1st place in a bike race!

July 26, 2010

I was down in Kent on Saturday, seeing family at the annual Joyce get together. It just so happened that, on the Sunday, there was a 50-mile bike sportive just a few miles away on the Romney Marsh. So I had to do it, right?

I’ve mentioned a few times that I’m training for the Little Woody, a half-Ironman distance triathlon in…er…a few weeks time. So what I really need to do is some long bike rides, immediately followed by some long runs. The obvious thing to do, then, was this 50-mile sportive and then a long run, back in the direction of my Dad’s house. Easy…!

The one downside of the sportive in terms of Little Woody training is that (being on the Romney Marsh), it was dead flat (more like a 50 mile time trial really). Whereas the Little Woody course is Not Flat.

So, on Saturday, I took it upon myself to eat at least two Joyce-family-members-worth of party food, loading up on pizza, rice salad and, um, cake in readiness for a hard bike and run the next day. I even steered clear of Uncle Chris’s elderflower champagne.

Next day, husband and I drove to St Mary in the Marsh, west of Dymchurch, for the sportive. It’s a low-key affair, more of a charity ride (with a 10-mile route aimed at families), and we had no idea how many riders would have entered. I actually thought we might be the only people doing the 50 miler. But as we drove along the seafront, we saw groups of club riders all kitted out in their matching jerseys, and I actually felt a bit better knowing that I’d have some competition. Sure enough, as we went to get our numbers, a chap riding a Cervelo slipped in behind us, and the two guys in front of us were busy talking about some sportive they were doing soon near Crystal Palace. As ever at a bike event, there weren’t many women, but I did see plenty, including some riding for cycling clubs.

Me demonstrating by the power of arm-gesture how flat the surroundings are

The plan was to finish as close to 2 hours 30 minutes as possible (that’s 20mph). The course really is completely flat, but the wind out on the Romney Marsh can be brutal because the landscape is so open.

Oh – before I go on – want a laugh?

Here’s the profile of last week’s sportive (maximum elevation – 250 metres)

And here’s the profile of this one I’m on about (maximum elevation – 25 metres)

Off we went, following the circular 50-mile route which took us out towards Dymchurch, through Burmarsh and out to West Hythe, back to Newchurch and then out to Ruckinge and Ham Street. Early on in the race, a group came towards us (going the wrong way) and we stopped to ask what was wrong. They told us we were going the wrong way (we weren’t – for one thing, we were following the arrows which had numbers 1-52 on them, and for another thing, we had a map. As did they, presumably!) We carried on the way we were going, annoyed that we’d stopped at all!

It wasn’t a windy day, but even a bit of wind is a real pain out on the marsh because there’s nothing to shelter you. At points in the race, it was a bit of a slog against a headwind, but we just had to hope that it would turn into a tailwind as the circular route progressed.

We saw the group going the wrong way again – they seemed to be doing the route but backwards. I’ve no idea how they’d managed it. And they were club cyclists! (I’d hate to see them try and do an Audax!)

At a couple of points on the route, the organisers sent us over a busy A-road and insisted we got off and walked across with our bikes…bit of a shame but we had no choice.

Other than that (and stopping to talk to the backwards cyclists!), it was head down and push on like a long time trial.
Husband did a grand job of setting off in front to hold our agreed pace, look out for the route signs, tell me about oncoming traffic and point out poor road surfaces. All I had to do was ride. And I loved it! We were holding 34-35kph quite easily for long stretches and it felt great.

There was an aid station but we flew through it. I wasn’t going to waste time eating a flapjack if I was only going to be riding for about 2 1/2 hours.

The ‘hill’ was nothing, but it was noticeable, if only because I’d been in the same position (down on my aero-bars) and in the same gear for almost all of the race. So, in a way, it was a nice change of pace to actually have to change down a couple of gears, quickly get up out of the saddle and push on.

Otherwise, it was flat, flat, flat. The organisers set the riders off at intervals, and we’d overtaken a few groups who set off before us within the first 10 miles. We hadn’t seen anyone else for ages and I wondered if we were going to be the first riders home. As it turned out, there were two just ahead of us, but we rolled in in 2 hours 42 and I was told I was first lady “by a million miles!” (Enthusiastic, if not strictly accurate)

Of course, just because I was first lady home, I might not have been first lady over all. A female rider who started after me could still be quicker. But, by the time I set off on my run, no other women had finished. I was first female finisher!

