Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

English National Middle Distance Championships The Owler Triathlon – 23rd July 2017

August 26, 2017

Short Report:

Swim 1.9km – 41 mins 33 secs (long at 2.2km)

T1 – 3 mins 40 secs

Bike 90km – 2 hrs 44 mins 58 secs

T2 – 1 min 38 secs

Run 21km – 1 hr 49 mins 19 secs

Overall: 5 hrs 21 mins 9 secs

National AG Championships Gold Medallist!

_DSC2214

 

I was a late sign up to this race. I really didn’t expect to be running this season as I am due to have surgery to my heel. However I have found that by reducing my run training to an absolute minimum I have still been able to race to a reasonable standard so I decided to give the National Middle Distance Championships a go. The field looked competitive so I had no expectations other than to try and have a decent swim and bike in preparation for my A race at the World Championships Long Distance Aquabike on 27th August.

Unfortunately, due to some blue algae in the lake the race was supposed to be at, the swim venue was changed which resulted in a split transition and a bit of a logistical nightmare for both pre and post-race. Nonetheless it was better to have this than to face a duathlon.

The Swim:- The new lake was actually very pleasant. Clean water and weed free but unfortunately there were a couple of sandbanks running across the lake which we had to try and swim over four times although the water was only knee deep. This combined with a long swim (2.2km) resulted in a very slow swim time for me. It was just about possible to swim through these shallow areas although my fingers were scraping the lake bed even with an adapted stroke.  The first wave were running across the sandbanks but we were told in no uncertain terms we were to swim.

Owler Swim

T2:–  There seemed to be a fair few bikes around but because of my swim time being so slow I was disappointed and set off hard on the bike to try and see if I could find some girls in my age group. I thought I must be towards the back of the pack.

The Bike:- I was working hard and the course was fast and flat to begin with. I was maintaining a good average speed and was picking off lots of women but couldn’t find anyone in my age group. I did however find my friend Kevin and felt better about my swim when he told me his was only 30 seconds quicker than mine and he is generally a much faster swimmer than me.

_DSC2211

The bike course soon became undulating on narrow country lanes with lots of twists and turns. I was getting infuriated by being held up by slow moving cars and campervans that couldn’t pass some of the slower cyclists in front of me. I made the most of these times by taking on fluid and nutrition. I then got held up by farm vehicles and temporary traffic lights and the people that I was passing were managing to catch up with me again. Then I hit a pothole whilst climbing a hill and lost my puncture repair kit. How many more things were going to slow me down?! I shouldn’t have asked.  A few minutes later it became apparent that I had missed a turn when a pack of cyclists came flying down the road telling me and some others behind that we were going the wrong way. I found it hard to maintain my focus from this point on but turned around and managed to find my way back onto the course. When I finally arrived back in transition there didn’t appear to be too many bicycles there and I could hear the commentator mention my name but didn’t catch what he said.

T2: – I had a quick transition and headed out onto the run course.

The Run: – Transition was on a running track but we left the stadium and headed out off road onto trails and some country roads. It was a slightly rolling course of which we had a couple of laps to run. It was great to see some of my fellow tri club members out on the course many of whom were racing one of the shorter distance races. I was running well but with my adapted gait to try and protect my heel. I also speed walked up the steeper inclines as this too helps to reduce the pain and irritation in my heel. I was keeping an eye on the women in front but couldn’t spot anyone from my age group. I wasn’t overtaken by many women either and again no-one in my age group. I was beginning to wonder if I could possibly be at the top end of the field but didn’t want to get too hopeful!

I maintained a steady pace and was constantly checking over my shoulder for any competition but there wasn’t any. I arrived back at the stadium and had a clear run to the finish line 300m around the running track.

I felt pleased with my performance but had no idea where I had finished and was disappointed to discover that no splits were available.  However, there seemed to be very few women across the finish line. It soon became clear that there had been some problems on the bike and run course with athletes (myself included) getting lost. The organiser advised me that there would be no presentations until the race had been unpicked and it felt strange walking away from a race not knowing the outcome.

Later that evening the results were published online and I was showing as first female in my age group by over five minutes but of course I knew there was to be an investigation. That took almost a week with lots of evidence going to and fro with Triathlon England. It was initially felt that we had all been given the bike route prior to the event and therefore it was our responsibility to know the route. Lost or not the results should stand.  However this soon changed and as a result of the investigations I and the 3rd place lady (who got more lost than I did) have both been awarded the National Champs gold medal which I have since received in the post.

The big investigation and delay into the results being published has taken the shine away from it for me and I’m left wondering what would have happened if nobody got lost on the day.  One thing is for sure, I would have been ecstatic to have just been on the podium straight after the race on race day!   Hopefully next year there won’t be any added complications!

All in all looking back I am over the moon both with my performance in this race and for the season this far where I’ve had some fantastic results in spite of the challenges caused by my foot and from wayward individuals tampering with signs!  The Owler is a lovely race and I feel for the organisers who of course rely on volunteers and have no control over members of the public trying to spoil our fun!

As ever special thanks to Cadence Performance & Giant Radlett for their continued support of all things bike. To Simon Costain of the Gait & Posture Centre & Gareth Ziyambi at A2Z Elite Health for literally keeping me on my feet. Next stop Canada for the World Championship Long Distance Aquabike where my poor foot can at least have a well deserved rest!

My 2017 season so far:

1st Female – Hercules Events 5k Open Water Swim

2nd In AG – Ironman 70.3 European Championships – Helsingør, Denmark

1st Female – Fambridge Yacht Haven Middle Distance Triathlon, Essex.

Gold Medallist, National Middle Distance Championships  – The Owler Triathlon, Kent

Advertisements

Fambridge Yacht Haven Middle Distance Triathlon & Tri London Middle Distance Club Championships

July 10, 2017


Swim – 39 mins 45 secs (current & a tad lost!)
T1 – 01 min 58 secs

Bike – 2 hrs 44 mins (fastest female bike split)

T2 – 1 min 25 secs

Run – 1 hour 37 Mins

Total: 5hrs 5 mins 

Position: 

1st Female

1st Vet

1st (but only!) Tri London Female 

2nd Overall Tri Londoner

This is a small event held on the Dengie Peninsula in Essex.  I last raced here in 2011.  Transition is set up in the Fambridge Yacht Haven Boat Yard. The swim is in the tidal River Crouch and the bike is two loops on the quiet, undulating roads of the Dengie Peninsula. The run is four laps, predominantly off road along the river bank, through some fields and back to transition at the Yacht Club.

Five of us raced from Tri London for our own Club Middle Distance Championships –  as I was the only female I didn’t have much to do other than finish to win that trophy!  Unfortunately I think the race clashed with some qualifiers for Standard Distance European Champs so the field on the whole for the race was relatively small at circa 100 triathletes.

Dengie Events are a small organisation but slick. Registration was quick and simple, volunteers and marshals were friendly and well informed and the safety crew were knowledgeable, friendly and very reassuring.  (I always make friends with the safety crew with my history of allergies! 😉)

It was a dreary start to the day with drizzle and grey skies but a promising look on the horizon.

The Swim:

It was a deep water start after entering the water on the concrete slipway so only a tiny squeal from me as my feet found the warm, slimy mud at the end of the slip.  My swim time was slow for me. Five minutes slower than a couple of weeks ago. I can only put this down to the tide and associated currents. We seemed to have a fast swim out and then a slower return. Two loops of this and it is evident from my Garmin lap times that this was the case. Of course it wasn’t helped by me swimming off towards buoy 2 instead of buoy 1 on the first lap!  I’m sure my fingers also ended up inside a jelly fish at some point but thankfully I only found one.

T1

I entered transition with a couple of the Tri London lads just ahead. I know one of them is definitely a faster swimmer than me so was pretty happy that although my time was slow I wasn’t alone! The lads headed out on their bikes before me but that was a good thing the chase was on.

