouragement on the day from all of the Officials and Marshalls, through to the thoughtful design of the course, which was fast, fair and quite a bit of fun despite being mostly flat - was all spot-on. The organisers had managed to put on a race that had the atmosphere of an elite event, with the intimacy and friendliness of a club race. I’ll definitely be back next year… hopefully in a light-blue Adidas tri suit with ‘GBR’ and ‘PARRY’ printed on the front… ;-)
I didn't sleep a wink on Saturday night. As the rain pounded down for four hours, I had a loss of heart. We weren't ready for the Sussex middle distance. We weren't training hard enough. We would never be ready for Challenge Henley. How come everybody is now running 19 minute 5k races? Why didn't I stick with running? Stuff multi-sport!
Then Abby woke up, reminded me that I could just give up and stay home, it really was up to me, who'd blame what with the torrential rain... Well, nothing like a bit of reverse psychology to get us going.
There was even a break in the rain as we loaded the car and once or twice it seemed it might brighten up further South but time and again there were heavy, if brief, downpours.
At least it stayed dry while we all set up for transition, where we were cheered by a decent turnout from the Club. By time we lined up for the swim start, it was raining again.
The swim start was the worst melée I have encountered so far, with my goggles being knocked off three times. It seemed slow and erratic progress for me so I was surprised to find Wim's bike still in transition although he outswims me in the pool and open water training without fail.
We were curious about the bike course which did not look too challenging: slightly short at 85km and only 650m of elevation, yet it had been billed as difficult. The climbs were low gradient but felt very draggy on the first 20km (which also formed the final short loop), it must have been a poor surface. Most descents were lovely, despite the wet road surface.
The run was an unadulterated mudfest. Some sections were pure gloop and even the most powerful and skilled runners opted for walking, especially up a steep hill we had to tackle four times. The course consisted of four loops which turned in on themselves quite a few times so I often saw Greg, Suse and Katie skipping lightfootedly over the mud.
Suse lapped me and Wim on her final 700m, seemingly rather wishing that it was over already so Wim ran alongside her shouting encouragement until she could turn into the finishing chute for some peace and quiet.
As I discovered from official event photos, Wim also took the time to completely stop running for one of the photographers so he could strike a pose - these races are obviously not challenging enough for him!
Towards the end, my shoulder started hurting, I was overtaken quite a few times (which didn't used to happen to me very often during running) and it was getting quite hot as the clouds finally lifted so I was relieved to reach the finish.
Despite the challenging circumstances, I managed to finish well within my target time (Greg said the run was short but I'm having none of it!).
The bike leg was the strongest for Wim and me (it seems the many sportives have paid off) and left us with plenty of energy for a decent run split - possibly too much in Wim's case, judging from the photos!
Suse won 1st female, Katie 1st in her age group (after Suse and the second overall female). Greg had a puncture in his back wheel (only the second during a race in 15 years) and the time it took to fix deprived him of getting onto the podium. Not a bad day at all despite the ominous beginnings.
I'm feeling a bit more confident about Challenge Henley now.
Note from Hans: Apparently, the run was short, well short: 18.5km.
I have had everything prepared for my first triathlon, the weather couldn't have been any worse, wet and windy.
I had a nightmare getting to the event, was very late for registration and was in a mad rush from the word go! I then collected my race number and ran to transition to set up quickly, luckily Rob and Emily Parry kindly helped by attaching my race number to my belt (thank you guys!).
I put on my wetsuit which due to rushing put a finger through it! I then set off to the swim start got there and suddenly realised I had left my chip in transition and had to run back to get it and back to the swim start again at which point the wave had long gone and I was at least 10 minutes late starting. Luckily they let me go! (there wasn't much more that could have gone wrong!!!).
I finished the swim and made my way to T1 where I was a little disorientated still but got my wetsuit off and set off on the bike, I managed to make up some good time on the bike and really pushed it as I knew I had time to make up.
I had a fairly decent T2 and set off on the run where my legs were a tad wobbly to begin but soon sorted out, the last 1k was a killer but I had enough to sprint finish (well faster running anyway!).
Overall, even with the horrific beginning to the event, I thoroughly enjoyed my first race and am looking forward to the next one (making sure I leave much much more time before the start!!!).
Emily was also due to do her first triathlon at The Bridge, after winning a free entry for marshalling at our race. Unfortunately she left her helmet at home so was unable to race.
Results not available yet but will be added as soon as possible.
I decided at short notice to enter the Midsummer Munro Ultra Half. As word spread that the distance had been increased from 13 to 16 miles for this sell-out race, I thought some of the entrants might get the willies and drop out. Sure enough, there were places available.
Let’s put this into perspective. A half marathon it may be, albeit with three extra miles, but there is 3500ft of ascent over 11 climbs on the route. I was overtaken by a dangerous confidence that I could conquer this beast. When and where I grew this mysterious pair of balls is anyone’s guess.
I was also looking forward to running with (well, not literally ‘with’) endurance aces Peter and Katie, and John, who would all be steaming ahead of me. It was my first half marathon so what could I expect? All I knew is that it would hurt. A lot.
As we approached the start we saw runners who were taking part in the concurrent event, the Munro Picnic, which began two hours earlier and is double the half. The competitors slog it out for two laps. They must be insane, I thought, as I joined in singing the pre-race national anthem to the wailing of bagpipes.
Once the race was underway I felt good but quelled my urge to go faster. Having done the Knacker Cracker and Box Hill fell race, I knew that conservation of energy was key. Gentle was my motto. Not so for the Mack, who disappeared like smoke.
