Friday, March 24, 2017

The Magnificent 7

Recce fresh / Racing tired

1 - Hangram - 7:16 vs 6:47
2 - Blake Street - 1:44 vs 1:28
3 - Thrush Street - 2:35 vs 2:12
4 - West Lane - 11:30 vs 10:28
5 - Jawbone Hill - 11:24 vs 10:14
6 - Hagg Hill - 4:47 + 2:49 = 7:38 vs 7:45
7 - Foxhill - 4:12 vs 11:56 vs a different route

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Clumber Duathlon 2017

A new race for me this one.  It usually clashes with the offroad duathlons in the Lake District, now faded into obscurity.  Possibly this is a good thing as (much to my annoyance) I tend to do quite well at the cleaner stuff.

I haven't done much training for this.  My running base was good and then I went skiing and everything fell apart.  Quite often skiing makes cycling better but I've spent so little time on the bike since skiing (except for short road rides to work) I am not really in good bike shape either... or so I thought.

I managed a run-bike-run two weeks ago and enjoyed myself immensely but then screwed my shoulder up sneezing in the cold last week and have been off running (except once) ever since.  That one outing resulted in a stiff back, knee and hip all down my right side where I over-compensated for the pain in my left shoulder.

So I had no idea how today was going to go except I expected to get dropped out of the back of the women's field in a shot and that I would suffer on the bike.  I didn't so much get spat out the back as dangled about in the mid-field being passed by the next wave of men.  I drafted on the return trips - both laps, same woman (clearly she wasn't learning!).  The first lap, I put some effort in to stick with her to the end of the run then realised we had another lap to do.  I let her go whilst we had a tail wind then caught her up again at the turnaround point and drafted her all the way back a second time.  Damn that second lap seemed long.

I consumed some bar and an energy gel.

Next, the bike.  I forged through a group of around 5 people fannying about getting on their bikes and hopped on and away.  Spent the entire ride passing the same people.  I was flying on the flat and downhill stretches and still struggling on the up hills.  Add to that, every time I attempted to put any effort in, one, the other or both legs would go into cramp that threatened to knock me off my bike from time to time.

I always managed to keep them at bay by easing off the pedalling or freewheeling a stretch but those same people kept drifting back past me.  There was some serious banter going on by the fifth time I passed the same people... something about me being on a downhill bike.

I forced down as much fluid as I could and bolstered it with another gel and eventually took on some more energy bar.  After around 35 minutes and into the second lap I actually started to feel normal.  Also something to do with a change in philosophy around where I put my effort in and where I coasted.

I can't remember whether those people I was playing cat and mouse with were behind me or in front but I did start making up some new places on the final stretch into the park and back into the headwind.  Through the last avenues of the park, all strewn with pine needles and bits of grass and speed bumps, marshalls were shouting at me to slow down but what they didn't realise was any cessation of pedalling would cause my legs to cramp upon which, I was much more a danger to others and myself than the speeding, competent rolling me - even if I was on a twitchy tt bike on gravel.

Finally, the dismount line, more people yelling at me whereupon I competently rolled to hop off the bike with a stride across the line and ran into transition against the cramp.  The change of shoes was a very welcome opportunity to bend over and stretch my hamstrings.  And, check me out!  First race of the season I actually remembered to take my helmet off!

Hobbled into the second run but soon found my pace again.  Shocked by how much easier it was to run than ride.  I passed one or two other women but that was it.  After that, I just managed to hold my place - or that's what it felt like.  There were still plenty of guys passing by but they didn't matter as I'd already had a 2 minute head start on them so they were all going to be travelling faster than me.

It was so nice to only be doing one lap but the 5km turn around point was so much further ahead than the 2.5km turnaround for the sprint race.  I was glad I had my watch to pace my distance.  The run back was net down hill so I enjoyed it immensely.  Final straight and one of the guys sprinted to pass me, duh, mate, you're at least 2 minutes ahead of me but anyway, well done, you think you beat a girl.  Congrats.

Got my Erdinger.

Job done.

Run 1 - 52:15min 7th fastest run
Bike - 1:17:14h
Run 2 - 26:18min. 11th fastest run

T1 - 1:47(55th - need to run with my gloves on!).  T2 - 1:13 (35th)

Absolutely bugger all idea of the results compared to everyone else due to computer meltdown.  Hey ho. Tomorrow is another day.

Results in: Overall - 2:38:46 335/459, 51/95, 11/21
Run 1 - 379, 61, 14
Bike - 327, 43, 8
Run 2 - 319, 53, 12

Winner's time in AG 2:28:23 which puts me in with a fleeting chance of a trip to Spain this summer to represent the country again!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Things to be proud of this week

In pursuit of "experiences not things", when my seat post broke this week I took time to go to my local bike shop and found a bit that cost me £2 in their beer-fund tip pot instead of £50 for a new (much coveted Thompson) seat post.

