Little Woody 2010 race report

August 30, 2010

I’ll try and keep this as short as possible and not let the length of the report match the length of the race! But if you want info about the Little Woody (or for that matter the Big Woody), click on the names.

Little Woody is a middle-distance triathlon (sometimes called a half-Ironman distance): 1.9km swim, 60km bike, 21km run (ish!) But, of course, not all courses are created equal. And this one’s a toughie. Ever been to the Forest of Dean? Yeah, not flat, is it? 😉

I have a terrible habit of playing down sporting achievements. Possibly cos I’ve been doing sport for a long time, possibly because I still don’t really know how to respond to questions like “are you totally mad?!” (I usually assume it’s meant as a compliment and that the questioner just can’t think of another word to use.)

Anyway. No downplaying here. Little Woody is TOUGH. No two ways about it. Massive kudos to anyone who can finish the course (yep, including my good self) and, as for the Big Woody people (double the distances above)….well…consider my swimming hat, cycle helmet and run visor well and truly off.

The Woody races are small, low-key and what you might call loyal to the grassroots feel of triathlon. Well organised but not flashy, small enough to have a real community feel. This is no doubt helped by the fact that the only real option for competitors is overnight camping (on the course) the night before. Big and Little Woody competitors and their support crews, marshalls and organisers felt like one big family, bonded by the crazy challenge we all knew we’d taken on.

SWIM
Poor Trev (the organiser) had a spanner thrown into his (water)works a couple of days before the event when the original swim venue was shown to have blue-green algae. Blleeee! So he managed to organise a replacement swim at perhaps one of the most stunning places I’ve ever swum.

The National Diving Centre near Chepstow is a very deep, very clear, very beautiful quarry. The only downside for us was that this venue meant a) a long (400m+) run/walk up a stony path from the water to our bikes (you can see it on the right of the pic above), and b) a new bit of the bike route (very hilly and going through Coleford, with two sets of traffic lights). Ah well, it’s the same for everyone and is what it is.

I couldn’t wait for this swim. It was just so beautiful, particularly in the early morning light. And it didn’t disappoint – cool but not cold, lovely clear water and very atmospheric.

I lined up at the front (might as well) and set off surrounded by chaps. The normal bunfight ensued and it took a good while for me to find any clear water. I was practically at the far buoy (of a two-loop course) before I realised that I wasn’t thinking about my swimming stroke at all. I found some clear water and concentrated on how I was swimming. The water was so clear that I was able to see swimmers in front of me, and could identify a pair of feet to draft off, catch him up, and draft. It’s the first time I’ve ever been able to do that.

On the second lap, I realised I was taking it a bit easy, so put some power down (remembering the coaching session I’d had a few weeks ago). I pulled away from my little group and found myself alone. For a while I wondered if I’d gone off course, but I soon recognised that all it meant was I’d left one group behind and was catching up with the next.

I just about caught them and then we were turning at the final buoy and heading for the ladders. This wasn’t Sainsbury’s on a Saturday afternoon, and I wasn’t about to queue. I nipped round someone, grabbed the ladder and hauled myself out.

I stripped my wetsuit off at the bottom of the hill, put my shoes on and ran up the steep slope with the wettie over my shoulder. Then I started walking. It was really steep! I ended up next to a woman and asked her what time she’d swum. “About 30 minutes,” she said, looking shocked. There’s no way I can swim 1.9km in 30 minutes, and it sounded like she felt the same way. Short swim? Or the benefits of drafting when you get it right? Who knows!

Finally I was at the top of that hill and in T1. A bit of a silly fumble with my kit and then I was on my way on the bike.

BIKE
I could go on forever about this bike course but I won’t. Suffice to say that it’s long (for a middle distance tri), and hilly. Have a look at the profile on the website, or the map (if you know the area). Inclines of note include almost all of the first 20k from Chepstow to Coleford (the swim is at sea level and the first aid station is at about 600ft), through Bream, Mitcheldean and the infamous English Bicknor. I reckon the latter is about 12%?

I enjoyed the bike course – yes, it’s challenging, but there’s nothing wrong with a challenge. And it’s so beautiful. And, for every up, there’s a down – some of them very fast (too fast for me!)

