Jun 292016
 

I have had a couple of Hardknott ales at the local pub. My girls have just taken an early night. And there are a couple of beers in the fridge. Fast Soul is on the stereo. As I write this race report on the balcony there is the sound of rushing water. We are still in the Lakes and the sky is dramatically beautiful.

I pre warn you, this is a lengthy report. It matches the enormity of the event. Either stop reading now or settle in with a beer, glass of wine, or cup of tea. Whatever your preference!

Arriving at Windermere, we are greeted by an alluring mist. As soon as I saw this mystical scene across the lake, I knew the day was going to be fantastic. When you smash out a big wattbike during the winter months, you dream about moments like these.

On Saturday 25 June 2016, we were here to do Triathlon X. The hardest Ironman on the planet.

Getting ready in transition, I saw Rob from Cup of Tri doing some pre-race podcast interviews. Would have given a few words apart from the fact time was not on my side and putting shoes on my bike and the rest of the T1 faff was more important. Anyway, I had said on Tri Talk I would do an interview on Scafell !

Slightly slow off the swim start, a 50m hardcore shift to sit on Stan Gruncell’s legs was required. Chuffed as often miss the front pack and have to lead everyone else back to shore. Stan has a big kick and I just sat behind him the whole way for the 2 lap course to Seamew Crag Island and back. Uneventful apart from cramping in last few hundred meters and having to breastroke !

54 minutes. I tend to swim irregularly (purely a time thing) and was pleasantly surprised what some 10-20 min 50m swim sets can achieve based on plenty of swim miles in my teens under the tutoriage of my Grandma.

Wetsuit off. Jammers off. Worcester Triathlon suit on loaded with ten gels jammed into my back pockets. And then straight out of transition. No socks. No gloves. No arm warmers.

I asked the Marshall, as I exited T1, ‘how many ahead ?’ ‘No-one’ was the reply. Get in. 1st place ????

Having completed the Fred Whitton Sportive earlier this year (same 112 miles and 3900m of climbing), I settled in nice and easy for the insane bike route. Tapping away and making sure I lowered my watts anytime it hit 300+ watts as the mountain passes started.

And I felt cold ! And my lower back was tight ! I had suffered the last couple of weeks with pain. Just not had chance to see my osteopath to get it cracked out. The wetsuit giving extra buoyancy had clearly taken a toll.

Keeping my mind as positive as possible, I was annoyed this tightness was making me want a piss already. Pass that thought.

And ride. Up the Struggle. And loving it. Down Struggle. And loving it. Hands freezing!

An hour in the eventual winner, Andrew Drobeck (a 8.31 pro Ironman triathlete from USA), went past. And he literally danced past me. ‘Dude, congratulations you are now first’….’No way, man’ he replied.

2 hours into the bike and I had to stop for the second time. Really cold, I struggled to undo my top. Hands frozen together and incapable.

And that’s when I was now 3rd as someone sailed past.

On either Honister or Newlands, I got passed for 4th by another Kona boy, Gareth Huxley.

Then after stopping for a third time, I got caught by 3 guys. 2 of which were overbiking. And one was doing plenty of drafting. After having a word and then going past, I had the words ‘chill out, we are all after a piece of slate’ in my mind to make me angry.

My back was crucifying me. And some kid was telling me to chill out whilst he drafted his way round the course ! It is suppose to be a personal challenge. Enter a sportive, dude, if that’s what you want to do. Otherwise save it for the run where I get comradery can be a great mental comfort to completion. Just don’t take a 20% benefit over 7-8hrs.

And then Hardknott after 95 miles or so with the 30% gradient. As I went over the cattle grid and started the climb, a few doubts entered my mind. Although I had climbed it ok on the Fred Whitton Sportive, I had not planned to nail a marathon up England’s highest mountain that day.

Anyway, up Hardknott, I unclipped. This was a really tough decision to make. Never before have I not cycled up a mountain. On retrospect, I am really proud I made the decision. Later when climbing Scafell, it was clearly right. Not for my muscles. Just to keep my heart rate steady. From experience, I know I am not great on long events when I spike my heart for too long.

