2nd lady at Ledgerman

I entered Legerman half because it fitted perfectly in the lead up to IMUK, it’s also a local event for me, just 5 miles from my house means I know the course really well as the bike course is my training ground.

The few weeks leading up to the race wasn’t ideal for me, for whatever reason I have developed pains in my shin so Steve and I decided to completely back off running to prevent any further injury but maintain fitness through bike and swim. Not being able to run instantly sends you into sheer panic that every single piece of run training you ever had will simply just disappear, however after having numerous words with myself I decided to do as I was told and trust in my training, after all coach knows best!. The Thursday before the race, I did a bike reccie of IMUK and was made (much to my protest) to do hill reps up Sheep House Hill so I was going into this race with some fatigue in my legs but generally I felt pretty rested.

It was a 4.55am start on race morning, the sun was shining. It was going to be a great day for a race. All the normal nerves of race morning had kicked in, it was only at this point did I realise how much this race meant to me, I wanted to do well and make all the 5am training sessions and sacrifice mean something but more importantly I wanted to know I was heading into Bolton in good condition. Being a local race meant I knew quite a few athletes there, it was comforting knowing my team mates Team Scotty were there, as was my dear friend ‘Bloody Hell Fire’ Mark (whom I blame for the said sheep house hill reps! Hopefully I am forgiven for getting cross at him) and of course Dan Ellis who was our bag support and number 1 fan on the day!

With swim briefing done, we were in the water and at the start line. The swim was manic, punchy and I never seemed to get a space to myself, swimming over people, being swam on, a major kick to the head resulted in me having to stop briefly to put my goggles back on and get back to it. It definitely wasn’t for the faint hearted. Before I knew it I was out Australian Exit style and back on my 2nd lap. I was pretty chuffed to see a fast time on my watch as I ran into transition. 32.20 for 1900m. When I started working with Steve my swim was pretty poor, 10 months ago1900m would have easily taken me 40 plus mins so it’s fair to say, my swim has been a massive improvement area for me and I am so grateful in Steve believing there was a swimmer in me.

Into T1, now anybody who knows me, knows I have a history of taking my time in transition, I think my personal record time is 8 minutes. I was determined not to give away free time, so I planned my kit layout with OCD precision and committed myself to the fact transition is still a race and not a chance to sit on the floor and have a quick recovery. T1 time 1.07 nailed it!

Onto the bike, my favourite bit of any race. I know these roads extremely well so my biggest challenge was not to go off too hard, I had to continually reign myself in and remind myself I needed to run when I get off the bike. The conditions on the bike were near perfect, no wind at all which is really unusual for this area. My focus on the bike was to practice my nutrition, I am a lazy eater and drinker on the bike and this cost me dearly at IM Marbella 70.3 at the beginning of the year. I had exactly the right amount of nutrition to fuel every 30 mins. However after dropping both my energy bars within 10 minutes of getting on my bike, I had to rethink my nutrition very quickly and revert to taking gels. This played on my mind a lot, we all know what can potentially happen when too many gels are consumed! Thankfully I never experienced this! The 2nd mishap was my bottle exploding on me as I took it out of the holder. Sticky sports drink / flies…. nice!

It was lovely seeing my children waiting for me outside my house their cheers of ‘go mummy’ definitely pushed me on.

The bike passed really quickly and I was happy with my time of 2.38.55 avg speed 19.8mph this was delivered in a low HR zone, it felt comfortable, I had stuck to my plan, fed and drank well, now time to see if I was able to run.

Phew off my bike, I’ve not fallen in front of everyone, my legs feel good. ‘ Nailed T2 with a quick in and out and then onto the run.

It was pretty hot out on the run; the course was 4 laps which involved running up, over and down a motorway bridge. The first time this wasn’t great but ok, by the 4th time it felt like a mountain. The run was made easier by seeing loads of friendly races, high 5’s as we went past each other and words of encouragement. On my 2nd lap is where my problems started. I had stopped a bit longer than I should have done at the feed station, and it was then the pain in my left shin started. I tried to forget about it, but I could feel a burning sensation going up to my knee. I didn’t know whether to stop and pull out with Bolton only being a couple of weeks away or whether to just push on. The encouragement I got from the supporters as I ran through the 2 lap, spurred me on, and Dan (amazing supporter thank you!) told me I was 2nd lady with a good gap between me and 3rd place. I gritted my teeth dug deep and kept moving my legs. Tap, tap, tap, tap running through my head. The 3rd lap consisted mostly of a walk/run strategy which was just making it worse, and I could tell my time lead was reducing dramatically. I’d worked too hard to just give my 2nd place away easily, so I focussed on everything other than my shin, mostly what food I was going to inhale after the race, and got stuck into last 5k. My watch died so I have no idea what I ran that final lap in but it felt fast. As I crossed the line someone shouted you’re 2nd lady. Boom! I had set out what I wanted too; I’d had a great race.

I had no idea what time I had completed it in, as my watch had died, I couldn’t believe my eyes when Craig passed me my slip and I saw 4.58.55 sub 5 hours wow. The course is a little short on the bike but never the less I will take it!

After being disappointed with my race at Marbella, I was keen to see whether I had it in me to pull a good performance, and this race proved just that. A great confidence builder going into Bolton.

When I first started working with Steve I was broken, literally. I had a fracture in my femur and my confidence was at rock bottom, would I ever get back to where I was pre break?. I hadn’t done any real training for 10 months so I felt unfit and generally wasn’t in a good place about myself. It’s fair to say thanks to Steve and his patience with me I have exceeded where I was before my injury, we have rebuilt the machine as we like to say. I am going into Bolton nervous and excited, this will be my 2nd full Ironman and I have goals I want to achieve, I want a great race experience. This race has given me a confidence I am on track to do just that. Thanks Steve.

Legerman’s report Gemma Scott

Swim panic, I’ve lost my goggles half way around the first lap….and I woke up at 4.30am after a night of restless sleep, that was it I was up. Thankfully just a dream!!

