After a long break from any big adventure it was time to pack up the bike and head out to the south of France for a little Tour de France of my own. The plan was simple, 6 days of cycling – coast to coast across the Pyrenees from Biarritz to Perpignan over some of the infamous climbs of the Tour de France.

Going in May was a perhaps a bit early on in the season with the biggest of all the climbs in the Pyrenees (the Tourmalet) still shut from winter. However, it did mean that we had all the other roads pretty much to ourselves.

The first day saw us start from the beaches of Biarritz and wind our way up through the countryside to Oloron-Sainte-Marie. Planned as a slightly longer day to get us into the mountains it turned out to be one of the hardest days and despite not taking in any notable climbs, we still managed over 2,000m of climbing in temperatures over 35°C!

Starting at the Atlantic

Starting at the Atlantic

The second day is when we started going into the mountains properly, with the main aim of the day the Col d’Aubisque, an Hors Categorie climb going up to 1,709m. Again with another roasting hot day we took it at a leisurely pace taking in not one, but two cake stops along the way. As we were in the Basque country it was rude not to eat a couple Gâteau Basques! The climb itself is absolutely stunning and we had it all to ourselves. When we got to the top we found of why as the road to the Col du Soulor was shut due to repairs after the winter, but we could squeeze through on bikes if we were careful. This was by far the most stunning climb of the trip and I’d recommend going up if you’re in the area, even if it’s just for the view.

The Col d'Abisque

The Col d’Aubisque

Day 3 was another tough day in the saddle with the temperature not showing any sign of cooling down. A day of two big climbs followed starting with the slightly easier Col d’Aspin which nicely wound up the mountain through some much appreciated shade. At the top we were greeted by one of the best descents I’ve ever done as the road dropped back down to Arreau.

The descent from the Col d'aspic

The descent from the Col d’Aspin

After lunch the Col de Peyresourde was on the menu and this was probably the toughest climb of the trip despite being only a category 1 climb. Every day it was around the 2/3 o’clock point that the temperature peaked and this nicely coincided with the steepest climb of the trip. Another beautiful descent followed taking us down the valley into the Victorian spa town of Bagnères-de-Luchon, the closest we would come to the Spanish border.

The next day was a shorter day to act as a bit of a rest taking in the Col de Menté (another great descent) and the Portet d’Aspet as we rolled over into the next valley and to Saint-Girons where we could take a little breather. By day 5 the relentless temperatures had dropped and we were climbing into the clouds at points but luckily the rain eluded us. The wind had picked up but fortunately it was with us for the majority of the day as we cut through the steep sided valley around the Pas de Souloumbrie giving the day an eerie feeling before arriving in our penultimate destination, Ax-les-Thermes.

Climbing through the clouds

Climbing through the clouds

Unfortunately by the last day of the trip our luck with the weather had run out and we set off into a drizzle and we knew we had a long day ahead of us. With no warmup the route saw us head up to the highest point of the trip at the top of the Port de Pailhères at 2,001m. As we climbed the wind was also getting stronger and as we passed the ski station the rain started to turn to light snow but we were protected from the worst of the wind by the switchbacks.

By this point we were fairly committed to the route with any detour involving probably another 100km and an extra day on the road. As the road plateaued out was when things got really tough. Visibility dropped and the snow was starting to settle on the road. Strong cross winds whipped across the road so we had to get off and walk the final 1km to the summit in blizzard conditions. Finding a little stone shelter at the top we scrambled to get all the clothes we had on us on and wonder what the hell we would do.

In the shelter at the top

In the shelter at the top with snow on the handlebars

We had a 1,200m descent ahead of us but the road seemed impassable, we decided that the best thing was to power through and walk down to a point where we could safely get back on the bikes and descend down into hopefully some warmth. Luckily we made it safely down to Mijanès where we found a little bakery that made us some much appreciated hot chocolates and we reflected on what we’d just been through and tried to warm up.

Already well into the day we still had over 100km to do to get to our final destination and two more climbs but none to the same altitude as where we had just been. The rain came and went but already soaking wet the descents were the hardest points trying just to keep warm. Another 50km or so saw us reach the top of the Col de Jau, the point from which the rest of the trip was all down hill. Another chilling decent was in order before we came across a cafe to get some much needed food as it was already 5pm at this point.

The final climb of the trip!

The final climb of the trip!

