Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Ironblog - Forestman 2013

Forestman is renowned for a misty start over Ellingham lake but my day started at 2:54am, wet but clear outside.  It was the rain falling on the roof of the cabin that woke me and as suspected, I there was less than 40 minutes before my alarm went off so I got up to eat porridge and make coffee at a leisurely pace.

I never thought I’d find myself sitting on a sofa at 3:20am, dressed up to the waist in a wetsuit and actually excited enough to be wide awake.

As I walked up the path, knowing I was early for the bus, I didn’t expect to be joined by someone else.  Both of us finding our “Race new forest” swim kit bags incredibly noisy to carry in the quiet air of a campground at that time of the morning.

Other anxious souls queued for the bus already.  Strangers chatted to strangers – the topics mostly centred on how many hours’ sleep we managed and whether we were “first timers”.  Old-timers told us stories of their dying-hours of previous events.  It was a little like a ski holiday – being woken at 3am to board a bus for a plane which doesn’t leave for another 5 hours, only to sit on a coach for 30 minutes until everyone has boarded.

Last minute food bags were fitted to bikes.  I cut the ductape away from the plastic bags I’d used to keep my saddle and elbow pads dry overnight and added yet more to my overstuffed bike kit bag – fresh coffee and a bag of figs to feed on as well as the helmet which I’d kept reliably dry in the cabin overnight.
Caged Hippo!
Andrew arrived on his bike and we mooched down to the lake to take a looky.  The course didn’t look too massive and then we noticed the extra buoy, tucked away in the corner of the lake by the reeds… oh yes, it was on the course...
...even the plastic owl was surprised!
The local Baptist minister says a prayer before the Forestman.  I have to say, I would have felt less uncomfortable it if there had been a little more, “whichever god you believe in” rather than reserving it for those believing in the father, son and holy spirit but it was a pleasant enough gesture.  A man rushed past me saying, “oh shit I forgot my timing chip”.  Good job the lord reminded him.

I waited until the last minute to enter the water and swim over to the start line, always wanting to preserve my body heat as long as possible.  The water temperature was perfect though - 17 degrees – just enough to keep a hippo warm. The water was also fantastically clear with great visibility and no weeds in the deeper areas that we would be swimming in.  There were plenty of smiling faces and a lot of cheering, whooping and “good lucking” as the 15 second count was announced.

Trepid Explorer makes light work of some of the other athletes.
Unlike many shorter races, the swim start was really civilised.  I got into a groove within the pack pretty quickly and no one was swimming across anyone else.  I suppose you don’t train to swim 2.5 miles in open water, without learning to do it in a straight line.  Nothing more than a few foot tickles and the odd leg slap seem to have been directed my way (though I later discovered a bruised eyebrow).  I held on to the main group for the whole of the first lap, starting to drop off the back of the pace with a few others part way through the second. 

My little finger was starting to splay out from the others – the usual indicator that my hands are about to claw – so I applied the elastic band fix which worked just fine.

Finally I found myself on my own after half of the second lap but I was OK with that.  I’d done what I could to make the most of the presence of others and was happy to plough my own course until the rest of the field caught up with me.  There were other swimmers around but they seemed to be sticking to the edge of the lake which I had been told was weedy.  I preferred to make a bee-line between the buoys as it felt more efficient.  Eventually someone passed me swimming a little messily but, obviously, faster than me.  I decided it was timing-chip guy catching up and decided to go with him.  He was easy to follow because the bubbles that his stroke raised were easily spotted in the water.  His stroke was so perfect for me, I was even raised to fight for my line as we passed another swimmer who also wished to join the train.  I only lost contact with him within 200m of the finish and slowed down so that I could see where I was going into the rising sun, now peeping over the tops of the trees.
A traditional lake exit
1 hour 15 minutes, shouted TSK as I ran past.  Really happy with that.  

On my first day off work before race day I spent the whole day estimating my times based on my previous reccees and performances so far this year.  I wrote them all down (“Realistic”) and then made an optimistic version (“Dream”) and a “Borderline” version which would get me through just inside each of the cut-offs.  I’m really glad I did this as I knew that I would be cutting it fine with an 8 hour bike ride.  Deep down I knew that I wouldn't take 8 hours but it was hard to be too confident.  My run schedule only allowed for me to slow 2 minutes per segment on each lap of the run course (each lap split into four segments so around 2 minutes per 1.5 to 2 mile segment.  As an engineer and statistician it enabled me to break down an unfathomable run into some numbers I could handle.  I said I’d take a copy (and forgot) but thankfully I left TSK a copy.

