Triathlon Relays… all the fun of a 24 hour race, condensed

Triathlon Relays… all the fun of a 24 hour race, condensed

So, last Saturday saw me take part in something I have never experienced before: The National Triathlon Relays at The National Watersports Centre near Nottingham. 
On arrival, the field already resembled the organised chaos I am used to from large scale events, so we all got parked up and then shouldered kit bags and bikes to find the club gazebo. The event area was more unusual: gazebos scattered around the main area like territorial statements. Close to the event village of a 24 hour race, but with less sense of prolonged expectation. The buzz was already immense, as there were still people racing from the morning session. We set up our base camp and waited for the rest of our teams to arrive- 11 teams of 4 people in total. 
Anticipation started to rise as the time for the first person from each team to set off. Now, this is where the format is totally different to any form of relay I have ever done as a runner. In each 4, every person has the same number, but a different letter. Our team was 286, I was B. this meant that I was the second person to go for each leg. We each had a timing chip and the first team member had a rubber wrist band, to be passed between us as we handed over. All clear so far…
So, Shayne was first to swim for our team, “The Wright Stuff”. He waited at the entry to the swim, whilst all the second swimmers waited behind a barrier… now, this was fine. Yes, it was hot. Yes, we all felt like boil-in-the-bag sausages, but we cheered and clapped as they set off. I then looked around. Ah, yes… a lot of people all dressed in black rubber with identical white hats… with our counterparts about to exit the water looking similarly identical in red hats. Hmmmm, how to identify someone you’ve just met based on no clear features… yep, that’s right: lots of scanning for approximate size and gender and then a lot of shouting of names. A lot. From everyone. It was a very odd experience. Once I had the wrist band I scooted off into the water to do the 500m lap. Easy enough, even if it did involve the added obstacles of people doing heads-up breast stroke, stopping to sight and generally being in the way. Swim time could have been better had I realised just how short it was and that the rest afterwards means you don’t have to keep anything back for the bike, but I was reasonably pleased with it considering I don’t do sprinting.
Then it was a case of get back to base, get bike kit on and wait for my turn on the bike leg. It was a hot day, so hanging around in a wet tri-suit was not an issue and it was a luxury to be able to eat and drink properly between legs. After some time in the shade, the B people went down to the bike changeover to watch the A cyclists doing their laps and to wait for the handover. The bike consisted of 3 laps around the lake at the Watersports Centre, each lap approx. 5km. We tried to guess which lap our team members were on and kept an eagle eye on those coming into the transition area. Again, not so easy when a lot of people were wearing similar kit and helmets tend to look very similar… eventually I spotted my esteemed leader coming in and fought my way to the hay bales… rubber band on, I clip-clopped to my bike and was away, joining the flow like an F1 car coming out of the pit lane (just not as fast). My 3 laps were fine. No need to change gears due to the flatness of the course, good straights to build speed and the breeze caused by cycling helped to stave off the heat. My usual issues of movement and counting were overcome with focus on which number lap I was on, which was made easier still by the fact that there was not a lot else to do. I was overtaken by the super speedy (TT bikes and very fast riders), but was pleased that I overtook quite a few myself each lap. Coming into the handover area was another treat – after dismount, the lovely people take the bike while the band is handed over (to the wonderful Eric). Then the transition elves deliver the bike to the exit of the transition area and I returned to the gazebo. Again, plenty of time to eat, tend to a blister, visit the facilities and generally have a bit of a chat before we headed to the final area – the run changeover pen. Now, this was more familiar territory. It resembled a smaller version of the runner handover areas at 24 hour races, with expectant team members watching intently for their runner coming in and working out strategy. I was mainly trying to swat flying ants, praying for rain and hoping that the run would just pass without me having to actually experience it. 5k. Not my favourite distance. In fact, the distance at which I experience the desire to stop, throw up and generally find something else to do for two thirds of it. So, imagine my joy as a very hot, tired Shayne approached the pen and I set off. 
My knees complained for about 400m. Then my body realised that it was hot and turned its attention to this issue. I ploughed on. I focussed on making sure it felt horrible and uncomfortable at all points, as this would mean I was running at a reasonable pace. The first long straight was the worst in terms of mental endurance. The end of the lake didn’t seem to get any closer, it was hot and keeping the legs going at a decent cadence required effort. I overtook some people, which surprised and pleased me in equal measure. Then we turned along the top of the lake and hit the long straight that would lead into the handover pen. I was trying to pick a point at which to kick… wondering if I had anything left considering I had been pushing from the start. The sun kept appearing, scorching the face and making it even harder to find the reserves needed. Eventually, the pen came into view and I realised I didn’t have much to give, so just held on until I finally got the band onto Eric’s wrist and almost collapsed as I stumbled to get some water. That was it, my part in the story was done and I was fairly pleased with my efforts. 
Once it was all done, we came 6th out of the 11 teams there for the club and that was ok. Not as bad as it could have been… What I took from the experience was the sense of an event that is an interesting way to test at each discipline without the worry of transition. If I were to do it again, I would definitely push harder on the swim and bike because of this. It was good to push because of the sense that others relied on your performance, and also the support that they gave was great. It also allowed me to meet members of the club that I didn’t know. It was an interesting, quirky and fun event that brought together lots of local clubs (great to see some old faces from Cov Tri there). The thing that struck me most was how quickly it was over. For all the build up, excitement and buzz, the event itself was fairly swift and before I knew it, I was heading home for a well earned beer and a terrible game of rugby.
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Rollin’ rollin’ rollin’…

