Event 40 – Glow in the Park

img_6695I think this is the first event this year that has really come under the “Fun Run” category. Not sure Ian thought it was much “fun” but more on that later…

No idea why I booked this as I already had an event booked for the same weekend on the Sunday, but I stumbled upon it while looking for something else and was seduced by an event with face paint lol!

The Glow in the Park was a 6km night  run at Longleat.  We really enjoyed the Maastricht night run on the Ironman weekend and we really love Longleat as a venue, having done many bike sportives from there, so it had all the right elements.

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Longleat House – a great venue

It was quite expensive for a 6km run but the tickets got cheaper the more you booked so I booked six and hoped to drag the family along….including Ian who thought he had got away with his one run event this year – parkrun at Coventry.  I skimmed over the “getting dress up in bright clothes and face paint” aspect and told him how nice it would be to run with his girls 🙂

As it happened one of his girls, Heidi, got a better offer for the night – a festival on the Isle of Wight but Zoe was still in and of course…me!!!  With Heidi’s place going spare we roped in my lovely neighbour Becky who, like me,  was totally seduced by the bright clothes and facepaint aspect, turns out she had the perfect outfit already in her wardrobe and a bright pink wig just hanging around…. not much chance to rock a pink wig where we live in rural Somerset, so this was her moment – she was in.

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Zoe, me and Becky

I had to be super organised for this event as we would be getting home late and I would be back out of the house again the next day at 6am for my next event.  So I spent Saturday preparing my run stuff for the Glow run and my swim and bike stuff for the Aquabike – I would be doing a disjointed triathlon with a sleep in the middle 🙂

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Adi – head torch and outfit ready. Antony checking his feet!

 

At around 7pm on Saturday evening we all arrived at Longleat. Sister Adi and Brother in Law Antony were there too and Henry,  Zoe’s boyfriend had come along to cheer us on – if he could see us in the dark!  It was a beautiful evening, which we were very grateful for after waking up Saturday morning to heavy rain and strong winds.  Longleat House looked amazing as always…but there was already a totally different vibe to the bike events we have done there.  Loud music, flashing lights and, many many cars….I could see Ian’s face drop, this was not his thing at all – sorry Ian.  I was wondering if it was mine either.  We could see lots of people walking around in VERY bright outfits….many sporting pink tutus…including the men, and so much face paint.  I heard the announcer say there were 3500 people and it felt like it.

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Chief Supporter and Bag Carrier Henry and Zoe
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Can I go home please

Becky is an artist which came in handy for our face painting – once parked up she set to work on us.  Ian kindly agreed to wear the pink headband, but face paint was a step too far.  The rest of us were covered in the stuff.

There was quite a bit of waiting around at the start….they wanted to wait until it was dark, so the start time of 19.30 was delayed until around 19.45 and then everyone was set off in waves.  With hindsight we should have pushed to the front but instead found ourselves pretty much at the back.  There was lots of jumping around to loud music and the MC revving everyone up.  Poor Ian was not enjoying this bit at all, but hopefully he would enjoy it once the running started.

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At the start

Unfortunately with 3500 “fun” runners even after we started not much running happened.  The track was narrow, it was very dark and also quite hilly – we’ve cycled around here often and doesn’t seem as hilly on a bike – the undulations actually make it seem quite fast…..and the fact was, most people were walking and intended to walk the whole thing from the start.  It was a very jolly atmosphere though and it was lovely seeing people out having fun with their family members. Trouble was my family members wanted to run!

After a kilometre of shuffling along Zoe had other ideas and  scooted off with Ian, dodging and weaving between the walkers.  Adi and Antony were trying to do the same.  Becky and I tried to follow – which was challenging in the dark, but was actually quite fun.  Everyone had a torch and  the line of lights snaking between the trees did look very special.

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Becky, Ant and Adi

Fortunately after a 2-3km it thinned out a bit….I think we had gradually made our way towards the front runners/walkers.  We finally had space to run.  Zoe was going at a good speed and Ian kept with her.  Adi and Ant also kept together.  Becky and I decided to experience some of the “fun” stations and lost sight of them.  The brightly lit stations were tents with various things in the them – foam or brightly coloured gloop – and loud music.  People were stopping to dance in them and get covered in stuff.

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I was enjoying it and it was such fun to run with Becky, who normally would be too fast for me.  We chatted away and dodged between the walkers, up and down the little hills, on and off grass and tracks.   Trail running in the dark and with a great company.

As we neared the finish I could just about see Ian and Zoe in the distance but we couldn’t catch them.  The finish line was a blaze of lights and more booming loud music.  Henry was there to cheer us over the line.  We collected out finish certificate and met up with Adi and Antony.

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Becky having a dance in the foam

It was not a fast 6km but I think we were faster than most because when we got back to the car park it was still completely full.  We didn’t hang around, the thought of queuing with a thousand cars didn’t appeal, so we dashed out and headed home.