A 15 minute swim set me half way between a dream and reality.

We had the benefit of seeing the Boskman athletes, waiting to go in the water after us.  There was cheering and I reciprocated by telling them how lovely it is in there.  After a short diversion to the portaloos, I discovered the joy of Ironman racing – a chair to sit on in transition!  It’s a close one but I’m tempted to make this a regular event, just for the chair!

I asked for my bag – number 15, the full one.  “Ah, she said, the one with the tea and biscuits”.

I didn’t really need to drink my coffee.  Couldn’t believe that my fingers were still working.  The new wetsuit courtesy of La Bicicletta and the chafe vest did their job.  I looked around the room – I was in the company of a female triathlon coach.  Very happy with that.

I handed the swim bag back – just as full as I had received it, leaving arm and leg warmers and my waterproof behind.  I had a stack of optimism instead.  I even tossed the figs at TSK as I left transition because my pockets were stuffed with inner-tubes (Forestman is a notoriously puncture-prone course), a wind proof jacket, zipvit gel and high protein vegan chocolate brownie.
Just another early morning ride.
My last-minute preparations for Forestman had started with a ride around the course on Friday which was a relief.  It confirmed that I now knew almost every turn of the course.  Where I had made mistakes, I’d looked up on the map where I had gone wrong.  I knew every turn on the twisty roads that I could effectively handle on the tribars and, more importantly, all the ones that I could not.

My usual status as a slow swimmer who rips through the bike course has been shredded this year so it pretty-much felt like I was alone for a lot of the first half.  The occasional really fast bloke came by who was probably a rubbish swimmer but otherwise I saw no-one.  I was passed by my first team GB athlete after 45 minutes  This is where a course recce came in use as little landmarks I’d noticed two days earlier put paid to those little niggles which say, “have I gone the right way?”

It was the first climb – up Thorney Hill – where I started to be passed by the fastest of Boskman athletes – thankfully clearly identified by their race numbers being in the 300’s.  Otherwise it could’ve been soul destroying.  There was camaraderie amongst the field.  The half-ironman athletes were on a different loop which meant that they could have lapped us twice during our three laps of the race.

My only stomach troubles occurred on the first lap, where I’d tried to cram a bit too much chocolate brownie down me too close to the end of my swim.  I sat up for a while and allowed gravity to assist digestion for a while and then I was fine.  I stuck to eating smaller quantities.

So many separate occasions, someone shouted, “Go on Sheffield”.  Numerous people from all over the country who’ve studied at Sheffield and one lass who passed me with a “By ‘eck I didn’t think ther ware anyone else frum Sheffield ‘ere”.  Happy-making.

We stretched out across the heathland.  I heard the call from behind, “C’mon Sheffield, you can’t get beaten by a lad from Leeds!”  He promptly pulled up at the aid station, prompting the response, “the problem with you Leeds boys is you can’t pass a bar without going for a drink!”
This picture, for me, encapsulates the best of the Forestman Bike course (except for the hills)
I saw TSK for the first time as we turned onto the little loop – only included once on the course, it includes a long 12% hill which puts a bit of effort onto the radar.  It also tested the navigational skills of this rider as I trundled off on a wrong turn.  Thankfully I noticed a rider on the correct route and “pulled a Lance” by riding up a gravelly driveway to re-join the course.  Someone else narrowly avoided following my mistake.

The climb stuck me in my lowest gear but at this point it didn’t put too much into me.  I decided it was worth burning one of my matches on it to put distance between myself and anyone else following.
This is me telling the marshal that I never see my husband for the camera stuck to his face.
TSK was waiting at the top and let me know that his mum and dad were also on the course and that I was on course to make my realistic targets set down last night.

The hardest part of the course was yet to come.  From the tee junction where the little loop breaks off, there’s a long, open stretch of road which leads to the descent to Godshill, Sandy Balls and the end of lap one.  The flat stretch of road is not something which ever bothered me but with the wind on race day, it took on a whole new meaning.  Around 18mph wind was blowing constantly across the tops so riding on the tri bars was compulsory.  The “flat” run in suddenly became pretty hilly.  Having raced the first lap, the little kicker hillocks on the “flat” section suddenly started to bite and the bearable straights out across the heathland suddenly became an epic 3 mile slog into a gale.

as expertly demonstrated by my uncle's camera.
This is what the organiser had to say in Tri 24-7, “I can say, with a degree of confidence that it was our windiest ForestMan day and the direction of the wind could not have been less helpful to the competitors. The way in which competitors managed the conditions was astonishing to me. I had expected a higher attrition rate than usual (exhaustion, flats, cut-offs missed). Instead there were a minimal number of withdrawals.. I think maybe five across the three events out of 250 starters.”  All of those 5 were in my event.