Rollin’ rollin’ rollin’…

Over the past few weeks I have been desperately trying to put together the elements of my training… a half-iron distance looming on the horizon certainly focuses the mind as well as the body…
As part of this panic, er, preparation, I have been trying to get more miles on my bike- to get my muscles used to it, to practise fuelling and also to try and get quicker! Lonely miles on the bike are all well and good, but sometimes I yearn for new routes that I don’t have to worry about (main roads, wrong turns…etc), so for this reason I signed up to do the Lutterworth Rotary ride last Sunday from Misterton Hall.
The day was perfect riding weather – not too hot, not windy and dry. People and bike assembled at the start and end point – Misterton Hall – a lovely little oasis next to Junction 19 of the M1 at Lutterworth. It was glorious to see such an array of people and types of bike on show, with a choice of routes offering something accessible for all. The 11 mile route was suitable for accompanied children, the 23 a slightly bigger challenge, the 39 miler was the option I had gone for and then there was a 62 mile option, which was tempting, but I decided that I didn’t want to risk it if not many were doing it – I should really have done it, though, as the signage was perfect!
We could set off at any point from 9.30am once registered and all routes went left from the hall, along the cycle path before joining the road and taking a right towards Swinford. I had slotted into a group of gentlemen from Nuneaton, social riders that were also doing the 39. We chatted a bit about the course (they had done it before) and before long, the turn for the 11 mile loop came and went. We sailed through Stanford, Clay Coton and Yelvertoft, turning towards Cold Ashby. I had gone ahead of the group, but didn’t want to slow down, so carried on through Cold Ashby, on towards Naseby. On the hill towards the village, I was aware of someone on my wheel and offered that they could pass, but it was one of the Nuneaton contingent, Justin, who had caught me up as the other two were happily plodding along at a pace he found too slow. As we passed through Naseby (past the sign for the 62, which tempted me temporarily, until I realised that I had prepared for 39 miles in terms of water and fuel, and so I let the junction go.
From Naseby we entered territory that is less familiar to me – villages I had not heard of and some fantastically rolling hills (in retrospect fantastic, evil on the way up some of them on the day!). We went through Sibbertoft, Theddingworth, Mowsley and Saddington (an entire raft of places I had not experienced before, which is always a joy). We then turned towards Ashby Magna and headed back towards Gilmorton and the final few miles to the finish. There were a fair few riders ahead now, but I had no desire or energy to push hard enough to catch them.
As we turned into Walcote, we joined a bridleway into the back of Misterton Hall – an interesting way to end a very enjoyable ride. As I relaxed on the beautifully manicured lawn, eating some wonderful roast pig, I reflected that I felt good. I could have fuelled a little better (especially if I were to go further), my legs felt good and I was not in pieces. I could have easily (well, relatively) run a few miles without incident afterwards, which is an important consideration.
So, I look ahead at 2 weeks where I need to get more miles in on the bike, get my fuelling spot on and realise that I can do this.
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Back in the saddle

Back in the saddle

So, it is no secret that my return to triathlon was causing some concern after a terrible performance at the Aquathlon last weekend… this was compounded by a tummy bug mid-week which pretty much put pay to the “eat healthily and heartily” preparation. By Friday I was a nervous wreck – my body felt under-prepared and my mind was wandering freely through all the worst-case scenarios my fertile imagination could concoct. Sunday dawned and I just wanted to get on with it. No nerves, no excitement, just fear.

As I drove to Pitsford Water to assembly the kit ready for the carnage, I didn’t really feel anything. I had slept well, I had eaten well for a couple of days and was surprisingly calm driving along and singing lustily to Frank Turner. This would be fine. Time would pass and it would be over. Excellent.

My first challenge was trying to recall how the hell to set up in transition. More than 5 years has elapsed since I last had to lay 2 pairs of shoes, race belt, helmet etc etc out on a small rectangle of ground next to my bike… ah, yes, my bike. I have recently purchased a shiny new, lightweight bike. It is a thing of beauty, but not set up in time for today’s adventure, so I was to rely on the lovely Claud. He (yes, I assign gender and names to my equipment) is an old man. When I bought him new over 5 years ago, he was very high spec… and with some tlc and coaxing was in good condition to be thrown into the ring. 

