The ‘Beaver’ Middle distance race

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The Beaver (Belvoir) middle distance race

The beaver is a middle distance race I’ve heard a lot about over the last couple of years and it’s always gets a good report so I decided to enter this year as an early season warm up race. Friday afternoon we drove to Belvoir castle to check in to the hotel we had booked. We went over the race site and I was instantly taken by how relaxed the whole event seemed.  I took a look at the lake, which is rumored to be the muddiest swim you will ever do in a race but it looked beautiful.  I didn’t have a plan in mind for this race other than to get around it comfortably and hope my knee wouldn’t play up on me being as this would be the longest run I had done since I started rehab for a knee issue 3 months ago.

Race morning was soon here and I had my usual race breakfast of ambrosia cream rice, a very strong coffee and a bottle of RaceRx, we headed over to rack my bike and get ready to race.  Again, the atmosphere at this race was so relaxed and friendly, it was a really nice vibe.  At the race briefing the guy said if anyone gets into trouble in the swim, we normally recommend turning on to your back and raising one arm, however, in this lake we recommend you stand up and walk to the edge, haha, it really is a shallow lake then!

For the swim I was in the second wave and I positioned myself right at the front as usual, I somehow managed to get off on the gun much better than the previous week when I seemed to be overtaken in milli-seconds by loads of athletes.  The swim was fairly uneventful, a 2 lap course, was pretty slow and steady, I went hard for the first 500m or so to stay near the front then relaxed into a comfortable stroke for the rest of the 1.9km.

Out of the swim I was really happy, and started on the long run up the hill to transition – it’s half a km up the hill so the swim times reflect this as the timing mat is part way up the hill (Swim 34:56).  Into T1 (1:42) and I grabbed my helmet and ran of with my bike to do a speedy mount over the mount line, unfortunately I couldn’t get my freezing feet into the shoes on the bike and no matter how many times I tride they would go in so I had to stop, get of my bike, take the shoes of the pedals and out them them on then ride off – I felt a right idiot but needs must!

The bike course is lovely, mostly flat with a long steady climb about half way around, would have been a fast course if it wasn’t for the 20mph winds with 30mph gusts.  First lap I barely used the aero position as was trying to get a sense of how far over the road I would getting blown about, turned out not to be so bad as the wind was more head on, so whilst it made for a hard bike, it felt safer than side on gusts blowing you over so for the 2nd and 3rd laps I maintained a proper aero position for most of the course.   It has to be said I was pleased to get off the bike (2:45), T 2 was smoother and I was out on the run course (2:03).

The run course is 4 laps and I knew what to expect as mark had run it the day before as training so he told me it was basically one long hill up then a turnaround and one long hill down X 4 laps!

First lap I went really slow and steady and drank a bottle of ATF whilst letting my HR come right down, 2lap I turned up the pace a little and kept it pretty constant for the 3rd lap although my mind was playing games with me and I was having so of those dark thoughts you get on the long run legs of races, lap 4 came around and I thought ok, one more lap, let’s smash this.  My knee was feeling good, I had some energy left and I thought lets just go for it, I managed to pass a lot of people on this lap and was really pushing the whole way around. Just coming into the finish arena I sensed another woman behind me so went for a sprint over the finish – which hurt – a lot, but as it happens she looked about my age so I please I pushed that final 100m stretch. (1:50.)

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My initial reaction to the race was that my times were poor. Although I didn’t know what the course was really like or what was classed as a good or bad time, I hade guessed that because of the much shorter bike course than Majorca I would have been on for a 5:00- 5:05 race. I went to the timing tent to see what my splits are as was pretty disappointed looking at my bike and run, but then I saw a number 2 – I asked the guy, ‘what’s that then?’ and he said, ‘you got second place in your AG’! I didn’t believe him and muttered something about thinking I’d been crap, to which he replied, ‘oh well if you were crap, everyone else was more crap’, that really made me smile and made me realize you can’t judge or try and guess your race time, it is what it is on the day and there are so many factors that change even the same course one year to the next.   So whilst I still don’t think it was a great performance, overall I’m happy with my day – 2 early season races now under my belt and a nice trophy to show for it!

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Thanks as always goes out to our squad sponsors; Triathlon Zone of St Albans, MPG, Bowller and HKR Architects.

And special thanks to my personal sponsors RaceRX for providing me the best ever race fuel to get me through all this training and my races (http://www.goracerx.com/)

Deserts, wind, and bikes!