The Bike

I was fairly certain that one of the Tri London lads was headed out on the bike before I got into transition and two I had seen leave. That left one. He could well be ahead but if he wasn’t I was sure he would be before too long.

I hadn’t tapered for this event and had raced a hard 70.3 a couple of weeks prior so I was pretty pleased to be maintaining a 20.5 mph average speed on the undulating and breezy course.


Two well signposted loops. The sun was out now and it became progressively warmer as we cycled.  One chap overtook me as I left transition and I overtook several more and a handful of females. I had no idea how I was placed but did my best to keep the power to the pedals and continued my hunt for the Tri London lads. I wasn’t sure I’d catch them but it was a good focus for me. Every time I saw a glimpse of someone ahead I tried my hardest to catch up and pass. Eventually with five miles to go I caught sight of the familiar blue of the Tri London kit. Whoop! I had found one and another hit on his toes too. I didn’t manage to create much of a gap but was delighted to reach T2 ahead of them.

T2

Relatively quick for me. Now time to put my non-existent run legs to the test.

The Run:

I’m battling a retrocalcaneal bursitis and Achilles tendonitis courtesy of a “Haglund’s Deformity”. You can see the excess bony growth in the picture below which has a sharp edge rubbing against the bursa.

 

As a result I need surgery but I’m trying to muddle through until the end of the season.   I’m doing very little run training as a result and the little I do is 9:1 mins run/walk circa once a week for less than an hour. In spite of this so far I have managed to run reasonably respectably in races.  Dropping some weight has definitely helped my run times too.


With only one aid station on each lap I didn’t get many walking breaks. The off road run on uneven terrain was also difficult for my right foot. I’ve managed to adapt my gait pretty well to keep the stress through my Achilles down by planting my foot down and lifting it back up without powering through the forefoot. I maintained a steady pace, power-walking up a short hill on each lap to avoid over stressing my foot and also for a bit of a chance for it to off -load. I also walked the only aid station back at the start and finish. Unfortunately the bin was placed a bit close to the aid station itself so I frequently had to stop. It was seriously warm on the run and trying to maintain fluid levels was more important to me than my speed.

I had no idea of my position in the race but shortly after leaving the Yacht Club for my final lap I heard the commentator mention a female also on her last lap. That definitely spurred me on and I spent the entire lap looking over my shoulder for her determined to try and avoid her passing me. Fortunately she wasn’t gaining on me.  As an added bonus I found a Tri London lad melting in the heat during the last kilometre of the run. After a brief chat my legs picked up the pace to head to the finish. 

I crossed the finish line to learn that I was the first female and the first female vet! Wow! I had just won a triathlon. I know it was a small field but I’m still chuffed given that I thought I wouldn’t even be running at all this year!  Not only that only one of the Tri London lads was ahead of me – happy days!


Thanks Tri London lads for your fab company and helping me keep my focus for the race.

As ever huge thanks to Giant Radlett & Cadence Performance.  Along with my pride and joy – my trusted Liv Trinity W time trial bike the new race kit clearly helped! Can’t thank these guys enough for their ongoing support and maintenance of all things bike.

Thanks also to Simon Costain at The Gait and Posture Centre for keeping me on my feet during challenging times. Gareth Ziyambi is also a miracle man keeping on top of the aches, pains and strains with minimal input. Particularly with a recent troublesome ‘mouseitis’ that was giving me awful pain and discomfort in my arm and shoulder. 

@MattLovell holds all the secrets to helping me on my way to racing weight. All it takes is a little willpower but that’s easy when you can see the results!

All in all everything seemed to come together on the day. Long may that last. Looks like I might enter The British Middle Distance Championships after all!

I really like this event and hope to not leave it another 6 years before I’m back!

Ironman 70.3 European Championships Helsingør, Denmark – 18th June 2017

June 22, 2017


Short Report:
Swim 1.9k: 34 mins 1 sec  (3rd in AG)

T1: 7 mins 13 secs (0.5 mile long transition!)

Bike 90k: 2 hrs 33 mins  (1st in AG)

T2: 2 mins 35 secs

Run 21.1k: 1 hr 47 mins  (2nd in AG)

Total: 5 hrs 4 mins 51 secs

2nd in AG!

Qualification for Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Chattanooga, Tennessee September 2017

Long Report:

We have friends that live in Copenhagen and they have a beautiful summer house in Hornbaek just 8 miles from the race.


Last year they invited us over to race and I was very happy to finish 3rd in my Age Group especially since I had struggled with an Achilles problem and hadn’t really run for a few months.

Roll on a year later and I’m still struggling  and now require surgery to remove some excess bone which is scheduled to take place at the end of my season. My main focus this season was therefore going to be swim/bike with my A race being the World Championships Long Course Aquabike in Canada in August 2017.  However having already signed up to return to Helsingør I decided to see how I went.

I was a tad disappointed with my race number prior to the race. Thankfully all superstitious tendencies have now been forgotten 🙂


Because this race was the European Championships it was a much larger event than last year with 2,500 athletes (last year was 1250 athletes). Because of this and my lack of running It made for a very laid back build up to the race. I had no expectations because I knew it would be much more competitive and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to run so I fully intended to swim and bike hard and provided I had good times for those disciplines I thought I’d be happy. I was going to employ a strict jog/walk strategy for the half marathon and see how my foot held up.

Two weeks prior to the race I had a steroid injection into the swollen bursa and and had only run one 5k since.  The furthest I had run since December was 11.8 miles – just once. Hardly the best race prep!  In fact since December I’ve only averaged 17 miles a month running.  On a positive I have trained much harder on the bike than usual.  The table below shows my run volume and June includes this race’s 21k!


There were 9 of us around for the race weekend which made for great company. Four of us were racing and the rest there to cheer us on!


With no expectations I was feeling relaxed and had a solid nights sleep.  I got up for breakfast at 6 am. Cold spaghetti bolognese made by my friend and fellow competitor Farouk the night before (thanks Frouky!) It was perfect 🙂

We left the summerhouse at 6:30 am before the roads were closed to organise ourselves in transition. I’d lost my hydration bottle top the day before so I was hoping my improvisation with a rubber glove and elastic band would hold out (it did!).


No dramas on race morning. I was totally chilled out knowing that I really wouldn’t be competetive. However I did feel somewhat rusty having not raced since last September.

Swim:  Race start was 08:10. Everyone seeded themselves based on swim times and I was in the first wave of age groupers.


It was a big group but we had a rolling start which involved jumping off a pier into the cold Baltic Sea below one by one. With no chance to acclimatise it felt pretty chilly and I was glad of my decision to wear a neoprene hat and goggle/mask which helps protect my forehead from the cold. Other than that it was a pleasant swim.  Thank goodness there were no jelly fish like last year when the whole harbour was like a jellyfish soup.


It was a beautiful sunny morning with blue sky and lovely clear water. The swim felt fast although it was pretty congested in places and I received a few kicks. I was very happy with a swim time of 34 mins. That’s much quicker than my normal practice swims by almost 3 mins per 1km.

Strava link:  

https://www.strava.com/activities/1042432076

T1 was a hell of a long way from the water and then they make everyone run to the far end of a very long transition too. It ended up being half a mile run hence the fairly slow time of 7 mins 13 secs.  For me with my foot problem running barefoot is very difficult so it was more of a hobble to the transition area.



The Bike:

Once out on the road I was determined to work a bit harder than I would usually. I wanted to use this as a guide for the World Championships Aquabike event in August. It was a hot day but breezy on the bike so I didn’t get too hot. I was focusing on maintaining power and at 40k my friend Kris came past.  I had thought that he was ahead of me so it was great to see him and it also helped to keep my focus by not letting him pull too far away or even getting in front on occasion.  As a result we ended up going into T2 within seconds of each other.


