Sunday, May 31, 2015

Outlaw Half

Yesterday my partner gets a leisurely 12.30 start for her triathlon. This morning it’s 4:15am when I awake to the sound of rain pounding on the roof. It’s the day of the third Outlaw Half and the first to come with bad weather. Joy.
I suppose the rain doesn’t make an awful lot of difference to the swim. Although the wind might, as there does appear to be a few waves scuttling across the swim course but again you can’t really tell once you’re in there. In any case, I’m capable of near drowning in a mill pond.

The swim is the usual combination of elbows in the face and feet in the stomach, just all served a bit colder than last year. My swim disappoints a touch, four minutes down on last year at 43:06. I’ll blame the weather.

My swim to bike transition is down on last year too, I take a terribly leisurely six minutes. I’ll blame the weather for that too.

The bike is my favourite bit and still is, even in the rain which has now become intermittent. Every time you think it’s stopped, it comes back to give you another drenching. It’s not as bad as last year’s Sundowner and again the rain isn’t really the problem unless you’re one of the poor guys who overcooked it and finished the race in an ambulance.

The problem is the wind. It was often a case of simply head down and pedal aggressively into it. All you could do was pin your gaze on the bike and the rear end of the person in front of you, which are all helpfully named so that you can curse ‘Wayne’ when he zooms past you and disappears off up the road. You don’t follow too closely of course because that would be classed as drafting or alternatively perving. Nonetheless I would like to pay thanks to the bottoms of Tamara, Rebecca and Rob! Whom kept me going but whose faces I never saw.

My bike is four minutes slower and yes, I’ll blame the weather.

I had promised myself to do a decent swim and an awesome bike, so that I could take the run steady to preserve the knees for next weekend’s Ramathon, which I really really want to do.

Having done a less than decent anything so far, Plan A is already in the bin. I try and have a strong run whilst trying to run on the grass as much as possible to protect my knees. Yes my run is also slightly down on last year and I can’t blame the weather any more as it’s fined up now.

So I miss six hours by as much as I coasted under it last year, yet still had a brilliant time as this is such a brilliant well put together event.

I finish and immerse myself in the post-race wonderland, where there is post-race chilli/curries/pasta etc on tap, teas, muffins, folk willing to rub their hands over whatever you like (within reason) and Erdinger alcohol free everywhere. Actually it’s a shame they couldn’t have got some Erdinger not alcohol free in for afterwards.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Leicester's Big 10k

Today is the Leicester 10k, two laps of Abbey Park and advertised as (but aren’t they all) fast and flat. Shoot me now.

Actually, it’s not that bad. A bit twisty at first, so certainly not fast but there are some nice straight road sections as well. Although both these sections are up slight but constant inclines, so not flat either. None of it is on grit paths as I expected and I even quite enjoy myself. Nothing twangs, snaps or breaks. I take it easy for the first 2k, saying to myself that any pace will do but what I actually do, 4:45 per km isn’t bad.

Then I try to hang my hat on 4:30 for the rest of the way round and nearly nail it finishing in 46:28. It’s my fastest for a year. Not that I’ve done many. Meanwhile L is again getting all flirtatious with the hour and one day soon they will have an emotional coming together. She comes home today in 62 minutes.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Tour de Yorkshire

The Tour de Yorkshire otherwise known as Le Bloody Tour by my partner. L and I are doing the sportive on day three just hours ahead on the professional race. Stage three actually race runs from Wakefield to Leeds but our sportive is Leeds to Leeds. Otherwise they’d have to bus everyone to either the start or the finish. The whole thing is inspired by the Grand D├ępart of the Tour de France that of course was in Yorkshire last year.

Today we face the same hills and are supported by almost the same sized crowds, who even come out in numbers for the sportive riders. That’s even more impressive when you realise that we awoke to heavy rain pounding on the house roof morning followed by heavy rain pounding the car as we drove up the M1.

I have been allocated a 9:46 start time for the medium distance 108km route and a plea to be there an hour before, which due to traffic we fail miserably on. L has a slightly later start time as she is doing the short distance 55km route or the Cycletta that isn't. The standard short distance 55km starts at the same time and runs over the same course, so the ‘Cycletta’ can hardly be described as women only.

Now to decide how far to go with the waterproofs. The forecast says it’s probably going to rain for most of the day.

I was one of the last to start and the course is a brute, which may make reaching the cut off time at Ilkey interesting. So full kudos to the professional who are doing this a lot faster than we are. After about an hour the rain eases and eventually stops, I wasn’t expecting that. I roll into the first feed station at Cullingworth having done 49km. The feed is disappointing, serving just cold potatoes, a few digestives and some sweets plus sports drink. Good job I have some bars and gels with me as there’s not much to top up your energy levels there.

A short stop, then off again. The route is nice, jaw droppingly beautiful and the roads are in decent condition. I know they resurfaced many for last year’s race. Then there’s the girls in bikinis braving the weather, stood at the side of the road and waving flags. Then there are the hallucinations brought on by the cold and the lack of food at the feed station. I hope L’s warmed up on her ride. I text her, although her phone keeps going flat and is unlikely to last the day. I get a reply, all seems good.

The terrain, which was tough, suddenly gets tougher. There’s the cobbled climb near Haworth, which was definitely a highlight and then there was Goose Eye, which was astonishingly steep.
Then there are the rivers of blood down some of the descents. That’s not a pretty sight. On one particular stretch we have to ride around four ambulances and in the end were told to get off and walk. Such steep descents and wet roads are not a happy combination.

I head through Silsden and Addingham where we watched the Tour de France from last year. We pass the pub we watched from where once again a crowd has gathered and they cheer us through.

The second feed station is on the Ilkley Road at 70km and this is the vital cut off point. If you don’t get here with room to spare before the pro-race you’re going to have to park up for a while. My group makes it with 20 minutes to spare. Enough time to tuck in to the trays of mini Yorkshire pudding filled with sausages and onion gravy. There are also freshly baked flapjacks. This feed station is as awesome as the first one was awful. L say her feed station was rubbish too and she didn’t get to go to this one. After about five of each, I pedal off and head up the Cow and Calf climb.

The final big climb is the Chevin and it was just after this that my bike decided it had had enough. I’d been experiencing a bit of gear slip with the bike jumping out of lowest gear last week and I’d adjusted things so now it was much better but not quite perfect. Occasionally I had to hold it in gear. I’m not sure if this was a factor of not, when my chain snapped with 11km to go.

L has already finished in 3:32. I could be a lot longer. According to the official timings I had crested the Chevin in 4:46, personally I’d take about 30 minutes off that for my two stops.

I look around for a service bike, they were everywhere earlier. In the end I dial the emergency rescue number. Please send Thunderbirds 1 and 2. What do you mean they’re busy? Instead I book a place on the broom wagon. How embarrassing, although L will be dead jealous.

Unfortunately they tell me that they can’t get to me because the main race is imminent. They tell me it could be hours, so I watch the pro-race go through and then start walking. L meanwhile tries to find me but it’s not easy and she returns to the car park.

I get rescued quicker than expected, although the chap who picks me then gets lost but we get to the car park eventually. Where L is waiting. It's been an inglorious end but it's still the best event I've ever done.