Friday, 16 January 2015

First Attempts Cyclo-Cross

This winter I decided to have a go at a new sport: Cyclo-Cross. I had heard of it before, but I didn't really know much about it. I thought it was a mixture of cycling and cross country running, both of which I have done before and I knew it also involved getting on and off your bike as quickly as possible too, which I'd also done before for triathlon transitions. So I bought a cyclocross bike (similar to a road bike but with disk brakes and knobbly tyres) and entered a race.

Temple Newsam 5th October 2014
I decided to start with the novice race at Temple Newsam, but unfortunately I got two punctures and only had one spare inner tube with me so I only managed a couple of laps before I had to stop. Luckily I had time to go home for more supplies and come back for the women's race in the afternoon. I found the section through the woods tricky with lots of tree roots to negotiate, but as the rest of the course was short grass and not very muddy I managed OK and finished 9th woman, just avoiding being lapped by the lead women Annie Simpson and Amira Mellor, who I didn't realise at the time, but are brilliant cyclists finishing 8th and 4th (1st Junior) at the National Cyclo-Cross Championships this year.

Skipton 19th October 2014
I found the race at Skipton a lot more difficult, I was sliding all over the place and probably ended up doing more running than cycling! Watching the elite races later in the day, I realised this was not the fastest way to get round the course as they hardly did any running at all. Then speaking to other cyclists after the race, I realised my tyre pressure was way too high and the lower the tyre pressure the easier it is to cycle on the mud, a good lesson for my next race.

Ilkley 26th October 2014
After going round the course to warm up, I nearly didn't start this race... Through the woods there was a narrow bridge to ride over, a fallen tree to climb over and a narrow, muddy, tree-rooty descent. All in all it looked a bit beyond my cyclocross skill level! But after chatting to fellow albaRosa riders Jill, Ken and Richard I decided 'I might as well start and see how I get on'. So I set off quite cautiously, but once I'd made it round one lap I knew I could make it round another five and I started to make my way through the field. I was passing people running up a hill but most of them were coming back past me on the way down again. I felt like I was getting better with each lap though and I finished 2nd woman, my first cyclocross podium.

Sheffield 23rd November 2014
The course at Sheffield was very muddy by the time the women's race came round. There was an uphill start and without going for it I found myself near the front. I felt a lot more comfortable in the mud this time and despite a couple of falls on the first lap on slippery corners I felt strong and was starting to enjoy myself. Unfortunately my bike wasn't enjoying it quite so much and each lap was getting harder until I couldn't actually turn the pedals round any more. Worried that my bike was broken I wasted a lot of time running around the course until I got to the pits to ask for help. Turns out it wasn't broken it was just very very clogged up with mud. Another lesson learnt-if you don't have a spare bike to change onto during the race (a strange practice that many people used in this race) then carry your bike over the super muddy bits and try to scrape some of the mud off at the same time.

So a mixed set of results for my first attempts at cyclocross. I enjoyed the challenge of doing something quite different to what I'm used to-having never ridden off road before! And I certainly found the technical sections very difficult, but I think the mud and the hills actually suit me quite well. It's back to the road for now where I plan to do a few circuit races, road races and maybe some time trials, but I'll definitely have another go at cyclocross next winter.

Yorkshire Cyclo-Cross Results here.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Three races in three weekends

23.08.14 National Club Relays, Nottingham, 3rd team
31.08.14 Skipton 2 Sprint Triathlon, Skipton, 1st woman
06.09.14 Sundowner Sprint Triathlon, Allerthorpe, 1st woman

First up was the National Club Relays. I was competing for along with Doug Roberts, Phil Wolfe and Grace Hobbs. I'd never done the club relays before so I didn't really know what to expect, but lots of people had told me that it's a great event. They were right. It was absolute chaos at the same time though with hundreds of people taking part, 5 different transition locations, 4 people on each team, 3 disciplines each, 2 laps of the bike course and 1 rubber band per team to act as the relay baton. But somehow, we managed to get our rubber band from start to finish without any dramas and finished  3rd in the open category, beaten by 2 all male teams. I don't quite understand why as a mixed team we were competing against all male teams, but others seemed to be confused as well, so hopefully the rules will be ironed out for next year as I'd love to do it again. Results here (SAT AM RESULTS)

