Archive for July, 2011

Outlaw 2011

Last post on this, promise. And I’ll make it brief.

I have some images to show for my ordeal. Unfortunately they are not very good. They seem to show me being really slow, and in the case of exiting the swim, totally shell-shocked. Which is mainly because they are accurate.  Damn!

 

Anyway, here’s a snap of me on the bike, or as Wendy put it; “you look like a real one.”  Thanks for that!

OUTC1570-12x17

And here is a video of me exiting the swim, (I was frozen and dazed, give me a break!) on the bike just after I’d braked into a corner and was finding my gear to get going again (looks like I’m doing 5mph, grrrr!) and crossing the line. I’d deliberately let that tosser in front of me have a 30 second lead as I thought the photographers would be snapping us as we crossed the line. I didn’t have enough in the tank to get a clear lead so rather than spoil his photo by being right in front of him as we crossed the line I eased off a little bit. I didn’t realize it was being video-ed, or that he was going to stand there like a be-hatch. Double grrrrr.

Anyway, here it is, such as it is:

 

 

Oh, and one other picture to stick on before we draw a discreet veil over this subject. Look what all that fun in the sun does to a chap;

Sunburn!

The caption for which is “OW! OW! OW!”

Later,

Buck.

“We have done the impossible…

…And that makes us mighty.”

 

Nine months ago, when I first discovered there was such a thing as an Ironman, I used that quote (from Mel, in Firefly) to express what I thought it would be like to have completed one. Nine months. Didn’t realize it was that quick.

To recap the journey; I had just completed the Warrington half marathon, a 13.1 mile run. It damn near killed me getting up to speed for that. That was on the third of October. Then I started looking around for a bigger challenge. I somehow found out about the Iron distance triathlon. A 2.4 mile swim followed by a 112 mile ride then a 26.2 mile run.

Sounds kind of impossible. (It feels it as well.)

I fancied that. Ultimate challenge and all that.

 

There were a few minor obstacles to be overcome. I couldn’t really swim and hadn’t been to the baths in about fifteen years. I hadn’t done any real push-biking since I’d got my car license. Running 13.1 miles was the very limit of my stamina.

 

I noted at the time that when I told people I was thinking of it all I got was mocked and derided. It was a big ask.

Undeterred by the lack of encouragement or ability I set to. First swim I couldn’t do 40m. That was with my head up. Then I was told I needed to put my head down. I couldn’t do more than a few strokes then without swallowing water or running out of air. I had to start to learn to swim. I persevered. Within a mere three weeks I had managed to get up to 60m with my face down before running out of air.

 

The bike/ run was not too bad for me. At my first attempt I managed to do a 56 mile ride followed by a 13 mile run.

Then it was just a matter of building up my distances. And getting a decent bike. And a wetsuit. And a bike with cleats. (Learning how to ride with cleats- falling off seven time in one ride!-) And shoes that fit in the cleats.

So, just time and money, really. (And more sweat and pain than you can shake a stick at!)

 

As part of my training I entered the Marazion half Iron distance tri. That was a disaster. I had to be pulled out of the sea. I’ve read since that panicking in open water is a common newbie reaction. Nothing like the shock of freezing cold water, not being able to breathe and thinking you are going to drown for instilling panic.

That didn’t do my confidence any favours. Nor when I went for an sea swim on my own to Liverpool and the tide was sweeping me out and I thought I was going to drown.

 

I could complain about the run and ride, but really that is just about pain and determination. If you set your mind to it you can get there. With the swimming if you are crap there is a very real danger you will die.

 

I ran the Lakelands trial marathon a few weeks ago with training in mind. It was the hilliest, hottest, toughest run I’ve ever done. But as long as you keep up on your nutrition you can get through it.

 

That was where I was up to; I’d done a 1.5 mile swim (in a pool), 112 mile ride and 13 mile run. Individually I’d swam (once) 2.4 miles (in the pool. not the same thing at all), had ridden 130 miles (‘cos I got lost, grrrr!) and had run a tough marathon.

 

I set off to Nottingham on Saturday. Ready as I’d ever be (without doing anything radical – like attending the two triathlon clubs that I’ve joined for a training/ coaching session!)

I was a bag of nerves getting ready. Running around, forgetting this, stumbling across that.

Finally set off. I got there (having only got lost a few times) and went to register.

“Have you got your photo’ ID?”

“Say, WHAT?!”

No ID, no race! It was way too late for me to go back home and get some.Did I have a credit card? Luckily I did. First heart-attack over. They issued me with race number, swim cap, goodies bag etc. I went to the mandatory pre-race briefing at three o’clock. It was supposed to last until three forty five, which would leave me with just enough time to put all my kit into the transition bags they’d given me and rack my bike before it all shut down at five.

