Saturday, November 30, 2013

Week 2, 2014 The start of cold winter road rides.

It's been a lovely day today and I have managed to fit in one lovely ride in between recovering from the week that was and taking my poorly cat to the vet.

The week that was took place in Norfolk and involved a lot of 5am starts for swimming, running, turbo and getting to site on time.  It was a tough one.

After last week's dismal cyclo-cross race I thought I'd better up my game on the bike pretty sharpish for Ironman training so I set out to do the 30km ride that I had programmed in last year.  This year though I set off to throw hills at it too and in the same vein as last week, I decided to use the opportunity to benchmark the occasional hillclimb.  Not that it will take much beating since I went out on an old block and the chain kept jumping every time I stood on the pedals.

With sunsets to die for it was the kind of day that will cheer me up for the rest of the week ahead.

My performance wasn't that cheery though.  I wonder where all the bike fitness has gone.  It seems down the toilet in the past few weeks.  Still, starting, that's the main thing right?

Rivelin to Strines - 40:10
Bamford to Stanage - 32:51

Monday, November 25, 2013

Whinlatter Duathlon Race Report

Suddenly daunted in the carpark by the sheer numbers of people here.  I'd had a lovely weekend until now - just me and Mr Rodgers and the chickens at the campsite.

The little boy made me laugh, telling me that his dad was chasing a chicken because he wanted to "Feel what a chicken felt like".  I was trying to pack my car!  Not roll around in the icy grass laughing my head off at the thought of a grown man with a family trying to "feel a chicken".

Those were our only race neighbours on the Lane Foot campsite.  Now all these other people were here at registration.  I picked up my number 160-odd and got my free buff and Sportident dibber (old skool).

Back at the car, I'd locked Mr Rodgers in and the alarm was going off.  Sadly embarrased, poor love.  I released him and he set about fixing my bike together whilst I made warming joggy motions.

I racked my bike and vaguely said hello to some friends of Ms C.  Really I could've paid more attention but I just wasn't expecting anyone to say, "hi Trep", today.

Next surprise was a team mate from Norton Wheelers showing up, all out of context.  We had a hug and debated what the hell we were doing.  I never had Owen down as a runner and I now felt a bit of a numpty in my bright white Sheffield Tri jersey.

Finally racked in amongst chaos of mountain bikes which slid down the icy racking, posed on a slope, I stood through the race briefing then we all walked and slid over to the start-line, walking on the grass to avoid the icy tarmac.  Racers were about 10 wide across the track and stretched back down the mountain trail about 150m.  The uphill start soon thinned us out at the back and I had a few exchanges with a lady who breathed as hard as I do before I finally got ahead of her on a narrow, steep climb through the woods.

What am I saying?  The narrow, steep climbs through the woods just kept coming.  Finally they got boggy and I just kept going, embracing the cold water as a way to cool down my legs whilst others picked their way around the bog.  I dropped many and only a few came past me.  Perhaps fleecy leggings weren't such a bad call after-all.

I find it amazing in sport that sometimes someone can come flying past and there's nothing you can do to respond.  Other times, other more pleasurable times, they make you lift your game and you stick with them... then you chat for a bit and then you just keep going.  This is what happened with Sarah Waldon from Sale Harriers.  Being from the neighbouring town of Altrincham, I had to keep going when she came by me and despite having a shoe-lace moment, I managed to stick it out into transition, come in two places behind her and wave good bye on the bike.

From Transition, the mountain bike route threw me straight downhill onto some lovely wide burmy trails which allowed me to find my bike legs quite spectacularly.  All except for one downhill shreadder, I kept my position before having to concentrate on the UP!

I felt like I reeled in more people than passed me.  Two chaps stuck with me most of the way round as they seemed to be waiting for eachother and I was slower on the downhills and faster on the up.  I hit speeds of 20 mph on the straights, all before the course started to zig zag back and forth back up the steep side of the hills.  This bit I found really frustrating as non-cross-country riders tried to scoosh their bikes around icy hairpin bends, still with one foot clipped into the pedal.  After about the fifth time of queing politely, I finally bit the bullet and ran around three people.  Forced to take the less obvious line, I found myself doing a collaboration of bunny-hopping (on foot), sliding and ski-ing IN CLEATS across icy rock.  Somehow, both myself and EmVee managed to stay upright and were spat out the bottom of the small cliff in one piece... only to find that the people I'd just passed were all accomplished downhillers... and locals... and now I was in their way.

