Sunday, May 31, 2015

training weekend

I spent a whole day on Saturday bezzing around the Peak with Claire Smith. Enjoyed every minute and turned myself inside out a few times. As ever I am reminded of how much I like riding with Norton Wheelers and now know how easy it is to get to the Saturday ride from our new house.

Swimming an entire 2.5 laps of the lake was a real bonus. Felt ok for the first time this year.

I had a rest day today but looking forward to being back on it tomorrow.

I nearly pre registered for another ironman then remembered how much I enjoy not getting up at 5am regularly.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Improvements and processing endurance into speed

It has taken time and a bank holiday thrashing by my club to bring on any substantial improvements in my performance. Last bank holiday i reminded myself how i used to ride and set myself a target to start tryin' on the bike like I remembered I should. It is tricky when you are trying to get your run up to distance (and speed) and log some miles in the water. I have managed it on and off. With Slateman last week and a week long recovery  we went out for a training ride today.

I didn't feel like doing the same old roads but when Andrew suggested we drop in on a friend's art exhibition in Rowley it seemed like the obvious choice.

I have sprinted out on the flat and thrown myself at the hills as best I can and TSK admitting I had given him a run for his money made me quite proud of myself. I managed to cling to his wheel into the head winds up the Rivelin Valley and he didn't have enough time to get his camera out to take my picture on the hill climb on the way home. On the flat, all the endurance rides are finally turning into an ability to turn the pedals faster.

I am now in the bath easing out the tight tendons in my groin. I just don't seem to have the ability to retain my core stability anymore so I am prescribing myself daily yoga until things improve. Sudden twinges of pain are not good.

So tomorrow, some listening to the body but a lot of thinking about Deva tri. Now I have had my rest week, nothing else will do and generally, it's good to know when these things are... three weeks away is the answer.

Where do I want to improve before deva?
I want to keep my bike riding good but speed up the swim and run. I probably need to add a pool session on a Thursday evening and a couple of lunchtime runs which is easier when I know I am focussed on speed not hills. Whether I can make it work is another matter.

From Slateman I need to remember to be fast in transition and stay on it throughout the race. It's not an Ironman and I am not going to regret a bit of discomfort.It's about Re-learning that cold and fast is manageable and trusting myself to do more short, fast sessions and bricks. I think i will actually enjoy it. Flat running!

Last night I did a bit of research on following my dreams. About whether to throw my name in the proverbial hat. Someone who is an alsoran but sometimes comes close to being tenuously capable of meeting incredibly detailed mathematical criteria set down by a committee in suits somewhere in an office in London.

In the end I decided it's not about whether I can commit to make all the progress I can, it's about whether I would be more disappointed to fail than to not have tried and to find that I could have done it, could have made the technicalities and made my dream come true. Let's see if I can make 133% into 120%.

(For anyone unclear about what I am on about, I am being cryptic intentionally and will announce my plan as soon as I am successful... that may be a matter of years.)
(For those that do know what I am on about, please don't think me foolish. I am having a go and we all know it's the taking part that counts. I am pinning my hopes on those technicalities).

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Training! Like, properly and everything

It's like I have been asleep all winter and have just woken up. I am a little bit excited.

I am really pleased to have had an excellent bomb over two hills on the way home from work tonight.  15 minutes off my usual bimbley ride time and hopefully some bonus to show for it.

I Worked late but I wouldn't have done that ride if I had finished early.Granted, it would have been nice to do something in the morning other than drive around trying to drop the car off but it's not my fault i didn't know where the garage was.

It's just nice to feel like I have the endurance to do it and to be honest, I could have managed another one... but dinner calls.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Slateman 2015 Race Report

I stood on the edge of the lake next to one other person. I couldn't hear the crowd of people behind or the commentator or any of the gaggle of yellow-hats bobbing in the water in front of us. I looked at my watch, timing my race entry to perfection. She squelched her feet nervously in the mud. I held my hand out to a complete stranger and said, "together?"

This is Slateman.

