The last of my four World Championships, a Standard Distance (Olympic). 1500m swim – fine, a 40k bike – fine then a 10k run that you really should sprint – ugh! The distance I find the hardest due to the run at the end. On a Sprint Triathlon it’s only 5k and for the 70.3 and full Ironman it’s a steady pace rather than a sprint? However, although the last race of the year, it was the first when I was starting 100% (well almost) fit and ready, so looking forward to a strong race.
I know what I hoped to do on the run, and expected to be disappointed, and I was!
Met Joanna on the Abu Dhabi facebook page and agreed to share. she found the hotel and the flights, so no hassle . I picked her up from Poole and travelled together. T4 a nightmare, the guys on the large scanner refused to take the bike boxes, so down stairs for a physical search, 10mins per bike! Queued for over half an hour when a ’boss’ man came along, chose us with the old style Bike Box Alan, to see if they would go through, they did, with just a little ’wiggle’.
Overnight flight with Eithad, can’t fault them. Go a few hours sleep and arrived early morning in warm Abu Dhabi, taxi to the W Hotel in the middle of the F1 circuit, very impressive. even more impressed when we were taken straight to our room (hotel said checkin from 3pm!)
Another couple of hours sleep then I went for a run/walk to suss out where everything was. Registration etc. less than a mile away. Bit of shopping on the way back and no room in the fridge, full of booze!!
Joanna wanted to do the Parade of Nations, so I went down, hung around for ever! No flags on a flag pole, but the Brits in true fashion found a post and attached the Union Flag. Joanna and I were flagging at this point and dipped out of the Star Wars presentation to make use of our free voucher for a burger or vegetarian option.
Thursday, build bikes, test ride and meander around. Roads are amazing, lovely smooth tarmac, but far too busy with cars that give NO quarter to cyclist so did’t go far.
Friday, group photo, rack bikes and watch Georgia Taylor-Brown and Flora Duffy battle it out for the World Championships in this, the last race of the season. Georgia was well in contention until the last couple of laps on the run when Flora won in convincing fashion. But, well done to Georgia taking silver. However, one or two nasty crashes on the bend I was watching. And our course has eight ’u’ turns, and some of the blokes that have gone out on the course (in the heavy traffic!) say they are treacherous! I decided I was going to ride safe, and not take risks.
Saturday, leisurely walk down to the bike, then bag drop and to the swim start. Sun coming up and beginning to get hot. Water a balmy 29 degrees. Considering I have hardly done any swim training since Covid was pleased with the swim time, couldn’t have expected anything better. However, definitely feeling tired towards the end of the swim. Note to self, ”2023 some real swim sessions, aim for two a week.”
Bottles of ice cold water given out for the hot 500m run to T1. Decided to run in my bike shoes as I had made such a pigs ear of trying to mount in bike shoes when training prior to Kona. So a careful mount, and away. Up the main road at 22mph. I was happy as a lark! Lost time at each ’u’ turn as I wanted to ensure I couldn’t get ’wipedout’. As it was twice a bloke suddenly squeezed past me far too close on the inside, when there was acres on space on the left.
Fabulous tarmac all the way round except for a bit of ’cobbly’ paving and rough kerbs to negotiate along the sea front. Remembered to chew some of my Slotblocs, drank some water and poured the rest over my head. Hot, but I was loving it.
Into transition, got my Vapourfly shoes on so easily with my new ‘lazy shoe helpers’ (a nightmare without!) Then, THE RUN. first few hundred metres up hill, so walked that, then started to run. Felt OK, but the speed I had hoped for just wasn’t there. picked up some ice to tie round my neck and settled into a pace I maintained for the whole 10k. Tried to increase my pace from time to time, but it just didn’t happen so resigned myself to a slower time.
Lovely to have so many Brits cheering us all on, even the one with the Union Flag upside down, I soon put him right!
Down the finish shut, had I done enough? Hadn’t been aware of any of my rivals, so fingers crossed.
Finish area was so, so busy with so many events and athletes, difficult to find somewhere to chill out. Eventually lay on some tarmac with my legs up a wall. After a while Kate & Paul Mason came along with Jonathan their sone who lives over there. when I stood up, definitely light headed and my speech was weird. Walked along to my favourite (cheap) coffee shop, which had become an informal meeting place, and began to feel normal again.
Whats App from my son confirmed I had won, and convincingly by over twenty minutes.
Collect the bike and bags and to the hotel for a soak then back down to watch Johnny Brownlee, Alex Yee and Tom Dickinson complete in the final triathlon of the World Series, double points at stake. Alex just had to beat Haydon Wilde to become World Champion. He was well ahead of him, but as he turned the last bend into the finish chute, a Belgium ran past him and Alex just couldn’t keep with him, thus robbing him of vital points and a surprise to everyone and the French guy who not only won the race, but was crowned World Champion! making Alex having to make do with a very creditable Silver.
PS. Since coming home I am a different person. I now realise all was not well with me long before I even went to Kona. I was constantly tired, little motivation and even my co-ordination was not good – found that out trying to practice my mount and dismount of the bike. I thought it was just my age catching up with me – something had not been right.
Leaving Kona my Shuttle Bus didn’t turn up and I was at the end of my road, so spent £6 on my phone, to no avail and, for some reason, my Revolute card declined to pay Uber. But, over the road a camper van stopped that, which I thought might be the Shuttle. But, it was just a bloke, turns out he was 76 also and an IM vet so guess what – free ride to the airport!
Kona airport was very quiet, only one bike box rather than a ’sea’ of boxes. No wonder some were delayed getting home.
Flew overnight to Phoenix, then onto St George. At the last moment I decided to rent a car and thought I should have just taken a direct flight to Las Vegas and driven from there. Glad I didn’t as speaking to some Brits Las Vegas was a nightmare both getting their baggage and sori g out and getting their rental car, plus a drive in the dark. Phoenix to St George was a doddle, in my hire car with thirty minutes of landing!
So pleased I did get the car, no one walks and it really is not conducive, it’s BIG, lots of four or six lanes, even in the town centre, ’millions’ of gas guzzling cars and more like a sprawling industrial estate!
My ’digs’ are great, if somewhat quaint, enormous suite with kitchen, breakfast included (you make your own waffles!) and it wouldn’t be out of place in a Hitchcock film set in the 50’s. Chose it because it’s only one mile from the buses that take you to the start (not allowed to drive there) and a mile from the finish.