Transition sorted, wetsuit donned and dodgy swim hat in place, we listened attentively to the briefing. The swim looked straight forward (my fears here were water temperature and wave height – Pitsford is renowned for having white caps!), the bike was to be well marked and the run was simply a lap of the lake – something I have done far too often! We wished each other good luck and tentatively toed into the water. Hurrah, it was warm! A depp water start meant a chance to warm up the arms and legs a bit before the off, and then it was a mild frenzy of arms and legs. The swim was perfect – not the quickest ever, but warm, calm and easy to navigate (I can get lost in a small lake). A few swimmers were getting excited and weaving wonderfully to and fro across the lake, some even delightfully taking a short cut across me. This is where I am grateful for a lot of open water practice – I plodded on regardless. Before long, we were heading for the exit ramp and were helpfully guided out by a couple of friendly marshals. Instead of trying to run and undo my wetsuit (it’s been too long, and I knew I would fall over), I walked up to transition, removing the top half and remembering all the advice I have ever been given on a graceful, simply removal of tight neoprene… which I then disregarded and wrestled the thing off like it was attacking me. Race belt, helmet, shoes all on, I trotted off to the mount line – about 200m away. Once mounted (again, opting for the old lady going to the shops mount), I was off. Up, out of Pitsford Water and left along the A508. A left at Brixworth saw us onto smaller, more country roads. It was lovely. These were roads I knew well from long adventures on two feet rather than two wheels, but it was a different view speeding along (relative) and enjoying the fact that Claud seemed to be having a good day. Now, I had been warned that there were some hills on the course, which is understandable. I have run many of them. Swearing. However, I am struggling to recall a hill that caused me any issues. My legs were tight, but they felt strong, and I even dabbled with staying on the big ring for some of them (encouraged by last weekend’s training performance when the gears got stuck!). Yes, I was over taken by many in the first half of the bike – that is a standard I am used to, but by 25-30k I was pulling people in, overtaking some that had passed me earlier and reeling in those that had already been ahead. Now, I’m not claiming any great bike prowess here, I just think that my ultra mentality of “start steady and you’ll get there” won out over those that had gone out too hard. The other trick that I was proud of was my nutrition. Reading back through accounts of ultras and marathons, where I have failed miserably to adequately fuel and therefore having a bad day at the office, has taught me that when I can, I need to shove as much nutrition into my body as possible. For this I had bought a top bar bag and crammed it with bars, jelly babies and a gel. I even had a strategy – energy bar early on, followed by jelly babies at intervals as well as drink – the gel was for the start of the run. Blimey, it’s like I can learn from my own experience or something… so, with a well-fuelled body and a brain ticking off all the things I was doing right, the miles passed until I was cruising back down towards the lake and the final piece of the puzzle… a 10k run.

I have never done an Olympic distance triathlon before, so how my legs would respond to running 10k after 40k on the bike was new territory. I know my legs can carry me a very long way, so that was my mental anchor point. After a slightly more graceful T2, I wobbled out onto the run. Anyone who has never tried to coordinate running legs after a long bike ride need to picture what it would be like to suddenly have an extra leg attached and lead weights around the ankles. Add to that the fact the brain is desperately trying to get a whole new set of muscles to fire, which really do not want to be involved, thank you very much. With this beautiful flailing of limbs, the first 2k were a mess. Not just for me, judging my the varying strides, shuffles and grimaces I was very much not alone in my pain. However, to my surprise, I found my stride and picked up a pretty good pace, with legs that started to feel good. Yes, good!! I had a chat with a lovely bloke from Wootton and then carried on down the long side of Pitsford (as a loop, it has a long side and a short side – glad we started on the long!). I was enjoying myself. I kept having to question my sanity and whether I was still conscious (it occurred to me that I may have passed out somewhere and this was a beautiful dream), but the kilometres kept passing and I kept feeling fine. I stopped (ultra running protocol) for a drink of water at about 6k and then pootled on my way – still over-taking people! It is a strange feeling to be reminded that I have been a runner for quite some time in such an interesting way. I would never have bet that it would be the strength of a triathlon! Eventually, the final kilometre beckoned and I kicked up a little, more as a test than any serious racing drive. Again, I overtook a couple of people (always feel a bit guilty for doing that at the end of a race) and smiled as I crossed the line. 

I would love to be able to adequately express the emotions I experienced at the end, but my vocabulary (and quite possibly the language) does not stretch far enough to do it justice. I was happy (no, ecstatic… overjoyed), in a state of disbelief, surprise, doubt… what had just happened? Surely I hadn’t just done well at my first Oly? Not only that, did I really feel this ok? I received my printout and had a brief chat with members of Rugby Tri… but I needed some time to absorb. The printout said it all – I had done ok. In fact, possibly more than ok. 

The chore of packing up transition and then heading home allowed time to further ponder. Yes, it had been hard, don’t get me wrong on that. What was really getting my cogs whirring was the fact that I had loved it. Genuinely, every painful moment, every hill, every smack in the face…loved it. I also felt good. Too good. This started the perennial “should I have pushed harder?” questioning… but I knew that my main aim here had been to enjoy the ride (literally and metaphorically)… and that had been achieved by the bucket load. My mind now turns to September… a little middle distance jaunt that had been looming like a black cloud on the horizon, but now I know that (as long as training continues on course and I can refrain from too much stupidity (only 1 ultra planned), I could well do ok at that as well… interesting, eh?

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Never trust "flat" in Derbyshire…

Never trust “flat” in Derbyshire…

 So, since my rash decision to return to the world of triathlon, I have discovered whole new levels to my (lack of) fitness. Swimming has been fine (you’d hope so, as I’ve been doing it since I could walk), but the bike was proving the tricky part…on this basis, I booked an Aquathlon event for last Sunday (5th July), thinking that a bit of practise swimming then running would be a good little warm up and it was a bargain to enter. And so the countdown was on for the Wild Cat Aquathlon at Matlock Bath… a “flat” swim in the River Derwent – I quote “like a mill pond” followed by a looped run with a couple of small “climbs”. Great. What could go wrong?

Sunday dawned and I had the fantastic mix of nerves and excitement that precede any event worthy of mention. I double and triple checked I had everything needed (I am unfortunately known for forgetting certain essentials… like my wetsuit), packed up the car and set off for Matlock Bath, a part of Derbyshire I had not yet experienced. It was overcast and cooler than it had been, which was a blessing. 

