First Open Water Swim of the Year

It’s that time of the year when the triathletes pull the wetsuit out of wherever it’s been hiding, struggle into in and gingerly tip-toe in the cold dark water. For the last six or seven years I’ve been open water swimming with the City of Lancaster Triathlon Club in a small lake near Carnforth. This year, due to various circumstances, the swim venue has moved to the Capernwray Dive Centre. Less hassle for the club and cleaner water, although no revenue stream. I don’t think the club were every really welcome at the previous venue, especially in the last couple of years. The only drawback of the new venue is that the water is colder. I have swam there a few times, most notably in the dark for the Fireworks 500, where the water was seriously cold (read about it here).

Last year I think I only swam open water four times; once with COLT and then at the Salford Triathlon (read about it here), Isoman (read about it here) and the Hurly Burly (read about it here). This year both me and my beautiful wife are planning to swim most weeks.

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Last night at the Dive Centre the water was cold, and as usual I struggled until I was nearly at the second buoy, but then I started to warm up and get into my stroke. I pushed it a little faster for my second lap, knowing that I was going to call it quits after two. Most people did at least three laps, and one hardy (foolhardy maybe) swimmer went in without a wetsuit. Yikes!

I had a chat to the club captain as I watched my wife swimming, where we reminisced about how our very first time open water swimming was in a triathlon. John’s was at the Windsor triathlon, while my first time was at the Swindon triathlon in 1995. Fortunately things have progressed.

Overall a good swim if short, but I will aim to increase the distance each week. I might see you there.

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Lakesman Half – The Bike Loop

My beautiful and amazing wife has entered the Lakesman Half Triathlon this year, which is in four weeks time. Helen wanted to ride the bike loop to have a look at it and to make sure that she can make it back for the run within the time limit. I’ll let you in on a secret, she’ll have absolutely no worries about the time limit.

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I downloaded the route, we loaded up the car and headed off nice and early this morning (Sunday). Arriving at the carpark in Keswick where the race will start and finish, we found it to be nearly full. Unbeknown to us, the Keswick Mountain Festival was on, with fell races, walks, sportive and a swim all occurring over the weekend. I mention the swim because there wasn’t actually a swim. It had been cancelled due to a harmful algal bloom in Derwent Water. Lakesman are aware of the situation and are monitoring the water, but there is a possibility that the races might have either shortened swims or no swim at all. Currently refunds or referrals are not being offered. This is a difficult situation for the organisers with plenty of people venting their anger on social media. I think that it is sensible to ere on the side of caution, and it the water is deemed to be unsafe to swim in, then you have to accept an altered race. Worst case scenario, the race goes ahead while there is some doubt about the water,  and if a few triathletes fall ill people will want to know why the swim leg wasn’t cancelled.

Back in the carpark once we had set up our bikes we headed off, straight through the sportive. Fortunately they were all turning right at the very first junction, while we headed out of Keswick and onto the A66 towards Cockermouth. This isn’t a road I would normally ride on, but it wasn’t too bad on a Sunday early in the morning, although it was a bit boring. After ten miles we turned left onto a smaller road, which was actually worse than the A66 as it was narrower, leaving less room for cars to overtake. Soon though we turned off this onto a very pleasant country lane, with a great descent into Branthwaite. Best section of the route by far.

Joining the A595 there’s a great view of the Irish sea, and with over half the bike leg completed you’re nearly home. The route then does a loop through Distington and back along the dual carriageway. This again wasn’t too bad as there was plenty of room for us. Unfortunately the A595 back towards the A66 was fast with little room, so we opted to use the separate cycle lane, which won’t be an option on race day. Once we reached the A66 we had a stop and a chat. The route back to Keswick will be fast and impossible to go wrong, so we decided to enjoy the ride and head back along some quieter roads. This was slightly longer and a lot hillier, but was a brilliant diversion, especially as for much of the time we could still see the A66.