We arrived at Hatfield bright & early. I Headed straight to transition and began getting set up whilst slowly getting more and more nervous. There was only a field of 46 people and I really didn’t want to come last.

After the brief which was highly confusing for both the swim & bike course I had a last toilet stop before heading to the water…this was it.

Fortunately I had done most of my open water swimming at Hatfield so I was quite comfortable in this water, that was until I saw we had to swim through the weeds to get to the start & there was a Australian exit required too to start the second lap….argh panic began to set in even more.

We weren’t given much notice to swim over to the start area before he set us off so it was a bit flustering, but I thought ok here we go.

I remembered Steve telling me to take the swim start and the bike start slowly allowing the body to naturally fall into rhythm which I did and to my shock I was swimming really well and my spotting was on point, something I had been struggling to master in my training.

Coming into the shore ready to do our Australian exit I managed to not stumble and began jogging through the water and through the start flags before beginning to swim again. This is where I felt uncomfortable, my breathing was ragged from running and then trying to swim I wasn’t in my rhythm so I slowed my stroke and try to regain my composure. To my surprise it all fell back into line and I was swiftly moving through the water.

Another swimmer was alongside me and it took me a while to realise it was my fellow team mate Ricardo. We swam together for the remaining of the lap and as we headed back into shore he was swimming wide which was also pushing me wide so I kept nudging him back across to the right side to stop us going off course and eventually we both came out the water together. I couldn’t believe how well the swim went. I wasn’t last out of the water and I had PB’d by over 4 mins from my last half distance so the quickest I have ever swam open water. Result!!

Transition 1 –  I didn’t even think about drying myself I just popped my helmet on, socks, race belt, gloves and shoes, lodged my bacon wraps under my bra straps drank some water and hot tailed it out of there. Now to think about the bike section.

The exit through the water park was horrific, there are 3 big speed bumps followed by big pot holes and lots of loose gravel. I had been dreading this prior to the race and fortunately by taking my time & listening to the marshals guide me, I was out of there without falling off. Now all I needed to do was wake up these legs.

The days leading up to the race my legs had been so heavy and I struggled to get any power in my rides, so I was shocked once I had come back across the M180 Bridge and passed the Green Tree Pub for the second time that they were awake and I was sitting nice and comfortable above my Ironman Pace.

10 Miles in a had to stop for the loo and watched 2 more people pass me. Great I am last on the bike was my first thought, but then I looked at my bar stem  which Craig had bought me; it reads “believe in yourself” “you can do this” and I remembered this is only a training race to put all my training into effect so I just started powering through and ticking off the miles. It was quite lonely as there was no one about but I just got in the zone.

Second Lap was a lot quicker, I knew the route & didn’t need a loo stop. I had been feeding at my set intervals, 18 miles & 36 miles allowing me enough time to digest before the run. I felt amazing and it was showing on my average speed.

Into T2 I realised I wasn’t last in as there were 2 more people I had seen behind me. And now was the run so I could play my strengths to my advantage. Bike racked, shoes changed & laced, sun cream applied and bottle grabbed. I was now in my comfort zone.

I soon paid for my speedy transition because I forgot to apply glide and soon found myself chafing under my arms. As I exited the park I shouted to the first aid if they had any Vaseline and he told me he would have some at the turn point. I have to point out he was amazing and he was there waiting for me at the drink station as promised & kept asking me throughout the run if I was ok. Once applied I had no more issues with chafing and continued ticking off the mileage and also managed to pass a few people. Maybe I won’t be last after all I thought to myself.

Start of the second lap I had a toilet stop and then continued. My pace was faster than I expected despite trying to slow down. I was running 8 minute miles which is my marathon pace and then I made sure I stopped at the water stations which brought my average down (something I know I need to do at Ironman, all good practice), but I used my heart rate to indicate if I was working too hard and it was nowhere near my threshold, so I was happy with that. I was high fiving my team mates and friends out on the course which kept my spirits high.

At the start of the 3rd lap when I realised I would have to do 5 more of these on ironman day my composure started to falter and I had a bit of a wobble. I saw my team mate Dan & told him “I don’t think I can do this in 3 weeks’ time” which he shouted at me “Yes you can, you ran 69 miles in one day last year, you can do anything”. That picked me up.

I kept the momentum going and got so much support from fellow competitors and marshals all asking how was I looking so fresh and running so effortlessly. That was giving me a lot of confidence, as well as the longer I was running the more people I was overtaking. This is where I began thinking about Ironman in 3 weeks’ time. If I can pace myself on the bike and the swim, once I get onto the run I know that is my strength and that is where I can shine.

Final lap, the heat was getting stifling, it started to get tough, but I could see Mr Cannings in front of me and throughout the run he kept saying you are going to catch me (something I didn’t think was possible as he had already run a lap more than me by the time I left T2). Finally just after the turn point I passed him, high fived him & gave him some encouragement. In my head my mind was working overdrive, “you’re too hot”, “it’s still half a park run”, then “but you only have one more hill to climb then its downhill & flat”. I shut it down and just ran, “4 laps of the track, 3 laps….” Then I entered the park. I heard someone shout come on Steve, so my competitive head kicked in and I ran hard, “1 lap of the track” and there was the finish so I gave it everything I had left.

I was quite overwhelmed at the finish, I had just finished my second half distance over an hour faster than my first a year ago OMG!!

That was where I realised all my training had paid off. Not only had I physically improved but mentally I was so much stronger. Thanks coach for pushing me out of my comfort zone.

Lessons Learnt

I can swim,

I can bike,

I can run strong off the bike,

I can cope with the heat (something that I never imagined I could do),

I can go into a dark place and crawl straight back out of it.

I can do this Ironman!!