Day One – excluding arrival day
Put the bike together, road it several blocks down to registration – fabulous atmosphere and everyone very chatty.
Had a full body massage with Byron, who is here for a number of the professionals. Karlyn introduced me to him and he ’did’ my legs after the IM.
Drove out to the swim start and did a few miles on the bike, felt great.
Roads are amazing, tarmac goes on for ever and they just roll up and down. Wasn’t till I cycled them, I realised how gruelling they were!
Had intended an early swim. Didn’t set my alarm, woke up at 6, great, then next time I looked at my watch it was 7:55. Whoops, quick breakfast and 30 minute drive to Sand Hollow Reservoir. Queues of cars from all directions, overflow parking all over the show, long queues just to get into the water. I nipped in, along with a handful of others, away from the marked course. Didn’t need a long swim, just test the temperature of the water, which was fine but I will come out slightly chilled and the air is COLD. Will go and buy a ’beenie’ and probably do a complete change in T1 so I can make the most of the fabulous, fast undulating bike course. Last bit, five miles up Snow Canyon then down five miles on the main road and onto T2.
Parade if Nations, I just popped in and had a photo taken with the flag, when I noticed it was upside down. Found some officials who were mortified and got it changed.
Welcome Banquet, four miles from the town centre and again, just so many cars!! Approx 2000 female and 3500 male competitors.
AWA breakfast, always good to meet others and hear the guest speakers, plus a cracking breakfast!
Down to T1 to rack my bike and bag, really cold wind! Got there early to avoid the queue of cars.
Afternoon down to Town Square to rack my run bag. Utah certainly embraces Ironman, no expense spared and it’s a BIG event, hoardings, walk overs, etc.etc.etc round every corner.
Alarm at 4:00 onto the shuttle bus for Sand Hollow at 4:50 (no one is allowed to drive there), amazing logistics, 2000 competitors plus spectators, all bused in.
Once there we all asked ”Why so early?” Bitterly cold, 4 degrees, it soon looked like a refugee camp. Four of us Brits sat on the tail gate of a lorry for a bit of shelter. I’d bought a long, thick hoodie fleece from a charity shop to put over my only jacket, and to wear to the swim start, once just in my thin shortie, sleeveless wet suit.
I was looking forward to getting into the ’warm’ water, 17 degrees. We had the most spectacular views as the red hills lit up as the sun rose during our swim. The men had an even better sun rise.
Out of the water to freezing temperature, I thought they said 4C but I’ve seen a post that says 2C, apparently it drops another degree or so as the sun rises! Had considered changing, but had little to change into so towelled my tri suit as dry as possible, donned my wafer thin windproof and gillet on top. Had bought a beanie and stuffed the corners of a bin bag into my cycle shoes. Onto the bike course, shivering vigourously. I never really warmed up, occasional sun on my back was warm when sheltered from the wind, but no ’heat’, and in the shade and down hill it was freezing! Cycling with cold legs is not good, and I struggled to maintain the speed I had anticipated, with the long drags up the many, many smaller hills. Under normal conditions I probably could have made up more time on the down hills, but was conscious of my limitations and stayed safe rather than taking risks. My jackets stayed fastened up to my chin, but I did stop on Snow Canyon when I thought I had over a mile, and the steepest bit to climb and took off my beanie, turned out the top was just round the corner! Looked forwards to the last down hill section back to town, but it wasn’t as steep as I thought it would be and we had a cold head wind.!
Off the bike and onto the run, straight up hill for three miles, steady pace, about 10min/mile, felt good. Some little steeper bits through the golf course, walked them, then down hill back to town, round a few blocks and back up the hill, started walk running then, actually warmed up by now! They began to hand out ice, but I definitely didn’t need any. Would have liked to keep it under 11min/mile average but I was already heading to way over seven hours and knew I was in front of any competition, who eventually finished outside of the 8:30 time limit, and my legs were beginning to feel really tired………..
Job done, I came to get the World Title, I achieved that but not really with the performance I had hoped for.
That’s how it should have ended for me, but it all went ’pear shaped’. Now two weeks on I think I know why. Initially I put it all down to my own complacency and arrogance which lead to inadequate preparation both physically and mentally on arriving in Kona. After all I’d been there, done it three times and I knew I had times far faster than any of my competitors and even those in the age group below! Although there’s a Missy Lestrange creeping up behind me!!
But, now suddenly, my head has cleared, I’ve got my appetite back and I don’t have to force myself to drink. Since arriving, I’ve had to make myself do all the things I’ve needed to do, but somehow, I was never truly ’present’. I must have had a bug of some sort, and probably combined with jet lag and dehydration for the first week or so. In addition the US loos are more like overflowing bidets so not colour clues there! Perhaps I should have peed in a jug!
Thinking back I found the flight from Seattle particularly difficult, although I’d slept for most of the trip from London, and all I wanted to do was to get to Kona, curl up in bed with a hot chocolate. This feeling never left me for over two weeks, but I made myself do all the things necessary, registration, AWA breakfast, bike & bag racking and morning snacks with Daniella. Collect the ’shopping’ bike, put my TT together, give it a test ride. But now thinking back I only did one test ride and only went into aero on Queen K. I was super nervous going through town and negotiating traffic, etc. Went out this morning, and it was totally different, I now realise.
Normally on an endurance event, towards the end I start thinking of the ‘treats’ when I finish, but on The Day, I was thinking of that right from the start, on the swim, if not before. I was already wishing it to be over, rather than looking forward to the event itself. I thought I did OK on the swim, but again, on reflection, I was happy to sit on the heels of other swimmers and take a steady pace, slower than I knew I could swim at, rather than pushing myself and finding faster swimmers to swim behind . Once on the bike, again I thought I was OK, but couldn’t believe my ‘Speedo,’ why was I so slow up the gradual gradient and then hesitant on the fast bit back down into town?
Up Palani Road and onto Queen K, now I should be able to get going, but no! First feed station, I stopped, checked my back wheel, were the brakes sticking, took on lots of water and carbs. I normally cycle straight through just picking up a bottle or banana, to drink and eat then discard. It was hard, I didn’t know what was happening, then a girl bumped into me and knocked me off, but no real damaged done and I carried on. I stopped at each feed station, hoping to get ’second wind’ from somewhere. I was getting to the point of giving up but decided to keep going, after all the legs were going round, albeit with no power. Climbed up to Hawi and then didn’t really enjoy the long downhill back to Queen K. The feed stations were great and each seemed concerned if I was OK or not.