We walked into the water, me urging her forwards. Her, dangling from my hand like a faithful yet almost-forgotten teddy bear, both of us being a little soft about our feet on the hard rocks beneath clear slate quarry water. I stepped off the edge, stumbling up to my chest in cold water. I must've been well warmed up because 11 degrees felt like nothing. She babbled excuses about getting in at the last minute but the commentary confirmed it was the last minute and I pulled her forwards, coaching all the time. First slow the breath so the brain works... 35 seconds... now swim... slow the arms down so they work... a last hug and I whisper, "relax, you'll be amazing" in to a stranger's ear and reach the back of the yellow hats as the countdown to the start hits "7".6. 5. 4. 3. 2. 1.

KLAXON!

I am not used to seeing my hands, never mind the bubbles that mark others' feet but I can see the calluses on soles and the make of sock people have chosen. I swim to enjoy myself and am amazed to find I am with the group as I exit the water. At a 500m swim it is all out of the way before my fingers have even had chance to separate, though that soon changes in transition as I try to put my socks on.

Having ridden the mountain passes in a coat and fleece the day before I opt to race in knee warmers and a thicker long sleeve jersey so my transition time is Ironman pace. I have changed my pedals so I can revert to cyclo cross mount on the bike. I have already rallied the crowd with the call of, 'hup hup' and I get a few cheers for my efforts. It all slows down from here.
http://eventimagesbymelparry.zenfolio.com/p402586694/h46a4b0e4#h46a4b0e4

I really enjoyed the hill climb. I have done it once and know to pace myself but also that it's not dreadful and there are some roaring tail winds. A lot of people pass me on the steeps and I pass them back when the gradient eases. Over the top I still feel like I am with the same people except for all the savage athletes who are mental enough to do 2 days of racing this course and are catching me from their wave, 10 minutes behind mine.

I throw myself over the top in the middle of the road, trying to avoid other's nerves and vying for position. It's difficult to apply drafting rules here, that is certain. A mild quantity of breaking for the junction then back on it for some more descending where I decide I need new gears cos I am out of spin while others pedal calmly by.

At the next hill climb I start to see familiar faces and am having one of those, "only me", "me again", conversations with several people.  They're passing me but again, once I get into my rhythm I start passing people back.  Charlotte Jenkinson buzzes me on the climb and I stretch out my hand for a handshake as she passes.  "I won't see her again", I think.

The PenYPass climb eventually levels out at Lynn Ogwen but I'm more focused on doing some damage on the easy bit where everyone else is recovering.  There's a couple of short climbs and then I get to throw myself at the very windy downhill.  I'm so glad I practised this yesterday because I know I can stay on the tt bars so long as the wind isn't any higher.  It's not and I glide down, trying hard to pass someone sitting on the tops of his drop bars and weaving all over the place.  We go around 2 bends with me whispering "on your right" in his ear which seems to encourage him to pedal like mad to speed up instead of pulling over.  I finally glide past behind a faster ride as we turn a 100 degree junction.  I call out to my faster friend to take care on the bumpy road surface.  We've gone from a velvety dream to a pot-holed village nightmare which I reccied yesterday but my fast friend holds his nerve and we pedal on.  I am soon surprised to be giving Charlotte some stick for letting me catch her up.  I only have to wait for the next climb to see her again and the descent off that is not so scary so I have no chances to take back my lead.  The next time I see her will be the finish line.

I've been saving myself for the final climb - the col du petrol station.  It's a perfectly symetrical hill only 150m in elevation but it's at the end of the ride so feels like a 1:5 (actually, bits of it are).  I stopped on it yesterday to buy some Lucozade but today I have to cruise past the petrol station and carry on.  At least I know it's only 2 miles to the finish of the bike and I am glad because the saddle is starting to rattle my bones.

One last flourish jumping off the bike with one toe touching the ground just before my front tyre crosses the dismount line.  Showboater?  Me?

I wish I could say I quickly changed into running shoes but I only removed one knee warmer so have to take one trainer off and put it on again - mainly to avoid looking like a numpty, not really caring about being too warm.  I take my run transition a bit easy with lots of people passing me now.  I'm used to this.  We head down the path past the steam train, thinking we're going to have a classics moment here but the race diverts under the railway bridge as the train passes over head and then we're into the wilderness of... the visitor car park.  It's not exactly inspiring and I'm starting to lose the will to live until we cross the road and start to queue over a small bridge waiting for a gate crossing.  The water beneath looks lovely and deep and I ask if anyone wants a swim.