I was delighted with my 2:33 bike split. I’d passed a lot of people and very few had passed me, and I hadn’t spotted any women overtaking me.  It wasn’t the same course as last year but very similar it was scenic and undulating and I was 14 minutes faster.  My left knee had become fairly sore around the 50km mark and I remember thinking how great it was that it wasn’t a full ironman!  This is my first year not racing iron distance after 8 consecutive years.

T2 no dramas. Fairly quick and time to see what was going to happen to my feet and legs on the run!

Strava link: 

https://www.strava.com/activities/1042432187

The Run:

By now it was hot, hot, hot! I usually do ok running in the heat. Whether my foot would hold up would be another matter. Halfway through the first lap I found our support crew or at least heard them before I saw them! Martin (hubby), Jackie, Celeste, Simon & Svenja. What a team! Martin quickly told me I was in first place in my age group! I was shocked and may have uttered an expletive knowing full well that I couldn’t bear to relinquish that position because of my pesky foot. I was planting it down and lifting it back up without powering through on it. It was sore but not unbearable unless there was an incline. I just wasn’t sure that I could sustain the pace having not put the distance or hours in in training.


I didn’t quite employ my 9min jog/1 min walk strategy but I did walk through all the aid stations drinking and taking on a gel every half an hour.  I saw a lady run by me fairly fast towards the end of the first lap and thought she may be in my age group. There was no chance of me running at the pace she was going anyway, foot problem or no foot problem! Sure enough on questioning my support crew on the next lap I was advised I was in 2nd.  They felt that if I maintained my pace I should keep my 2nd place. That was going to be the hardest thing to do though. My knee that had become sore on the bike now felt like it was tightening up as did the quad on that side. I guess it wasn’t helped by my slightly adapted run gait either which involved my left leg doing much more work than my right.

How I managed to maintain my speed I do not know but I did and I am astounded and so very happy with the outcome of 2nd in AG and a spot to race at the 70.3 World Championships in Tennessee! It was also a big PB on a true distance course.

Strava link: 

https://www.strava.com/activities/1042432135



Thank You’s!:

Huge thanks as ever to my sponsors. The team at Cadence Performance/Giant Radlett. Their support with bikes and excellent maintenance and mechanical skills enables me to race and train on amazing bikes.

Simon Costain at the Gait and Posture Centre has been invaluable at using his expertise to literally keep me on my feet.  I’m awaiting surgery to remove an extra growth of bone on the back of my heel. The bone is rubbing on the bursa and Achilles’ tendon which at times makes it difficult for me to even walk normally. My latest orthotics are definitely helping to take the strain.

Gareth Ziyambi at A2Z Elite Health for all the physio and massage that also helps to keep me race fit.

Martin, my husband, for his unrelenting support and encouragement and of course the others in Denmark who all played a role in my achievement our hosts Kris & Jackie; fellow competitors and good buddies Kevin & Farouk and the all important support crew Simon, Svenja & Celeste. Thanks also to all the friends, family and fellow Tri Londoners at home who provide me with a constant source of encouragement, messages, social media likes & kudos!

 

The Commando – 2016

November 21, 2016

Sunday 13th November 2016

The Commando is a 6km trail race with 18 obstacles throughout which are designed to give the participants the opportunity to experience the mud, sweat and pain of real, modern day commando training with 18 gruelling obstacles over a wild terrain course. Many of the obstacles were designed to be exact replicas of the training obstacles found at the Royal Marines Commando Training Centre in Devon including a 30m neck deep wading pool and the dreaded Sheep Dip – a 2m long tube submerged in muddy water. It is designed to be challenging for the participants. Alison Mead and I wanted a tough challenge last year and had an absolute blast so when we were invited back we jumped at the chance.

The course is pretty challenging for anyone – I think all those that participated will agree. Can you imagine undertaking it blindfolded?! Let me introduce you to Alison. Alison has a B1 classification from British Blind Sport having lost her sight in 2005. She is one tough cookie and since being introduced to her by British Triathlon in 2014 I am honoured and privileged to guide for her. There is no stopping her, she shows no fear, it was not easy, we struggled in thick mud, I tumbled and pulled Alison down, Alison tumbled and pulled me down but we had a barrel of laughs!

We knew the drill this time around and after arriving at the stunning  Hever Castle on a beautiful winters day we were really excited. Martin was looking after Ted, Alison’s awesome guide dog as well as playing Chief Photographer. We were greeted by Yvonne as we signed on and swiftly made our way to get our camouflage make up and do a quick interview before heading to the warm up arena for a beasting before we had even started the race!


The Race!

After our race briefing from the Commando in Chief, Brian Adcock we were on our way. Brian kindly makes our participation at this race possible.

 

 

Obstacle No.1 – Estuarine Immersion

 

This doesn’t look hard from the photo but it is a 20m long mud run and we were up to the top of our thighs in thick mud. It sucked us in, each step we took was slow, the river bed was very uneven and when you hung around trying to stabilise yourself you sunk so far in you couldn’t pull your leg back out! It took us a while but thankfully we didn’t lose a shoe or end up totally immersed in it!

Obstacle No.2 – Tunnel Rats

 

Next up, two 10m long winding tunnels crafted out of wriggly tin and earth. We had to crawl through on our hands and knees. I attached our usual run tether to my leg for Alison to follow me through.  Ted was keeping a watchful eye as we emerged. 

Obstacle No. 3 – Smarty Tubes

 

An 8m long and 2’ wide drainage pipe sunk into the ground and semi-immersed in muddy water. Again Alison followed me through whilst holding on to the tether attached to my ankle.

 

Obstacle No.4 – The Wires

 

This doesn’t sound difficult but we had to crawl under or over a 40m long stretch of wooded clearing with many wires criss-crossing the path with loud gun-fire sounding and smoke belching out at us. There were also fallen trees to navigate and the ground was muddy and extremely uneven.

Obstacle No.5 – Slippery Slope

 

A 30m long steep muddy slope with large ropes hanging down to assist our progress. As well as struggling up the steep slippy slope there were several banks of mud to navigate over too. The photo doesn’t do it justice whatsoever.  Every footstep taken slipped. With the uneven ground and the sudden drop after the banks of mud it was tricky to keep your balance.  It looks easy from the top!

Obstacle No.6 – Monkey Bars

 

Whilst I took the monkey bars Alison made her way across a balance beam.  I think the bars were easier than the beam.   Balancing when you cannot see is very tricky. Have you ever tried standing on one leg with your eyes shut? I fall over straight away!

Obstacle No.7 – Scramble Net


A replication of climbing up the sheer side of a ship – this was a 10m high scramble net laid onto tyres up the face of a vertical mud bank. No stopping Alison, she was up it in a jiffy!

Obstacle No.8 – Doom Drop

 

This remains our favourite obstacle – a 30m slippery slide with a steep entry and long run off. This year we bombed down it together. It was a bit bumpy on the bum but as much fun as we remember – its fast – assisted by water and washing up liquid!

Obstacle No.9 – Catacombs of Doom

 

This is a 30m long cave system originally tunnelled out by Lord Astor’s workers on the estate at the same time as they were digging out the lake. Its pitch black in here – I really think Alison should have been guiding me through!

Obstacle No. 10 – Peter’s Pool



A large 30m wide clay pit once used for brick making and now filled with chest deep muddy water – pretty chilly water at that! The descent into it was less than easy too! There were fallen trees submerged under the water ready to catch us out!
Obstacle No. 11 – Creepy Crawly

  

A 12m low scramble net supported on scaffold poles over a muddy section of ground. No problemo! We were muddy and wet already! Ted was still thinking we were mad though!

