Sunday, July 31, 2011

July 2011 Stats

I've been looking forwards to this for a while.

Running - 50.31km, 7.6km/hr, el. 1237m (Walking 14.84km)
Cycling - 495km, 19km/hr, el. 6304m
Swimming 7.72km, 2.5km/hr

Considering my run distance for Helvellyn is shorter (but steeper) and the ride has so much bearing on the race, I'm very happy with this. My running distances are still up around 50km despite the fact I only have to do 13km this time. My cycling distance is really pleasing. Over 100km more than recent months & this time last year.

Just look at that bike elevation though!!!

Friday, July 29, 2011


Now that I'm at the build up to Helvellyn I have absolutely no idea how I will do. For sure I've put the training in and I have had two weeks off training to rest but what of that rest? 

Time spent galavanting around airports and French roads, working like a dog and looking after TSK. All things I wanted to do but they have made me tired during my rest. 

Every time I catch up there is something else to do, the next missed or overheated sleep.
As a consequence I have done so little with my rest period. It has not been a lack of equipment that stopped me, for I now take my stuff every where.  It is a lack of mental strength from missed sleeps. I managed one cycle ride and one run during the pbp and one swim-run brick session this week whilst at work.
To top off the fatigue, an old hip injury has reoccurred from sitting about in cars and trains too much. Will it get me up Helvellyn? Who can tell.
One thing is for sure, I'm going to give it a go. I think I may do better than I expect.
So long as I get a good nights sleep tonight.


I truly exhausted myself last week so I allowed myself some well earned rest days to recuperate. Tuesday. By the end of it I was still tired and with the warm humid weather, sleeps weren't exactly doing so well.
On Wednesday I had my first session with the stress counsellor to try and help with my jaw pain. Personally I think I handle stress quite well.

With my job, getting rid of it isn't an option so I am hoping this woman can help me identify the stresses that cause me a problem and give me coping techniques to combat the stress... that is, techniques that don't involve me clenching my teeth in my sleep, resulting in jaw pain.

It was a bit stressful careering across Nottinghamshire but at least it was another rest day until I went swimming at Ponds Forge with the Tri Club.
200-100-200 warm up
4 200 s at a medium pace
4 100 s increasing in intensity from 'easy' to fucking 'mental'
4 50 s at fucking mental pace with 1minute rest in between.
The first 3 fucking mentals were ok but the last one hurt like hell. I could feel the lactic acid in my shoulders and was good for nothing all evening. I wish I could achieve that kind of swimming output on my own.

Back in France

30 minutes on the motorways and A (or D) roads of france and it's like I've never been away. Of course this time, sat nav provided by my employer made the number of u-turns fewer but my fists still hurt from trying to change gear with the wrong hand.
I was greeted at the hotel doorway by my landlord from back home. Joy. He had a message for me from my host at work tomorrow.
They respected my privacy and left me to 52 laps of the tiny pool. It was like I'd not been travelling all day. Not really. That's why I only did 500 m.
I am now reminded of the best and worst of French quisine... Eating my fresh - yes fresh - olives soaked in red garlicy pesto and waiting long oh so long for souris of lamb... Whatever that is. I am expected at work at 8am tomorrow. I am unsure of whether this will happen. 
I debated a walk after dinner to suss out a running path for tomorrow. Probably a good job dinner took so long.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Helvellyn Weekend

I’m going to nail it (whatever that means for me). That’s my feeling on the Helvellyn Tri after a weekend spent on a reconnaisance mission to the course in the Lake District.

The recce was attributed to be the key activity missing from my last Day in the Lakes triathlon which resulted in that catastrophic DNF. The action taken to resolve the most important lesson-learned from that day was to spend a weekend in the Lake District familiarising myself with the bike and run routes on the Helvellyn course. In a run of free weekends leading to Andrew’s PBP, it’s easy to find a weekend when wanging up to the Lakes is just about do-able.

After the madness that was last week – really busy to really quiet wtih a few contentious team issues thrown in,- we didn’t feel like the long drive on Friday night or leaving the cat on his own so we got everything ready and then set off normal time on Saturday morning, avoiding any school holiday traffic.

4th campsite lucky with vacancies we booked into the Ullswater campsite with a view of the hillsides. Never mind setting up the vanu, we unloaded the bikes and headed off to join the Northern end of the bike course at Matterdale End. By the time we arrived south of Troutbeck, we started ducking and diving to avoid main roads, all the way to Ambleside we dipped on and off the bike course, taking country lanes around the far shore of lakes and old roads paralell to the wider, shinier new ones, diverting into Grassmere for coffee and cake.