Legerman Craig Scott Style

After a few weeks undecided as to whether I’m doing the Legerman half distance I get the message on the Wednesday from Steve saying he would like me to do it, so that’s It, Sunday is my last event before IMUK.
Race day, 4:30am wake up call, beautiful sunshine and not a breath of wind made perfect conditions. First challenge of the day was getting porridge down at 5am, then load the bikes into the car and we are on our way.
Arrive at Hatfield and get ourselves into transition, set all the gear out then triple check I have everything and start to feel nervous but then a few familiar faces started turning up in transition which always settles the nerves. Last minute toilet stop to make sure I’m at race weight and then down to the water side and wait for my start wave. A few minutes later I’m in the water and the start gun sounds, the swim seems very crowded so I thought find some space and relax, next thing a brush of a foot across my right cheek and my goggles are lifted up onto my head, don’t panic I thought just tread water and get them back on. After what felt like minutes I was round the first lap into the Australian exit the back into the second loop, this time no drama just relaxed and tried to concentrate on my swimming.

Into T1 don’t rush make sure you have everything then go.
Set off on the bike telling myself keep it easy for the first couple of miles, the ride is basically 2 laps of a big square, flat as a pancake and fast, I looked down and felt comfortable at 19mph so I thought I’ll see how long I can keep this going and when I start feeling like I’m pushing I’ll back down, the temperature was starting to rise so I made sure I took a drink every 10 mins and took in my nutrition,
Into the second lap and got a shout of encouragement from Dan Ellis and still feeling strong so I pushed a little harder on the second lap. As I rolled into T2 I thought wow it’s getting hot and I hope I’ve saved enough for the run, I racked the bike change to running shoes and out onto the run, the first couple of miles felt very hard and the temp was now around 23 degrees so I knew this was going to be a tough one. Into mile 3 I notice my heart rate start to drop but my pace picked up so it seems I was settling in. The course was 4 laps which amazing as you get run the opposite direction to the other athletes and there’s them friendly faces again, Karen, Rick, Emma, Stephen, Ricardo, Mark all giving high fives as we passed each other giving encouragement, its times like this that remind me why I love this sport. On my second lap I see my wife Gemma on her first lap and looking strong, now I’m happy. Every feed station I took a drink and threw the remaining water over me to try and keep cool, ticking off the miles passing Dan and Shona with yet more encouragement.
Before I knew it I was in the last mile of the run and still feeling good.
Over the finish line stop the watch and get a much needed drink.
Much to my amazement my time was 4:45:42 which means I knocked over a hour off my half distance. This is the first time since I started working with Steve Clark in January that I have been able to put all the training together, I was so pleased that all the hard work has given the results I wanted. A huge thanks to Steve not only for the training and guidance but for telling me to do this event, it’s give a nice confidence going into Bolton in July.

From Parkrun to Lakesman

It all started with one of those moments! I was in Keswick (June 2017) and waiting for the start of the Parkrun, when an announcement went out;

‘Who will be doing The Lakesman tomorrow?’ from the corner of my eye I saw a group of mature ladies raise their hands in the air and shout:

‘We are!’

It was that moment which had me thinking, ‘if they can, I could.’

It was also the start of a long journey. I visited Keswick again on the day of Lakesman 2017, and watched athletes starting the marathon leg of the event and I knew then that I would have to come back. Once the entries went live the following week, I took the plunge and entered. I signed up and followed a monthly training programme from Steve and Offthatcouchfitness for nearly 10 months.

So fast forward to June 2018 and I am back in Keswick, lined up for the Keswick Parkrun and also ready for Lakesman 2018. Registration and set up were very well organised and if Carling did Race Briefings then this was one of them, a very relaxed atmosphere, there are only two reasons for a DQ, the first dropping litter on the course, the second, not smiling and failing to high five the marshal’s on the route.

Sunday morning came around too quickly, after what seemed a long time tapering I was ready to roll. Porridge at 4am in the morning is not the best experience, but it had to be done. Luckily I only had a short walk from my hotel to the start.

Waiting for the swim start was the only near disaster of the whole day. Looking in my swim hat where I had placed my ear plugs for the swim, there was only one. Oh bugger, a short faff and looking again in my hat and there was the missing plug. Panic over!

The swim went really well; I was worried about the washing machine experience, but apart from a few toe ticklers there was plenty of space. The swim gave great views down Derwentwater and across to fells like Catbells. Out of the water in 1:20:00 which was what I was expecting. Into transition for a quick change a bog stop and then onto the bike.


The bike route had been sold as flat, it went from out of Keswick to Cockermouth and then along the coast. Flat, my a$*e. Not only was the route ‘undulating’ but the headwind from the South West was relentless, it was a relief to hit the coast at Egremont and head north with a lovely tailwind. This was short lived as the route turns back into the wind at Silloth for a short loop and then the long return to Keswick. Cycling is not my strong point and this was the longest continuous ride had done, so I was pleased with 6hrs 54. The last 12 miles taking nearly an hour due to the wind.

Transition 2 was very well organised, the marshal’s had my bag ready to change from bike to run. A quick bite to eat (Eccles Cakes) but no time for an ice cream and it was out on the run.

The run is five laps around Keswick, down through Crow Park, out towards Portinscale and the suspension bridge, before heading to the ‘highway to hell.’ Up one side of the road, down the opposite, back up the middle and then down the other-side, not only that but the road rises up and drops on each lap before the turn.

The run started well, and I fuelled up at the feed stations, but after the halfway point the wheels or legs started to fall off and it was a case of walk some run some. A shout from the Fire Service Tri team ‘Steve Cark would have you running’ and I pick up a bit.

At the end of each lap, you are handed a band to keep tally of the laps, so at the start of the last lap, there was a big cheer from the marshal’s as I showed them my arm full of arm bands. It was only in the last kilometre where the realisation that I had completed my first full distance tri started to sink in. It was big high 5’s to the marshal’s and as the route split to head towards the finish the big smile and wave came out and a finish time of 13:45:48. I was now a Lakesman and the end of a long journey and the beginning of another.