Then, the cramps hit in. Only ever had them swimming before and never the whole leg, But, I could stretch out which ever one it was affecting until it eased. Made it back to transition, two were ahead of me and I knew they were slow runners so I was in with a chance. Walked up Palani then started running along Kuakini and found I was comfortable sub 10min/mile (didn’t expect to maintain that, would be happy with 11.) Then as soon as I went down towards Ali’i Drive, both legs cramped up. Could hardly walk, let alone run, stopped until it eased and started again, for them to cramp again and again. Time to “throw in the towel”.
I was remarkably relaxed about it, and later was chuffed to learn that Cherie Gruenfeld had finished and won. She retired the year after my first, much to everyone’s relief as she was doing just it in just over 14 hours which became my goal to beat when I smashed it in 13h 42min. She’s had an amazing career as a triathlete and came back, at 78, for just one more IM. Also finishing was Natalie Grabow, she won the year I came second, and was my inspiration to get my biking up to her standard, and beyond, we made a pact for for her to improve her swimming and me my bike. I sought both if them out at the Presentation evening and was genuinely pleased they had both finished and showed just what us ’oldies’ are capable of.
Since then I have made myself go out twice a day whether walking, running, cycling or swimming, just to keep ticking over. Lazing on the beach, listening to and watching the waves is sublime! Had a session with Karlyn Pipes in her endless pool, and kept practicing, what she had pointed out I needed to do, on my short swims in the sea.
Come Monday, I promised to take myself to Kona Masters swimming. Turned up at 6:30pm, only to find it is at 6:30am! Next morning, no need for an alarm, still waking ridiculously early – overslept! Third morning, got up but arms/shoulders aching so didn’t go. Had bumped my shoulder in a big wave that had dumped me on the sand the previous day. Couldn’t swim too well out snorkelling either, but suddenly felt more ’alive’, took myself into town, no day time nap, had at least one every day since I arrived, then found yet another beach for a sunset, and devoured an enormous plate of rice and tuna salad!
This morning, up with the larks (don’t think they have them here, just some loud squawking things that start way before sun rise!) Off to masters, thinking I’d only do part of the session. Distance sets, wasn’t even trying, so easy, and suddenly the end of the session!
Then TT bike out along Ali’i Drive and up the 13% hill to the supermarket! Aero all the way there and back, except the hill!
What happens when you try to gather a bunch of septuagenarian swimmers together to make up an English Channel swim. Well, the first list changed frequently, as reserve after reserve where needed as others dropped out, this continued right till a month prior to the swim when the original organiser broke his arm, and then the final reserve couldn’t get a medical in time!
So Robert Lloyd-Evans, Bob Holman, Bob Roberts and myself all from Dorset joined Kevin Murphy, King of the Channel, having swum it 34 times and a very last minute member Parvis Habibi, gathered at the marina in Dover at 23:00 on Sunday 11th September 2022. There we also met Lisa Jupp the official Observer from CS&PF (Channel Swimmers &Pilots Federation) together with the pilots of High Hopes Simon Ellis and Maz Critchley, whome I strongly recommend if you ever think of swimming the channel, for their piloting skill, their boat and their sense of humour together with their professionalism.
Kevin roughly organised us in the order we were to swim according to our swim speed and where we would need the strongest swimmers and no changes are allowed once the swim has started. We began from the beach at Abbott’s Cliff. First off, fastest swimmer, Parvis who was to swim to the beach, highlighted by Maz’s torch. A good start, off he went at 90 degrees in the wrong direction! A few shouts and he got to the the beach, the boat’s siren went at 00:26 on Monday 12th September and we were off!
Parvis swam back to the port side of the boat and promptly started to swim further and further away! Wearing two lights one attached to his goggles and the other to his swim suit, he began to disappear! Eventually gaining his attention, he was back swimming along side the boat. Lisa became frustrated as she had to count and record our swim stroke, but every 20 or 30 seconds, Parvis would almost stop and do some breast stroke before continuing with front crawl. We were all feeling some misgiving as we were loosing the advantage we had gained by Simon starting us further down the coast due to the strong spring tides that would try to sweep us in a north easterly direction. Eventually I shouted to him, ”Not fast enough, keep to front crawl,” or words to that effect. To be fair to Parvis, the conditions were awful and it was difficult to breath without getting a lungful of water. But it did the trick, and he later thanked me saying, ”I needed that!”
Then I went in as second fastest swiimmer and realised what Parvis had been through, but I’ve had lots of experience of a rough crossing, so I gritted my teeth and reminded myself that it was only for an hour, albeit a very long hour!
On leaving the water I was both cold and tired, wrapped myself in multiple layers and huddled in the front cabin where I shivered for at least an hour. How on earth would I cope with the subsequent swims?
I was oblivious to the two Bob’s swims that followed me but apparently conditions had not improved. Kevin, the slowest due to no power in his new shoulder, and then and Robert were the next two swimmers. The change over happens following a five minute, then a one minute warning and finally a 10 second count down. The next swimmer stands on the platform at the back of the boat and jumps in behind the the previous swimmer, who then has to make there way up the ladder as quickly as possible so that Simon can get the engine in gear so that we didn’t loose too much to the strong tide pulling us in the wrong direction. Could we get Kevin’s attention to get back to the ladder quickly, but eventually he was back on board and likened the sea to the ’Dover Harbour Washing Machine’.
Now Robert’s turn who kept swimming quite a distance from the boat. We all tried to get his attention as it was nearly time for the 5 minute warning, and although he seemed to notice us he didn’t swim back towards the boat. Time was passing, and little did we realise that the swim was very nearly aborted as the change overs must be made within 5 minutes of the allotted time, by phew! All done by 06:30! As Robert climbed the ladder, with assistance, we realised he was probably hypothermic and confused as he was shaking uncontrollably.