La Santa

Having spent a week cycling in Majorca last spring I was well aware of the endurance gains a full week of training away from work and home commitments can make to your early pre season fitness. This year I was very lucky to be treated to a week away to Club La Santa which Is superbly situated on the north west coast of Lanzarote.  The terrain of Lanzarote is best described as undulating. There aren’t so many of the never ending 10% gradient switch back climbs that I experienced in Majorca last year but I have to admit to having never known a place like Lanzarote for its ability to have only up and down – no flat seems to exist there at all!

The scenery out there is amazing.  I’m a huge fan of the lush green mountains you find in Scotland and the French Alps so for me to be completely breath taken by the stunning volcanic, but very baron landscapes of Lanzarote was actually quite a surprise.

Coastal road below Tamanfaya

Coastal road below Tamanfaya

I spent a large amount of the week training alone and this was great training for both the physical and mental aspects of going out on 3hr runs or 6+hr cycles back home as we get into pre season.    One of the rides I really enjoyed and repeated more than once was a ride deep into the Tamanfaya national park and down to seaside village of el Golfo. The route I took, takes in a lot of typical Lanzarote farmland before hitting the vast lava fields of the national park and finally onto some amazing coastal roads around the South West of the Island. I would say of the Ironman man bike leg this has to be the most fascinating scenery.

Tamafaya national park - lava fields were impressive

Tamafaya national park – lava fields were impressive

As for running – I have to admit, la Santa has totally trumped Majorca as far as my preference for off road running is concerned. Around half a mile from club la Santa is a dirt track that takes you up to Cuchillo up a nice steady hill which gradually changes from dirt track to sand.  A small almost hidden fork in this dirt track then heads you out to a road crossing between Soo and Munique. Once you cross the road (I called it the temple of doom road, as it reminded me from a scene from Indiana jones where the sands where blowing over the road from the desert) your into the El Jable desert.

Temple of doom Road!

Temple of doom Road!

Small tracks in the sand fork off in all directions and you can easily run for 2-3hr without seeing another soul (apart from goats and a single goat herder). The desert running here was amazing – I really loved it and will miss that more than the cycling once back home.

Amazing scenery in El Jable desert

Amazing scenery in El Jable desert

The pool at La Santa is 50m which means your average 1hr swim set zooms by. Most of  my swims were before breakfast but I had one mid afternoon and was very Impressed with the facilities and the lack of crowding in lanes. Just had to get used to the fact that everywhere apart from the UK swims anticlockwise in all lanes – unlike our preference for alternating directions in lanes. There is a huge sea lagoon too but this seems to attract more wind surfers and kayakers that open water swimmers so my wetsuit never got unpacked.

Mid afternoon at the 50m pool

Mid afternoon at the 50m pool

If you are new to road cycling or not very confident I would opt for Majorca over Lanzarote for cycling simply as the wind here literally has you swerving all over the road on the windier days. I’m not the most technically proficient cyclist on skinny wheels (as an ex downhill MTB’er I’m more used to jumps and drops than high speed) and riding a Tri bike with very deep section frame meant on 2 days I’m actually not afraid to say I was really scared! One ride in particular the wind seemed to whip up over lunchtime and hit over 12m/sec which doesn’t sound that fast, but when you take into account descending at around 35-40mph between mountains and the funnelling effect of the wind as it’s gusts between mountain peaks and then lulls again this lead to me literally being blown into the wrong side of the road at one point which was very scary but even that didn’t my get my heart racing as much as when a passing bus driving very fast In the opposite direction created a kind of vortex about 20m afterwards and sent me flying into the barrier, luckily it was a glancing touch of the barrier but made me realise, another half inch and i would have been over the barrier and into the ditch which was quite a way down. Even climbing at low speed, there was a section of road with a deep drop over the side and the number of times I was blown to within a inch or so of the barriers there was scary. Needless to say I was very pleased to get home that day in one piece and celebrated with a beer!

The lagoon

The lagoon

Now I’m sat typing this blog on the plane home I feel very sad.  I think getting away from the stresses of home and work and training to that intensity for a week can have quite an emotional effect on you and I’m sad to be leaving Lanzarote but very happy to be heading home to see my little hairy companion Chilli and her friend and my current ‘dog lodger’ Ellie.  I guess I’m very fortunate though, not everyone has the ability to drop everything and jet off for a week training and for that I am truly thankful. I also have to thank Will for inviting me on this holiday and giving me the opportunity to thrash myself for a week. Hopefully this will have given me an extra bit of endurance ready for my ‘warm up’ race in Majorca before the big one of 2014, Ironman Austria.

Roll on May for the next ‘boot camp’ in the like district with my Tri club friends!