How to get your triathlon wetsuit on…and off

April 21, 2011

In my capacity as an age-grouper triathlete and triathlon feature-writer, I’m often asked the best, easiest and quickest way to get a triathlon wetsuit on and off. When someone asked me the question on Twitter today, I thought – why not write a quick “how-to” blog post. The open-water training venues are opening up very soon and the first triathlons of the season won’t be far behind. And I daresay this glorious sunshine will tempt a few of you into the open-water. But it’s a bit chilly to go without a wetsuit just yet (don’t be fooled by the air temperature!) And why swim without a wetsuit when the event you’re training for dictates you wear one?

So, here they are: my top tips for getting that skin-tight triathlon wetsuit on – and then off again!

Getting your wetsuit on

Remember a couple of things: firstly, no prizes for being the fastest person to put their suit on. Secondly: yes, it really should feel that tight (it will loosen off a little once you’re in the water, which is all that matters).

The clock doesn’t start ticking til the starter sets you off on the swim. So you can take as long as you like. Leave yourself plenty of time and find a cool spot (it’s amazing how hot and sweaty you get struggling into a wetsuit). Take your secret weapon (thank you to my triathlon pro and super-speedy swimmer pal Richard Stannard for this tip):

Yes, the common carrier bag. Put the carrier bag on one foot, like a sock. Slide that foot into the suit (the leghole, obvs). Take the bag/sock off, repeat on the other side. You should now have the suit on both legs, up to about the knees.

Pull it up. The zip should be at the back. You now need to make sure the groinal area of the suit (I know groinal’s not a word, but how I wish it were) is right up into your groin. Do this by inching the suit up, from below the knees if necessary, in tiny steps. Don’t yank and pull at it – therein lies a future of rips and tears to your suit. Use the pads of your fingers to pinch a bit of suit, and pull it up a few inches…and repeat all over the legs until the groin is in the right place.

Now check there are no rucks or folds behind your knees. This+swimming=ouch.

OK now check the time. Is your wave nearly ready to go? If so, proceed to the next step. If not, leave things here for a while. You really don’t want to be walking round for ages completely zipped up into your wetsuit on a hot day.

Put one arm and then the other into the suit (different arm holes). Then repeat the process you went through with the legs, but with the arms, making sure the suit fits right into your armpits. This is really important. So, inch the neoprene up in tiny bits from the wrists until it fits properly. Get someone to help you if necessary, don’t feel shy to ask, after all you need to keep your strength for the triathlon and it can be exhausting getting a wetsuit on!

Once your arms and legs are in and your groin and armpits are aligned with the relevant bits of the wetsuit, it’s time to zip up. Again, don’t do this if you have a long wait for your swim, it’s just not worth getting overheated.

Ask someone to help you zip the suit up (you may need to breathe out and draw your shoulders together right back behind you). They’ll need to press the velcro flap down over the top of the zip. Get them to hand you the end of your zip leash (if that’s what it’s called?) so you’re confident you can find it on swim exit.

Now just a couple of things to do to really check your suit is fitted snugly. Bend forward at the waist and grab any spare neoprene around your stomach. Yes, it really is neoprene and no I will not believe it is your belly. You are a triathlete! You have trained!

Ease any spare neoprene up, over the boobs (if you’re a lady…) and onto your upper chest/shoulder area. This is really the only area where you want any ‘spare’ neoprene. Can you grab a fistful of neoprene in that dent in front of your shoulder/under your collarbone? That’s OK. Can you grab a fistful of neoprene anywhere else? This is not so OK.

Check again for folds and creases in your elbows and behind your knees – get rid of them.

You’re ready to go (assuming you have your hat and goggles on). Enjoy.

Getting the wetsuit off

OK so you’re out of the swim. Time really does count now so it pays to practise getting your wetsuit off as fast as you can. What makes that super-tight wetsuit come off quickly? The layer of water inside. So act quickly before the water drains out. Here’s the drill.

Stand up out of the water, pop your goggles on top of your head, and start to run/walk towards transition. Immediately, reach behind you for your zipper leash and pull.