The briefing was so full I had to stand in the corridor outside and try and hear what was being said. Not best helpful when he was apparently referring to slides. And he thought he was a comedian. He was still waffling at five to five when I started panicking again and left. I went back to the mighty Micra to sort all my kit out into the relevant transition bags (You have a bag for your swim/ ride transition, where you put all your riding kit so you just grab that bag after the swim, take off your wetsuit get your bike kit on, put your wetsuit in the now empty bag. The same for your bike/ run bag.) They also gave us a third bag, the use of which puzzled me.

I went to ask another competitor. He was a bit surprised that I didn’t know, asked me about it, so I said it was my first season. He seemed quite impressed by that, he’d been racing triathlons for eight seasons. He said “This is your first season and you are doing an Ironman? Let me shake your hand.” Which he then did.

Turns out the bag was for your civvies to change into when you’d finished and showered.

That was when I noticed I’d lost the swim cap they’d given me. Went to rack the bike then try and get another one. I was worried it might have been a numbered cap, and that they wouldn’t let me race. Got to the bike stand only to be told I had to put the official sticker on it first. Back to the car for said. Racked bike, begged another swim cap and was ready by four forty five! Plenty of time.

I had time to look at the man-made lake. About a 1½ miles long a few hundred feet across. If you’ve never looked at a straight line swim of 1.2 miles let me tell you it is daunting. And the wind was blowing something fierce.

I calmed down as I was looking for my hotel. As I was unpacking my kit I noticed I’d forgotten to put my trainers in my ride/ run transition bag and it was all locked down for the night. I didn’t know whether they’d keep it secure or allow me access on race day. STRESS!

I wanted nothing more than to get an early tea and go to bed. I had to be up at four twenty. When I tried to get to sleep I couldn’t because my heart was pounding in my nervousness and they had music on in the bar downstairs until midnight, then pissed-up revellers out on the front until gone one. I was up again before four so I reckon I had about two or three hours sleep.

RACE DAY!

It’s surprising how you forget about being tired when you are terrified. I got my wetsuit on and set off. I managed to get my trainers in my bag. Now it was just the doing of the deed to worry about.

We were all lined up on the ramp leading into the lake. At five to six they let us get in to the water. This was the moment or truth. I got in and was pleasantly surprised, the water was cold, but not freezing. At six we were off.

 

I was worried about sighting but luckily we were swimming the oblong of the lake in an anti-clockwise direction so as I took my breath (can only do it to the left) I could see the bank and judge off that. Thing were going swimmingly, as it were, until half way up the ‘out’ stretch. Suddenly I got a severed cramp in my calf. I stretched it off, but it was still a bit painful and more than a little worrying. Then the velcro strap on my Ironman watch came undone and my watch fell off (it’s an Ironman watch. For doing Ironmans. ffs!) I tried twice to hold my breath and rethread the strap, couldn’t do it. I swam whilst holding it for a little while, then gave up and shoved it down the front of my wetsuit. Then my goggles started digging in. By half way they were killing me. Luckily I was distracted from the pain by the onset of nausea. It was horrible. Trying to swim and take breaths whilst your body just wants to throw up. By the time I was halfway back I was having a terrible time. Pain and nausea. I was flopping about, no strength to my strokes and  had no idea what time I was on. I was keeping myself going by promising myself I would throw up as soon as I got out of the water and had already resigned myself to missing the 2 hour cut-off point for the swim. I was suffering that much that I didn’t care. I was just going to get my kit and go home.

I got out of the water, a surprise 1.40:42, had a load of burps and was fine again. A rookie mistake, I’d tried a new nutrition drink that morning. It gave me a big ball of wind, hence the nausea.

 

Game on, then.

 

I stumbled into the transition tent and tried to attach my race number to my tri-suit. Getting four safety pins to work when you are shaking with the cold and piss-wet is not easy! I decided to risk it and just go out in my tri-suit, not the top I’d brought in case of cold weather. This meant my transition time was 17:15! Terrible!

The first few minutes of the ride were unpleasant, being wet and cold from the swim but the sun was out and I soon warmed up and dried out. The bike course was a 10 mile (or so) run out to a 30 mile-ish circuit, three laps, then back. They managed to find a reasonable hill to add a bit of challenge. Half way up the long 12% climb the organisers had put a sign up saying “It’s not a knitting club!”, which was amusing the first time but not so funny by the time you came to tackle it for the third time.

Because I was so slow in the swim (and not much quicker on the ride!) I was being lapped by the fast lads. One of whom stood up in his saddle and pissed himself, splashing me! That must have saved him a whole minute, the dirty bastard.