I don’t know if it was pity or disbelief but this lovely cafe took us in put the heater on, gave us blankets and probably the best meal of the trip so far, or at least the most appreciated! After warming up we still had 50km to go to but the sun came out and we dropped into the valley heading straight for Perpignan. The wind that battered us at the top of the Port de Pailhères earlier in the day pushed us along a dead straight road cutting through miles upon miles of orchards at speed as we were peeled off our layers as they dried out and we warmed up. We arrived in Perpignan 11 hours after we set off that day but we made it, we had crossed the Pyrenees.

Race Day

July 13, 2014

So after over a year in the planning, it was a bit surreal to find myself actually in a car driving to Klagenfurt to race in my first Ironman. The last year had flown past with all the training, build up races and me reassuring myself that it was ok because I had x months left to train. Well now x = 0, and I was feeling very unprepared with the constant feeling that I should have done more training.

We were staying just outside of Klagenfurt which turned out to be a good escape from the Iron-bubble as we spent the day we had beforehand exploring the expo, checking in our bikes and doing some all important testing of the lake.

Testing out the lake beforehand

Testing out the lake beforehand

With all this preparation before the race, it actually left us with very little to do on the morning of the race. It started at 7am which meant a 4 am start to eat, get down to transition, pump up the tyres and wetsuit up. Nothing was rushed and all was very calm as we met our team of supporters by the shore of the lake.

The team before the start

The team before the start

We were in the 2nd wave, so after the first wave set off we said our goodbyes and made it to the start line. It was a perfectly clear morning and the lake was beautifully calm, the atmosphere was building as the reality of finally doing the race was minutes away. After a stirring rendition of the Austrian national anthem it was 1 minute to go. I was about 6 people back from the front when the cannon went off and it was time to race as we waded in and began swimming.

I think it’s fair to say that this was the calmest swim I’ve ever done in an open water triathlon. It definitely helped that the water was clear enough that you could see where you were going but there was no jostling for position, no real swimming on top of each other and no elbows in the face. The swim went out into the lake and back before an 800m section up the Lend canal which was lined by spectators cheering everyone on. I actually swam fairly quick, probably helped by swimming relatively straight for once, doing the 3.8km in just over an hour. After a fairly slow transition, making sure I had my suncream on this time, it was time to head out on the bike.

Starting on the bike

Starting on the bike

The bike consisted of two 90km loops around a closed road course with a couple of hills but nothing too extreme. It was a surprisingly quick course as I kept looking at my average pace on the bike and thinking that I shouldn’t be going this fast fearing repercussions later on. At one point the team all came together and we had a quick chat about the swim before each racing our own races. Around about half way through the second lap I was starting to feel it a little bit and by the end I was definitely ready to get off my bike but I definitely didn’t feel like I had overcooked it, it was more that 180km is a long old way!

After another transition that wouldn’t have won any prizes, I was out on the run feeling surprisingly fresh. I wasn’t out of breath, my legs seemed fine and I was running out onto the course proper. It wasn’t until after about 2km into the run when I realised what the challenge on the run would be. I found myself feeling fairly hot despite being very lucky with the weather being sunny but not too hot itself. I’d run for a bit, find myself overheating and feeling exhausted and have to walk for a bit. I’d then feel fine and then repeat.

Running alongside the Wörthersee

Running alongside the Wörthersee

There were aid stations about every 3km which were much appreciated, and it took a few of them to perfect my strategy but I soon had it sussed:

  • About 100m before the aid station, stop running and start walking
  • Take off hat
  • Pick up two sponges, putting one under the forehead of my hat and using the other on the back of my neck and face.
  • Pick up 1 cup of coke, 1 of water
  • Sip coke as quick as possible
  • Wash down with water
  • Put remaining water over head

Once I had this sorted, I settled into more of a rhythm and found the second half of the run much more enjoyable than the first, despite it taking almost exactly the same time. With about a kilometre to go it hit me that I was going to finish in a time that I would be extremely happy with, and as I turned onto the second last straight I started picking up the pace, really enjoying it and thinking what I would do when I crossed the line.

On the actual finishing straight I was so focussed on the finish line that it was all a blur and before I knew it I was being congratulated and having my hand shaken. All in all, I finished in a time of 12:36:29 which I was really happy with.

Coming into the finish

Coming into the finish

To anyone who’s thinking of doing an Ironman I’d recommend going for it and not being put off by the distance, we all really enjoyed the race and unanimously agreed that Alpe d’Huez was so much harder two years ago!