Thanks to the Army team chap (Big Woody competitor) with whom I played cat and mouse on the section to Parkend, and the chap on the Boardman bike who chatted and laughed with me up the climb through Bream. It’s stuff like that which makes triathlon such a great sport.

My favourite encounter of the bike course has to be this:

Scene: the A48. Dual carriageway, plenty of traffic.
A voice booms out from somewhere behind my right shoulder: “Now! Are. You. Having. A nice time?” (this to be said in a strong Welsh accent)

“Er, yes thank you! I’m having a lovely time. Are you?”

“Oh, don’t you worry about me! Now! I’ll beeyonest with you, I don’t know the course. It seems OK so far. Does it get hillier?”

I told my nice new Welsh friend that, yes, it did get hillier but that he’d be fine. And off he went, literally bellowing a song in his nice Welsh voice as he pedalled away. Love it!

I tried to eat as much as I could on the bike, knowing I wouldn’t be able to on the run but that I’d need the calories. Just for old times’ sake, I nibbled a jam sandwich at Nibley. And I ate a date going up English Bicknor, just for the hell of it.

About Bicknor. Maybe it’s just me, but it’s not that bad. I don’t think it’s the worst bit of the course. Having said that, I wouldn’t want to do it more than once (like the Big Woody people).

It’s tricky, though: you think you’ve got up it, it flattens out…then there’s another, really steep bit, which winds round a corner and is on a camber. Nice! I was in my smallest gear and out of the saddle, going past a few people. “Sorry about the noise from my gear,” I managed to say. “It annoys me!”

“…it’s working, though,” said one guy, as I overtook him. Me, overtaking blokes, on a hill! Wonders will never cease. (My bike is very good, and I did have 39/27 as my lowest gear combined with 650cc wheels).

I’d ridden the main loop before, so knew what was coming, but it still didn’t help my poor legs! Having said that I enjoyed the bike, I was ready for it to be over by about 50 miles in. Shame that, seeing as it’s nearer 60 miles long. The stretch along the Wye, near Kerne Bridge, was fairly miserable for me, with poor road surfaces only serving to make the pain in my lower back much worse.

T2
The Woody races have split transitions (t1 and t2 in different places) which seems hard to get your head round at first. A note to future competitors – don’t worry about it. Just go with it, trust the organisers to have everything where you need it, and just race. It all worked out beautifully.

I could barely get off my bike, but a nice marshall steadied me and took my bike from me. Another marshall gave me my run bag and I sat on the floor to change shoes whilst chatting with my husband, who’d done a sterling job supporting, telling me my times, and telling me where I was in relation to other female Little Woody-ers.

I was feeling a bit out of it at this point but was looking forward to the run as a chance to gently jog that harsh bike ride out of my poor legs.

RUN
My aim had been to hold about 8:30/8:45 minute miling, for a sub-2 hour half marathon. I’d thought the run would be a gentle, flattish and soft run through the local woodland paths, perfect for settling into a comfy pace and just jogging all the hill-climbing out of my knees.

HA! I couldn’t have been more wrong. Whether I misunderstood the run course description, or whether it just seemed 1,000 times worse after that bike, I’m not sure. But, honestly, the run nearly killed me. And I don’t say that lightly.

I jogged off down the road section and called out “8:20!” to my husband, referring to my pace. It was the last time I’d see 8:anything on my Garmin for a long time. As soon as the run headed into the woods, I started to struggle. My knees ached, my back was killing me, the slightest incline felt like a mountain. And, worst of all, my head had gone. I felt terrible, had lost any confidence I ever had about finishing, and couldn’t get the thought of DNFing (pulling out) out of my head. I even thought about cutting a corner (it would have been very easy) in order to shorten the run (needless to say I didn’t!)

The first loop was just torture. I had a sharp pain in my hip that I’ve never had before. I didn’t know if I could go on and do a second. I could see dozens and dozens of women, all of whom looked fresher, faster and better than me, and I had no idea if they were a lap in front of me or behind me.