I would certainly recommend Lakesman, it may not be the big brand tri, but the atmosphere, support and scenery are fantastic. My thanks to Steve Clark at offthatcouchfitness, my brother Rob Marshall for his support, and the support from my clubs (Lincsquad and S&DAC).

Would I do it again……….watch this space!

Ali’s Season So Far

It all started in November 2017 when Steve had invited me to an event on Facebook (early Brigg sprint!) I laughed and thought is he mad, my running days were long gone and cycling was my game. I first made contact with Steve in April 2017 for an FTP test, set heart rates zones etc as I wanted to get stronger and faster on my bike. In 2017 I’d done my first TT season with Barton Wheelers, which saw me taking all category records (apart from the hill climb!) and consecutive first place finishes. Without a clear 2018 goal, I needed to keep my focus on staying strong through winter so I opted for regular PT sessions with Steve and started a training plan! #teamworkmakesthedreamwork

Bike training was going well and during PT sessions with Steve, little seeds were being dropped into conversation ‘have you thought about running off the bike?’ What’s your swimming like?’ I’ve got close friends who’ve been doing Triathlon for years, but I’d never had the balls to do it! Well, I did enter Brigg Sprint a few years ago but I pulled out as I hadn’t done enough running (I loved my bike too much !!)

It’s Christmas and I’m away in the Lake District climbing mountains and thinking about my 2018 goals and I’m slowly finding my game plan changing, I was back running and swimming and I was loving it…. maybe I should enter a triathlon, sod it I thought you’ve got nothing to lose and perfect opportunity as you’ve Steve to guide you through it. Entry confirmed, message to Steve ‘what have you done…. I’ve entered a triathlon!!’  Eeeeeek…

The Winter months went by, weather was crap, the pain cave aka as my shed has become my second home and yes I’m back running… no where near where I used to be but the running was starting to make a comeback. I remember doing a run session with Steve and calling him evil Steve but it was the arse kicking that I needed to get me back into it. He said he’d been called a lot worse names before!!!! The swimming was going well, it’s the one thing I did a lot of when I was growing up, so I class myself as a fairly strong swimmer but to find out where I was at it was time to enter Steve’s endless pool. What a fantastic experience that is and learnt so much in just one session.

Finally, after a horrible few months of weather, the TT season had arrived and it’s time to get my race face on. This time, I’m not just racing them, I’m running off the bike too.

April 2018 and it’s time for the early Brigg sprint… my first triathlon. Absolutely bricking it. Experiencing nerves that I couldn’t explain, I’d had numerous trips to the toilet and I was pacing around checking my kit/bike/transition. Finally, I’m at the poolside, I’m biting my nails, tummy doing turns and then my number is called, goggles on and a quick tap on the shoulder from Steve and I’m off… oh my god I feel so sick, just swim I kept saying, slow it down, relax, pace yourself…. swim done and out to transition we go, the conditions for my first triathlon weren’t great, it was cold and wet – so I thought balls to worrying so about my transition time, I’m new to this game so I took my time putting a top on for the bike. The bike is where I am strongest and it was windy… I liked biking in the wind, kind of found it a challenge. Bike done and it’s run time, paced it fairly well and it went better than I thought it would. That’s my first triathlon under my belt and I’d finished third!!!! I still pinch myself now, I’ve never been on a podium in my life, never mind it being my first triathlon. What was going on?!!!

I loved it that much, that a few weeks later I thought, I need a new goal, a challenge, something I could get my teeth into…. so Ive entered an event in September. I’ll keep that one to myself for now!! But I have a goal now and I’ve something to aim for. Steve’s stuck with me for a lot longer now as I’ve also mapped out 2019 in my head.

My time trials are going well, I’ve started mixing it up a bit now between Barton Wheelers and Lincsquad (or shall I say coach has mixed it up for me!!) I’ve PB’d the 15 mile TT and still managing to place myself first on all events. Great to be back on the PB train.

May 2018, it’s Tour of the Peak time, an epic bike ride covering 113 miles with over 11,000ft of climbing, I’m in my element. For those that don’t know me, I love hills!!! I eat them for breakfast. I loved every single mile and wow, they were hills to die for. Relentless hills but they were amazing. I had a strong day in the saddle and I’d even go to say it was tougher than doing Coast to Coast in a day. The day before the Tour of the Peak, I told Steve I fancied doing a Park Run and decided to do Scunthorpe, I gave myself no pressure, it was to just turn up and run it. I was very surprised, as I ran it a minute off my PB which was set in 2013. Excellent, my running form was starting to come back.

Middle of May, I thought I need another triathlon under my belt – I couldn’t make any local ones and the only one I could make was the Holmfirth Triathlon. I’d messaged Steve to see what he thought and he said ‘obviously it’s going to be hilly!’ I’d ridden through Holmfirth on the Tour of the Peak so I knew it wasn’t got to be flat and fast, but I loved hills so it kind of made sense. The day before, my husband and I travelled over, we drove the bike route and kind of sussed the run route out…. and yes, it was hilly!!!!! I wasn’t bothered, just crack on and enjoy it was my mantra, it’s all part of the training. It’s race day….. weather was perfect, the wind had calmed down, it wasn’t too hot and I felt good. Not so nervous this time and I was feeling rather calm.The pool was tiny, 20 metres, not very wide with four lanes…. it was choppy!! Swim done and it’s bike time…. and up we go. The bike route had two fairly steep hills (out of the saddle climbs) and a long gradual climb and it was a three lap circuit. Great… whilst on the ride I kept thinking you need to keep your legs for the run. Bike done and I’d gone past the entrance into transition, what an idiot!!!! Anyway, off the bike and into the run. Lovely flat start along the side of the river, I had it in my head the run was fairly flat, well I got that totally wrong!!! Up we go back on the bike route. The downhills sections were good but my legs felt stuck and before you knew it, up we go again and again!! It was tough. But, I got round and I’d finished. Everyone at the end said the run was tough, which made me feel better. Boom. Triathlon number two, finished. But I hadn’t just finished, I’d also managed to end with another podium finish! Third place.

