Northumberland Triathlon Sunday 4th June 2017

There are very few days in the racing calendar when all the elements come together to make a spectacular race! Gorgeous sunshine, but not too hot, no gusty winds just a gentle breeze through the trees to keep the competitors cool and the beautiful Northumberland countryside as the backdrop. Yes, it’s the first open water event of the season at Northumberland Tri, Druridge Country Park. Ponteland boasted six entries; two in the sprint distance and four in the standard. Everyone had an excellent race and seemed to thoroughly enjoy the experience (although maybe not the extended 10km standard run route, which stretched them out to 11.4km!)

There were some super sprint finishes, a spot prize was awarded to Mark Kelly’s for his mad dash at the end when someone dared to try and overtake him on the finishing stretch! Yet again we’ve had some amazing results and the ladies are continuing their early season successes by winning multiple podium spots. A second place podium spot for Lyndsey Curry, who is having a great winning streak this season, which bodes well for her debut middle distance triathlon in a few short weeks (no pressure Lyndsey!) and a third place podium spot for Emma, who despite it being her first podium position wasn’t aware of her success (the relay teams skewed the results) and missed her moment of glory, but the trophy found its way home to her for an evening celebration! John McGargill was seconds away from a podium spot coming fourth in the super vets age group, but with his Edinburgh marathon legs only having had a week to recover and with only 17 hours of preparation (he signed up for the tri on Saturday afternoon) he shouldn’t be too hard on himself! Mark Kelly took three minutes off his time from last year despite a weekend of entertaining rugby players and attending rugby dinners! A special mention to both Steve and Andy as they embarked on their first open water standard triathlon with ease and completed in impressive times! Andy is competing in his first full distance Ironman in July and this was only his second triathlon and first open water event. He’s showing he’s got what it takes, you just need to do that another three times in a row Andy! ;-)  Steve meanwhile has embarked on a triple challenge this summer; Coast to Coast in May, Northumberland Standard Tri in June and Steelman Middle distance tri in July. Wow, you’ll definitely deserve a break in August Steve!

Well done to all and hope to see you back in the water for the Woodhorn event on 17th July!

Mallorca Ironman 70.3 – May 13th 2017

This race is known on the circuit as one of the biggest ‘beginner’ half Ironman events around and I was more than a little overwhelmed at the number of competitors (c. 3800) and the size of the bike transition area (a premiership sized football pitch) …. even Sue Heppell would find it hard to get a T1 time of under 5 minutes, surely? The sea was a balmy 20 degrees, the sun a slightly frazzling 32 degrees but to make it feel a little more like home there was a good headwind on the bike route out!

Six competitors were released into the sea at five second intervals from the pens, using barrier flags and a beeping clock – it felt a little like being on Gladiators! The sea swim was lovely, no incidents to speak of apart from one man doing a 90 degree turn across the path of myself and two other swimmers, we briefly stopped and looked at one another as if asking where the heck he was off to before ploughing on! I felt great after the swim, I felt I could have done another lap, which means: a) I could have swum harder b) I paced myself perfectly for my first endurance event or c) I was ridiculously thinking about whether I could complete a full Ironman before I’d even completed my first half Ironman!! Swim done in 39m 38s.

The long run out of the water to get my blue bike bag (very interesting to experience the clean transition ethos of Ironman events) and into the modesty tent to get my wetsuit off – yes it’s quite a strict setup, despite the tent ends being open to view! Then off to find my bike amongst the thousands. Fortunately, I was on the first row and my bike was very conveniently placed directly opposite two huge orange generators on the beach, perfect landmarks to prevent me from running around transition screaming ‘Where’s my bike’ … I did that at the Brownlee Tri, it’s a tad embarrassing! K The bike route was amazing, I loved the hill, it was the perfect gradient to not wreck you but give you a long, winding challenge. Kid goats, yes really, lined the roads as did the spectators and they all cheered or bleated us on! The descent from the hill was in one word sublime! The hairpin bends were amazing and the road surface was perfect, not a single pothole! I maybe could have taken the descent a little faster, but I didn’t want to get wiped out by any of the fast (i.e. crazy) cyclists flying past me. I saw loads of people with punctures or broken bikes and I wanted to make sure I finished the event! Once down I tried to notch up the pace and managed to maintain a respectable 21-22 mph on the flat, hot plains. I cruised past many competitors on their TT bikes in the last 20km, which was rather enjoyable (smug smile!) and showed how effective my cadence and high gear training had been. The 56 miles flew by and I didn’t feel like I’d done that distance as I cruised back into Alcudia. I felt great having thoroughly enjoyed the bike section in 3h 40m 26s.