Finally, the descent into Godshill where the marshals were shaking pom poms and had decorated the hedgerow.  A large crowd of spectators was cheering aligning the road past Sandy Balls.

I remembered to press the lap button on the Garmin.  First lap in 2hrs: 30 minutes.  A little slow on my realistic timescale but 10 minutes within the borderline which shows that I was actually saving my legs a little.

Time to start eating and test out the new burger-bag.  By now the lentil burgers had been rendered a soggy mush which ricocheted around in the bag in a mass of soggy pieces.  Still, eating something resembling dog poo didn’t seem to bother me until I actually smelt dog poo somewhere along the road and that made my stomach turn a little.

In spite of their appearance and slightly meaty, mustardy flavour, the lentil burgers worked a treat at both being digested and providing an energy source.  So long as I took a little at a time and allowed them to settle before hauling on large volumes of energy drink I was OK.  Only a few minor sicky moments which probably would’ve happened regardless of what I’d been eating.

The second lap was supposed to be easier without the little loop and I had more support to look forwards to.  More athletes continued to lap me from the Boskman but it was still very quiet along the  bottom flat stretch.  I must’ve been moving quite quickly in the tail wind.

It was the lap for pee-stops as athletes dived into the bushes left, right and centre.  I’d checked out the map in the morning and luxuriated in a stop at the Public Conveniences in Burley.  It was still 8:45 am so I left my bike leaning against the wall and picked it up again on my way out.

I was glad I’d taken the break because this time, Burley Ornamental Drive smarted.  I chewed into the bottom gear so much that I rode the derailleur over into the wheel and had to hop off to sort my gears out before continuing.

The excitable jumping up and down of my husband and my inlaws spurred me on at the top though I admit that I showed off a bit by whooshing over the cattle grid in style.  I shouldn’t have because 20 seconds later my rear tyre was feeling very flat.

Indeed, there was nothing left in there so I found a handy Volvo parked on the grass verge in the middle of the heathland and I set about replacing an inner tube as out of the wind as I could manage.  Everyone who passed asked if I was OK which was very good of them.

I did run my hands around the inside of the tyre to make sure there were no protruding flints or otherwise but I couldn’t find anything so I refitted a new inner tube and headed out again.  All was well for the rest of the lap and into lap 3.  2 hours 43minutes on the shorter lap two meaning that with taking it a little easy and 7 minutes for a tyre change, I was a little outside of my borderline schedule of 2:23 but I also had 15 minutes in the bag from my fast swim.

By the time I’d got to Bolderwood Ornamental drive again I started to worry about what had happened to the Halman clan as I knew they were planning to come and see me.  Then, sure enough, I saw the familiar lanky figure of my cousin Johnathon skulking around in the undergrowth by the side of the road.  His family were with him and it was a really pleasant surprise as I had thought he was working / at football that day.  At the top of the hill, my aunty and uncle were waiting with cameras at the cattle grid.  Although I was careful this time, I did get yet another puncture.  Gah!

Having gone from the total elation of seeing my family, I was back in doldrums.  I tried to ride it out for a while and then stopped to pump some air in, vainly hoping that it was a slow puncture I could nurse to the finish line. 3 minutes down the toilet  Time was ticking on and I had a deadline to meet.  By the time I’d reached the turning onto the heathland and the last marshal station before the evil ride across the moors, I realised there was no way it was a good idea to ride a flat tyre in to the headwind and hope to make it down the descent to sandy balls in one piece. 

“This puncture is not as slow as I thought it was” I said.  This time I had company to sit by me whilst I changed the inner tube out.  He tried to say reassuring words like, “only 5.5 miles and you’ve 45 minutes to do it in” but I knew how tired I was and I knew how heavy the wind was.  Freshly re-inflated I made a dash for it, just in case there was something else stuck inside my inner tube.  That is, I made a dash for it once I’d stopped to pick up the bottle that I dropped off my bike.  This puncture stop was a 9 minute glory sinker.  Along the heathland I dropped right to the back of my saddle, pushed my elbows off the edge of the pads and stretched my arms out in front of me as far as I could.  I even tucked my shoulder blades in… and there were the Halmans again.  All of them standing by the side of the road screaming and cheering.  They gave me one more whoop and a wave as they drove down to transition in the car.