The chap next to me is passing everyone and chivvying us along.  Another man says, "there's a way to go yet lad".  "We're only running  to the top" he says and we all agree not to laugh too loud when he gets cramp.

It's fast out to the start of the quarry climb and I keep passing the same bloke with cramp as I offer to sell him a gel for £85.  I'm glad he doesn't accept as I need it myself.  I can confirm that ZipVit Rhubarb and Custard flavour is not nice.  The element of taste that is supposed to be rhubarb just tastes chemically.  I think I'll stick to the blackcurrant, though I have got the kiwi one to try.  It still did the trick though I did spend a lot of time running with it in my mouth, not actually consuming it for quite some time because the quarry was robbing me of all of my efforts.

The quarry has a time trialled section which I decided to do my best on.  I knew I stood little chance of achieving anything but wanted to see what I could do and assumed (foolishly) that the rest of it was downhill.

I played tag with a bloke wearing a number that said he was called Grant.  I walked a couple of sections and was distraught to be passed on a hill climb by a woman from Norwich Tri club.  I finally crossed the mat at the top next to the big guy in the forest who said he was just running to the top.  Clearly his lift down hadn't shown up and he was walking out a cramping hamstring.

I ran on and passed two girls with a birthday cake singing happy birthday to each other and a couple of climbers considering an E8 route up a slab in the quarry.  These little things that you take in to relieve your mind of the pain.

The down hill didn't worry me except for the bits where it went up again.  I was capitalising on what little competitive advantage I have of being a confident descender but Grant and a few others kept catching me back - especially on a stretch of concrete road which suddenly went up at 1:5 for 50m.  There were a lot of us walking that and a lot of people still running.  Down the other side of it and we nearly had to run over the top of a Nissan Micra clawing its way out of the valley.  To be honest it would've been easier to run over than run around.

Finally we crested a small hill and heard the distant commentary in the valley.  A lady passed me and I passed her back a few seconds later on what I could see was the last short climb of the day.  This was my sprint.  I sat behind Grant, joking with her that "poor Grant, I have been dogging him all day." Then quickly went on to explain that I didn't mean that in a sexual sense - just the old fashioned meaning of the word.  Greg said he was too knackered to do anything about it anyway so we should all just forget I said that.

There's about 600m of cruel road and solid track at the end of the run.   A short hill climb where some very enthusiastic supporters had cleverly camped out to cheer everyone up the climb and on to the finishing straight which is a long gravelled path.  You cross the railway line and suddenly get hit by a wall of noise - spectators cheering us home.  I admit I had to choke back a wave of emotion.  My legs were feeling it and I had given this race a good go.  I didn't see but heard Andrew shout me and I surged for the finish.  I was momentarily aware of someone sprinting alongside me so sped up well out of my comfort zone for the last 3 metres.  It wasn't really worth it as he was in a different wave but there again, showboating.

I did several laps of the finish area before allowing my legs to stop.  Marshalls were trying to catch my timing chip and I had to remember to eat food and chase down my finisher's slate.  Priorities.

There were 59 in my age category and I rocked in 26th.  I was 91st woman of 180 - narrowly missing out on the first half by one place.  With many more men taking part though, I was 889th overall of 1216.

Swim - 13:46 763rd - 93rd female - 27th FV40
Bike - 1:55 825th (shocker) but - 65th female - 19th FV40 - YESSS! Top third.
Run - 1:17:50 862nd - 95th female - 31st FV40

Turns out I was 65th woman on the climb up through the quarry and 20th FV40.  I was 737th overall - my best positioning throughout the whole race, despite the run being my worst overall position.

We retreated to the tipi to change and check out.

 I have pre-registered for next year.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Catchup: Weekends, Whinlatter, Stockton and Appleby in Westmoorland

I don't know where to begin with the last few weeks but I have to get it down because it's been great.

Bullet points may have to do it.

Today I've been open water swimming.  I was really annoyed to miss it yesterday - particularly because I missed it through my own laziness and lethargy.  This morning I got up to check if it was elsewhere and found that yesterday's session was altered to today due to the sailing club regatta.

So I swam my two laps.  In honour of it being 8 degrees in the water I am swimming in next weekend, I swam today in my toned-down thermal vest instead of the usual fleecy thermal vest.  I swam two minutes faster but god I was cold.  Not insufferably cold but hand-clawing  cold.  The waves were still rolling across the lake though not as epic as Tuesday night when I felt like I'd drank most of it.