Just enough riding distance between Grassmere and Ambleside for the cake to settle before we hit the challenge du Jour – the Struggle. One of the classic climbs of the UK, it shoots straight up from Ableside at 20%, winding through the stone houses and narrow streets at the back of the village.

Cars struggle by, their clutches smelling. Heat radiates from the brakes of the oncoming vehicles which pass within inches on the tiny street.

TSK and I climb as consistently as possible, saving ourselves because we know just how far this ride keeps going for. We’re staying in the next valley and have seen it. I finally see TSK, about 50m ahead sit back down in his saddle. I decide to put in a bit of effort to get there sooner rather than later, looking forwards to the next rest. As I “sprint” out of the saddle I can feel the benefits of my swim training as I counter-ballance each pedal stroke with my arms. It still hurts like hell and I wonder if I’ll make it. I round the corner where TSK sat down only to see yet more climb and him, still 50m ahead back out of the saddle. The struggle continues...

After about 2.4km of climbing, the hill flattens briefly and we roll along, catching our breath and looking ahead to the end of the climb. 500m of 20% climbing with two switchbacks thrown in for good measure. We’re debating whether it’s as steep or as long or as bad as what we’ve just done – it’s possibly the fact that we can see this one coming but I think it’s worse. TSK things it’s easier. The switchbacks hit 30% or 1 in 3 at their steepest, though there’s not much traffic coming so we ride wide and zig zag up the hill to ease the slope.

We stop at the top to take a photograph of what we’ve done and stretch our legs before heading off on the downhill – the Kirkstone Pass that I rode up on The Day in the Lakes. Bonus, I thought, is this time I don’t have to ride all the way back to Padley Bridge – just this little bit back to Glenridding (only a flippin mountain climb to go).

A half hour later we stop at the watersports centre to pick up an icecream before the wobble back to the vanu. We’re not felling too bad and race eachother back to the road fuelled by our icecream. By the time we reach the turning for the campsite, I’m so hungry my tummy is rumbling. We’ve a 10% climb back to the campsite and I decide if the first farmhouse isn’t the campsite, I need to eat something. I see TSK ride past the driveway and stop for an energy gel which gets me going again and takes away the shakes.

Staggering into the van, the new tent-neighbours want to know how far we’ve been. Knowing it’s a 38 mile route, for some reason I estimate, “about 45miles” - boasting. I feel bad, so check my garmin. Sure enough, we’ve ridden 78.5km, including the Struggle. We reward ourselves with a take-out from the onsite chippy instead of messing about with cooking the pasta we bought at the stores and hauled all the way up the hill.

Energy stores replenished we have a play with the slack line. We’re either astonishingly rubbish at it or the vanu suspension is screwing with our ability to find a balance point without some horrendous resonance. Either way, both of us get some comedy disco-leg every time we attempt to stand on it and it takes an astounding level of commitment for me just to hang on for a couple of seconds, holding TSK’s hand for extra support. It’s funny for a while and my core, knee, thigh and hip muscles are working really hard but then we’re just tired and sign it off for another day when we have two, solid, immoveable objects – ie. trees - to play with (not to mention the legs to make a go of it). We shower and are in bed by 9:30pm.

Sunday morning dawns glorious. Neither of us has set an alarm but it’s so lovely outside, the sun wakes us at a good time and we cook outdoor breakfast, joking with the neighbours who aren’t really sure why they and their kids are awake at such an ungodly hour . I think it was about 7am.

After playing hunt-the-keys for a while we set off from our new favourite campsite with packed rucsacs and deign to pay the tourist tax for parking in the Glenridding carpark so that my experience is as close as possible to the race-day one.

A few moments of debate on the lower slopes of Helvellyn, trying, more than anything, to make sure we walk the route in the right order - up-the-up and down-the-down of the race route so as not to result in any confusion.

I soon identify the first bit that I should “save”” myself for – the Simon-Fell-like climb along a wall to the shoulder of Helvellyn Mountain. We go a bit off-course, following the main path – but even our zig zag approach doesn’t really take much steepness out of the slope. On race day I will probably have to take the more severe route so plan to train for it.

At the shoulder, where the stone wall turns to run along the ridge, the first view of Helvellyn appears – the approach hills are too tall and steep to allow the summit of Helvellyn to be seen from any of the major roads or towns surrounding it but from this wall, the whole summit ridge and each of the rocky scrambles leading to the summit suddenly comes into view.