Finally I was there.  The last lap completed in 2 hours : 34 minutes. – on the realistic schedule and faster than lap 2, despite two tyre stops this time.

I crossed the line into transition with 16 minutes to go before the cut off time – too busy telling my families to go and say hello to each other to notice the dismount line and if it hadn’t been for the marshals being loud and directing I might’ve been disqualified for riding in transition.

I disposed of my bike with vigour.  JUST remembering to take the Garmin with me and sat down in transition to, “Oof, that was all a bit too exciting”.

A quick turnaround involved consuming an entire Lychee juice and a change of top and shoes – nothing more.  I ran in my 112 mile bike shorts.  I took my bumbag with me in case I needed my windproof and drugs, glorious drugs (vitamin I).

I bounded off out of transition with a spring in my step and then halted up short before I passed the portaloos.
"Feeling much better now"

Slightly emptier and with a cleaner face, I sprang past the rellies and out onto the run course.

Having reminded myself not to fret about the running distance after last year’s experiences, I wasn't at all phased about heading out for a 20 mile run (which I’ve done) but I was mildly phased about running the last 6 miles after Becky Loftus told me that she struggled with them in her marathon.
Like Winnie the Pooh!
After my uncle took his stunning photo of my rear disappearing down the road, I actually had to calm myself down and remember to pace myself up the hill out of Sandy Balls.  With so many tired athletes coming in (including the winner of my event who had already finished his marathon), I was getting a dose of how I’d look in a bit.

It helped lighten the mood that the marshal's decorations at the cattle grid on the edge of Godshill included two plastic ducks, quietly enjoying their afternoon on a puddle by the roadside.

I enjoy the new forest so much, it really was difficult to regulate my speed so I took to running up the hill until I got out of breath and then walking until I’d got my breath back.  Repeat.  I was pretty thirsty, despite having just downed fruit juice in transition so I drenched myself with two glasses of water before hitting the off-road.

The flat sections were lovely and the hilly sections like home. 

The first big surprise of the day came at the Fritham aid station and turn-around point.  Instead of it being at the car park at the top of a 45m hill, it was at the bottom of the hill.  Yes!  Totally made my day, knowing that I wouldn’t have to run up that hill 3 times.

Back to the central aid station and I continued my campaign of taking on water then down to Abbotts Wells where I’d sheltered from the ponies last time I was in the new forest and limped back to Sandy Balls after the end of my 15 mile run.

There was no sign of the family so I turned on my heels and headed back up the steep rocky climb to the moors.  Finally, the tail wind struck me and I could enjoy the free ride to Fritham.  Suddenly the family appeared again so I stopped for a sticky kiss for TSK and sent them off to Abbotts Wells to wait for me on the next two loops.

Concentrating hard here on trying to get speed where I could.
Arriving at the central aid station for the second time, the munchies kicked in and I began raping the aid stations for crisps.  Eventually I became such a crisp-a-holic they started offering me packets so I didn’t drop any crisps on the course, though they were being effectively hovered up by some very lucky dogs.

More crisps back at Fritham and then starting to waver a bit on the run along the tops with the head wind blowing in our faces.  A chap still running in his cycling jersey and I both bemoaned being cyclists in a runners world although he continued at the same pace as I started to slow down.

I started doing maths again to figure out how fast I needed to go to avoid missing the cut off time.  My race plan was too complicated to follow so I calculated that so long as my average stayed above 6kph I’d be fine.  I was running at about 8 but averaging 7.8 and falling what with all the walking I was doing.

The gang were down at Abbotts wells and I explained to these guys that I was going to need to make an effort to look the part.

A crew of spectators in chairs were nervously laughing as a herd of cows stared at them from the other side of the stream and the path.  As I pondered that they had acquired their own audience, their daughter was nervously trying to hide behind a tree.  Thankfully on my return, the cows were happily grazing alongside and the spectators were still there.

I ran/walked back up the hill and tried my best to quickly ride the tail wind although walks on the flat were inevitable giving the pace I was squeezing out when I did run.  By the time I hit Fritham for the last time, my fellow competitors were enticing me on with tales of wine gums on offer and the fact that we’d never have to go down there again!

The wine gums were indeed awesome and so was standing by the 18 miles sign saying, “I’ve never run this far before” as I ran off again to Central Aid to move off the crisps and onto biscuits (for desert of course).