It was good to do a different type of event and always good to hang out with my family….much better than a night in front of the TV, and it was fun to dress up and not care about the time it took. In the end I think Ian had a good time, he got to run with Zoe which he loved and of course he has a pink headband to keep forever 🙂

Event 40 done… Event 41 was 12 hours later…

Event 39 – Eton 5km Swim

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Beautiful Dorney Lake

Another week, another 5km – this time though it was a swim and wouldn’t take 28 minutes!

As the event was at Eton Dorney lake near Windsor we decided to make it into a mini break.  We being me and my sister Adi.  We had booked to do this swim last year but then Adi got ill and ended up in hospital having an operation. I still went and did the 3km distance, but my heart wasn’t in it.

Adi is now fully recovered and back to fitness so we booked it again.  Hoping that unlike some of our other events this year it wouldn’t be cancelled.  Edinburgh HM – thank you  Easyjet and the Dart Aquathlon – lack of numbers.  We brought our trainers just in case – there is always a parkrun 🙂

But all went to plan and we set off on Friday night for our hotel.  Just over five hours later we arrived….it should have taken two and a half!  The same thing happened to me last weekend when I went to Coventry, another 5 hour journey that should have been half the time.  Grrrr…holiday traffic.  The endurance part of this year is turning out to be the driving…not the events!

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Adi changing rooms in her PJs

Finally we arrived at our hotel and after a change of room due to me being nearly electrocuted by a bedside lamp we finally settled down for the night around 10pm…the new room was an upgrade though and the bathrobes were very nice 🙂

In the morning we were very glad that we had made the effort to get there the night before despite the horrid traffic as now we only had a few miles to drive to Dorney Lake and left at a very reasonable 7.45am. By 8.15 we were parked and in line to register.

I’ve done lots of events here and it was nice to be some where familiar – my last time was a only a few weeks ago for the Banana Man triathlon.  It was also nice to only have my swim gear and not a bike and run stuff.  Much less faff.

By the time we had got our timing chip, yellow hat for the 5km distance and numbers written on our hands it was nearly time to swim.  We got ready  as quickly as we could… slowed down somewhat by Adi’s attempts to get in her wetsuit and me laughing at her 🙂  I think she’s getting a new one which hopefully she can breath in and get in out of easily lol!

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Ready to swim

Our wave was at 9.30am, the last wave and just after the 10km swimmers.  I was so pleased to not be swimming 10km today.  Adi and I have done 10km before in the river Dart and it’s a long way.  In fact my friend Sally was doing the Dart 10km on the same day and I thought of her often as I swam along….”thank goodness it’s not 10k, thank goodness it’s not 10km…:-) ”   Having said that, the conditions were perfect for distance swimming, warm weather, warm water – 20C and no wind…the best I have ever seen it at Eton where usually there is a fierce cross wind.  Still, 5km is long enough.

It’s a fairly small event – maybe 50 people in our 5km wave.  The other waves for the other distances looked similar.  I guess not many people want to swim that far. It had a very different vibe from a triathlon where most people are very worried about the swim and you often hear people saying things like…”I’ve never swam in open water” or “this is only the second time I’ve swum in my wetsuit”  seriously, I’ve heard these things.  They just want to get the swim done and get onto the bit they like…the bike and run.    Here, although I’m sure there were many triathletes they were also swimmers and no one seemed bothered at all by a 5km swim.  It was very relaxed.

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We swam each side of this bank

After a quick safety briefing we headed into the water.  It was rolling start, so again very relaxed no pushing and shoving – everyone just walking slowly over the timing mat into the water.  Unlike other events here we would be swimming almost the whole length of the lake, instead of around and around a short circuit of buoys.  It was much nicer.  All the way up the lake, under a little bridge and down the other side of bank into a filter stream – at least I think that’s what they called it.  Anyhoo, we swam back down some water that wasn’t the proper lake bit.  Despite many visits here I hadn’t really noticed this bit of water, or at least not realised that it was slightly separate from the main lake.  Guess I’m usually whizzing by on a bike or swimming round and round the buoys on the other side.

The water was lovely and there was plenty of space to swim.  The course was easy, straight up, under the bridge and straight down…. and repeat, there were also two feed stations – for a little break if you needed it.  We had left our nutrition at one of them earlier and it was nice to see your own drink waiting for you.  We also left some jelly babies as Adi thought they would be nice.  Turns out she can’t eat and swim and I think there may be a red jelly baby still floating around in Dorney Lake!  Or maybe anther swimmer ended up with one stuck to the front of their cap lol!

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The 10k swimmers still swimming and weather turning

Adi had left me within a minute of us getting in the water, she is much faster than me.  I wanted to take it fairly easy… it’s my first big swim since the Ironman and I haven’t been in the pool much in-between, partly due to fatigue but mainly lack of motivation.  I felt like this after my last Ironman so wasn’t surprised.  Although I was a bit worried about the distance I was fairly sure I could make it especially with the option to stop at the feed stations if I needed to.  In the end I probably only stopped for a minute at each one…mainly for a wee, which is much easier when you aren’t moving!  Too much information….sorry!

I loved this swim, not just because it was in a lovely lake, not just because I got to do it with Adi and not just because it was 5km and not 10km.  I loved this swim because I didn’t have to cycle 112 miles and run a marathon straight afterwards.  I could just get out…….and…….nothing 🙂   I smiled about this all the way round, trying not to swallow water as I did lol!