Instead of saying "no" to a fun event in Sheffield where lots of people I admire will be riding bikes, I spent a full day cleaning bikes thinking, "if it's still open this evening I will enter it".  It was open.  I did enter it - much to my horror.  It is less than 24 hours after the start of a national-level duathlon world qualifier event in Clumber park.

I went online to spend a voucher I got for Christmas.  In the end I put 5 items in my cart including a skirt, the shoes that will forever resolve my issues with wearing skirts and a few tops in order to help me make my mind up and one pair of work pants.  The total value was £146.  I removed all items until I was left with the work pants at a much reduced (thank you Aunty Anne) value of £30 to me.

It's a boring and practical present but I will wear them with joy.

I went out and recce'd the ride I've entered.  The point is to race up various hills in Sheffield.  We will then be escorted at an (allegedly) easy pace to the next hill by a lead car.  I rode to the start (as I had intended to do on the day) and in doing so, I inadvertently completed some of the 6th and the whole of the last hill climb of the route.

Retracing some of my steps, I started the ride and got the second climb out of the way without incident - although it became apparent that it would be useful to know where these climbs end so that I can put the proportionate effort into each one.

The third one was rather close to home.  The dreaded Blake Street.  The hard part is avoiding the pub at the top.  Then it was a roller-coaster ride around Walkley to the scary Fern and Thrush Street which has a cobbled top.  At this point I could have fallen into my own back yard but I persevered back around in a circle and into the Loxley Valley for a little jaunt up next to the Garden Centre.  I've only ridden this climb a couple of times and probably bailed out at the garden centre for tea as a result.  I definitely had to dig deep on this one and was glad it was over...

Over the hill to Oughtibridge more like.

I've never linked these two places together (REEEEALLY?) in my head.  I crossed the one way system in Oughtibridge and set off up the climb.  Sooo steep at the beginning.  Me and this hill had history.  I paused to wonder whether to continue.  Where did the route go next?  I zoomed out and discovered that this climb was an out and back.  How would I know I could do this ride if I gave up though?  But I *know* this climb - why bother?  I could rest up for next week.  But something made me keep going - stubbornness, a need to know how hard it will be next week?  I don't know but I was glad I did.  Eventually the road relented and I set about enjoying the climb all the way to the top then looped around and let rip back down the hill (the direction I usually use it).

There was a nice long recovery ride and plenty of downhills to Middlewood before I was confused into thinking I was snagging another hill where the ride cuts around Dunella Road back to Malin Bridge.

Dunella Road is steep and it's not even on the list of climbs that we're racing.  I could hardly get up but thankfully we turn off and descend through the edges of Wadsley to the Rivelin Valley.

Time to go up the Rivelin Valley to the dreaded Hagg Hill.  I never ride up this and it's yet another climb on my doorstep.  This one nearly had me off and walking.  I managed a couple of zig zags in between cars but otherwise I was lurching between standing and sitting and wheezing through my final breath as I rounded the top corner of Hagg Hill.  It's the 6th climb of the day and I bailed out half way and turned for home (the actual race climb continues to the top of Stephen Hill Road which I had ridden in the morning).  Although my intention had been to ride back to the finish and then ride home, my legs weren't going to make it.  I'd done the route (albeit in a funny order) and now I know my limits.

Something tells me I won't be riding out to the start next week but I did it as a leisure ride in 3 hours when the anticipated race time is 4 hours so I should survive, in theory so long as I don't have to wait around too much.  I'll be riding most of the ride in a peloton and there won't be any traffic light stops.  On the flip side, I'll be exhausted from racing the day before.

Last year I said I wouldn't say no to anything and this is just a (somewhat foolish) extension of that.  As part of my vision that this stuff is just things that I do day in / day out (give or take the odd rest day), it all contributes to me getting off the sofa more often than not.

Roll on next week.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Getting out

In terms of things I am good at, multisport is up there. I am not the best but I am pretty good at doing a bit of diverse training then giving it my all and what comes out at the end is alright, particularly at regular, fast standard distance racing.  Once, just once, this has got me into team GB to race abroad where I did not finish last.

The fact that I id not make that position last year just validated how bloody hard I worked to get in the first time around.

My problem is though, the endurance bug won't go away for me and I am not very good at endurance tri. For a start I won't let myself do any of the big, expensive easier races where I can, potentially test myself against others and for seconds, I am clinically incapable of spending the necessary time in cold water. I love swimming outdoors but I just can't make it last.