I couldn’t hang around long to revel in my little victory, as I had to run. I changed my top and shoes, put my ipod on and totally forgot to have a drink (!) Then I set off, heading for the seafront, determined to keep my pace slow (and my heart-rate slower) as I know this is what I need to do if I’m going to get through the Little Woody.

And I felt fine! 50 miles of caning it on a time trial bike and my legs felt great. 5kms went by without me even noticing it, and then I was on the sea wall at Dymchurch, heading east towards Hythe, sweating my way through the chip-eating Kent holiday makers.

I passed a lovely hour trotting along at 8:30 minute miling, and then I had to get off the seawall/promenade and run along the main road into Hythe, which wasn’t so great. At this point, I started to feel not so great myself. My heart rate started shooting through the roof, and I made myself walk to get it down each time this happened. I was absolutely soaked with sweat, but my arms were goose-bumpy. I’d told husband I’d try to get “to the icecream van” (gotta have a goal!) in Seabrook, but I knew that was too far.

So I stopped, pulled out the trusty iPhone and called him. “I can’t go on!” I claimed. “Please come and get me from Hythe.”

I trotted on for a bit, and bought a lolly in a newsagents. It was only 20p but I dropped £1 into the big freezer. The newsagent man can have it for being nice and not complaining about me coming into his shop looking such a state.

That 20p lolly was the best thing I’ve ever eaten. Cold, sugary, lemony. I ate a bit, ran a bit, ate a bit, ran a bit. Someone in a car laughed at me and I wondered how funny they’d find a 20p lolly if they won a 50-mile sportive then ran 9 miles. Idiot.

I just finished my lolly and then there was my knight in shining Renault, brandishing a big bottle of orange juice and water, which I put away in about 10 seconds flat. He told me I looked quite pale. “Drive me to the sea!” I wailed. “I have to jump in the sea!”

So I did, had a quick swim, and felt a lot better.


50 mile sportive, 9.5 mile run. That’s some brick!


How not to race in hot weather

July 12, 2010

Or “losing my bottle”.

Yesterday was a scorcher, wasn’t it? I was racing at Dorney in the Bananaman triathlon (nothing to do with 29 Acacia Road) and my wave set off at 12:45. If you were in Berkshire yesterday you’d know it was very hot, very sunny and pretty windy. Not ideal for any triathlon but particularly not one taking place in the hottest part of the day.

By the way, my phone ran out of battery so this post contains no pics. To my readers who only come here for the photos (hi Sam), you might want to come back later in the week.

I wanted to do this race because I did it last year, and I think it’s only really relevant to compare race times from the same event. Races can vary so much, particularly with size of transition or distance from the swim exit to your bike, and it kind of makes comparing two random Olympic-distances races a bit silly.

I’ll be honest with you though, I wasn’t really feeling the love yesterday morning. I had such a busy week last week and really enjoyed a Saturday doing not much. As the clock ticked on towards that late race start, I had a hard time getting up off the sofa and packing my bag. But I did, reasoning that if nothing else it’s all good training.

I got to Dorney and looked at the trees bending in the wind. Now, Dorney’s a great venue but it’s completely unsheltered from wind and sun. Six laps round the lake on the bike meant six knee-grinding goes into a headwind and six desperate attempts to make the time up again on the way back. Three loops on the run meant…well…7.5km of harsh running under the glare of the sun.

Bananaman is an 800m swim, 30km bike, 7.5km run. Why? I don’t know. It just is. I did pretty well last year, finishing 8th in my age group with a really strong run (34:25 for the 7.5km). This year, I reckoned I’d have a pretty shoddy swim, a decent bike (despite the wind) and a slower run than last year. I calculated that I might just be able to scrape a faster time over all, but really wasn’t sure.

