Event 33 – Banana Man Triathlon

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Oh dear!

1500m open water swim, 43km bike, 10km run

The Banana Man, an Olympic distance triathlon, held at Eton Dorney lake – where they held the Olympic rowing in 2012.  It’s a great venue, clear lake, traffic free bike course, and a flat run.  As it happens I was picking up daughter Zoe from Heathrow airport that evening so it was also the perfect location.

I’ve done a few events here so knew how it all worked.  The parking is a twenty minute walk from the race start so you need to have everything with you, no popping back to car.  The new Castellli ruck sack Ian bought me for my birthday was perfect for carrying all my gear – wetsuit, bike shoes, run shoes etc and left my hands free for the most important thing – the new bike 🙂   Its first race!


At registration I got my swim cap and a whole bunch of stickers, one for my helmet, one for the bike, a random spare one (?), a wristband for transition, a timing chip for my ankle…oh and my bib for my race belt.   Phew…ready…I think.

I felt a bit lonely, first event for a while with no support.  I called Ian for a friendly chat, only to be told off by an official …no phones in transition!  I was not too impressed, if I’m honest.  There was no where to leave bags, so I had everything gathered around me.  Plus there were limited changing areas.  I found an empty tent which I dashed into, but the boat house where they told us to go seemed to be full of locked doors…ok, grumble over, like I say, I was a bit lonely so was mainly pissed that I couldn’t chat to Ian to cheer myself up.

I thought it was going to be a tough day, and I was right.  I felt quite tired on the long drive from Somerset (still recovering from my surprise weekend, not so much the biking as the travel) and I’ve been fighting off a cold for a couple of weeks, mainly a congested head and stuffy nose….and I thought I was going to be resting last weekend – ha ha ha !!



At 11.40 we all gathered in the Jumbo Banana group by the lake, yep, that’s what the olympic distance was called.  Other groups had names such as Banana Fritter and Whole Banana and I think the relay was called Banana Split 🙂   One nice thing, just by the starting pen they were giving out little shots of coffee, I thought it was a nice touch and the coffee was pretty good.

11.50, and after a quick briefing we were all in the water and the horn blasted.   It was a relief to get in the cool water as it was getting quite toasty standing around in our wetsuits.  Two 750m laps, the orange turn around buoys seemed so far away.  It was also quite frantic, lots of arms and legs.  I was surprised because the group didn’t seem that big, but it took a while before I found clear water and started to get into a rhythm.   I spend most of this race thinking how the hell am I going to do an Ironman in three weeks…. this distance is hard enough.  Must remember that I often feel like this and then come race day I’m fine.  I must remember, I must remember….

Dorney Lake

I hadn’t swum for the last two weeks, so was little concerned, but of course I was fine and before long the laps were done and the finish was in sight.  Into T1, wetsuit off.  I took my time.  Ate a banana while I got my bike shoes and helmet on.  Checked my bike computer was on and ran out to the bike course.

It was eight laps of Dorney Lake and it was WINDY, really windy.  A cross wind that didn’t seem to give an advantage at any point.  Well, maybe for a few hundred metres across the bottom end of the lake, but the along stretches down each side and across the top I was buffeted around.  Not helped by the deep rims on my wheels.  Good to practise my bike skills though 🙂  Lots of twists and turns, which sometimes made it hard to keep up a good speed.  It was flat though and down one side it was sheltered by hedges so it wasn’t too bad really.   We had to count our own laps and as well as using the distance covered on my computer I also gave each lap a name starting with A for Adrienne and ending with H for Heidi.  I’m not going to tell you what F was for but lets just say I was getting fed up with the laps by that point.