Obstacle No. 12 – River Cross

 

A crossing of the River Eden using tensioned ropes.  The hard part was lowering ourselves in – the easy bit getting wet!

Obstacle No. 13 – The Chasm

 

A 20m crossing of another clay marlpit filled with muddy water. Huge kudos to Alison for this one – she was on her own. Up on the wires before I knew it and off she went – I was on the rope opposite only able to give her voice guidance and she was not phased in the slightest in spite of being suspended above water for the 20m crossing.

Obstacle No.14 – The Blocker

 

A 6ft obstruction of piled up logs – literally a 6ft high wall and Alison was up and over it like a shot!  No photographic evidence for this one. Apparently Ted refused to cross the river to get there – he didn’t want to get wet!

Obstacle No.15 – The Frogger

 

A 15m crossing of the River Eden on inflatable tyres – might look easy but it wasn’t! They were unstable and slippery!

Obstacle No.16 – Wobbly Bridge

 

Exactly as it sounds – a 20m long wobbly bridge! Plastic containers tied together made for a tricky crossing which wasn’t wide enough for us to go side by side but we didn’t fall in!

Obstacle No. 17 – Sheep Dip

 

The dreaded sheep dip! A 2m long drainage pipe submerged in freezing cold muddy water – Alison was gone through in a flash and I followed straight after. It was chilly and not too palatable!!

From here we had a lovely run back to the final obstacle and finish line via the grounds and gardens of Hever Castle.  Goodness knows what the public, who had come out for a Sunday afternoon stroll, thought they had come across! However , the backdrop of the castle was so stunning Ted made us pose for a photo with him 🙂

 

Obstacle No. 18 – The Wall

 

The final obstacle before the finish line – a 12 foot high wall with trail rope and foot holds. Again Alison flew over this – nobody helping and nothing tied to us to make us think we were safe!

 

 

Yay! We made it for the second time and definitely had just as much fun. It was a cold day but with beautiful blue sky and sunshine and of course we were warmed up with the lovely warm showers:

  

We would like to say a huge thank you to Brian Adcock, Yvonne Turner and everyone at The Commando Series for making this possible for us. For all the commandos & volunteers the whole way round who gave us so much encouragement and made sure we were safe. To Martin, chauffer, photographer and Ted minder.  Ted definitely was worn out by the whole experience!


In addition we would like to thank Lesley Keddy and all of Alison’s guides many of whom are part of the Ricky Running Sisters. Park Run of course deserves a special mention as this is where Alison predominantly does her training. Then there is of course the support that I get that keeps me trained up and able to guide from both Giant Radlett who support my training in general and Simon Costain at The Gait & Posture Centre who literally keeps me on my awkward feet.

We cannot recommend this event highly enough – it is simply so much fun. Here is hoping we will be back in 2017 for a bigger and better Commando!

Alison you are courageous, fearless, gutsy and an absolute inspiration to me.  Thank you for trusting me to do these crazy things with you!

St James’ Place Foundation Triathlon – St Albans – 16th October 2016

November 15, 2016

Swim 400m

Bike 21km

Run 5 km

Can you imagine swimming 400m in a pool with obstacles that you’ve never swum in before? Jumping on the back of a tandem in torrential rain and putting your life in the hands of someone else for 13 hilly mills on busy roads and country lanes? Finishing that lot off with a hilly run through puddles in the rain on uneven paths and country lanes with no footpaths all the while being blindfolded?

Let me introduce you to Alison Mead who represented Tri London at a sprint triathlon in St Albans this year.  Alison has a B1 classification from British Blind Sport having lost her sight in 2005.  This is the second time I have guided Alison at a triathlon and she did herself proud finishing with fantastic times.

Our swim was 400m in a pool but although we had a lane to ourselves unfortunately there were a set of steps at the end of the pool which made things slightly tricky!  Nonetheless we had a great swim.

 

Next up was the tandem ride from St Albans pretty much all uphill to Shenley Village.  From here we took a tour of some of the sleepy country lanes.  The weather was atrocious though, pouring rain and pretty dark.  We kept our spirits high and powered our way up all the hills and were very happy with our bike split, finishing in the top half of the field.  We made our way back to the transition area to begin our soggy run.

 

We were delighted to have some supporters braving the inclement weather.  Martin was around the race base taking photos and as we were running Lesley, one of Alison’s guides popped up to give us a cheer.

 


In spite of the weather we had a fantastic time and were delighted with our result.  

We were very appreciative of the support and help we had with logistics from the organisers, Hope & Home’s for Children.  In addition we would like to thank all of the people that sponsored us we managed to raise a whopping £482.04 for Hope & Homes for Children.  Finally we must give a special mention to everyone that makes these events possible for us.  From Marty, our photographer and Chief Supporter to Kay Tang from CYCLEdude who not only services the tandem for Alison but also got up at sillyo’clock to transport her to the race.  Then of course there are all the wonderful people that guide for Alison and the fantastic Lesley Keddy who keeps the whole rota organised.  Without everyone’s help entering these events wouldn’t even be an option.  I’d also like to thank Giant Radlett who support me with all things bike & Simon Costain at the Gait and Posture Centre who literally keep me on my feet!

 

EUROPEAN LONG COURSE TRIATHLON CHAMPIONSHIPS CHALLENGE POZNAN, POLAND – 24th July 2016

July 31, 2016

3.8km Swim (Challenge have admitted this was short*), 180 km Bike, 42 km Run

Short Report:

Swim             54 mins 52 secs

T1                   4 mins 13 secs

Bike               5 hrs 37 mins

T2                   3 mins 48 secs

Run                4 hours 1 min

Total:            10 hrs 38 mins

European Long Course Triathlon Championships Silver Medallist!

2nd out of 14 GB ladies

7th Overall Female

Long Report:

This was my 8th Iron Distance event.  The days of Long Course Champs being Long Course (4k, 120k, 30k) are long gone since the European Triathlon Union teamed up with Challenge.  The race is now one of Challenges iron distance events around Europe.

I did promise myself that last year would be my last ironman but then the World Long Course Champs was to take place in Oklahoma and a nightmare to travel to so I decided I would have one last stab at getting my much yearned for PB and sub 11 hr ironman by taking part in Challenge Poznan.  I qualified for Team GB & entered the race early in 2016.  Then in March I upset my Achilles (again!) and had to stop running for three months.  Hardly the best race prep but I did manage to have more bike focused training.  I started running again in June and had completed a couple of 70.3 events prior to this big one and the Achilles was holding up with a  9 min run:1 min walk strategy on all my runs.

I arrived in Poznan late on the Friday night.  Something I never do.  I usually like a couple of days pre-race to find my feet and faff!  Luckily I had Martin (my husband) with me and he dragged my bike around to save my arms.

The day before the race was a frenzy of building my bike, registering, packing my transition bags, race briefing , racking,  eating and meeting the other Team GBers.  The event was not particularly well organised with long waits to rack our bikes whilst they numbered the bike racks.  It was far from restful!

Anyway my previous two nights sleep had been good so I wasn’t too concerned.  Managed to get to bed fairly early.  Not much sleep was had but that is normal before a big race.  Breakfast was ready and waiting in the fridge for my 4:30 am alarm call – cold spaghetti Bolognese from the restaurant J.

I was pretty organised in the morning and left the hotel at 5:30 for the 20 min walk to transition with Martin which left ample time before our start wave at 07:05.

The Swim:


A deep water start 100m from the end of the lake.  We were swimming in Lake Matalski, a fantastic rowing lake so the swim was a simple long length of the lake, turn to swim the width of the lake and return to the start end.  With a 2k long lake with measurements for the rowers clearly marked you would have thought Challenge could manage to mark out a 3.8km route but when I exited with a swim time of 54 mins I was confused and looking to see if we needed to dive in again!  Luckily I spotted people in the change tent and everyone was commenting on how fast they had swum.  I know my swim speed and that a 54 min 3.8km is very unlikely and was certain the course was short.  Anyhow, worry about that later.

