South Manchester Triathlon

I raced a small sprint triathlon yesterday in Wilmslow. There are two races each year, with the one on April called the Wilmslow Triathlon and the September one, which I did, called the South Manchester Triathlon. I’m not sure why they need different names, but there you go.

Having not done a triathlon since Kendal in 2019 I fancied a short race to finish the season, and even though Kendal was on the same day and would have loads of people I knew doing it, I opted for somewhere I’d never been before. The distances were 400m pool swim, 24.5km bike and a 6km run. I was also planning on taking it nice and steady.

My start time was 10:40 so no rush in the morning, which was nice, although I managed to leave my coffee on the roof of the car when I set off. I stopped a couple of minutes later for fuel and it was still there, but on its side without any coffee. Paying for the petrol took ages as there was someone doing their weekly shop through the security hatch, much like the song 24 Hour Garage People by Half Man Half Biscuit. It is a highly amusing song until you are stuck behind said person.

The journey to Wilmslow wasn’t particularly great as it involved almost all of the Manchester motorway network, where in the past even with Sat Nav I have managed to get lost. Anyway, once at the leisure centre I parked up and registered. The man next to me was asking the volunteers if he could buy a race belt as he had forgotten his. Me and my lovely wife have a habit of forgetting race belts and having to buy new ones, so we have loads. I had packed an extra one just in case someone needed one, so I happily lent it to random stranger. This was the least of his worries as he had locked his bike up in his van and left the key at home, so his wife had to rush back to Blackburn to get it. Hopefully he managed to sort everything out and have a good race.

I racked my bike and took a couple of photos of transition, and promptly got reprimanded by an official as you’re not allowed to use your phone in transition. Oops!

Once I was all set up I decided to go to the pool to see the set up and found that I could start early if I wanted to. With a maximum of 3 people in each lane the swim was very relaxed. I’d put down an expected time of 8 minutes and finished in 8 minutes and 6 seconds. A bit slower than my usual, but I’ve hardly swam in the last 18 months.

Out on the bike and I immediately got stuck behind an Ocado delivery van, although the first km was slow as the route negotiated its way out of the town. The route then headed towards the airport along fairly main roads before going under the runway through a couple of short tunnels. Sensibly I took the safe cycle path route through them, before being held up at a left turn by a horse box. A few minutes later I was held up by the same horse box again as they struggled to overtake another triathlete. This was the first person I had seen since starting the bike leg although I overtook a few more people on the way back into Wilmslow.

Off the bike and onto a small dirt track for the start of the urban run. The were a couple of sections with runners coming in the other direction, but every turn had marshalls and volunteers. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a race with as many people helping out. I hadn’t pushed it too hard on the bike so I picked up the pace as there were quite a few people to chase down. There was a sting in the tail of the run as the route went up and over a main road and railway via a long flight of steps. My Garmin heart rate analysis of the run can be seen below. My average heart rate was 170bpm with a max of 180bpm. Yikes!

Across the finish line and I was handed a nice little goody bag with a medal and buff (see photo below), along with a flapjack and a bottle of water. All much needed.

The results were out nice and quickly and I finished in 28th place overall and 3rd in my age group. I was very happy with that especially as apart from the run I hadn’t pushed myself too hard. Additionally, the next day my legs feel absolutely fine. All in all a very well organised and friendly race. I doubt if I’ll do this particular race again, but I’ll definitely keep an eye out for other OP Events.

As an added bonus, a week after the race I could download a free finish line photo. I wish more events would give the digital photos away for free, as I’m sure it does wonders for an organisers social media stats.

Strava activities can be found here, if you felt the need to give me Kudos.

The Swim https://www.strava.com/activities/5984597067

The Bike https://www.strava.com/activities/5984598764

The Run https://www.strava.com/activities/5984599714

Toyko Olympics – Mixed Relays

I’ve not watched much of the Olympics, but what I have watched has been brilliant. I watched the mixed relays. The 4 x 400 athletics relay was a mess with a few teams not taking it seriously, which made the win by unfancied Poland even more amazing.