Then Wrynose. A decent amount of the way into the climb, again I unclipped.

Now the last 15k or so home. Time to smash it. Just like on the recent Dragon sportive ride when, with a mate Dean Edwards, I smashed the last 50 of the 230k ride. One of only three bikes longer than 3 hours that I have done in the last 18 months !

209 watts of normalised power over 7hrs 14. 82% of FTP. 2.9 w / kg for anyone remotely interested !

As I entered T2 in 4th, Vicki and Cali were there. Wow. I had told them not to bother and would see them at the end. Racked my bike. Sat on the floor to put on socks and shoes on. And then off. Not before kissing the girls. Delighted to see them both. Could not believe they had made the effort ! And totally chuffed.

As I left T2, and with my girls in my mind, I was convinced I would run well as I always back myself when it gets tough.

For the first few miles all was good along the Cumbria Way. And then I took a wrong way into a quarry. Missed a sign. Perhaps 10 or so mins of lost time. Must pay more attention to my watch! It was programmed to tell me when to take a turn. In fact I had purposely made sure I was not looking at any other data (no distance, time, heart rate etc). Totally messed up. My mistake.

At New Dungeon, the only aid station on the marathon (it is an out and back and therefore you see it twice) after 8 miles or so, I finally caught up with 1 or 2 who had passed me and by quickly flying through the station, I was in 4th again.

As I went into 3rd, passing Warren Mason (50+ and clearly a super fit guy), he asked me why I felt good. Beautiful childhood memories of walking holidays in Abergervenny and using those thoughts to fuel my ascent was the reason at the time. Later on, I would use special runs or hikes in places like Peru, Havana, or Hong Kong alongside those training times in my back yard (Malverns, Bredon, Croome Court) to flick between these positive memories and the here and now of the event.

3rd all the way up until Scafell summit. I take a couple of selfies on the way up. I want to remember this place and these times. It’s truly beautiful.

On the way down, I get taken by a fell runner. I stay close for a while.

The descent is truly in your face. Constant. In your face. Concentration required to hop and jump from one boulder to another as fast as possible. Emergency caffeine gel taken to wire the senses.

Ha ha and then I take the wrong way and suddenly I am off piste. And in a bit of trouble on very steep inclines. After making it close again to the path, I don’t raise my leg high enough and take a tumble on shale. Cutting my knee and lower leg. Got away with it. Flesh wounds only.

As you descend, you meet lots of people going the other way. We all shout encouragement at each other. Camaraderie built on this truly magnificent adventure. We all want everyone to have a great day.

See Nick Mansley who I had met training in Lanzarote in January with Bella Bayliss at Sands Beach. Another guy who balances a hectic schedule with the fun to be had on endurance escapades.

And then Rob, from Cup of Tri. No time to stop though for a podcast interview as time had been burned taking selfies on top of Scafell ! I wish the Oxygen Addict well.

Back to Dungeon aid station and I pick up some more energy. Kendal mint cake is all gone. Back to gels.

8 miles of trails to really suck it up, running at pace. Stan Gruncell catches me on the flat. He is having a great day and I can not stay with him.

Then a load of undulation. A run / walk strategy required to get up the hills. Ian Fothergill catches me. He states there are another couple of guys close behind and picks up the pace. This time I stay in touch and we chat the last few miles away, triumphant in our achievement.

As we approach our Ambleside finish, Ian summons up the energy to kick on. This gives me the opportunity to truly take in the experience and look forward to seeing Vicki and Cali at the finish line. And there they are. I slow to a walk and embrace them. The finish line can wait. As I am competitive, I make sure this trait is tempered with more important virtues.

6th overall in the toughest ironman on the planet.

A fabulous glow embraces me as I enjoy a pint of local ale and kiss the Cumbrian slate medal

Jun 132016
 

On Saturday 11th June I raced at the National Aquathlon Championships in Leeds. The race was enjoyable, especially getting to swim the same course as the elite ITU racers would do on the Sunday. However, I have to say the event organisation was very poor. Receiving a phone call at 9.30pm telling me I had been put in the wrong wave and been given the wrong colour swim hat is not what you want on the night before your key race of the season.