About halfway through (approx 1hr 30) pain and fatigue from the steep climbs was creeping in. By 11 miles I was also becoming extremely thirsty. I’d been drinking water at each station, but I couldn’t shake the thirst. I was looking at puddles with a hungry glint in my eye. My discomfort grew and at around 14½ miles I began feeling sick and dizzy. I realise now that my blood sugar levels were probably low, but at the time I thought I was just dehydrated. Perhaps it was both?!
When I saw the marshals at the final junction, where there is also a teasing 1km sign ahead, they suggested I go straight on for the finish and not turn left to complete the final loop down and back up the innumerable steps that make the last ascent. Lo and behold, Katie appeared having finished the loop and was on her way to that final km, and to my shock John appeared behind me. I don’t recall passing him but in the woods you might not see people. He’d been held back by cramps. Seeing them both gave me a boost. I took a swig from a marshal’s bottle and set off like a rusty puppet to complete the down-and-up, and finish.
What’s great about the Munro, besides the scenery and the awesome challenge, is that there are out-and-back sections so you frequently cross people you know, which I liked.
Usually when you hit the final stretch in a race it’s time to squeeze your last reserves into a sprint, but not this time. Even though the race had a downhill finish my legs were shattered and it was a tentative descent on stiff pegs.
I was very happy to discover a bag of carrots at the end!
Bexhill Triathlon (duathlon ) - 17 June
Bexhill Triathlon (duathlon) - CPT Club Championship Standard Distance race
Report by Karen Ayers
The Bexhill Lions left making a decision regarding the sea swim until the last minute, but unfortunately the coastguards felt the sea was too rough so the swim was replaced by a 3.6k run. It was incredibly windy on the course, making both runs and the bike very hard work, although you wouldn't have thought so if you'd see Rob on the bike! He achieved the fastest bikes split on the day and lapped me at the start of my third lap.
All CPT members started in Wave 1, with just a couple of others joining us, so I was soon left behind on the first run, with Audrey and I the last back to T1 and out on the bike. The bike would have been very fast on a calm day but the wind on the sea front was head-on and I felt as though I was cycling a granny shopper with no gears and a basket on the front! At the turnaround you could really feel the wind behind you and I enjoyed the assistance!
Thanks very much to Emily P, Emily N, Anna and Rachel for their support out on the course. It was a real boost to hear my name travelling in the wind! The two lap run course meant we all got to see each other out on the run but it was hard to keep going when I knew I was starting the first lap and everyone else was either starting or completing their second! Thanks also to Katie for pointing me in the right direction on the run. I'd started to get a migraine (and left my tablets on the bike), I wasn't really concentrating on the course, and neither were the marshals, so was just about to run down the bike course by mistake! I seriously considered giving up at the end of the first lap to retrieve my Migraleve but decided to keep going and try not to let Ruki catch me. It's amazing how much more effort you can put in when you are being chased down.
Unfortunately we had a number of DNFs. Glyn managed the first run and the first lap of the bike. Kirsten and Paul have asked for their results to be removed from the finishers as they went wrong way on the bike and didn't complete the full distance. Noel pulled up with a calf injury on the first lap of the run and hobbled back to transition. It looks as though Bevan only did one lap of the run but not sure what went wrong and Selwyn is down as a DNF even though he and Phil were neck and neck until Selwyn made a break-away when Phil slowed thinking he'd reached the finish line, for some reason there was another timing mat just before the turn to the finish! Selwyn made the most of the opportunity and sprinted for the real finish line, so not sure why he's a DNF, perhaps a DQ for unsporting behaviour!!
CPT colours were much in evidence at the prize presentation, with trophies presented just to the winners of each age category, Suse (1st female overall), Jon (1st MV), Wim (1st Junior), JIm (1st MSV), me, Karen (1st FSV) and Louise (1st FSV) in the Sprint race. Graham Norton was present to shake hands with winners and was happy to pose for photos with everyone.
I'm going to recommend to the Committee that next year's Standard distance race has a lake swim so there's a much better chance that it will actually be a triathlon. I didn't need to be reminded that I hate duathlons!
Official photos can be viewed on Rickpicks website. Thanks to Anna for the photographs in this report. You can view all Anna's photos in the slideshow below or on our Flickr page.
Ironman Wales - Long Course Weekend
Report by Katie Crowe
I had an AMAZING weekend! Loved it. They cut the swim short on Friday due to the high winds (I'm not sure it was actually that bad but I think after last year they were very conscious of not using up RNLI resources). Although when they first announced the shortened swim I did an internal whoop for joy but actually wouldn't have minded going longer as I quite enjoyed it. The sea swim in Spain helped I think as I'd had such recent practice in the waves. They reckoned 2.4km but since my time was 35 minutes I'd say closer to 2k. Oh, and the sun came out for us!
The ride on Saturday was beautiful - great weather, great scenery. Never seen so much compression at a sportive - it was a triathletes heaven!! Think I might be revising my plan to ride my TT bike for the actual race though as there are some tough up and downhills. I think I was about 6.50 with the stops - I felt pretty strong the whole ride.
I was only going to do the half yesterday, but I got a bit caught up in the excitement of the weekend, and well, it was all about the challenge so I did the marathon. Funny thing was, there I was thinking, I'll just have a nice easy run, walk if I need to. Then they do a big announcement at the start, naming the top five men and women doing the whole weekend and their times. There were 700 marathon starters but only five women that had also done the swim and bike. And I was in third place. Well, gauntlet well and truly thrown. The first mile wasn't my most elegant running but I got into my stride after that and had probably my best ever marathon, keeping a good pace the whole way, only really suffering in the final two miles and came in at 3.53 which I'm very happy with considering the previous day and the fact that this rivaled some of my off-road marathons for hills. All I can say is, I'm glad this isn't the course they'll be using for the Ironman as it's brutal.