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What a sight!

One hour and 52 minutes later I had finished and Adi was there waiting for me having finished over ten minutes earlier.  She was already in her long towelling robe (it’s one off those that you get changed under) eating the nice food they provided.  The volunteers were lovely and encouraged us to eat cakes and have a hot drink.  Despite the nice weather and warm water you still get quite cold after a long distance.  Adi got my swim robe for me and we hung around for a bit.  We were the only people wearing such things and I think we looked quite a sight, but we didn’t care especially as we were warm.

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Those low flying planes must drive Liz mad!

Then back to the hotel for a shower and change.  We were staying for a second night – it was a mini break after all – and so we went out for the afternoon to Windsor Castle, something we’ve been meaning to do a while, in fact since a swim in the Thames, again near Windsor a couple of years ago.  “we must go to Windsor Castle one day” we said….  so we did, and it was great fun 🙂

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Cheers!

We finished the day with a hotel picnic of cheese and biscuits and prosecco and watched Stictly Come Dancing in our bathrobes.  Perfect end to the perfect day.

Event 39 done.

 

 

 

 

Event 38 – Coventry parkrun

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Ian, me and Steve

Last week was another parkrun. As I think I mentioned at the beginning of the year my plan was to include around ten parkruns in my year of Events, but to try and do a different one each time.

This time was Coventry.  We planned it a while ago to coincide with a mini break with our friends Steve and Gill, in Coventry, funny enough 🙂  Steve and Gill are my friends who came to cheer me on at the Milton Keynes marathon.  They enjoyed supporting but Steve was keen to do an Event with me….hey Steve…you could have done the MK marathon lol!

We’ve known Steve and Gill for about 25 years, before we even had children.  We met them on a walking holiday in Corsica.  Ian and I were hiking the Tra Mare e Monti – a sea and mountain walk, staying at a different pension each evening.  At one place I think we arrived a day early (I can’t remember the exact details) and we were having lively discussion (an argument) about what to do.   We were just by a hedge outside a little bar/hotel – the other side of the hedge were Steve and Gill, probably hearing the whole thing lol.

We ended up chatting, having a drink or three and then dinner, and 25 years later we are still good friends 🙂

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Gill and Steve

Steve also cycles, so the day before parkrun we did a lovely bike ride out into the Warwickshire countryside with a pub lunch…I tell you this only so that I can put a picture up of the windmill we saw, not as an excuse for my parkrun time 🙂

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Windmill – seen on our bike ride

With 66km in my legs from the ride and still covered in bruises and feeling a bit battered from my Tough Mudder last week we walked the ten minutes from Steve and Gill’s house to the park.  I just wanted to have a nice time and take  it easy …still not making excuses 🙂

Added bonus for this run was that Ian would run with us, obviously not “with” us…maybe five minutes ahead.  Ian is not a runner, why run when you can bike, but despite this he’s really fast.  Life is not fair!  I should mention that Ian’s one and only parkrun up to this point almost killed him.  He was exhausted for the rest of the day!  His other recent running, earlier this year when he was in Panama with Heidi and without a bike, hurt his knees.  His plan was to take it easy too, and by easy I mean much faster than me.

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Ian, ready to run

Parkrun is the same everywhere you go – just as a side note “parkrun” is spelled with a small “p” – it’s a registered trademark – but not sure what you do when it starts a sentence?  Anyhoo, where was I, Oh yes…parkrun is the same wherever you go, a different park but usually quite flat (not always – looking at you Glasgow), often two laps and a good assortment of people, all shapes and sizes and speeds, people with buggies and dogs.   It’s a friendly environment and Coventry was no different.  Although there were more runners than most, around 500!

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Monument in the park

Gill cheered us on as we crossed the start line and Ian was already way ahead and soon out of sight.  I lost sight of Steve too as he had gone off to chat to another friend.  But I was quite happy and already enjoying the course.  It started just before a big Monument and the paths were wide and even, there was also no bottleneck at the start which I think has happened at nearly every other parkrun I have done.  This meant my first km was quite fast – under 6 mins….this either meant I would blow up before the end or get a great time!

I decided to try for a good time and kept up the effort.  It was two laps and had one slight hill, it didn’t feel too bad going up and there was a definite downhill feeling coming off it.  Just as I was coming up to the end of the first lap I saw Steve – waiting at the side of the path with Gill.  He was waiting for me…oh no…I would have to keep running now (I had been thinking about a sneaky walk).  He joined me and chatted as we ran along.  It was great to see him and gave me a little boost.  I couldn’t chat back as I was at my breathing limit.  Turns out after all these years of running, I now have a ‘conversational pace’, something I never thought I would have.  This wasn’t it…this was huffing and puffing pace.

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Steve – wondering how much time he lost waiting for me 🙂

As we came off the hill for the second time I could see the Monument at the end, still 1km to go but just seeing it helped keep me going.  A few hundred metres from the end we saw Ian who had long finished (in 24.43)  and was shouting something at me, I was puffing too much to hear or respond (he was asking if I needed pacing in).  Hurrah the finish line and my second fastest parkrun ever, 28.36 and not too far off my best time.  Very happy with that 🙂

It was now starting to rain so we didn’t hang around.  Back to the house for a quick shower and change and out for a well earned brunch…there was bacon and pancakes, which I thought I deserved.  Thanks Steve and Gill for a great weekend and a great parkrun experience.