Anyway, the race was a 750m swim followed by a 5km hilly run. Having won my age group last year I was hoping to medal again but I knew this would be harder than last year as the competition would be much better being as the race was in Leeds and running alongside the ITU world cup race. I wasn’t wrong. The girl that won is an elite athlete from New Zealand who won the U23 aquathlon champs in 2013 and has raced at a number of ITU races. I was just pleased to be on the same results page as her! Anyway, having been in bronze medal position for most of the race, I was overtaken in the last quarter of the race and finished 4th in my age group and 24th overall out of 75 women. I am disappointed to have just missed out on a age group medal but also hopeful that I could have done a bit better if I hadn’t been injured leading up to the race.

Apr 172016
 

Tewkesbury Tri Club put on another great value aquathlon series this year. The event consists of 4 aquathlons spread out from January to April. The race is a 400m pool swim followed by a very muddy 5k run around a field. It has always been a regular on my race calendar to break up the winter training boredom and I last raced and won the series in 2013. However, I was back racing it for the first time since having my son Eddie and was pleased that with two 1st place finishes and a 2nd place finish, I won the series again.

Ellen

Oct 032015
 

The Elbaman triathlon has built a reputation as being one of the toughest Iron distanced triathlons in the world attracting athletes from around the world to be able to say they have finished 3.8km of swimming,  180 kms of cycling (including more than 3,000m of climbing) and then running the 42.2km marathon in the blistering heat of the midday sun on the beautiful island of Elba off the West coast of Italy.

Michelle Parsons, from Evesham and representing Worcester Triathlon Club was returning to international competition for almost the first time in two years following the successful operation on her Achilles tendon earlier in the year and then recovering from a stress fracture sustained in her recovery period.

The race starts with a two lap swim in the bay at Marino di campo, the scene of Michelle’s last international victory in 2013 and not surprisingly she was apprehensive as she entered the water but the weather was kind and the choppy seas of two years ago were replaced by relatively calm conditions.

Michelle’s swim performance once again left her trailing the female leaders in 10th position overall some 20 minutes behind the then leader Kathrin Schneider from Switzerland.  She completed the swim in just over 1 hour and 22 minutes and was now ready for the infamous 112 miles of cycling over 6 climbs around the west side of the island.

Also competing in the iron distance event was fellow Evesham based teammate Danny Harris (also representing Worcester Tri Club).  Harris produced a superb swim time of 1.09.23 placing him in 61st position in the mens race and so was soon out onto the bike course working steadily through the field.

With no rain forecast and instead high temperatures and coastal winds the bike was going to be a tough test rain but in her customary style Michelle set about picking off the athletes between herself and the leaders.  She was soon up into the top 5 and was aiming to past the Swiss and German athletes who with three Italian athletes occupied the top 4 positions.  This she did in the second half of the race climbing all the way up to 3rd position literally seconds behind Schneider as they entered T2 at the end of the bike section.  Michelle recorded the fastest female bike split of the day in 6 hours 42 minutes and 5 seconds.

Danny Harris steadily moved up the order in the mens race finishing the bike in 6.39.07, a very respectable time for the tough course but more importantly in good shape to start the marathon run.

The runners had not only their fellow participants to compete with but also the heat of the day as the temperatures increased in the midday and afternoon sun.  With little shade available on the course it was always going to be an attritional run.  But Michelle was running exceptionally well and soon in 2nd place hunting down the leader Carolin Engelke-Horn from Germany.   The two had raced before in Ironman Lanzarote in 2013 when Michelle had got the better of her German counterpart and it looked as though she would do the same again.