I was convinced the lake would be 22*C+ and wetsuits would therefore be banned, but evidently they’d found a cool patch somewhere when they went out with the thermometer, because wetties were optional. I racked my bike (had a really nice spot with tons of room) and chatted to the lady next to me who was doing her first open-water swim. In fact we both nearly missed the start because we were talking too much.

SWIM
I positioned myself right at the front for the swim, up for a bit of a bunfight. I wasn’t disappointed; I was still having my ankles grabbed at the final buoy. The only time I could get clear of people was turning at the buoys, for some reason I seemed to be getting round them with less trouble than the women around me.

BIKE
A couple of schoolboy errors in T1 and then I was out on my bike, caught up in a big pack leaving transition at the same time. I got into a big gear straightaway and left them behind. Down on the tri-bars, I overtook a few faster swimmers within the first few kms. The headwind was strong but, coming back down the other side of the lake, I was holding 45kph and keeping my average above 30kph which was what I wanted.

At the end of lap one – just 4km into the bike leg – disaster struck. My one drink bottle fell out of its cage, bounced once and rolled to the side of the course. I stared in front of me, brain working overtime, as I spun onwards. OK….I now have no drink. I’ve got 25km of cycling to do. It’s hot, really hot, and I’ve got to ride into that headwind five more times. I’ve then got to get off the bike and run 7.5km and, if I want to even think about placing in my age-group, I need to run well.

I thought about all of this during the next lap and, as I approached my bottle (now propped up by the edge of the road by a marshall), I considered getting off and picking it up. I had no idea what would have more of an impact on my time…changing down into a smaller gear, decelerating, getting off, getting on again (etc) or finishing the race with no fluids.

On each lap, I stared down at the bottle momentarily. On each lap, I couldn’t bear to get off the bike and on again.

I pushed on, thinking I’d allow myself just to get through the run rather than placing any pressure on myself. I had a couple of gels even though you really should take those things with water.

RUN
Off the bike, a quick shoe-mishap and I was in T2 gulping my spare bottle of drink. Then it was out onto that hot, flat, unforgiving run course.

Like last week, I used the first lap of the run to count the women in front of me to determine my position. The first woman was miles in front of anyone else, young, rangy and determined. Then came two and three, on each other’s shoulders, fighting their own battle. I counted four, five, six..and stopped counting at 12. Oh well. There was no way in the world I was going to overtake anyone and there was every chance I’d be caught by more than one. I watched my pace hovering around 7:45minute/miling and then dropping.

At each water station I downed a cup and dumped a second one over my head. The road was shimmering in the heat. On the second and third laps, I was overtaking people but I think they were runners on their first lap. As predicted, I was overtaken by two women looking pretty strong.

With 1km to go, I tried my best to pick my pace up. I could see from my watch that I would be cutting it fine to get a PB on the course (a small victory given the circumstances). The thought of the woman brandishing the hosepipe spurred me on and I crossed the line in 1:55:20 – 23seconds faster than last year’s time.

Oh, that hosepipe was nice.

Lesson learned: never, ever carry just one drink bottle. As for the question of what makes you slower: stopping to pick the bottle up, or racing dehydrated…I don’t know.

Bananaman triathlon (800m/30km/7.5m)
Finish time: 1:55:20 (last year 1:55:53)
Swim: 15:09 (15:07)
T1: 1:41 (1:35)
Bike: 59:54 (1:03:27)
T2: 1:15 (1:19)
Run: 37:19 (34:25)

I was 12th female (26th last year) and 5th in my age group (8th last year).


Windsor Triathlon race report live on Sportsister

July 12, 2010

When I blogged about the Windsor Triathlon, I mentioned that I couldn’t give a full write-up because I’d been commissioned by Sportsister to race and report back.

My article has just gone live, so if you fancy a read follow this link.

Whilst you’re there, have a click around on Sportsister’s site. It’s a great resource. If you live in London, you’ll be able to pick up a paper copy of the monthly magazine, too.