I’m also in the market for potential challenges for 2015 so any ideas welcome as I take some time off for the moment!

Nowhere to Hide

May 22, 2014

So we’re getting closer to the big day… and as I got the last of my exams out of the way this morning, what have I been up to apart from those?

Since getting back from Lanzarote I wanted to have a number of races in the diary to keep things ticking over and provide some much needed distraction. The first was the Surrey Hills Cyclone Sportive which was a nice 140km course around the hills of Surrey with Lizzie to make sure we didn’t take it too easy after getting back. This went over some well travelled roads, but starting in Dorking it had the advantage of being able to go much further South than if we were coming from London as per usual.

Next up was another in the Endurancelife series which I know I keep going on about. This time it was the Exmoor race and a team of 4 us headed down for the weekend, staying in Lynton. The race was based around Hunter’s Inn, right in the heart of the national park and saw us do a big figure of 8 up and down the hills and along the stunning coast. A lot of care had to be taken on the narrow footpaths to not spend too much time admiring the view and to watch where your feet were going unless you fancied a drop into the sea!

Exmoor Coastal Trail Series

Exmoor Coastal Trail Series

If that wasn’t enough running up and down hills, the next weekend I found myself on a plane and off to the Isle of Man for the annual Running Festival with a team made up from our Thursday evening run club. Staying in Douglas, the weekend saw a series of races across the island including a 10km, a hill race, a pub crawl/race and a final 5km if that wasn’t enough. Luckily the weather over the bank holiday was lovely otherwise the weekend might have been much less enjoyable!

We first did the 10km, running from Port Erin over to Port St Mary and back, followed most importantly by some amazing fish and chips! The following day we headed over to Peel for the  hill race (which was just a teaser compared to Exmoor the week before) which preceded probably the toughest race of the weekend. As we were now in Peel, but staying in Douglas, someone had the great idea to turn this return journey into a 10 mile pub crawl across the island. Choosing my drink as Ale to prevent too many bubbles we ran between the pubs getting slower and slower, and as Glasgow University were getting louder and louder, until we were back in town.

There were definitely some struggling faces the next day when we had the final 5km race along the shore in Douglas. As probably my least favourite distance, and considering the previous days’ events, I managed to put a relatively good time down but also be relieved to not running any more!

Peel Hill Race, Isle of Man

Peel Hill Race, Isle of Man

A couple of weeks later and it was time for the big warm up race over in Essex, a half ironman to see how things stood with 6 weeks to go. Now considering that for all the races above I’ve managed to have near perfect weather conditions, this was when my luck ran out. Although we avoided the torrential rain which fell the day before, strong winds battered the perfectly flat and exposed Essex countryside. Arriving at the start Lizzie was quick to point out that “today, there will be nowhere to hide” and she wasn’t wrong.

Before starting and reluctantly putting on our wetsuits we overheard news that the swim had been cut down to avoid both having to try and swim upstream and ending up being swept out to sea! At the briefing we couldn’t hear a word over the wind and it was actually warmer to be in the water at the start.

Forcing a smile at the start!

Forcing a smile at the start!

In the swim I have to admit I didn’t have a clue what was going on, I just swam next to someone and somehow I managed to be at the finish, and to my surprise, 8th out of the water. Any gains were quickly thrown away as I struggled to layer up in transition but it was definitely the right decision to wear more clothes than normal!

The bike was 2 big square loops around the Dengie peninsular, 50% into the wind, 50% with the wind, and relatively quick before coming back into Bradwell-on-Sea to start the run. This is where things got hard for me. The run course was 2x10km loops around the peninsula, the first 4km were along streets/paths but then the path went out along an embankment around the  coast, and crucially, running fully exposed into the wind on uneven ground. It was so strong it took your breath away and it really took it out of me. When it came round the second lap I really struggled and being able to see where you’re going doesn’t mean you get there any quicker! It goes without saying that I was fairly relived to see the finish and didn’t realise how close Lizzie was on my heals.

So it may not have been the full test it was planned to be, but it still put me in my place. Now to put some serious training in with exams out of the way and get myself to Austria!

Going off the radar

April 7, 2014

So you may have noticed a slight lack of posts of late. Now that could be due to me not being up to much, but it is in fact quite the opposite. After a CIMA exam in November, December saw me do my first half marathon up in Bedford, with a rather unexpected hilly course I was quite happy with a sub 1:45.