The course is made up of 6 laps of just over 7km around the town taking in the seafront twice on every lap.  The first three laps saw the gap between the two close but at the same time Italian Monica Ferrari was also running well and had moved into 3rd place before they reached the half way point.  On lap 4 of 6 Michelle finally caught Engelke-Horn and edged into first place for first time in the race and built  a small lead of 30 second towards the end of the lap.  Unfortunately the German regathered herself and made a strong effort at the start of the 5thto retake the lead and pull away– both were running at sub 3.30 marathon pace and as the final laps unfolded it was Engelke-Horn who was stronger and managed to hold onto first place overall in a time of 11.40.03.  Michelle was second with Ferrari in third place some 4 minutes behind.  On the last lap Danny Harris who was still running strongly was finally caught up by Michelle and the two team ran in together to complete the course in 11.48.52 Michelle recording a 3.38 marathon split bettered only by Engelke-Horn in the female field on the day.

Harris finished with the 19th fastest male run time of the day pushing himself up into 24th position overall.  A fantastic result in his first attempt at the race.   The male winner for the second year in succession from Belgium, Lucky Berage, finishing in a phenomenal time of 9.26.15 with over an hour’s lead on second place.

Michelle is now in recovery mode for a week or so before she gets back into training for a late season Ironman race in Perth, Australia in December.

The Elbaman organisers also run a half distance race on the same day on basically the same course.  Taking part this year (all based in Evesham) from Worcester triathlon club were 5 more triathletes.  Most notably was Lee Harvey who was attempting his first ever open water triathlon.  Harvey who was nervous at first soon got into the swing of the race and produced an exceptional debut finishing in an overall time of  6 hours 22 minutes and 36 seconds in 161st position overall.  Other WTC finishers were Phil Parsons 5.10.51 (8th), Iain Jennings 5.37.53 (34th), Mark Ellison 6.06.15 (114th and 6th in his age group) and Phil Johnson 6.31.29 (192nd).040 058 IMG_1816

Oct 032015
 

After having a poor race at Bredon Tri following a virus, I entered Cotswold triathlon wanting to have a good, solid performance. However, after a series of disturbed nights from my teething toddler, I wasn’t hopeful and decided to just treat the race as training.

I actually ended up having a really good race finishing the race in 1hr 11.14 mins and coming 2nd in my age category and 10th female overall in a race which included an elite wave. I completed the 750m swim in 11.12 mins which was the 5th fastest female swim and 16th fastest overall out of the men and women. I tried to stay within myself on the bike to save myself for the run as I haven’t done much bike training recently and completed the course in 37:16mins. I then had a good run, completing the 5k run in 20:52 mins.

Rosalind Townsend -Hope also raced and won her age category in a time of 1hr 20:38 mins.

Full results can be found here http://www.dbmax.co.uk/results/results-2015.html

 

 

Oct 032015
 

Congratulations to Catherine Kelly who raced and won her age group at the Stratford Triathlon. Her race report is below.

‘On a sunny day in May 2009 I stood terrified at the side of the pool as I was about to take part in my first triathlon. My friend wanted to do one and asked me to join her. At the time she couldn’t put her head under water and hadn’t been on a bike in 10 years so I thought I may at least give it a go as I was unlikely to come last. The race was the Stratford sprint triathlon held twice a year at Stratford Leisure and Visitor centre and consisted of a 400 m swim, 23 km cycle and 5 km run. That day I came 202nd out of 221 in a time of 1:35:28. It wasn’t a great result but I was hooked.

This event has always remained special to me as it was my first race and the great thing about it being ran twice a year means that I can use it to track my progress. Over the last 6 years I have been slowly creeping up the results table helped mainly by joining Worcester tri 2 years ago.

6.5 years from that first race I find myself stood by the same pool again but this time with the aim of doing well rather than just survival. The swim felt tough as I went out too hard on the first length yet again but I managed to settle down and get a PB. Being a relatively fast swimmer I was one of the last in so knew I was racing those around me for position. Next was the slightly undulating bike leg through the Warwickshire countryside. I felt strong and managed to push hard to achieve another PB. Then came my worst disciple, the run. The course was two laps on grass out and back along the river. It took all my strength to keep going but I was determined to finish strong.