I’m sorely tempted to scramble the much loved Striding edge to the summit on such a lovely day but instead, stick to the plan, keep the focus and continue along the race route of Swirral Edge. In the photo above you can see just how busy Striding edge is and I'm quite satisfied we didn't join all those other people.

Despite the paths which bypass the rocky edge, I opt to squirrel along the swirral, partly to enjoy the views both sides, partly to enjoy the breeze, partly to experience scrambling again and partly to determine the racing line. In the unlikely event that I’m feeling in anyway competitive on the day... In the unlikely event that anyone else is still up there on the day... I sussed out all of the easily scrambleable routes – little chimneys which pass between two scree-ridden slippery slopes, keeping me out of the wind and sending me on ahead of anyone queing on the path... this could be my best run yet.

The benefit of climbing up the middle is I am able to see where paths go to both sides so that if it’s windy on the day, I can choose the route which keeps me warm and stable. It occurs to me that never before have I sussed out the racing line on a scramble.

They say that 2/3 of the Helvellyn race is getting down off the summit of Helvellyn. The descent didn’t look nearly as bad as I’d imagined it, looking at the map. I’d expected something scree-ridden but I suppose, if it’d been covered in scree, running would’ve been a breeze. Instead, it turned out it’s traditional, well worn, gravel path. This is it, behind TSK.

The first killer is its descent route – initially a big drop-off followed by two little uphill kickers. Good to know, on race day, that the first is a false summit and there's still a little bit more up to do.

On the steeps, I have a bit of a run on it to practice. TSK plays the fat man running too close behind me, slithering in the gravel, trying to put me off. He pushes past too close saying, “get past the girl, get past the girl" and I laugh and shout, “now you need to stop and take a drink”. He pretends and then runs alongside me shouting, “running together, running together!”. We decide it’s silly running with full backpacks and revert to walking.

Every so often – especially when the steeps kick in I have a little jog to remind myself what it’s like. I think this will go better with my fell shoes on as I’ll have a lot more grip and less weight on my back to control. On such a nice day I relish the thought of running this route, lightweight and unladen. I keep it in mind that on a bad day it will be slippery and no fun but this probably means I'll flourish.

I wonder about the event, on the day, after completing the ride up the struggle just an hour earlier, how will I be faring at this point. I can only imagine, not very well and resolve to train every weekend and every available time in the week to make sure my legs are as strong as possible for this race.

By the time we’ve arrived at the flat, rolling tarmac road from the Youth hostel and camping barn that leads down to Glenridding we’re looking for every excuse to avoid downhills – or even uphills. We do note that it’s perfectly feasible to get the bikes up this hill to the camping barn – for future reference. We enjoy the thought of the early morning spectacle of carbon-fibre-spangled triathleetes who stay at the Youth Hostel picking their way down the potholed road to transition on race day. I’m glad I’m booked into the slightly more respectable campsite with the vanu with its tarmacced road and close proximity to the race venue.

At the village, we make a beeline for the coffee shop. It turns out both of us now suffer coffee withdrawl by about 2:30pm. The first place is rejected for the instant brew on offer, the second for the queue and the third, though successful, only sells us an icecream because we’ve run out of money by this point. Swimimng first, coffee later.

Switching cash for cossies, we walk to the beach and TSK gets his legs wet whilst I send him on a mission to retrieve my towel and clothes to the shoreline. As ever, the discretion of getting dressed at the back of the beach is overcome by my desire to get into dry kit as soon as possible.

I launch myself headlong into the deepening, increasingly cold water of Ullswater and take the first chilling, breathtaking strokes. Physically the cold takes my breath, metaphorically the view does. Swimming in the shadow of Helvellyn and Gillside, Place fell, Catstye Cam and (ironically) Sheffield Pike and the 7km loop around Fusedale which I missed on the Day in the Lakes.

The rest of the day is irrelevant in comparison and the only worthwhile thing to mention is the continuing quest for coffee as both of us did synchronised sleep twitches in the cab on the drive East. We stopped at an excellent coffee shop on both outward and return legs of the journey, the second time, it transpired, only to pick up cake as the person who runs the machine had gone home. We finally got hold of the coffee at Scotts Corner. 9/10 of the Helvellyn Triathlon completed, no wonder we were doing sleep twitches.

Short of the route, what did I learn this weekend?