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After Christmas, and it was time for training to start to ramp up. With some rather unseasonal weather I managed to get out on the bike a fair bit before heading up to Centre Parcs at the end of January for the now annual get together. With the usual racket sports, rapids, and running what could go wrong?!

In an attempt to play it safe I decided to play the badminton tournament left handed, and despite making it to the semi final we found ourselves match point down. I found myself stretching for a wide shot and my left shoulder decide to follow the path its counterpart on the right… Lucky for me there was a doctor playing on the adjacent court and it was back in place in a couple of minutes. I spent the rest of the weekend taking it easy but still doing as much as possible, hopefully it doesn’t seem to have been too serious. 

Not to be be held back, February saw Dan and I head down to Brighton for the Half Marathon there, another beautiful day saw me knock a good amount of time off the race in December, finishing in 1:34:59.

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After the race it was straight back to college again for the next set of exams in May while trying to slot as much training in in-between as the Ironman gets closer and closer. With that in mind I headed back to Lanzarote in March with Lizzie and Chris for a training week at Tri-Sports Lanzarote, where we were this time last year. 

Another full-on week ensued with a great bunch of people, as we clocked up some serious miles in the sun (and wind) on the roads and in the sea. 

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Now 2 countdowns ensue, one to the exams in May, and the other to the Ironman at the end of June. Maybe I won’t be back on the radar just yet, unless I see you at the start line of some races I’ve got lined up…

Racing to recovery

October 27, 2013

If you look at the time between posts on here you’d guess I was lying low and haven’t been up to much; and there is some truth in that. After another dislocation of my shoulder it was decided that surgery was the best option and in early June I went under the knife and had the operation. This did put me out of action for a while but 5 months later I’m happy to say that I’m pretty much fighting fit again. Post-op I was keen to get back to fitness as soon as possible and have some things in the calendar to stop me turning into a complete couch potato. So what have I been up to?

One of the first things was climbing up Snowdon, which is a great thing to do if you haven’t done it before, it was a bit tricky with one arm still hanging by my side but we were rewarded with great views from the top. We took the Miner’s route up from the youth hostel and then the path down to Llanberis.

The view from Snowdon towards Llanberis

The view from Snowdon towards Llanberis

The decision was also made while still in a sling that 3 of the team from Alpe d’Huez would go that bit further and compete in Ironman Austria next year so the entry is in, watch this space. Following on from this I’ve been trying to regain/maintain my fitness as the nights draw in and have done 3 races recently to set the bar.

First of these was the Ipswich Duathlon which was based around Alton Water. Consisting of a 5k run, 23km bike and another 5km run, this was actually my first duathlon I’ve done and it was strange to wear a tri suit and not be swimming! I learned that Suffolk isn’t as flat as I thought but overall I did relatively well, finishing 38th out of 113 in 1:30:42.

Finishing the duathlon

Finishing the duathlon

As the Autumn became more pronounced it was time for the Wiggle South Downs Sportive based in Chichester and heading for 100 miles around the South Downs. After some deliberating as to whether the weather would hold and if we were going to start, I found myself on the way to the start line. Despite some torrential rain in the car on the way there we started fully kitted out in waterproofs, braced for the worst, at least it wasn’t cold!

30 miles into the race my gears went which left me with 2 gears for the remaining 70 hilly miles but the weather held for the first 4 hours and then it did only rain hard 3/4 times for a short period so it could have been much worse! It was a really well organised event and with so many people on the road there was always someone to chat to so I’d recommend any similar sportive.

Photo: UK Cycling Events

Photo: UK Cycling Events

Less than a week later I was back in Suffolk for the Coastal Trail Series where I was doing the half marathon. After doing the Dorset leg of the series last year I was keen to get another one ticked off and I figured that this would be a bit easier than Dorset! Starting from Dunwich and heading up through the marshes/forest/beach to Walberswick and back it was a beautiful and ever changing course which took my attention off the distance. In the end it was a sneaky kilomtetre longer than your standard half marathon but I was really pleased with my time of 01:52:44 placing me 40th of out 192.