Cockermouth was a revelation, with a wide street lined with trees. This isn’t an area of the lakes that either of us have visited, although I did a triathlon there many years ago, before Stava. Cockermouth; we will return. There’s also plenty of signs pointing to Maryport, which sounds like a classic Game of Thrones town.

If you’re going to cycle from Cockermouth to Keswick there really is only one route; up and over Whinlatter.

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Whinlatter isn’t one of the ‘hard’ climbs in the Lakes, but it is still a bit of a beast, although we were climbing it from the ‘easier’ side. I had also never climbed it from this side. Helen wasn’t particularly keen on this hill, but the huge grin on her face after the glorious descent made it all worthwhile. Back into Keswick and once again we were mistaken for sportive riders. A couple of years ago we did the Tour De Bolton sportive and I was saddened by the dozen riders waiting outside the school gates to take part in the sportive without paying for it. I really hope that the marshalls didn’t think that we had done the same thing.

My thoughts on the Lakesman Half bike route is that most of it is on roads that I wouldn’t normally ride on, but on race day, with so many other triathletes on the roads it should be fine. The main roads also makes it easier for the organisers, with fewer marshalls required at critical junctions. I’ve chatted with people who have done Lakesman in previous years and they have all said that the roads were not an issue.

If you’ve entered Lakesman I wish you all the best in the world. As for me, I’m really looking forward to supporting my amazing wife as I know that she will surpass all of her expectations.

 

Book Review: Don’t Go There by Adam Fletcher

My beautiful wife gave me this book as a Christmas present, and even though I’m only now writing a review, I had finished it a couple of months ago. I currently have a pile of seven books that I’ve finished but haven’t reviewed, so I’d better get on with reviewing them.

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My wife knows that I have a predilection for unusual travel books, so this was right up my street. However, the author doesn’t come across as the most likeable of people in the first few chapters.

The books premise is quite simple, go an visit the places where you are generally advised not to go. For example, Chernobyl or North Korea. This crazy tourist stuff doesn’t start deliberately, it begins with a holiday to Turkey which just happens to coincide with the uprising and numerous riots.

Stuck on a bus in China for 24 hours isn’t anyone’s idea of fun, and if I’m honest I would be happy not to visit most of the places. Saying that, Palestine was interesting, as was North Korea. The group that Adam travelled with through some of the more out of the way Eastern European countries would have driven me mad, as it almost did him, with their constant drunkeness.

Overall an interesting read, once you get past the author’s tendency to lie of the sofa antagonizing his girlfriend, and I will probably look out for the sequel when it comes out.

Howgills Half Marathon

A few months ago me and my beautiful wife were looking at races to enter, specifically a half marathon in April or May. It would be used as a warm up race for later in the year when Helen attempts the Lakesman half ironman distance triathlon. (Legally it’s not a Half Ironman as it isn’t an M-Dot race, and therefore it must always be referred to as a half ironman distance race.) I digress. After looking at various races we decided that the Howgills Half Marathon organised by Epic Events would be perfect.

We had both done another race in the Montane Trail Series last year in Grizedale which had been a brilliant race (read about it here). I had also done the Howgills Triathlon a couple of years ago, which should have rung warning bells as the run had gone up Winder Fell (read about it here).

With a 10am start from Sedbergh, which is only a 30 minute drive, it wasn’t an early off, although Nelly, our unruly Pointer, knew that we had our running gear on and was most perturbed when we left her at home. As with all trail races there was a mandatory kit list, especially as it always seems to rain in the Howgills, except for last Sunday, when it was sunny, hot, dry and hardly any wind.

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We arrived in Sedbergh in plenty of time, parked in the correct field and picked up our numbers and t-shirts, before queuing to use the port-a-loos (very unpleasant).

There was also a marathon on who were setting off 20 minutes before our race, so we cheered them on as they set off. We then had a quick chat with Steve, an old friend who had completed the Bowland Half Marathon with us last year in horrendous conditions (read about it here).