  • That I can ride all the way up the Struggle.
  • That I can do Helvellyn with a backpack and heavy boots in 5 hours and still walk the next day.
  • How much water I need on Helvellyn and where I can get more on the way down.
  • How much drink I need on this bike ride – a full BIG bottle.
  • That regardless of the weather I may need those water proofs as I added trouser legs and a fleece for the descent on Sunday, despite the 24 degree temperatures in the sun.
  • That my sunhat is essential – even if it’s going to be to keep the rain out of my eyes.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Tuesday Night Wonder

I have discovered the best time to go to Edale in the Peak. 6:30pm on a slightly drizzly weekday evening.

When I arrived at the carpark it was empty and free. Just as I set off on my run, two more cars arrived with mountainbikers within.

I cut around the back of the campsite and up to the open-access path allongside Oller Brook. I passed three walkers then had the moors to myself as I passed over Ringing Roger crag and into the drizzle.
The view towards to the top of Kinder was gloomy and getting gloomier. Because I was on my own, because I had left my compass in the van, I decided to head down in a different direction to my initial plan and followed the ridge along to crookstone knoll to descend by more sensible means.

The run along the tops was fast and fun, leaping from one stone to the next and scrambling over little cliffs and drop-offs. The bogs still relatively dry from the spring offered as much resistance to my footfall as velvet cushions and despite kicking myself from time to time, I enjoyed every moment.

The descent was glorious and I paused under the tree where my dad wants his ashes scattered to check the map. There was a half-baked plan to run along the road a little before swinging off to run up to the summit of Mam Tor as well but I soon felt tired-enough to knock that plan on the head for another day.

The bridlepath to the Edale road took me past the mountain bikers on their way up. I crossed the stream bubbling down from Jaggers Clough where I stopped to fill my water bottle for the run back to the car and swore as I thistled the chunk I'd already taken out of my ankle.

Along the narrow paths which feed back to Edale village without touching upon the road I chased two sheep who, thankfully, got tired of running at my pace and hopped over a wall into an open field before I chased them too far from the rest of the flock.

By the time I arrived back at the campsite in Edale, most of the campers were fed up of standing about in the rain and had (probably) gone down the pub. The mountain bikers arrived back at their cars and we all moped about the carpark stretching and delaying the inevitable drive home with our muddy legs.

Saturday, July 16, 2011


It's a day for being quiet. TSK is doing the Dunwich Dynamo today but instead of driving all the way down to london to ride to the Suffolk coast, he's just going to head over from Sheffield later on this evening and arrive there, about 6am for his swim in the sea.

I had my ocean swim this morning. Rother valley didn't quite match up to the waves of Ullswater in June but it was tough.

I've had a hard week. I have trained hard on my bike twice in two days and run twice in two days, including a run from work to Santander in Brinsworth with over £500 in cash in my shoes. It's not that I'm particularly worried about Brinsworth as an area but I'd forgotten my bumbag and running along clutching £500 in twenties in my sweaty mit seemed a little risky. I mean, knowing me, I'd drop it.

I also did a swim on Wednesday night at the pool. Ages since I've been to the pool.

For some time I've been debating the pros and cons of my gym membership. It was cheap at £29 per month and very flexible. The advantages: that I wil tend to pop in for quick 20 minute sessions because I feel like I'm getting my money's worth if I do; that frequently and in the winter when I want nothing more than to sit on the machines in the warm and run on the treadmill, it's always there, on my way to work. The cons: I wasn't doing that anywhere near frequently enough, especially in the summer with all my fun I'm having with the Sheffield Tri club. I have to pay for Sheffield Tri and so training was getting rather expensive.

Last week I checked the account that my gym membership comes from. They were only ones who hadn't switched over my direct debit and the charge had gone up to £38. Well, long story short, they apologised and refunded the excess from the last three months but the damage was done and I wasn't prepared to pay £38 at all, especially as I get so much more - coaching, techniques, speed sessions from the Sheffield Tri group.

So with Sheffield Tri providing the swimming training, Dark Peak Fell Runners offering the run training and Norton Wheelers / Sheffield Tri the bike training, I only had one gap to breach. Cliffhanger left me a 10% discount card with my ticket which I very nearly recycled. Since I noticed the discount I have been making a long list of things to buy from Decathlon.
  • one transformer for the battery fridge so I can cool it on mains,
  • one set of weight lifting weights type things to help me actually grow some muscles and...
  • we are now the proud owners of a slackline kit. Partly so we can play at balance-type fun stuff in the garden and when we go away. Partly so we can tie the vanu cushions together every time we go to bed at night.
Next week, the cat sitter is coming to meet Lenny. There are now only a few things I have left to organise for the PBP. Proper holidays this year (for me anyway). I'm looking forwards to virtually stoking TSK in his exploits and starting to get ready for my big end of season effort. August is going to be sweet.