Month: November 2010

Reality check. It’s grim up north!

As it was my day off today I thought I’d treat myself to a day in the Lakes, trying out that Trihard, so called ‘UK’s toughest triathlon’.


The thing is, all of the challenges I’ve set myself I’ve had a reasonable level of fitness to start with, and a huge dollop of bloody-minded determination. Basically, set my mind to it and got the job done however beastly the ordeal. Such as my first long bike ride. Set off, knocked off 51 miles (‘cos I got lost, otherwise would have done the 56 miles that is the half I.M. distance) then did a half marathon run straight after it. It was hellish, but I just got on with it and did it.

Such was my expectation for this little adventure; maybe half kill me, but just battle through.


A few minor set backs to start with. Such as it being in the Yorkshire Dales, not Cumbria. Way into the Dales. Two bleeding  hours of foot down! Then I couldn’t find the start point. Grrrr.

Got it sorted eventually.


I looked out of the car, it was a 1 in 4 ascent to start. 25% hill. Challenging. It was so long, as well as steep, that I ended up pushing my bike up a bit of it. Beaten at the first hurdle. I was stunned (as well as shagged!) but carried on. A few miles later it did it again. 25% hill. This time it went on for several miles. I ended up stood on the pedals in first gear on the lower front ring, tacking across the road from one side to the other trying to keep the momentum going. I failed again.

The one good thing about bloody Yorkshire, as I saw anyway, was there was hardly any traffic on the roads.

I got to the top of that hill/ mountain range and I looked like this;



Which is not just knackered, it’s shell-shocked!

I’d ascended from the level of the river, here;


Up roads like this;


I was sorely (I choose my words advisedly) tempted to turn around and go home. I couldn’t face the prospect of going down the other side then having to come up it again. It had cost me quarter of a tank of petrol (£12.50 –ish) to get there, same to get home so I pushed on. I was beginning to concede defeat, but thought I’d better get the full measure of the course and myself whilst I was there.

One thing I did learn, for this race I will be taking my tri bars off. You are either heaving at the normal handlebars going uphill, or hanging off the brakes trying not to crash, going down.


What do you know, when I got to the point I realised was going to be my furthest extent, I had to climb right back up again!

By the time I had got to the last 3 miles I was not just beaten, I was destroyed. I’d forgotten to take any food with me, so had a massive energy crash. My legs had nothing left to give. I was riding up the start then pushing even on moderately beastly hills  (of which there are lamentably few!)

What a wake-up call!


This one is not going to be determination. You need to have the legs for the job. And food.


The full course is 42 miles which you have to complete (with the 1800m swim included) in less than six hours. I managed 25 miles in 2 hours 47. And had nothing left to give. Without the swim. Which the route map planner gadget worked out as 2558 calories due to the terrain. See above under ‘energy crash’.

I have my work cut out for me.

I will have completed a marathon, half I.M, and full I.M. distance by the time I get to this one, but I may well be proudest of crossing that line. I am in shock. The last time I worked that hard was when I first ran a mile and half, off he bat. That was fifteen minutes of panting, gasping, and pushing through, This was nearly three hours and an utter failure.


Rise to the challenge!


Highs and lows.

I’m still on about my triathlon. Run away, run away now.

I am still working up to the full Iron Man distance Outlaw race (July 24, provisionally) but I have found a few diverting projects besides.


In may (21st, to be confirmed) there is a half I.M. distance race in Cornwall. That really appeals! Quick swim around St Michael’s Mount, (1.1 miles) tootle to Lands End and back on the pushbike (56 miles) then a half marathon run (13.1 miles). Even the swim won’t be on a level surface!  So enthused am I, that I’ve talked Wendy into taking a weeks holiday down there. I would like to make it two, but she won’t leave the cat for that long!  


That could be me!

Also, as a cheap warm-down to the season I’ve just booked a small but taxing triathlon in the lake District. It’s the 14th of August. 1800 metre swim in Semer Water, 42 miles of pure hell hills around the Lakes, lots of 1:4 hills, then a leisurely 12 miles up and over the hills. It has been rated as the toughest (for it’s distance, presumably) triathlon in the U.K.