Entering the small town, I was taken by how cute and touristy it was – perfectly geared to the bikers who poured through it, even at 8.30 on a Sunday morning. I parked up and went in search of registration. Matlock Bath is a very interesting little place – set in the valley by the Derwent, it is flanked by enormous cliffs, with the Heights of Abraham on one side and Willersley castle somewhere on the other. in the middle meanders the River Derwent – a leisurely river up until a weir a little further downstream. Picture perfect. 

Registration was easy – there were only a few competitors for each course- and I got my swim hat and run number. After some faffing and a cup of tea (it’s really not an event if you can’t have a cup of tea), I placed my things into transition… and this is where I began my wobbles. I remember transition from years ago… but for some reason I had forgotten every good piece of advice given or received. I had my kit and laid it out in a sensible fashion, but there were people lubing up all over the place, young children with plastic bags on their feet to make it easier to put on the wetsuit… everyone looked so professional and ready! I did my own routine of wriggling into black neoprene, which would normally only be acceptable in some of the more exclusive member’s clubs of a certain type… and waiting for the briefing: 3 laps of a 500m swim course followed by 2 laps of the run course. Gotcha. Easy. Right?

The first challenge was maintaining any facade of civilised calm when entering the river. Despite the website warning that it rarely got above 15 degrees in the summer, it was a shock after some tropical swims in Box End. It was cold. I mean, shallow breaths and numb face cold. The next issue was the current. Now, I know it sounds obvious, it being a river and all that, but when described as “a mill pond”, you don’t expect to have to keep swimming back to the start before the off. And so, with these small issues plaguing me, the thrashing chaos of a mass start ensued and I realised I was struggling to get breath into my body. Cue head up arm flailing while I desperately tried to get the blood moving to warm me up enough to breathe and swim normally. A split appeared in the group – them at the front and us at the back. I refused to be last out of the water, so I gave it my all. This was a particular challenge swimming back up the river, against the flow. It was exhausting. There was a man close to me, who had tried hard to stay ahead of me for a while, but his erratic swerving and collisions with me meant I pushed on to get ahead of him, leading to a short section where he tussled (yes, it was a tussle); there was a leg pull (not in the idiomatic sense), a hand smack and a full-on arse smack. Needless to say, I kicked hard and got away from him – he was either incompetent (and that’s rich coming from me and the troubles I was having with river swimming!) or some sort of weird fetishist, who perhaps had mistaken me for someone else. I managed to put a good 200m between us by the time I reached the exit point, clambering onto the stone steps and attempting to remember how to walk.

Tottering into transition, I fumbled shoes, donned tri belt and was just swerving my way out again when the rubber-clad demon sped past me. Demoralised and despondent that the arse-smacker had gone ahead, I focussed on not falling over fresh air or hitting one of the many tourists now swarming the main street of the town. Considering they had seen dozens of similarly damp and number-clad runners before me, they seemed shocked to find another weaving her manic way along the High Street. At one stage, the paranoia got too much and I pointed out to one elderly couple that I wasn’t last… I’m not sure they took the intended literal meaning.

Anyway, after a flat and fairly good stretch along the main street, I turned to follow the arrows up into the wooded park and paths on the cliffs above the town. Up. Yes, there was a deal of that. After turning to face another set of steps, I realised the extent of my faux-pas: I had entered the most sadistic fell race imaginable. Disorientated still by the swim, I pushed on, relishing the downhill and the wonderful flat along by the river again… but something was playing on my mind… they had mentioned a section around the castle. I may not be an expert, but I know castles tended to be built higher up, away from the peasants and marauders… and so inevitably, there came another climb. This one was not so bad; not so steep. However, there was something other worldly about the place that made me doubt whether I had actually slipped into unconsciousness and was dreaming the whole thing: lush swathes of different shades of green intertwined above and below, the floor was carpeted in soft moss, mounded over smooth rocks and ferns of every type poked from rocks, trees and other ferns. It was a faerie kingdom, and I knew I needed to have a gel.

With some carbs inside me, I started to come back to reality – flat road leading out from the castle and back along to jink in by the river for a stretch again, before leading out onto the road back into Matlock Bath. Easy, I could do that again. Good job, as I still had one to do. I found out that I was not last, that there were 2 runners behind me (oh, the shame!), so I made an effort to be less of a wuss and push on. The second round was better. Much better. I recognised the route, but as though I had dreamt it the first time (this is not an unusual feeling for me). The ascents were tough, but not dizzying (it was still fell race territory, albeit with steps) and I bounded down with much more vigour than the first time. The faerie kingdom was still evident, and I marvelled that it had retained its magic. I pushed up the hills and pounded down again. The flat was tough, my legs were lead weights welded with iron to my stone butt, however, nothing was going to make me walk now. Through gritted teeth, dragging (literally) my sorry ass along the road to the finish, I bemused a pack of D of E types standing around looking lost. I bore down on the turn into the finish and was surprised that people clapped me in… maybe it was the surprise that someone was still out there. It took a few minutes for my head to register I had stopped and that I should do something more useful than standing and looking about me, so I jellied (valid description) over to gather my things together. I smiled and clapped at the awards ceremony and was pleased to see the other runner come in after me, although not to find out she was a relay team member and so would not be on my list…

Driving back and reflecting on my experience was varied. A blood sugar dip forced a pit stop on the M1 and realised I had worked a lot harder than I had given myself credit for. In fact, it has taken until today for me to truly acknowledge that, even though I felt like I had done badly and was about as fit as an asthmatic sloth, I knew that this had been my first multi sport event in 5 years. When I was a lot younger. And had trained a lot harder. So, with that and the wonderful comfort given to me by lovely people, along the lines of these events attracting those that can do well and win prizes at them; I took my hits, the nauseating swim, the ass-slapping and the delirious fell running and cut myself some slack today. Sunday will be tough, but I will get round, because of all the things I am (keep those to yourself), I refuse to just give up because it was hard. Even if I am last, I will finish and learn my lessons and move on, because the best mantra I have gained from running ultras is: relentless forward progress.

