Friday, November 26, 2010


Watched the Utraswim challenge on Sunday morning last weekend. Fascinating to see the length of time the elite swimmers keep their face in the water then how they transition to breathing every other breath when they are sighting their route.

I decided to give this a go on Wednesday, swimming 1000km taking a breath every 5th stroke instead of every 3rd. With a bit of practice and slower, calmer swimming I managed to churn out the 40 lengths without taking a break.

Wondering how fast I could go on 5-stroke breaths I proceded to do 10 sprint laps on 5-stroke breaths. I had to stop and get my breath back on every other lap as the lactic acid was starting to build up in my arms towards the end of the second lap but it did occurr to me that this is how "they" do it. "They" being all those women who swim the mile in half the time I do it.

Motivated by a quest to train harder, faster, smarter and actually feel some of that pain they talk of, as per the inspirational articles I have been reading at dinner every day I'm working away from home, my training may well take a turn for the better as I start to try out this different approach.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Driven by waking up early, knowing that physicality is no limit, just my brain. I ran to the top of Birdlip hill before breakfast today on nothing but a cup of tea and a couple of oaty biscuits.

Plunging back into Gloucester above the twinkling lights and below the full moon, watching the fog rising off the distant Malverns. This is the why, the cold crisp morning.

50 lengths of the pool afterwards and I actually feel like triathlon training is starting to build up in a healthy and sustainable way instead of the permanent fatigue of years gone by.

I deserve a lie in tomorrow for sure

Friday, November 12, 2010

Dark Peak Fell Runners Champs


Choosing my first race with the dark peak. Hardly wise to choose the club championships but hey, might as well show enthusiasm and willing. Besides, work location has meant the weekly warts runs have not been a goer for me.

The handicapped state of the race meant that I was one of the very early starters at 10:02 am with most of the field behind me including Lynn at 1010. I have to admit that I probably looked like a bit of a divvy at the startline with a rucsac on as everyone else was in the sunshine in minimal clothing and carrying a tiny bumbag. I was however aware of 2 things – I was going to be out longer than everyone else (potentially a lot longer if I hurt myself) and I was going to be running the Lake District Triathlons with all this kit so I might as well take it with me.

By the time the heather and bracken of the first slopes opened up ahead of me, the thretening fog that we’d driven through on the way to Glossop peeled back and I simply followed the lines of runners ahead of me at one minute intervals, relieved I could see that far.

Up on the moorland it felt a little uncomfortable following other people but the compass bearing felt about right. Someone was heading out to my right which did, in fact, look like a better route to the somewhat craggy one I had chosen. We walked / ran together for a bit then broke away from the path and the bog- hopping began. Usually when I am walking I hate bog hopping. Making my way around tussocky lumps of peaty mess. Puddles of mud that can suck in a person up to his waist and eat shoes whole or ruin a walking day by filling the boots with icy cold mud. Away from the bogs is tussocky heather which can twist an ankle or knee and somethimes the heather has more bog hiding under it.

I loved bog hopping in a fell race. Gauging depth of bog or the preference of bog over tussock became a game. Every so often I elevated myself out of a bog onto tussock to see where I was and finally the Wainstones of Bleaklow came into view. Everyone around me accellerated a little as the cloud cleared from around them.

Slightly worried about the people who’d lost their dog but seemed to know one of my team mates anyway, I started a descent to Wildboar Clough, Glossopside. The bog-hopping was really fun here as I used the slopes of the bog on my descent to turn and control my speed as if I were on skis. Finally the bog got me and stole my left shoe. Soon after I retied my laces, Lynn ran past – as did Kev and Tom apparently.

The runner I was with commented that others were now starting to pass us thick and fast. It was clear that despite starting 34 minutes behind me, most of the fast runenrs were going to catch me up.

Having descended as low as we could down Wildboar Clough, faced with nothing more than a fence and a steep drop-off / waterfall we climbed the fence only to find the marshall struggling to tie the lost dog to the fence. We informed him of the whereabouts of its owner and my temporary running partner stopped for a chat. I left the dog chewing through the marshall’s camera strap, its new temporary leash and struck out on my next compass bearing.

I found it astonishing that, given the group 100m to my right and the two runners 100m to my left, and the 10 acres of open moorland before me that one runners’ footprint in the bog fell in the line of my footfall on my bearing. I felt crowded yet strangely comforted.

We spilled over a styal and down to a fence. The only time I didn’t feel foolish for carrying a whole laminated map of the dark peak as I perched the front cover on the barbed wire and used the nap as a crotch-protector to scale something a little taller than my legs are long. Down a steep-sided corrie with runners tumbling by me.

With a bike race on Sunday, I took it easy. Next, striking out across the bog which oozed from the watery base of the corrie, a stream of runners led me out to the end of Long Gutter Edge, checkpoint 2 and the beginning of the most gruelling part of the day – a 200m scrabble down a steep, rocky heathery gully and 150m up the other near-vertical side. As my heart pounded in my mouth and my calf muscles screamed for mercy it occurred to me I’d been on less steep slopes in a harness and ropes before and it didn’t help that a rugby-ball sized rock, dislodged by one of the other runners, went skimming across the top of the heather beside me. I stood on a 4 ft tall boulder somewhere in the middle of the heather and watched the fast men go by – their wrists bleeding as they grabbed clumps of the spiny moorland undergrowth. I realised what the girls had been talking about when I over-heard, “You think you’ve cracked it and then it just goes up again”.