That wind was really harrowing and the sun was also now out meaning that most athletes were starting to plough the same furrow – next to what little undergrowth there was to offer shade.  I felt thankful that it wasn’t scortchingly hot (the spectators were all in coats and hats) as I really don’t think I could’ve got through.  I was drinking at every aid station as it was. 

On the last lap I had a chat with the volunteer I’d been swimming with on Saturday.  Then, “Yes thank you Mr Astley” I did take a glass of the blue stuff and proudly ran around the 21mile banner.  Andrew sneaked up on me for a kiss as I tackled “that” hill one more time.
Last band
Back at the central aid station it was time for a celebratory airplane manoeuvre as I enjoyed my final passage on the out and back 3-lap course that (beautiful though it is), I was starting to get bored of.  The run home to the finish line was all the more enjoyable because of it.  I’d never reversed the run route from this direction as my last reccee I ran back down the road to cut it short.  As a result the run home was really enjoyable.  I looked behind me when I reached the stream and no one was around.  I still carefully picked my way around as I didn’t want cramp or blisters at this late stage.  By the time I got to the top of the hill on the other side, another competitor was approaching and I was walking.  Rather than setting up for a sprint finish I decided it would be more enjoyable to wait my time and we started to run together down the last valley descent before reaching the road.  It was time to start saying a massive thank you to all the marshals still out there for us.

It’s amazing what a balm good company can be.  As Karen Thacker and I ran down the hill to the finish line we did nothing but chatter away and I soon realised that I hadn’t done any walking for some time, though I was running slower than I would have on my own.

Finally we got to the bottom of the hill where a last enthusiastic marshal was congratulating us on a fine run and we joined hands to cross the line – all hugs and celebrations and medals and things.

If this isn't the spirit of Forestman, I don't know what is.

The family gave me a hug – even my cousin’s beautiful wife Natalie, protected as she was by her coat.

There was a lot of excitement. Dunnit.

Then a lot of scrabbling for some food and a shower and a sit down as I dispatched Andrew and his dad to retrieve my bike and my bags from the finish line.

I was gloriously fed as I sat and chattered.  The cousins left and I flopped on the sofa to start to sleep (Though I wasn’t the first to doze off, his nibs having had an equally long day in the breeze).

Final Stats:
Swim: 1:15 reported. 1:29:43 by the time I'd run over T1 timing mat (79th)
Bike: 7:45:47 including the 19 minutes puncture time (85th but should've been 74th)
Run: 5:44:58. (78th)
Overall: 15:04:43 (joint 92nd & joint 4th F40 - the lanterns rouges but with three blokes behind us)

This post is, in no particular order, with credit to the following:

Steve and Natalie Halman – my cousin, (‘ickle brother) and his wife – for driving out to see me finish.

Uncle Tom and Aunty Anne and my cousin (and ‘ickle brother), John Halman and his wife Christine and the boys for giving me the inspiration to get through the bike and on to the run.  Without you, I might not have rushed so hard.

The bloke who drove past slowly on my last lap of Bolderwood Ornamental Drive shouting encouragement out of his car window.

My mother and father in law, Freda and Tony Rodgers, for coming from Guildford to cheer with vigour as the climbs got harder.  You also made it worth while me rushing to the run and your enthusiastic support at Abbots wells made collecting every wrist band a joy.  For your help in making dinner to refuel and taking us for breakfast on the morning after, I am eternally grateful.

To Andrew, for recording my day, keeping my parents up to speed on progress and entertaining twitter followers but most of all for being there, smiling, encouraging, sharing my stories throughout the day.  For bundling me up into a package afterwards and getting me where I needed to be –  the start, the finish, then shower, bed, fed and home.

To my parents for listening to me ramble on about my training more than anyone else (except maybe Andrew) and for being the combined swim and bike team that got me here in the first place.  It’s a shame you can’t have three parents because we need a runner!

To Sylvia Yates, for delivering Rother Valley swim on 15th June so that I could tame my swimming in open water.

To Jackie Robson for massaging my broken body back to health beforehand and being such a good health professional and friend, to check on my results afterwards.

To Claire Smith for your Ironman inspiration and giving me the confidence that my swim would work on the day.

Ali C.  You sewed the seed in my head that I could make it and chased me up until I did.

Becky Loftus, for deciding to do it yourself and therefore forcing me to do it first.  Also Dan Loftus and the children for making my break-the-journey stop-over so enjoyable.