Other articles I’ve written for Sportsister:
Getting started guide for open-water swimming
Interview with track star Laura Kenney about growing up with a sporty sibling


3rd place in my 2nd race of the week

July 2, 2010

I mentioned earlier that this is a busy week, with three races. Race one was a trail 10K on Tuesday night. Race two was at 3pm today – the Marketing Industry Triathlon. I only had time to do the Sprint race (you think I’m joking!), which is a 750m open-water swim, a 20k bike and a 5k run. That’s fine by me, I quite like sprint triathlons, for the same reason that I prefer 5k running races to 10ks: they’re short enough to really be able to attack at close to 100% and you know you can hang on because the end will be here soon!

Client Jeremy (you know Jeremy) had said he’d to the race with me but then took the (sensible) decision to defer his debut until he’d actually done some triathlon training. So I was all alone (hence lack of pictures!). Well, me and the 71 other people in the Sprint race (and the hundreds of people in the other race distances on offer today).

I know Dorney well from my coaching days there, and it’s just a perfect venue for triathlon. Pancake flat, fast, traffic free, great for spectators. The only downsides are the total lack of shade and the epic walk to and from the car-park areas.

Transition - ready


I registered, set my transition area up and bought a gel. Ate a banana. Wondered if I’d eaten too much lunch or too little. Wished I hadn’t worn heels at this morning’s breakfast networking meeting.

3pm’s a weird time to race. Triathletes are more used to, say, ooh I don’t know, 6am. Even in the height of Summer, 6am isn’t hot. 3pm, however….is. Today was muggy and humid. I put my wetsuit on at the last minute, and got into the water at the first opportunity. Ah, lovely!

SWIM
The starter talked us through the course, cracked a few jokes and then we were off. Feeling more confident about my swimming since my coaching session with Bill Furniss (blog post on that coming soon), I’d positioned myself aggressively (assertively?) at the front and in the middle. It was the right decision – I was off with the first pack and had clear water. At the first buoy, two people either side veered towards each other and swam over me. I couldn’t get free of them and took a mouthful of water and an elbow to the head. I tried not to get rattled and put some power down, finally getting clear of the most erratic of the two.

The swim seemed to be over relatively quickly, although I didn’t check my watch. In a sprint race, every second really does count. I ran to my bike, whipped the wetsuit off and ran to the ‘bike mount’ line, overtaking someone on the way. Soon I was off and down on the tri bars.

BIKE
I knew from looking at last year’s results that I was in with a good chance of finishing in the top 5 females, so I made it my job to identify ponytails and plaits in front of me and methodically overtake them. To be fair, there weren’t many, but as I overtook one I heard a group shout “go on, Sarah!” to my victim. “Go away, Sarah”, I thought to myself. 😉 Two women on VERY nice bikes came past, and I thought “there’s our “one” and “two”.”

Sarah and I played cat and mouse around the 4-loop bike course until suddenly she was nowhere to be seen. I’d grown rather fond of her and hoped she was OK. As I had one loop to go, I saw Client Jeremy. Bless him, he’d come along anyway just to give me a cheer!

Before too long at all I was into transition again, having held an average of about 33kph on the bike. Lovely Venus had done a grand job. Sarah was still nowhere to be seen as I took my bike shoes off, put my run shoes on and dumped the bike helmet.

RUN
I had no idea what kind of run split I needed to get a PB (I’m not sure I even know what my Sprint PB is), or get under 1:20 or under 1:15 or anything. Just like Tuesday, I decided to run as hard as I could and go by feel.

I felt pretty good, although the run at Dorney can be tough. For all that it’s flat, it’s unrelentingly hot and quite boring. I was keeping pace with the blokes in front of me which seemed to be a good sign. As I approached the dead-turn which marked my first (of two) turns for home, I saw the first lady. I (quickly!) asked her if she was first lady, she nodded yes. OK. Well there’s no catching her, she’s far too far in front. And she’s taller than me, lighter than me and looks a lot more comfortable than me. I ran on, staring at the runners coming towards me, trying to identify female runners. Here’s one, you can tell by the fact that her tri-suit isn’t all unzipped at the front. Second lady. So, where’s third lady..?

I ran on…looking for another lady, but then I was at the turnaround and realised I’d seen everyone who was ahead of me. I was in third! Ah but who’s this powering her way up behind me? Yep – it’s l’il ole Sarah, bless her.