As you run/walk along, take one arm and then the other out until the suit is flapping around your waist.

Get to your bike and roll the suit down to your knees. Then lift one leg and the other until you can pull one foot free. Use that foot to stand on the other leg of the wetsuit, so you can pull the other foot free.

You’re done!

If you struggle with this technique, experience dizziness after the swim (me too) or feel a bit flustered, there’s no shame at all in just sitting down by your bike and pulling your suit off whilst you sit on the ground.

Hope that helps!

Do you have any tips or personal experiences to add? Please do!

Edited to add: My friend Dick (yes, really) has alerted me to the fact that “groinal” is, in fact, a word. Thanks, Dick!

How to get your triathlon wetsuit on…and off is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Giving it a tri

February 27, 2011

I hope you’ve had a nice weekend. I had lots of family over today, including my Auntie Rose, who has decided to take up triathlon. Now, it’s terribly rude to talk about a lady’s age but, if I tell you that I’m 33, you can probably work out for yourself that my Auntie is not quite a teenager. So I think it is fantastic that she is training for her first triathlon.

Auntie Rose and my little sister 20+ years ago yesterday πŸ˜‰ – sorry both of you, ha ha!

Auntie Rose is no couch potato – she’s a good swimmer and plays tennis (very well, I’m told) regularly. But triathlon is quite a challenge for anyone.

Before lunch, she picked a few products from my cardboard boxes of items I’ve kit tested for magazines (PRs, if you want them back, please just ask – Auntie Rose has only borrowed them). And, over lunch, she picked my brains about the mysteries of brick sessions, transitions, race belts and lock laces.

I’m thrilled to be able to help her out and can’t wait to cheer her on in her first race. And I’m delighted to have someone else sporty in the family!

I’ve asked her if she’ll do a few guests posts on this blog as her training progresses. If there’s any part of the learning curve you’d like her to write about, please let me know.

Did you take up a particular sport later on in life? Would you ever consider doing a triathlon?

I’ve got an exciting day lined up tomorrow with one big bit of kit to test and a talk to give at an industry event. I also owe you a blog post about fitness kit I’ve tested this week – some interesting stuff! I’ll blog again soon…

Giving it a tri is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Guest post: Nicky at Run To Live on Ironman training

February 7, 2011

Today’s guest post is from Nicky at Run To Live. Nicky started running with her Dad when she was 10 and has never really stopped. She’s completed 14 marathons and one Ironman triathlon to date and is training for a few more this year. She manages fibromyalgia, which she says sometimes hampers training but never enthusiasm!

Here’s Nicky on Ironman training. (For those of you who don’t know, Ironman refers to a long distance triathlon: 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and marathon (26.2 mile) run.)

Training for an Ironman isn’t something you do overnight. It takes months and sometimes even years of preparation for something that will last a maximum of 16 hours. Outside of that cut off time, you cannot call yourself an Ironman even if you finish the course.

“You’ve done an Ironman!”, friends and colleagues exclaim. It sounds grand, but often it only takes an extra dose of ignorance (of what to expect) or stubbornness to complete it. There is no doubt that Ironman triathlon uses all of your emotional tools against you, sometimes at your weakest moments. But my friends at Run To Live and I have learned that all you need is courage, determination and a little bit of luck to get to the finish line.

I mention this as we have again just embarked on an Ironman journey, this time with friends in tow. On the first weekend in August we’ll all be toeing the start line in Regenburg, Germany for the second running of the event. It’s been really interesting to watch their approach to training and compare.

(photo by Laurie King)

That’s Jules. She’s our ring leader. She’s always there, never shirks and doesn’t rely on rubbish excuses that some of us throw in when we can’t be arsed. She’s the one who borrowed her Dad’s climbing helmet to cycle in when she forgot to take her own. She’s the one who will get in and do her 100 lengths without the chit chat. Determined, focussed, capable.

