Wednesday, 26 June 2013

The Fabulous Forestman Middle

I’ve said all year that I wasn’t going to race. Although I’ve been back running and cycling since the end of March, everything has been at a fun, easy and sociable pace and if I’m honest, I didn’t want to disappoint myself by being much slower in a race compared to this time last year.

A bit of triathlon passion was reignited last weekend as I went to support friends at the UK Ironman 70.3. One friend had hardly trained at all due to an injury and made it way beyond her initial goal of "the first buoy" and all the way to the end of the bike. The other, my previous training buddy turned triathlon superhero, Ruth, absolutely stormed it round the course. I was having a marvelous time supporting but I couldn't help feeling a little bit jealous.

Fortunately, due to an evening involving wine a few months ago, I had entered the Forestman Middle distance. This was a new addition to the well-established Forestman family run by the brilliant Race New Forest team and involved one lap of Ellingham Lake (1.2km), a 60 mile loop in the New Forest and a hilly, off-road half marathon. For the vast majority of those few months, I was pretty certain that I wouldn't actually do the race but seeing a whole host of people running ecstatically through the finish line at Wimbleball gave me the boost I needed. I was rather looking forward to getting my teeth into a triathlon.

Having not been swimming since December 8th (I don't know why I remember the date, but I do), the plan was merely to finish the swim gently, push hard on the bike and do my best to enjoy the run. Some doubters - who will not be named - said I wouldn't be able to stick to this plan and that I would see red and get carried away. I'm glad to say, they were wrong.

As it turns out, when you don't have high expectations of yourself or put a lot of pressure on yourself, these triathlon thingies can be thoroughly enjoyable and dare I say, fun, experiences. The water at Ellingham was perfect, a little bit of argy bargy at the start (which I mostly created myself) but after five minutes or so I had my own water and settled into a good, steady rhythm. Halfway around the loop I couldn't help wondering why on earth I'd stopped doing this in the first place, it was lovely!

I trotted over to the transition tent and had a fairly leisurely time getting my socks and gloves on, none of this stressful rushing business. Once I was away on the bike though, I found my race face. Despite not doing any even remotely fast cycling in the last few months, I found some pace and started chasing down anybody I could see ahead of me. I savagely attacked my banana, tearing it from the side with my teeth to avoid having to slow down. I was actually a little too out of breath to eat properly; wild open-mouthed chewing ensued as I focused carefully on not inhaling it. Luckily nobody witnessed this fairly disgusting display.

The tailwind at the back end of the loop was a joy, everybody was flying along having a jolly marvelous time. I battered myself up Ornamental Drive, especially as I saw my main rival my lovely fellow clubmate, Nicky Yevko up ahead. I failed to look casual as I breathlessly passed her.

Loving the support and picture taking
from Davie! 
I had gone out quite hard on the bike but I managed to keep the pace going through the undulating route. Various friends and clubmates were out on the course shouting support generally being brilliant. Hearing someone go a little bit mad and screaming your name does wonders on a long race! Every time I saw a girl on a bike ahead of me I just couldn't help myself, I didn't care if they were in my race or not, I was going to catch them. I had some good banter with a few blokes as well, as we played cat and mouse up and down the hills.

The final stretch, right into a strong headwind, was a killer on the legs. I could have been sensible and cranked down the power a little bit, but I was having far too much fun having some back and forth with a chap from Andover Triathlon Club called Nick. In fact, if it wasn't for Nick, I think I wouldn't have enjoyed that last little bit at all.

Looking like I'm having a much better
time than Ruth!!
T2 was quick and running actually felt quite nice and easy compared to pushing so hard on the bike. That's not to say I was running fast, but it felt light. A mile up the road and I hit the Salisbury Tri Club aid station, where I stopped briefly for a little chat with the crew. The little chats were plentiful on the run, I was taking it really rather easily and as a result, I was having a great time. I stopped to assess the snacks at all the aid stations (Southampton Tri Club were the clear winners with a choice of biscuits and the biggest sack of jelly babies I have ever witnessed) and got to know a couple of other triathletes on the course. The whole atmosphere was so friendly, everybody was cheering on everybody else and it was all very sporting.

I was soon caught by the Yevko, the running machine that she is. She actually lost herself a good half a minute or so by slowing down and having a quick chat before shooting off into the distance. I managed to keep jogging up the last big hill before getting back to the STC stand, with only one mile to go I picked up the pace and gleefully made my way back to Sandy Balls and a big welcome at the finish line.

I felt totally elated. I'd pulled a triathlon out of the bag and I'd really, truly enjoyed the whole experience.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

A Parkrun and a Half

Occasionally, I come up with an idea that's inspired. Sometimes - due to my over-enthusiastic head - those ideas turn out halfway through to be ridiculous, not inspired. This one was borderline. My sister had been going on about the South Downs Half Marathon for a few months, the the seed had been planted but since it has been quite some time since I've run a half, I wasn't sure I was fully up for it.

In amongst this period of time, a parkrun had begun at Queen Elizabeth Country Park, very conveniently where the SDHM started. I thought, if anything, I could go and do the parkrun then plonk myself down and cheer my big sis on. Then, over the last month I got myself back into running and with a couple of steady 10 milers in the bag, I decided that the half marathon was possible. This was the point that the wild enthusiasm kicked in and the great idea emerged: if you're going all the way over there, why not just do both?

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Bodyboarding and Big Hills

The last time we went to Devon for a little holiday, it was absolutely freezing cold and we sat in a still sea getting hypothermic praying for some waves to arrive. They didn't. We ditched the sea and found a carvery instead with a very generous chef who succumbed to our wily, female ways as we flirted outrageously in return for seconds.

This time around though, my luck has changed. Not only has my week in Devon coincided with the actual start of what appears to be summer, but the waves have been decent too. I decided to give bodyboarding a go, it's not something I'd ever done before and seemed to require far less in the way of skill than surfing. Not only that but the board is easier to carry to the beach. I was sold.