I had about 2 seconds at each dead-turn to scan the oncoming runners for Sarah, and to assess how she was looking (fast? strong? on the verge of collapse?) whilst also trying my best to psyche her out by momentarily looking as if I was finding this all a breeze. ;D

At the final dead-turn on the second lap, I reckoned she was getting closer. Not much, but definitely closer. And who knew how much of a strong finish she had in her?

I was damned if I was going to give up third place without a fight. I looked at my watch and promised myself to run strongly for one minute at a time. I could do that. Then another minute. Then another. Before I knew it, I was at the turn for the finish. I allowed myself a glance behind (was Sarah on my shoulder?) and saw….nothing!

I ran for the line and crossed it with a massive grin. Third female finisher! Yep, I’ll take that, thanks 🙂

By the way, here’s what transition looks like when you go back to get your bike. It looks like a bomb’s hit it. I’m always amazed nothing’s broken or lost

Finish time: 1:19:29 (must find out if that’s a PB or not)

I don’t even have to scroll down the page to see my name! 😉

750m/T1/20k/T2/5k
00:14:42/00:01:36/00:38:55/00:01:02/00:23:12

3/15 female finishers
18/72 finishers
No idea about age-group

By the way, since you’re wondering, Sarah’s really a very nice woman when she’s not chasing you down on a 5k run. I had a good chat with her – shook hands and all – and we walked back to the cars together.


In deep water with a client

June 24, 2010

Some things are just blogging gold.

Like taking a client open-water swimming. For a blog which is about two things: my work as a freelance copywriter and my sport, such a thing practically writes a post all by itself.

Jeremy is one of my favourite clients. I can’t remember when we met – it was at a networking thing years ago. He runs a marketing agency near Ascot and, over the years, has used my copywriting services for his clients’ websites, brochures, direct mail pieces and adverts. He even got me standing up in front of a room full of telecoms engineers to deliver a workshop on how to create content for blog posts.

Anyway, a while ago I met Jeremy for coffee (one of the things I like about him is that his dedication to Starbucks rivals my own) and, at the end of our meeting, he asked me about open-water swimming races. I explained some of the basic points of taking part in a race, one of them being rescue/support boats. “But don’t worry about that,” I said. “The organiser of the event will have arranged that side of things.” A pause. “Er…I am the organiser,” said Jeremy.

So over the past few months I’ve been giving him a few bits of advice on arranging and training for an open-water swimming event (you can find details of his event here – it’s in aid of the RNLI).

Yesterday, I took him open-water swimming.

It was my first time at the Taplow open-water swim venue. I cycled over (just a side note – rush-hour traffic + the A4 + final-whistle time on a successful England World Cup match = hecklers, crazy drivers and near-death experiences. Thanks, guys. No, really, thank you) and met Jeremy as he was trying on wetsuits which the Taplow guys hire out.

Taplow is a lovely venue – a large lake (which was warm yesterday – 21*C or so I’d say) marked out into 3 routes, the largest being 650m. The staff are super-friendly and there’s a BBQ and hot drinks should you want to partake. It’s £5 to swim and I believe you can buy a book of tickets at a discount. My only gripe was the (pond) weed – but I think any OW venue struggles with weed in hot weather.

I’m more used to seeing Jeremy suited and booted, but we posed for a wetsuited photo (…eyes closed, again!) before getting down to biznass.

I gave Jeremy the condensed version of my coaching sessions at Dorney: acclimatisation, sighting, turning, drafting and mass starts as we did one 650m loop, stopping at each buoy to talk about his stroke, sighting and kick. I mentioned some drills he could try in the pool which I thought might help.

Swim-hats off to Jeremy, I thought he did fantastically well. First time in open-water and he did one big loop straight off without a problem. Those of you who swim OW might remember your first training session. Those of you who don’t, just bear in mind that there’s no black line on the bottom (you can’t even see the bottom!), no lane ropes, no wall every 25m to hang on to. Then there’s weed, swans, ducks and all manner of other unusual stuff for your brain to cope with. Some people freak right out, others find they just can’t swim in a straight line, or have a panic at some point or another.