Coming through Pembroke at the half way mark we picked up the half marathoners who were starting there and they were all cheering us on (which nearly had me blubbing). Then we had the proper red carpet, IM finish line at the end, which was rammed with supporters and very noisy. When one of the helpers gave me a hug after I finished I nearly cried again - what an idiot!
As for the final result, I still don't know where I finished. Hopefully I at least managed to maintain 3rd place. I didn't hang around for the prize giving as I was keen to get back in the car and away to beat the Sunday traffic. I'm super excited about September now, it's going to be a great race - the people of Tenby really know how to put on an event. And they organised some nice weather for us - they sent most of the rain north to Aberystwyth!
And my legs are pretty much fine today (tomorrow might be a different story though!). Think Bexhill might be 'interesting'!
I was so grateful to the warm weather. Only a week earlier I had brain freeze and blue toes after 30 minutes in the lido and I doubted if even half the distance would be possible. I had a neoprene cap and booties ready. But after a few days of sunshine there was no need to dress head to toe like a black rubber Teletubby. Sunday turned out to be a beautiful morning.
After applying bucket loads of lubrication to our ‘at risk’ areas, John and I zipped up and entered the water with 400 swimmers, and I picked my way to what I thought was a good starting spot. Off went the gun and the battlefield of flying arms and legs commenced, but the front crawl stroke handily doubles up as a defence tool! Pretty soon I found space to settle into my usual rhythm and get my head down. My goggles got kicked and filled with water but I sorted them out without a fuss (pat on the back!) After that, it was a case of knuckling down for the long haul. Having practised up to 7.5km in training, my brain had been drilled to some extent to stay engaged with the repetitive task in hand. If it started to wander, I could rein it in and focus on my technique.
The course comprised of five 2km laps and a pontoon at the lap end for drinks and nutrition (with a rule that you had to stay in the water), which was comforting to know. Even so, I felt good and swam 6km before I began to get irritable. It was time to head for the pontoon for a feed stop. As I was taking my water and gel I was treated to the sight of a swimmer being fished out, fitting and gasping for air.
I told myself ‘only two more laps to go…’ it sounds easy but 4km is a long way when you’ve already done 6! I got back into my zone but as I was approaching 8km I had the strangest feeling of forgetting how to swim. My arms and legs were moving but they felt detached and uncoordinated. I wondered if I was swimming or sinking. Fortunately I snapped out of it. I had another feed stop and geared up for the last lap. I was really switched on for the next km, feeling strong and overtaking a lot of people, but the 10th km felt like a death crawl. In the final 500m, the pain in my shoulders and upper arms was increasing in intensity and every stroke hurt like hell. The buoys couldn’t come quickly enough. Trying to stand up on dry land again was like Bambi trying to walk, but at least I wasn’t vomiting like some!
John came out not far behind me and I think the first thing I said to him was ‘never again’ but on reflection it was a great swim. I had a few complaints about the organisers - no clean water provided, no food, inadequate facilities, no goody bag and cheap-as-chips medals that didn’t even have the distance marked on – which was disappointing. Nevertheless, nothing beats an open water swim on a sunny day!
Dragonslayer Duathlon - Sunday 29 April
Report by Mark Brown
The first inkling of things to come came in an email from the organisers on Saturday: we were advised we may wish to consider trail shoes due to the conditions at Hog Hill. Like many others I half expected the race to be cancelled but went ahead and prepared anyway.
Come the morning I commented to my son Isaac several times about the wind and rain. I got precious little sympathy and was urged to hurry up and get ready. (There will indeed be payback for this over the next few weeks Isaac).
On arrival at ‘The Hogenburg’ we were informed that the bike section was to be shortened because of flooding on the course. It was now only 10k rather than 40k but all Hill and no Hog. With no flat sections and some tight corners I removed the tri-bars as surplus to requirements.
The race itself went off like a rocket. The run sections were mainly off-road and quite steep in places with a new overnight addition being the river crossing at the bottom of the circuit. I managed to make up about five places on the bike section with my recent trip to the mountains of Southern Spain having had some benefits in the descending department.
As always with a duathlon the final run was grim and best forgotten. However, I did enjoy the race and the rain, and came in a creditable 1st male veteran! You can see how relaxed and fresh I was after finishing by checking out the photo.
I should mention that the East London Triathletes were a very encouraging bunch and even managed to look up competitors’ names as we passed so they could offer personal motivation. It was much appreciated. And thanks to Isaac for his encouragement and lap counting abilities!
PS. So where were the three other CPT members on the start sheet? Not put off by a little rain were you?!
PPS. I would thoroughly recommend this race. It’s more varied than others with an off-road run and the hilly course. It also offers a chance to descend fast and to test your cornering abilities on the bike.
At 6 oclock this morning, when my alarm clock went off, I could still hear the wind howling and a force 9 gale outside! On looking out the window, the rain was still coming down hard and I thought ' best not to bother' with the race as I didn't fancy the steep descents and narrow lanes in this! A flurry of texts took place between ex-CPT member Karen Grieves, fellow Dulwich Runner Clare W and myself - they too were still debating whether to go or not... With an earlier swim start, Karen decided to go and see how bad it was out there and Clare then decided to show support and said she was also going, proposing just to do the swim and run if it was still very wet.... meanwhile I had gone back to bed (no surprise there !)... but come 6.30, I thought well now as I was awake and that those two were going, I'd better also show willing even if I decided not to race once there!