It wasn’t til I got back to HQ/finish to turn round for another lap, and was given a wristband to indicate one lap done, that I realised – all I had to do was look at people’s wrists and I’d know if they were in front or behind. I ate some jelly babies at the aid station and picked up a little bit. I knew that, even if I had to walk it, I would do that second lap. There’s no way I’d done that swim, that ride, and that first lap (not to mention the training!) only to give up now.

Oh, and the first lap made it clear that the run was going to be a bit short of the half-marathon distance. Realising that helped, too 😉 .

On my final lap, I was obsessively looking at every female competitor’s wrist. Red band? No red band? To my utter amazement, few of them had a red band on (and those that did were running amazingly and absolutely deserved to be way ahead of me!) I ran on, walking the hills and some of the narrower sections (which were one-person wide), and knew I’d get there. I actually overtook about three women (sorry, Karen!), although I’ve no idea how.

I had no idea of my overall time. I had three goals: 6:15 (ha), 6:30, finish. I knew the first was long gone. I knew I’d do the final one. But I had no idea about a sub-6:30 finish.

Before long I was near HQ, so desperate to finish. One last lap of the field, and I was finished. Trevor gave me my medal and shook my hand, smiling.

I was desperate for a wee, for a sit-down, for the tupperware of pineapple chunks in our cool-bag. Instead I sat on the ground, gazed about me in a daze and jabbered some nonsense to my husband.

OK, to cut a very long story slightly less long, here’s the final bit:


Finish time: 06:27:45
1.9km (?) swim 00:33:27
60 mile bike 03:58:03
11.7 mile run 01:51:25

16th (of 44) lady
10th (of 28) open-category lady

I was 15th female in the swim, 19th on the bike and 18th on the run.

Would I recommend it? Yes, without a doubt. Fantastic course, a real challenge, and the kind of race which deserves the support of anyone truly interested in triathlon as a community.

Will I do it again? Ha. Yesterday, I said no. Earlier this morning, I was trying to work out how much time I could knock off…. 😉

Did you do Little or Big Woody? Were you there as support?

Little Woody 2010 race report is a post from The Fit Writer blog

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The Little Woody in pictures

August 29, 2010

Full report to come 🙂

The Little Woody in pictures is a post from The Fit Writer blog


Swim, bike, swim, run, swim

August 26, 2010

When I saw this week’s 220 Triathlon midweek Sprint in the Human Race calendar, I thought “ah, what a perfectly-timed tune-up ahead of Little Woody. I’ll do it – not race it, just use it as one last brick session and check my bike is OK.”

It might have been handy to check the weather forecast.

As any of you who were in Berkshire yesterday evening will realise, the race became one very long aquathlon. A kind of swim, swim-through-T1, swim-on-the-bike, swim-through-T2, aqua-jog affair. I’ve never done a race in conditions like that (and I did Vitruvian in 2005!)

As I sheltered under a canopy, trying to get my race numbers to stick to my sodden bike frame, I thought about going home. As I shivered, listening to the race briefing and watching people from the previous wave skidding and pitching around a corner on the bike course, I told myself it wasn’t too late.

Don’t get me wrong, this is nothing about disliking the rain, the wet or the cold (lest we forget, I’ve been wet and cold a few times in my life without complaint). No, it was all about not wanting to wipe out on the bike course and damage my bike, my limbs or my skin less than three days ahead of Little Woody.

So I got into the lake (much warmer than the air!) and told myself I could pull out whenever I wanted to, and take it as slowly as I needed to.

SWIM
Lining up at the front of the swim, I looked around and realised something was amiss. All of these people had, like, stubble and stuff. Oh yeah! I was in a mixed wave! That’s new, it’s been a while since I’ve swum in a wave with men. All good practice, since I think Little Woody is all one big wave.

Ooh those chaps play rough, don’t they? All the way round, I had elbows on my head, fists on my back and someone’s very irritating hand on my ankle. One chap insisted on swimming into me at an angle (I checked, it wasn’t my sighting which was at fault) so I ended up stopping, diving over him and swimming on the other side.

I took a somewhat rakish angle to the final buoy and found myself accompanied by a friendly paddler who had presumably taken it upon herself to get me swimming roughly in the right direction.