The Bike:

I was quite concerned about the bike leg as I had been experiencing knee pain on all my bike rides longer than an hour since June.  I was hoping my gruelling massages with Gareth Ziyambi and Cliff Gudgeon would see me through and thankfully they did!  A closed road out and back circuit along a dual carriageway.  Nothing to look at but the road ahead.  Luckily it was four loops of 28 miles each which meant I could keep my brain occupied with time and distance calculations.  My four hour mind numbingly boring Wattbike sessions were definitely great mental prep for this!  The course was mostly flat with a few low rollers here and there.  It wasn’t too congested which was lovely.  I saw a Danish girl whizz by me sometime during the second loop and thought she was in my age group but there was no way I was prepared to challenge her at the speed she was going.  I was sticking religiously to a HR in the top of zone 2.  I knew it was going to be a long day!  It was warming up already on the bike with the air thick and humid.

fot.Pawel Naskrent/Maratomania.pl

fot.Pawel Naskrent/Maratomania.pl

I managed to maintain an average speed of 20.1 mph which I was very happy with.  The end of the bike course was poorly marked and it wasn’t until lap 3 that I had sussed out where to exit to go back to transition.  I also managed to spot Martin here who told me I was in 2nd place (WHOOP!) which gave me a bit of an incentive to motor on on the final lap when my focus is usually beginning to wane.

The Run:

We started by exiting transition and running along the length of Lake Matalski where we had swum earlier.  I was quickly plagued with a stitch which is usual for me after I get off the bike.  I stopped to stretch and sort it out and then ran on.  It was a long way to the first aid station so I employed my run/walk strategy.  I couldn’t make out the run route at all.  It had us twisting and turning all over the place.  Some was trail/sand, some cobbles, some pavement.  The aid stations were roughly every 2k so they became my walking territory along with any hills of which there were a couple short and steep on each lap.  The crowds in the city centre were a fantastic support and in fact there were people sparsely populating the entire course with a lot of locals banging wooden spoons against saucepans the entire afternoon.  As irritating as it was I had to admire their dedication!

fot.Pawel Naskrent/Maratomania.pl

fot.Pawel Naskrent/Maratomania.pl

It was great to see Martin close to the end of my first loop, he informed me I was still second with a 15-17 minute lead on the 3rd placed girl.  I knew I had to remain focused and that I could still be caught but knowing your placing is a great incentive to keep running!  I could also see that I could be on for my sub 11 hour race time that I had yearned for since I finished Barcelona in 11:07 three years ago.  The run surface was tough, it was a grueling route and the humidity was insane.  It was so hot and sticky.  It was just fab to have so many other GB athletes out on the course.  We were the largest team of 37 and the encouragement was great both from them and their supporters around the course.  Even Laura Sidwell, GB Pro who was racing the middle distance event (and won!) was encouraging us on her way around!

On lap 3 I became concerned that my lips were slightly burning.  I put it down to the sun and salt stinging them and then to the oranges that I had been sucking on at each aid station.  However it was slightly unnerving since my lips are often the first thing to react when my allergy kicks in.  I was just a wee bit concerned as I had taken an anti-histamine in the morning so perhaps my pro-dromal signs would be weakened…… I ran on but it wouldn’t go away even after washing my face with water and stopping eating the oranges.  I reassured myself that nothing else was happening and all was ok but then when it wouldn’t subside I looked at my skin on my arms and legs to see a fairly significant rash.  I couldn’t bear the thought of doing so well this far and not finishing so I popped another anti-histamine and told myself to just keep on running, no stopping (it can make it worse).  I know that being scared made me run faster which is no bad thing!  I saw Martin again as I began my final lap and he told me that I was still ahead but that 3rd was closing in but he knew I wanted the sub 11 more than anything and he knew I could do it.  The final lap was hard, I was hurting – my legs simply didn’t have much running in them.  I finally reached the final climb up to the spectacular finish line and rocked across in 10 hrs 38 mins absolutely over the moon!  (The state of my legs below gives you an idea of the kind of terrain we were running on at times!)

fot.Pawel Naskrent/Maratomania.pl

fot.Pawel Naskrent/Maratomania.pl

So a new PB over this distance by 29 mins – although I do acknowledge that our swim was short, in spite of that I would still be well under the 11 hours I yearned for.

And European Long Course Championships Silver Medalist!!  My fourth European medal in a third age group.  I really could not be happier.  As an added bonus I have also qualified for Challenge Samorin – the new Challenge Championship 2017.


Whoop! What a great race.

I find it quite interesting that this is probably the least training I have ever done for an iron distance event.  My biking consisted mainly of mountain biking through the winter, a week in Lanzarote and the Tour of Wessex.  Since the end of May 90% of my long ride cycling has been on my Wattbike at race pace for 3-4 hours at a time.  I was worried about the bike leg because of this but in fact I think it did me a favour with my fastest ever bike split!  My running was virtually non-existent and I replaced all of my run sessions with bike sessions until early June.  No run training seems to suit me!  Quality vs Quantity it seems is the way forward!

Huge thanks as ever to my sponsors Cadence & Giant Radlett.  They provide me with immense support and some fantastic bikes to ride.  Also to Simon Costain at the Gait and Posture Centre who literally keeps me on my feet.

To all my friends, family, Tri Londoners & Oxygen Addicts you are always ace in your support.  Kevin from Tri London deserves a special mention for patiently sitting on a mountain bike beside me to enable me to do my last few long runs whilst he was out of action with a calf injury.

Last but very definitely not least to Martin, my husband whose support is never-ending, having him out in Poland was simply fantastic.  He is always there for me wherever I am.  I have had some great results this season and his presence at my races has been a huge contribution to that.

Next up Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Mooloolaba, September 2016.

*Explanation from Challenge for the Short Swim

Basically in spite of measuring the distance accurately, drawing a map, putting it on facebook, showing us in the briefing, showing the judges in their briefing and having a guy show us on a jet-ski in the morning it still wasn’t enough!  One of the water canoes positioned himself across the path of the oncoming swimmers directing them around a buoy but this was the wrong buoy.  However, he was not allowing people past.  The pros, the men and then the ladies were all directed to turn too early.  The race referee and the ETU Technical Delegate allowed the race to continue on the basis that the shortening of the swim did not affect the outcome of the final competition.

 

 

The Cowman – Middle Distance Triathlon – Sunday 4th July 2016

July 8, 2016


Swim – 1.9km       32:37

T1                               2:07

Bike – 92 km          2:53

T2                               1:45

Run – 21 km            1:50

Total                          5hrs 20 mins

 7th lady

2nd AG FV40-50

Winner of Tri London Middle Distance Club Championships!

Pre-Race

I had less than ideal race prep for this event as my good friend Alison Mead had been asked to attend the parkrun Ambassadors Conference as Guest Speaker. This was a very worthy distraction from my race. The parkrun team are incredible. Their passion for parkrun and the inclusion of all is overwhelming and it was a real honour for us to talk about our roles. Alison spoke as a visually impaired runner and myself as her guide to an audience keen to promote VI running & guides at their weekly parkruns. 


I am extremely appreciative to Giant Radlett for making Alison’s attendance at this conference possible and also to Lesley Keddy, Kaye & Rose a few of Alison’s guides from Ricky Running Sisters that stood in for me at the local school fun day at very short notice in order that I could bring Alison to this conference.

So I arrived home late the night before the race. I had wanted to make some fairly significant changes to my TT bike. Giant had ordered me some lower spacers for my aerobars and I was keen to try them in a race environment prior to my iron distance race at the European Long Course Champs in three weeks time. As a result of a neck injury I have been riding on raised aerobars for the last 18 months but really was not very aero at all. So on Saturday night I dropped the bars 4 cm(!) and rushed around the flat trying to put all my race kit together.