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Back to the bike…

Back to the bike…

After a slow slide back towards the dark side of triathlon, I took to my road bike for the first time in years. The trepedation grew steadily during the week, whilst Claud (my metro-sexual yellow stead) was being tweaked and caressed at the bike shop. This reached a crescendo on Saturday evening when I realised it had been 4 years since I had pedalled in cleats on tarmac… leading to abysmal visions of me lying in a ditch by the side of a road being prised from my bike by a member of the public. Sunday morning dawned and I decided the best course of action was to head out alone rather than slow down a group or be an embarrassment to anyone that knows me.

The ride began trepedatiously, heading towards Clifton and not really knowing where it was I was heading. The first junction did not result in serious injury or humiliation, so I ploughed on with renewed gusto. Across the A5 towards Lilbourne, taking a left turn to head towards Catthorpe. It was only once in Catthorpe I realised there was nowhere sensible for me to go from there, so I turned around and headed back towards Lilbourne.

In the village, I took a left towards Stanford and weaved through the roads and lanes around Elkington, Stanford and Yelvertoft before heading back through Lilbourne. Now, as some people may know, I had lost my cycling mojo to the degree that I was really NOT looking forward to the experience of a prolonged period of time sitting on it and battling weather, traffic and SPDs… however, I can report that I only experienced a handful of cars during the ride, the weather was wet, but not the worst and I seemed to have got the hang of being welded to the pedals. A few thoughts did occur to me in the midst of my cycling rebirth: I really need to work on my hills (both running and bike!); I need to buy some smaller cycling shorts to avoid feeling as though I am cycling in a lycra sack stuffed with a duvet, and as much as I adore my own company and can entertain myself for hours, riding in the wet on road would probably be better with company.

As I carried Claud back into the flat, I knew I was going to have to go out for a run to make the most of the session, and so after a few Haribos, I strapped on my Salomons and took my sore butt and heavy legs back out into the rain… where I remembered vividly the pain of trying to coordinate already sore muscles into firing in a totally different way to the previous hour and a half. The mile I covered was not fast and it certainly was not pretty, but it was a mile after cycling for 22, so that made me feel ok about it.

There will be another experiment to see if I can upset more muscles later in the week… until which time I hope to get rid of the overwhelming need for sleep that has gripped me since eating my lunch. I can’t remember tri training being THIS hard… maybe 4 years is a longer time than it feels.

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Hill training- it doesn't have to be torture!

Hill Training- it doesn’t have to be torture!

As those of you that have read previous posts from me will know, I am not a fan of running up hills. I adopt the trail/ ultra mentality that they provide the opportunity to gather, eat and conserve some much needed energy for running back down.

However, the benefits of hill training are huge. Repeated runs up and down a good enough gradient helps to build muscle endurance, strength and CV capacity. Not to mention the mental benefits of knowing that you can do it, if you choose to.

So, for the past 2 weekends I have headed off to do hills in 2 different forms; knowing that I have a couple of slightly hilly events coming up in North Yorkshire and Wales.

Last weekend (a Bank Holiday, which is always a bonus to have an extra day to recover) we went to one of my favourite places: The Peak District. Parking in Baslow, it was a generous climb up onto Curbar edge, with jogging and walking to warm up as our legs grew accustomed to gradients that we only get round here on car park exit ramps.  The day was overcast, with drizzle at the top, although this did not ruin the impact of the stunning view from the top of Curbar Edge. My love affair with the Peaks is torn between different areas, with a tough contest between the White and Dark Peak split. The views as we trotted along the edge towards Froggatt were difficult to beat on a gloomy Sunday, though. Attempting to reignite my running/navigating skills ready for events later in the year, I was a little disappointed that we over-shot the turn first time round by about 2k. It was a beautiful trot, though, so no-one was going to complain too much. As we turned around to try and hit the right trail to take us back down into the valley, I once again managed a slight navigational hiccough- taking us down an interesting bouldering drop for about 100m. Once this had been negotiated, we were back on the trail and it was obvious where my OS Map blindness (a real medical problem) had occurred. The drop down off the edge was fantastic, rocky trail through the woods rapidly descending to the valley floor, where it was a skip across fields to meet the river and a relaxing flat run back into the village of Calver, where we would head back up to the Edge. 

After 1 loop of this it was obvious that it was a tough route and so the plan was to do 1 more complete loop and then run the route back down into Baslow as the final part. The climb was the clincher – a hands on knees, pumping legs, screaming glutes climb that makes you question why you weren’t driving up the damned thing like everyone else seemed to be.