T1
Out of the water, it was a very careful walk to T1, down a steep grassy slope which by now had turned to mud. Arriving on the concrete, I was pleased to still be on two feet. Everything was already sodden, but I pulled my bike shoes on and rejected the idea of pulling on an extra layer. Mainly because the extra layer I’d brought was wet through.

BIKE
The bike course of these midweek Sprints is six laps, with a tight turn at either end. Not ideal in those conditions. I promised myself the slowest 20km bike split I’d ever done, and a return to T2 in one piece. The bike course was littered with people’s numbered stickers, no match for the torrential rain and wind. I passed a few people, got passed by several others, and made it back into T2 just as it was getting prematurely dark.

T2
Took me ages, because my hands were so cold that I couldn’t even tighten my elastic laces. The chap next to me was faring no better with his regular laces. I took a look at my Garmin to see how I was doing. It had drowned at some point during the bike course, so I was racing blind. Probably just as well, since I wasn’t approaching tonight as a race!

RUN
Funnily enough, running in a downpour is something I really enjoy. I could have done without the puddles to splash through, and the heavy soaking we got when the rain got even heavier but, for the main part, I loved this run. Conditions were so bad, it was ridiculous, and all you could do was smile. I felt remarkably strong and light on the ol’ feet.

I had to stop to tighten my laces at one point (after my fingers had warmed up a bit) and a Serpie woman passed me. I tried to chase her down for a while but had to remind myself I wasn’t racing. I’d hate to get to 10 miles into the Little Woody run and regret tonight. So, I pulled back, and ran my own pace.

By the time I finished it was gone 8pm and the impending darkness (!) and rain, spray and cloud meant visibility was really poor. I splashed across the line, minced over the mud, collected my bike and legged it. I’d taken a change of clothes and a towel. What a laugh. My transition box was actually filled with water and everything inside was drenched.

I had no idea what my time was, since my Garmin gave up somewhere around 10km into the bike. But Human Race are an efficient lot, so it didn’t take long for results to be online:

Finish 01:24:27 (a PW? 😉 )
750m swim: 00:14:46
T1: …computer says 16 minutes. It wasn’t that slow 😉
20km bike (taking it very easy!): 00:41:49
T2 (with blue fingers): 00:01:58
5km run: 00:24:35

Next stop, Little Woody. Wish me luck! And let me know via a comment below, or on Twitter (@thefitwriter) if you’re racing (Big or Little!) too – see you there!

Swim, bike, swim, run, swim is a post from The Fit Writer blog


Countdown to the Little Woody

August 23, 2010

And so Little Woody week has arrived. I’ve done my last long ride, my last long off-road run. I’ve even been to the swimming pool! And yesterday:

This happened

Uh oh

Yep

It looks like we’re camping on site the night before the race…


How to train any time, anywhere

August 18, 2010

As I might possibly have mentioned, you know, once or twice 😉 I became an Auntie for the first time on Friday. My sister lives in Kent, where we grew up, but I live a couple of hours’ drive away now. Therefore, when I got the call that my nephew was on his way, I packed the car knowing I wouldn’t be back for a few days. Babies being babies, I had no idea how long he’d take to arrive or how long I’d be needed for. (As it turns out, I was right to pack for longer than expected!) But I did know that I was going to be away, and running on a very odd schedule, during my last key training week for the Little Woody.

So what did I do? Write off a week of training? No fear. Give myself a few days off, then promise to cram all the training in when I got back? Erm, no.

I put swim, bike and run kit in the car, along with a coolbag full of necessary eats and drinks, and printed out my training schedule.

And, you know what? Being at my Dad’s for a long weekend, spending lots of time with my sister and nephew at the hospital, and keeping highly questionable hours made for some great R&R. Not rest and relaxation, silly. Running (and riding) and reminiscing.

I didn’t stick to my training plan 100%, I’ll admit. Friday’s morning swim made way for…well, for my nephew actually being born and for me getting to see him at just an hour old. But I got Friday’s evening run in, and it was a good ‘un: high on adrenalin and endorphins, I tackled the Road of Remembrance in Folkestone (it’s a hill) at a good pace. That’s how Aunties roll, you see 😉

Saturday’s long ride made way for a run, because it was pouring with rain. But it turned into one of the nicest runs I’ve done all year.