Sally Smith – for giving me a few lessons in endurance psychology which helped me to ignore worrying niggles in the weeks leading up to the race.  Also for being out there, doing stuff or helping out, meaning there was always a friendly face to talk to.

To the waitress at the Sea Marge hotel in Cromer for introducing me to the chafe vest meaning that my swim stood the test of time.

Alex Gilbraith for giving me wetsuit advice and letting me run off with one of your suits to test and generally beat up.  Awesome sales technique.

A huge thank you to my last 2 miles pacer and fellow competitor – Karen Thacker - your chatter got me to the end of my race.  I hope you go on enjoying racenewforest events but also take the time to venture up North some time and enjoy some of the lovely off-road courses we have to offer.

The race organisers and marshals.  For arranging a fantastic event, being in high spirits and offering so much encouragement on what was, for spectators, a chilly chilly day.  Without you it really wouldn’t have happened or we would have all been very lost.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Planets aligning (Taper)

Finally, with my 667th post to Trepid Explorer, I feel able to write positively about Forestman again.

It's not that there's nothing good to say.  I just don't seem to have been able to find the positive words to post.  When I try, all that comes into my head is the negativity.  I've really enjoyed my training but it's not been compatible with the job, with being a nice person sometimes or with keeping a house running in a sensible way (we look like we've been burgled... permanently... more so than usual.)

I told Philipa yesterday that "I want to look forward to my race, not look forwards to my race being over so that I can have my life back".

Yesterday morning my swim made it through the 50 minute test with the confidence that on the day I will be able to squeeze my way through the last 10 - 20 minutes - if I even need that long.

Spurred-on by family and friends coming to watch and hang out, I am now really looking forwards to race day.

It was 10 years ago that I first found out about Ironman.  I couldn't avoid it, it came to my city when I was living in Canada.  For three years I was one of the 4 volunteers per athlete helping to make it one of the best staffed Ironman events in the global calendar.

There will be nothing like that level of support for the Forestman yet I have purposefully set out to chose a course which pleases me and my budget.

When I used to watch Ironman in Penticton, I would get out of bed at 5:30 am to drive to the start for 6am and watch the swimmers set off.  I'd then drive home and sleep for a couple of hours until I was due to start my shift at the bike course, catching bikes as athletes came in from the ride from 11am.  I'd be there until 5:30pm. With the winner having already finished, we'd stay until the bike shut-off time had closed.  We would watch in anguish as the last few competitors dropped to their knees in tears as they were told that they weren't able to continue.  We would then cheer ourselves up by screaming at the last few athletes setting out on the run after their "evening meal" transition.

It was an epic day even for volunteers and I never felt able to stay up to watch the last people come in.  Of course with Ironman Canada the cut off time for the run was midnight.  Meaning that many athletes remained out there, hauling themselves over the line in the refreshing darkness after a day of racing in 34 degrees heat.

I never thought I'd be one of those racers.  Hell, I couldn't even manage the volunteering bit without some drama.

Here I am, 8 years later - about to do one.

It's the taper week two and this morning I was greeted by an odd scene..
100% drink bottle availability.  A sign of low training load.

I set out for a taper run.  It was supposed to be 10 miles but instead I did 7 but threw in Win Hill for good measure.  I know what Jo Jebb sees in it so decided then and there to make the most of my shortened triathlon season to do an awesome job of preparing for the 2013 3 Peaks cyclo-cross.  This is on top of my aim of going to the Isle of Jura fellrace (though whether this is in 2014 or beyond, I can not tell).

Dark Peak graffiti or a farmer member?
I was just descending from the summit when I tripped over a rock.  As I hurtled towards the ground I remember positively thinking, "It's OK, I've got this" as my foot came through to catch my fall.  Unfortunately when it did, it landed on the banana skin I'd just dropped and instead my foot slid away and I crashed to the ground.  My left hand, knee and hip took the jolt with scrapes to my right hand and leg where everything collided together.  I took a second to do a body scan and make sure nothing was broken then, like a cat, sprung to my feet hoping no-one had seen me.

I washed out my wounds with Gatorade as it was all that I had with me.  I took a moment to calm my nerves then started running again.  I was, in actual fact about 9 miles high.  Pumped on adrenaline and endorphins rapidly flooding to the heels of my hands I felt alive!  I was a real runner now - I'd had my first runners' crash.  A thing of legends in the "one minute you're enjoying your run and the next you're lying on the floor".  And as far as the banana skin is concerned, you couldn't make it up.