Once we were off the route went directly up Winder Fell, dropping down slightly before heading up The Calf, which tops out at almost 700m high. There was then a very pleasant section along before the two routes split off with the marathon runners continuing on while we turned right. There then followed two very steep technical descents, where as always I was overtaken by more than a handful of runners. I really need to practice running downhill.

There then followed a short out and back section to the feed station set up on a farm near Narthwaite. I re-filled my water bottle and grabbed a couple of Jaffa Cakes before setting off over the very narrow footbridge. I waved at Steve as he was running towards the feed station and set off towards Sedbergh. The next few miles were fairly easy going along footpaths with very little climbing. We had been warned about the final hill, but after Winder and The Calf how hard could it be.

Swearing, lots of swearing, that’s how hard it was. So steep I was almost crawling up it. We didn’t even go all the way to the top, but it felt never ending. Eventually the route followed the contours of the hill before another steep technical descent. We crossed a small stream where I dipped my hat, which then promptly gave me a headache because the water was so cold. Finally I could see and hear the finish area way down below.

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The last downhill section on the road was hard on my tired legs, but moments later I was running around the field and through the finish funnel, to be handed water and a medal. As I was coming towards the finish the announcer was starting the prize giving, beginning with the vet 60 winner! There are some very quick ‘older’ runners out there.

I headed to the car to drop off my medal and to change into my finishers shirt, before returning to the field to wait for my wife. As I was queuing for a coffee I spotted Helen running down the road, much earlier than I had been expecting. I hobbled over to the finish line for a hug and to congratulate her as it had been an absolutely stunning performance from Helen.

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Helen was a little emotional and also full of swear words, mainly about that f****** last hill. A few minutes later the winner from the marathon returned, in just under four hours. I can’t even imagine how he had run it that fast, although Helen pointed out to me that the marathon had hardly any extra elevation than the half, which made me feel slightly less old and rubbish.

Overall it was an excellent race; well marshalled with plenty of arrows out on the course. It would have been difficult to have got lost. We will definitely be doing more events from this series, although probably not this particular race. I think I am right in saying that it was the toughest half marathon that I’ve ever done. Three days later and my right thigh (my leading leg) is still sore from the descents.

Of course when we got home the day wasn’t over, as we still had to take Nelly out for a walk.

NENDY parkrun

NENDY? What on earth am I talking about now? Let me explain. NENDY is the acronym for Nearest Event Not Done Yet, and the ‘Event’ being parkrun. A couple of months ago I blogged about parkrun extras that were keeping me busy (read about it here).

There is a Chrome or Firefox extension for your parkrun results page with loads more stats, including your NENDY, which in my case was Blackpool parkrun. Closest in a straight line, or as crows fly, although I’ll let you into a secret, crows don’t always fly in a straight line.

I say ‘was’, because last Saturday myself and Nelly took a road trip to Blackpool. Nelly was so excited about running in a new park that even after half a dozen attempts she still wouldn’t look at my phone for a selfie.

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It was fairly cold, even with the sun and blue sky. I was wearing my Canalathon t-shirt and even bumped into someone with a Canalathon bobble hat. You can read about Canalathon here and here.

As it was Star Wars day there were also a fair few people in fancy dress, as well as a few other dogs, including a cute little Spaniel called Twiglet and a big old hound called Rufus.

As per parkrun rules for running with a dog we started at the back and gradually made our way past slower runners, although there was one very narrow section. Two laps and plenty of support later we crossed the line in 24th place. We were both happy with that, especially as there were nearly 300 runners.

Blackpool parkrun was a great run, friendly, well marshalled and mostly flat, although I’ve yet to do a parkrun that isn’t friendly and well marshalled.

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New NENDY is Clitheroe Castle, a hilly parkrun consisting of five laps. The above map is from a website called ‘tourist tool’, which is well worth a Google.

Also, almost two months after completing my 50th parkrun (read about it here), I am now the owner of my red 50 t-shirt, which will be worn with pride at parkrun this Saturday. I’m not sure where, but not far, so either Morecambe Prom or Lancaster. Possibly see you there.

