Epicman Windermere

Epicman Windermere by Darren Horrocks.

The day started by parking up in a field of sheep and sheep shit, and I noticed a lot of “run route” signs in the field, which I dismissed as “these are spare signs they are using to direct spectators to the actual run route”, I was wrong, but more on that later.

I unloaded my bike and my bag, and walked up to transition and got everything ready, and then had a lot of time to think about how badly the swim was going to go, because I really hate swimming, it sucks, for me, there is nothing worse than having to swim to start a bike/run race. What makes swimming to the start of a bike ride even worse, is swimming to the start of a swim, those words “deep water start”, are some of the worst words I know.

Despite that, the swim start to EpicMan Windermere was by far the easiest and least problematic part of the day. I swam out to the start and slowly swam in circles (I cannot tread water) for a few minutes to wait for my wave to start, and then off we went. The swim was a simple out, turn and back, very little sighting to do, so I just got on with it. I don’t know why I was so worried about the swim, I kept up with the back of my wave, and ended up getting out not-last.

Then came what I thought was going to be the easy bit, how wrong I was. I knew that 56 miles on the bike wasn’t going to be easy, but I didn’t know that it was going to be so hard. Just short of 6000ft of elevation according to my watch. 56 miles, and 6000ft in the wind, and, the biggest climb was the start of the loop, a loop I had to do twice. After completing the first loop, that seemingly went on forever, I knew I had it all to do again. Half way up the first climb of the second loop is the first time my head went, and I had decided I was going to go until I couldn’t turn my pedals, then get off and give up, today wasn’t my day. But I just managed to get to the top of 1.8km 10% average climb, and roll down the other side, and that was just how the next hour went, climb after climb, convincing myself I was done, and then thinking “it wasn’t that bad”.

That was until I had 5km left on the bike, and I noticed a mountain in front of me, and not a flat landscape that took me to a lake, I looked left, I looked right, the mountain stretched off beyond 5km in both directions, and then it dawned “im going over this aren’t I”. I followed the road, and a group of cyclists on a club ride ended up behind me. I turned a corner, and saw a 1km long 15% climb in front of me, and “ohh for f**ks sake” just fell out of my mouth, which was met by a lot of laughter and agreement from the club riders.

When I eventually got back to T2, my back, as well as my head had gone, I couldn’t really stand up straight or put weight on my left leg, because my back wasn’t there to support it under me. I used T2 to slowly change my shoes over and stretch off and felt slightly less terrible, so went off onto the run.

The run was 4 laps of a 5.3km course, an undulating trail course through fields, forest paths, up and down rocky climbs, and about half way round, through the sheep-shit field. At the end of the first lap, I was done, I had nothing left, I only continued onto the 2nd lap because I knew that not far into the lap, that is where the toilets where. I thought I would just carry on to the toilet and then walk back and tap out. But, from nowhere after going to the toilet, everything sort of came back to me, I had enough energy, and got rid of enough pain to be able to run the flats and down hill, and walk up hill. So I decided to carry on, and immediately caught my foot on a rock, which immediately went numb, and I thought I had broke it. It didn’t hurt to walk or run on it (that came later), so I continued. The only thing to get me round the next few laps was knowing that every time I ran past the start/finish line, my kids were waiting and shouting and wanting me to finish. I hobbled through and got to the end, in what was the toughest 7 hours and 59 minutes I have endured.

I was told during the run from another athlete, “I have done a few of these, this is the toughest one I have ever done, not only that, this is one of the toughest half marathons I have ever done, and would be on its own”. Which was later backed up by a few other people making similar comments. So while I was annoyed at not hitting the 6 hours I was initially aiming for, the day was a very tough day, and people who do this every week said it was tough too and I made it.

The lesson I have learned is, research the course next time, don’t pick one of the hardest races there are as your first one just because it’s the nearest and my head is stronger than I thought it was.

 

Ironman Mallorca 70.3

Apologies the publisher is running very late!!

Ironman Mallorca 70.3 race report….

I love cycling in the sun, I don’t mind hills and I’d long since decided that the half Ironman distance is the event for me….doable at my current level of training, no killing myself on the day, just enjoying a good solid half-day’s training with a medal and food at the end! What more could you want?
So a few years ago when I found myself spectating at Mallorca Ironman 70.3 during a cycling holiday, I decided I’d like to come back and do it one day.
And I’m so glad I did!

A friend (also competing) and I flew over and arrived in Alcúdia late Wednesday evening. We had a few glasses of wine, deciding sensibly to refrain for the next couple of nights, and got a relatively early night. Thursday was a busy day: first registering for the event and collecting the necessary transition baggage, stickers and touring the expo, then picking up our bikes, returning briefly to the hotel to change into cycling gear and then squeezing in a quick 25 mile loop up the coast to check out bikes were ok. Following lunch in Puerta Pollença and a lovely photo opportunity in Cala San Vicente, we returned to Alcúdia for a quick dip in the sea to acclimatise. It was much warmer than 3 sisters!