Event 38 – done! (Crikey, not many left!)

Event 37 – Tough Mudder

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Chris, Sean, Mark and Me – what a team!

Well, I couldn’t do a year of Events and not include an obstacle race and Tough Mudder seems to be the most well known.As it happens I nearly did one last year but two of my team members had to pull out and it’s not really something you can do on your own.

Then earlier this year an opportunity to join another team came up.  Remember that “Channel” swim in the pool back in April well… I made a new friend that week, Cally.  She was one of only three people who put some money in my charity bucket by the side of the pool, the other two people knew me.   But Cally didn’t and I was really touched by her kindness especially as it involved going back into the changing room wet,  at the end of her swim and coming back out to put some money in.    I should say that I got plenty of donations that week – but the bucket by the pool just didn’t really work – no one has money when they swim lol!

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The very lovely Cally

Fortunately I bumped into Cally a few days later and was able to thank her.  Turns out she was training for her first triathlon and long story short we ended up meeting for a few coffees and an offer from her to join her Tough Mudder team 🙂   Cally was doing a few events herself this year for her own charity.

Roll on a few months and the event was getting closer.  It kind of crept up on me as most of my energy and thoughts this year have been for my Ironman.  I didn’t train for the Tough Mudder just hoped that my general fitness and strength would get me through.

…then Cally got sick, really sick and ended up in hospital – Oh No!  Despite this she messaged me and told I could still meet up with her team and do the event.  Cally wouldn’t be able to take part herself – she needs to rest for at least six weeks but she offered to come and support and in the end even drove me – what a lovely girl.

So, on Saturday 20th August I rolled up at Cally’s house and we drove to Cirencester.  Her friends Darren and Mark came along too.  Mark would be on my team.   We had a jolly drive there chatting about the up coming obstacles.  I was quite nervous as apart from a few Youtube clips I didn’t really know what to expect.  Cally has done a few and Mark has spectated, so by the time we arrived I had a better idea of the day ahead.  I was still nervous!

At Cirencester Country Park we met up with the rest of our team – Chris and Sean.  In the end there were only four of us, other members withdrawing due to injury and trust me you wouldn’t want to do this injured.  But we had lots of support from them which was lovely. It’s a big event with around 5000 people taking part over the two day weekend – and very different from Ironman.  It’s all about team work and this is drummed into you from the beginning in the warm up pen.

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Warming up

We had about 15 minutes in the pen with lots of chanting and Hoo- Raaas!   We were encouraged to hug  a few people we didn’t know and even give their bum a squeeze!  Might as well get friendly now as the next few hours would involve being manhandled quite a bit 🙂  A good time to point out that the average age did seem to be quite a bit younger than me and most people looked pretty fit.  Lots of people were also wearing their headbands from previous events.  You get a different colour depending on how many you had done and apart from the first timers most people seemed to have done quite few.

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Help up from Chris

After a bit more jumping around, shouting and a safety briefing we were off.  I was a little concerned about the running sections.  My team looked pretty fit, but we ran along nicely together and  over hilly grass to the first obstacle about a km away – The Kiss of Mud.  This involved crawling on your stomach through …..mud, and just to make sure you got completely muddy there was barbed wire about 2ft above you – no choice but to stay low.

The course was 10.5 miles long with 26 obstacles, most involved mud or water or both.  The weather was back to normal, after a week of glorious sunshine it was now around 17C with wind and rain.  The odd moment of sunshine but mostly grey skies.  It was perfect for the running sections but after the water obstacles it meant you got cold very quickly unless you kept moving.

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Bit of mud in my eye!

I loved the running sections.  My trail shoes which Cally had recommended were awesome and as I watched most people slipping and sliding on the muddy trails in their trainers I was very grateful to be wearing them.  Poor Chris fell many times but always with good humour.  In fact everyone looked like they were having the best time – me included, I loved it.

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Some of the obstacles involved climbing….usually quite high and this was where having a good team helped.   Mark was often able to get to the top on his own and then Chris and Sean would lift me up so that Mark could grab my hands and pull me over.  It was definitely an advantage being female – lots of help from everyone and light enough to be lifted easily.  But is was still hard at times hanging and holding on and I have many bruises and aches and pains to show for it.

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Sean on the monkey bars

One obstacle was just too high and although I got up to the top I wasn’t prepared for the ten foot drop the other side – falling badly was a guaranteed injury – I came back down the same way, helped by my team.  The great thing about this event (not a race as we were told many times) was that you only had to do what you could.  I attempted all the obstacles but some like this one were too much.

Actually I did miss one out – the Electric Eel – crawling through water with live wires hanging down above you.  Hmmm…. no!  I saw other people do it and decided it was not for me.  Mark whizzed through and didn’t get shocked but Chris who had done it a previous year had had a very nasty experience. Chris and I walked round.