Devil's Kneading Trough, Wye

I ran from Wye (near the hospital) through beautiful little villages to a village called Stowting where I lived with my sister when we were kids. Then I ran back to Wye, using the North Downs Way byways and paths along which I used to ride my little fat horse when I was younger. Nostalgic doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Sunday was blowing a gale, but I absolutely had to get my 3-hour ride (and short brick) in, so I set off from my Dad’s negotiating some hairy dual carriageway before heading into the Kent countryside and following my nose, led mostly by memories of horse-riding, relative-visiting and pub-lunching of yesteryear. I only got lost once. Hilariously, I ended up popping out at a T-junction, looking around to see where I was and realising I was about 100 yards from the hospital. My nephew must be magnetic ;)!

I missed another swim because I wanted to see my “oldest friend in the world” (we’ve known each other for 30 years…!) and meet her baby. I think that’s a good enough excuse. But, all in all, I don’t think I did too badly. I did all the key training sessions over a long weekend at the peak of my training plan.

Just setting a good example for the kids. I’m an Auntie now, after all 😉

How to stick to your training plan when you’re out of your routine:

  • pack everything you think you might need. You don’t know how long you’ll be away for
  • don’t forget things like bottles of sports drink/powder, and a multi-tool
  • don’t leave one set of kit (swim/bike/run) at home. You’ll kick yourself if you find a great local pool or gorgeous run route
  • even if you’ve only got 30 minutes, you can still get some valuable training in
  • use the time away to explore new (or old) routes, rediscover places you’ve forgotten, and see some new sights
  • see it as a challenge – my bike ride was windy, I knew the roads would be busy, and I had no idea where to go. All the more reason to feel dead chuffed once I’d actually done it
  • make it social. I had every intention of persuading my Dad to come swimming with me, had I actually made it to the pool!

PS I didn’t take any pictures, so I googled for images to illustrate this post. I found this lovely blog post about the bit of the NDW I ran on Saturday – the images are from there. Thank you, blogger!


Riding the Little Woody course (and R2 giveaway)

August 12, 2010

And the Little Woody looms closer. It’s a half-Ironman/middle distance triathlon in the Forest of Dean and I can’t remember when (or why) I signed up to it, but it’s now only a few weeks away. I’ve done a half-Ironman distance triathlon before, so it’s not a first, but I would like to get a better result than at the Vitruvian in 2005. Although, of course, it’s impossible to compare different races.

Little Woody is a 1900m lake swim, 98km bike and 21km (aka half-marathon) run. The bike is renowned for being somewhat hilly, and the run is a mixture of trails, paths and other surfaces. Good-oh!

I’ve been quietly freaking out about the bike course, despite making great improvements in my bike confidence and performance this year. (You can read some of my sportive reports here, here and here). So, this weekend, whilst we were visiting my inlaws in Wiltshire, we decided to drive over to the Forest of Dean and ride the Little Woody bike course.

I was wibbling before we even got on the bikes. I don’t know why. It was horrible, reminding me of the bad old days when I’d send myself spiralling down into a whirl of negative thought processes about road-riding even on simple sunny jaunts around my local roads. Just outside the carpark, cars were flying past on an A-road, and I remembered some of the hills our car had groaned her way up to get here. I honestly nearly said “let’s not bother”, but then I got over myself.

We set off, joining the course at what will be about the 20km point on the actual race. The busy A-road road almost immediately pitched steeply, sending me careering downhill at more than 25mph before I’d had time to settle into the ride. As a car passed too close, my bike started wobbling crazily. I skidded to a halt, shouted my husband’s name until my throat hurt, and started to walk. Surely there was something wrong with the bike? Maybe I hadn’t put the wheels on properly? That wobbling was terrifying.

Husband arrived back (having had to come all the way back up the hill) and checked my bike carefully, even riding it up and down the hill himself. No wobbles. I must have hit the rumblestrip, or…something. I don’t know. 6 minutes into the ride and I was already close to crying with nerves. So far, so 2003. I had to get on with it.

