Norseman – Part 2 (Iain)

If 3 am is an ungodly time to get up, getting up at 2.30 am is even worse.

Today was the day. It was now or never. Which is a strange expression. It should actually be “It was now or never or…in a minute! Cant’t you see I’m busy. I’ll get to it when I can!”

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We left the B&B quickly and headed to Eidfjord. There’s plenty of parking spaces near the ferry but Andrew refused to use them. He was worried that the police would turn up and fine us. Its 3 am. I think the police have got better things to do than check anyone is parking illegally.

We park at the the school. On the walk to the ferry I point out to Andrew all the Cars parked in the spaces he said not to use.

The port is busy. A lot of athletes and supporters are here. I look at the ferry and notice it has a TV lounge! And comfy chairs! And its showing the Olympics! Extreme Triathalon? My Arse!

On the way into transition Andrew has to show that his bike’s front and back lights work and that he has a reflective jacket.

The volunteer checks his jacket and says its not reflective. It is very yellow but its not reflective! Andrew blames it on buying a cheap one from Decathalon. Idiot!

Luckily the volunteer had a spare so he gave that to Andrew. The winner has a black T-shirt but I bet he doesn’t have a Norseman branded reflective vest.

I wish Andrew luck and he heads onto the ferry.

I decide to drive down the coast to watch the start. Surprisingly no-one else had thought of this so I was on my own watching the start. I can’t imagine what people did in town. It must be pretty dull waiting for the swimmers to come back.

13873048_10153645915211196_6084655913261949439_nAfter they jumped in I headed back to town. I stopped at a pier near the yellow buoy and watched the race leaders zoom past. My watch said 50 minutes so it seemed like they were slow or the race had started late. I later found out this years swim times were slow due to the tide.

I got back to the pier in enough time to watch Andrew come out. I showed him over to the transition point and helped him get changed. About half the swimmer were still in the water so his swim time was pretty good.

I sent him off and said I’d see him in a couple of hours time at the top of the hill.

I notice a man at the pier has made fresh pancakes. I buy four so that Andrew will have a treat at the top of the hill. I then eat two. Oh well. Two is still a treat!

I then headed back to the B & B to get some breakfast. Mmm waffles. Its a hard life being a support team!

I’ve lost Andrew.

I saw him a minute ago. I passed him in the car. I gave him a wave and the parked at the next available parking spot. I’ve now waited 20 minutes and he’s not gone past!

I’m on the plateua. Due to thick mist visibility is 100m and it’s freezing cold. I wouldn’t like to be in a car in these conditions, let alone on a bike.

I decide something has gone wrong. He’s gone past and I didn’t notice or something’s happened before he got here.

I decide to head back down the road. I travel for 10 minutes and don’t spot him!

Its now colder and wetter and I imagine he will be wondering where I’ve gone.

I race along the road. After 10 minutes I still haven’t spotted him.

After 20 minutes, I’m worried. Something must have gone wrong.

After 30 minutes I spot a very cold and wet looking cyclist ahead. Its Andrew!

I pass and wave and this time park where he can see me.

It turns out he had cycled past me. My parking spot was in an awkward place. He assumed it wasn’t my car. I must have missed him as I was too busy concentrating on not crashing the car as I maneuvered into the space!

I thought he’d be angry so I pull out my trump card – the pancakes!

I think quickly and then ask him.

“Do you want a Twix?”

Andrew is standing in front of me. He’s shaking due to the cold. I offer him the sweet. He’s still cold and shaking but at least he gets chocolate biscuit snack.

He says he’s struggling to bike due to the cold. The weather is bad and it doesn’t look like it’s going to let up.

Luckily I’d packed Goretex trousers, thick fleece top and a jacket. He takes off his wet clothes and replaces them with the new ones. He now looks ready…to climb Everest!

At least he’ll be dry and warm even if he’s not going to be very aerodynamic.

He says he’ll cycle to the next town before deciding whether to carry on.

I hope he keeps going. It would be a shame to finish at this point.

We pass the next town and come off the plateau. That section is supposed to be fast but due to the weather he never got up to a good speed.

Thankfully he now feels warmer and decides to continue.

13886465_10153645913911196_8173376943594334046_nThe next half of the race has four climbs. They are all manageable. There’s a climb of 400m near Glasgow called the Crow Road. So we split each section into how many Crow Roads it is. As in, this next climb is 1.5 crow roads. The one after is 2x Crow Road etc It helps to put each bit into perspective.

For the next 50 miles we get into a pattern of he bikes and I drive a short distance up the road. He then either passes me or pulls in and gets food. It seems to work well.

At the top of the last climb support has to end. Its all downhill now so I leave him to it and head to Transition 2. There’s not many folk here. Most of the competitors have already been through. I go for a walk and watch a couple posing for wedding photos.

Andrew eventually arrives. I expect him to call it a day. He’s been out on the bike for 8 hours+ and is pretty knackered!

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He decides to quit. He doesn’t have the energy to run over  a speed bump let alone a huge hill.