I am not interested in spending the hours on long distance running so all my hopes get pinned, regularly, on the prospects of long-distance cycling again.

I am an avid reader of the Audax UK mag that regularly lands on the doorstep. Last year whilst fretting about Torino Nice I electronically followed Lee Craigee around the Highland Trail 550 and Emily Chappell around the Trans Continental Race and realized that this glorious form of racing exists which combines my other three favourite things: cycling, camping and eating.  TNR no longer seemed at all daunting.

We first heard of bike packing in 2014 when we were returning from a Celtman reccee and fell into a hostel on our way home through bad weather. A man in the bar in cycling kit, looking sorry for himself told us of his woes in this mysterious event which involved a dynamo on his mountain bike and many unsupported days in the highlands to complete a previously undisclosed route. TSK was vaguely interested. I was too consumed by Celtman to consider it at the time but something he said tempted me: not many women do it.

Now, like my friend Claire, I have usually been one to just get out there and do something - if I fancy it. I don't need talks from other women and self help books, training courses, presentations or classes but actually getting my ass in gear to try bike packing took more energy.

20 years ago the Polaris challenge existed and at the time I thought that was mental: a weekend in winter carrying all your kit on your bike with a mate. It was kind of a mountain marathon for bikes. Dan Loftus would totally have done it with me but it never crossed my mind to try... and goddamn it, 1997 was probably when I was most capable at the age of 23.

At that point in my life, travelling with bikes was conceived in the more traditional sense of panniers, racks and a comfortable tent and stove and nothing vaguely you'd want to take off-road. Though I did try once.

In my year out of uni when I had a little cash I had my boyfriend leave me in the Lakes after a climbing club weekend away. On the Monday, I packed my gear into a large rucsac and attempted to ride with it. I quickly realised that wasn't the way to do it and headed straight to the nearest town to buy a rack and panniers and post all non-essential gear - including the rucsac - back home.

From there I cycled to the nearest hill and tried to climb it with my new rig. After a few hours of pushing on High Stile I rolled into the posh campsite above Keswick and declared myself done with mountain bike touring and spent a few days doing road rides before ringing home to beg to be picked up.

So last year, Torino - Nice came and went and it was good and fun. The cyclo cross season passed without adventure and then there was the Barebones Church or Chapel with an equal emphasis on fun. Another flexible route with no particular start or finish.

In amongst my enthusiasm for Triathlon and what I am good at I continue to hanker after long and successive days in the saddle. Lee Craigee's book is published which only serves to encourage that sense of being 'at one' with my ride... and other cliches - that sense of there being nothing else to do but ride, sleep and eat.  I have been hounded by so many eloquent expressions of what this sport means to me.

I have an inkling that given the chance to bring some of the bike packing comfort and mentality to audax, I might manage some of the rides I once considered unattainable. Having sworn off overnight riding in 2010, I can't help but imagine what might be the outcome if I rode with my sleep mat, a lightweight sleeping bag and a bivi. The opportunity of a 30 minute power nap in a woodland over propping myself up in a stinking service station at 4am? Replacing a scout hut occupied by 75 snoring men with a grass verge and my luxury bivi? Makes long distance Audax all seem more possible.

Still, following a cyclocross season of short races and otherwise laziness followed by skiing, I was feeling pretty shit about my ability to ride a bike for any period of time. Shame, because I got up to 65 miles over Christmas and we did 65 very hard miles during Church or Chapel.

It was only 5 week's ago. Writing this, I am wondering what I am moaning about but sadly it really does feel like my endurance riding has decayed to nowt.

And so, with 6 weeks to go we have entered our next adventure and with the knowledge that every training journey has to start somewhere, I proudly set aside today's intended rest day from my triathlon schedule in favour of another ride.

Yesterday 25 miles (plus 15km running which counts towards mountain bike training too right?) 25 miles turned into 31. Today a short easy ride turned into another 20+ miles (missed logging a few) and it wasn't all flat either. The weather contributed extra brownie points by tipping it down on us and whilst my legs suffered from the previous days running my stomach suffered a bout of being a woman all the way from the end of our cake stop to home.

With substantial soggy clothing, cold hands and a good dose of industrial estate riding to get us home I can't claim it as one of my favourite rides but there wad an element of type ii fun to it and mostly I am proud. Proud of myself for getting off the sofa, proud of myself for making the first move, not just for bike packing but for Alpe d'Huez too and proud of myself for starting to be awesome again. Not just normal because maybe even the three sports of triathlon aren't enough. Maybe I need the excuse as to why I am not good at any one thing. From now on though,  I just want to get good at getting out and that will do for me.