By the third lap I was extremely saddle sore. The aero position squashes all your soft bits into the saddle then proceeds to try and grate them away. TMI, but you have to appreciate it’s not pleasant! As someone said of pro cycling, “it doesn’t hurt less, you just go faster.”

 

I got through it in 6.54:56

Another lamentable transition of 10:10, then it was on to the run.

I had quite been looking forward to this, it is as near as I get to a strength. It was a good job I have trained in running, because that was an ordeal. The sun was beating down by this point and my legs just didn’t want to play. Out of pride I forced myself to run between the feed stations (unlike many who were just walking the marathon) but I did stop to take on energy gels and water. Ideally I should have snatched them on the run, but I just couldn’t. Anyway, I managed to run all the whole 26.2 miles, only stopping at feed stations. It wasn’t a great achievement but it is a source of personal pride. It would have been so easy to just walk it in. I knew I had plenty of time. Lots of other people were walking it, but I forced myself on.

In the end it was a bad marathon time of 4.28:57, but it could have been a whole lot slower, let me tell you!

 

At the end of the day I finished in 13.32:03, not spectacular but I had 17 hours to complete it, so not appalling.

 

My main fear was the swim. A well founded fear, as it turns out. The thing is, if I’d have got it right in the swim (good goggles, watch that stayed attached, not cocking my nutrition up, having the self belief to swim strong from the start) I reckon I could have easily knocked another 10 minutes off my time, and I could have saved another 20 in transitions if I’d have been prepared.

“Experience in a fight is what you gain shortly after you need it.”

 

I was so wobbly by the finish they had me go and sit in the medical tent until I got myself together. It was a hell of a day. Plus it was sunny all day. Good that I wasn’t cold on the bike, bad that I sweat like a bitch on the run and got badly sunburned. Ho hum. The pain I was in last night from my legs and sunburn was quite focusing!

 

Done now.  I am an Outlaw. Technically I can call myself an Ironman (though I wouldn’t do so in front of a real Ironman, as their courses are all hills and tough as buggery). I said I could do it, and I damn well did! Never again. Probably.

 

Now I have to think of an ambition for next year. At the moment it’s a toss up between Emperor of the World or Jedi Master. Maybe both.

Later,

Buck.

Outlaw / (generic) Ironman.

Lakeland Trails Marathon.

I know, I’ve already covered it; it was stupidly hilly, uneven underfoot, hotter than a chilli in a microwave, and we  had to ford a stream, so ran the last eight or so kilometres with soaked, very heavy feet.

Now though, I have the race statistics!

I said it was tough, here’s how tough: there were 610 people started the race, only 383 finished it!  My time, which for a flat, road race would have been lamentable at 4.09:25, was good enough to put me 85th on the day. Which was 28th in my age category (Male, 40-50). These are things that please me. As did outlasting a guy with a ‘100 Marathons Club’ T-shirt on. Hehehe. He was good most of the way around but I had him (ooo-er, Mrs!) in the last 6k.   

The last 3k were some of the worst of my life. I forced myself to keep going, but the preceding hills/ mountains had taken everything from my legs. I did that last 3k on stubbornness alone. And my fancy race number holding belt/ sports gels holder failed me. Two of my gels escaped so I had to ration myself and hope I didn’t get an energy crash. Luckily they were giving Kendal mint cake out at two of the drinks stations. Still, an added worry I could have done without.

I have been on the official photographer’s site and bought these as a memento;

110703193208_H 

Whilst this is the best of them, I don’t like how it looks like I’m walking. That was just after another killer ascent, it had levelled off and I was starting to get back into a rhythm. I had seen the photographer so was trying to attempt a smile. Didn’t quite make it.

 

This one shows the kind of focus, and indeed pain, involved in the hill climbs:

110704083045_H

 

Observe the feet, toes just touching on trailing foot, front foot in the air. That, my friends is running, not walking. I don’t like the shot though, because my face looks funny. I look like I have a duelling scar running down from my lip! Odd. On this one I was too tired and too focused on just not dying that I couldn’t spare a thought for the photographer.

 

The last one is of me crossing the line:

110704050121_H

This shot is ruined by the fact I hadn’t seen the photographer. You pass under an inflatable arch with ‘finish’ written on it. I was staring up so I could turn off my stop-watch as I passed directly under it, thus getting an accurate time. The photo’ doesn’t show that. If someone was to put a caption to it, it would probably read “God, why have you forsaken me?”

Still, sharp photo’s. Just me making them look crap.