As I crossed the Pembroke Rd/Suffolk Way traffic lights, I did notice that the cones for the left turn from the Leisure Centre were not out, but figured the bad weather may have delayed things - but once at the car park and on meeting Karen (and her husband John) I was told the bike leg had been cancelled - hooray (I have to admit I was pleased!!!)
So now running a bit late due to my dithering, I got myself ready and to pool side.
My swim was faster than last year - which had been faster than the time before - (so years of CPT training, seemingly finally making a difference even though still comparatively slow compared to the majority of the Club !) and despite some idiot resorting to breast stroke and getting in my way even though any breast strokers were asked by the organisers to go in a separate lane, I enjoyed it... then on leaving the pool we had to negotiate a huge puddle across the path to transition prompting me to comment to a marshall something about an open water swim which drew a laugh!
And then it was onto the run! I had put out my CPT cycling top and a rain jacket ready but once in race mode, off I went, just in my tri suit and it was refreshingly warm (if that makes sense - rain but warmish !!??) - I loved the rain and wasn't cold at all (apart from a blast of cold air on one long stretch ) and having chosen to wear trail shoes, it was great splodging through all the puddles and mud and I just thought of it as a x-country race! Although the run is a hard one and I did think how glad I was not having had to do the bike course beforehand, I really did quite enjoy myself (worringly so - !!)... and it wasn't until the finish when the rain came down heavier again that I began to feel cold.
A few of us stayed for the prizes and had a good giggle as Clare and I were called up for our Evergreen medals (you can register online if you have completed more than five 7Oaks Tris...) and we cheered as Katie collected a cup (not sure what position?! - 2nd female and 5th female was our very own Phil Feldman!) ..... then some three hours later (the medal ceremony took forever with one bloke having completed 30 7 Oak Triathlons!!), we made our way home and I was ultimately pleased that I'd made the effort and turned up after all!
After months of running here there and everywhere, the London Marathon was finally upon us!
Grant and I had done a few warm up races together and were evenly paced so decided to keep each other company on the big day!
Having won our places through the Club, we were positioned at the Blue Start for fast runners (that's us!) and to make things better we were penned in not too far behind the elite guys!
Matching our starting colour, an unexpected clear blue sky greeted us the morning of race but heavy rain was forecast around 2pm so a sub 4 hour marathon was in order to avoid the down pour!
To help get us around the 26 odd miles, we thought we’d need as much help and support as possible so I had totally blinged my CPT vest top up big time with ‘SELWYNATOR’ in gold. And Grant had a little ‘Grant’ added to his vest!
I smugly came up with a game of ‘count the cheers’ – my huge name plate against Grant's – there would be no contest. I may not beat Grant's marathon time but defo win this little contest! ‘Or so I thought’.
Soon there were chants flooding in for Grant left right and centre to my one puzzled ‘Selwynator?’! I thought it was because he was on the inside lane, or had a more struggling face. So I tried all these tactics, swapped places, put on a painful face to no avail. I even got Grant to draft me (to hide his name), but the Grant chants were still coming thick and fast!
I decided to quit that stupid game sharpish and get back to concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other….unlike Grant! Not his fault but Grant has a tendency to get lost on races or unable to count laps or something always goes wrong. For him what could possibly go wrong for Grant here – surely there’s no way he would get lost or anything! However, there were some strategically placed police cones and an anti-terrorist knee high kerb that he almost had run ins with whilst he was thanking his ongoing fan club. As tempting as it was to watch him go flying, I pushed him to safety at the last minute.
Talking of run ins - amongst the 37,500 happy smiley people running, Grant decides to find the one and only grumpy old man and picks a fight with him! This outrageous runner cut us up big time and then has a go at us. It was one of the few times I let Grant go in front, with me right behind him (well, a fair few yards!)!
We had our personal support crews dotted around the course as well. Surely after seeing a few thousand runners pass, we would become blurry moving masses but Kirsten, Mat and co somehow saw us and gave a big cheer (got my second ‘Go Selwynator 'at mile 9!). The crowd around them also joined in (with our encouragement) and it felt like we were celebreties!
Grant also had his family and friends popping up everywhere around the 26 miles which gave us that extra needed burst!
The crowds really were amazing the whole way around, no real unpopulated places anywhere – lucky we didn’t need to take any emergency ' pitstops (silent 't') I thought!
Canary Wharf was my favourite part of the marathon – so many people cheering us on but as we left CW, leading up to mile 20 things got tough! I was thinking, yay only the homeward straight along the Thames…all six miles of it! CW to Tower Hill seemed to go on for ever (like this race report!)! Our smiley happy faces took a turn as did our cheery chat. We still managed to muster energy to get the crowds revved up if we came across a quiet patch (rarity).
Grant's gels got to him at about mile 23…we didn’t want to stop as didn’t think we’d get going again, so he held which can be seen by his face. I have no excuse for my face though!
We saw a few CPT members, Keith and Beth, and Laura Boyd during the last few miles which helped us along.
Suddenly (as if by magic and after a few miles of torture!), we passed the 600m to go, then after what seemed like 600m, came across the 400m to go – then we turned up the Royal Mall and finish line was in our sights. A huge smile came over our faces as we crossed the line and grabbed our medals. Forest, I mean Grant kept on running to the nearest portaloo and after being not more than 2 yards apart for the past 3 hours 47mins, I decided it was time to give each other some space!
After the police sent us the wrong way and made us walk so much further than our legs could manage, we rewarded ourselves with a well-deserved pint or two!
Lesson learnt – don’t get a complicated name in massive gold print put on your running top. People think you’re an idiot and don’t cheer your name!