Anyway, the second loop was actually more enjoyable, as we knew the route and there was no pressure to go at a certain speed (there was a definite speed split once we got to the top), which meant I could potter along at my own pace and enjoy the views. It is one of the best advantages of trail running versus road – the views tend to be better and offer some solace to the pain the body is feeling to get to see them. On this loop I decided to be a bit more daring on the way down (coming down hills is as technical as going up, and to do it quickly as well as efficiently you have to think about it!) and bounced between, across and over the rocks to get down to the rolling fields at the bottom.

The stretch along the river was beautiful, and offered the chance to take some pictures and revel in the freedom of running in such clean air.

We regrouped at the bottom of the climb and girded our loins (almost literally) for the climb back up to the top. The combined efforts of 2 climbs and 2 descents were now telling in the legs and glutes, with various protestations from muscle groups not used to the steep elevation after a few months off crazy events! The feeling of dragging up the hill was compounded by the fact that several walkers were heading down in the opposite direction, all carrying cups of coffee. Apparently there was a coffee wagon in the car park over the hill, which was tempting, but I decided to promise myself a tea once we were back down in Baslow.  This renewed optimism for what might be waiting at the finish drove me onto the top, where I had a handful of dried mango and then continued the undulating path back to the trail that would drop into Baslow… which was more fun than I have had running for a while! Due to the fact that my knees are currently behaving much better (well done them), I was able to attack the drop down with a vigour last seen on a fell somewhere last year. Remembering to keep my head up, my stride short and my weight on the forefoot, I frolicked (no better word to describe it) down the path, much to the amusement of some of the families walking up. It was a tough day out, with some beneficial training had, but overall it was a lovely day out that happened to include some running… and it planted the seed that I needed more hill training in my life.

Forward to today (Sunday) and a small but determined group of nutters gathered on a hill at the back of the country park section of Draycote. Armed with waterproofs, drinks and weights (yes, actual weights from the gym), we prepared to do as many hills as we felt were right for us. I opted for a 5kg weight in my pack, joined with a few coats etc for padding. Now, as much as this sounds like torture of a very specific kind, it was not as bad as it sounds. For me, it was the chance to refamiliarise myself with running with a full pack; for the others it boosted the impact of the training- making their muscles work harder and forcing their CV systems to push more to get the extra weight up the hill. After 10 reps with the pack, I dropped it to do 5 reps on the longer hill – pushing up as well as skipping down. Then the pack was put back on for another 20 short hills- 10 running, then 10 walking with purpose, mixed in with backwards and alternate sprints (if you have never tried a steep hill backwards, give it a go… it is a very interesting experience!).

After this glorious experience in the rain, we did a gentle 5 mile lap to get the legs used to pushing though the pain and getting the muscles working differently.

So, my concluding thoughts as I sit and wonder how long my dinner is going to take (hills make you hungry!); although I will probably never run full pelt up a hill during a long event, I certainly have enough in me to do it for bursts in shorter events… the test will be in 2 weeks when I put this training into effect on the moors of the Rosedale half marathon.

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Say Good morning with a boom…

Say Good morning with a boom…


Say good morning and wake up your senses with an apple and ginger shot!
Very easy to do one thumb or bigger of ginger(peeled) 2 small apples or one big one

buzz them through and hey presto!
There’s your healthy morning wake up
Call…now time for your coffee if you still want it…enjoy and try it….

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No time for juicing? Ever tried supergreeens?

No time for juicing? Ever tried supergreeens?


So what are these? Well 2 are Spirulina and Chlorella..(sounds like cleaning products I know but read on!)
Spirulina and chlorella are among the most popular freshwater microalgae because they are extremely rich in chlorophyll, which is the green pigment vital for photosynthesis that is found in all plants.
Spirulina is blue-green algae because of the pigments in the cell wall which are chlorophyll and phycocyanin. Chlorella is a lighter green, round shaped algae that is about 2 to 10 micrometers in diameter. Spirulina and chlorella both have a very “green and fishy” taste and are added to juices or smoothies for an extra nutritional boost, so most people find them pretty hard to digest on there own…you can add lemon juice to it to sweeten it..or I like to use my BCAAs to take the edge off of the rather natural taste shall we call it!


Both algae are extremely high in complete protein which is more easily digested than animal protein. Spirulina and chlorella are rich in vitamins C, E and all B vitamins, including B12 which is rarely found in plants. Both algae contain high contents of macro minerals including, calcium, magnesium, zinc, and potassium. They also provide an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids including GLA, mucopolysaccharides, beta-carotene and nucleic acids (RNA and DNA).

So complete are they with nutrients that it is believed that people can live just on these algae alone for an extended length of time.


Alkaline: Spirulina and chlorella have very good alkalinity and is beneficial in counter-acting acidic foods, therefore, balancing the body’s pH. Consuming more alkaline foods is linked to a healthier immune system.

Anti-inflammatory: Due to their rich nutrients, these algae foods are helpful for relieving inflammation as in the case of arthritis. Chlorella is even helpful for reducing symptoms of fatty liver, hepatitis, peptic ulcers and bacterial infections.

Arsenic poisoning: Researchers in Bangladesh conducted a three-month hospital study, where spirulina was given to 33 patients that were sick with arsenic poisoning and 17 patients received a placebo dose. 82 percent of the patients taking spirulina showed incredible improvements.

Candida: Spirulina has proven to encourage and support the growth of healthy bacterial flora in the gut which can help keep Candida overgrowth under control. Individuals suffering from autoimmune diseases, chronic fatigue syndrome, lupus or fibromyalgia often have bacterial overgrowth and may benefit from consuming this algae.