It was an early start at 4 am the next day, leaving home after an early breakfast at 4:45 and arriving at the race at 5:25 am all in good time for registration and plenty of time for organsising myself in transition before it shut at 6:45 am.

Its great to race at Club Champs races as there are usually always plenty of friendly club mates around and this race was no exception.

It was a warm morning and good weather was forecast. The sun was already up for the race briefing. Shortly after we were in the water of the lake at Emberton Country Park having a brief warm up before the gun fired to signify the start.

The Swim:

A beautiful lake with clear water that felt lovely and clean. The temperature was slightly warmer than the outside air temperature so it felt very pleasant. We had a two lap swim and the only real difficulties were:

  • pretty significant argy bargy at the start because of the mass start
  • shallow water at one part of the lake where my hands couldn’t fail to scrape along the bottom of the lake and
  • a particularly tricky bit of sighting towards the end of the laps when we were swimming into direct sunlight which was completely blinding!

However no real mishaps and I was pleased to exit the water in 32:37, must have been the mass start that helped me J

T1

I was delighted to see that my neighbour’s bike was still on the rack, she had looked super fit and serious when I met her in the morning! All in all a relatively quick transition for me in just over 2 mins.

The Bike

The Cowman bike was hillier than I remembered but then it was six years ago when I last did this race! I worked hard on the bike as my running is still not up to scratch having been out of action for a few months. The field was relatively sparse and I was only overtaken by a handful of men, overtook plenty myself and was pleased that no ladies overtook me.

It was only two weeks since my 70.3 race in Denmark so I was pleased with my performance in spite of a slightly sore left knee which is still bothering me. My average speed was 19.8 mph and the bike course slightly long at 92k so I was happy with my 2hr 53 bike split.

T2

Again not to shabby for me and my neighbours bike wasn’t back in transition which pleased me even more though I suspected she would probably catch me on the run.

The Run

The run is hilly and predominantly off road. I am still employing my run walk strategy at a 9 min run/1 min walk ratio due to my recent Achilles injury. It was hot and I became very itchy with bad urticaria which was quite stressful but fortunately it didn’t develop into anything more serious (I suffer with exercise induced anaphylaxis) and I managed to finish the run albeit slightly behind my neighbour from transition who ended up winning our age group.

It was great fun being surrounded by the other Tri Londoners and even some support on the sidelines. I was delighted to be the first lady home for Tri London and 2nd in my 10 year age group at the race!

I feel I had a solid race in spite of my recent problems with running and am now looking forward to the European Long Course Championships in Poland! A little over two weeks to go!

Huge thanks once again to my sponsors Giant Radlett & Cadence Performance for their amazing support and my beautiful Giant Trinity race bike, it really is super fast and comfy with it. Also to Simon Costain at The Gait & Posture Centre for keeping me on my feet and to the never ending encouragement of my family, fellow Tri Londoner’s, Team Oxygenaddict & friends. 

Here’s hoping my good fortune can continue in Poland!

Ironman Kronborg 70.3 – 29th June 2016

June 28, 2016

 

Short Report:

1.9 km Swim – 34:54

T1 – 6:57 (including ½ a mile run from swim to mount line!)

90 km Bike – 2:47:59

T2 – 3:59

21 km Run – 1:50:35

Total: 5hrs 24 mins 24 secs – 3rd in AG and a place at the World Champs 70.3!

The Longer Version:

Having raced two full iron distance triathlons in Denmark, the most recent just in August last year, and having good friends that live in Copenhagen I jumped at their idea of racing Kronborg 70.3.

I love middle distance events but have never actually raced in a 70.3 Ironman branded event before. Soon after Ironman Copenhagen a few of us signed up.

I had less than ideal race preparation with an injury to my Achilles in March this year which kept me from running until just over two weeks from the race.  My entire run training was run/walk for a 3 mile, 4 mile, 5 mile, 6 mile and a 9 mile run.  I didn’t believe I would be competitive and really just wanted to enjoy my first race of the season and use it as a good warm up for the European Long Course Champs next month. I was hoping to swim and bike well but for the run I had planned to continue with my 9 mins running followed by 1 minute walking in order to preserve my Achilles.

 My husband Martin, Farouk a friend and I flew in to Copenhagen a few days before the race and after a night in the city we headed up to Hornbaek just a few miles from the race venue of Helsingor where our friends have a lovely log cabin.

The stunning Kronborg Castle is the backdrop to the race base and we were to swim in the old ferry terminal. 


The day before the race we were studying the route of the swim and I was dismayed to see loads of jelly fish. I hate them!! Up until that point I had no pre-race nerves but all of a sudden that changed quite majorly!

 

Race start for the ladies wave was a leisurely 09:30 am but transition closed at 8:00 am so it meant lots of standing around in pretty chilly weather. However it did mean that we could watch our friends do their swim. I’m not so sure that was a great idea either though as I could see the jelly fish still in abdundance and also hadn’t realised we had to jump or dive into the water from the jetty and there was no option for any water acclimatisation. More angst!!  I was trying to stay calm as stress before exercise is a major factor in setting off my anaphylaxis.

 The Swim


Soon enough we were off and actually the first part of jumping in wasn’t so bad after all. At 16 degrees the water was a degree or two warmer than the outside air temperature so it was pleasantly warm. The swim would have been lovely had it not been for the darn jellyfish! Putting my fingers into them and feeling them bump against my face or leg had me flailing around in a panic on several occasions and squealing so loud I was probably heard in Sweden.  

On the plus side it probably made me swim a tad faster than I have been recently. Two laps of the old ferry terminal, nice and protected was done and dusted in 34 minutes and the guys helping us exit literally plucked me from the water and swung me up onto the carpet. Awesome!
T1

 

Managed a quick glimpse of Martin as I ran to our bags and the change tent. Transition for me was relatively quick by my standards but as the whole distance from swim exit to the bike mount line was half a mile it still took almost 7 minutes. Also we had to run in our bike shoes if we weren’t prepared to do a running mount.

 The Bike


Two loops, pretty fast and scenic heading north along the coast road. It was windy but pretty flat apart from a small undulating section inland halfway round the first loop. It was crowded and I was working hard to overtake as many people as possible. I was aware that I was pushing harder than I would normally but knew that I would only be run/walking on the half marathon so felt I could race a bit harder than usual. However on the second loop most of the guys had disappeared since many had a 90 minute head start on us and I found it hard to stay motivated with a dramatically thinned out field.  The wind also picked up a bit and I had developed a pain in my left knee which was clearly having an impact on my power and speed which both dropped.  I am also ridiculously high on my aerobars at the moment due to my neck injury end of 2014 into 2015.  Nonetheless I was pleased with my 2 hr 48 bike split and an average speed of 20.3 mph.

T2

Managed to become disorientated and couldn’t find my bag in spite of rehearsing the position of both bags several times in the morning. Their numbering was not straightforward either but eventually a marshall came to my rescue and I was out on the run in just under 4 mins.

The Run

This was a lovely run on some trails around Kronborg Castle then out and around the fluro green lighthouse in the old ferry terminal then through the pedestrianised section of the town. 


Loads of support most of the way around. Most importantly Martin was at the aid station which we passed by twice on each of our 5k loops. I spent the first 7 miles being strict with my run/walk strategy. 9 minutes running/1 minute walking and the places that I lost on my walk I soon caught up again when I started to run and was averaging 5:20 min/km. Realistically I was not going to be able to go much faster than that with only five runs in my legs and 27 miles in the last couple of weeks.

So on I trotted. It was fab seeing Martin at the aid station each time I passed. At half way he told me I was only 36 seconds away from the 3rd placed lady in my age group. Whaaaaaat?! 