Tour of the Weald sportive - 8 AprilReport by Hans Geberbauer
Another Sunday, another sportive, this time the Tour of the Weald, 108km around Staplehurst. It was raining while we drove out as well as on the way back and I thought we'd be in for a miserable Sunday but it didn't rain once while we were out on the bikes.
At registration, we bumped into Haydn and Adrian (who was one of the organisers). While Haydn was waiting for Lauren to arrive, Wim and I set off to see whether we'd be able to stay ahead of them.
We took the course rather faster than the previous sportives, enjoying the many flat and gently undulating sections (including one that I recognised as Miles 9 to 11 of the Paddock Wood Half course so we tipped our helmets to Peter Mack's recent PB there) and generally wondering where the climbs were. Lauren's bike computer registered around 1000m in elevation gain much of which must have been gentle inclines as there was nothing to compare with Toys Hill or Rowdow Lane during last week's Fool's Errand. The organisers threw in a timed climb which was not something we'd done before. The real challenge though was not the climb (which took some three miles to reach) but the infuriatingly sticky tarmac on the approach.
We reached the finish a few minutes ahead of Haydn and Lauren, not nearly enough of a margin though to record a faster time than them. We went for a ten minute run but whereas Wim took off in good form, my legs and feet were completely scrambled after all the work on the bike and wouldn't settle into running - definitely something to work on before Challenge Henley.
Fool's Errand Sportive - 1 April
Report by Karen Ayers
I decided I needed to do a long sportive in preparation for the Ride to Rye at the end of the month, so decided to join Hans and Wim for the inaugural Fool's Errand, 120k sportive starting and finishing in Wrotham.
When I got up on Sunday morning and had to scrape ice off my car windscreen I almost changed my mind! I packed the car and set off for a really quick journey to the Widehorizons Outdoor Education Centre in Wrotham. There were only about six other cars in the field! There was frost on the grass and it was pretty chilly. After getting my helmet number I headed for the canteen and tried to warm up with a cup of tea. There was no sign of Hans and Wim so I decided to join a group of Dulwich Paragon riders and headed for the start. Hans and Wim arrived just as I was listening to the briefing. We were told the sign was well signed, but were given an instruction sheet (just in case)!
I was dropped by the Dulwich Paragon riders before the first turn! I cycled on my own after that for most of the ride. The first section of the course was undulating, but with lots of gravel on the windy downhills, I had to go slower than I would have liked.
After about 2:15 hours I could see two cyclists up ahead and wondered if I could catch them, Unfortunately I did, at the next roundabout, looking at the route instructions trying to find out where the direction arrows had gone! We had no idea where we had missed a turning but they agreed to stay together until we were back on the course. This was the only bit of drafting I managed for the whole ride! We found the turning we'd missed, with a sign so far down the turning it was really easy to miss it from the road. The first of too many missed signs for me!
I think I missed a right turn off the A26 somewhere between Hadlow and Shipbourne. The A26 was fast and reasonably flat and I was really enjoying myself until I realised I hadn't seen any arrows for a very long time and had no idea where I was meant to go next. So with my instruction sheet and no reading glasses, I struggled to work out where I'd gone wrong. I stopped and asked three different locals, who all pointed me in completely different directions. I then proceeded to do a quick recce of part of the Sevenoaks Sprint and Tonbridge Sprint routes before getting back on course somewhere on Hildenborough Road. Somewhere along the way I stopped my watch instead of pressing the lap button and didn't realise for quite a few kilometers!
After that there was a series of serious climbs that really sapped my legs, especially after doing the Super Saturday session the day before. After cycling through Bough Beeches Reservoir I knew Toy's Hill wasn't far away. I managed to get to the top, very slowly and was then on familiar roads and getting closer to home! At the bottom of Polhill I seriously considered cycling home then trying to persuade Bruce to drive me back to Wrotham to collect my car later! Instead I headed along Pilgrim's Way and a hill I'd never encountered before... Rowdow Lane. It was like doing Toys Hill again only a bit steeper at the top. Unfortunately, despite being determined to reach the top, I wobbled around a pothole with jelly legs and thought I was going to end up lying on the verge, so unclipped quickly and got off. I had to walk the rest of the way as it was impossible to remount at that point. I stopped for a hot cross bun at the top and a quick check of the instructions to see how much further I'd got to go.
We went through some really pretty villages, including Eynsford and Farningham. There was a lovely fast downhill in Farningham and I was enjoying myself so much I managed to miss another arrow! I didn't go too far before turning back and luckily saw some cyclists making the left turn so I followed them (then checked the instructions to make sure I was following the right route). I missed another arrow after this, but spotted the arrow pointing downwards that we'd been told would be positioned just after any turning that had been missed (it was the only one I saw!).
With only about 4k to go to the finish, there was one more steep hill, Michael's Lane, which is very narrow, windy, gravelly and lots of potholes. Again, I was determined to stay on my bike to the top but a car came round one of the bends a bit too quickly for my liking. I panicked, got off and had to walk again. I was so pleased to see the marshals guiding us back into the finish.
Because I'd forgotten to restart my watch, I don't know exactly how many extra kilometers I actually did but I had a missing 1 hour 12 minutes on my watch, so although I had to stop and start asking for directions, I guess I did about at least an extra 15k!
There was hot food for all finishers so I enjoyed a bowl of delicious chilli and rice and fresh baked baguette.
As I was leaving, Hans and Wim had packed their car and were going for a couple of laps jog around the field. I didn't see Beverley but, like Hans and Wim, she also went off route too.
A very challenging ride that would be great for anyone who loves hills and hopefully next year will be better signed.
It was a freezing cold start near Box Hill but the sunshine through the mist promised a good day ahead.