Phil is our panicker. He does every training session, adds extra and thinks he’s still isn’t doing enough. Everything is 100%, which results in some amazing improvements but is also the same highway to burnout. We’re keeping an eye on him. πŸ˜‰

Laurie is the frustrating beginner who picks everything up so quickly (he’ll be blushing when he reads this). The one who threw himself into the lake last year not being able to swim (Note: cheap wetsuits from Sainsbury do not help you to float!) Now he can comfortably do 100 laps in an hour while we are still struggling. He can cycle for hours at a really fast pace. Fast is fun to Laurie. Running is his achilles heel at the moment. A stress fracture and sprained ankle have hampered his plans to go long right now. But he’ll be fine, we don’t worry about him at all.

If you have the guts and determination to have a go, which one would you be? In the meantime, you can follow our progress to the start line at Run To Live.

Thanks Nicky, and best of luck to all of you! My husband did Ironman Switzerland some years ago and I was there as a spectator and supporter – completing the course (regardless of speed) is no mean feat and I take my hat off to all of you. I’ll be keeping an eye on your progress via your blog!

Guest post: Nicky at Run To Live on Ironman training is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Sports journalism: Nicola Joyce interview

November 12, 2010

This week I was asked by the website Essential Writers to talk a little about my journalistic niche: sport and fitness. The interview is now up on the Essential Writers site; if you’re interested in how to get into sports journalism or just want to read what I have to say about the job, the perks and the challenges, head over and have a look.

Here’s an extract:

It’s difficult to untangle my career as a sportswriter from my own adventures in sport and fitness. In fact, I don’t think I’d be doing this job had it not been for one, rather special, sporting achievement. This is how it happened:

I made the decision to become a freelancer when I was made redundant and moved out of London. It seemed like as good a time as any to pursue a career in writing (something I’d always wanted to do). Initially, I took on copywriting clients, but knew I really wanted to write features for sport and fitness magazines.

I just needed a way to get my foot in the door. At the time, I was just a few weeks away from swimming the English Channel (the first of two successful swims, as it would turn out). If I couldn’t pitch a first-person piece about swimming the Channel, it was unlikely I had what it takes to be a freelance writer of sport-related features…

Thanks to Essential Writers for inviting me to be part of their specialist genres pages.

Sports journalism: Nicola Joyce interview is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

How a swimming journalist works

November 8, 2010

Whilst the majority of my work days are spent at my desk researching, sending pitches, looking for case studies and writing, my work as a triathlon and swimming journalist does take me to some less-typical “office spaces”.

Remember the time I had a coaching session in London’s Serpentine Lido with Keri-Anne Payne’s open-water coach and then wrote up my notes from this deck-chair in Hyde Park?

Or the times I conducted interviews with Liam Tancock and Bill Furniss on the side of a swimming pool whilst in a towel (me, not Liam or Bill)?

Not to mention that one time I interviewed top triathlete Tim Don. He was in an ice-bath, in his pants. He said it was OK!

Last week I had a couple of bits of triathlon kit to test for 220 Triathlon and Triathlete’s World, so took myself to Hampton Lido (I know! It’s heated: what’s happened to me? Well, you try and find a body of open-water in Berkshire in November. Not easy.)

Here she is: 36m of heated loveliness under the crisp November air

After testing some great goggles and a really exciting yet-to-be-released wetsuit (keep your eyes on 220 Triathlon and Triathlete’s World for the reviews!), I went up to the lido’s roof cafe to write my notes.

Bypassing the array of giant muffins and cookies the size of my face, of course (since I’m currently on week 6 of 8…)

And this was my peaceful view.

Do you sometimes get to work somewhere other than your office? And do you have an interesting view from your desk?

How a swimming journalist works is a post from The Fit Writer blog

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? πŸ˜‰

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 πŸ˜‰ .

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!),Β 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…. πŸ˜‰

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

The Little Woody in pictures

August 29, 2010

Full report to come πŸ™‚

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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? πŸ˜‰ )
750m swim: 00:14:46
T1: …computer says 16 minutes. It wasn’t that slow πŸ˜‰
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


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

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.


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. πŸ™‚

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