Start of the 1/2 Marathon

Start of the 1/2 Marathon. Photo: Vikram

After a raving review from Marcus about this surfing holiday in Morocco which he was going back to, I booked a plane and headed out to Agadir to join him see what all the fuss was about. We were staying for a week at Moroccan Surf Adventures which lies up the coast in the town of Tamraght.

Set in a 4 storey villa overlooking the sea it was the perfect location to be based and provided a really friendly and relaxed atmosphere with our own chef, yoga teacher and coaches to look after our every need. We headed down to the beach in front of the house most days where the waves were perfect for beginners and where I tried to remember that little bit of surfing I’d learned back in Newquay many moons ago.

Hitting the beach

Hitting the beach

Every morning we would have instruction from our coaches Said and Rachid who took the no-nonense approach to ensuring we took their advice onboard. I lost count of the times I heard “No knees! Why you use your knees!” being shouted at me, but their approach paid off and everyone in the group made real progress to being able to stand up within a few days.

Heading into the sea

Heading into the sea

In the afternoons after lunch on the beach we would head out again and try to put in practice what we had learned in the morning with pointers from another coach Scott who joined us ion a board and showed us how it was done.

Bringing it home to the shore

Bringing it home to the shore

On our last day of surfing we headed further up the coast to Tamri to tackle some harder waves which put us in our place a bit as we tackled with messy waves and a strong side current that made standing up in the water hard work. Those better on a board headed out further to catch the bigger 6ft waves, however after seeing a pair of killer whales within 5m of their boards they came back into shore pretty quickly!

The following day there didn’t seem to be any surf anywhere so instead of siting around we headed inland to a place called Paradise Valley where we trekked through the lush vegetation and found a series of plunge pools which we could dive into and climb around.

Ross in Paradise Valley

Ross in Paradise Valley

I had a great time and my surfing definitely improved but there’s still lots of room for improvement. Now I just need to think where I can go with a shoulder in a sling for my next holiday.

And to close, this is the view from the villa…

Cool Runnings

April 14, 2013

With the warmer weather apparently just around the corner, it was time for the start of the running season which saw me donning a race number not once, but twice in one week with events at both ends of the running spectrum.

The first race saw me and another member of Team Thursday head up to Parliament Hill in North London for a track meet with the Highgate Harriers. We’d both entered the 800m with me being the definite novice of the two. Due to my lack of track experience, I’d entered a rather pessimistic time as an estimate which saw me seeded in the last heat, alongside what can only be described as a year 9 PE class.

The other runner from Team Thursday put down a solid marker in an early heat, only 4 seconds of their PB before it was my time to line up. With the rain spitting and making the track a bit slippy I took my place on the inside lane, looking comfortably over the heads of the runners in front of me.

The gun went off and I slipped as my lack of spikes put me at a clear disadvantage, however luckily a false start was called and we returned to our lanes. On the second start I was more cautious  and kept my footing, I managed to take most of the other competitors on the first bend before everyone cut in from the lanes with just one competitor in front of me. I kept right on her heels despite calls from the sidelines urging me to overtake and take the wind but I just couldn’t! Realising that this was my race to lose and face never hearing the end of it, I managed to find a burst of strength coming round the last corner and broke away on the home straight, saving my pride and winning the heat, just…

Seeing as this was the first time I’ve done an 800m, I was guaranteed a PB and was pleasantly surprised by my time of 2:31.

Photo: Martin Addison

Parliament Hill Running Track. Photo: Martin Addison

At the weekend it was time for another round of the ongoing battle between me and my main rival in such sporting events. We’d entered the Unity Fitness Half Marathon up in Hackney which consisted of a 6 lap course around the Marshes. This was the first time that I’ve done this distance that hasn’t either been at the end of a triathlon or off-road along the ‘undulating’ Dorset coast, so I was keen to get a good marker down.

With the heavy rain the night before, the start of the course along the side of the the football pitches was quite muddy and difficult under foot, but for the majority it was along paths which were fine. On the back end, the course turned and we followed the canal back to the start with a unhelpful wind to run into.

The event was very low key but really well organised, with a great atmosphere and a view of the Olympic stadium and park to provide inspiration. I was aiming for 1:40 but a stitch on lap 2 slowed me down and I never could claw it back. I found the distance manageable but I’m definitely not fit enough to run any further at the moment! Despite the distance taking its toll I managed to find the energy to spot and track down my rival over the last mile to pull off the steal of the century in the last 10 metres finishing in a time of 1:45 which I was pretty happy with.