The following day, we had to rack bikes at 3pm and collect our timing chips from transition. This also involved packing the aforementioned transition bags with everything we’d need for the race. Stressful! Made a couple of rookie errors like walking 2 miles in flip flops and forgetting factor 50, but once everything was securely in transition it was feet-up time around the pool.
Race day morning was a 5:30am start for the special early breakfast the hotel put on for athletes. Apart from thinking porridge was a bowl of jumbo oats covered in boiling water, the rest of the offerings were substantial enough to fuel us for the next few hours, and off we went to the start, stopping briefly at transition to put nutrition on bikes.

There was a warm up opportunity prior to the start, so I had a little swim in the sea, and got my usual pre-race nerves and worries that my wetsuit was restricting me (memories of previous experiences rearing their heads). A quick rearrangement around the shoulders and I was ready to go.
The rolling start at Ironman events makes for a more civilised swim entrance, unlike the scary ‘washing machine’ fist fight in a mass start. I managed to get some great drafting, and coupled with millpond-like sea conditions produced my best swim ever. Sub-32 minutes, I thought I’d read the number wrong on my watch!

Into T1, quick drink of water, carried bike shoes with me as my bike was racked at the opposite end of the longest transition in the world (fact!) and onto the bike to start the course with a fast flat 15 miles to the foot of the climb. This consists of a 7 mile uphill, with I think an average gradient of about 5.5%. Not steep, but blimmin long! Following a technical descent with several switchbacks to contend with, the rest of the course is relatively flat, and if you haven’t burned your legs out on the climb (I did), should be pretty fast (I wasn’t!).

I was absolutely desperate to get off the bike, I always am, but having done very little on the bike this year I felt this event really found me out. After what seemed like an eternity, I was back in Alcúdia and quite happy to chuck said bike in the nearest skip. Instead I racked it back where it belonged and quickly headed out onto the run.

By this time the temperature had risen considerably, but conditions were helped by a slight breeze and lots of water stations. The run is a 3-lap route along the coast road, past the raucous beach party of support, then ending on the beach along the famous Ironman red carpet, where you hear your name on the loud speaker announcing ‘you are an Ironman’ (whether it’s a full or not haha!). Pretty uneventful run, managed to keep moving forward and eventually cross the line in just over 6 hours.

Swim 31:55
T1 6:02
Bike 3:33:13
T2 3:47
Run 1:54:46
Total 6:09:43

All in all, a superb event and a great location. Definitely recommend as a warm-weather option, and can also be done as a relay!

 

Ultimate Half Iron by Chris Green

UK Ultimate Half race report by Chris Green

After having man flu and lurgy all week I wasn’t really expecting much from UK ultimate half tri. Feeling crap and sick in the car I wasn’t looking forward to it.

Transition all set up wetsuit on pretty pink cap covering the battle braids walked down to the start to thunderstruck Jonathon going mental shook my hand and that’s last I saw of him until the run.

I placed myself at the back of the pack on the left as had to keep all buoys on right, we got acclimatised and I could still stand up but water up to my neck, after 3 or 4 mins we were away. Slow and rubbish start for me as I couldn’t get my head into it at all, the water was just deep and green. It took me half a lap to calm down and sort my head and breathing out. First lap done in 25 mins and out the water, little run with pressure on to make sure I nailed the dive with all the women watching about to start. That was probably the fastest 100m I swam trying to get a bit of a lead before the women came. It wasn’t long before I got swam over by lots of yellow caps but it gave me feet to try and follow and I was much happier with my second lap and did it under 24 mins total swim 48:26 total time, not a bad transition considering the distance from the water to bikes under 6 mins before out on the bike.

The bike course was amazing. The first half was slightly down hill and second half slightly up but more rolling than climbs, it was easy to stay on aero bars and never been happier to have di2 just flicking through gears. Easily think I could of pushed harder but happy with 3:05 for the bike distance.

Second transition was under 3 mins and as I was putting my shoes on I heard Jonathon shouting at me that he had done his first of 3 laps.

Out on the run the plan was to just go out at steady 8 min miles and see if my chest would let me just run, it seemed to work for the first 4 miles with a hi 5 to Jonathon as we went past each other. Taking the micky out of the St. Helens tri guy and the Warrington road runner there was friendly banter on the first lap and a hi5 to Jonathan on the second, then I made a friend from tri force in sterling and ran with her for the end of second lap and most of the 3rd with my pace slowing all the time. A bad stitch and unable to breathe I walked the water stations as the water was in cups. I wanted was half marathon under 2 hours and I got it with a 1:55 and Jonathan cheering me on. I ran under the finish stopped watch 5:57:58 really happy with that as epic man last year was 7:15 finish time! Jonathan finished in 5:12 28 mins swim 2:48 for the bike and 1:44 for the run so about 12 mins in transitions.