Thankfully that meant I had someone to follow as I'd never ridden this arduous route before and BOY! was it tough in the ice.  I entrusted my life to EmVee on many occasions and she rose to the challenge, steering me through the scariest of drop-offs and bouncing around boulders and tree roots without a whimper - more than could be said for her rider.

By the time I got to the final section of the bike course, I discovered that my heroics on the downhill had taken their toll much more than any aerobic workout and I slumped into tackling the uphills in the lowest gears known to man.  At one point my brain started to doubt my situation after I'd watched riders travelling the opposite way disappear and gradually finding I was alone in a very dark and empty woodland... that is except for the faithful souls following behind me.  I looked around for a marker tape but there were none to be seen.

"Are we going the right way?" I called to the fella behind.  The evidence of his scouse accent indicated he didn't know either.  Down and down the trail.  No point in going slow to find out you're lost, best get it over with, brakes off.  Finally, the sigh of relief when a scrap of red and white tape appeared, tied to a tree.  Then it doesn't really help that your re-ascent of the hill is legit... you've still got to get back up the hill.

The sting in the tail came as I met the runners on their way down to the finish - an entire discipline ahead of me.  At this point, the route flies off the side of the forest track in a (seemingly) near vertical cliff face where TSK had stationed himself to flaunt his belly at me and laugh at duathletes trying to cope with the sense of impending doom that comes from hitting a near vertical cliff at high speed on a two-wheeled vehicle.  I told him he'd caught me at my darkest hour as my face contorted to cope with the balance and braking necessary to stay alive and not wash out.

He said he'd seen worse.

The final stages were a range of obstacles - wooden sculpted bridges and raised trails which have scared the living daylights out of me ever since I plunged a full - sus bike off one at the bike show in London 8 years ago and it bucked me off like a pissed-off pony.  My brain was gone and it was all wrong.  I nursed the bike slowly over what I dared and if I couldn't see it, I ran it.  Finally I was spat out into transition & for once, was relieved to leave the bike behind.

A quick switch into soggy shoes which hadn't had chance to re-freeze, thank god, and I was away.  Nothing left.  After the first open trail I started to trudge and we mostly all reverted to a walk.  Others in front of me sped up from time to time but every time I tried, there was nothing left so I walked but it didn't matter. The sun was shining and there was snow all around.

I was glad of my cap to keep the sun out of my eyes and I was surrounded by the aural onslaught of ice and snow melting from the tree branches, disturbed by the occasional breeze.  After 24 minutes of climbing I reached the summit and paused for a moment, turning in all directions to ingest the view.

Then I plunged down the slopes, not too slippery as the sleet had begun to turn into slush and my shoes gripped.

To my amazement, I caught up a couple of people again on the descent.  This Dark Peaker CAN freefall!  The last few hundred metres flatten out just enough to force you to turn the legs but I was in and tried to stop myself on the marshal as I dibbed in for the final time to an exhausted hug with my patient husband and post-race analysis with a very snuggly wrapped Owen who had been finished for ages.

In short: Whinlatter offroad duathlon highly recommended for anyone with an apetite for mud, impressive scenery tough fell running and gnarly mountain bike trails.  If you don't like map reading, that's fine.  The course is really well marked.  The sportident timing was a bit useless, relying on the competitor being "withit" enough to find a marshal to dib in / out which in my case didn't happen on T2.  However, the organisation promised to resolve this and the deficiency in bike racking for next time.

Run 1 - 4.3 mile 178m climb - 51 min
Bike - 10 mile 518m climb - 1 hr 48 min
Run 2 - 3 mile 213m climb - 44 min
Overall 3 hr 38 min

Photos purchased from and courtesy of Sportsunday.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Ironman Psychology

When people asked me if I'd do another Ironman I used to say, "in a shot but not next year, I need time to let my life settle down again first".  Well, I broke that promise last week.

So why have I entered another so soon?  Well, it's a combination of things - realising just how much residual fitness I have retained from Forestman, in spite of the three months downtime afterwards.  Also, finding that no other goal will do.

I tried stepping up training for the 3 Peaks this year, then again for the national 'cross champs in January but neither gave me quite the incentive to train that Ironman has.

Today I have managed to bring myself away from the computer (indulging in shopping for bikes on line) and have stumbled across some old reports of Susanne Buckenlei, previous winner of Norseman triathlon and finally, a female triathlete I can actually have a girl-crush on.