In a rush of blood to the head I’ve gone and entered that! I was going to build up my stamina at cycling and see if I was up to it, but I just went on the home site, Trihard (love the name!) and one of May 2011 events is already sold out. I panicked and signed up.

Shit, I’ve got some training on now! 42 miles of Lake District hills! There’s incentive for you!

My training has been a bit patchy. I did a quick 30 (hilly) miles to test out my tri-bars. They are not as life-threateningly weird as I’d been lead to believe. Did a 10 mile run just to keep my hand in. Today I got a surprise half day off work so I had a nap then went to the pool. I started off, determined to crack the four strokes/ breath, without lifting my head. Still not ideal but improving. The thing I’ve learned is; don’t blow all your air out as soon as you submerge your head again, hold it until the third stroke, blow it out, then breath on the fourth. It stops that horrible panicky feeling that you have to breath RIGHT NOW, that causes you to gasp in water.

Anyway, I thought I’d try and learn as I trained, so set out to do 100 lengths. Succeeded, carried on to 150. That’s 150 x 20m, or 3k. My rough maths told me (2/3rds of a Kilometre to a mile) that that was 2 miles. Damn you Johnny Frenchman! It’s 1609 metres to a mile, ie 11 lengths short.

I could have been a contender!

Anyway, that disappointment aside, I was thoroughly pleased with that. Less than a month ago I was taking my first swim in 15 years, and was delighted to do 10 lengths, head up. Excuse my maths, but is that a 1400% improvement? Probably not, confused myself in the working out. My point being; if I continue to improve at this rate, by the time of the race I may well flip like Sir Donald Campbell in  BlueBird. I’ll be skipping along like a skimmed stone, hit a bow wave, tragedy. Better learn to pace myself.

The other news is my biking misadventures. I bought a seat pole thingy, (the bit that sticks out of the frame and holds your seat at the right height.) It was a fancy one, designed to push the seat forward into a position favourable for holding an aerodynamic hunch.

When I got it it made me realise just how crap my bike is. I only got it for exercise. I realised I’d paid more for the seat post than for the bike! Then the bloody thing wouldn’t fit! I tried to ‘adjust’ the frame with the application of an angle grinder and bloody-mindedness, to no avail.

Which set me to window shopping for a decent bike. A dedicated tri-bike is out of the question, the crappy ones start at £1,500. My car is probably worth about £400. Never going to happen. So I read about decent ‘entry level’ road bikes, that are fit for purpose with the addition of tri bars (got) and a forward seat post (got). They start at nearly £500! Still wasn’t happening, yet anyway.

Then the chap in the bike shop mentioned Bike2Work, a scheme whereby your employer gets tax breaks for buying you a bike, the cost of which they then stop from your wages, tax and interest free, over a 12 month period. So a £500 bike ends up costing you a smidge over £300. I’ve enquired at work.If they will do it, I can justify that.

Things are shaping up. I have lots of fun stuff to occupy my every free moment, and more besides. I got back to my sax practice today, after a couple of week absence. It was starting to build into an aversion. Enjoyed it tonight though, even if it felt like my cheeks were tearing!

Tomorrow I have to get back to the other hobby that really has turned into an aversion, Kung Fu. I’ve not been for several months now. Once you miss one lesson, you’re more likely not to go to the next, miss a few and you feel awkward going back. Still, that fool from the army has proved that even though I don’t need the skills for the fight I was expecting around here, you always need the skills.

Bite the bullet tomorrow. They want my money, I want to learn. Deep breaths, don’t panic.

If I can go once I’ll be fine, it’s just ignoring the deep formless dread of what will happen when I go back, and doing it.

Right, see if I can muster enough bottle and start again.

Enough for now, I’m knackered. But happy with what I’ve achieved today.



So far so good, so what?

Things are progressing apace. Unnervingly some things are actually looking like they are coming together. Always a sign you don’t understand the awful truth of the situation, in my experience.

I went away to my jolly hols at the T.A. gulag. I was all psyched up for it. They’d said ‘this is where it gets serious’ at the end of the last course, so I was thinking of basic training. Being beasted from pre-dawn until stupid o’clock in the morning, mad infantry shit out in the field,being freezing, soaking, pissed off, morale destroyed barely functioning automatons.