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Block Ness Monster – my favourite

The best obstacles were the water ones – although maybe not Arctic Enema which  involved  sliding into freezing water – literally freezing water.  Cally was by the side watching this one and told me to take my long sleeve top off before going in. Great advice – I had a dry top to put on the other side.  Our supporters also offered us towels at this point – very welcome.  The event was well set up for spectators and we saw ours many times.  Cally took lots of photos too which I’m very grateful for, not really kind of place you can carry a phone.

IMG_6381The obstacles continued – crawling, falling, jumping and climbing.  All very muddy and often wet.  In fact I heard many people say how much harder it was than the previous year when it had been hot and dry.  Obstacles that would have been doable in dry conditions like the monkey bars were just too slippery.  But I guess that added to the fun.

My team were amazing.  Mark checking on me all the time.  Chris with his strength so helpful on the obstacles and Sean ran with me giving me a heads up on what was just ahead.   I helped when I could but mainly tried to just keep positive and happy and be a good team member.

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Back flip into muddy water – that’s me in the middle

On one of the obstacles I didn’t have to do anything.  “Hero Carry” where you took turns piggy backing a team member.  Mark just carried me for the whole thing – even breaking into a jog which was the best fun.  Not sure his knees were quite the same afterwards but he didn’t complain.

My favourite was “The Block Ness Monster” – not sure quite how to describe this but it involved a long cuboid shaped log that needed to be pushed over by up to twenty people then you would jump on and roll over the top into the water.  The water on this one was quite warm which was nice although a disgusting colour due to all the mud.  It was fun.

My least favourite was the high wall which I mentioned earlier and I was just too scared to go over the top.

The Mud Mile was really muddy – waist deep mud to wade through and muddy banks to climb over.  Although not actually a mile it seemed to go on forever and then out the other side was along walk/run through even more mud.  Just to make it interesting it also started going up steep hills – my trail shoes did their stuff though and I faired better than most.

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Nearly! Mark just before splitting his chin open on Everest

The penultimate obstacle was “Everest”  a very high curved slope which needed to be attacked at great speed and then hopefully find a hand to grab onto to pull you up.  I made one attempt and as I don’t possess great speed even when I haven’t completed ten miles I didn’t make it.  Most people tried again and again, it was very hard.  I chose to watch my team mates.  Mark almost made it but his hand slipped and unfortunately he came down hard on his chin.  Despite an hour of telling us he was just fine he ended up in the medical tent and needed four stitches – ouch!

Chris and Sean continued trying “Everest” but by now I was just too cold to stand around and made my way to the final obstacle – the “Electroshock Therapy”  I managed this one – head down and running.  I got shocked once, it wasn’t too bad.  Finally the end.  The finish line and my orange headband.  I was a Tough Mudder.

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Muddy shoe anyone?

The day wasn’t quite over – cold and covered in mud the bonus obstacle was trying to get wet, muddy shoes and clothes off.  There was a rinsing station station but I was too cold to go under more cold water.  I found a spot in the ladies changing area – a bit of grass behind a screen and tried to strip off.  It took forever to get my shoes off and all the strength I had left.    With the help of a bottle of water and a towel I managed to get fairly clean and dressed in dry clothes.  Mark couldn’t even get his shoes off – we had to help him.  Most people donate their shoes at the end – too muddy to take home.  But I kept mine just in case I do another one – which I might – but having spent an hour in the medics tent waiting for Mark and hearing about all the injures – broken bones, dislocated shoulders and fingers, cuts etc …maybe not!

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Bloody and muddy chins – and orange headbands

I can’t thank my team enough for such an awesome day.  Their support and shared experience made it fun to take part.  Thanks too to Cally for being there all day, taking photos and encouraging us on.

Event 37 done.

 

Event 36 Mendip Sportive 100k

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Nice Day!

Last week sitting in the Eurostar terminal on my way back from Maastricht my brother-in-law Antony asked me when my next event was.  Er…. “on Sunday”!  What was I thinking?  Well, I guess I thought I could give it a miss if I was too tired.  But when Antony found out it was bike ride, which he likes, and I was doing it on my own, he offered to come along for the ride 🙂

Yay!!  Guess I’m doing it then 🙂

When we got back from Maastricht I decided I should check the course that I had booked.  Turned out it was a 5/5 on the Evans difficulty scale – oh dear!  Technical course with steep hills…hmmm.   It was actually a totally different event from the one I thought I’d booked lol! Oh well, we could take it easy and enjoy the day.

August.  British summer time.  Fog and rain of course.   We arrived at the top of Cheddar Gorge where the event started, parked in a wet muddy field and then stayed in the car not wanting to get out and get wet.

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Wrong helmet Antony!

It was a very small event, just a couple of hundred people – possibly due to the steep hills description and therefore a very relaxed start time, from 8am – 10am.  So we stayed in the car for a bit and tried to get into our cycle gear – car yoga at it’s best.

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Car yoga

Eventually we ventured out of the car and with a small group of about ten people listened to the race briefing before setting off.  We were also warned that at the 30 mile point, the signs may be missing – some locals not liking cyclists had already taken down two sets, and that indeed is what happened, more on that later.