Ultimate Half Iron by Jonathan Kearsley

Ultimate Half Ironman by Jonathan Kearsley

Before anyone comments about grammar I got CC in English, but writing this on a Portuguese beach with a lot of sangria is making literacy hard at the moment!

As all races should start off I heard thunderstruck on the tannoy, this song being synonymous with iron man. I have listened to this song perhaps a hundred times in training, it always has the same effect, ask Chris Green. Now fully focused give him a big hug and a kiss on the cheek and headed to the lake.

Unlike every session at the Delph it is about 15 degrees and I actually want to be there. 10 minutes to acclimatise to the water, race nerves now fully taken over I try and speak to other competitors and practice my start. I headed to the front between two buoys. Go. I love swimming, it’s my favourite leg of the race, I spend the first 100m in an aquatic fight club a few kicks to the goggles and a swimmer over the top, enough to panic but experience says this is part and parcel of any race, along a wider line I find open water, relax and settle in to my rhythm, singing ac/dc in my head and I completed the first lap, ran along the carpet and dive back in. I’m not making Tom Daley nervous but a decent enough dive to join the lead pack, now all I can think about is my bike! Swimming is easy but cyclists play a game in triathlons called catch the swimmer who shouldn’t be on a bike.

Leaving the water in 7th position In 28 minutes I sprint to transition, the bike course is two laps at 45 km a piece. The first lap of my bike showed me it’s capable of speed and a very shocked me had started to do the math that a good time was on, on the turn for lap 2 a screw came loose on the aero bars, a few choice words later and half an energy bar I pushed on with lap two, losing time and places I finished the bike 51st in 2:48, a reality check in t2 will later tell me to grow up and that I’ve more than exceeded my expectations. My mum before the race suggested to take my time in transitions as it’s not a race, perhaps unusual advice before a race but making the most of the race and the allowance of headphones I put music on got myself organised.

Immediately leaving t2 I bumped into the the race leader about to start his last lap, apologies and an offered lucozade I watched him disappear in the distance, my last half distance was a day to forget mainly due to a 2:36 half marathon. 1 lap in I spot a familiar sight with Lucy Charles Esque battle braids. Seeing Chris made me so happy, I pushed on with the run, waiting for my legs to decide that the race is over and walking would be preferable. Seeing Chris on the following laps was either a blown kiss or a high 5 to the beautiful bastard, he made the run leg look effortless.

The last lap I told myself that if I wanted a time then it’s there but I’m going to have to suffer for it. I ran all the way with a lucozade bottle and after 20km I was sad to bin it truth be told.

1km left I thanked every single person who had been there. I couldn’t recommend this race enough, the support is amazing and definitely helps. The last 500m my pace picked up now at full sprint another runner shouts slow down you’ll not finish, he was told that I’m about to pb by almost a hour and 20 minutes, getting f**king running he screamed, finishing in 5:13 I broke down, 5 mins alone with my hat firmly over my face.

This is my favourite race and would recommend to any triathlete as a go at the longer distance tri.

West Lancashire Triathlon

Harriers don’t just run!…West Lancashire Triathlon by Darren Horrocks.

What can make a day that starts at 5am on a Sunday less terrible? Picking up a PB by 13 and a half minutes…

The morning started with an alarm that went off at 5am, which I ignored, and a second alarm that went off at 5:30am, which I could not ignore. Because of the “late” getting up, I forwent the bacon I prepared the night before.

By the time I had driven to Edge Hill Uni, the sun had come up and the car park was already getting busy, so I quickly unloaded my bike and walked it into transition while double checking my bag for the 9th time to make sure I had my running shoes, my cycling shoes, my goggles and my race number, they were all there. After dropping off my bike, I made my way round to the pool area and was suspiciously not nervous, when I was expecting to be terrified. It turns out, having a race plan settles race day nerves before they even start.

I’m a bad swimmer, and when I say bad you think “I’m a bad swimmer”, no, you are not, you can swim, you learned to swim in school and have done it on and off ever since. I always found an excuse to not swim at school, I never attempted to try then or at any time in the 31 years up to last year. I am also terrible at pacing, I can only go quickly, and burn out quickly because of it, so there was that to deal with too.