I was shocked but of course didn’t know if this girl was gaining time off me or if anyone was behind me running faster and about to catch me. Never mind. My Achilles felt reasonably ok so I decided to push the pace a little and just walk the short distance through the aid station twice on each 5k lap. By now it was pretty warm and I was starting to feel thirsty so knew I needed to take on fluids properly. By the last time I passed Martin at the aid station, Kris my Danish friend who had also been racing was with him and Martin sternly told me to put my cup down and run and Kris shouted that I had to make up 17 seconds! I ran not knowing if anything they were saying to me was true or if they were just trying to get me to run faster! I was trying to look for people that may have been in my age group but it was impossible. No-one had calf markings so I just had to run as hard as I could.
I crossed the finish line in 5 hrs 24 mins and 24 secs which is a PB over that exact distance by about 3.5 mins though these transitions were also much longer than my previous race PB. 

After finishing I had no idea where I had placed since no apps or result trackers were working. The boys thought I may have caught 3rd place but because we had a drip feed into the swim it was about half an hour before it was official that I was 3rd!!!!

Wowza – over the moon I am!

Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would ever stand on the podium at an ironman event.


The shocks didn’t stop there either! When I went to the Awards Ceremony I found out I had qualified for the 70.3 World Champs in Mooloolaba in September!


Huge thanks as ever to my sponsors – Giant Radlett & Cadence Performance this was the first race on my beautiful new Liv Trinity and I just love this bike. The support I get from these guys is phenomenal & I really do feel privileged.

Funny my bike, Bindi, hails from Australia seemingly she must want to pay her home country a visit!

Thanks also to Simon Costain at the Gait & Posture Centre who literally keeps me on my feet. Last minute adjustments to my orthotics a week ago have made an incredible difference to my comfort when running.

I’d also like to thank Martin my long suffering husband who I regularly wake up at an unearthly hour of the morning to tell him I’m off training! His support out in Copenhagen was truly fantastic. Without him and Kris pushing me I am pretty sure that the 3rd place spot would never have been mine.

Thanks to our hosts Kris & Jackie for taking great care of us and to Farouk for his company too, we had a lot of laughs this week.

Finally to my Tri London buddies, Regents Park Cyclists, Team Oxygenaddict & friends and family. Thanks for all your messages of support – you’re awesome – all of ya!

 

 

 

The Commando!

November 21, 2015

Guiding at The Commando – Hever Castle, Kent – 14th November 2015

Alison has struggled to participate in sport having lost her sight ten years ago. I was put in touch with her by the British Triathlon Federation just over a year ago as Alison had wanted to take part in a triathlon. We successfully managed this at the Hercules Festival of Sport back in September and I was keen to find another challenge.

I thought an off road run with obstacles could be fun and approached my good friend Nina for some advice as she was working with The Commando Series. Fast forward a couple of weeks and we found ourselves welcomed with open arms by The Commando Series and before we knew it we were on the start line! This event appealed to me as I knew there were Commandos on the course to help out if Alison’s visual impairment meant we came unstuck at any point.

23066911375_5680d19595_o

©colinbaldwinphotography

I need not have worried. I had described each of the fifteen obstacles to Alison and she did not appear to be phased by anything! We thought through our tactics and before we knew it we found ourselves at Hever Castle in pouring rain and a boggy field. There was a lovely heated marquee for us to keep warm and dry in whilst waiting for our start wave and within a short time we found ourselves rolling around in the mud in the warm up pen!

IMG_6861

The Commando Series is a 6km obstacle challenge designed to give the participants the opportunity to experience the mud, sweat and pain of real, modern day, commando training, taking on 15 gruelling obstacles over a wild terrain course. Many of the obstacles were designed to be exact replicas of the training obstacles found at the Royal Marines Commando Training Centre in Devon including a 30m neck deep wading pool and the dreaded Sheep Dip a 2m long tube submerged in muddy water.

After the warm up we were already fantastically muddy. It was pelting with rain too. The terrain itself was tough enough without any obstacles!

We had a briefing from Brian Adcock the Commando in Chief, an ex-Commando who had ultimately made our participation possible.

COMMANDO-27

©colinbaldwinphotography

The torrential rain had made the ground extremely slippery even in trail shoes. It was tough enough just for me to stay upright and I could see where I was going!

The course consisted of the following obstacles:

  1. Tunnel Rats – 10m long winding tunnels crafted out of wriggly tin and earth, crawling through on our hands and knees.
  1. Smarty Tubes – 8m long and 2 foot wide drainage pipes sunk into the ground, semi-immersed in muddy water and getting progressively deeper.

COMMANDO-88

©colinbaldwinphotography
  1. The Wires – a 40m long wooded glade dissected with metres and metres of elastic cord – this was really tricky! It wasn’t just the wires there were logs and very slippery, uneven terrain.
commando-15_1984994

commando-15_1985909
©colinbaldwinphotography
  1. Slippery Slope – a 30m long steep muddy slope with large ropes hanging down that we had to haul ourselves up on. It looks flat in this photo but I can assure you it wasn’t! It was like mud ramps so it was tricky for Alison as there were sudden drops in the ground at repeated intervals all the way up.

IMG_6873

  1. Monkey Bars – OK this one beat us so we chose the easier option of a balance beam instead.
COMMANDO-188
©colinbaldwinphotography
  1. The Scramble – an 8m high scramble net. Not a problem for Alison, just scaled it like a pro! This was the view from the top.
COMMANDO-171
©colinbaldwinphotography
  1. Doom Drop – a 30m slippery slide with a steep entry and long run off. This was so much fun we wished it was twice as long. Alison went off first and then I followed. She showed no fear just throwing herself off the top of the steep hill onto a tarpaulin covered hill side flowing with water and washing up liquid. We literally bombed down it!
22648027228_8d77f64560_o

©colinbaldwinphotography
  1. Catacombs of Doom – A 30m long cave system originally tunnelled out by Lord Astor’s workers on the estate. I don’t know why I led us through this Alison would probably have done better! It was very dark and so slippy we ended up crawling through on our hands and knees. No photos – it was dark!
  1. Peter’s Pool – a 30m wide clay marlpit once used for brick making and now filled with chest-deep muddy water, we are both quite short so I am sure it was more like neck deep! This was tricky to get into and in fact Alison ended up have a pretty quick immersion as I hadn’t realised until we were hanging off the ropes that the sides of the mud bank were cut away where she was hanging. She was still grinning when she resurfaced though!
23076813031_95c79e6f43_o
©colinbaldwinphotography
  1. Creepy Crawly – a 12m low scramble net that we had to commando crawl under.
COMMANDO-199
©colinbaldwinphotography
  1. River Cross – A crossing of the River Eden – neck deep but assisted with a rope
commando-15_1981096
©colinbaldwinphotography
  1. The Chasm – A 20m crossing of another clay marlpit this time on a high wire, we crossed using the Tyrollean Traverse method. It was daunting enough to get onto the wire let alone traverse across not attached to anything knowing there is quite a drop if you fall AND not being able to see! Huge KUDOS for this one Alison! All I could do was describe how far she had left to go from the other side!
commando-15_1988554

commando-15_1990192

commando-15_1987685
©colinbaldwinphotography
  1. The Frogger – a 15m crossing of the River Eden using inflatable tyres or an option to go back in the water again using a rope to navigate the crossing and that is the option we chose.  This is us clambering out.
©colinbaldwinphotography
  1. Sheep Dip – 1 2m long drainage pipe submerged in muddy water – pushed through from one end by a commando and hauled out at the other!
COMMANDO-282

©colinbaldwinphotography
  1. The Wall – the finish line – a 12ft high wall with a scramble net over it. Tough enough for anyone that could see where they were going let alone Alison that couldn’t but it was no problem, Alison was at the top very quickly and calmly!