The terrain eased to one I could scramble across then it headed up vertically again and I regularly found myself taking 4ft high steops up to get out of a muddy pit or over a boulder.

Finally it was over and one last bit of heathery moorland led me across to checkpoint 4. Sadly this was the hardest bit of heathery moorland I had seen – partly, no mostly, down to my recent efforts on the 60 degree slope and partly due to it being on the later part of the race.

Although the outward appearance was more or less smooth, neatly sheared, common height of heathery blanket, beneath lay rocks, boulders, burms, boulders and bogs. Ankles were not safe and in my tired state I appeared to be drunk compared to everyone else with my arms flailing like windmill sails and my knees bolting left and right like masts of moored boats on a breezy day.

At the ruin I met my new club’s chairman who had re-injured his ankle and was up for limping home. My calfs were starting to cramp so I gave him some of my energy drink while I munched on an energy gel.

He was happy left to his own devices so I ran along watching most of the fast runners pass by. This became my demise when, approaching civilisation, I neglected to turn off a defined track between two wall down a hillside and over-shot the finish by about ¼ of a mile. Retracing my route was impractical so I looped around the roads near the finish and sneaked up on the timekeepers including TSK, asking, “Who ya waitin’ for?”

Lessons learned:

  • print off a section of the map rather than carrying the whole thing with me.
  • Buy a laminator
  • Do lots of research – write the compass bearings on the map and check google satellite for features

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Using Stuff

The things I buy need to be used more often. I need to get over this habit of hoarding clothings for the next big event. I enjoy my public transport nomadic lifestyle where I have to sleep in my Patagonia base layer because its all I have left with me that's warm and comfy, I take exception to the idea of hauling jammies around in my paniers when all I'm going to do is sleep in them.

And tomorrow I might wear the top in the office because it's respectable enough and I paid enough for it that it should be worn.

On this theme this morning I used my travelling towel at swimming. It's been in cupboards for 2 years waiting for camping trips and river swimming but to no avail. As the chance of open water swimming is long gone, I realised, nay resolved, that I will use it and when my greatest fear is realised and the chlorine gets to it and it wears out, I can and will, buy another.

28 laps in 17 minutes (limited by the pool closing and not my poor performance - for once).

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Stats October 2010

Running: 36.03km, 7.3km/hr, 448m el
Cycling: 373.9km, 19.8km/hr, 4,066m el
Swim: 1.82km 2km/hr avg.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

A nervous entry day.

The clocks went back on Saturday night. It didn’t’ bother me on Sunday but on Monday morning at 5am the heating was on and the light was starting to show through the curtains. I lay in bed for a while listening to the clunking of copper pipes and drifting in and out of sleep. Then I remembered it was race entry day and that was it, I couldn’t sleep. The thought of hundreds of people across the UK signing up for MY races got me out of bed and downstairs - first resetting the timer on the heating and then, booting up t’interweb.

I was still exhausted from Sunday’s run but drearily waited for Firefox to start, whilst, as per Sunday night, worrying about the work day ahead. Cancelling my tickets for the christmas party because my employers have suddenly pointed out that I get no sick pay for the first 6 months of employment. This summer has been particularly sickly so I am £700 out of pocket. Having to explain to the administration team that my £25 / day allowance for working in Manchester is to cover pacifying my parents who can’t really afford to feed me, never mind heat the house on my account.

I clicked the links and signed up for the half ironman - the first big race in the season for me. Since when did standard distance triathlons not become “big races”? I don’t know.

My confirmation email came back.

I clicked some more links for the Helvellyn Triathlon. This race is the only standard distance event to occurr in European Triathlon’s “top 10 hardest events in the world“. How can I resist that? I click the “online entry” tab. WHAT? NO? I check my clock. 5:40am. 5:40am!!! How can it be full at 5:40 am?

750 places. 721 entrants. This race is now closed to new entrants. Nooooo!!!! I get discruntled that the places must have gone to previous competitors or the organisers mates (this is very hypocritical of me).

I email the organiser on the off chance that I can squeeze into the last 30 places or take the place of someone who pulls out at the last minute. I eat my breakfast subdued and head to work.

I am cheered up by a man riding the other way wearing yellow and orange where I am dressed in orange and yellow and we cheer eachothers clashy style. I’m one of the first into the office at 8am - which rarely happens and I have the uncomfortable discussion about christmas parties with tears welling in my eyes. I think it might’ve been the cold - or just the frustration that a person who’s sick in the first 6 months should expect to take a pay cut or be in work to vomit on their colleagues and work on the toilet???. Still, bla bla.

To cheer myself up again I log in and check my emails on the off-chance. Amazingly (though thinking about it, not too much so), the website link for the Helvellyn Triathlon was broke, pointing at last years event and now, oh joy! there are only a measly 17 people that managed to get up this morning and beat me to it. I hand over my CC details and away we go. All excited about the next 10 months of hard training. I run around the office announcing my cheered-uppedness to all. Not feeling at all guilty about pulling out of the christmas do (£70) and forking out £55 for a triathlon and a teeshirt instead (yes, this is one tee I want to own).

Satisfied that my (triathlon) work is done for the day, I have a gentle ride home and spend the evening packing for the rest of the week - swimming kit, enough to keep me warm and of course, all loaded on the bike.