My Plan
For the swim, set off at the top of each minute. I can swim a 30 – 32 second length, but can do no more than 1 or 2 at once, so I decided to take the unneeded rest at the beginning to serve me when the rest gets/feels shorter later on.
For the bike, the whole plan for the bike was “the inclines are slight, the declines are slight, the rest is flat, so…. smash the bike as hard as you can, no holding back”.
For the run, I knew from last time, my legs would feel like I was a kangaroo for the first 1km or so, and I also knew that the last 1km is more or less downhill, then on the running track, so I decided to start quickly to stretch my legs from the bike, roll it back for the next 3km, then give the last 1km everything I had.

The Swim
For the most part, the plan worked. The event started late, so I ended up getting rushed into the water, started my watch and was told to go, first four lengths felt great, 30 seconds each, 30 second rest, which felt far too long, but, I had my plan, that extra rest was to compensate for later, the next 4 lengths started to slow down, as two more people got into the lane with me and I had to negotiate them as well as the swim. Once I got half way, I could feel the fatigue setting in, but knew I was half way done. The next 6 lengths, I don’t really remember, other than they were getting slower, and then suddenly, I spot the kickboard at the end of the 14th, the lane marshal telling me it was my last 2 lengths. That gave me boost I needed, all I could think was “there and back, that is it” and went all out for 2 lengths, weaving in and out of 3 other swimmers while doing so. Suddenly, I was out of the pool and running into T1.

T1
As I ran into T1, I knew I was home free. Threw myself down at the floor in front of my bike, yanked my compression socks on, and pulled my cycling shoes on, helmet on, number on, grabbed my bike and ran. There was no hanging around, I wasn’t losing my target time in transition this year. It was then I noticed that other than me, there wasn’t a single bike left in the first 20 numbers on the bike rack, which means everyone around me had a faster swim, but coming up, was where I knew I would pull it back. Ran out with the bike and got myself across the bike mount line, jumped on the bike, clipped in and shot off.

The Bike
Almost as soon as I set off, I had picked out who I was overtaking first, I could see 5 people ahead of me who I had seen leaving T1 as I was coming in, set my sights on all of them and they were the first to go, 4 of the 5 of them were before the first corner. After that, I had clear road in front of me, the next racer was way off in the distance in front of me, so I decided to get down, and power down the first “hill” to start the first proper lap. As I was going round, the legs were feeling good, even when I was on my way back up the “hills”, towards the end of the first lap, I glanced down at my watch for the first time, was averaging 3kph faster than I usually do, decided I was going to keep it, or beat it. Second and third lap were much the same, apart from a few other racers had joined the course behind me, so I had no idea if I was overtaking for position, or if I was overtaking racers I was not in a race with. Suddenly, the end of lap 3 turns up, and I make my way back to transition for T2 having felt like I had done quite well on the bike and started planning the run. I got myself to the dismount line, unclipped, jumped off and set off into T2.

T2
As I jumped off the bike, I thought to myself “no, not going to waste time, run, fast”, and I tried, forgetting I had just pushed the bike as hard as I could, my legs didn’t work. Walked for a few seconds, and then my legs came back, letting me run my bike back to my rack. There was something I should have noticed, but didn’t, which I will get to later. Once more, I threw myself to the ground, I threw off my bike shoes, put my running shoes on, and threw my helmet to the ground, and I was on my way out of T2.

The Run
My legs were like bricks, every step was agony, I was screaming at myself inside, I had overcooked it on the bike, but, I had a plan, I decided to try and stick to it, just gave what I had in me, no holding back. After I hit the 1km sign, I started rolling it back, I don’t know what I rolled it back to, but it was no more comfortable. Made my way around the university campus until I got to the running trail at the back of the university grounds, then suddenly a marshal said to me “well done, you are my first customer of the day”… I couldn’t believe it, I was in 1st position (yes, I started 12th, and its time based not past-the-post based). Gave me a bit of a boost, which let me find something that I’m still sure now, was not there.

Dragged myself kicking and screaming (on the inside) to the 4km sign, where I could see the finish line to my right, I could see the trail track in front of me, and the running track after that. Picked up the pace, and kept going with everything, then got overtook, was no longer first on the road, and even though knew I was never in contention for a win, my time was never going to win, and being first on the road means absolutely nothing, it felt like I had been kicked in the nuts. However, I hit the running track and knew I had 400m left, so gave it everything I had, and everything I didn’t have, I could not breath, I couldn’t see, I was just moving as hard as I could.
The finish was glorious, threw myself through the finish line and quickly stopped my watch, which looked suspiciously like I had beaten my 1hr 30 target, but I couldn’t tell.

Later
An agonising number of hours later, with me thinking I had hit 1hr 29, I get an email confirming I hit 1hr 28. Not only did I beat my target by 2 minutes, I beat my previous time on the same course by over 13 minutes.
Official Time: 1:28:15

Overall, it was an enjoyable morning, and given that I’m not in a position to race for a win, I look to learn something from each race and this race taught me the lesson that a race plan works.