The route had three significant ascents – one at the start and two at the end, one of which was an 18 percenter – and was undulating in between. For the first couple of miles John and I made gradual progress upwards, desperately hoping our fingers would soon defrost. Somewhere along the way I lost John. It transpired he was unable to engage his bigger chain ring and was peddling like a granny some way back!
Once warmed up it was time to get into the groove and enjoy the open roads. It was still early and relatively traffic-free, and I took full advantage. I was having a whale of a time in the sunshine and solitude, but I had also set myself a conscientious task of eating and drinking on the bike. Usually I’m terrible with my nutrition on the bike, my biggest extravagance being the notorious brown carrots I once took on a club ride. I also never take on enough water and this is one aspect of my training I intended to improve. I’d packed a pouch full of fruit pastilles and took my water and sweets at regular intervals, and I was instantly amazed at how much better I felt.
I managed to tag onto a couple of trains along the way, providing me with a welcome boost in the slipstreams and high spirits of the other riders. But it didn’t last as I was gradually dropped. Not to worry, I had two big climbs ahead to save my legs for, and it would have been silly to force the pace. I was riding along thinking “I hope John is having as much fun.” (He wasn’t; earlier problems sorted, he later came off his bike when his chain came off – welcome to your first sportive!)
Back at the finish, I was uncharacteristically indulgent. I had a massage (I never have massages). I cleaned my bike in the Muc-Off tent. I feasted on sausage rolls and tea. I sunbathed on the grass. All of which I made sure to update John by text. I thought it would give him something to look forward to while grinding up that last hill…
This Sunday my London marathon schedule took me to Dorking for the award winning but by all accounts gruelling Leith Hill half marathon. For once instead of Selwyn I had the far more pleasant company of Katie Crowe. Katie was completely unfazed by the prospect of tackling a route that would take in the highest point in South Eastern England. I on the other hand was more than a little daunted when I heard that there is no higher ground between the top of Leith Hill and the Urals. Allegedly a distant London and the South Downs could be viewed from up there on this clear crisp morning.
The starter set us off rather unexpectedly as we thought the husband and wife carrying race was still to come. Straight away we were into the first steep climb that lasted at least a mile before a little bit of relief came with a few sections of downhill and flat. I remember feeling pretty comfortable and being a little frustrated at being stuck behind some ‘plodders’ on a long stretch of single track. I over took them asap but I should have known much better. From 2 to 6 miles it was entirely uphill. One by one the plodders retook the places I had gained.
In addition to the incline it was thick with mud. Around half way my trainer got stuck and decided it was too tired to carry on the journey with me. I had to wade back in to a big bog to yank it out. It made for a squelchy last 6 miles. Around the same time Katie came back past me looking very comfortable and smiley. I was glad our crossing hadn’t been 10 meters earlier as she’d have caught me still moaning about my sodden trainer whilst walking up the last incredibly steep section from Coldharbour before finally reaching Leith Hill Tower. At this point I turned pleased with the knowledge that I was heading for home.
However the legs took as much of a pounding on the downhill as the ground was so uneven and steep. My legs were shot by the time the short sharp climbs came around at about 11 miles. At least now everyone around me was also walking. Eventually with roughly half a mile to go a sign appeared saying ‘All Down Hill From Here.’ By this point I just needed it to be over so I threw my body weight forward and let momentum carry me home as fast as my legs would spin.
I finished in 1.52.33 glad that JH convinced me to abandon my plan to run with Katie who finished in a brilliant 1.46.30, a full 4 mins quicker than her time from last year but unfortunately just outside the female placings.
It is a great race and I thoroughly recommend it for anyone wanting a tough challenge next year. It was definitely much more picturesque and interesting than last week’s tour of suburbia. Plus there were jaffa cakes, jelly beans and carrots at the end.
The Major South is half-assault course / half-run, organised by British Military Fitness, which takes place in the Eridge Estate near Tunbridge Wells. 10k is my comfort-zone distance, so the opportunity to try one with a bit of a twist really appealed. Six of us signed-up, including a couple of friends working on their fitness for the Crystal Palace Triathlon and fellow CPT’er, Sara Hoolahan, fresh from cycling 110K in The Spring Onion sportive less than a week earlier.
Appropriately for St Paddy’s day, yesterday’s weather could certainly be described as Irish but so was the mood and we were all in fine spirits. Liberated from the shackles of aiming for a time and just doing something for the craic made a real difference: we were really up for it and not nervous at all. Although a mixed ability group we had agreed, in a pact of sisterly solidarity, that we’d be traversing the course together in case one of us needed hoicking out of mud (they did!).
Runners were set-off in four waves of 250. Our group was in the third wave. The setting was very picturesque with a mixture of open countryside, woodland, streams and tons of mud. I can’t remember running for any long stretch, because it seemed like every five minutes we were crawling through a quagmire, or up to our waists in brown water. These moments were interspersed with jumping over fences, negotiating a giant spiders-web, zig-zagging around in bumpy ground and climbing over haystacks. In one particularly muddy section, a marshal plucked a runner out, only to leave her trainer buried two feet below… The final obstacle on the course was a giant slippery slide which Sara and I hurtled down back-to-back (not intentional!) at top speed. Then, nearly two hours and 11.5k later (err walking pace), we came through the finish line. Tired and cold but totally elated.
The event itself was really well organised as you’d expect from a military outfit. Marshalls were strategically placed, offered lots of encouragement and generally added to the merriment. Perhaps runners could have been spaced out a bit more to avoid bottle necks at certain points. And a hot chocolate at the finish line would have gone down well. But these are minor things. Our ‘after’ faces say it all. It was a great morning and I’ll defo be back for more.