Sounds like a medicine you might get from the doctors! It’s that powerful!?

Cardiovascular health: The unique cell structure of mucopolysaccharides – easily digestible sugars and amino acids in spirulina is the reason for its ability to lower cholesterol and triglycerides, which helps prevent stroke and heart attack, wow it does sound powerful…

Detoxifying agent: Chlorella is a great way to detoxify the body of mercury poisoning and protects against radiation. It contains a high amount of chlorophyll which is helpful in the detoxification process.

Spirulina, on the other hand, lacks a cell membrane so it is unable to remove heavy metals like chlorella can. However, it was successfully used in reducing sicknesses caused by radiation after the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl, Ukraine, in 1986, which makes it not super but our of this world!!

Enhance immunity: The powerful antioxidant content protects cells from damage. Studies have shown that spirulina stimulates the immune system to stop the development and spread of cancer cells. It has proven hopeful with inactivating the human immunodeficiency virus that is associated with HIV and AIDS.

Gut health: Both algae encourage a healthy digestive system by being health food to the beneficial bacteria and at the same time, keeping the pathogens (harmful micobes) under control. A healthy gut is a healthy immune system.

Health-building: The nutrients in these algae are useful for overall health-building: to balance blood sugar, brain chemistry, speed up healing and strengthen bones. They are pure and don’t need to be cooked.

Seasonal allergies: According to a research study, five patients that were treated with spirulina noticed a relief of symptoms that were commonly linked with allergic rhinitis, such as nasal discharge and congestion, itching and sneezing.

Vegetarians: Spirulina and chlorella have more complete protein than red meat or most plant sources of protein. Spirulina is about 65-71% complete protein, chlorella is 58% protein, whereas beef is only 22% and lentils are only 26% protein. Due to their rich vital amino acids and minerals you only need to consume about two tablespoons of the algae as a protein substitute for a meal.


Since microalgae take on their environment, it is important to ensure you are getting the purest quality.

Spirulina and chlorella come in the same dosage and are available in powder, tablet, or capsule form. However, they are best to be taken in powder form by including into your juices, smoothies and shakes.

Consume 3,000 mg daily as a preventive supplement or 10,000 to 20,000 mg per day as therapeutic supplement. You can mix spirulina or chlorella powder into a smoothie or sprinkled on top of a salad for an excellent nutritional boost.

So, should you take spirulina or chlorella? I would usually suggest chlorella but some people may not be able to tolerate chlorella, in which case spirulina might be the next best choice. You will need to try it to know.

A normal adult dosage:

Spirulina: Adult 6 – 10 gm a day / therapeutic 11 – 20 gm a day
Chlorella: Adult 3 – 4 gm a day / therapeutic 5 – 7 gm a day

Take note!


Sprirulina and chlorella are powerful detoxifier so it is important to start with a small dose and work your way up so that you can see how your body responds, and then gradually increase your dosage. Some detoxification reactions that can possibly occur when consuming these algae are: a low-grade fever, dark green waste, excessive gas, restlessness, breaks out or itchy skin, and or sleepiness.

These symptoms are temporary and are evidence that your body is responding to it. If you are pregnant, nursing or have hyperthyroidism you should discuss supplements with your health care provider.

So all in all can you really afford to be without these in your life??

I personally know of a friend who has eyesight problems and since they have been regularly using these there eyesight has got better…whilst there is no research to back this up, clearly these products have super powers and surely you cannot ignore them, so give them a it in your juices, raw if you can handle them, or maybe with a little something to take the pond taste away.


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Can Juicing can help recover from too much excess?

Can Juicing can help recover from too much excess?

Whilst I don’t condone excessive good living we all go over the top sometimes, the question is can detox juices help the body recover..well yes is the answer, though the real answer is not to go mad in the first place but I’m in the real world so here it is my honest blog!

After having a week away from normal life including an interesting trip to Istanbul, where incidentally they make juice just about on every corner, I’m trying out some detoxing and high nutrient value juices, why? Well I wasn’t sampling many of the juices they made but may have had a few too many of another local produce Efes & Raki & Red wine!!!… Probably a familiar story after many of your holidays/breaks/weekends…So I’m giving my body something back, something I think we should all do a little bit more

Forget Berroca and other chemical sugar laden drinks and cures they really are a stop gap, sticky tape way to a better healthy you…the kind of cures you need are below, I can’t go on enough about how we all lack good nutrition even when we try our best to be healthy, fresh is best and just what your body needs and craves. 

The juices of choice this week will Mainly include, Spinach, Cabbage, Cucumber, Ginger and Lemon, the juice this morning included all of the above and a pear just to take off the blandness and bitterness of some of the green produce, why? explained below…keep reading..

I’ve banged on enough about ginger in the past so wont bore you with that not for a few weeks anyway, but the other produce and benefits explained below, it’s all pretty important stuff so read carefully it might just benefit you, your health and your life..

So why spinach in your juices? well its considered a super food and I know that may be an over used term nowadays but read away and make your own choice, it is a good source of vitamins A, C, K, as well as dietary fiber, calcium and iron. Spinach also contains selenium, zinc, phosphorus, potassium, copper, omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6 and E.
Spinach is rich in antioxidants that may help protect against certain cancers of the stomach, skin, breast, prostate, ovaries and colon. Spinach is good for cardiovascular health and may help prevent heart attack and stroke. Anti-inflammatory properties may help with diseases such as asthma and rheumatoid arthritis. Spinach contains lutein, which may protect eye health. Studies suggest that eating spinach may help reduce the effects of age-related decline in brain function, something we all get concerned about, what was I talking about again!