The following weekend I drove over to Skipton for the second Skipton Triathlon of 2014. I also competed at Skipton earlier in the year so I had a target to aim for. In April I was 1st woman and 19th overall in a time of 1.08.19. This time I was 1st woman and 6th overall in a time of 1.09.11. I was disappointed to be a bit slower than I was earlier in the year, but happy to be first woman again and finish higher up the field against the men. The weather was great on race day, I didn't feel great on the swim or run but I enjoyed the hilly bike course and the friendly atmosphere at the event. Results here

At Skipton I won a free entry into another Freebird event so I decided to enter the very next one which took place the following weekend at Allerthorpe, the Sundowner Sprint Triathlon. This was again a course I had done before. The last time I competed there though was back in 2011. I remember overhearing someone commenting on my result "Look this girl must have got a puncture, she had the fastest run and swim but was almost last on the bike". Actually I didn't have any mechanical problems I just hadn't done much cycling. This time my cycling matched my running and swimming so a bit of an improvement from three years ago!
The weather was a complete contrast from the previous weekend, it was damp and drizzly all day but the atmosphere was just as good if not better. I had a good swim and was sitting on the lead man's feet by the end of the first of two swim laps. A fast exit from the water and smooth transition meant I went out on to bike course with a 35s lead over the next person and it was quite a strange feeling for me to be leading the whole race for the first 2/3 of the first bike lap. In total four men passed me on the bike course, so I came into T2 in 5th. I felt good on the run and passed one man early on to move into 4th, I then set about chasing down the man in 3rd but I ran out of road and finished 7 seconds behind him but 1st woman. Results here

My next triathlon and my final one for 2014 will be a European Cup race in Madrid on the 21st September.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games

"This is it, this is really it, this is what I've trained for, this is the Commonwealth Games". These were the thoughts going through my mind as I dived into the loch in Strathclyde Country Park on Saturday 26th July 2014. For the first few seconds it seemed a bit surreal that after days, months, weeks and years of training the moment was finally here. But I quickly refocused on the task in hand, to swim, cycle and run around the Commonwealth Games Triathlon Relay course as fast as I could.

Running down the ramp into the Loch

Diving in

As soon as I came out of the water I was hit by the noise from the crowd. Coming into T1 I focused on what I had to do. Hat and goggles in the box, helmet on, bike out, run run run, jump onto bike, feet into bike shoes, pedal pedal pedal. Then I heard the crowd again as I tried to push as hard as I could round the bike course. I spotted a couple of people I knew in the quieter areas and I heard my Aunty Clare cheering on me. Back into transition, bike in, helmet off, run shoes on, run run run. "This is it, everything you've got, oh no my legs hurt, I can't keep this up, just keep pushing, I'm going to have to slow down, just keep trying, all the way to the end, every second counts".

Coming out of the water

After the race we cycled back to the hotel, showered, changed, attended a Triathlon Scotland reception and finally headed back to the athletes village for dinner and then the bar for our first alcoholic drink in quite a while. One was enough.

I stayed in the athletes village for the remainder of the Games, soaking up the atmosphere, watching other events, having my nails done in the village salon(!) and of course making the most of the 24 hour food hall. The closing ceremony at Hampden and following Team Scotland after party were brilliant and the perfect ending to an amazing experience which I'm still happy to recall minute by minute to anyone who makes the mistake of asking! 

Thank you to everyone who has supported me, especially husband Jamie and coach Jack.

Thanks also to Jamie Simpson/Herald & Times for the photographs.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Bratislava ETU Sprint Triathlon European Cup, Slovakia

Running through puddles
 On Wednesday the 14th May I travelled to Slovakia to prepare for my third Continental Cup race of 2014, the Bratislava ETU Sprint Triathlon European Cup. I felt like I had learnt a lot in my first couple of races and was looking forward to racing again and hoping to improve on my previous results.