We both agreed that it was a tough race and in less than ideal conditions which definitely made us pay. I’m glad I’ve now done the distance and can think about where I go from here. So now the season has started, let’s see how we improve!

So while the UK froze, the usual suspects of Lizzie, Simone and I headed out to pastures warmer for a bit of winter training over in Lanzarote. We were staying with TriSports Lanzarote with 11 others in their villa just outside Puerto del Carmen. We had a full schedule of training ahead and a coach to make sure we did it all!

When we arrived we were met by the beautiful views and searing heat, Lizzie and I looked at each other and just knew that this was exactly what we wanted when we booked the trip. We were picked up and headed to the villa where we would spend the week and met the others as they arrived throughout the day, soaking up the sun in between. With talk over the evening of the races that people were doing and the big miles that lay ahead we were quite nervous going into the first day wondering if we would be fit enough to survive the week. 

The next morning we headed down to the beach for a swim in the sea which was lovely, the water was crystal clear and a nice 20°C before heading back to the villa for breakfast and to get out and about on the bikes. For our first cycle we did a 125 km figure of eight around the island taking in some of the volcanic landscape Lanzarote has to offer. The entire island is very rocky and dry, giving the island a very black composition with whitewashed houses scattered across it. Oh and I should also mention, it’s very windy, all the time. When we returned we had the small matter of a 5 km run to ‘stretch the legs out’ before we could finally eat some lunch (6 pm by now) before returning for dinner (at 7 pm!).

Getting ready for a dip in the sea!

Getting ready for a dip in the sea!

This was a pattern that played out throughout the week with a swim in the sea in the morning, a bike and a run in various orders and of varying lengths, below is how the schedule panned out:

Friday – Sea swim (2 km), bike (125 km), run (5 km)
Saturday – Run to the beach (10 km), Sea swim (2 km), Bike Hill repeats (20 km), Strength
Sunday – Bike (160 km), run (5 km), Pool swim (1 km)
Monday – Sea swim (2 km), Long run (15 km), Afternoon off!
Tuesday – Sea swim (4 km IM route), Bike TT (50 km), Speed run (5 km)
Wednesday – Sea swim (3 km), Brick repeats (70 km bike, 5 km run).

In total we did approximately 14 km of swimming, 425 km of cycling and 50 km of running. Not bad for 6 days on holiday!

The view from the villa

The view from the villa

The highlights for me had to be when we did the Ironman swim because it was such a beautiful morning, the sea was pancake flat and crystal clear with the fish out in numbers, even at one point catching a glimpse of a school of tuna. Secondly the 100 mile bike ride was stunning, noted it was incredibly tough and I’ve never eaten so much while out on the bike, but it’s one of those achievements it’s nice to get ticked off.

Out on the bike

Out on the bike

On the last night (which was also my birthday) we headed into Puerto del Carmen for a meal and to the bar with everyone relieved to have survived the week and finally able to let their hair down a bit.

It was really great week and the villa was the perfect setting to chill out in between all the activities. Debs and Daz did a great job looking after, and cooking seemingly constantly for us. Everyone there that week helped make it really relaxed and I’m sure we’ll all be heading back sometime in the future. If you’re keen to head out to Lanzarote for a week or two training let me know and I can let you know all the details!

I had a video camera with me while I was away and put together a little video, make sure you watch in HD:

As part of my plan to get into running more, I was persuaded by some of the Alpe d’Huez team to enter the Dorset leg of the Endurancelife Coastal Trail Series. I always knew the race was going to be tough with its ‘Extreme’ rating making it one of the most challenging of the series, only sharing this rating with the Exmoor leg. Nevertheless I went ahead and entered the half marathon for better or worse, besides it couldn’t be as tough as Alpe d’Huez could it…

This was a month or so ago and it was mostly forgotten about since then, I made an effort to run more frequently but it’s been getting pretty cold and dark recently and I’d be lying if I said I’d trained as much as I should have. Also having the work Christmas party 2 nights before the event wasn’t the best preparation!

We were fortunate enough to have a friend who lives nearby that we were all staying at and we’d managed to get a large group of us down for the race which gave the whole thing a great atmosphere. We headed down on the Friday for the race on the Saturday so there wasn’t too much time to think about it all before I was at the desk signing in to the race. Luckily it was a beautiful day for it, if it’d had been raining it would been an absolute mud bath and treacherous underfoot.