Back at the start buoy, he took off to do one extra 490m loop and I decided to do another 650m. A pack of swimmers had started a few minutes before us and I was pleased to pick each of them off in turn, finishing with a sprint for the final buoy to catch their lead swimmer.

Our session finished with a brief tutorial on how to get your wetsuit off quickly in a triathlon before Jeremy and I both cycled back to our respective homes.

Swim followed by bike? Getting wetsuits off quickly? Hang on, that sounds like triathlon stuff! You’re right…did I mention that I persuaded Jeremy to do the Marketing Industry Triathlon with me in a couple of weeks? That’s more blogging gold, right there…. 😉


Windsor Triathlon in pictures

June 14, 2010

Yesterday saw the 20th running of the iconic Windsor Triathlon. I was racing courtesy and on behalf of Sportsister magazine. I owe them a race report in return so won’t blog about my day here before they’ve published the article. In the meantime, here are a few pictures to give you a bit of an insight.

Great event, by the way. Fully deserves all the accolades which the tri community have bestowed upon it over the years.

Thanks to the good folk at Human Race for all their organisation (and for the press place!), all the marshalls (gathered from local clubs and groups including the Datchet Dashers) and last but not least to my husband who got up at 4:30am and did a sterling job as my own personal support crew.

The day before: jungle transition is massive

The day before: scoping out the swim start and really hoping these guys aren’t here tomorrow. Give me jellyfish over swans any day

Race day, 5:30am: Setting up in transition and listening to some choons. Eminem, since you ask.

Spreading my stuff out and feeling glad the woman next to me decided not to show up.

Full transition. Many many beautiful bikes.

Going to my swim start

And I’m off! Along with a good few others. See you in 1.5kms.

At (long) last, here I am. Loving that chap’s straw hat

Multi-tasking: getting out of the water, running up concrete steps, unzipping my wetsuit.

T1, getting out of my wetsuit and getting ready to ride

42kms later, riding back into transition

Final stretch. Just a 10k to run

Nearly finished!

Busy transition in the sunlight. After all that, it’s barely 9:30am…!

Congrats to everyone who raced at Windsor yesterday.


Open-water swimming events and races, 2010

June 11, 2010

I don’t know about you, but I often wish there was one place which listed loads of open-water swimming events and races. So I thought I’d compile one. I’m not saying it’s complete, so don’t flick water in my eyes if I haven’t mentioned an event you know about (tell me about it in the comments section, instead, then I’ll add it to the list).


If you’re planning on swimming in any of these events, I’d love to know about it. Leave me a comment, or chat to me about it on Twitter. I’m hoping to do one or two myself (I’ll add them to my list of races).

Big thanks to the lovely people on Twitter, the runnersworld forums and in real, off-line life who helped me compile this list.

If there are any broken links, please leave a comment!

MAY
6th Open water swim series Drummonds Dub, Gloucestershire
22nd Brighton SC sea swim Brighton, East Sussex
23rd Kenilworth Masters SC open water series Bosworth Water Trust, Nuneaton
30th Epic swim series Coniston, Lake District


JUNE
1st British Gas Great East Swim Suffolk
3rd Open water swim series Drummonds Dub, Gloucestershire
6th Aqua Sphere powered long swim series Box End, Bedfordshire
12th Brighton SC sea swim Brighton, East Sussex
13th Aqua Sphere powered long swim series South Cerney, Gloucestershire
19th Blueseventy sea swim Llandudno, North Wales
20th BustSkin BIG Bay Swim Series Weymouth Beach
20th Epic swim series Derwent Water, Lake District
23rd Dee Mile Chester, Cheshire
24th Tri20 open water swim trial Reading, Berkshire
26th Ironman-distance swim River Arun, West Sussex
27th Bournemouth pier-to-pier Bournemouth, Dorset