That’s two triathlons done and two podium finishes…. onwards and upwards we go coach, thanks for the journey so far. I’m a triathlete!!!

Slateman Savage

Slateman Savage

‘Hi coach, what should I do Slateman or the Windermere Marathon’ I asked.

‘Oh, Slateman is so iconic’

‘I knew you would say that’

So, with that and a few months preparation, on Friday I am heading to North Wales to take part in the Always Aim High Slateman Savage (Saturday Sprint and Sunday Classic event). Its difficult to compare Slateman to your average Sprint or Standard distance triathlons. Firstly, North Wales is always wet, its very hilly and rains a lot. Secondly, there are some big hills in North wales that catch the rain and thirdly the run is off road, contains hills and is often wet in the rain.

Saturday morning, I woke early to the feeling that I was in a different country, the sun was shining, the birds were singing in the trees and not a cloud in the sky. This can’t be North Wales. Breakfast alfresco in the sunshine and off to registration at Electric Mountain in the beautiful village of Llanberis.

It was one of those days which give the body a boost, clear blue skies and not a breeze to rustle the leaves in the tree. Llyn Padarn was like a millpond. So, no nasty waves to slow the swim. After the poor winter I was expecting the water to be cold, I had done some Open water swimming in preparation so the water was not a massive shock. In fact, the swim went smoothly, it’s a big lake so sticking out at the sides meant I avoided the washing machine in the middle of the pack. I have learnt in the past that the end of the swim becomes shallow and then deep just before the exit point so as some started to wade through the water I continued my swim. A dash across the field avoiding the sheep droppings and into T1 and straight out.

The Llanberis pass must be one to the  most famous valleys in the UK, and stamping ground for many rock climbers, a place I have spent much of my youth, so I was able to tick off many of the famous crags that line this impressive valley. Its fairly plain sailing for the first 5k and then crossing the bridge below Dinas Cromlech and then it starts. The next 2k are the climb, in the distance way way above you is the Pen Y Pass YHA, the top of the pass, so its low gear and keep turning. The last few hundred metre are the steepest, before the descent down to the Pen Y Gurad  Hotel and the turn around point. A slight climb and then the descent of the pass. What a descent, 2k of steep downhill with steep walls either side. Thank fully the road was closed to no worry about the corners only the sheep that randomly cross the road and stop for a loom at the mad cyclist hurtling towards them!

Into T2, and out on the run. The run starts crossing a flat rugby pitch, before hitting the steep slopes of the PadarnCountry Park, and it is steep! After the first 3k, the rout flattens out and and despite a few climbs is a lovely descent towards the Slate Mining museum. Temperatures were relative hot so I was thankfully of the drink station at the end of the last major climb. Once you reach the museum the end is only about 500m away and you are off the slate trails. So, opening up the throttle I headed for the finish. I had hoped for 1:40, so was over the moon to cross the line in 1:37:13, a massive PB. The training with Offthatcouch had paid off.

Following a restful afternoon and evening, it was back the following morning to complete the classic route. The Sunday was not as bright as the previous day and there was a gusty breeze blowing down the Llanberis Pass. The swim was choppy once we turned the first buoy. Again, I had avoided the washing machine and could swim my swim.

T1 was a nightmare! How can a wet suit slide off one day but the following day, you flounder about a like whale shedding its skin? So T1 took longer than I planned.

Onto the bike and its back up the Pass to Pen Y Pass. The area seemed much quieter today, on the Saturday, many visitors must have escaped the royal wedding. It was great to hit the hostel and start the descent to the Pen Y Gurad and then onto Capel Curig a long long descent. Dropping into the OgwenVally the wind was blowing across the road and making the cycling hard work. However, at Ogwen Cottage the road drops steeply for about 5-8km in to the village of Bethesda. The last 10 miles sees a long line of riders digging in deep for the last climb and the fast descent to Llanberis and into T2.

T2 was much better than T1. Quick change of footwear and off across the field. The run climbs first up Dolbadarn Castle before dropping down to the road and along the road which runs parallel with the reservoir. The run is fairly gentle for the first 2k and then it hits the Slatemines and its up, up up.  Climbing the zig zag path for at least 2k until you reach the Gates of Mordor (a gap between two slate pillars). With the main climb done, it was once again full power down towards the first water station and across to meet the previous days route. Thank fully I could tick off the places I had ran past on Saturday which was a great judge of my progress. Hitting the flat once again at the museum.

I was hoping for 3:30, this year which would beat my previous years’ time. So, I was absolutely delighted with 3:27:12, a PB of at least 3 minutes.

So, the Savage was completed two PB’s in two day. The training with Steve Clark has paid off, and now to prepare for the next one. If you haven’t done Slateman, I can guarantee the weather, but I can guarantee a fantastic race experience in some fantastic scenery. So you next year, possibly in the rain.

Gainsborough 10k 2018 – Sarah Lakeland

In 2017 I entered Gainsborough 10k as it’s in March and I thought it would be a good way to motivate myself to keep up running over winter as I was only really use to 5-6km of continuous running at that point. I didn’t really “train” I just ran for enjoyment with Dexter my dog. I was thrilled when I ran under 1 hour (59min 49 seconds) as I’d never done that before, I was use to the company of the back Marshall in any 10k’s I’d done pre-children a few years earlier.

Only a matter of a couple of weeks later I had my first personal training session with Steve and I’ve been a weekly regular ever since. I massively improved my performances last year in some pool based sprints and I ended the year with Curly’s Doncaster 10k where I surpassed my expectations and ran a PB of 51 mins 17 seconds.

Having entered Gainsborough 10k again this year the self inflicted pressure was on now to improve on my PB. It would also be a marker for the last years training as I have consistently trained regularly for the whole year between to races with Steve and the many sessions alone in between.

In the week building up to the race I got really nervous of not doing as well as I should (completely all in my own head). Steve just told me to run so seen as it tends to work if I do as he says, I did!