The elite woman's race wasn't until the Sunday, so I had a few days of light training in the build up to the race with British team mates Hannah Drewett and Kirsty Anderson for company. We swam in a 50m pool quite near to our hotel and I found a grass track even closer to do some running on. However, finding somewhere suitable to cycle was a bit more challenging. The roads were very busy throughout the day and so after our initial attempt to find a quiet circuit we stuck to the stationary bikes in the gym.

On race day, I had my usual pre race breakfast and did a bit of stretching before heading over to the course ready for a 11.30 start. The water temperature was 14⁰C, the air temperature was 12⁰C and it was raining, needless to say the athletes from warmer countries were not impressed. For me though, the conditions were perfect- I don't mind the cold (must be my Scottish blood) and I'm used to training in the rain.
The swim was one 750m lap of a lake. I had quite a good start and got stuck in. I wasn't in a great position at the first buoy, but I managed to swim past girls throughout the second half of the swim, coming out of the water in 23rd place.

The start of the swim
The bike course was four laps of a 5.1km circuit which was quite technical with lots of pot holes, drain covers and tram lines. I held on to Emma Pallant's wheel as she powered up to a group ahead, which turned out to be the second group on the road. Quite a few athletes came off their bikes early on and unfortunately Emma was one of them. I then stayed at the front of the group for the rest of the bike but was unable to close the gap to the front pack who came into T1 with a one minute lead.

Chasing on the bike
The run course was two laps of a 2.7km loop. I set off at my own pace and quite a few of the girls in my bike pack came past me over the first kilometre, but I caught and passed a few of them before the finish to cross the line in 13th. I was happy with my result, which is my best of 2014 so far and I loved racing, especially on the technical bike course.
Results here

Thanks to Peter for the photos.

Friday, 9 May 2014

Antalya ETU Triathlon European Cup, Turkey

The start of the swim

On Thursday the 1st May I flew out to Turkey to prepare for my second Continental Cup race of 2014, the Antalya ETU Triathlon European Cup. I travelled out with British team mates Hannah Drewett and Jess Learmonth. Apart from it being nice to have their company, it was also handy to have someone to wake me up when I fell asleep at the gate so I didn't miss the flight.

The elite woman's race was on the Sunday, so I had a couple of days to swim in the sea (which was warmer than the hotel pool), do a few short rides and runs and read Bradley Wiggins' autobiography. I didn't enjoy it as much as Mark Cavendish's, but it was still interesting to read. On race day, I spent the morning relaxing and doing a bit of stretching before heading over to the course ready for a 10.30 start.

The swim was 1500m in the sea as 2 x 750m laps with a very short beach run in-between laps. I had quite a good start but in trying to avoid getting caught up in the fighting, I let the main pack get away leaving me out of the race pretty early on. I passed a few girls over the remainder of the first lap but swam by myself on the second lap and came out of the water in 38th place.

Quick run around the buoy before heading back in for lap two
Exiting the sea at the end of the swim
The bike course was eight laps of a 5km circuit which included two dead turns on each lap. I caught and passed a few girls before a small group led by Emma Pallant caught me up. Together we caught a few more girls forming a group of about 15 athletes but unfortunately only about five were willing to do any work and we lost time to the large lead pack.
The run course was four laps of a 2.5km loop on the seafront. I set off at my own pace and quite a few of the girls in my bike pack came past me. But by the final lap I had overtaken all but two of them, Emma Pallant and a Russian girl. Emma was now well ahead and chasing down the girls in the lead pack, I started to catch the Russian girl but couldn't quite reach her and finished in 28th. I was disappointed with my swim and therefore my overall result, but I still really enjoyed racing and can't wait for the next one which will be the Bratislava ETU Sprint Triathlon European cup in Slovakia on the 18th May.