The triathlon relay was absolutely nail biting stuff with only seconds separating the top few teams. Great Britain were favourites but it was by no means assured, although it was great to see Jonny Brownlee pick up a gold medal to go with his silver and bronze from previous Olympics.

In the pool the 4 x 100 Medley was one of the most incredible races that I have ever watched, made all the more exciting because the women and men were racing together. In the triathlon and track relays the men race the men and the women race the women, but in the pool each team can utilise their strongest swimmers, no matter what leg they do. This lead to the amazing spectacle of seeing four men and four women lining up on the starting blocks. The triathlon relay is definitely missing a trick here, and should let each team race in whatever order they like. A female triathlete with a strong cycling discipline might be able to keep up with the men as the races are draft legal. I will suggest it.

I’ve also liked the fact that for the first time ever there have been more female athletes than male, and that there are no male only or female only events. It isn’t complete parity yet. In gymnastics on the floor routines the women are judged on how their moves are in tune with the music, but the men don’t have music for their routines. Maybe the men should also have to do their routines to music.

I was disappointed to see Novak Djokovic criticise Simone Biles for pulling out for mental health reasons, and then two days later he smashes his rackets on court, storms off and pulls out of the doubles in a hissy fit. I’ve not seen him apologise yet.

Anyway, I would like to see more mixed events.

Races 2021

With lockdown slowly easing and more people being vaccinated, there is a certain amount of optimism regarding races in 2021. Pretty much every race last year was either cancelled or postponed, although both me and Helen are being cautious with what we enter.

Ullswater Trail Race

In two weeks time we will be racing around Ullswater. I’m doing the full race, 20 hilly miles, while Helen is doing the 10 mile version which includes a ferry ride to Pooley Bridge. Way before anyone had heard of Covid we did something similar with Nelly (read about it here).

Backyard Ultra

When I first stumbled upon the concept of the Backyard Ultra I knew that at some point I would have to have a go. The idea is simple, every hour you run just over 4 miles, and you keep going until only one person is left standing. The one I’m doing is in North Wales, but there are hundreds all over the world. Unlike Ironman, the original organisers are happy to support anyone who wants to put on their own version.

Coniston Swim

This was one of my cancelled races from last year, and it is the full length of Coniston Water, just over 5 miles. I’ve only managed two swims this year, however, this race isn’t until September so I should have opportunity to get a few longer swims in before the event.

Cancelled/Postponed Races

The Oldham Way Ultra has been postponed for the second year running, so possibly I will manage this hilly 40 mile race in 2022.

My amazing wife had entered us into the Castle to Coast Triathlon, which was cancelled last year, but we’ve deferred our entry until 2022. Neither of us had done enough cycling to enjoy what could be one of the best races we’ve ever done. The swim is in Windsor, the bike ride heads towards Brighton, and the run is 13 miles into Brighton, hence the name – Castle to Coast.

Hopefully we’ll enter a few more races as the year progresses, and we’re also looking forward to parkruns starting up again. It does appear that there are some issues and that they are looking to commence towards the end of June. Fingers crossed.

That’s us for official races. Helen will also be doing the Bay Limestone Round in a team once again, with me and Nelly supporting, and we’d also like to have a go at the George Fisher Tea or Espresso Rounds.

What races have you entered?

Book Review: Operation Ironman by George Mahood

A couple of weeks ago I finished Free Country by George Mahood (read my review here) and enjoyed it so much that when I noticed that he had written a triathlon related book I had to purchase it.

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As the front cover says, from hospital bed to the starting line of an Ironman. For those of you who don’t know what an Ironman is, it is a continuous race (or event) consisting of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, finished off with a full 26.2 mile marathon. There is also a time limit, generally 17 hours, but as George finds out on his journey, the particular Ironman that he has entered has a 16 hour time limit.