At this stage, a number of us were looking at each other, wondering how long before the attempt would fail. I was beginning to think we were a bit like, ”Last of the Summer Wine.” But, I was almost pleased at the thought of no more swims, I had hoped to only have to do two, but because I was second swimmer it would mean a guaranteed three for me. Also, I had, had my misgivings about it from the start, and time and again had thought about pulling out neither liking the idea of a relay and nor knowing all the team members, but somehow had got myself there.
Parvis was in for his second swim, then myself. Simon and Maz were quite bemused by the whole scenario, if not more concerned with regard to the safety aspects. Simon did say he hadn’t needed to use his whistle in two years and now, shouting, whistles and the boat’s horn were frequently to be heard as swimmers decided to swim at 90 degrees to the boat. We were very aware that he could abort the attempt at any stage if he felt we were not safe. To our defence wasn’t easy for the left hand breathers, probably all of us, when we needed to swim on the left hand side of the boat to protect us from the wind and rougher seas. Add to that aged related confusion, poor hearing and eyesight especially in thdark and twilight, you have a recipe for disaster. Take note, it’s for good reason that its strongly recommended that you can breath bilaterally.
Some how we managed to get more than half way across and we were beginning to get our act together. Despite the conditions and all the shenanigans each member did their one hour with no fuss and little or no interaction between us, quietly warming up or snoozing in a corner after each swims.
Suddenly, it seemed possible we might get to the other side but probably in 19 or 20 hours, However, bearing un mind with wind and tide anything could happen. Drat I thought, not only no daylight landing, but I’d have to do a fourth swim in the dark!
As you approach the French coast line, it is so, so deceptive due to the strong currents. It’s impossible to swim directly to the coast and if you are not careful you get swept up towards Calais and ’Game Over’ as you are not allowed to compromise the ferry traffic.
But then the sea calmed down, the sun was hot, and everyone was in good spirits. I went in for a third time and swam as hard as I could and, almost enjoying it, the sea even felt ’warm’ in places. When I got out, I was amazed at how close the ferries were passing across our bow with the French coast line just beyond. Simon had to hold us for the ferries and for the tide to turn, I think he said to Bob Holman, ”Well done for swimming an hour and making little or no progress!” I take my hat of to Simon’s skill, especially when we learn that we might make it with the last two swimmers, Kevin and Robert.
Robert who swims like a frog, and we wonder how he made any progress, but progress he did make as he saw the beach getting closer and closer and with us all shouting encouragement . We all felt, as the eldest and the last swimmer, he should be the one to land. We all jumped into the water behind Robert to swim to the shore, to be met by a French man and some French militia.
Robert landed at 18:23, just minutes before the next swimmer would have had to take over. Making it a final time of 17:57. All having completed three swims each and with an average age of 75 years and 187 days. A new World Record for the oldest relay team………….
We had done it, we had become a team of equals who would probably remain friends for life after such and experience.
I am proud to have been part of the team with five fantastic guys and so pleased I said ’yes’ in the first place and resisted the urge to pull out, The icing on the cake was to land in day light, as I’d dreamt of doing on my two solo swims … now no need for another! …….
Not quite the experience I had been looking forward to for numerous reasons. The first being my own fault, on a fast bit of road towards the end of Ride London (a 100 mile ride on closed roads) all I saw was a ‘sea’ of bikes and riders on the ground. Unable to stop in time I went straight over the handle bars to land on my back, thoroughly winded. A fella helped me up – once I’d done my own body check, then a bike check and a rather painful 5 miles to the finish. I was so, so lucky, nothing but pulled muscles, albeit rather a lot of them all the way down the left side of my back.
Four weeks on and all I had run was a gentle 1.5 mile jog with a few short sprints, still uncomfortable on the bike and painful putting my foot down. However, a session with Boris and Sam at Ocean Therapy eased it a bit, and a final one with Sam on the Saturday before I flew off on Monday made it bearable.
Next issue was the fact that British Triathlon introduced a new Tri-Suit this year, and it is compulsory to wear an official National suit for the World and European Championships. However, production was delayed but promised for the beginning of June. Then a further delay and problem with printing my name and logos, after many phone calls it eventually arrived by last post on Saturday 18th June when I was flying out on Monday 20th. Much to my dismay, they messed up the printing and I was reluctant to be seen in it.
Terminal 5 at Heathrow was busy and we arrived ridiculously early, just in case, but all went well. Our bikes arriving safely in Montreal. Not so for a number of others including top British pro Georgia Taylor-Brown. However, her sponsors managed to get a replacement to her in time. I know one age grouper had to hire a ‘shopping’ bike another borrowed one from someone not competing, I don’t know what anyone else did?
The Airbnb was great, one group found their’s didn’t exist! Ours was a fairly spacious ground floor, four bedroom apartment, two en suite, living area, another bathroom plus a laundry room and only a 15 minutes walk to the race area. The walk was through the Old Port and Downtown.
We organised ourselves via the Facebook page for the event. I met Liz at the airport and I think we talked until we landed in Montreal. Also sharing was David in his twenties (who had a great time burning the candle at both ends, meeting up with all the other ‘youngsters’) and Mark, father of two and relatively new to triathlons. A great combination, that worked well.
I was looking forward to some hot weather, but we were met with cool, wet and thunderstorms that lasted right till Thursday.
On the first morning we met up with a family David knew and all set off for a swim in a lake next to the F1 circuit. My front tyre decided to spring a leak which I really should have changed before going. Everyone was rather concerned, but I just waited for it to seal as they were tubeless. However, the roads were so bad it started again during the trip to the lake and back.
The swim didn’t appeal at all and I was still not feeling 100% and so I declined.
One good thing about the Championships was that we were forever meeting up with others they knew or had met at previous events and on the way back a crowd of us looked for a cafe to fit all of us and safe for our bikes, ended up at a Pizza place (proper ones!) for lunch. Then there were a couple of ‘organised’ coffee mornings and a dinner for us ‘oldies’. Great to meet everyone.
On the evening of the Parade of Nations and the Pasta Party, the rain just did not stop and despite the umbrella I had bought and Liz’s rain jacket we took one step outside and decided not to go.
To add to all this, because of the rain, Friday at least, for the Pros and Juniors, would be a duathlon due to the poor water quality in the St Lawrence River, and we would not know until Friday evening about Saturday and Sunday. Everyone’s spirits were definitely dampened.
