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.

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Lakesman Half Triathlon – Supporting

Three weeks ago my beautiful wife was competing at the Lakesman Half, a big step up in distance for her. Understandably she was nervous. We’d been round the bike route a few weeks earlier (read about it here), which had mostly helped, although there were a few too many main roads for our liking. Helen had also been open water swimming quite a few times this year and along with a very tough half marathon (read about it here) meant that I knew she would be fine, even if she was still apprehensive.

We opted to camp for three nights a couple of miles outside of Keswick in a truly beautiful, but quiet campsite. Registering on the Friday evening was the smart thing to do, followed by fish and chips, a couple of beers and an early night. My most important role was to keep Helen relaxed and to impart some of my experience so that she didn’t make any of the numerous mistakes I’ve made.

On the Saturday morning I decided to make the most of being in the area by running Whinlatter parkrun, along with a couple of other people from the campsite (read about it here). Definitely the hilliest parkrun I’ve ever done.

Later that afternoon we loaded up the car and headed into Keswick so that Helen could rack her bike, sort out transition and then attend the race briefing. With so many marshalls and helpers in attendance every possible question was answered without any fuss. Any other questions were addressed in the race briefing. Apart from the actual race, Helen was quite relaxed about what would be expected in the morning.

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With the full race starting at 6am and the half at 6.10am, it was an early alarm. I would like to apologise to the other campers if we woke you up at 4.30am. At the lake I was amazed at how many people were there. The conditions looked ideal with a flat lake and very little wind. However I noticed one guy pull out of the full swim after about five minutes, and another who had arrived late and wasn’t allowed to start.

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Helen, on the other hand had a brilliant swim. I wasn’t there to see her finish the swim as I had brought my bike with me and and was planning on cheering her on from out on the course. Family and friends driving onto the bike course can cause numerous problems, so I got to my vantage point before any athletes had got there, and was going to cycle back on the other side of Bassenthwaite Lake.

Standing by the side of the A66 it wasn’t long before the first cyclists came past. I also had the chance to cheer on a few team mates from COLT before Helen whooshed past. I then had a relaxed ride back to Keswick on the much quieter side of the lake. I had only been back at the car park for ten minutes when the very friendly marshall shouted that the first half cyclist was on his way. I grabbed a sandwich and walked into Keswick to find a suitable vantage point where I could cheer on the cyclists and the runners. It was taking Helen longer to finish the bike leg that I expected and I was starting to worry. I was very relieved when her smiling face came into view. It turned out that the last ten miles of the bike had been fairly bad, with too much traffic. The previous year we’d pulled out of a race because the bike route was on busy dual carriage-ways (read about it here). Helen spent an extra few minutes composing herself in transition before starting the run.

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For the supporters the run is by far the best part of a triathlon, and with five laps there was so many places to cheer on my beautiful wife. I grabbed a coffee from a vegan cafe next to the river Greta, but with so many other supporters I headed off to some of the quieter areas of the course.

I absolutely loved cheering people on in the areas where no one else was, especially with their names on the numbers. I also got to cheer Helen on in random places, often when she least expected it. However I misjudged how many laps she’d done and had to run back to the finish line so that I would be there when she finished. Amazingly I walked 15km cheering people on during the run, and I did make it to the finish line to give Helen a big hug. My wife is awesome, beautiful and I love her very much.

Unfortunately, the woman finishing in front of Helen crossed the line with her children and family, completely blocking the finish line, so that Helen didn’t get a photo crossing the line. The organisers had asked people to be aware of other athletes if they intended to cross the line with family. Next year, the organisers have promised to get the photographers to re-take finish line photos if this happens. Also, all of the official photographs were free to download, which is always appreciated.

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I then helped Helen with her bike and stuff back to the car, where we returned to the campsite. A short lie down and then the local pub for some food and a beer. Back at the campsite as were getting ready to sleep the weather turned for the worse and chucked it down. If we had been in walking distance of the run route I would have returned to cheer on the last of the full race athletes.

As an aside, is there anything better than a quiet campsite on a Sunday night.

Helen had wanted to finish in less than seven hours, which she did, with a smile. If it wasn’t for the bike route she would have entered next years race immediately. Ten days later and Helen logged onto the Lakesman website to find out that the half for 2020 had already sold out.My thoughts on the race are that the cut-off time for the bike for the half is unnecessarily tight. With a full race at the same time there’s no reason why the cut-off couldn’t be six hours instead of five. My other thought would be to change the bike route coming back into Keswick to use the A591, which skirts the other side of Bassenthwaite Lake and is much quieter. However, the race is proving more and more popular each year and I for one thinks that it makes a welcome addition to the race calendar, and maybe one day I’ll do it. But, as the half is sold out for next year, we’ve been looking for alternative races for next year, and there are a few interesting possibilities.

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.

 

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.

Hampton Pool 1996

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.