Not so much.

Weapons drill, and lots of it. No screaming, a bit of speed marching, locker layout and room inspections (basic army stuff to maintain discipline and promote cleanliness and hygiene) one night, then one day and a night in the field. Not getting bugged out (where they wait for you to get settled in your sleeping bag beneath your hastily erected sheet then simulate an enemy attack so all hell breaks loose. Awful.) If anything I’d have to say it was too easy.

The ten days were ruined for our intake by an ex-reg (former regular army soldier) thinking he was still a corporal in the bad old days of bullying  newbies. The fact that it was a a five foot young lad and an eighteen year old girl he was threatening did nothing to endear him to the troop.

Anyhow, the corporals were all over that and he will be watched very carefully from here on in. Still, it left a sour taste in the mouth.

Cracked that then. Though with hardly any PT. I took my brand new trainers away with me thinking they would get broken in by lots of little runs. Nada. And we were expressly forbidden to do our own training in the (many, many) hours we had off at night. Apparently the fluffy new model army has the training specifically tailored to take civvies to soldiers, any further individual input would bugger it all up!


So, my fitness took a bit of a dive whilst I was away. Came back on the Friday, Sunday morning I was doing the Holmfirth 15. A fifteen mile road race around (you guessed it) Holmfirth. Which is near Huddersfield.

The smart people would perhaps have thought to check the terrain before upping their mileage. Never having been accused of being smart I did not. Thought, “it’s only an extra 1.8 miles more than I’ve already done, how hard can it be?”

So very, very hard.

It was not so much a road run as speed mountaineering. Mountain goats were tumbling past me. And my trainers (brand new, you’ll recall) were too tight, grinding the bones together in my right foot. It started really hurting at about three and a half miles. Not a good sign. Ten miles later the pain was so bad I just had to stop. I loosened my trainer right off, to the point I thought it would surely slip around on my foot and give me blisters. Started running again, no pain. Bastard! Ten miles of worsening pain for nothing!

I was hoping for a two hour time, but even driving to the start point I was doubting it. When we hit the hills on the run I realized the challenge was to finish the race. Even with the foot issues I did it in 2:10:24 . Not appalling. Seriously not great though. The joy on my face tells the whole story (!).


Later that Sunday I fitted my aero-bars to my racer. Those are the handle bar attachments you see the posh racer/ tri bikes with nowadays, where you lean right over the middle of the handle bars.


You rest your forearms on the pads (which are as far forward as your handlebars) and grip the bars. They attach to the standard racer handle bars.Still not tried them out though.


Today (Thursday) was my day off. I wasn’t sure what discipline to exercise in, but plumped for swimming as it was raining and windy. I went to the baths and started trawling up and down, trying to get my strokes and breathing right. I’d been going up and down for about twenty minutes to half an hour, with only about three pauses, when I suddenly realized I was O.K.. I wasn’t out of breath and I was keeping it up. So I started counting it out. Fifty (20m) lengths! That’s a kilometre by my reckoning, or two thirds of a mile. So I figure I must have swam a mile and half, easy, in that session! Chuffed to bits!

Last time I was at the baths I was chuffed I was getting the hang of breathing, this time I’m already at half Iron Man distance, the same as I can comfortably manage on the bike and run.

I really thought swimming would be my Achilles heel, but now I’m feeling it’s a matter of practise. If I can do half race distance off the bat, with a still pretty terrible swim technique, I can surely crack and polish it within seven months!

I’ve found a shop that sells tri wetsuits, and more importantly fits them. I was hesitant about spending on one though, with my poor swimming, but now I’m up for it! Get a suit, get in the sea and get swimming. Apparently there are good beaches off of Liverpool. Recommended by The Outdoor Swimming Society and the Marine Conservation Society.


Who’d have thought that?


Also today I joined the Warrington Rifles Club, and shot of five magazines of ten rounds each. My best grouping was a shameful two inch spread, but that’s why I’ve joined to practise and get excellent. If I do end up doing a tour with the army I would love a crack at sniper-ing!

Anywho, it’s all going alarmingly well. Obviously I’ve missed something!