On the course we had to be self supportive which meant running with a camelbak and carrying a first aid kit amongst other things, a novel experience if you’re not used to it. The race started in Lulworth Cove at did a big figure of 8 first looping out to the West past the famous Durdle Door before running back through the town and then along past the MoD firing range and back. The route can be see here, but as a taster here’s the elevation profile of the race and a few of the start of the course.

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The race started with about 400 people doing the (rather generous 15.1 mile) half marathon and an eager run up the first hill where I soon realised that because of the gradients, running was fairly pointless as you were climbing so much that it was quicker to walk quickly. As soon as we reached the top of the first hill we had a beautiful view of the sea and coast but it was straight back down a steep descent on the other side where you really had to watch your footing on the coastal trails to make sure you didn’t break your ankle. Then it was straight back up an even steeper cliff (and I’m talking using your hands to clamber up steep).

If you hadn’t got it by now there’s a clear pattern emerging of up down up down that epitomised the race. I learned it the hard way but I won’t bore you with all the details, suffice to say, I found the first quarter of the race the toughest. My legs were burning up with all the climbing and descending but luckily on the lag back to halfway it allowed me to get into a rhythm and stretch out a bit.

Once I settled into my strategy of running the flats and the not too steep downhills while walking the uphills I started to really settle into the race and just enjoy it while taking in the amazing views and scenery. The race had a really sociable vibe around it with people holding gates open for each other and chatting en route which meant that although in the end it took me 3h44, it didn’t feel that long, despite never having run for anywhere near that long before! To put that in perspective that was a comfortable mid table result, despite the winning time being a mind blowing 2h16.

392081_10100201409093292_956295010_nComing into the finish, photo: Olly Jeffrey

It was an amazing race and I’d recommend the series to anyone who wants to run in a beautfiul place, there was the full range of distances available from 10k up to Ultra marathon so don’t say it’s too easy/hard (delete as appropriate!). Now I just need to pick from next challenge from their bucket list

If the Alpe d’Huez epitomised France with its mountains and cheese, then this triathlon in Aberfeldy epitomised Scotland with its lochs and Scottish mist. After a rather long journey over 3 days, involving 3 front wheels, I finally made it to Pitlochry where a large group of ex-EUTRI members were slowly assembling. In total we had over 12 people from the club coming together from far and wide and a few more along the way supporting which made for a great atmosphere.

In the early morning of the race, the Scottish mist was hovering over Loch Tay and we arrived to a hive of activity with everyone assembling at the transition zone outside the Scottish Crannog Centre. After the small distraction of forgetting my goggles and having to find some, it was time to get in the water. We were warned at the race briefing the day before that the water was going to be cold and they wern’t lying! At a rather chilly 12.9°C it took a while for me to be able to feel my face and toes again but just as I was getting acclimatised the gun went off and everyone started swimming. The first lap of the 1.9km swim was closely packed, and I narrowly avoided a few kicks to the face, but the swim was relatively straightforward.

An old image of Loch Tay

As I left the water, the rain had started and everything in transition was soaked through but at least it still relatively warm. The 90km bike course consisted of climbing over to the next valley and completing a lap of the loch before climbing back over and down into Aberfeldy. It was a beautiful course over relatively quiet roads and due to the number of people we had entered it meant that we passed each other quite frequently. Before climbing over to Loch Rannoch the rain had stopped and the sun was starting to come through before being out in force well before the end. It took me just over 3 hours to complete the cycle which was pretty fast for me and before I knew it I was out on the run.

Map of the bike route

The run was the least enjoyable section of the race for me as I’m not that good at it and the course was quite undulating. It consisted of a 1/2 marathon, running along and back the side of the River Tay which gave another great opportunity to see everyone we had entered in the race (and how far ahead of me they were). Before finally coming back into the town and finishing at the school.

In total the race took me 6h 19m and unfortunately there was not chip timing so I was unable to get my splits but it was 4.5 hours quicker than Alpe d’Huez! I was happy with the time but know I need to work on my running.

In the evening we had a meal with everyone and drank whiskey in the local pub before calling it an early night as everyone was exhausted. We met up again the following day in Edinburgh to soak up the festival before starting the long journey back to the South Coast the next day.

That’s me done for all my long races for this year, it’s definitely been an experience, and a tough challenge which leaves me plenty of food for thought over what my big challenege is for next year.