Random Triathlon Tips

The Horwich sprint triathlon is on this weekend. It’s a popular local early season pool based sprint triathlon. I’ve not entered as there always seems to be so much going on. I was swimming this morning in the pool that will be used for the triathlon, and I was chatting to a bloke with a large M-dot tattoo on his leg. Today was his first swim since Ironman UK back in July, and he’s doing the Horwich triathlon in 3 days time.

My random triathlon tip today would be if you’ve entered a race, no matter how short, you probably shouldn’t leave it that late before going for a swim.

Socks or no socks

Following on from my post last month about swimming without a wetsuit (read about it here and here), I will no write about whether you should complete a triathlon wearing socks or go without. If you go without you’ll possibly save yourself up to a minute on race day, but if you’re then plagued by blisters for two weeks following the race, is it worth it?

If the race is a sprint it’s probably worth going without socks, but a half ironman or longer I would definitely put socks on. What about a standard distance race? I completed Salford Triathlon a couple of weeks ago (read about it here) and went without socks. I wasn’t sure if I should show you a picture of my feet, but this is ten days after the race.

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This is the inside of my right foot, just above and behind the ball. I could hardly walk the day after the race. I’ve done many races without socks and have generally been OK. What was different this time? It was very wet, and I had never used my racing flats without socks.

There you go, rookie error. One of the golden rules of triathlons is don’t do anything new on race day. I should have gone for a couple of runs without socks, then I would have known that they rub. This is my 27th year of triathlons and I’m still making basic mistakes. Learn from my errors.

Salford Triathlon 2018

If I was to describe this race in one word, it would be ‘WET’. After six weeks of blazing hot sun, the rain came at last, on race day. It chucked it down for the whole race. I think I was wetter at the end of the run than at the end of the swim, it was that wet.

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I was off in the first wave at 8.30am, which is why there isn’t anyone in transition. It also meant that my alarm went off at 5.30. Sensibly my beautiful wife Helen opted to stay at home, missing out on the very early start and also missing out on standing around in the rain for a couple of hours.

The race is based at the Media City, with the swim in the quay. The company where I work is one of the sponsors, so we receive a few free entries, which are used in the relay events so that as many people from work can take part as possible. Last year I did the swim (read about it here) and was slightly annoyed at myself for not doing the whole thing. So this year I paid my £70+ entry fee for the full individual race. At registration I also realised that I had forgotten my race belt, second time this year. Fortunately they were selling them at registration, and I now almost have enough race belts to open a race belt shop.

Getting ready in transition I chatted to someone who was doing their second triathlon. He told me that he wasn’t even born when I did my first race back in 1991. Thanks mate!

This would be the third time of swimming in Salford Quays, and it is amazingly clean, and this year the temperature was a nice and pleasant 20 degrees. Unlike at Isoman (Isoman Race Report) I sensibly used a wetsuit. The start was busy and took most of the first lap to find some space. As usual I took it easy on the swim and didn’t go off too hard and from my time of 25:03 I expect that the swim was a little short. I haven’t swam that quick for years.

Being in the first wave meant that in theory the bike course wouldn’t be too busy at least for a couple of laps. The first section was good with a hefty tailwind, but the small rise of the Manchester Ship Canal with a headwind and far too many potholes wasn’t as much fun. Due to road works there was a small route change which threw in a tight corner and more potholes. After a few laps I was feeling like a hamster in a wheel, but I overtook more people than overtook me and rolled into transition feeling fairly good. Despite the wet conditions I only saw one bloke who had come off, although I saw at least a dozen with punctures. Considering the adverse weather I was happy to average 20mph for the bike leg, especially as I was riding my 18 year old Principia, without deep section aero wheels or tri bars.

The run has always been my strongest leg of a triathlon, and after a sub 19 minutes 5k the previous week I donned my racing flats and shot off. The run loop has a couple of tight U-turns and therefore isn’t the quickest, but once again I overtook far more people than overtook me, although many of them were probably a lap ahead of me. I also had a brief chat with another bearded triathlete before pushing on past him. I was very happy with my run time of 41 mins. My fastest 10k for many years.

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The full results haven’t been published yet, but the live tracker suggests that I was 32nd out of 435 finishers, and 7th in my age group (40-49), which I’m also pleased with, seeing as I turn 50 in just over a year. My overall time was 2:28:29. My target time had been to finish in under two and a half hours.

The race was well organised, the marshalls were friendly and cheered me on all the time, especially one loud and colourful man on the far side of the bike course. This is a race that I would definitely do again, hopefully without the monsoon conditions. Nice finishers T-shirt and another medal (which doubles as a bottle opener) to add to the collection.

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As a bonus, the organisers uploaded over 500 photos to the Facebook page, allowing people to download them for free, rather than trying to charge a small fortune. I don’t think that it is too much to ask for a few free photos to be included with the race entry fee, especially as races are so expensive.