Once we were off that A-road, things got a thousand times better. A good road surface, much fewer cars and stunning scenery. I was even down on my aero-bars.

From Five Acres, near Coleford, the route took us through Park End and Bream before joining the A48 at Alvington. Then it was a long stretch of the A48, through Blakeney and Newnham, before turning off for Micheldean. I nibbled my jam sandwiches in Nibley and we were buzzed by two buzzards near Flaxley Abbey. I reached 33mph going down a hill.

We got caught in a couple of heavy rainstorms which flooded the roads and filled my shoes with water in a matter of seconds. Passing cars sent waves of water over me, one of which soaked me to the waist, and conditions got a bit hairy.

The final third of the route was a beautiful stretch along the River Wye before a cruel climb up to English Bicknor. I’d heard this was the toughest climb on the course (we have to do it twice in the race!) so I was feeling pretty pleased with myself when I got up it feeling great. Then I realised there was another bit to do. A sneaky sharp bit, just when you think you’ve done it all.

Just over 75kms of riding, with 841m of climbing and a max elevation of 239m.

I was really glad to have ridden (most of) the course. It wasn’t as tough as I’d imagined, and I coped well, which gave me a massive confidence boost. It’s a hard, hilly course – hardly any of it’s flat – but nothing I can’t do. I’m not sure I could have said the same a few months ago!

Of course, this being triathlon training, I couldn’t stop once I got off the bike. A quick change in the leisure centre (big up Forest Leisure for letting us use the car park and changing rooms) and then I was off on a (very short!) run. I had no idea where the Little Woody run course was so didn’t bother trying to find it. I just ran round the field for a bit, and threw in a couple of chin-ups on the school equipment just for the hell of it.

I arrived back at the car just as husband was laughing his head off at my bike wheels. The rear one had filled with water during the rainstorms and was hugely heavier than the other one. I hadn’t even noticed. I’d just assumed I was getting tired. Training with a wheel full of water: perhaps some new resistance technique that British Cycling could adopt?!

Here’s me stuffing my face after a long ride and a short run. My mother-in-law made us a breakfast cake which was perfect for after a ride (and, er, before it too). Here’s the recipe.

GIVEAWAY

That bottle of drink next to me is grapefruit and orange R2. R2 is a nice choice for rehydrating because it helps replace vitamins, minerals and electrolytes as well as fluid. I wouldn’t rely on it for energy during exercise (although I have used it during pool sessions, and I have used it on the bike – one bottle of R2, one bottle of energy drink), but it’s great for afterwards. I prefer to water it down a bit (R2, please don’t now tell me I’m wrecking the electrolyte balance!), but that’s just how I roll.

The goodly folk at R2 have sent me a nice taster pack of the three R2 flavours (full size bottles, in a nice presentation box). They’re yours for the taking. Just reply in the comments, or send me a message on Twitter (@thefitwriter) using the hashtag #r2comp telling me: what’s your favourite thing to eat or drink during exercise?

Entry closes midnight UK time, Friday 13th August. I’ll number the entries and pick a winner at random. 🙂


65 sportive miles

May 31, 2010

2010 is the year of the bike. I’ve been using my training bike on long commutes, and my husband recently gave me his tri bike (a beautiful and light Quintana Roo Lucero – full carbon frame) since he doesn’t do tri any more.

I’ve never done a standalone bike event before. It’s been some time since I’ve done any sport event which is new to me. So, last week, I entered a sportive as a Bank Holiday challenge: a bit outside my comfort zone and good training for the Little Woody long course triathlon.

Never mind the fact that I’ve only ridden “Venus” (as I call the Lucero – husband used to call her “The Widow-maker”…I wasn’t keen on keeping that name) twice before. Never mind the fact that husband got a bit keen and put a tri-spoke wheel on her the day before the race. Never mind that the race was “approximately” 63 miles – a good 10 miles more than I’ve ever ridden in one go before. It’s only training, and it’s all good!