Due to the cold, I got a wiggle on with the second lap managing to survive about 3/4 of the way around before I got bored of racing and ramped down to the finish.  First lap - 18 minutes, second 16 minutes.  Not bad.  2 minutes faster than last time I did full lengths but probably more to do with new goggles ergo less faffing.

I got home from Swimming and felt good enough to go for a run.  I went up the hill, then down it then up it again and finally down to the bottom of the valley before running back up the hill to base.  Around 4 miles - 4.5 miles I think.  I did none of it to the watch except for looking part way through and being disappointed at a lowly speed of 3.6 miles per hour but then I did stop a few times to say hello to nice dogs on their evening walks.

Still, kind of a brick session done.  It went well.  As I ran up the last hill, I was running surprisingly well and had just decided to take it easy before pulling something.  That decision made a little groin strain niggle.  I hope it doesn't get any worse.  I threw some yoga at it when I got back to the house.

Last weekend I spent with Norton Wheelers in Appleby.  We arrived about 8pm on Friday night to pitch the tipi before the sun went down.  We had a field shared with three camper vans and the use of the bunkhouse and its outside toilets, dining and drying room.  When I say outside toilets, think stone / wood building with full central heating and even an outside extension plug for us to plug our radiator into.

We were back out in the tipi at 10pm after going to meet everyone.  Let's just say it was effing cold for our first night.  I didn't sleep well.   I'd had the stress of the drive to get us there and then the excitement of seeing my friends.  I wasn't in the frame of mind for sleeping.  In the cold I stared at the ceiling of the tipi.  It was very orange.  There must have still been quite a lot of light.  I had two thermarests together in an attempt to be as warm as possible but unfortunately they slid against each other leading to a kind of canal-barge effect every time I moved.  I felt a little sea-sick.  More than anything I couldn’t get warm and I spent the entire time wondering  if I had really done the right thing. Had I made a complete dick of myself for buying this cold tenty thing.

I got up to go to the loo - as inevitably happens when camping in the cold.  In this respect it's no different from the vanu where you still have to get up to go to the loo… although in the tipi, Andrew and I both have enough space that one of us does not have to climb over the other to get out.

I burst into the cold night air and ran over to the toilets as fast as I could, revelling in the warmth within.  Then it was back out into the cold and the tipi and sweet sweet Warmth.  Absence of cold.  Maybe it wasn't such a stupid idea after all.

I got back on my stack of thermarests and figured out my position so my head was covered by the hood of my sleeping bag and there was just enough gap for me to breathe through.  Most importantly and noticeably there was no condensation in the tipi.  Even in the vanu, when cold, moisture from my breath would soak my pillow and make the end of my nose wet like a dog.  I fell into a deep sleep at about 3am in the tipi.  Only to be woken by the dawn chorus at 5:30am.  Oh well, it's the outdoor life and I do love it.  I take the dawn chorus over my neighbours TV in Sheffield any day.

We went out with Norton Wheelers on Saturday which was a big mistake.  We should have gone out with the girls but didn't want to wait another 30 minutes (after our early start).  So we hung on to the peloton for as long as possible and then, embarrassingly they waited for us.  I was glad they did because I enjoy their company even if I can't keep up.  There was Dave behind me making me feel better.

We watched minis skittering around the countryside on their rallyes and Andrew and I stopped to let a lamb back into a field.  There was a long climb between us and the cafĂ© stop which separated the group good and proper.  The climb kept going and going.  False summit after false summit.  As dropped riders, my self, Steve and Andrew rode it in the full force of the head wind at ridiculously slow speeds and then it got steep and I am honest, that head wind did not really relent.  The highlight was reaching the top to sit in the long grass with the rest of the club watching Dave finish the climb behind me.  My phone was out of battery so I didn’t get a chance to picture the raft of bikes laid down on the grass in the foreground with the dales and lakes spread out before us.  It would've made a brilliant club photo.  Note to self: take camera next time.