One thing I found interesting with the traffic free road set up was that it didn’t seem much safer.  There were bikes everywhere, unlike a normal road where you would keep to the left.  Overtaking was happening on the inside and the outside and I saw two guys collide at one point, fortunatey not falling off their bikes.  Also, as well as the Jumbo Banana crowd and possible some Fritters, there were riders in teams of three zooming round at high speed together.    Some looked like they had just met and were trying to keep together and some were obviously very experienced and racing like a three up time trial – they were quite scary as they went past, especially on a bend.  I was glad when it was all over….just a run to do.

T2, a quick gel, bike racked and change of shoes.

Really struggled on this leg.  The run although flat is incredibly boring.  Up just over a km alongside the lake and back just over a km alongside the lake, and up, and back, and up and back and …….sorry I fell asleep lol!

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Up and down, up and down….

I waved a few times at a couple of girls I had met in transition and then fortunately on the last two laps I starting chatting to a guy that I was leap frogging with.  I would pass him while he was walking, then he would pass me when I was walking (yep, I needed to walk….I was tired).  I the end I asked if he was injured – he looked too fit to be tired.  He had cramp in both legs, ouch.  With my Dad and Ian both sufferers I sympathised and offered their remedy – indian tonic water every day.


Having someone to run with and chat with helped no end and  I think we both ended up running more than we would have done alone.  His name was Matt and he had very long legs so my running sections were a bit faster than normal lol!

We crossed the finish line happy and relieved it was all over.  It seemed so hard today. My overall time was 3.22.06 which is not too bad considering the longer bike leg (its usually 40km) and my slow run.

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Me and Matt – happy!

Just 20 minutes later I was in my Heathrow hotel in my fluffy bathrobe, sipping prosecco and waiting for Zoe.  At 11pm she arrived back from a five week field trip in France – the day just got a whole lot better 🙂


33 done!

Event 32 – Big Birthday Surprise Event


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Best present ever!

I’m 50!!! Today, Wednesday 6th July I turned 50 – it seems weird to feel so young and yet be…..quite old.  Of course turning 50 is why I’m here on this blog and celebrating with my 50 events.  But I wasn’t actually expecting to do an event this weekend…..

Early in the year Ian told me to keep one weekend free near my birthday so that we could celebrate together, it was then known as the “Mystery Weekend”   I was pretty sure he wouldn’t organise an event for me, in fact I thought we were probably going to Devon to a fancy hotel for a bit of relaxing and champagne drinking…..er not quite.

Go Paula Green

On Thursday Ian woke me up at 6.30m, surely I didn’t need to get up this early to go to Devon?   Then he sent me down stairs to find my present… and there at the bottom of the stairs was very shiny, very new, RED BIKE!!!  I’ve always wanted a red bike.    I cried, then I couldn’t breath, then I cried again.  I really couldn’t believe that he had bought me a bike….in fact I wasn’t totally certain that he wouldn’t buy me a bike because it was so close to my Ironman in fours weeks and bikes need to be the right size and all that.  I was in shock.

As I got closer, it got even better.  It was the same bike that Ian has, which is a good bike, a really good bike but this one had a custom paint job….there was an IM  symbol, a little 50 – for my events (and age) a target (for all my targets achieved) a little crown ( Strava QOM) and GO PAULA GREEN painted on the chain stay.  Deep rim wheels and electronic gearing, the works…and it was red, did I mention it was red!!!!!


I was a very happy bunny.  Ian also got me a new helmet, some cool bike kit and a lovely Castelli ruck sack which I would need for my trip.  We were off to the Pyrenees to test out the new bike. France here we come!

Col du Tourmalet


View from the Hotel

On Friday afternoon we arrived at our little hotel just outside Lourdes, a place that Ian has stayed many times so knew it was a good location for our rides.  The early morning wake up call on Thursday was so that we had time to test the bike on a quick one hour ride, pack it up in the bike box and drive to Standsted.  We stayed over Thursday night and flew out Friday morning – almost an exact re-run of our Swedish trip two weeks ago – but with less packing time lol!   Another short ride on Friday afternoon into Lourdes and we were ready for the big climb on Saturday.

Are we in Devon?