On the day I wasn’t nervous beyond the usual multiple toilet trips and I planned to just run on how I felt and keep an eye on the pace each kilometre but not stress over it. The weather was amazing and all felt pretty good. I was working quite hard as I knew I needed to in order to do the best I could. I probably ran a bit quick for the first couple of Km but settled into it. By 7ish Km I was hoping the last 3 would pass quickly as I was only just able to maintain the effort but I got to the last km and gave it all I had. I pretty much ran the whole race with a bloke who seemed to struggle when I felt good and perked up when I was struggling so we got to the end together with a bit of encouraging each other. I crossed that finish line knowing I’d given it the best I could and I did get another PB of 50 mins 15 seconds which is outstanding given last years time.

I have improved by 9mins 44 seconds in a year and managed to do a 1 min 2 second PB between November and March so winter training hasn’t treated me badly at all!

So the OTCF effect in one year is evident in my performances, thank you Steve! Next time sub 50 will be mine as I was so close but I can’t be disappointed in what I’ve achieved as I’d have only dreamt of what I can do now a year ago.

Elizabeth Wood talks Zurich Barcelona Marathon 2018

Zurich Barcelona Marathon 2018

Vamoose Chica!

Having previously resisted any suggestions that I do a post event write up, for feeling like I might have nothing to say, I’ll just tell it like it happened and then reflect (oh, so very briefly) on lessons learnt.

My daughter and I go away together every year for a city break. We’d both been to Barcelona before but decided to add a marathon to the itinerary and this promised to be a flat course and reasonably cool in March.

Training, you know, that thing you are supposed to do so that you don’t hit the wall at 18 miles or so. Well, I did a few long runs basing them on time and not distance and went swimming instead.

On arrival we signed up for the Saturday’s fun run, a 4.5km jolly followed by a free breakfast and the best coffee. We started at the Magic Fountains and followed a route around the lovely Olympic Park. The directions were a tad confusing and rather brilliantly led the 1500 or so runners in front of me the wrong way, avoiding a huge flight of steps. This is what can happen if you are prancing and skipping nimbly along, chatting and not paying attention. Therefore I was, albeit momentarily, amongst 500 or so runners doing a lap of the Olympic Stadium to finish, before we were caught up by them. Smiles to self.

The big day and my alarm doesn’t go off.  Luckily H woke up and we had just enough time to get kit on and get to Pl. Espanya but not enough time to think “How about some sightseeing instead?” My first impression was astonishment at the number of loos. I have never suffered from pre-event tummy trouble. Every sphincter I have closes up at the prospect of competition. No peeing in a wetsuit for me or pre-race pooping. My body shuts down in protective defiance and I like to think it’s a ‘fight’ response rather than a ‘flight’ one.

We joined our group for the start in the 10,000 red labelled runners and off we went.

At this stage its worth mentioning, I am not a runner. I started running at 54 and have gone downhill ever since. So, what exactly am I doing?

I’ve had a memorable life, been places and done things that make me feel very fortunate and now I’m in an age group (60-64) when a degree of self-assurance removes the need to seek approval and therefore removes some pressure.  All I want to do, is have a go. I might fail, staggeringly but I just feel the need to have a go.  Once I’ve factored in the risk of injury, the maximum amount of prophylactic pain killers I can take and whether I have adequate medical insurance then we’re good to go!  Seriously though, as I do far more mental prep than physical, I had a good idea I’d be very lucky to come in under 6 hours.  Inadequate training, excess poundage, osteo-arthritis, blah blah blah, all taken into account I knew this was going to be a task even if I ended up having to walk the whole thing.

Actually, the first half was fine, though much warmer than I would have liked after Blighty’s Eastern blast. 20 degrees. Water and feeding stations placed every 2.5km also provided Powerade, fruit, gels, first aid, loos and Vaseline. At 18 miles we realised that the feeding stations were now depleted and that’s where my melted Snickers bar became my best friend. No, on second thoughts, that was the Vaseline. I was also very aware that the six hour cut off van was pushing the few remaining folk behind us and we endeavoured to stay out of its reach.

The Catelonians were fabulous and I was cheered up and surprised by the number of elderly Senyora who were shouting “Vamoose Chica” at me.

At 22 miles I was walking more, my right calf complaining bitterly and knowing at least four toenails were detatching themselves from my feet and then the van caught up with us last few runners. Behind this sweep up van was a large luxury coach carrying those who knew they were done for the day. The pressure to quit so the roads could reopen was intense and we heard the guy say to those behind, “It’s the coach or the pavement”. I was stunned to see everyone got on but us. I grabbed Hannah and we ran off onto the pavement ahead keeping our eyes averted from the van man. He got the message and left.

I apologised profusely to Hannah for slowing her down as she could easily have finished in sub 5 let alone sub 6.

I was definitely not getting on that coach. I’d follow that blue paint on the road and crawl bleeding over the line to empty stands and no medal rather than do that.

Navigating through pedestrians and road crossings slowed us but couldn’t deter us, not even the looks from those returning home and looking quizzically at their watches could humiliate us into stopping.

A message from a friend who had finished sub 3 arrived saying, “You’re so nearly there. Beer is waiting” and provided us with the last push. As we crossed the finish line, the stands were pretty much empty apart from volunteers. A very, very lovely man called Christian, who turned out to be the Race Director, walked to the Finish Line and gave us truly warm congratulations and proceeded to put medals around our necks and give us a kiss (both sides of course, this is Spain).  I don’t think everyone got that.  As if that wasn’t enough, he guided us into the now empty hospitality suite and told us to help ourselves to the posh nosh. The volunteers gave us paper carrier bags which we filled with goodies and took to the café, where our fizz was waiting, to be shared out with fellow Caistor Running Club participants.

Yes, we were last over the line but, hey ho, Hannah will go onto other Marathons and I will…probably not.

Quick feedback on the event itself for the more seasoned athlete.

Fabulous venue, a few very long out and backs which sap the soul.