Friday morning, I woke up and the sun was out!! I got up early went for a run round the block to pick up some milk and definitely felt better. Down to rack our bikes, group photo and watch the professionals trying to qualify for the next rounds on the Saturday. Much to our relief, back to Triathlons for Saturday and Sunday. Suddenly Montreal looked much better in the sunshine and Down Town came to life as it was a bank holiday weekend, all sorts of taverns and places opening up and crowds of vibrant people.
Up early on Saturday, race started at 9:15, not much to do. No shoes to attach (if I did I’d definitely get them on the right pedals, unlike at Weymouth 70.3 – kept the crowds amused!) as I hadn’t been able to practice at all and felt it would be too risky and the run in bike shoes wasn’t too long. However, coming back I had the whole length of transition and half-way back to rack my bike, so decided to slip my feet out of my shoes prior to the dismount line.
Swim went well but one of the roughest swims I’ve ever had! Legs pulled, swum over, arm yanked, I had placed myself in the prime position for the start, but I just ploughed on, would you believe it was only females over 65!
Bike was as fine as it could be, technical with 17 corners and two ‘u’ turns on each of two laps. Those combined with the appalling road condition, raised pedestrian crossings, and manhole covers on the corners made it interesting riding. I managed to jump onto a peloton just prior to the first ‘u’ turn but shortly after a right, down hill, left – so far so good, but then uphill, and I just couldn’t keep up with them. Later on on some straight sections, I started to draft but as soon as we reached the corners they slowed down too much and I overtook them. I did have one drafting me for a good part of it, a Brit next age group down. I tried letting her go in front but we slowed down too much. So no drafting and conscious of my ‘leaky’ tyre over all the lumps and bumps.
Off the bike, neat but, ‘not a ’flying’, dismount, up the ramp, long run to rack my bike, still in front of everyone in my age group. Nike Vapour Fly’s a nightmare to put on, despite socks, talc and a shoe horn!! Then off on the run. Although feeling absolutely fine on the bike, suddenly I felt uncomfortable and although a steady pace, not what I would have liked, but it was all I could manage. I probably could have pushed harder on the bike. I should, but probably couldn’t have done so on the run, so had to take it. I was disappointed and had hoped for a much better time. It was good that we all had a tattoo with our age group on our left calf so I was fairly confident I was in the lead.
The finish shoot and announcements were a bit underwhelming as was the medal ceremony. Perhaps it’s just because Ironman do it so well and make you feel special for those milliseconds. First place was confirmed some time after I had finished by the husband of the woman who came second, when he congratulated me!
Watching the professionals was ace. Ringside view as they battled it out in three Super Sprint Races just 15 minutes apart with athletes being eliminated each time to leave just 10 for the finals. Both Alex Yee and Georgia Taylor-Brown won convincingly.
On Sunday the British Mixed Team relay kept us on tenterhooks as we were way back in fourth on the last leg when Georgia Taylor-Brown took over and she also had a 10 second penalty to take. But right on the last lap she got herself into second place and with a big enough gap to stop for 10 seconds within sight of the finish line and bring the British Team in second, behind the French, and guaranteeing us a place in the Mixed Team Relay at the next Olympics in Paris.
Monday we’d arranged a late checkout, so went in a group to the F1 track. Pottered round it once, gave it a blast the second time, and messed around and took photos the third.
Finally time to leave, we’d found a temporary bus stop at the end of our road for the bus that went straight to the airport. So we trundled there with our bike boxes and bags, but the bus driver wouldn’t let us on. A supervisor appeared with the second bus and he vetoed the driver and helped us load our boxes onto the racks on the bus, then we didn’t have any tickets and the bus driver would only take coins ??? The supervisor waived the fare and we were off.
We’d been warned that the big scanner was not working and all bike boxes had to be opened, everything taken out apart from the bike, scanned and put back in. Literally hours in the queue as they did two or three at a time!
Plane a bit late taking off, I must have fallen asleep almost immediately and had a good three or four hours – first time ever! Our bikes were off almost immediately but, I know some are still looking for theirs and/or their luggage! However, most of us did bring back a present from Montreal – COVID!
Glad I went, but not the most memorable, or enjoyable of all the events I have done. Hopefully I will be in a better frame of mind for the next ITU World Championships in Abu Dhabi – but it’s just after Kona and St George, will it be a big let down???????????
But this year things are getting back on track. The World Championship triathlons I qualified for last year are all happening this year and booked.
In the meantime what did I do? Made the most of the wonderful Dorset Country side and the amazing Jurassic coast line. And, for some reason I’ll never know, I entered The Oner, a twenty-four hour 82 mile, 10,000 of elevation, Ultra. Perhaps to give me the incentive to get out and train? My blog on the event follows. Warning – it’s a long one!
There is no way I could have done it without the support and encouragement of chums, all equally crazy. A number of whom have all ready done The Oner. I had been totally in awe of their accomplishment, it being totally outside of my league. But, somehow when surrounded by such inspiring people I decided to have a go. Immediately and without question “Of course we’ll crew for you and you will finish it!” Then the icing on the cake was when Kim Ellis also also decided to enter and we’ve been a great team ever since.
I certainly don’t think I could have pulled it off without her. We really complimented each other, getting out in all weather, each planning training sessions, mine were always conservative, Kim’s always more challenging! One that I planned was from Ferry Bridge to Charmouth and Kim was excited. “A marathon!”
However, on the day I started us off at a different place and when we finished, what was a particularly gruelling trail run, we were short of the 26.2 miles. I think she has now forgiven me, especially as some of her runs, planned on an Ordnance Survey map often lead us into all sorts of dead ends, or barbed wire fences to climb over when we went wrong, or took us through ankle deep mud.
Then there is Helen Adams, a Oner finisher who organised some of our Hill Reps and Interval work, mine would be short and easy, hers long and hard!
On the day it was Helen and Kim’s husband Keith who crewed for us, being ready and waiting throughout the twenty-four hours to meet all our needs. In addition they were often joined by other chums and even more were at different places en route to cheer us on along. I daren’t mention them as I am now somewhat confused as to whom I saw and where.
Through the Ironmen series I’ve become used to getting up almost in the middle of the night for an early start. But waking up at 04:30 and catnapping until 6:00 made a very long, frustrating morning till the start at 12 noon. Breakfast at 7:00, registration at 8:30, second breakfast at 10:00 (porridge, honey and banana). Then Nic, my husband, drove me to the start at Studland.