First we had some hills to climb and descend.  As we had started  at the top of the Gorge the first scary bit was a steep descent down toward Bristol.  It’s a descent I have done before and really dislike.  Very steep with twists and turns and some bad road surface.  Today, being wet didn’t help.  Antony nearly lost his computer as it jumped off his bike – he somehow managed to catch it!

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Refueling

We cycled through some pretty country lanes, up and down, up and down and the odd nice view ….and then came a very big uphill.  I’ve done many sportives in the area but had not climbed this hill before.   It just went up and up and was very steep, over 14% in parts and an average gradient of 9%.  It also involved a right turn which if a car had come would have meant stopping and possibly not starting again.  Fortunately I had a clear road.   I left Antony and just put my head down and climbed for over 3km passing quite a few people.  My bike felt great and I was definitely helped by my good gear ratio, meaning I could spin my legs easily.

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At the top of the first big climb

Antony has not been cycling much recently due to injury but he got up without stopping, I think it was the hardest climb he had ever done.

A lovely descent the other side took us back to the bottom of the Gorge and to the first feed station, where we stopped for a snack and a catch up with other riders. I don’t usually stop at feed stations to save time, but today was about having fun and I didn’t want to over do it.

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We set off from the feed station and not for the first time that day I was on the wrong side of the road – too much cycling in Europe recently!

With the first big hill out of the way we headed for flatter ground and out towards the coast.  We had a few stops for more food and to check where we were on the map.  We were  worried about the possible “missing” signs or even signs being turned to a different direction, which happens.  But so far so good, until we got to a big roundabout in a built up area….no signs.  Up until now the signs had been plentiful with every junction having one leading up to it, one indicating direction and another confirming the direction.  Here..NOTHING.

We had been told to turn left if unsure and we did but still no signs and the area was busier than ever.  Major roundabouts and busy roads.  The wrong direction and we would be on the M5!  We got off and checked the map and our phones ….ok I was actually looking for Pokémon lol!!!

We walked for a bit crossing roads when we could, when traffic let us, and eventually found the road heading to Weston-Super-Mare which is where we needed to end up.  Although we took the wrong road to get there, there was a cycle lane and apart from the crazy strong head wind it was fairly straightforward.

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Weston-Super-Mare …and Antony

When we got to the coast three miles later we finally saw the pink signs again, we were back on the route.  Weston was crazy busy with people and cars.  By now the weather was quite hot and it was British seaside at it’s best/worst.  I was glad to get away from the sea front and back to the quieter hills.

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More food – marmite pittas, food of champions

Another big hill and then the second feed station.  We stopped for another snack and chatted to other riders who had also gone wrong.  Some had called the organisers and found the route again, others just mucked through and headed towards the coast like we did.

More lumps and bumps, tiny lanes and pretty villages and we got to the final climb of the day – Cheddar Gorge.  A stunning climb and one of my favourites.  It is pretty steep at the bottom with hair pin bends, some at 18% but it gets better as you go up.  It was very busy with tourists and cars and big buses but I managed to keep moving and after the steep bit really enjoyed it.  Lots to look at including little goats and mountain climbers on the rock face.

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Finished! Antony and his helmet hair 🙂

Antony loved the climb too and when I stopped at the top he was just behind me. We rode along the top in beautiful sunshine taking in the views before reaching the car park and the finish.  Just over 100k.  A tough ride but great fun.

Thanks for coming along for Event 36 Antony xx

 

 

Event 35 – Ironman Maastricht

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The Swim – 3.9km (2.4 miles)

The great thing about staying so close to the Expo was I didn’t have get up too early on race day.  With my bike and transition bags  racked the day before all I needed to do was eat my porridge. The alarm went off at 5am which is  just about reasonable, although not sure my sister thought so and she was my designated hand holder to walk me to the start, a job she has done many times and is very good at.  Ian and the rest of the family would come along a bit later before I got in the water.

Adi and I walked up to the expo area with Declan and quite a few other people staying in our hotel.  As we walked along the river we could see that the river was much calmer than previous days.  We were told in the race briefing that some locks would be shut for us which would slow the current down.  I wondered if this was a joke but my Dutch friend Tessa assured me they than can actually do this 🙂  The big barges we had  seen sailing down the river were thankfully nowhere to seen either.

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Before the masses arrived

I popped into transition to check my bike.  I had racked it very early on the previous day and it was easy to find.  Now it was surrounded by 1800 other bikes – looked again for a landmark so I could spot it easily in T1.  Second lamp from the end, second row in – that should do it.  I also put my bike computer on the bike.  Well, actually I forgot to do this but fortunately found it in my swim cap ten minutes later and had enough time to rush back and put it on the bike.  Ok, drama over.  Let’s swim.

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The swim was a rolling start, unlike my last Ironman in Zurich which was a mass start of two waves with 1000 people in each –  like a washing machine for 90 minutes.  This time should be calmer.  The line to get in the water started off at 7.15 and took longer than anticipated, around half an hour.  But it gave me plenty of time to check my wetsuit was comfortable and to chat to other athletes – I love this bit.  Two girls I chatted to were in the military and were doing an all female crossing of Antarctica next winter.  One of them was doing her first triathlon – but they were young and fit and would be fine.  They also cross country skied 🙂 – Hey I do that…..lol!