We pack up and head off. As we drive the route towards our accommodation we see the athletes struggling along the road. No part of either of us thinks we wish we’d continued.

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Tenby Long Course Weekend – Part 1 (Iain)

When learner drivers sit their driving test they have to watch a hazard perception video. The footage was shot in Wales. How do I know this? Because one of the frequently asked questions in leaner centres is – why does it say “ARAF” on the road? “Araf” is Welsh for “slow” and it’s only seen in Wales.

Having now driven through Wales I’ve come to the conclusion Araf doesn’t mean slow down, it means your journey will be slow. Much slower than I thought it would be. It’s so slow I wondered if I ‘d ever get to my destination.

Wales is beautiful but I’d still build a motorway through it!

My destination was Tenby for the Long Course Weekend. Instead of swimming/biking/running in one day I’d be doing it over a more leisurely three days.

Before I detail the race I’ll mention the one complaint I have about it.

My start time for the bike ride was 0945. The organisers of the event implemented a cutoff at mile 66 of 1330.

When signing up for the event I was asked whether I wanted an early or late start but there wasn’t a cutoff mentioned. If I’d known I’d have chosen the early start.

I contacted the organisers to ask for an earlier start. I was told changing the start time was not possible and “sorry for the inconvenience”.

It’s more than an inconvenience to know in advance that I won’t complete a section of an event due to something I was not told in advance when signing up.

I checked the results and of the 3393 people in the race only 60 went at a pace that could have made the 1st lap cut-off (if they had started at 0945). I also checked and a number of riders who were due to start at 0945 had set off much earlier. Their times had been registered despite being told in the race notes that the timing chips would only be active ten minutes before the start time.

I asked why those riders were allowed to start early and it was reiterated that the start times couldn’t be changed due to “health and safety reasons.” Yet they didn’t disqualify any early starters despite the fact those riders must have been breaking the health and safety rules!

Even the top 10 racers in the event got to start earlier.

There was a number of very angry riders at the end of the 1st lap who weren’t allowed to continue.

In future I hope they implement a less strict cutoff time. 15mph is the common timing on most races I’ve entered. They should also ask riders for an anticipated time rather than an early or late start.

The races has rules, punish riders who break them not the ones who follow them.

Continued in Part 2!

Tenby or not Tenby – Part 2 (Andrew)

Friday (Swim)

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There’s no water, which is a problem when you’re swimming.

We’re one hour away from starting and the tide is out. We could jog to the first buoy and walk half the course. However, as the beach is flat, it didn’t take long for the water to rise and for me to take off my trainers and put on my goggles.

By the time we start, as fireworks explode to our right blanketing the start in smoke, we actually have some water to swim in, which is good, as there’s 2000 people behind us in wet-suits.

The start area is crowded. Somehow we ended up near the front of the pack. The swimmers aren’t separated into different groups so it’s everyone for themselves as we’re herded into a big pen on the beach. It’s good to be near the start because even with only a few hundred around us the water is crowded for the first 10 minutes. Everyone is turning, kicking and trying to find their rhythm. 2,000 people means 4,000 legs and 4,000 elbows to avoid.

But the swimmers quickly become spread out. The swim course at the Long Course Weekend takes in two laps of Tenby harbour in a rough anti-clockwise triangle along the coast, back through some fishing boats, before turning back to shore for an Australian exit, which is not an upside down exit, but a short run along the beach before returning to the start for a second lap. I don’t know why it’s called an Australian exit. It should be an Austrian exit as you’re surrounded by land.

I’ve not swam 3.8 km this year. The longest I’ve swum is 2.5 km. It’s also a sea swim and the last time I swam in the sea I was sick after drinking too much salt water. I wasn’t looking forward to this but, while choppier than it looked, the conditions were good, I was able to settle into a rhytmn and I had the advantage of being near the start and getting the benefit of the tide. How can the tide be a benefit? Well, as it was coming in, those at the back has to swim further than those at the front who get the benefit of splashing through the first few meters and having more of the beach to run up for the Australian exit.

It’s not enough of an advantage though to beat Iain. As our GPS showed later, he was able to swim in a straightline, I, on the other hand, made at least three breaks for the open sea. My sighting is so erratic that for one leg of the swim it looks like I’m drawing a staircase on the GPS map.

I finish five minutes behind Iain. The second lap feels easier than the first though at one point I spot one man clutching the anchor rope of a fishing boat with an expression which said “I will only release this for death or a rescue boat – and I will gladly accept death than swim another meter!”

I know how he felt after needing the rescue boat myself the last time I tried a sea swim. It was at the Weymouth Half in September 2014. The organisers had promised a calm swim but the wind was in the wrong direction and the water was choppier than a hyperactive lumberjack. It was impossible to swim over the waves, instead I had to duck under and try and swim round while trying not to drown or get pushed back to shore. By the second lap I was vomiting from drinking too much salt water. By the final 400 metres I’d called over a canoe twice to give me time to hang on while I vomited over my wetsuit. The third time I called the canoe I knew the swim was over. I was too weak to keep fighting and I just needed to get back onto shore.