If you like the idea of fancy dress this isn’t the one for you. I didn’t see anyone who was less likely to run a marathon than me.

I may have steely determination but training is better.

Thank you Steve Clark at OTCF for keeping me strong and my buddies in Caistor Running Club and Lincsquad who see past my bloody-mindedness and praise me anyway.

Hopetech womens’ Enduro; Gisburn

Hopetech womens’ Enduro; Gisburn
This weekend saw me attempt my first ever Enduro race, which is a mountain bike event with a number of timed race sections and some transition sections in between. I’d picked this as my first Enduro race as it was a womens only race aimed at all levels from beginners to elite riders, meaning I was hopefully not going to be too out of my depth! My only aim was to survive the race; I didn’t care where I came in the results. I knew the transition sections would be tough and hoped to find other girls of similar ability to tag along with to keep me going. The added incentive was I’d booked a demo bike from Hope who were sponsoring the race and I managed to get the brand new Hope HB160; a bike that you basically can’t buy yet, which has a £7.5k price tag! Surprisingly all they wanted from me was my driving licence and it was mine to keep all day and use in the race if I wanted to!
The race was due to start at 12pm, and we were going to be set off in small groups until 2pm. The problem was that when you signed on you had to pick your start time, with their advice being slow ones go off first, and fast ones go off last! I decided to go for 1pm and hope for the best. Once I was signed on and got my timing chip, they gave me the very expensive bike and I was sent off to practice the timed sections. This is where I made my first mistake! I don’t know Gisburn Forest at all so in order to find the timed sections I had to follow the race signs, so ended up doing a 2 hour ride with 1000 feet of climbing as my practice run.

The first transition to stage 1 was tough, lots of technical climbing on a bike I wasn’t used to. I was getting annoyed with the bike as it was so different to mine and I just didn’t get on with the brakes or with the way it climbed up and over rocks. I could have happily left it there and walked home! I got to the first timed section and anxiously waited my turn, asking the marshal to give me plenty of time before setting off the next rider as I really wasn’t getting on with the bike and didn’t feel confident. I soon discovered that the minute you point the HB160 downhill it comes to life! Section 1 was 95% downhill, all natural and very technical. It was also very wet, and had deep muddy sections to navigate on tight single track. I got the bottom in what felt like seconds, with very little memory of what I’d actually ridden, I pedalled as much as I could between corners and drops and started to love the bike. I still hated the brakes though!
Next came transition to stage 2. The first half of this transition was the big climb of the day, but thankfully all on fire road or less technical rocky sections. The bike performed much better on these climbs and I made it all the way to the top without having to push up. I took the opportunity at the top of this climb to ask a marshal if he was any good with hope brakes, and thankfully he was! He set up the brakes to my preference and it was like riding different bike! The route then joined the red route and again became very technical. This was by far the most challenging part of the route, and I was tired by the time I reached stage 2. Disappointingly, stage 2 started on an uphill, and had a lot of pedalling sections between short technical or downhill bits. There was also a puddle the size of a small swimming pool which when you hit it at speed created a wave that came up to your waist and onto your lap meaning I was soaked through and freezing by the end of this stage. Because this stage was using a new part of the red route only opened that day, some of the berms were still covered in loose gravel so I made a mental note to take this section slowly given I wasn’t used to the brand of tyres on the bike.
Transition to stage three was all fire-road climbs which I was grateful for as it gave me a bit of a rest. Stage 3 was ‘the Hope line’. This is the only part of Gisburn I have ever ridden before, and I was sure it was all easy and rollable and said this to the marshal I was talking to at the top (the nice man that sorted my brakes!). He quickly corrected me and told me that there was a big slab drop about a quarter of the way down, but that if I went into the corner carefully and slowly I could go around it. So off I went, on my final practice. This is the most fun section, full of jumps and table tops that I could play on all day! However by the time I realised I was coming up on the drop it was too late to think about taking an easier route and I just rode straight off it! It was much bigger than I thought, and I only just landed it but excited that I’d survived I jumped everything all the way to the bottom of the section and rode back to the start. This ‘practice’ had taken me 2 hours; I was exhausted, soaking wet and freezing cold. I also didn’t have any lunch with me so filled up on bananas and chia flapjack and honestly didn’t think I had a race run in me.
Finally at 12.45 I put a dry jersey and gloves on, and went to queue with my start group. The transition to stage 1 seemed easier this time and I got there quite quickly and joined the very long race queue for stage 1. I had to queue for about 15 minutes and got talking to the girls around me. They were all deciding whether to take the harder A line or the B line which is easier but takes longer. I couldn’t remember seeing a choice in practice, but it turns out I’d taken the direct A line! I decided then that I might actually be a bit better at this than I thought as not many around me were riding the A lines, and my new aim was to finish about mid pack rather than just to survive. In my race run stage 1 felt very fast and the bike felt amazing now that I trusted the tyres and brakes enough to ride more aggressively. I pedalled hard between sections and got to the bottom in one piece with a pretty fast time.
The transition to stage 2 was really tough on tired legs, but I got there! Stage 2 felt better this time, and although we’d been warned to go through the giant puddle slowly and not at speed, I refused to lose time on the stage I found hardest. I hit the puddle hard and was absolutely soaked! On the final bit of this stage I’d forgotten about how loose the gravel was and my front wheel washed out, but thanks to the extremely light bike I was on, I saved myself and somehow avoided hitting the deck!
Transition to stage 3 seemed to go really quick, but my legs were so tired now. I just wanted it to be over. I got to the top of ‘the Hope Line’ (stage 3) and decided that I was going for all the A lines again, and that I would jump everything I could to keep my time down. The cheering in this section was so loud in the woods, which spurred me on. I took the drop at the tightest but biggest point and landed well. I jumped everything, including a drop between some trees which I would never normally plan to jump and scared myself a bit! I was finally finished and could fire road it back to the start.
I handed in my timing chip, really hoping I was about half way down in the results, and was shocked to find out at that point I was in 7th place in my age group! My final result was 22nd place out of 68 in my age group, meaning I finished in the top third. I handed back a muddy bike which although is very nice, is not the bike for me (saving myself a fortune!).
This was by far the most enjoyable race I have ever done, but the most exhausting. I was so nervous going there because although Jason was marshalling, I was going to have a full day of racing to do on my own. However, I think it’s safe to say I’m hooked and next year I’ll be doing the full series of races. Main lessons learned are not to ride the full course in practice, and to aim for a good finish position not just to survive! The only picture I have of the day is just after the giant puddle on my practice run, where my face shows exactly what I was thinking at that point… I don’t think I can do this!!