At last, we were off. Kim was always slightly faster than me and in training would often double back rather than wait for me so we had agreed not to run together. Although, when we started our training I could beat her down hill and in the mud, as initially she looked like Margot out of ‘The Good Life’ trying to tiptoe round the bogs. She soon learned to ‘plough’ through the middle.
So, shortly after the start, she slowly pulled away ahead of me. However, I kept her in sight almost till dark, especially in the deep cuts whether inland or up and down and I’d shout across to her. She was heard to say at one of stops, “Linda keeps catching me up,” Apparently we stayed pretty close until towards the end when she proved stronger than myself.
What do you think as you run along the beach knowing that you’ll be doing this for 24 hours? Just try and enjoy being out, a privilege to be doing something you love with all the support you need. But, it did take me quite a few miles before I settled to that happy frame of mind and a steady rhythm.
Before I knew it I was approaching Old Harry, mentally distances now just don’t phase me at all. Long gone are those days when I started running at 68, and hated it, when found myself wishing to be at the next corner only a few 100m away.
As I passed The Bankes Arms Sam and Mark cheered me on as they supped pints of beer. They then caught me up with their mountain bikes.
I have to mention Sam as he has a lot to answer for, he and his wife Josie run the Sandsfoot Cafe, they attract an eclectic like minded crowd and somehow everyone gets sucked into all sorts of activities and challenges. Apart from me, Sam has introduced many to Ultra running by setting up the Cafe 50 Single Shot Ultra Challenge, a 50 mile ultra loop around Dorset to be completed between dawn and dusk. The rules? Wave to the cafe security camera as you go and wave upon your return!
Obliviously you have longer in the summer, which is why when I did it I chose close to midsummers day. Would I have ever entered a more formal Ultra – who knows – but the seed was sewn.
Back to the Oner. The first crew stop was at Pevril Point to pick up a peeled banana. I had set myself to eat every 45minutes, either a drink of Tail Wind or dates or jelly sweets from M&S or Helen’s delicious flap jack (checkout her chocolate brownies they are to die for, https://rollysbrownies.co.uk) plus picking up bananas along the way. I really enjoyed the run along the undulating cliffs and before I knew it I was at Check Point 2 at St Aldhelm’s Head about an hour ahead of the cut off time.
I now had a clear view of Portland almost on the horizon in the far distance, but I wasn’t at all daunted, I knew I wouldn’t be there till after dark, and after all it was only mid-afternoon! Just round the corner, welcome shouts from Helen and Keith and another banana, hardly stopping, grabbing it as I ran past, I was in a good place physically and mentally and enjoying myself, running as much as possible, but disciplining myself not to run up the many inclines and using my poles to save my legs. How lucky were we with the weather? Sun, broken cloud and a bit of a cold, refreshing head wind.
Then one of the big climbs, up the almost vertical stone stairs at Chapman’s pool. I just took it steady and never looked up, as they seem to go on, and on and on! . And, before I knew it Clavells Tower came into view and Kimmeridge, Check Point number 3, still over and hour ahead of time and faster than my calculated time for that point. A quick dive into the loos, inattention meant I went the wrong side an passed a guy at a urinal, but I didn’t mind, hope he didn’t! Grabbed a banana and off but with Helen shouting after me, “You need some water – you need to drink.” I had, as always, hydrated well the day before and the morning of the event, so was happy that I litre of liquid, that I was carrying, would be sufficient for the first ‘marathon’.
I’m not sure what happened next, but these events are 80% if not 90% mental attitude, assuming of course, that you’ve done the training and get your nutrition right.
My head definitely went and my body quickly followed!
On reflection I’ve done the stretch from Kimmeridge to Lulworth twice. Once on my own and once with Kim. The first time was on a run from Studland to Lulworth (to see if The Oner was feasible) on a hot summers day. I had anticipated an Ice cream van at Kimmeridge for water and an ice. But there was none. So I had a quick dip in the sea and was on my way. But I had found it difficult and hadn’t enjoy that bit at all. Next time was with Kim when we ran from Swanage. After Kimmeridge there seemed to be many more, and longer hills, than I was expecting and when I thought we had just climbed the last Arish Mell loomed ahead between us and Lulworth. I tried to convince Kim that we didn’t need to climb it, but to no avail. Again, a bad experience.
Soon after Kimmeridge my stomach began to cramp and every hill was a nightmare, no longer a positive challenge, but an ‘obstacle’ in my way. I found I couldn’t eat, just nibbled, knowing I needed regular feeds. The sickness feeling just would not go away. I even found it difficult to run anywhere, even the lovely grassy down hills. Eventually at I descended towards Arish Mell, up came what had been bothering me and I felt a lot better. However, the sickness feeling returned as soon as I started climbing again. “Just slog it out I told myself, Lulworth is the other side of this hill.”
Lulworth, Check Point 4 and had lost a bit of time, now just under the hour ahead and not feeling good. Helen met me to run/walk from the Check Point to Lulworth car park. She suggested I tried Coca Cola and phoned ahead to have it ready, as I had said I wouldn’t need it until at least after Portland. I had visualised them parked right by the entrance to the carpark and was so dismayed when I couldn’t even see it way ahead at the far end. It was only 200m or so – but to me it was ‘miles’. They sat me down, took my bag, emptied it for what I needed for the night section, helped me, as I was hopeless, to change into warmer clothes. I swore and grunted to Kim’s sisters and friend none of whom I had met before whilst my nose was dripping snot, but I was beyond care.
I had no choice but to go on. After all, “One foot was going in front of the other,” and, having so may chums and posting it on social media, I couldn’t loose face. So yes, you have all helped me. Thank you.
The Coca Cola had gone down well, and I was on ‘home’ territory with lovely little hills between Lulworth and Weymouth. Some may not agree with me but mentally, to me, they were just a series of ‘mole’ hills! I tried to nibble some food, or sip my Trail Wind, but was finding it very difficult, if not impossible to do so. This was concerning as I knew it was important to continually take on carbs. As I neared Osmington someone appeared and said, “I’m looking for Linda.” It was Sarah Kerslake , with Mike, her husband not far ahead. We hadn’t recognised each other.
By the time I arrived at Check Point 5 I was now only 45 minutes ahead. But, was surprised to see Helen and Keith as I had not expected them there. I was still having difficulty eating so more Coca Cola went down a treat and I took one on my mini peanut choc bars which I had in reserve. I managed to eat it, albeit very slowly.