Col du Tourmalet is the highest mountain pass in the Pyrenees and is often seen on the Tour de France, in fact the Tour goes up the Tourmalet next Saturday and the signs were out and the villages were ready with their decorations.  The climb is 18km with an average gradient of 7%  Every km has a marker with the distance to go and the average gradient for that km.


The day we did it was cloudy and drizzly, a good temperature for climbing but not so good for the views, in fact I saw nothing at all on the way up or the way down….maybe I was in Devon after all lol!

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Village ready for the Tour

Ian rode with me, shouting out encouragement and also carrying most of my stuff, he didn’t want my new bike covered in little bags, at least not for this outing.  I was climbing well, I like climbing and although every km was getting harder and harder, the last km being an average of 10%, it was very doable.  I made it from the bottom to the top in just over two hours which I was very pleased with, and also the time I predicted 🙂

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They must have known I was coming

All the way up I could hear cowbells….not my sister though, real cowbells on actual cows!  I found it very motivating.  I even saw my name in chalk on the road, just like on the Tour.

It was a great experience and I felt very excited to have climbed my first proper mountain.  I have done long climbs before but with a gentler gradient.  This really was quite tough.  At the top we stopped for photos and got some food.  There were quite a few cyclists up there, although not many tourists, the weather was too awful for a casual visit and there were no views.  One of the cyclists came over to look at my bike. Turned out he knew the guy who had painted it and had already seen a picture of it on Instagram – my new bike was already famous 🙂

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Made it!
Tourmalet on a sunny day

The descent was interesting…it’s not my favourite thing,  I would rather be going up than down and not being able to see more than 20ft in front made the hair pins pretty scary.  It was also now raining heavily and was really cold.  After 3km we had to stop to warm up and found a little cafe and got some hot coffee.   We set off again a little warmer but soon we were both shivering again, I was trembling with cold so much my bike was wobbling.  Fortunately it wasn’t for too long and soon we were back in the valley and although still raining we were out of the cloud and the temperature had risen.

On Monday we went back up the Tourmalet but this time in the car.  I wanted to see where I had been and also get some nice photos.  This time the sun was shining.  I didn’t really enjoy the hairpins in the car, much too close to the edge for my liking.  I was actually quite grateful that I hadn’t been able to see much when I’d been on my bike.

Col du Soulor and Col d’Aubisque


On Sunday we set off again, this time in glorious sunshine, to climb another mountain.  The plan was to  climb Soulor and if I felt strong enough carry on up to Col d’Aubisque.   It would be a similar climb to the day before … just hotter.


I’m in the picture somewhere

After just 3km of gentle cycling we started climbing and this was only the climb to get to Arrens where the real climbing began.  It was definitely a different experience in the sunshine, the views were better for a start but it was hard going.

The climb to the top of Soulor starts at the village of Arrens, we stopped briefly for a quick banana and then  Ian decided to give me a ten minute head start to see if he could catch me up.  He did of course, 1km from the top, but he was pleased with how far I had got.

Amazing eagles


This climb was very tough in the heat with some steep sections thrown in.  But my new bike felt great. At the top we stopped for a quick lunch, and then had to decide if we would continue up to the top of Col d’Aubisque.   It wasn’t a hard decision, I still felt good and I’m really glad to we carried on as the views were spectacular.  The road wound round the mountain and often went through little tunnels cut out of the rock, it was very beautiful.  We also saw lots of eagles swooping around.   At one point we were high enough that they were below us.  You could really see just how huge they were, an amazing sight.   Again the last km was pretty hard but we made it.  We saw the same guys that we had seen at the top of the Tourmalet again…small place the Pyrenees!

Best hubby ever!!!

It  was a fabulous weekend and a really special way to celebrate turning 50.   I can’t thank Ian enough for making it happen.  I love my new bike….it was the perfect outing for it and the perfect way to do Event 32….The Surprise Event!!!

….and relax