George isn’t unfit. He played 5-a-side, cycled to the shops, ran a bit, including a few marathons, so when his back started hurting it put a stop to all these things, as well as impacting upon looking after three young children. Eventually, his back problem is diagnosed and an operation is scheduled. Convalescing in hospital George comes upon the idea of completing an Ironman later the same year, as motivation to recovering. Ironman UK at Bolton would have been at the ideal time, but was full, so a race in France was entered.

The book is very funny, especially when George realises that he has been swimming wrong all these years, and then finds out the same with cycling and running. I often find adventure or sporty books more fun when the protagonist doesn’t really know what they are doing, making mistakes all over the place. His training is sporadic, to say the least, with very little running, not wanting to place a strain on his back. George also doesn’t have all of the expensive kit, borrowing a bike from his father. He does join Strava, and I have requested to follow him, although he hasn’t accepted my friend request yet.

What I also loved about this book was that George wasn’t looking for a respectable finishing time, he was only looking at finishing, making notes about cut-off times. There is a great deal of pressure to perform well at an Ironman, which is one of the reasons that I haven’t done one for over 20 years, but George has put the idea into my head that maybe when I turn 60 I should do another. I would follow George’s lead and simply aim to finish and try to enjoy it as much as possible.

This book isn’t just for triathletes, it is that fun to read, and I gave it 5 out of 5 on Goodreads. Added to that I will also be purchasing more of George’s books.

Capernwray Mid Week Aquathlon

The Dive Centre in Capernwray is open once again for diving and more importantly, safe open water swimming. It is limited to 10 swimmers per two hour session and by the time we got round to booking there were only a couple of slots left. However, yesterday me and my lovely wife went there for a swim. We were also surprised by how many divers there were, but I suppose there isn’t much chance of catching a pandemic under water. For me this was my first ‘real’ swim for 3 and a half months, if you don’t include the very short swims we’ve done in the Lune (read about them here and here). I remember back in March reading that the Uni pool was going to close temporarily, with one last swim on a Thursday morning. I didn’t go because like most people I thought everything would be back to normal within a few weeks. Anyway, Helen managed 3 laps at Capernwray and I did one extra. We were both very slow and very tired by the end. Neither of us did much for the rest of the day. We’re booked in for another swim next Saturday and hopefully we’ll have found our swimming muscles by then.

This is all a roundabout way of saying how much we enjoy Capernwray for swimming. The local T2 Events also put on mid week triathlons once a month during the summer, as well as a few other events. They also organised the Kendal triathlon that I did last year on my 50th birthday (read about it here). Last August I entered a mid-week aquathlon, which was run in tandem with the triathlon. After a full day at work and driving home from Horwich I knew that even a sprint  triathlon would be hard going which was why I had entered the aquathlon. I also really enjoy aquathlons. Additionally it would give me chance to chat with loads of friends who would also be there.

There were almost 200 entrants for the sprint triathlon with about a dozen lined up for the aquathlon. The triathlon people went off first and then we followed five minutes later. As it was a gloriously hot evening, the water was nice and warm, and the swim was only 500m, I went without a wetsuit.

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You forget how much extra buoyancy there is with a wetsuit until you have to tread water without one, waiting for the race to begin. I didn’t expect to be out of the water first, although I hadn’t expected a young lad in the 10-14 age group to swim over two minutes quicker than me, at least I didn’t have to struggle out of my wetsuit in transition. All I had to do was drop my goggles and pull on my running shoes, although there were still a few people doing the sprint triathlon with wetsuits who managed to get through transition quicker than me.

The run headed out of the dive centre, onto the road for a short distance before an out and back section along the canal. I soon overtook the young lad and was very pleased with my sub 20 minute 5km run leg.

Unfortunately the race was somewhat marred by a very angry competitor who had gone the wrong way on the run and was shouting at a couple of race marshals. I don’t know how he went wrong as there was a very big arrow pointing towards the canal. I tried to placate him but he wasn’t having any of it, storming off to rant at anyone else who would listen. A complete nob!