In particular this week I wanted to try detox produce, cabbage is a good one and has cleansing properties due to their high content of glucosinolates , sulfur-containing compounds that are converted into active forms isothiocyanates and indoles all too complicated I hear your say what’s the benefits? Isothiocyanates may prevent cancer by promoting the elimination of potential carcinogens from the body so will assist in detoxing from the weekend blow outs! It is also high in Vitamin C&K & ½ cup has only 11 calories.
The enzyme that converts glucosinolates into its active compounds is destroyed by heat, so having cabbage raw in juices is an ideal way of taking in all of that cabbage yumminess ;)… I know its not everyone’s cup of tea but the detox benefits are not in doubt And its cheap!

Why Lemons?
One of the most potent detox foods around, lemons are packed with vitamin C are thought to help restore the alkaline-acid balance of the body, enabling us to more effectively remove dietary and environmental toxins,sounds kind of a cool fruit, Just remember when adding it to your juices to remove the skin or it will taste bitter and horrible! Just like lemon skin/pith!, a good reason for adding a lemon into your green juices is to give its some sweetness and complement the taste of raw garden produce into a nice tasty juice…

The Cucumber
This humble produce is more than the but of a few inappropriate jokes and I really could go on and on about it so here is just some of the benefits, Protect Your Brain, Reduce Your Risk of Cancer, Fight Inflammation,Antioxidant Properties, Freshen Your Breath,Manage Stress, Support Your Digestive Health, Maintain a Healthy Weight, Support Heart Health, all things that sound kind of important especially the 1st few…cucumbers make an ideal base for your vegetable juice due to their mild flavour and high water content. In fact, a simple juice of cucumber and celery is ideal for those new to juicing.

The benefits of this kind of produce are not in doubt and I don’t expect them to get me feeling 17 again after a few days, but definitely after two days my body feels better and healthier, so i’m hoping by the weekend I might feel 21! And maybe ready for a vino or two!, Give some or all of the produce a try and experiment in amount’s and different produce, just go easy on the ginger no more than a thumb size but feel free to experiment with the quantities of the others its all part of the fun…. So have fun and lead a way to a healthier you…too next time

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The Suffering

“The Suffering”…

I imagine to most people the word “suffering” would send them running for the hills. However, it is really not as terrifying as it sounds… It is a tough race, whatever distance you choose – be it The Suffering 5 (5k), The Suffering 10 (10k) or The Pain and Suffering (10 miles of obstacle running fun). The 5k is a good introduction to OCR, but with enough challenge to set it slightly apart from other “beginner friendly” races (think Wolf Run, Pandemonium etc.).

The challenge comes in different forms. Firstly, there’s the variety of obstacles, which is a refreshing change for a shorter distance OCR. Secondly, there’s the Reapers – no don’t hide- these are the lovely folk who marshal the course, but throw in some extra fun to help you enjoy your day and make each race a little bit different. The 5k, like all distances, has an element of fun, camaraderie and a buzzing atmosphere around the course and in the event village. An added bonus is the goodie bag at the end – among some of the finest on offer in the OCR community – a great tech t-shirt, a fab medal and all sorts of nutritional and healthy extras to make it all worthwhile. The 10k, as you would expect, is a little tougher. The Reapers get a little harder on you, the obstacles are more plentiful and a bit higher, deeper and stickier… and there are a couple of hills in the mix. Yes, they are real hills… hands on knees jobs with Reapers to make them feel a little bit steeper… but trust me, everyone is really supportive: if I cast my mind back to The Suffering last June, where 25 MFC members took part, we all kept an eye out for each other, encouraged and helped through the course (especially on those hills!). Running as a team is a special feeling, but also trust the fact that this sums up the OCR community as a whole and the ethos of the Suffering team.

For those that are looking to step up and to really test themselves, the Pain and Suffering 10 mile race will definitely tick all the relevant boxes. This course has been designed to take on all the elite races, such as Spartan Beast, Tough Mudder, Nuts etc etc, and without fail it hits the spot. If you fancy tackling a course full of obstacles, with even more variety (some of which you will wonder how they were dreamt up in the first place) and challenges, then this is for you. Don’t worry, though, it isn’t all torture and thick mud… there is an element of fun and everyone is supporting you every step of the way.

This year, even the race directors were around the course offering support, encouragement and wise-cracks to help people through the “suffering”. Everybody that has done any of the Suffering races through MFC have enjoyed the experience from beginning to end. From the 5k more gentle version of the chaos, through to the elite, hardcore Legends (those that do all 3 races back-to-back in a single weekend) the entire Suffering experience is one that gels with the training and ethos of the MFC family. So, what you’ve got to ask yourself is: With a 20% discount available to MFC members, an incredible atmosphere with loads of MFC members already signed up, and the potential that you will feel frustrated, sad and left out if you see those amazing pictures of everyone crossing the line with huge smiles on their faces…why haven’t I signed up already?!

As an added bonus this year; there is camping on site, a huge party with DJs, live bands and barbecue! So, what better way to spend a summer weekend than with your wonderful MFC family enjoying your fitness gains and goals; celebrating everyone’s achievements at an awesome set of races?

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