At Bowlease a shoe change and put on some warm leggings plus change watches so mine could be charged. Mike and Sarah were also there to run with me, and they concocted a plan so one or the other, ran with me all the way to Portland.
Oh! I love my shoes. First Vivobare foot Primus SG (but so difficult to put on, that once off I’d not get them back on). Next my super squishy, bouncy Nike Vaporfly to make the most of the tarmac, and give my feet a treat. Then at the base of Portland, changed into my Altra Lone Peak, still zero drop and a wide toe box, but with a bit of cushioning. The trail shoes with waterproof socks have proved to be so comfy. However, panic with the Vaporflys as I realised I needed sports socks as no way would I get them on in my thick waterproof ones. But, Helen came to the rescue and gave me some of hers.
Helen had set her watch to Average Pace in minute/kilometres not minute/miles. My fault, as I really wanted current pace plus average pace in minute/miles. But, in hindsight it was probably a good thing. I may well have pushed too hard. Apart from using the time for feeds and checking against cut off times, I didn’t use my watch at all. I had been, and continued, to go on ‘feel’ (RPE, Rate of Perceived Exertion) and was happy walking whenever I felt like it for the six miles on tarmac across Weymouth to Portland.
At Portland, swap watches again, put on my Altra trail shoes, grab another choc bar, ditch the Tail Wind for water and take another glug of Coca Cola. I was on my own until the early hours, but had three Check Points on Portland if I needed anything.
Scrabble up the muddy slope and to Check Point 6 (HQ) and was happy to be back to over hour ahead. I was so happy, I’d made it to Portland, my legs were good, stomach no so good, but hadn’t been sick again and could just about nibble the choc bar. I’d run into the sunset and now was blessed with the most amazing night sky. It was just a ‘skip and a hop’ down to the Bill and a power walk back to HQ.
Fortunately the previous week Kim had wanted to re-do part of the rocky path on the East Side of the Bill in the dark. I didn’t think I needed to but went along. Oh! Yes I did! Got muddled in a couple of places which I sorted out so was totally confident when joined by two blokes, “Do you know the way?” They asked, and I lead them to the Bill. Claire had said we didn’t need to go around the Lighthouse, so we didn’t, but at the checkpoint in the car park we were quickly advised that was not the case and sent us back around it.
At Check Point 6 on the car park I picked up a choc bar and had another swig of Coca Cola. Fabulous moon reflecting on the sea and Chesil Beach – magical! Interesting that the temperature definitely dropped at about 2am, but I was quite warm enough. Slightly cold fingers, perhaps.
Check Point 7 and now an hour and a quarter ahead.
My chum Nancy was amused that I just went into the hall, saying “Dibber Dibber, dabber,” so they’d be ready for me to register my time and was off. Along the route I did this at each Check Point as they were generally by the coastal path and I could be checked in within milliseconds.
I ran/walked along the causeway to Helen and Keith at Ferry Bridge, change of water bottles, more choc bars, more Coca Cola and a cup of black coffee that I took with me, threw the cup over my shoulder and shouted back for Keith to pick it up! No way was I going to ‘litter’, nor back track!
Helen came with me for this stretch and I was grateful as she helped me maintain a good pace, mainly walking but a gentle jog from time to time.
Langton Check Point 7 and still a good time and more Coca Cola.
There was a heavy frost, which was good in some ways as although I had waterproof socks, wet grass would have meant cold feet. I did skid on one tuff of grass and land on my butt. However, this was the only fall, amazing! I had to concentrate for 24hours, “Pick up your feet, toes up,” for every stride. I used to have a competition with my grandchildren, who had the worse grazed knees. They gave up when I won hands down!! Then there were the styles, an endless number of them. I’m nervous of them at the best, fearing an injury, but these were icy and my flexibility seemed to have disappeared. The poor guy behind us, who was slower, kept catching us up as I tried to negotiate each one.
Although confident with my time I was moving outside of my comfort zone. It was cold, but little wind and up until then was warm enough. But as we neared dawn, the temperature seem to drop considerably. In addition my eyesight is not good in full day light and suddenly found I was struggling. I’d had enough and wanted dawn. Just as I said this to Helen, I began to get very cold. Even the dawn chorus didn’t cheer me up. Helen had noticed I’d stopped chatting and produced another jacket (Sam’s apparently now doing it’s fourth Oner!) Funnily enough it was just at a point on the route that I didn’t like, it’s when you go inland just before Abbotsbury. Coincidence? Or just the ‘head’ taking control again.
Abbotsbury, “I’m here!” My legs were working, nothing like they had been towards the end on my previous two fifty mile ultras. Ihad expected tobe struggling at this point, and I was ahead of time.
Nic my husband surprised me by being there and then at every beach through to the end.
I was disappointed I couldn’t run at I headed for West Bexington and West Bay (It was always my ambition to get at least that far – but hardly dared think I would). I later learned that Kim had ‘Power Walked’ with poles all the way from Portland to the end and made good time. In hindsight I should have too rather than trying to run..
I had got over my dread of the pebbles at West Bexington on a previous run, and once on the marshy ground behind the beach I took off my gloves, beanie and buff and carefully put them in my bag without putting anything on the ground, as firstly it was so soggy and secondly I couldn’t bend down! However, on finishing someone handed me my Ironman beanie, I had obviously dropped it.
Just before Burton Bradstock Sarah and Mike came to meet me, and again they hatched a plot to accompany me all the way to the finish. In addition to Nic, Graeme, my son and his identical triplet sons, Henry, Jake and Charlie were there as well. They also had a great day, visiting each beach along the route and at the finish.
I was dreading the climb down to West Bay, but in reality it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I could hear shouts and cheers, but daren’t look down, as it really is steep. I’d made it – and within the cut off time. Nothing mattered I could finish, but so far within the cut off time, I could actually finish within 24 hours. Two and a half hours to do five miles, says Helen. A quick calculation gives me 30 minute/miles. Ridiculously slow if you are a runner, but I was walking, and there were many hills and obstacles between me and the finish.
However, I was now determined to make it. I wasn’t running, but decided to take two paracetamols. Don’t know if it was them or me, but I then managed to jog some of the grassy downhill sections, couldn’t risk the gravel or rocky ones for fear of tripping.