So, began the 3-lap half marathon! My legs felt great, no real sign of the dreaded jelly legs and I did my first mile in 9:30 pace. Thousands of spectators lined the run route and cheered us on. Three aid stations broke up the lap and my strategy was to run between each station and walk through whilst sipping drinks and refuelling. Everything was going to plan till I had an energy gel at the start of the second lap. The combination of this gel and isotonic drinks from the bike aid stations I think proved too much for my stomach and I was completely bent over double with crippling stomach cramps. I jogged and walked the next lap trying desperately to spur myself on with the thought of all the people who had sponsored me. There’s no way I wasn’t going to finish but I wanted to try and run the route rather than walk it. Desperately racking my brains for a solution, I ate a banana at the next aid station and fortunately this immediately cleared up the cramps (trapped wind – embarrassing!) My stomach was ok-ish now but my legs were starting to cease up from the walking. I managed to push on and complete the third and final lap! Coloured hairbands are placed on your arm at the end of each lap (red, yellow and blue) to ensure that you complete all three laps and I have never been so relieved to receive a blue hairband in my life. The final straight is reached, along the legendary Ironman carpet, up to the finishing arch and suddenly all pain is forgotten and you are sprinting like Chrissie Wellington (well in my head!) towards the finish line and your medal! Run (jog/trudge) done in 2h 32m 03s.

The atmosphere was amazing, the competitors and spectators supportive and friendly, whilst the organisation was truly second to none! I’d recommend the event to anyone wanting to do a half Ironman. I can’t wait to do my next one … after a little rest first! ;-)

Haltwhistle Aquathlon Sat 16th April 2016

The weather forecast said sleet at 3am, I scoffed and said that was ridiculous it wasn’t going to sleet, but even if it was true we would be ok as the race started at 8:30am! Cue the sleet at 7:30am as we were driving up to Haltwhistle with the temperature at 6C. I wasn’t sure whether to point it out to the rest of the troops in the car as they were either comatose or quietly sobbing after the traumatically early start! The logistical demands of registering 2 kids and 2 adults for a race at two different registration times and attending race briefings in three different locations was a challenge to say the least! Megan is now old enough to enter the Tristar Start age group (8 years old) and had to complete a 50m swim/500m run, Josh unfortunately is just old enough to be bumped up into the Tristar 2 age group (11-12) 250m swim/2km run where the kids are already quite elite and even scare me, finally the adult race was 400m swim/4.5km run.

Meg had a great swim and was first to finish her two lengths, unfortunately her transition was very slow. She’d been poorly a couple of weeks earlier so we wanted her to dress up warm, considering the temperature, so she finished last on the run, but she did it and was very happy with the medal and goody bag with a chocolate bar. Josh was a tad overwhelmed by the whole experience, he shot off like a bat out of hell on his first length (how many of us have done exactly the same thing?) only breathing twice during the whole length – he looked super strong, then the oxygen debt caught up with him! He didn’t manage to complete the full 10 lengths, but he gave it a good go and then walked/jogged the run section to also claim his finisher’s medal! Josh has Asperger’s so he finds some experiences quite daunting and he was definitely out of his comfort zone during the aquathlon, but he gave it a brilliant go and did his very best so we are very proud of him!

Mark and I toyed with the idea of doing a relay race, me doing the swimming section (I’ve got a torn knee cartilage and can’t run at the moment) and Mark doing the run (he had a chest infection a week earlier and wanted to avoid the cold water) but we finally decided that neither of us wanted to share the medal so we both did the full event, with me walking the run route! The water was apparently 25C, it felt colder when we first got in but that might have been something to do with the pool being outside. Did I mention that the pool at Haltwhistle is one of the few outdoor pools in the region, I wonder why? After the first couple of lengths though it felt fine, all those years training in Ponteland pool obviously set us up well! Transition was a bit haphazard on the poolside (towels and goggles later went missing, don’t take your best things!) and then on to the ‘cross country’ route around the adjacent playing fields. I had been missing the mud of cross country so I was overjoyed to come home with 4 sets of extremely muddy trainers to wash! Everyone loved my woolly club hat, I had so many comments about it as I sauntered round the course – if I was walking then I was dressing warmly!

So overall, it was a great but hectic morning! It’s one of the few events in the region for our budding junior triathletes so it would be great if we can all pass the word around and help support the event. Other juniors that we know who took part were Sam Allison and Jake Stroud in the Tristar Start category, Lauren Stroud in the Tri Star 1 category and Emily Allison in the Tri Star 2 category winning 3rd female place – well done to all our budding athletes!