That’s why I was nervous about this swim. I hadn’t swum in salt water since and I knew I needed this swim as good preparation for Norseman. I needed to know I could swim the distance and that I could swim in the sea.

So, while I was feeling tired towards the end of the swim, I was also feeling happy as I knew the distance was okay and I’d overcome my nervousness about swimming in the sea.

Then I found out that Iain had finished ahead of me. And that I needed to win the run and the bike if I was to have any chance of beating him in competitions this year.

Tenby or not Tenby: the Long Course Weekend part 1 (Andrew)

I’ve only been to Wales three times (excluding the Deva Triathlon’s bike leg in and out).

The first time I’d booked a room in an 18th century inn near Cardiff. It was lovely. Or at least I think it was – I never saw my room. They’d double booked me and the previous resident hadn’t left. They were very apologetic as they were completely sold out. They tried to find me another room but all they could find was an ex-council house in a room so small it had a sink above the bed to save space. If you want to find out what it’s like to brush your teeth while tucked up in bed then let me know and I can point you in the direction of “Sheila’s B&B”.

The second time I was in Wales I ran down a mountain. I was taking part in the Three Peaks Challenge and we’d reached Snowdon on hour 21. It took two hours to get to the summit so we had no choice but to run as fast as we could down the mountain to complete the challenge. I’m not saying I’m a hero for performing such a, well, heroic feat but, if you want to use that term…

The third time I was in Wales I faced another mountain. I was having dinner and ordered the Eton Mess. The Eton Mountain would have been a better name.  It wasn’t a plate of food, it was a clear out of their freezer.  A mound of meringue, a field of strawberries and more cream than a cat who’s actually got all the cream. I didn’t need a sink above my bed that night, I had no teeth left after all that sugar.

But, in all the times I’ve been to Wales, I’ve never realised how long it takes to drive through it. It’s around 130 miles from Chester to Tenby on the south coast but, four hours later, you’ll still be driving through a series of road signs that look like my texts before auto-correct fixes them.

Wales is a long way away…

Last weekend, I had my fourth visit to Wales for the Long Course weekend – though, as it starts on a Friday, it should be called the Long Course long weekend…

The Long Course weekend does what it says on the tin. It’s a weekend where you can take part in a long course triathlon (Ironman Wales) but over three days rather than one. It also offers shorter distances too each day.

We were due to take part in the 2.4 mile swim on Friday, the 112 mile ride on Saturday and the marathon (for Iain) and the half marathon (for me, as I didn’t want to run 26 miles a few weeks before Norseman) on the Sunday. But things didn’t quite go to plan as not only is Wales a long way away, it’s also quite hilly…

Holiday Flu’s (Andrew)

I’m on holiday this week. A week at home to catch up with some DIY, some writing for work and, what I thought would be a chance to catch up with my swimming after a poor month of getting to the pool.

The swimming started fine. I went to Tollcross on Tuesday and swam 2k and could have swam more. “I’ll do 2.5k” on Thursday I told myself. In the meantime, I started each day with an hour on the turbo to get my legs spinning before the Etape Caledonia on Sunday.

And then Wednesday happened. A sore throat. The beginnings of a head cold and, today, Thursday, I’m not at the pool. Or on the bike. I’m looking out the window at an almost blue sky and wishing that I was out on the bike. Instead, I have a head cold.

It’s frustrating to be off work and to have the time to enjoy swimming, running and cycling without trying to fit them around the rest of the day. But I know there’s nothing I can do. It’s a head cold. Possibly chronic. Definitely terminal. At least for today.

I’ll be better tomorrow. And this is a good reminder that training is not just about what you planned. It’s what happens when you’re planning.

Last year I was ill for a week six weeks before Iron Man UK. I should have been going on my final long rides and runs. Instead I had to take it easy. There’s no point pushing it, it’ll only make things worse.

So, instead, I ripped apart a plastic shed and carried old paint pots back and forth from the house to the car to the skip. But I didn’t run. Or cycle. Or swim. So, that’s okay then.

JK Rowling’s Driveway (Andrew)

Iain and I met JK Rowling two years ago. It was at a drinks reception at the Kings Theatre in Edinburgh and, because badgering her for Emma Watson’s phone number is not cool, we asked her what she thought about the Etape Caledonia bike race closing the road in front of her house in Aberfeldy.

Because talking about bikes is cool.

Really.

However, it turned out Iain didn’t want to talk about roads, or whether she was the mystery figure who threw tacks in front of the riders (she wasn’t, we asked and she denied it) he actually wanted to ask if she knew what happened in her driveway during the race.

“There’s no loos,” he begun.

JK’s not sure where this going…

“And by the time you’ve cycled for four hours you really need to go to the toilet.”

I knew where this was going. But there was no stopping Iain.

“And all the driveway’s make ideal places to stop…”

JK Rowling now knows where this going too…

“… all the bikes pull over, and, you know…”

She does.

I do. I have to change subject: “Have you got Emma Watson’s phone number?” I ask.

She doesn’t.

Funny that.