Wednesday, 6 May 2015

On your marks, get set, go. Go miniature pony go!

Seasons are changing. Homemade soups are being replaced with homemade salads.

The cherry blossom is out, the trails are drying up.

And strength training now involves keeping the veg patch well fertilised.

As we shift from soups to salads I have found myself shifting from training to racing. The 2015 race season has begun in earnest and just like our soups and salads, it's all about having a colourful mix of ingredients.

Racing, getting from A to B the fastest? An exhibition of physical skills and prowess? Maybe but not always. I enjoy the challenge of racing but there is more to it than meets the eye. I will take you through four different races I have done recently and explain the different purposes of each of them and what I have learnt along the way.

The event: Northern Road Relays, Liverpool, Saturday 28h March
The purpose: Having spent more time aqua jogging (jogging in water, travelling at the pace of a snail) this winter than running on land. I wanted to stretch my legs and see where I was in terms of running fitness. Also I have a soft spot for road relays, having grown up on a diet of road relays for Bristol AC as a junior. I enjoy the team element and having missed the XC season with a grumbling achilles, I was itching to get out and join Leeds City for a team day out.
How did the miniature pony fair? The road relays comprises of 6 runners in each team, 4 runners run a 'short stage' one lap of Sefton Park, 3.7km. The other two runners run the 'long stage'  2 laps 7.4km. I was the first runner for the b team and ran a 'long stage'. I finished 8th out of 61 on leg one, 28.39 placed me 15th on the day out of all 120 runners who ran the long stage. A decent run, and more importantly an achilles that was in one piece.
The main take away: Aqua Jogging at times has felt like pricking my eyes with pins. But it works when you are coming back from injury. I managed a decent run and it was a great day for Leeds city with the ladies A team winning the whole race, the B team came 12th overall and 1st b team and the men took the win as well.
Running with Hudak, always good catching up with old Loughborough buddies

The event: V214 10mile Cycle Time Trial, 17th April, a dual carriage way in North Yorkshire
The purpose: I like routine, but I also like variety. So I replaced the weekly TT effort I often do on Mondays on my normal Monday road loop with an official TT on Saturday afternoon. Putting a number on the jersey, setting off at 1 minute intervals gets the adrenaline going and helps explode the lungs and legs just that little bit more than normal.
How did the miniature pony fair? 4th female out of 12 with a 24.54 clocking for 16.2km. 39.5km/h not too bad for a miniature pony, with little legs on a windy dual carriageway.
The main take away: It is still possible to go wrong on an out and back 10mile race, along a  dual carriageway. Good job that if, potentially you do come off one junction too early, you can always go round the roundabout, back up the slip road and re join the route, pretend nothing has happened. Minor detours, just taking in the local scenery. Got to get the money worth, make that 10mile TT as long as possible. For any one who wants to put their legs and lungs in the hurt box, then time trialling is for you!

The event: Stockton Duathlon, Sunday 26th April (10km run, 40km bike, 5km run)
The purpose: Time to combine the running with the cycling and to commence battle with club mate Ele Haresign. 
How did the miniature pony fair? I have written a more
comprehensive race report on the Race Skin Website here. In summary; the same 3 ended up on the podium as last year, but with Ele getting her revenge, smashing me on the 2nd run and scooping the win. I was 2nd and Emma Holt again picked up 3rd. Top racing ladies.

The main take away: Stockton Duathlon is hands down the best Duathlon in the UK that I have experienced. Great value for money, closed roads, top prizes, high class competition, a fantastic course and atmosphere. I would highly recommend it to anyone. I have written more on why I love the Stockton Duathlon in my race report here.

The event: Women's Tour De Yorkshire, cycling road race, 80km. Saturday 2nd May.
The purpose: Hell, why not! Getting to compete on closed roads with some of the country's best cyclists, finishing just before Wiggins et al cross the same finish line in York isn't an everyday opportunity. Atmosphere and crowds is what this race promised (See the BBC preview here) And it didn't disappoint.
How did the miniature pony fair? 58th out of 102 starters. 2 hours 11minutes of racing around a 20km road loop in York. 36.5kmp for 80km. What a buzz. I managed to hang onto the main group for 2 laps, getting dropped early on lap 3, I worked hard to catch a few riders in front who had suffered the same fate. We got organised, eventually. OK so I can get a bit loud and shout at others during races, hey it's best for everyone! We chain ganged it round, picking up a few who had been chewed up and spat off the main group and we lost a few from our small group off the back. The pace slowed in the final kilometre's as it got a bit cat and mouse like with people saving themselves for a sprint. As true out and out slow twitch lass I was sat on the front of the group, grafting hard. I have no sprint to save myself for! Alba club mate Seonaid, led a chase group behind us and sniffed us out with 200m to go, a few sprinted past, I was happy enough to dig in, see them fly by and finish. I survived the broom wagon, many didn't, getting pulled off the course if you fall too far behind the leaders is standard practice. The crowd was incredible, my ears were ringing from the cheers, drums, whistles and Alba Corner; a sea of pink and black club mates from the cycle club dominating one of the corners on the course was overwhelming support. 

David vs Goliath.Dame Sarah Storey's Pearl Izumi team vs happy go lucky local AlbaGirls
The main take away: What's the worst that can happen when you line up against 100 cyclists including Olympic Champions Dame Sarah Storey, Joanna Roswell and GB rider Katie Archibald et al? You fail. Who cares. You can also exceed your own expectations and the feeling when you do that is worth the challenge.
With Alba Team mate Seonaid at the finish, we didn't quite manage to finish in the position of our start numbers!

Unfortunately the women's race wasn't televised, but you can watch a great little video summarising the race with Dame Sarah Story providing a good race preview here.
So that's it, a running race, a cycle time trial a Duathlon and the Women's Tour de Yorkshire to kick start the 2015 race season. I look forward to the upcoming races with excitement. Especially after the delivery of nutrition from OTE and run trainers and gear from Always Aim High. Goes well with my 2015 Race Skin Triathlon Suit.

 It was with a sad heart I read of the tragic earthquake disaster in Nepal. A country close to my heart, having spent a few months there in 2005. I recently read a nice quote "I divide my money into thirds. I save, I spend and I give" I really liked this quote so I have decided this is how I will divide any prize money I win. Therefore I will give a third of my prize money from Stockton Duathlon to the Teach for Nepal organisation in an effort to help the remote communities they work with, who have been affected by the earthquake. Information on this and how to donate can be found here.

Stay safe, have fun and good luck with your own racing

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