Just before entering the water, a man tapped me on the shoulder  “Did you do the New Forest Half?”  Yep – it really is a small world.  In fact Declan kept bumping into people from other Ironman races he had done.  It seemed to me that he had camped next to half the field at one time or another 🙂

I loved the swim.  Enough space to swim properly, a straight up and down course, easy sighting and bridges to go under so I had an idea of distance travelled.  I could also see my family (and hear them!) on the river bank, and they could see me because of the pink flash on my wetsuit.  Also my yellow hat.  Only the woman wore yellow hats and out of a field of 1800 there were only 160 of us!

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Australian Exit at the Government Building

At the half way/turn around point is the Australian Exit – where you leave the water briefly run across some ground and get back in.  Not quite sure why it’s called this and google has come up with many answers.  Anyhoo, our exit was underneath the Government Building and pretty cool.  I felt great when I got out of the water and skipped across the mat before  diving (falling) back in.  We had swum up river with a gentle current against us and would now swim back down with a little assistance.

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Out of the water into T1

I got out of the water after 1hour 16 minutes (Adi and Ian timed me) and ran up the ramp and along the mat to T1, on the way I saw my friend Tessa cheering loudly.

I’m very fortunate to have the best support of any athlete.  Not only my wonderful family and local friends but a whole online running community, who follow and cheer my every move.  Occasionally (actually quite a lot) the online girls come in person and for this race weekend I had Tessa, from the Netherlands, Celia from Brussles and Andrea from Germany all come along.  They even brought their lovely husbands and Andrea brought her baby too – who had to get his first passport for the occasion!  Saturday we hung out all afternoon  in a cafe at my hotel chatting about the race and catching up with life.  On race day Tessa and Cels were there cheering me on.  Baby Jan went back to Germany with Andrea and Rene and followed online.

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With my forum girls – Andrea, Cels and Tessa

Tessa and Cels did an ongoing race report with pictures on my running forum and it was wonderful afterwards to look through and read all the comments.  I also knew that throughout the race my friends at home would be following (or stalking – looking at you Tara!)  online every time I went over a timing mat.  It’s very encouraging and keeps me going during low moments.

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So into T1 for my first change.  I had worn my cycle shorts under my wetsuit and swim bra so just needed to put my cycle top on with my nutrition in my pockets and my shoes.

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I found my bike ok – mainly because due to the rolling start pretty much everyone else had gone… and out onto the bike course.

The Bike – 180km (112 miles)

The bike course had changed from the previous year’s race to incorporate going across the border into Belgium, the only information I had leading up to the race was the basic map on the IM website.  So Ian cycled the bike course for me on the Friday – this meant I could see his Garmin files and he could report back on what it was really like.  He declared it a slow course.  Uneven road surface, hills, false flats and many many twists and turns.  Ian didn’t have much weather but I did!

It was a lovely course for an afternoon social ride with friends but it was a hard course to race.   My bike skills weren’t really up to fast sharp turns, so I lost a lot of time slowing down at each one and there we so many.  Turns out I’m much better at turning left than right… every right turn I groaned and had to try and remember where my leg position was supposed to be and where to transfer my weight ( I could almost see Ian rolling his eyes at each turn – he’s trying to help me with this skill and I’m a slow learner).

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I wasn’t the only one having trouble, I saw at least five people who had come off their bikes and were being attended to by medics or helpful local residents and many riders also suffered punctures.

The hills were fine, but the false flats were draining.  There were two laps and each lap brought with it some weather, heavy rain for a while on the first lap and squally winds on the second.  Plus, just in case it wasn’t hard enough there were 500m of cobbles to negotiate as we passed through the town on each lap.  I was pleased to finish with all my teeth and my arms still hurt at the end of the day from the juddering.

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It’s hard work supporting!

But there were many great things about the bike course.  My new bike was awesome, there was a 10km flat well paved section along the river that was very fast, I saw Declan on the second lap when I stopped for a snack – he stopped for a quick chat and to check I was ok, even offering me his arm warmers.  There were some really cute goats that I thought were statues the first lap and had moved by the second lap lol!  The scenery was very pretty, we got to go over the boarder into Belgium and the support and marshalling was great.

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Aldo, Tessa and Mark

Each time I came through the town I saw Tessa and Cels cheering and holding up a Go Paula Green banner, shortly followed by the family with another banner and I saw Annemarie and the boys out at Eijden out on the course which was a lovely surprise.

I was also pleased with my nutrition plan – stopping every hour for one minute to chow something down.  Two marmite pittas, a chia bar, a wafer bar and a few salted nuts with sweeties mixed in.  I also grabbed a couple of banana pieces from the aid stations as I rode by and some coke – coke really tastes good in a long distance event – really hits the spot.