Finchley 20 Report by Grant Georgiades
It’s getting to the business end of things in training for the London marathon. So Selwyn and me found ourselves in Finchley this sunny Sunday for Hillingdon AC’s Finchley 20 or as they like to sell it, ‘The world’s longest running 20 mile road race.’ And boy, did it feel long. The organisers have managed to find a loop that takes in plenty of main roads and very little scenery and the best bit is that you get to do it four times.
Still it was a very useful learning experience. I’d run 20 miles in training a couple of weeks ago with my brother along the Thames Tow path at a comfortable 8.5min/mile and felt surprisingly fresh at the end. So obviously I fell victim to over confidence this time around. It’s amazing how easily you can let yourself get sucked along when, after getting used to running alone or in small groups on your long training runs, you suddenly find yourself running with 700 other competitors. That’s my excuse for setting off a good 20 secs per mile faster than intended and for convincing myself that I felt fresh enough to carry it off.
Having based all my training on JH’s incredibly useful HR zone test I knew that by the end of the second lap my heart rate was 10 BPM above where it should have been. 20 secs here and 10 BPM there didn’t sound much at the time but by about mile 13 I’d reached my lactate threshold and was having to race flat out to cling on to the pace.
West Ruslip’s Art Deco-ish looking Tube station had been one the most interesting sights to take in on the route but it is situated at the summit of a rather long incline that by mile 18 left both my legs and my lungs on fire.
But cling on I did, finishing in 2 hours 46 mins. Much wiser for the knowledge there’s no way I could complete a marathon at 3hr 37 pace. Other useful things I learnt were; the splashes of water I managed to consume from a plastic cup each time I passed the water station definitely weren’t sufficient, despite being Greek I need to wear sun cream in March, lock laces would be worth investing in and if you want a settled stomach Vietnamese food is not the best pre-race dinner.
As for the Selwynator he thundered round in 2 hours 24. His major discovery along the way was that Decathlon’s cheapest socks don’t cut the mustard for long distance running. He ended up with some nasty blisters but still pleased with a pace that would give him just over a 3 hr marathon. Though he thinks 3hr 15 will be a more realistic target on the day.
By the end we had just enough energy to pose for a photo and to hobble back to the car.
Wim and I joined my dad in the Harz mountains in Northern Germany for a spot of relaxation and cross-country. Naturally, when we heard that the ski club in nearby Benneckenstein was putting on their annual x-country race, we didn't hesitate to sign on, Wim for the one-loop 13km race, myself for the two-loop 26km. The course went across fields and through forest and substantially followed the line of the border fence that separated the two halves of Germany until 1989.
The race was a mass start to be run in the classic style (where the skis move parallel to each other in tracks pressed into the snow), not skating style. Our skiing skills weren't exactly advanced and our equipment was not designed for racing but long-distance trecking but we figured we'd just fire up our aerobic engines trained and tested on the pavements of south London and the hills of Kent and Surrey to make up for it and hold our own against the locals.
We gathered on Sunday in bright sunshine and bitter temperatures (-12 degrees) and politely slotted in at the back of the starter field, giving us a chance to see what everybody else was up to and pick off the slower competitors once we had hit our stride. Naturally, we sported full club kit, although it was obscured by the bibs we had been handed. This turned out to be just as well since the field dropped us within three minutes of the start. Five minutes in, and I could see only two people ahead of me, and very very few behind us. I managed to hunt down one competitor early in lap 2, and raced the remaining 10 kms encountering only the occasional tourist .
At the finish, my dad supplied warm clothes while we enjoyed hot teas and pea and sausage broth and tipped our hats to the locals for their friendly reception and sporting prowess (although I also secretely wondered how they would fare if they happened to be visiting London and decided to sign up to our club race on a whim - ha!). Anyway, great race laid on by a small club.
(Incidentally, while we were doing this, a few hardy fools ran 80km from Göttingen to the summit of the Brocken, at 1146m the highest peak of the Harz - check out this blog from an English runner who participated to get an idea of the area - obviously, I will have my eyes on this for next year).
Sidcup 10 - Race report - 12 FebruaryReport by John Buchanan
A very cold Sunday morning saw six brave CPTers head to my home town for the Sidcup 10 miler. To be fair there were another 310 souls I would consider brave, it was so cold. The odd person in just their vest and shorts were viewed with a mix of sympathy and concern for their sanity.
After a rousing pre race talk (which no one could hear) we were off, all running down a very busy road which wasn’t closed off at all. The race involved three laps of us traversing the exciting pavements of Sidcup. It was very well marshalled, especially considering the amount of roads being crossed, and had a good mix of minor inclines and declines to maintain the runner’s interest.
The race was attended by a friendly bunch, though clearly in the dark ages. When asked the pace we were running on the first lap I responded “4 minutes 22 per km”. “That means nothing to me” came the response to a few chuckles. As we introduced the metric system in the seventies I found this hard to believe and decided to run faster for a bit rather than do the conversion for the young chap.
My first lap was fairly solid. Being my first 10 miler I wasn’t sure of the pace so decided to just amend my last half marathon pace. On the second lap I was feeling good and hoped to take a good few places but by the third lap my legs were weary and, as I hit the last three miles, I had really started to slow. I was overtaken by a runner in blue who was having a good race and then two faux CPTers (Dartford Road Runners having exactly the same club colours).