Once we'd re-acquired Dave, we finished the climb (yes it went on) before a brief descent and some rolling hills with more minis.  Finally, we all sat down together and had tea and scones before heading on to the next big hill climb.  The club were heading on to Buttertubs before doing Tan Hill so Andrew and I decided that Tan Hill on its own would do.  We rode straight to Reeth in search of lunch.  It was a lovely hack along the river valley- beautiful roads and little or no traffic the entire 45 minutes.  The downside was the constant rain which had now started.  OK in wind/showerproof tops, we hammered on but then discovered we were cooling substantially along the way.  We holed up in a tea-room which required us to take our waterproof coats off before going in but at that point we were too cold and wet to argue and we towed the company line and said nice things to the old lady before demanding soup!

We put on all our layers and set about the Tan Hill climb.

That was far more enjoyable without the pressure of being last in line and holding everyone else up.  I couldn't have coped, wouldn't have allowed them all to stand around in those conditions waiting for anyone.  We saw few cars.  Again the climb went on for ages.  Many times we mused about where the inn may be.  It is well hidden and poorly marked on the map.  As we neared the top we were passed by a slow-moving (heavily loaded) moped with "Stella Artois" logo on the side.  We joked that Kev Saville had drunk all the beer in the pub and that was the recovery vehicle.

We were at the same time so pleased to see the pub and so cold that we didn' dare stop at it.  The pain of going back out in to the rain would have been too much so we rode on past as fast as we could.  Since it was levelling out, this was quite fast.

I added my water proof on top of my windproof.  It's a pretty sweaty waterproof but it wasn't going to matter for the descent.  My leggings weren't thick enough but I had my rain legs on to stop the wind from penetrating my wet leggings.  When the knees blew up in the wind, I knew about it and nearly fell of my bike trying to warm my legs up again.  The wind stayed with us all the way down into Kirkby Stephen where we stopped for more coffee.

They knew how to welcome guests and were very accommodating despite us being a bit drippy.

One last time we braved the weather though finally it was behind us.  We zipped back along the road of many crests in record time and speed and rolled into the bunkhouse about 45 minutes before everyone else, having done about three times more miles than us.  Dave was still making his way home.

We showered then enjoyed one of Kev Saville's excellent meals and set about drinking a few beers before the next instalment.

Thankfully because of the rain, the tipi was now nice and warm overnight.  The heater stayed on but I had to sit up this time and unzip my sleeping bag.  I was still suffering with the sea sickness so I ditched one of the thermarests though in doing so I noticed a nice wet patch under my mattress.  At least it wasn't on top of my mattress so I ignored it and carried on sleeping - very well until the wake-up call at 5:30 am again.

 When I got up it was clear I had made the boyscout error of leaving the tarp I put under the tent sticking out of the side so that the rain was just running off the tent and under our flysheet instead of sinking into the ground.  This explained the massive wet patch as everything was channelled under me - sleeping in a hollow compared to Andrew.  I set about mopping up the wet, realising to my delight that the un-zippable ground sheet meant I could unzip the whole thing and wipe underneath it without having to take the tent down.  I then unzipped the ventilation holes on
 the side of the tent and wiped up the tarp outside the tent before folding it neatly underneath us never to bother us again.  I didn't even have to go outside to fix the problem.

The mat went inside to dry out and all else was well with tipi world.

By now, most people had set about doing something wet and mad.  I was content to wait until it stopped raining then go for a run but my beloved walked head first into a low beam and gave himself a crick in the neck.  He wanted to go out and walk about.  I conceded and we went to Brough, Barnard Castle, High Force (spectacularly full waterfall) and Keswick to look at a stove for the tipi.  In the sudden glut of sunshine that appeared it felt more sensible to head back to the tipi and go for a run than it did to buy a stove for it.  We duly did this, me being grumpy that I had "wasted the day" but also that I felt like going for a run but didn't feel like going for a run all at the same time.




We got back too late to do anything but not so late as it was worth doing nothing so I got the instructions out for the tipi porch and set about adding that to our already substantial structure.  It wasn't the best erection (ha ha) but it would do.  It's more fiddly to set up than the tipi itself so will probably only get used for wetter more permanent stays of a few days or more but it was nice to be able to leave the shoes outside and to be able to get in and out without having to wipe up some wet drips off the floor.  It really isn't such a hastle but it was nice.