IMG_6878

Then the climb down the other side to the finish!

COMMANDO-1
COMMANDO-393
©colinbaldwinphotography

Another highlight? The warm showers afterwards:

COMMANDO-357
©colinbaldwinphotography

All in all this was an amazing day out. We are so grateful to Nina and all at The Commando Series for enabling us to participate and for their help and support both before, during and after the event.

Thanks too to Colin the photographer at Peachy Snaps Photography for some amazing shots.

Thanks also to Martin for being chauffeur, photographer and most importantly Ted, Alison’s guide dog minder for the day in awful weather conditions!

None of it would have been possible with the help of Lesley Keddy and all the volunteer guide runners at South Oxhey Park Run that enables Alison to keep run fit.

Last but not least I would like to thank my sponsors for their continuing support.  Giant Radlett spoil me rotten with fantastic bicycles to ride and neverending support.  Not only does this help my triathlon racing, it has also meant that I have been able to keep fit in spite of having to take a long break in my running due to an Achilles injury.

Its a wonder I am able to run at all but Simon Costain from the Gait and Posture Centre continuously supports me with these awkward feet of mine!

I would highly recommend this as a superb day out for anyone and we hope to be back next year.  Finding the next challenge is now on the cards but this will be a tough one to beat!

Alison you are gutsy, fearless and an amazing inspiration to others.  I cannot wait for the next challenge.  Any ideas anyone?!

HERCULES FESTIVAL OF SPORT SPRINT TRIATHLON – 13th SEPTEMBER 2015 – GUIDING ALISON MEAD

October 5, 2015

Could you imagine swimming 400m in a pool you had never set foot in before, then jumping on the back of a tandem with someone who has little experience and hitting busy roads for 13 hilly miles and then wrapping that little lot up with a 5k hilly off road trail run on uneven ground, all the while being blindfolded?!

Let me introduce you to Alison Mead a 53 year old tough cookie that has a B1 Classification from British Blind Sport having lost her sight in 2005.

I was introduced to Alison by the British Triathlon Federation in July last year. Alison was keen to get involved in triathlon again having participated in a race a couple of years before. Alison needed to find a guide that could help her achieve her dream of racing again and I was hoping to be that person.

We started off by run/walking along the Ebury Way, a fantastic trail not far from her house in Oxhey. After doing this a couple of times I suggested we might try going to a local Park Run as it had the feel of more of an event than running on our own. We decided to go to St Albans Park Run on a chilly morning in November 2014. We might have been the last people to finish but it didn’t matter the support and encouragement from other racers and park users was fantastic and we left on a real high.

A short while later Park Run started up near Alison’s house and Ted, her gorgeous guide dog, learnt how to bring her there in spite of the fact that some of the walk is off road. I would run here with Alison whenever I could but logistically committing to training every week was difficult to fit into my already busy schedule. Soon other people offered to guide Alison and within no time she had a guide every week! A lovely lady called Lesley Keddy, has now set up a rota so Alison has a guide most weeks and if she doesn’t she kindly helps marshalling. Fullerlife Leisure based at Watford Grammar School for Girls have supported us in using their pool for swim training. Cycling was a steep learning curve as I had never ridden a tandem before. Alison has her own tandem that I initially took to the Ebury Way Trail with a friend who was experienced in riding a tandem. Alison and I then ventured out on the trail and once we were competent we ventured off to Moor Park on the roads the week before race day. The tandem is a definite learning curve! Once its up and moving it is fine but setting off requires balance and concentration!

Race Day was soon upon us and with some invaluable help from Kay Tang, Cycledude in transporting the tandem at an ungodly hour of the morning we found ourselves outside Westminster Lodge in St Albans at 5:45 am.



Hercules Events, the race organisers had been so accommodating and helpful and Alison was given race No.1! We had our own special briefing from David the Race Director at 6:40 am and then were allowed to start our swim whilst the main group then had their briefing.

I could hear their amazing cheers of support from all the other race entrants whilst David explained what we were up to. We had 16 lengths to swim, ducking under the lane ropes at each end of the pool.  
When we first started swimming together Alison was really only confident swimming alongside the wall but we soon learnt how to manage against the lane ropes by swimming in a busy public pool on a bank holiday weekend!

In a little over 11 minutes we were out the pool and had a fairly long run to transition just as dawn was breaking.

   We organized ourselves fairly quickly and managed to get the tandem off the rack and had another long run to the mount line. Alison is amazing in being able to run just holding the bike to guide her.


 Mounting the tandem and getting it going was the only bit of the whole race that I was nervous about and thankfully we managed on the first attempt!


The ride was a little hilly but it was only towards the halfway point that some of the faster entrants came by us. We had been hoping for a minimum average speed of around 12 mph so our 15.5 mph average was a brilliant boost and Alison clearly loved the descents and feeling the wind in her hair as we exceeded speeds of 32 mph. We found ourselves back in the park in no time at all. We had to slow up for the half mile or so through the park to the dismount line as by now the narrow footpath we were riding on was busy with other runners and cyclists.


We dismounted successfully and then had to negotiate a windy transition with a very long bike. Mission accomplished and we were soon heading out onto the run.

  
 The run really took some guts. It was predominantly off road on hilly, uneven ground. We knew the first part around the lake as it is the same as Park Run St Albans but then we ventured up and down several hills on tricky terrain. Alison experienced a severe cramp in her hamstring so unfortunately although we were looking set for a 5k PB all of a sudden she was brought to a grinding halt and we had to spend several minutes stretching out and massaging her hamstring. In spite of a couple of stints of this we still managed a decent time and as we rounded the final bend with 200m to go we could hear the race commentator announcing her imminent arrival. At this point a third bout of severe cramp set in but Alison battled it out to run across the finish line as its inflated structure actually started to collapse just as we crossed under it!

  
I have to say that this was simply the most fun I have ever had at a sprint triathlon! Alison is just so gutsy! Her swim was strong, we beasted the tandem ride (and didn’t fall off!) and her run on that hilly, off-road, uneven ground battling with severe cramp in her leg was outstanding.

Alison had a few objectives – to finish, enjoy it and hoped to beat a previous race time from a couple of years ago. She managed all three even though this event was longer than the last one!

None of this would have been possible without the help of many people. We would both like to pass our thanks to the following:

Carol Macdonald at Triathlon England for putting us in touch with each other.

Hercules Events for being so accommodating and helpful.

Lesley Keddy from South Oxhey Park Run, the other guide runners and of course Park Run itself which was an essential part of the training preparation for this event.

Kay Tan, Cycle Dude the mobile bike mechanic for transporting the tandem in the middle of the night.

Fullerlife for supporting us with training at their pool.

The roar and support of those waiting to race after us.

Lesley & Nick, Ted’s original boarders who looked after Ted for 24 hours

Ted himself who is of course invaluable and he also played a major role in getting Alison to Park Run

Alison High a friend and regular guide at Park Run, Alan & Sandra & other friends that came to support.

Must not forget Martin, official paparazzi for also getting out of bed in the middle of the night!

All the awesome tweeters and facebookers!

Then of course there are my sponsors:

Giant Radlett, for keeping me on some beautiful wheels and providing never-ending support

Simon Costain at The Gait & Posture Centre for literally keeping me on my feet!

Since the event we have even been featured in the media with both The Mirror and Join In Uk writing some lovely articles. If you are interested you can take a look here:

The Mirror article

Join In UK article

We are also delighted to have been invited to attend British Blind Sports 40th Anniversary Gala Dinner next month.

If perhaps you would like to to consider guiding please take a look at Join In UK and/or Guide Running UK for more information. I guarantee you won’t regret it.

Alison – you are a inspiration and should be very, very proud of yourself!  I’m now hunting out a new challenge for us!