Anyway, T2 Events always put on a good race and they are hopeful about starting a few very small mid week races again in the near future.

 

Double Training Days

There’s something special about training twice on the same day. I’m not talking about brick sessions, or going for a swim in the morning with a run in the evening. I mean training twice with the same discipline. Recently I have been increasing my running in preparation for the Oldham Way Ultra (now cancelled, obviously), and a few times I’ve been for a run on my own in the morning, and then been for a run with my amazing wife later the same day. Running twice on the same day is hard on the legs, but it also feels great.

In the summer we like to go open water swimming, but a few times I’ve been for a swim in the pool before work, and then been for an open water swim that evening. The shoulders and arms always feel a bit tired, and afterwards I want to eat the whole contents of the fridge.

Commuting by bicycle is one way of training twice in one day, but why don’t you smash it up on your best bike in the morning, and then amble around later the same day on a slower bike (if you own more than one bike).

I would recommend taking it a bit easier than normal, but every once in a while, twice a day training will give you a definite buzz.

However, you might have to wait a couple of months as current government guidance states that you should only go out for one form of exercise per day.

Kendal Castle Triathlon 2019

One good thing about the current lock down is that I can catch up on writing a few of the blogs that I should have written ages ago. The Kendal Castle Triathlon was quite a big event for me, as it was on my 50th birthday.

The Kendal triathlon is run twice a year, April and September, and I’ve done it a couple of times, as has my lovely wife, and on one occasion one of her sons. It’s a small local race, always well supported and well organised. 2019 saw a change of route for both the bike and run legs, with an out and back for the bike and the run which went around Kendal Castle.

The morning of the race we set off early, probably too early, but that’s what I’m like. The weather was proper grim, so my old war horse, my Principia, was left at home and instead I opted for my well used Scott. I try not to use my Principia when it’s wet, as it is almost 20 years old and still has the original 9 speed Dura-ace group set, which would be very difficult to replace if I was to come off.

One feature that we both like about the Kendal Tri is that all of the women go off first and then the men, with the slower men following on directly after the quicker women. The swim was 16 lengths of the 25m pool. Most of the people in my lane went off too quick and were slowing down near the end, while I kept my pace nice and steady. I always try to make sure that I don’t get out of breath during the swim.

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Due to a set of traffic lights near to the pool, there was a neutral zone. Transition was timed as normal, but at the road the timer was stopped, and it wasn’t started until you were through the traffic lights and onto the out and back section. This worked well, especially as I just grabbed my bike (after pulling on my helmet) and ran through transition, and then once in the neutral zone I took it a bit easier. You can see in the photo below how grim the weather was.

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Once past the traffic lights it was all go, go, go! Or it was for a few hundred metres until the first climb. The out section had far more up hills and it was into the wind. I can tell you I was pleased to see that turn around point. The out section took 24 mins and the back section took 15 mins, downhill and with a tail wind all the way back to transition. Once again there was a neutral zone which started just before the traffic lights and ended at transition. This was funny to see as triathletes walked towards transition and then ran once the timer started again.

I racked my bike, changed shoes and started running, still with my helmet on. Almost 30 years I’ve been doing triathlons and I can still make very stupid mistakes. I hadn’t gone far so it only cost me about 15 seconds. The run was along the old canal before turning off for a lap of the castle. I was wearing my racing flats, which was good on the paved sections, not so good on the grass around the castle.

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I finished in a time of 1 hour 11 minutes and 54 seconds. 19th overall and 4th in my age group. Not too bad. Slower than the last time I had raced at Kendal, although this was a much tougher route, and the weather was atrocious. Very nice finishers medal too.

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It also stopped raining almost as I crossed the finish line. A big thank you to all of the marshalls how had stood out in the rain for hours. Triathlons couldn’t take place without you. Feeling a bit tired, my wife plied me with coffee and cake and we headed on home.

