Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Happy in Sheffield

Lenny Makes Himself at Home in the New Garden

Sheffield has been remarkably kind to me. In spite of the usual friendly reception from Yorkshire folk, I have mostly nice neighbours who, even if they are a little loud, genuinely haven't thought that music at 10pm isn't "on".

My rides to work take me along the Trans-Penine Trail or around the edge of still lakes on bridle paths that seem miles from anywhere. From work I can go for a run through fields or even get to the gym and the pool.

At home I can go for a "walk on the wild side".

We went to the pub for dinner on Friday night and, instead of going to Cafe Rouge, we stumbled upon the Stag, with a conservatory, oak tables and a sense of rustic middle-class. We found ourselves sitting next to the Sheffield Tri club who were very encouraging and enthusiastic.

Last week when it was warm, we found the only down side to living where we do. Every pub beergarden (loose term) was filled with bald-headed, england shirt wearing, thick-set males complete wtih beer, fags and slappers while others preferred to sit on the wall outside tescos drinking cider and smoking fags with their kids (that was just the women).

We decided that on a nice day we want to live somewhere a bit nicer... somewhere we can walk to a nice pub, not needing to get in the car and drive.

So we went to Nether edge to do the laundry... just to make sure.

Guerilla Knitting in Nether Edge

Monday, June 07, 2010

Chester Tri

Following the drowning events of Ashton Keynes I was pretty paranoid about the 1.5k swim at Chester.

Despite some over-distance training culminating in a 1800m swim in the choppy Friday-evening waters of the Rotherham pool, I was still captivated by something Claire mentioned something about tri wetsuits so after much deliberation I committed to charging around the day before the chester tri, trying on wetsuits. On a hot day that is some feat as every one sticks to the flesh in the sweaty heat that builds up between neoprene and skin.

I gave up in Sheffield and headed over to Wilmslow because if there's going to be an expensive yet well-stocked tri shop anywhere, it's in Wilmslow.

6 suits and a very sweaty Trep later a suit that fits though I am still disapointed they failed to keep a stock of medium tall and had to settle for large to avoid being strangled. Still, with increasingly chunky legs and shoulders, I'm sure I'll grow into it.

Exhausted, we drove to Chester to register and drive around the bike course. Very glad of checking the scary climb. Mental note to save some legs.

Early arrival at Chester put me at an advantage of first in the portaloos and an unseasonably early arrival on the startline. This time though it wasn't a problem as I sat enjoying the sunshine with my feet dangling in the water.

Post-briefing, I got the new suit wet and was filled with glee to find my feet floated all on their own.

Although the swim started reasonably politely, I soon found myself (again) next to the really tall very stocky woman swimming breast stroke in my line.

Legs kicking under my belly, I pulled over, left her to it and try to stay calm. The target for Chester was to crawl the distance, staying with the group would've been a bonus.

As a solo swimmer it becomes difficult to navigate through the water. The side to side motion of the head needs to look up from time to time resulting (in a novice like me) in drunken swimming, zig zagging from side to side - from bank to buoys. After the first near-miss with overhanging trees, I got it undr control, though not enough to feel like I'd swum an extra 1/3 distane.

As the lead veteran men passed me (started 10 minutes behind) I realised I was starting to lose the feeling in my feet and calf muscles. Realising I'd probably saved my legs too much I put a bit of effort in (again) to the last 50 m just to wake things up and (again) avoid being last out of the water.

The new suit came off a little slower than the old - mostly on account of my frozen hands and feet. Less time in the water, yes please.

Scouse lady being shouted at by her husand put me off, the distraction of choas and disorganised nature of my neighbour inspired to get me going. I nipped through transition just before they began getting really grumpy about people wearing their number on the wrong side of their body & making competitors wear their clothes backward

Bike. Favourite bit. It's difficult to highlight the challenges of my bike. I spend a lot of the time just enjoying passing other competitors, riding with some of the men. My biggest challenge is to put myself into the wind when all of my bike racing insincts are to draft the person infront.

The big climb passed well with a big heave on the pedals and the usual heavy breathing on my part. The ensuing downhill which we partially missed out in the van the night before was a bit of a crowning glory. In my space at the back, most people are pootling through the bike ride, the same way I pootle through the swim and the run.

The tri bars, originally considered to be a bit of an indulgence have actually knocked minutes off my ride times.

Whether it is the improvement in drive power, the aerodynamics, me getting stronger or the fact that I feel like I look the part, they work. So Phoenix and I raced down the hill, permanently on the drive and on the aero bars until we ran out of twiddle then sailed out the tail-wind.

My thoughts on the ride usually start out with controlling my output to ensure that by the time I get to the end I have legs left for the run. This consideration is interleaved with the conflicting enthusiasm to do the ride of my life. As I tire, that enthusiasm wanes and I remain calm until such time as I realise I'm within the target of 1hr 20mins. At that point all the stops come out and I usually struggle out onto the run (see Ashton Keynes). Chester was no different as I rocked into transition in 1:19.

Dressed and back into the run I was desperate for a wee but thanks to the lovely parkland setting of the Chester tri I was soon able to resolve my issues with a detour into the park facilities.

The run was a real challenge. As ever with me, easy only because it was just a question of getting through it. At least I was not alone as the police teams and senior men continued to stream past me. Oxford Tri club gave me a "stop saving yourself Swindon" shout. He obviously thought I was Claire and wondered why I was dallying around.

TSK made the run as enjoyable as possible, appearing at the road crossings and timing my laps, proud that my second lap was even faster than my first... until I pointed out I had taken a comfort break on the first lap.

On the final approach I tried to focus on staying with the woman next to me. Despite my efforts she surged away from me then, to my relief, headed out on her second lap.

Final result 41:28 (69th) swim 1:19:22 (26th) bike 1:01:47 (60th) run. If I scale up Lymm, that's a ten minute improvement on the bike and the run. I'm very happy wth an equivalent swim considering it was an open water, mass start event.

In terms of position, I was 26th in the bike ride yet over 60th in both the swim and the run. I am aware I can go faster in the swim without drowning, in fact it will keep me warmer. If I wanted to come consistently 26th in every discipline (ie a total time of 2:40:30), it would involve a lot of work. Ironically, since most people have only two good disciplines, this performance would put me 20th overall. Much easier, I decided to aim for half way down the field. So 35th overall. The 35th competitor completed in 2:50:07. Each 35th place discipline would be 32:36 in the swim, 1:21:50 in the bike (nailed already) and 51:59 in the run. It would involve a 10 minute cut in time in running and swimming.

So, there I am, targets set for the next event. They are tough and it's going to take concerted effort to get me there. Good news is, those times together will give me a total of 2:45:45 and would have put me 32nd overall so I have leeway.

Result summary

Swim: 41:28 (69th)

Bike: 1:19:22 (26th)

Run: 1:01:47 (60th)