Hampton Pool Lido

Last week my beautiful wife, her eldest son and myself ran Bushy Park parkrun (read about it here). Afterwards, Tom suggested that we go for a swim in an open air lido. Tooting Bec lido is the holy grail of lidos as it is 33 yards wide and 100 yards long. Unfortunately it’s not heated and it’s only open to members until 1st May. We therefore headed to Hampton Pool lido. It was fairly expensive and quite busy, but it was fantastic to swim in, although my Garmin couldn’t cope with it’s length of 118 feet. It was also a great way to relax the legs after parkrun.

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Amazingly, this wasn’t the first time that I’d swam in Hampton lido. I completed three sprint triathlons there, one in 1995 and another two in 1996. I was working and living in Oxford at the time, which isn’t the that close to Hampton. However, the reason I did these triathlons was because they were held on Bank Holiday Mondays and at the time I worked in a pub and generally had to work Sundays.

I’ve even managed to find a couple of photos. The one below was from 1995, back when I had hair on my head instead of on my face.

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The other photo was from 1996, back before tri-suits had been invented, and everyone used to race in their Speedos. In hindsight, tri-suits could possibly be the greatest triathlon innovation of the last 20 years.

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My overriding memory of the race in April 1996 was how cold it was. When I got off the bike my feet were blocks of ice and I couldn’t feel them until near to the finish. Also, how young do I look, and back then I didn’t have a single tattoo.

This year will be my 28th year of triathlons and I still love doing them as much as now as I did all those years ago. I’m also aiming to race the Kendal sprint triathlon on my 50th.

Parkrun Pilgrimage

Last weekend me and my beautiful wife had the opportunity to run at Bushy parkrun, the home of parkrun, the park where the very first parkrun was held 14 and a half years ago. I will admit that it was unlike any parkrun that I’d done before.

We were in London for a weekend staying with Helen’s eldest son who live in Colliers Wood. Tom had asked if we wanted to do a parkrun on the Saturday and had recommended Clapham, as it was fairly near. He also suggested going for a swim afterwards at one of London’s open air lidos. Tooting Bec lido was not yet open to the public so we opted for Hampton lido, which is at the other side of Bushy Park from the parkrun.

I’ve heard stories about Bushy parkrun and how busy it can get, so we left with plenty of time and even managed to find space for the car. Obligatory before parkrun photo in the car is below (it was cold).

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The start is next to the Diana memorial along a wide section of park, which it needs to be as there was well over a thousand people there. including two volunteers with large speakers on their heads so that everyone could here the run director. We didn’t start near to the front and as expected I was soon boxed in and running at everyone’s else pace. The good thing about this was that it meant that I could run with Tom. With so many people it’s also good that thing that it’s only one lap, and very flat, which makes a change from Lancaster. We pushed on to the finish and Tom managed to sneak under 22 minutes for the first time. My amazing wife also managed a pb, only a few seconds outside 25 minutes. She’ll be under 25 minutes before the end of the year. Excellent running all round 🙂

The finish tunnel was huge but well organised, and the barcode scanners we quick and efficient as you would expect with that many people every week. There were 1274 finishers this week which is amazing when you consider that Lancaster gets too busy when there’s over 300!

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I’m really pleased that we had the opportunity for a pilgrimage to Bushy Park, but I can honestly say that I doubt if I will run there again. It’s not easy to get to, with no Tube station nearby, the traffic is terrible, and there isn’t enough parking, so a big thank you to Tom for getting us there.

Last weekend was also the London Marathon so I expected that there would be more runners than usual, but at Bushy Park the numbers were about the same. Clapham Common parkrun on the other hand had record numbers, most likely because it’s situated near to a Tube station, making it fairly easy for tourists who don’t know London to get to.

Overall we had a great weekend in London, seeing the Britsh Museum, getting whooped by my wife at table tennis in a bar in Wimbledon, and generally doing a whole bunch of touristy stuff. Bushy parkrun was the icing on the cake.