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!