After we were done and we'd had a few visitors to see the vast expanse of our newly extended tent, we set about preparing for a BarBQ instead.  Inside-dwelling people were not convinced about the suitability of the weather outside whereas us more hardy types had set up the bbq and were waiting for everyone else to join us.  Reassured that there was a nice warm building to sit in, we moved all the salads across to the bbq area and I stood around outside pretending to be a man and poking the fire from time to time.

Hair smelling of smoke we retreated inside just in time for me to get tired and decide it was bed time.

This time the tipi was perfect.  We had a double doorway to set the rain at bay and there was no moisture coming from underneath.  I should've slept well but was routinely disturbed by the occasional gust of wind which whipped around the side of the valley and rustled the porch.  Finally at 5am (dawn chorus again) I got up and took the tipi down and hung it up inside to dry.  Andrew came to get me up at 7:30 am but it was too late for us to go out with the club again.  Reluctantly we watched them leave but then set about plotting our own day.

We selected a 35 mile route that I'd plotted in the garmin and went off to enjoy the rolling hills - and did they roll!  We did 750m climbing in 30 miles.  We ended up lunching in Orton.  Nothing more perfect than a chocolate factory and coffee shop combination.  Then headed home  - cutting the ride short to 25 miles by lopping a corner off.  Even the Garmin was on board and played the game.  We arrived back at base just after the rest of the club to find the children playing in the ford - so warm it was.  Andrew went for a shower and I told him I was going to play in the river with the kids.  I don't think he believed me but I got a length of crocodile paddling done up to the bridge and back.  No swimming but good open water adaptation as it was about 10 degrees and I was wearing riding short and tee shirt.

I wiped the mud off then removed all our belongings from inside to leave them to head home and us to enjoy the last few hours rental on the property.  We had second lunch which took us to about 3:59,  We were enjoying ourselves so much.




Even the ride home was enjoyable.  It was almost a perfect weekend.  Would've been better if only I'd been fitter and the weather had been a little more hospitable but then that's what you get for early May up North.  The tipi got a great testing.

I saw out April with a duathlon in Stockton on Sunday.  It felt like a shadow of the week before -a short event and all on roads.  The week before I'd been hammering about on my mountain bike for 2 hours.  Now I was making my way through Stockton at 9am with my bike, surrounded my MAMILS gingerly carrying their featherlight frames down the road instead of wheeling them.  I felt more comfortable once I found Ruth Marsden and managed to ditch a bike with a tag on it in transition.

I set myself a mini target of sticking with Ruth for the first run at least.  Ive noticed she starts slowly enough for me to hold it together and to my great surprise I was still with her towards the end of the first of two laps.  I tried to be close enough so that she wouldn't see me on the switch backs alongside the river but that didn't pan out too well for me as I started to get left behind on the hill climb which rises out of the river-crossing on a suspension bridge.

I lost a few places on the second lap which was probably more related to the fact I'd been outdoing myself for the first half.  Eventually I found myself in the company of a senior age-grouper and we talked (as much as possible) on our trot into transition.  Someone bellowed, "you're on for sub-55 minutes" at us so I opened it up, cheering  on my friend (I now knew his name was John) and we crossed the line in 54 minutes, 59.45 seconds.

I was surprised how little I hurt when I got on the bike but then found it hard to get going.  There's a small incline out of transition, soon followed by a hairpin bend.  I'd heard that this course was twisty-turny but didn't realise by how much.  Someone mentioned 7 corners.  I didn't realise they meant 7 corners on each lap - and there's 5 laps.  I wondered how many could count to 5 successfully.  I struggled and ended up using my Garmin to track my laps based on the distance I'd ridden.

After two loops of the city, I'd finally figured out the circuit enough to open up a bit although my legs never really warmed up enough for me to properly enjoy the riding.  I spent most of the ride playing cat and mouse with a guy who looked a little uncomfortable on a bike.  He would roar past me on a climb and I'd roar back past him on the corners and on the headwind sections where Red dragon bike made all the difference to me, whilst he toiled in the wind on his road bike.

On the fourth lap I heard him moving to pass me and he dropped back again as I pointed out I was going around again.  "Really?" he said, which meant I had either  over-counted or had been riding at 20% faster speed than my running position in the race.   As I rejoined the course I started to wonder where everyone else was.  I felt like there were about 10 of us left on the course.  As time moved on though I saw other riders ahead of me including Ruth's Les Brutelles friend who had punctured and was walking it home.