 

Lakeland Trails Race Report

Most people in Ponteland Runners who know me are aware of my fondness for hills! I often receive gentle teasing and I’ve even been sent videos, mid race, of the ‘using your elbows’ technique J! So it may not have been a shock to my fellow runners when they heard that I’d signed up to the ‘Dirty Double Lakeland Trails’! It comprises of the 15K Helvellyn Trail on the Saturday followed by a 14K Ullswater Trail on the Sunday. For those who know me even better it was even less of a shock that I signed up to do both because there was a discount if you did so, I’m a sucker for a bargain! So with family in tow and the promise of an evening in our favourite Lake District haunt, Ambleside, we set off early on Saturday morning for a weekend of rain, gale winds and running!

I had registered for the Helvellyn Challenge, to be completed in under 3 hours, rather than the Helvellyn Race to be completed in 2 hours as I was a little unsure how I would cope with the terrain. The race started at noon and the first 4 km were straight uphill, nothing like a nice gentle start?! The cold that I’d had the previous week and was still fighting to get rid of was causing me to sound like an ancient set of bellows, I think people next to me were running just to get away from the horrendous noise I was making and from the possibility that they would have to give me mouth to mouth if I collapsed! Once we got up into the hills and started to contour round the trail the terrain was a gentle downward slope, but the ground underfoot though was boggy, rocky and we had to wade through streams every 100 metres or so. It was great fun, but really difficult to traverse. There was lots of stopping and starting, slipping and splashing! Everyone was in great spirits though, likeminded nutters can have fun together! Finally after a couple more kilometres we rounded the corner to the other side of the hill. A lovely, narrow but less rocky track – I was just thinking to myself how much easier this section was when I suddenly ended up flat on my face! A lapse of concentration is pretty lethal on the trails! Several fellow runners helped me up, found my trainer, which had flown off and helped me back to my feet! I’d bashed my chin and my knee quite badly, but I knew it wasn’t damaged and I also knew I had to get straight back on it before I either started to cry or worse my knee seized up! So with my face covered in mud I carried on running, suddenly I saw the photographer right in front of me! How do they manage to hide so well and choose the perfect spot for snapping you unawares? We were deep in the hills at this point and the weather started to turn, the wind and icy rain lashed down – for once I didn’t have to take my top off (thank goodness you all say!) and actually considered putting on my coat, but you don’t really have a chance to stop on the trails and I could see a sheltered section coming up so I kept going. By now we knew we were more than half way and heading back to civilisation. The next few km passed in a bit of a blur, all I could think about was making sure I lifted my feet up enough to avoid falling again, but then farms, roads and civilisation started to come into sight, yes we were nearly at the end! Catching sight of my family waiting near the end I managed a very choked and emotional dash across the finish line in an official time of 1h 46m 40s.

The weather on Sunday morning for the Ullswater Race was so horrendous that they had to cancel the sailings for the 14K race. This was a great shame as we were due to be transported across to the start at Howtown on the Ullswater Steamer, whilst being serenaded to by a pub singer, you can’t say that’s something you experience with every race! As we registered we were told that an emergency contingency route had been invoked and we would be doing just 13K. As we congregated for the mass start at noon, rumours passed through the crowd that we were now only doing 10K! Several minutes later, whilst being held waiting in the torrential rain, we heard more rumours that the route was now just less than 9K – we all had a good chuckle at the rapidly decreasing distance and wondered if they held us for much longer at the start whether the route would be reduced to just running round the field! Finally we were off and skirted round the bottom of Ullswater lake and up into the hills through farmland on farm tracks. Finally getting into some proper trail terrain we turned a corner and we all had to stop and laugh at the long snake of bodies that we could see winding up a ridiculous hill (my strava profile showed an elevation of 100m in a distance of 400m?!). The whole field, apart from maybe the few elite people at the front and mountain goats, was trudging up a narrow trail, which was actually now a stream, in single file. I love moments like this though, the runner camaraderie really comes into play and you can laugh at all being in the same boat, or stream together! At the top of the hill the gale force winds and rain like needles in your face drove you on to get over the top as fast (and safely!) as possible. A lovely grassy stretch took us back down to the lake and on towards the end of the race. There was no family at the end today, I had left them all tucked up snuggly in a nearby hotel bar, so I made a quick dash through the finish line to complete the race in an official time of 1h 09m 09s and collect my tshirt souveneir.

It was a great weekend and I thoroughly loved every minute of it, ok maybe not the epic sprawling fall at the time, but I will definitely be back next year and I may even register for the Helvellyn Trail Race now I know I can do it in under 2 hours! So if you fancy a weekend of mud, rain and frolics have a look at the Lakeland Trails Facebook page or website, they have loads of races throughout the year. We may even manage to get a Pont Runners tour for the Dirty Double next year ….?