 

I was stiff and done-in for about four days after that. I was having to walk down stairs like John Wayne walking across a bar

 

Seeing as the weather was nice today I decided to do a quick ten mile-er. To make it a little tougher (and because I’ve only just stopped peeling on my forehead) I wore my running baseball cap. It’s supposed to be thin and light enough to wear on runs, but I am a bit crap about the heat. It kills me. Anyway, wore it today for the full ten (10.1, to be precise) miles. I was on for seven and half minute miles on the way out, but on the five miles back I slowed to eight minute miles. Poor. Even with the hat I was hoping to get closer to seven minute miles.

Ho hum.

It’s only 12 more days until my Outlaw! Shitty, shitty, shit, shit! Not flapping, not flapping.

*FLAPPING!*

 

In other news, it’s only 3 days until I do my assessment and (if that goes well) interview for Eddie Stobarts. I told them on my application form, “I have no professional driving experience”, but they still got back to me. Twice before I’ve applied to them for different jobs and they turned me down flat by return of email. The driver at work who put me on to this particular Stobarts job said there was a driver in our yard a few weeks back who was crap and had only had his license two weeks, but he was working for Stobarts. I stand a chance!

 

With irony aforethought, we have just started the new rota (Woo-hoo!) where we get every other weekend off. I’m bound to get this new job now, working lates/ nights and every weekend!

If they offer it to me I’ll snatch there hand off. Beggars can’t be choosers and if it gets me on the ladder without having to piss about with the army, then all is well. Watch this space.

Right, I’m buggered. Because of that run (and relishing the schadenfreude, the demise of the evil Murdoch empire is evoking on Twitter) I’ve not had my afternoon nap. May have to kill the neighbour yappy dog before I can get to sleep though.

Bed!

 

Later,

Buck.

Last push training before ‘taper’.

I said in my last post that the swim was the thing that was really worrying me. The estimated time at the pace I was doing was 2.01, when I only had 2.15 to swim, change, and be out riding. Also that I was concerned I would fade, and be even slower over the last mile. I said I was going to try to get a 2 hour swim session in on Friday evening.

This I did. I was, as ever, a bit late so I didn’t get swimming till eight minutes past eight. This was a concern as I thought I would need at least 1.53, possibly the full two hours. Not drinking has advantages though. Being a Friday night when I got into the pool it was empty! Presumably everyone else was busy drinking/ having a life. This meant I could put my head down and swim without having to constantly check that I wasn’t about to punch someone in the face (they are not understanding about it. Me, me, me!)

I used my new-fangled ring-watch-lap-counter jobby to accurately count the lengths. At 40 lengths (a smidge over 1.2 miles, or half distance) it was only 9 o’clock! Go me! I set to with a will, found a decent rhythm and carried on. I was worried that I would tire and run out of time before I’d done the second half. Cracked on and did the full 2.1 miles in 1.43!

GO ME!

That really pleased me. I had to go through the watch length by length to make sure I’d not skipped any, but no, all in order. Knocked 18 minutes off my estimated slow swim time! Super. It’s not an outdoor swim, but at least I know I can go the distance and be well within time.

 

Today (Sunday) I had my first marathon race. It was the Lakeland Trails marathon. As the name suggests, it was in the Lakes. An area not renowned for it’s flat bits. Racing around Coniston Lake. Off road. On tracks that mountain goats would shun. And over grass and bog. And fording a thigh high stream because the bridge was having work done on it. That added weight to already tired feet and helped towards the popped blister count, I’m sure. And it was baking hot. And I lost two of my energy gels.

Everything less than ideal for a first marathon. Although it was a Lakeland Trails marathon (the first two words being pretty hefty clues to most of the above) the blurb online showed it as being a bit hilly. More vaguely hilly. Possibly gently undulating.

It was pure painful hill climbing and treacherous headlong descents. By about 7 K (another thing, the signs were all in K’s, I only work in miles, might as well have put the distance in bananas. I had no idea how far I’d done, or even how many K’s in a marathon!) my legs were so sore and tired that I was doubting I could even finish. I gritted my teeth and soldiered on, shuffling over the finish line in 4.09. That’s how bad it was! I was looking for a ‘comfortable’ time of 3.30! Killer.

Because it was so damned hot I couldn’t wear a hat, so now I’m well sunburnt. The photo’s don’t really show the contrast as well as it appears to the eye (and I look fat! Grrr!) But here is why I am sat here with my neck burning.

Lakes Marathon 001 Lakes Marathon 002

Ooh, I can put pictures side by side, didn’t know I could do that. Cool.

 

Well, it’s been a hell of a day off! Just get a decent ride in then taper my training so I’m fresh for the big one in three weeks. *gulp*

Going to bed to fry in my own skin.

Later,

Buck.