As often happens in these races my mind had started wandering and as I approached the final km I wondered what Brendan Foster would say here, “Oh, he’s got to dig deep” came the commentary. Well as Brendan Foster knows his stuff who was I to argue and was promptly running at 5k pace. The two Dartford Road Runners were quickly overtaken and a half dozen other runners I had been chasing for miles, I chased the runner in blue all the way to the line, but couldn’t quite catch him, and finished in a respectable 1hr 11mins. Lisa crossed the line shortly after with her arms raised in personal victory.
After a good morning’s racing we then made the very short journey to my mum’s for a roast, perfect.
7.5 miles / 1700ft ascent
(category B, medium distance)
Three weeks after the cavalcade of Knacker Cracker, two CPTers returned to Box Hill to run the fell race (it would have been three CPTers but one was in Serpie disguise – boo hiss!) This was a far more austere occasion, a ‘proper runner’s race’ John quipped as we dumped our bags under a tree and observed the wiry, grizzled contenders (yes, some even had bushy beards). Gone were the bagpipes, the costumes, The Flight of the Valkyries… there wasn’t even a water station along the way. But at only £5 to enter it satisfied the bank balance while waiting for January’s pay day.
After a simple pre-race briefing in which we were instructed to give our names at the end in case anyone went missing, we were off. The start was tricky enough, running on a slant uphill over grass moguls. My legs started to complain and this was only the first of several climbs! But I was realistic. My first go at fell racing and not being a contender for top spot, my aim was to clock up some solid winter training. I’d purchased a pair of trail shoes during the week and this was their first outing outside the gentle terrain of laminate flooring in the flat. I prayed to the God of Asics for a cushiony soft landing and plenty of grip.
There were moments of déjà vu where the route crossed parts of the Knacker Cracker but this was far more evil. Up Box Hill and down the other side, then back up an ascending trough going single file. The race was a roller coaster of limey mud and gravel, splattering up the back of the legs as if we all had the trots. I lost all sense of direction at this point, so I’ll continue the report based on event info which was written by someone who knew what they were doing… ‘Descend again, then climb to the top to Box Hill village, head out northwards towards Headley Heath (small intermediate climb), drop to Lodgebottom Road (with another small intermediate climb), gradually climb White Hill, drop back to Headley Road, climb up the spur opposite all the way to another part of the summit plateau, back down a gully across the zig-zag road, a final sharp pull back onto the main north ridge and the all the way down to the finish where the start was. Five long climbs, three short sharp climbs, one steep descent on grass, another on grass/brambles, another on chalk/steps, one gradual but steepening descent on grass, and a gradual descent into a stony gully.’
In the final leg towards the finish you feel like Sir Lancelot in the scene from Monty Python’s Holy Grail, running towards the castle never seeming to get any closer. But it was a good day for all – John and I took approximately six minutes off our Knacker Cracker times (OK, the course was slightly shorter, but harder), and the Serpie bagged a whopping PB, shaving three minutes off last year.
The great thing about off road is you can really lose yourself in the terrain. It’s also tough, which means you know it’s making you stronger. Unlike pounding through a flat 10k in which speed is your only challenge, the terrain keeps you constantly interested and provides choices such as where best to place your feet – mud, ditch or bog? Leap over the tree/fence/cow or limbo under? Then again, you’ll probably experience them all.
I would recommend for anyone who enters an event like this with zero provisions and support i.e. no shortcuts, water stations or post-race grub, to consider taking water on the run, and have food/water in your bag for the journey home.
What better way to start the new year than with a steely resolve to complete ‘the toughest 10k in Britain’, the Knacker Cracker? Well, actually this year was an Olympic special at 12k (12.4 according to Mr Garmin), but the tough part was certainly accurate. Whether it’s the toughest in Britain is a bold claim, but perhaps with the exception of fell races it just might be.
In any case it was the most bonkers. Standing at the start line at the foot of a hill surrounded by Wallys, smurfs, bananas, daleks, pirates and countless other random costumes, we could hear the sound of the bagpipes at the top drifting across the pre-race briefing before being engaged in a rowdy chorus of the national anthem. Quite frankly you feel a fool if you haven’t dressed up, and I watched John’s dashing bin liner cape flapping in the wind with envy. At 11am it began, straight up said hill and around the piper before coming back down and making a right turn onto Box Hill, which is the only tarmacked part of the route.
After climbing Box Hill for a while you turn left into the woods and continue on trail. It was a slippery and muddy course throughout, including three significant descents and ascents. Trying to descend as quickly as possible over steep, loose ground is a test of skill, nerve and balance, and I was cross-eyed at one point trying to maintain control. Some parts were just too dicey to risk running it unless you’re an experienced descender or are suicidal, and I saw a few runners taking a tumble. The ascents were another test altogether of pain and hill climbing ability (Carl’s excellent hill reps are a must-do training session) and the mud seems to suck all the effort out of the legs. Trail shoes are definitely recommended but you can do it in normal trainers as I did, though how much difference it makes to overall performance I don’t know. It is not the race to do if you are seeking a PB but I can’t stress how much fun it was. The atmosphere and scenery are great, the costumes make you laugh even if you’re struggling, and there is absolutely no shame in walking up the steepest parts, especially the endless number of steps in the last 2k (according to the briefing only the top ten finishers ever manage to run up these anyway.)
Fortunately I finished just as the rain started to spit. I can’t imagine how unnervingly slippery the course must’ve been for those who took yet another hour or so to complete in the rain. The finish itself was excellent, coming back down the starter hill to the sound of The Flight of the Valkyries and the best race goodie bag I’ve ever had (including a very decent winter running top, medal and mug) and soup and sandwiches if you can stomach it - I couldn’t. Luckily for John he’d finished his soup before I got to the line and revealed a three inch long blister hanging off my foot that would have made him sick!