JULY
1st Open water swim series Drummonds Dub, Gloucestershire
3rd British Gas Great London Swim 2010 London
10th Super swim series Princes Club, Middlesex
10th Manx Mile Swim Port St Mary, Isle of Man
10th Brighton SC sea swim Brighton, East Sussex
10th Open water county championships Lake Bala, Gwynedd, Wales
11th Epic swim series Ullswater, Lake District
17th Sea swim championship Eastbourne, East Sussex
17th Ferryman’s swim Topsham, Devon
18th Maritime 2k Eastbourne, East Sussex
24th Brighton pier-to-pier Brighton, East Sussex
24th Great pier swim Southend-on-Sea, Essex
25th BustSkin BIG Bay Swim Series Weymouth Beach
29th Tri20 open water swim trial Reading, Berkshire
31st Mulroy Bay Swim Kerrykeel to Cranford, Co. Donegal

AUGUST
1st Nokia Thames Swim Hampton Court, SW London
5th Open water swim series Drummonds Dub, Gloucestershire
7th Super swim series Princes Club, Middlesex
7th Pre-Outlaw swim Holme Pierrepont, Nottingham
7th Big Scottish swim Elie, Fife
8th Kenilworth Masters SC open water series Bosworth Water Trust, Nuneaton
8th Heart of England swim Blithfield reservoir, Staffordshire
8th Aqua Sphere powered long swim series Bournemouth, Dorset
15th 10K, 5K and 2K swim Eastleigh, Hampshire
15th Dover Regatta Dover, Kent
15th Weymouth bay swim Weymouth, Dorset
21st Brighton sea swim Brighton, East Sussex
21st British Gas Great Scottish Swim 2010 Strathyclyde
21st The Big Splash Princes Club, Bedfont, Middlesex
29th Brighton SC sea swim Brighton, East Sussex

SEPTEMBER
4th Super swim seriesPrinces Club, Middlesex
4th/5th British Gas Great North Swim 2010 Windermere
5th BustSkin BIG Bay Swim Series Weymouth Beach
11th Brighton SC sea swim Brighton, East Sussex
25th Hospiscare One Mile Swim Roadford Lake, Okehampton
26th Kenilworth Masters SC open water series Bosworth Water Trust, Nuneaton
26th British Gas Great Salford Swim 2010 Salford Quays, Greater Manchester
26th Tri20 open water swim trial Reading, Berkshire
26th Aqua Sphere powered long swim series Dorney Lake, Berkshire
26th Kenilworth Masters, Bosworth Water Trust, Nuneaton

You should also check the websites of the BLDSA and Outdoor Swimming Society for more events than I can list individually!

Open-water swimming events and races 2010 is a post from The Fit Writer blog


Pedalling through Berks, Bucks and Oxon

June 6, 2010

So yesterday as I was getting ready to start my brick workout, husband’s friend came round and said he was thinking of doing the “3 Counties” bike ride today. Sounds like fun, husband and I said. Let me see how I feel after my brick.

Well, I felt a bit tired (doing a brick session in the kind of heat we had yesterday is a killer) but, really, how can you pass up the opportunity to do an organised 50-mile ride which starts and finishes four miles from your front door? You can’t.

So at 8:30 this morning our long-legged friend was at our front door and, not long after, all three of us were in the delightful surroundings of Bracknell town centre, signing on for the annual 3 Counties bike ride.

It’s not a sportive, it’s not a race..I’m not sure what you’d call it really. It’s a mass-participation ride, organised by the local Rotary, open to everyone from kids and families to enthusiasts. There are three distances on offer: 13 miles, 33 miles and 50 miles.

We were doing the 50 miles, natch. If I can bang out 50+ mile rides on a regular basis between now and the Little Woody long course triathlon in August, I’ll be happy. (I’ll also need to start running 8-12 miles straight afterwards, but let’s gloss over that for the moment, shall we?)

The route of the 3 Counties ride today took us through…er…three counties. Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire. I didn’t really notice going through Buckinghamshire but I take their word for it. Here’s the route. Isn’t it nice? For those of you who know the area: we went through Dunsden, Sonning Common, Cookley Green, Nettlebed, Russell’s Water, Middle/Lower Assendon, Warren Row, White Waltham… It was a really lovely route with very few bits of busy road. Some nasty little climbs but also some fab downhills (the best one ruined for me by a motorist who seemed oblivious to the fact that cyclists can’t vanish into thin air, nor can they jump into hedges….) Very well marshalled throughout by cheery Rotarians. I can’t comment on the rest stops as we didn’t stop at them, but plenty of people seemed to be enjoying them!