Sarah was a great help as we just chatted away inanely, which distracted me from any weariness and weakness I was feeling.
Mike joined us at Seaton, and I was grateful at the end for those last few confusing fields, where the path goes though little gaps in the hedges, and there always seemed to be another field when I thought that was the last. The poor guy behind me went the wrong way. I was lucky but was fretting for the last part whether I would make it on time.
I had said I’d be 23hours 59 minutes and 59 seconds and in the end I was 23 hours 49 minutes and 38 seconds!
53rd out of 54 finishers, 4 more finished outside of 24 hours and a further 38 did not finish.
Boy was I chuffed and still am. A memory and achievement I will cherish forever.
The ‘Oner’ (83 mile 24 hour Ultra) was cancelled, unfortunately it was planned one day before the first relaxation due to Covid.
Never mind, Kim (my running buddy) and I ran the Cafe One Short 50 mile Ultra, a challenge set by local Cafe owners Sam and Josie at Sandsfoot Castle. Weather was awful, had to put on hats, gloves and muffs!! But towards the end the sun came out and made it back in good humour. Then had a great welcome when we finished!
We also entered a marathon. Thought it would be ‘easy’, but four loops round a boating lake at Eton was anything but! We decided that Ultra training did not prepare you for a flat, boring, road marathon! We had had enough by the first loop, but carried on to the end, albeit, rather slower than our target pace.
A number of triathlons from sprint to Ironman booked for next year but my main concentration, until April, will be training for The Oner, a twenty-four hour eighty-three mile Ultra along the Dorset Coast line, including over three thousand metres elevation. I will be setting of at twelve noon on Saturday April 10th from Studland and hope to be at Charmouth before twelve noon on Sunday 11th April.
Entered the Dorset Hillfort Ultra, a round trip of thirty-five miles. Looked interesting, and after all I had already completed a fifty mile Ultra in June. Conditions weren’t great, overcast and trying to rain. Shame as it spoilt all the fabulous views we should have had.
I was expecting mud and have invested in a pair of Vivobarefoot trail shoes for soft ground plus a pair of waterproof socks. They were brilliant, especially in the ankle deep mud in places, could have easily lost a shoe it was so deep and unavoidable.
Started off well, ran with a couple of guys for a mile or so until they went ahead but caught them up after a particularly muddy path. Bounded down a hill or two, overtook a number of runners in the muddy bits, but less than half way, my legs (or was it my head?) didn’t want to know. By now EVERYONE was passing, and I was obviously not on form as they all asked, “You OK?” as they sprinted past.
I nearly skipped home as we passed the path down to Friar Wadden, only two miles from home! But was determined to finish.
Looked forward to every hill as it meant I would walk, then I started walking on the flat as well. Had to resort to ‘tabbing’. Talked myself into running to a distant tree or the gate at the end of the field. So I made it, poor husband hadn’t been able to track me and was at the finish really early and I eventually arrived well over an hour later than my predicted slowest time!
In the meantime cycling friend Kim Ellis had also signed up for The Oner, and Helen Adams became our coach, having completed it a couple of years ago.
So Kim and I had a few longish runs and Helen was in charge of interval work. No way would I have the discipline to do the intervals on my own.
Started well having completed a number of running events that I had entered at the beginning of the year prior to the triathlon season. I just squeezed in Bath Half a few days before ‘Lockdown’. A bit gutted as I was aiming for 9:10 minute miles my goal being sub 4 hours in the London Marathon, and I ran comfortable 8:49 minute miles in appalling condition giving a time of 1:55. Not sure I’ll ever have the chance of that sub 4 again..
Rest of the year was planned with more running events plus two sprint triathlons, two Olympic distance triathlons and an Ironman. The idea was to qualify for the Worlds in all four disciplines in 2021.
Needless to say none of that happened so………lets start again. Now aiming for Worlds in 2022 which should take place in Abu Dhabi, Kona and New Zealand. Next year 2021 will be all the qualifying events, but who knows, one can but dream !!!!!
In the meantime I’ve grown a love for trail running. We are so lucky living in Dorset, surround by countryside and hills and with the Jurassic Coastline. I have certainly made the most of in the the past few months.
I had a go at the Cafe 50 Single Ultra Shot, a 50 miles circular route taking in Portland Bill with 1500m of climb and descent. It’s a challenge dreamt up by Sam & Josie, the owners of Sandsfoot Cafe, who are enthusiastic athletes whether, Ironman, running, cycling, gravelling, paddle boarding or winter sea swimming and as a result the Cafe has become a magnet for all like minded folk.
As an open air cafe it’s been a real live saver once restrictions were eased a bit.
The run has to be completed within daylight hours, so I chose close to midsummers day and set off at 5:30 in the morning to give myself ample time. Managed to get back well before dusk in just over 13 hours, and thus I became ‘hooked’ on yet another discipline.
I immediately entered The Oner for April 2021, a gruelling 24 hour 83 mile Ultra along the Jurassic Coast. So guess what I’ll be doing all winter?
I was swimming within 7 days – crutches to the pool side and no push offs! Then at four weeks, with a lowered seat and ordinary peddles I found I could get on and ride my brand new e-bike (The Beast). Bought for some winter off-roading, but serendipity, ideal.
At six weeks I was able to fit my cleats and raise the seat. It was great. I already had a planned cycling trip to Lanzarotte at the end of November and decided to take my TT bike.
Boy was I surprised at how strong I felt. Three months of ‘pottering’ on my e-bike. Putting in the power when I chose to do so, seemingly paid off dividends.
Needless to say now in March and I am still riding my ‘The Beast’. I’ll have to get back on the road and TT bike prior to some events, but am happy with the training I can do. I have a power meter so know exactly what I am putting out at any point.
I started some gentle three mile runs each day whilst in Lanzarote and started in earnest when I got back. Wow, I felt I needed a corset to hold in all my pelvic floor muscles!!
Jump forward to March and with a 1/4 and a 1/2 marathon, an Inter-county Cross Country (surprise, surprise, got on the podium for that) and a few Park Runs under my belt am looking forward to the 2020 season.
Bit disappointed with a 10k trail run today, had hoped for a better time. But have Bath Half next week and I didn’t taper so will for that and hope for a better performance out of my legs.