The results were displayed shortly after the race. My main aim of the day was to get a course PB and although I got the same time as last September the transition area was further away leading to longer transitions times than previously. The main shock came when I discovered that not only did I come 26 female out of 184 but I also won my age category.’

Aug 162015
 

There was good representation from the club at the Bredon Triathlon today. Congratulations to all club members that competed.

Christopher Ricketts: 18th open male. 52nd overall. 1hr 25:42

Duncan Jubb: 11th male supervet. 73rd overall. 1hr 28:07

Ellen Hemsworth: 7th open female. 74th overall. 1hr 28:12

Gill Jubb: 2nd female supervet. 83rd overall. 1hr 30:29

Ros Townsend-Hope: 5th female supervet. 98th overall. 1hr 32:47

Catherine Kelly: 19th open female. 137th overall. 1hr 39:04

 

Aug 042015
 

The Great Britain first and second youth women’s teams enjoyed great success at the European Youth Relay Championships last Sunday 26 July.

In temperatures of around 30 degrees each of the three team members first completed a 300m swim in the crystal clear waters of Banyoles Lake, the setting for the 1992 Olympic rowing events. Then followed a 6.6km cycle leg around the lake and then a 1.6km run plus an additional 400m finish straight on the third leg.

Fourteen teams from 10 countries competed and the relatively unknown but very strong and consistent Russian team emerged as clear victors with a total time of 01:07:32. GBR 1 having lead after the first leg finished second in 01:08:20 with France third in 01:08:37.

The GBR 2 team which included Worcester Tri Club’s Nixie Turner finished seventh in 01:10:00, only 13 seconds separating them from fifth placed Spain. They finished ahead of the first teams of Portugal, Hungary, Ukraine and Sweden and all of the other second teams (Ukraine, Spain and Portugal), demonstrating the current strength and depth in British female youth and junior triathlon.

Nixie took the third and final leg and completed the course in an individual time of 23.47 – the sixth fastest third leg time. However her bike time of 10:19 was the fifth fastest of all the 42 competitors.

The GBR 1 youth men’s team went one better, winning their event in 01:00:05 with Spain second and Portugal third. The youth men’s GBR 2 team did not finish.

To cap off a fine day for British Triathlon the GBR U23 mixed relay team (which included female youth Issy Morris) came a close second to Italy in their event.

The GBR 1 and 2 Youth Men and Women’s relay teams.  Nixie Turner 4th from right.

The GBR 1 and 2 Youth Men and Women’s relay teams. Nixie Turner 4th from right.

Jul 152015
 

I entered this event as something to aim for after giving birth to my son a year ago. I hoped to be competitive but most of all I wanted to enjoy it as I love racing and have missed it. The event was in Falmouth and involved a 750m sea swim followed by a 5km run around the headland. After some lovely days of sunshine leading up to the event, the weather on race day was awful! Wind, rain and jellyfish made for a really tough swim. Sighting was hard due to the waves and I had quite a shock when I came face to face with a huge barrel jellyfish. I had no idea of my positioning after the swim but headed out on to the hilly run course thinking I had probably put myself out of medal contention. The run was uphill for the first half and I was finding it hard to settle my breathing but I gained on a few people.

After the finish I hung around at the beach cafe trying to warm up however, my husband and I spent most of the time chasing our wild toddler around whilst he roared at other freezing cold triathletes and attempted to steal their cake. So after lots of ‘shall we just go I won’t have won anything’ moments the results were finally announced. To my surprise I had won my category and became National Aquathlon Champion in the 25 – 29 age group.

 

 

Jul 092015
 

Congratulations to club junior Jodie Ruane who has been selected to represent the West Midlands at the National Inter-Regional Championships. Jodie only started triathlon last year but has had a very successful year including first place finishes at Sandwell Aquathlon, Wrekin College Aquathlon, Warwick Children’s Triathlon and Barton Marina Triathlon. Jodie competes in the TS2 category (11 – 12 year olds) and we wish her the best of luck for the competition in September.