So, 6:30am yesterday saw me forcing down breakfast and compiling a stash of food (most of which I brought back with me – I need to learn to eat on the bike even if I don’t feel hungry):

Oat cakes, gels, sports drink, recovery drink and Joe. The stuff in the plastic bag is banana loaf. This is the only thing I ended up eating.

The sportive – the Sussex/Surrey Scramble hosted by UK Cycling Events and Wiggle – started in Pulborough and took in some lovely roads between the North and South Downs. I did the standard distance (as opposed to epic – 95 miles), billed as 63.5 miles.

The set-up was very laid-back and friendly. There was no set start time (it was chip timed), so I parked up, got ready, asked the man in the car next to me to take a picture (“because it’s my first bike race”…!)

Yellow!


and then I lined up with a group of friendly chaps at the start line.

It was a beautiful day for biking and the route was lovely. There were some climbs, but you wouldn’t call them hills and, anyway, Venus’s gearing and wheel size make both climbing and cruising a breeze.

However, the difference in size between her big and small chain ring make it more difficult to change gear than I am used to. As a result, the chain came off….eight times over the course of the race. Argh! Rather that than a puncture, I suppose… Some of the time, I was so reluctant to attempt changing down, I resorted to climbing in my big chain ring which is good training but not so good for the knees.

Anyway, chain-issues aside, I had a ball. The bike is gorgeous and some day I hope to be a good enough rider to do her justice. It really is something to be bowling along a flat bit of road at 25mph without really trying. And it’s a lovely feeling to “dance” up hills (in the small chainring!), overtaking real roadie riders in some cases! (They were probably doing the longer route and therefore saving themselves, but I don’t need to know that.) And I’ve never descended at nearly 40mph on a road bike before. Eye-watering!

I only stopped at one of the feed stations, but it was a funny moment. True to her name, Venus attracted the stares of many an onlooker, and these two chaps asked to hold her whilst I went to stuff my face with free Swiss-roll refuel on High5 goodies. I came back to this sight:

The rest of the ride continued in much the same vein, with me singing ditties to Venus, cursing rough road surfaces, putting my chain back on and trying to maintain a high-enough average pace to get a Gold-standard finish time (type-A personality, moi?)

By about 40 miles in, I was still having a great time but could tell I was running low on energy. I find it tricky to eat during sport when I’m not hungry but, of course, by the time you are hungry it’s too late. I need to learn to eat in the first half of the ride to survive the second half!

There were a couple of hairy moments, one involving two cars and me…it was more my fault than theirs and if they’re reading this, I really apologise. I couldn’t see you til it was too late and then I couldn’t see a safe way to stop. :-/

At about 53 miles in, the organisers saw fit to send us up a hill (and yes this one was a “hill” rather than an undulation!”) which went on for a couple of miles. It was a single-track road, and the road surface was bad. And, at the top, it was difficult make the most of the descent because the sunlight coming through the tree-cover made it impossible to see what was a pot-hole and what was a shadow. My average time plummeted!

At 62 miles, I started to look for the finish. At 63 miles, my chain came off again. I may have cried a small tear and called Venus a bad name. At 64 miles, I wondered if I’d missed a sign-post and was cycling into the unknown. At 65 miles, HOORAY, I saw the finish and skidded to a halt.

By far the best bit about finishing was seeing my friend Lucy waiting for me at the finish line. Lucy was one of the Tough Titties two-way Channel relay team and, like me, is also a Channel solo swimmer and round-Jersey swimmer. Dressed in white, she looked like an angelic apparition. I wanted to hug her but didn’t want to mess her up, so we asked another finisher to snap our pic. Sorry about the closed eyes. I am Earl Hickey.

Dirty hands, clean mind

After a chat with Lucy, a cup of tea, and a wetwipe from a passer-by, I set off home. All I wanted to do was collapse.

Now I’ve got to learn about my new chainset so I can change gear with confidence every time!

My bike mechanic, tutor and coach 🙂


My time was 4:08:00 for 65 miles (not including those feed/chain stops). I was 68th of the 191 “standard” distance finishers (lots of DNFs) and 7th of the 30 female riders who finished. Whoop!


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