Not that I have any intention of winning Celtman or even being first female, but if I can't win it, I am damn well going to finish it and it will be amazing.

When I'm there I don't want to find myself wishing I'd done one more training session.

I tried to do some race planning today for the season but it's been unproductive due to in-affordable bike shopping and setting up the anti-virus on the TV computer.  Not exactly athletic stuff, especially as I don't need the bike until the spring.

What got me away from it?  Reading about Susanne and changing my thought process over to going out for that run and using the beautiful day to baseline a hill climb that's close enough to the house to be quite repeatable and enjoyable at the same time.  For now it's a long run but in future weeks it will morph into my short Wednesday morning runs.

I've swum twice this week and really enjoyed both.  The second session left me a bit exhausted but it's all part of the acclimatisation and re-programming process.  What matters is that I'm interested in swimming again - even at the pool!

Outside of exercise, I'm prioritising more looking after the house and myself time and less 'pooter time.  More time playing with the cat.

On a beautiful sunny day like today, it's easy to recall all the beauty of life and not worry or wonder why you worry about the small stuff.  Easy to get off the couch, not get stuck.  I hope I can look back on this first positivity post during my dark days of exhaustion and remember that.

Baseline hillclimb Black Brook to Moorbank Road RV Trail: 6:33.8

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


Ah the good old days...
When meeting your ironman training targets is oh soooo easy

A 1 mile swim with 4 short sprints & bike sprints I can throw off on my commute home from work.

Bring on the tough stuff.

I did think about starting my cold shower training therapy at the pool today but decided that there were enough good excuses in the form of: having been ill with a tummy bug, it being -1 degrees outside, cycling to work with wet hair after a cold shower = no good.  I had a less-than-full-heat shower which gradually crept back up to full heat as time went by.  Well, I did manage to get all the way down the draughty corridor without my towel around my shoulders and without running.

Lunchtime saw me book my accommodation - which is a relief as everywhere seemed to be getting filled up rather quickly... or out of our price range.

My ride home was done "with vigour" though I suspect this is more to do with the cold than any training motivation left with my by the end of the day.

I am suitably tired but ready for tomorrow's 3 mile run. Ahhh.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Celtman 2014

This is my last bit of indulgence, pure indulgence before all hell is set loose on my life.

No race entry confirmation has ever brought me such joy and such horror all at the same time.

The eloquence that I was anticipating for this post is all but gone after I spent many hours awake / semi-concious in the night getting excited, fearing and - ironically - thinking of what to post about today.

I have had a confirmed entry for the Celtman Extreme Scottish Triathlon, an Iron-distance event which comprises: a sea 3.5km swim in Scottish loch Sheildaig in June, a 202km bike ride with 2000m of climbing and a marathon which takes in 2 summits of Ben Eighe... at the end.  For the run I must be supported by a runner to make sure I stay on-route & don't die.

Last night's brain was both excited and terrified at the prospect.  At 3 am it almost thought it had a say in the matter & was trying to decide whether to accept the entry or not!

In the cold light of day with full commitment, I am still excited and terrified.

Technically, training starts tomorrow though it is unlikely that I will be able to help myself today.

(c) Colin Henderson

Friday, November 08, 2013

Run tenuous but done

Yesterday's run was a utility run combining the two chores of reminding myself how to bounce from foot to foot and shopping for the right tools to repair my mtb after I overstretched the capabilities of the brake lever in the car last week.

Less than 5k and I walked the flattish hillock back to the office.

Hard week?  I think so but mtb fixed ready for a sunny race day on Sunday.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Back in the Pond

Finally made it back to the pool this morning.  In contrast to usual post-break slopping about for 40 laps then leaving exhausted, I churned out 58 lengths without thinking about it.  It was slow - 34 minutes - but no problems with endurance.

That secured my decision to enter yet another long race and spent the rest of the day a little bit excited.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Running glee

I ran to work on Monday (yesterday).  17 hours after I finished a really hard cyclo-cross race & I aced it.

OK it was just a flat run to work (except for the big downhill at the beginning) but it was 8.59 miles and I've only ever ran a long run faster twice - those runs were both at the height of my ironman training last year - at Pentre Halcyn in Wales and a run home from work where I tagged-on a jog in the Rivelin Valley once I got in (oh crazy days!)

The fact that I have achieved this makes me extremely happy but it comes at a cost to my legs which are now complaining bitterly of my neglect for their well-being.  I think I will need to go and consume a glass of medicinal red wine.