I gave encouragement to a bloke who was standing by the side of a roundabout looking upset and pained, telling him, "C'mon, ride it home".

I span happily into transition, trying to put aside the feeling that most of the rest of the world had already finished and glad that I didn't have to face another two laps of that run course - only one.

I passed a Tees university competitor and encouraged him to get running again.  He did so and passed me back and then was passed by the bloke off the bike.  Apparently I was being pretty good at bringing the best out in other people, just not myself.  I started to get a bit annoyed with people passing me by then but I just couldn't run any faster.  The only thing that cheered me up was the sight of plenty of people still running the outward leg on the other side of the river.  I can understand now how people have a special fondness for Outlaw.

Finally, after a circuit around the student accommodation of Stockton I was looking at that suspension bridge for the last time and was pretty happy to be running across it within spitting distance of the finishing line, having left NYP John well behind on the bike.





I was enjoying racing so much (or was it that I was focusing on getting back to transition to get my bike so I could finally sit down?) that I nearly overshot the finish line.  It was only some kindly other competitor who directed me sideways across the line.  This is why I have no finishing shot - because I was pretty bewildered to be there.

I thanked the lady mayoress for her city's hospitality and set about celebrating my 55 minute PB with the woman who pushed me to it then quickly scurried off to find my  fleece and get warm.

The contrasting weekend before we went to Whinlatter for the first of two triathlons in two weeks.  I was at Whinlatter Extreme, not with the intention of racing it but with the intention of getting round it without coming to a grinding halt.

Whinlatter started well with a good weather report and booked into the campsite. The folks checked in first and set the basis for the corral. The owner of Lane Foot campsite came to say hello. There's nothing like a campsite where the owner likes running a campsite.

I settled the kit in the Vanu and made my dinner. Skiddaw was too tempting to ignore for the next day. Dad and I started to plan our respective challenges for the day ahead.

I set off for Skiddaw on the bike, mulched about through Keswick and all kinds of minor and major roads. I started to wonder if I was actually going to hit any offroad at all. I was about to give up when I reached the car park which felt like I was 1/3 way up the hill already.

I set off up the trail, riding at first then giving in to walking. I quickly realised that if I carried on like that I would not get any kind of a result on Sunday so reluctantly I ate lunch out of the wind then headed back down the hillside to a fork in the bridlepath and set off up the valley below the mountain.




I settled into a day of faffing and started playing about with my saddle height and position.  Both needed adjusting to get some power in and to stop me straining my hamstrings.  I learnt from last year but had dropped the saddle too far now - or rather it had slipped down.  I hopped back on the bike and was first met by a couple of hiking ladies - one who proclaimed, "Oh my!" before adding, "Keep pounding along!".  I wondered just how haggard and demented I looked??? I thought I was enjoying myself.

I rounded the corner of the mountain and started up the river valley.  I knew there were some  bluffs on this section but they didn't go on for long.  A superb trials rider might have been able to do them but most mortals on a rigid tail couldn't so I walked them.  It didn't take me long to get back on my bike and bouncing over the remaining rocky sections.

I came across two walkers sitting by the path - not unusual - but they were rather large and one was smoking a ciggy.  Clearly the good weather was bringing everyone out.  As I passed, he commented how brave I was.  "Really, this is just the warm up" was on the tip of my tongue but I bid them a nice day and got on with it.

Finally at the head of the valley I saw bikers coming the other way and kids frolicked in the river.  Some were heading off for canyoning or caving, wearing harnesses and helmets and boiler suits.  I was preferring my 3/4 length leggings in the sun.

The path down was not hard but it was long and dropped me out at the bottom of the next peak - Blencathra.

I finally found a bridlepath off the hill - all of which dumped me quite a way from home.  I stopped once I reached the disused railway line that leads back to Keswick and ate whatever was left of my lunch sitting on a railway sleeper bench that had been baked in the sun and surreptitiously out of the wind so that it had been collecting the hot sun all day.

As I left, some walkers took my spot and started plotting to jump out on their friends as they passed.  Well into their 60's I was tempted to stick around to see… and to make sure no-one had a heart attack.