I wondered if I should shorten my run in case any swelling caused my joints to misfire.  I continued along the ridge, not descending straight away but using the middle path instead of the end one, reducing the route by 1.5 miles only.
It was such a nice day, I didn't want to go home.

I told a couple of mountain bikers that I'd just had my first runners' crash.  Tha'll be alreet was the answer.

The descent was through the woods and along a pine-needled path.  I enjoyed every moment.  Far from shaking me up, my crash made me see that even if things go a little pear shaped next week, I will just dust myself off and get on with things.

Yesterday I found this extract from last year's day in the lakes report,

"Last year I found it very difficult to contemplate a half marathon after everything that goes before.  I still do but it is quite amazing that once you're in a rhythm, it feels like you've just set out.  The pain of the bike ride is gone from the legs and you can just get back to running."

I'm so glad I read back because combined with today's beautiful run I realise that the run at the end of my Ironman is there to be enjoyed, not endured.  It has given me a reason to get through the swim.  I want to make it to that running course.

I want to be an Ironman, more than I fear it.

Thank you Bill Cosby and Scott Jurek for the inspiration.

Training since November:
Swim - 94 km (58 miles) 29hours 55 mins
Bike - 1839.1 km (1149 miles) 157 hours, 24km vertical climb
Run - 350 km (218 miles) in 62h 15min, 8.8km vertical climb
or a total of 247 hours training.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

From Doldrums to Phoenix

I've been trying to find something positive to write.

There's a lot of positive things going on in my world but for some reason I can't bring myself to write of them.  Instead, I sit on my sofa today trying to work out whether this headache is an up and coming cold or merely dehydration after a really nice run yesterday.

I am supposed to be racing at Scissett this afternoon which is a race I really enjoy but I'm not sure if I should go.  If I do have a cold, I don't want to make myself worse.  Why should I go?  I have paid my money - and that's about the only reason.  I don't really need to practice my transitions.  It won't give me the opportunity to swim in my new wetsuit as it's a pool swim.  In fact, it could jeopardise my chance to swim in my new wetsuit next week if it makes my cold / not cold any worse.

Having been awful to a sick colleague last week and successfully managing to evade his flu, yesterday's mistake was a stupid one.  In a shop I heard the cashier telling a man that she had a summer cold.  I should've bolted then and there but instead I found a present for my husband so I went to the counter and engaged.  There was a cat sitting on the counter - the cat who comes from the pet shop.  The cashier had been stroking the cat and of course, now I look back, I also stroked the cat.

An hour or so later, having jogged into town, I had my lunch.  Smack on the wrist I forgot to wash my hands before I ate my sandwich and so, here I am, sitting on the sofa with a headache.  I remind myself I have a whole two weeks to get over it.  But I'm Oh so desperate to get in the water.

Why so desperate?

My swimming has really gone through the roof this year.  For years it's been unclear which will prove to be more successful - my swimming development or my running development.  For a while I thought it would be my running.  The sheer fact that my running went from 10k to 22k was enough to prove to me that my running was improving best whilst my swimming was able to stay comfortably at 1900m and only come down fractionally in time.

This year however, I have doubled my swim distance and whilst I've increased my run distance by 1.5 times, my 4km swim speed is proportionately comparable to my 1.6km swim speed whilst my half marathon plod remains about the same as it always has been and a damn sight slower than my 10km run speed.  At Wetherby, forced to finish by the pressure not to quit, my swim outperformed my cycle - something completely unheard of in my world.  It seems the Hippopotamus is my spirit animal after all - lumbering and graceless on land, speedy, elegant and deadly in the water.

There is a problem though and it is the cold.  At every open water swim this year I have struggled to come out of the water coherent, upright and in control of shivering muscle spasms.  It caused me so much concern at Eastleigh that I have been in to open water at every opportunity available.  I've got up at 5am to swim in the Prestatyn sea and not missed a beat at Rother Valley, even swimming with full compression kit on under my suit to take the chill away.  I've stripped off and swum in bra and knickers in the middle of my morning run.

I've swum without the wetsuit just to persuade my body to get used to the temperature as the temperature has gradually come up to meet me at what I hoped would be a compromise.

There was useful chat on my club forum Facebook last week about the difficulties of removing wetsuits.  Now I don't have any problems removing mine and naturally assumed everyone else was doing it wrong.  At swimming on Friday evening, all the other slim people came out of the woodwork now that the water is warmer.  I watched Vicki Moorhead struggling to get into her suit, cursing blind that it shrinks every year.  