Craggy Island Triathlon by Amy Wheldrake

The last Triathlon of my 2017 Season; The Craggy Island Triathlon. A unique cross triathlon which starts with a sea swim (500m) to the Island of Kerrera, just off the coast of Oban. On the Island there are no roads, so there is a mountain bike ride (14k) and a trail run (8K). This triathlon was rated as being one of the best in the UK, so I had high expectations

There had been a bit of a false start to this weekend. My mountain bike had been stolen (amongst other things) after my garage was burgled just a week beforehand and despite my insurance company being pretty speedy; unfortunately they were not quite speedy enough.

The organisers were super helpful, suggested some potential bike hire places and said I was more that welcome to just do a swim-run. After not being able to hire a bike, I had made peace with only doing a swim-run, I thought never mind it would still be fun. Then I saw all the other competitors getting on the ferry to the island to registration and transition with their mountain bikes and felt sad.

At registration when I pick up my dibber (the race uses a dibber system like that in orienteering rather that timing chips), I explained I was the person who had emailed about my bike and was just going to swim and run. Without hesitation one of the volunteers of a similar height (sorry I didn’t get a name) offered to lend me one. As an optimist I had taken my helmet along for should some miracle like this occurred and it did! I did a short ride towards transition on the bike, got it racked and set up my transition area. Joy! Hurray! What a strike of luck! I could now do the full race.

However, on the ferry ride back to the mainland (where the swim start is) the anxiety set in. I was about to race a pretty gnarly, chewed up mountain bike course on a bike I had had zero practise on, had not completed a course recce or even studied the route. Plus having fully intended on just having a short swim followed by a trail run I had sampled some very good Scottish whiskey last night. Was my bike being stolen, the bad luck I’d had with sourcing a replacement all been the universes way of telling me I shouldn’t do this ride? Was I about to break both collar bones and both legs and some kind strangers bike? What on earth was I thinking? So it was safe to assume I was quite anxious before the swim start.

Race briefing time. The water was 14.5C, nothing daunting there; I’ve raced in around 15C all year. There was no wind so it felt quite mild. Weather-wise it had rained and was quite misty and dull. I was taking part in the Sunday race, the second day of the race, so the course had already been churned up.

Then my first sea swim; across the Sound of Kerrera. Less than 60 seconds in a boom a full kick to my right eye. Could not see a darn thing and was expecting to emerge from the sea looking like the elephant man to gasps and people running away in terror. Quite the opposite. Whilst staggering up the jetty, there was bagpipes playing. I removed my goggles and felt that my eyeball was still where it was supposed to be, this and realising I wasn’t actually that far back, along with the cheering crowd numbed my eye pain.

After a relatively quick transition, as some people got fully changed, and I mean fully changed (an eyeful of a different type) I was out onto the bike course. This was OK to start, a bit of a climb heading out but nothing too scary, the first descent wasn’t too bad either. This built my confidence and reminded me how much I love mountain biking! The course quickly got muddier, more uneven and challenging and I was certainly playing it safe. Mountain biking in comparison to road cycling is worlds apart. Mountain biking uses muscles you dont even know you have when road cycling, requiring much more upper body and core strength and having spent all summer on my triathlon bike, I had forgotten all this. Being on an un-familiar bike and on a torn up course I had no shame in walking some of the more technical bits. While walking one of the very muddy sections I saw a man take quite a tumble, on asking if he was OK I also took a mud slide right down the hill and had to scramble back up it for the bike. After my mud slide my hands were covered in mud and my wet muddy tri suit did not provide a suitable wiping surface, so after this just holding the handlebars was a challenge.  I made it back to transition in one piece, though unrecognisable for all the mud.

The run was incredible! Mainly because I am a lover of mud and there was plenty of it! There was quite a steep uphill, some parts requiring all fours to clamber up. I got stuck in a bog, knee deep, at this point I got over taken by not one but two women, in a normal triathlon this would have been a kick up the butt to sort it out and get a move on, but to be honest I was having too much fun. After the bog there was a stream, which I managed to end up in waist deep, this was quite welcome as it washed some of the mud off.

When I wasn’t stuck in mud I was taking in the views, which were incredible. At the top of the hills you had full views of the bays below, over the Island, mainland Scotland and across to what I think was the Isle of Mull. I took just a few seconds to take it all in, before concentrating on where I was putting my feet again, or I could have taken a very nasty tumble over the edge. The last 2-3K of the run is on a trail that follows the coast. On this bit I was feeling awesome and managed to increase my pace and take back a couple of places.

In almost every triathlon I have ever done I have experienced a mental battle, usually around a third of the way into the run. At this point I usually hate everything, my legs, running, triathlon, but I didn’t experience this during this race. The setting was so picturesque and unique all I could think was how I already wanted to do it again.

I wasn’t fast. I didn’t expect to be. I didn’t even expect to be able to complete the full race (with no bike) but I did and I had a fantastic time. Possibly the most enjoyable race I have ever done. It was the perfect end to a brilliant season, one that I have trained the most I ever trained ever following a structured training plan. Qualified for GB Age Group, completed my first half Ironman and made the decision to try a full Ironman in 2018. The weather and the mud just added to the magic of the race.

Next day notes: My eye is quite swollen. I do not love the mud quite so much when I am cleaning it off my kit.