The April 2020 edition of this race should be taking place in a few days time, but has had to be postponed. T2 Events, the organiser, has set up a virtual triathlon group on Strava. Complete three different disciplines, upload to Strava, post photos and then Natasha will send you a medal. You should sign up. The link is below.

https://www.strava.com/clubs/477272/group_events/685705

Both me and my lovely wife, along with nearly the whole country, are really looking forward to when we can get back to normality. Stay safe, keep your distance and wash your hands.

 

Coping with Injury

Injury. It happens to all of us at some point. I used to joke that if you’re not injured you’re not training hard enough, and I joked with work colleagues that I’m like a shark, if I stop moving I’ll die.

I’ve been slowly increasing my running for the hilly 40 mile ultra run that I’ve entered in April (read about it here), with an aim to run 30-40 miles every week. Two days ago I was out for a gentle run, I felt great, I felt like I could keep this pace going all day. I was only intending to run 10km, maybe a couple more if I felt like it, but after about 7km I could feel a tightness in my right calf. Being sensible, for once, I decided to cut the run short and head home. My calf gradually started to feel more and more sore, until I couldn’t run and hobbled very slowly home. Later that evening I could hardly walk, and the next morning it was still very sore. I took a couple of paracetamols and rubbed some ibuprofen gel, which didn’t seem to do much. I’ve made an appointment with the physio who sorted me out before my triple ironman a few years ago, so here’s hoping he can work miracles again.

I’ve had a couple of long term injuries in the past, which took over a year to heal. This injury feels like a minor tear, which will hopefully heal in a couple of weeks. In the meantime it’s back to the pool and onto the bike. One of the bonus’s of being a triathlete is that if you can’t run then you can generally still train.

The important thing when injured is to not lose hope or get downhearted. Remember RICE. Rest. Ice. Compression. Elevation. I’ve done none of those things as I took Nelly for a walk in the park this morning, and then went for a gentle and flat 24km ride. We’ve also run out of frozen peas, so the icing will have to wait. Me and my beautiful wife have also booked a night away in the Lake District at the weekend, hoping to get a long run in and a long walk. The run will definitely be off, but hopefully if I take it slowly we can still get in a good walk, possible up Skiddaw.

If I can’t run for a few months then it will be annoying, but it’s not the end of the world. I’m generally healthy, and Helen and Nelly are both super fit, so life is good (and we’re getting a campervan soon).

Races for 2020

One of the racing tips that I’ve picked up over the New Year is that you should tell everyone what races you’ve entered, that way there will be more chance that you’ll succeed.

Another slightly random tip is when you’re on a long run, count down the miles to go rather than the miles you’ve done.

“Only 5km to go, that’s parkrun, I can do that.”

This is a run down of my four main races (events) for 2020. I’m sure that I will enter a few more, but these are the ones that I’m focusing on and training for.

I mention the psychological tip because I’ve entered a couple of ‘big’ races. First up in the middle of April is the Oldham Way Ultra (OWU). 40 miles of trails, canals, woodlands, tracks and plenty of hills. As with many people contemplating ultra running my fear is getting lost. One of my two previous ‘longer than marathon’ races was a multi-lap race back and forth across the Humber Bridge, aptly name Hell on the Humber. Last year I completed the 50km Canalathon, which involved running from Manchester to Sowerby Bridge along the Rochdale Canal (Read about it here). Virtually impossible to get lost. The OWU promises to have a fully marked route, plenty of feed stations and live GPS tracking. There is a 13 hour cut-off with an 11 hour cut-off at the feed station at 33 miles. My aim is just to finish, preferably under 10 hours, as there are a lot of hills.

http://www.oldhamwayultra.co.uk/

My second main race was a birthday present from my amazing wife, who has also entered. It’s the Castle to Coast Triathlon, a point to point middle distance race. It starts with a 1.2 mile swim in Dorney Lake, Windsor. The bike leg is 67 miles from Windsor Castle to the foot of Ditchling Beacon. The run is 13 miles over Ditchling Beacon and down to the coast, finishing in Brighton. Me and my wife love quirky events and we are both incredibly excited for this race. The last time that I undertook a middle distance triathlon was back in 1998 at Ironbridge in Shropshire and I’ve never done an official M-Dot Half Ironman (and I won’t be doing one in 2020).