As I got into the water it was luxuriously warm.  I said to the woman next to me, "ooh so warm!" and I felt confident that this time I would manage my 4 laps, perhaps even 5!  I powered around the first two laps, enjoying the sun on my back, tracking between the buoys, experiencing no dizziness, hunger or fatigue, no cold.  Towards the end of the first lap I experienced my first foot cramp.  I tried not to panic and slowed to breast stroke.  Eventually I pulled my foot through and I squeezed my toes towards my chest.  I tried to displace my wetsuit around the calf in case it was too tight but it only let the cold water come flooding in.  My hip extensors and thighs started to cramp so I let go and calmly took to breast stroke again.  Soon I was able to crawl again and churned out another lap as quickly as I could but this one went to bits.

I had to put the rubber bands on my fingers.  By the time I got to the longest back stretch, the water had seeped onto my back.  The water which had been leaching in through my wrists began to seep into my armpits, slopping up and down and the water I had allowed into my left leg seemed to seep all the way around to the right leg also.  By the time I got towards the end of the lap the foot cramp came again.  This time I managed to squeeze it away briefly.

As I breast stroked calmly, just enjoying the evening, I realised I wasn't going to get another lap out.  It wasn't that I was exhausted I just felt how I do when I swim without a wetsuit.  For a while it's exhilarating and enjoyable and then it's just deathly cold and the core starts to shake.  You know it's time to get out.

I stood on the beach (concrete) stripping off the layer of neoprene.  It was so warm to get the litres of cold water away from my body. 

Back in the changing rooms, the same lady I'd commented to on the warmth of the water was next to me.  She looked at me shivering and said, "how are *you* cold?"  

I shrugged and said, "too skinny?"

As I shivered, watching my friends come and go, all composed, all happy about the warmth of the day and the water, I accepted that my wetsuit is now too big.  I spent £327 on that suit.  I am the AGNI (all the gear, no idea) who bought the best so that my speed would grow into it.  Sadly, what has happened is I have shrunk out of it and also my skill has grown out of it.  I no longer need the buoyancy of the hi tech suit.  I have turned into a swimmer.  One who resents the restriction of the suit and if I get one that actually fits, I might even find it too hot.  That said, I have to be in that water for one whole hour and in my skin I can only manage around 20 minutes.  In my current suit, I can only manage 45. 

Now I see how bad it is, though not as bad as the bloke behind
I went back out to the lake side to see who was about.  Luckily, Alex Gilbraith from La Bicicletta was just coming out of the water.  We chatted about a new suit (actually I had it in my mind I'd rent one but a good deal is a good deal).

14 hours later I showed up at his shop and found myself squirming into an X2U small tall suit.  Once I'd got my legs in (it's difficult to imagine something will fit when you start off with your ankles tied so tightly together you can't forsee it feasible to haul it over your hips), I let Alex give me a hand.  From my experiences I see I have two weeks to train TSK to dress a hippo in a wetsuit.

After he let me haul the ass of the suit up from the inside and put the arms in, he kindly hitched up the shoulders and zipped the back saying, "If you can zip it up on your own, it really is too big" (vis a vis the old suit: oops - apparently I have been doing it wrong all these years).

I then took it upon myself to grab the crotch and feed the spare suit up the front to my neck to make the final fit adjustment.  

Well it sure as hell looked like it fitted and it didn't feel uncomfortable once it was on.  I took the suit home to take it out this week.  Having dug out my current suit to check, it is a large.  I remember now buying the large to get the leg length as a settler because there was no medium tall available at the shop.  I was also, after trying on multiple suits in the middle of June, pretty warm when I bought that suit.  So now I'm so incredibly excited about getting into open water again.  I wonder just how far I can go and what I can do with it when I'm warm.


Tuesday, June 04, 2013

May 2013 Stats

Swim: 17.45km 14.5km 3kph.  Compares to last month: 14.5km 2.7kph.  Compares to 2010: 2.4km, 1.6km/hr
Bike: 303.4 mile, 12.2mph, 4425m el.  Compares to last month: 336.54 mile, 10.9mph, 5456m el.     Compares to 2010: 172mile, 13mph, 3772m el.
Run: 75.77 miles, 5.6 mph, 1623m el.   Compares to last month: 49.77 miles, 4.9 mph, 1401m el.  Compares to 2010: 37mile, 4.6m/hr, 1417m el