After my bike-chain battles in last week’s sportive, I was pleased that my chain only came off once today. Hooray!

Despite doing a brick session yesterday, I was pleased not to feel too sore or knackered. I pledged to stick with husband and long-legged friend today and did just that (although I’m sure they held back a bit for me!)

Here’s me and long-legged friend. Please just compare the lengths of our legs. Then congratulate me for being able to keep anywhere near him on a bike ride.

However, as husband said at the finish, I wasn’t “sucking anyone’s wheel” so I didn’t make it easier on myself by riding with faster people. I could definitely tell I was pushing the pace more than I would have done if I’d been by myself.

My time was 3:03:00 for the 50 miles – I’m pleased with that, particularly as I know it would have been quicker if it wasn’t for red traffic lights, going through towns like Henley, and getting stuck behind slower riders (or – worse – getting stuck behind caravans who are stuck behind slower riders going up a hill….)

This was the first ‘race’ I’ve done in years with husband – it was great to do an event together again 😀

How was your weekend? Good training/racing?


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!


Open-water training venues in the UK

May 26, 2010

Open-water swimming has exploded in popularity over the past few years, with its inclusion in the Summer Olympics serving to seal the deal. More and more people are taking to the open-water for training and events, whether they’re neoprene-clad triathletes or open-water swimmers getting ready for BLDSA-type swims.

Where I train (view from the water) - points for recognising it


With that in mind, I thought I’d pull together a list of open-water swimming training venues around the country. I’ve avoided putting any unofficial or unmanned sessions in this list, in the interests of swimmer safety. Thanks to everyone on Twitter who responded to my call for venues! If I’m missing any – as I’m almost certain I am – please let me know.

Where’s your favourite training venue? I love hearing about where people swim. Hit me up in the comments. In the meantime, get out there and enjoy! 🙂

Open-water swimming training venues

BERKSHIRE
Copthorne Lake, Reading
Liquid Leisure, Datchet

BUCKINGHAMSHIRE
Westhorpe Water Sports Centre, Little Marlow
Taplow Open Water Swim , er…Taplow! 😉

CHESHIRE
Boundary Water Park, Knutsford
Manley Mere, Frodsham
Dock 9, Salford
Salford Quays
Liverpool Docks

DEVON
sea sessions, Teignmouth

ESSEX/NE LONDON
Fairlop Waters, Barkingside
Gosfield Lake, Braintree

GLOUCESTERSHIRE/WILTSHIRE
Cotswold Water Park (Lake 16 and 32), near Swindon and Cirencester

HAMPSHIRE
Lakeside Multisports, Eastleigh

HERTFORDSHIRE
Redrick Lake, Harlow/Sawbridgeworth

KENT (my home county :D)
Dover Harbour (my old stomping ground)
Haysden Lake, Tonbridge
Leybourne Lakes, Larkfield

LEICESTERSHIRE
Bosworth Water Trust, Market Bosworth

LONDON
Serpentine, Hyde Park
Stubbers Adventure Centre, Upminster

MID-ARGYLL
Loch Craignish, Loch Coille Bharr, Carsaig, Loch Aral and Easdale (quarries and pools)

MIDDLESEX
Heron Lake, Wraysbury
Princes Club, Bedfont

NORTHUMBERLAND
Queen Elizabeth II Country Park, Newbiggin-by-the-Sea
Ladybird Lake, Druridge Bay Country Park , Morpeth

NORTH YORKSHIRE
Ellerton Lake, Scorton
Hetton Lyons Country Park, Houghton le Spring

NOTTINGHAMSHIRE
National Watersports Centre, Holme Pierrepont

SHROPSHIRE
The Mere, Ellesmere

STAFFORDSHIRE
Manor Park Sailing Club, Kings Bromley

SURREY/SW LONDON
Thames Young Mariners Lake (Ham Lake), Richmond-upon-Thames
The Quays, Mytchett Lake, Farnborough/Camberley

WEST YORKSHIRE
Otley Sailing Club Lake, Otley

WORCESTERSHIRE
Top Barn Activity Centre, Worcester


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