The ride home was calling though so I set about picking my way through the hoards of leisurely walkers and families and found my way back to the lanes through the back of Keswick.  By the time I got home I'd done 18 miles - not really the easy poottle I had planned.  Nor the summit I was fancying.

Race day dawned a little trepidly.  The vanu on its last legs, I eased it up to race HQ and stuck the bonnet up in the car park to let it cool down.  At least it got me there.

Number in-hand, I wasn't letting anything dampen my day.  I got racked and headed for the start line in the company of greatness - the female winner of the race I was so dramatically pulled out of last year.  Within 5 minutes of the race she had disappeared from my view.

I settled in to a calm rhythm.  Again, the point of this day being to finish.  The first mile is a frustrating loop designed to thin out the pack.  Great for those up front.  Not so good for those of us at the back which just find it kind of pointless and annoying.  I just enjoy it more when the hill climb finally comes and I can see a view.  And oh what a view as we climbed the shoulder of Grizedale pike.  Looking across to see the cairn we climbed to last year, there was the satisfaction that we were higher than last year and this year there was scenery to be seen.

The chap in front of me kept stopping to wonder.  I kept wishing he'd just get on with it.

We met Ian at the top who pointed us back down a line of flags seemingly stuck in the grass with no point to them except to direct us towards a slight of a path about 500m away. 




It was at this point that I decided my shoes needed replacing as I slithered around gingerly on the grass and the occasional slippery rock.  I was painfully slow and the sweepers kept having to wait for me.

I passed through the point at which I slammed down on my own foot last year and set about enjoying the descent apart from a niggling ache for needing a wee.  Having caught up the bloke in front, I decided the best place for that wee was the forest, I dived off to one side - choosing my time to go and hopefully before the sweepers passed and completely missed me.  I got shorts full of pine needles as the first sweeper passed and I rushed to get out onto the path before I was completely forgotten. As I caught up the sweeper, we passed the other guy having his wee in the trees and I laughed about how I had tricked him into being last in the race.


Back in transition I reassured his wife he wasn't far behind me.

We set off on the bikes pretty close - me in front - but by the first descent he'd caught me up.  Clearly a fan of the downhills.  I tried to sit on his wheel but he was gone.  I didn't have to worry for long though as I caught him on the first steep climb of the day.  We were both walking.  It was really steep,  slippy grass. I'd be surprised if any one rode it.  I asked if he was alright.  Yes, but every bit of his body was aching - even bits he didn't know he had.  Apparently, he's not a fan of uphill biking.

I didn't see him again.  To be fair - I didn't see anyone else again either.

Once we were back on the better aspects of the course - the bits that aren't diversions, everything made much more sense and was very enjoyable all over again.  I challenged myself to ride bits that I'd walked before - what a difference 12 months makes - and found the energy to have a laugh with photographers.  






The only bit I bailed on was steps coming into base for the last time.  I need to go back and ride the bastards and get them out of my system.  I think they appear just as my head is stopping working and I don't want to hurt myself before the last run so I always jump off and walk them.

Back on foot and everything felt like it should.  I was still running at the top of the first climb.  Much better than last years race.  This time  I even ran past the organiser as I saw him heading in the other way.

I got into the woods and was still running by the time I reached the tops.  I stretched my arms out to embrace the summit and started the long haul down, forgetting that it actually goes along for quite a way, the marshall sitting in a windproof shelter collecting numbers.  I'm pretty sure I'm the last on the hill and suggest that I was only waiting for the rain showers to ensure it really was an "Extreme" race as promised. By now there's ramblers associations at large, rife across the hillside .  No pity today - just awe… at least they were struck by something.




I reached the down hill, the sweepers coming up in the other direction.  I saw Jim's wife walking up the opposite way.  Clearly he is still racing and I am glad - glad for him and glad that I am not last.  I know from experience that this is it before the finish.  There's one small climb to get over.  Mum and dad are sitting on a ruck - eating as usual and feed me some Robinson's barley water.  It tastes delicious after energy bars and fake jelly beans.  The last downhill  is bliss and pain all rolled into one.  I'm itching to get my jersey back on and relieved to have finished but I've had such a good race I don't want it to stop.  I feel like I've paced it all perfectly - even if that pace was slow. That was my last endurance target of the year - from here on in it all gets a bit faster.