Castle to Coast

The Lake District has loads of organised swimming events every year, over all distances. I had thought about the 10 mile Windermere One Way, but with all of the running that I’ll be doing this year I doubted that I would manage to find the time to train for it. I have instead entered Coniston one way. A shorter event at ‘only’ 5.25 miles. Helen was also looking at this event, but she will be supporting me here as I will be supporting her on her ‘big’ swim at Bala earlier in the year. I am a tad jealous as the Bala swim involves a steam train ride to the start.

Coniston One Way

Last and not least, and probably the craziest race that I’ve ever entered is the Panther takes the hindmost (elimination ultra marathon), organised by Punk Panther Ultra marathon Events. This is in a similar vein to the increasingly popular Last Man (Person) Standing races. I say ‘person’ as the 2019 winner of the original race was Maggie Guteral completing 250 miles. There are two Last Man Standing Races in the UK; one in February in Northern Island and the other all the way in the south in Essex. The Essex race clashes with Helen’s Bala swim, so it was an easy decision (especially as Helen will ride on a steam train). One day I would like to have a go at a Last Man Standing race just to see if I could make it to 24 hours (100 miles).

The Panther takes the hindmost race is held on a 10.5km loop and starting at 9.30am four laps have to be completed. At 3.30pm the elimination begins, with the person in last place being eliminated every half lap, until there is only one. In reality more than one person drops out each half lap. Last year the 2nd and 3rd place runners both dropped out at 8 and a half laps. The winner continued and completed 10 full laps (just over 100km). I have no idea how I will fair. As the OWU is 40 miles (64km), I would like to go just a little bit further. My target is therefore 6 and a half laps, anything beyond that will be a bonus.

Panther Takes The Hindmost

I am slightly scared about the two ultra events, although I do plan on increasing my running, both distance and frequency, as well as plenty more off-road running. In anticipation today I purchased a new pair of trail shoes. New running shoes are always exciting.

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What races have you entered for 2020?

Salford Triathlon 2019

The company I work for, Wardell-Armstrong, are one of the main sponsors of the Salford Triathlon, and because of this we are given four free entries. These are always used as relay entries so that as many people from the company can take part, if they wish. This is the third time that I’ve been a part. In 2017 I did the swim (read about it here) and last year I did the whole thing in horrendously wet conditions (read about it here). This year I was doing just the swim once again, but at least there was no way that the weather could be as bad as last year. This is Manchester, cue massive downpour just before the start, however it has just about stopped by the time the relay swimmers were off.

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Nice pink hat!

Whenever I’ve mentioned to people about swimming in Salford Quay they make a face, but the water is some of the cleanest you could swim in. It was also lovely and warm. Definitely warm enough to go without a wetsuit. I’m not quick enough without one.

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Who’s that walrus? Photos were courtesy of the regional director!

I managed to mess up with my Garmin, but my official time was 25:39, which can only mean that the course was a little short. Out of the water I still had to run to transition to hand over my timing chip to my immediate boss, who was once again doing the cycle leg. He managed a very respectful time, especially as there were quite a few ‘offs’. The runner in our team was a client of the firm and someone that I had never met before the event. He wasn’t a ‘pure’ runner, but he did well and our team was nearer the top than the bottom.

Next year I might opt for the whole thing once again, or I might offer my services as a runner. A great day and four relay teams organised by one of the associate directors from the central Manchester office, with plenty of support from everyone. I definitely enjoy working for this firm.