112 miles is a long way and by the time I had completed it in a pretty slow 7 hours 50 minutes I was very happy to get off my bike, now I just had to complete a marathon…

The Run – 42.2km (26.2 miles)

Geting to the run is a bitter sweet moment.  As a back of the pack athlete I’m pretty relieved to have made the bike cut off, so feeling happy, but as a not so good runner I have to get my head around the whole running a marathon a thing.

I set off feeling tired already.  My legs didn’t hurt which was a good sign, in fact I had no aches or pains at all.  But the fatigue affected my breathing and before long I felt quite uncomfortable in my chest.  Not enough to stop but it certainly stopped me running for too long.  I knew I had enough time to run/walk it was just going to take a while.

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But this gave me even more time to enjoy the amazing support on the run course.  It was almost as good as the London Marathon.  The streets were lined with people cheering, live bands played, drums were drummed and so many people held parties outside of their houses.  It was amazing.

On each lap I saw Tessa, Aldo, Cels and Mark jumping up from their table at the cafe when they saw me, high fiving and waving the banner.  I saw Annemarie in lots in a few places around the course and my family who were hanging out on a pretty little green with Declan’s boys – Adi waving pompoms and Zoe and Heidi ringing cow bells.  My Mum and Dad, Ian and Antony checking I was feeling ok. On the second lap I asked Zoe if she had her inhaler which she didn’t but by the third she had run back to hotel (good job she’s a runner now) and got one for me.  Two puffs and I felt so much better – not faster, or even able to run more, but way more comfortable in my chest.  It was a relief.

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Declan looking strong

My run took six hours but I was fairly consistent around the laps and  as I knew I was going to be slow anyway I took the time to high five little kids, dance as I went past the band and hug some of the athletes that I had met throughout the last few days and of course have the odd chat with Declan who always stopped to check I was ok.  I quite enjoyed it.

Each lap you get a different coloured band for your wrist to mark another lap done.  The first lap is spent with serious band envy as you see faster athletes with an arm full of bands.  But by my the fourth lap I knew it was nearly over.  I thanked as many groups as of people as I could – many of whom recognised me each lap, like the lovely lady who took my hand each lap and ran me over a tiny bridge, and I smiled a lot which always gets an extra cheer 🙂

Each lap you run right past the finish shoot and have to keep going, until the last lap when I could turn right and run through the cheer leaders with their pompoms.  I could hear my family and friends cheering like crazy and I could hear….

PAULA GREEN, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!!!!

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Event 35 – The Big One!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Event 34 – IM Maastricht Night Run 5k

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It’s been a couple of weekends since my last event.  One was cancelled (the Dart Duo) and the other weekend I was in France watching the Tour de France – they wouldn’t let me join in so I couldn’t call it an event 🙂 …and of course I was supposed to be tapering for The Big One – Ironman Maastricht.

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Ian and the girls enjoying Maastricht

The great thing about Ironman is they often hold side events on the same weekend, so that family members get a chance to join in the IM experience.  This time it was a 5km night run, held on the Friday evening.  As I hadn’t run for a while I thought I would give it a go,  a chance to  stretch my legs, make sure I could still actually run and hang out with my family and friends who were all taking part.  It would also be daughter Zoe’s first EVER 5km !!!

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Mum and Dad on the Eurostar

My whole family had come to Maastricht with me, my Mum and Dad, hubby Ian, daughters Zoe and Heidi, sister Adi and brother- in- law Antony.  Why Maastricht? …a place I had only heard of from the signing of the Maastricht Treaty back in the early 90’s by John Major.  Well I blame my good friend Declan who has friends there.  He wanted to do the Ironman (his 10th) and thought it would be great city to do it in.     I was keen to do my next IM in Copenhagen but in the end it seemed like it would be much more fun to do it with Declan and our families could hang out together.  It was a great choice.  Maastricht is a wonderful city.

It took us a while to get there.  A long drive to Kent, an overnight stay, Eurostar from Ebsfleet to Brussels and then a 90 minute car journey to Maastricht.  But once we were settled in our hotel just 500m from the expo everything was very straightforward.

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Torches ready

So Friday night at 21.30, nine of us (me, Adi, Antony, Zoe, Heidi, AnneMarie, Jack, Dan and Joey) set off with around 750 other people into the night to run 5k.  We were all given torches at registration so it all looked very pretty as we snaked through the city.

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Maastricht is laid out on both sides of the River Maas and the first km was on the same side as the expo and hotel before crossing the river to the busier area with the market square and shops.  Heidi ran with Adi and Ant and scooted off, Zoe held back with me and Dan.  We wanted to keep a gentle even pace to give Zoe the best chance of having a nice race.  I could see she was doing well from the beginning and after one km she had already run further without walking than ever before ….and she just kept going.

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Dan and Joey – Jack and AM in background discussing race strategy?

Across the bridge the cobbled streets were all lined with bars and cafes and people cheering.  I had a little twinge in my knee – not sure it liked the cobbles, but it didn’t get any worse and as soon as I was on tarmac again it went, phew.  Zoe was still going well and even able to chat a little.  I chatted all the way (no surprise there) and offered encouragement and Dan stayed with us helping keep the pace steady.  After 3km Zoe needed to walk a little, but just enough to get her breath and get her heart rate down.  Like me she suffers from asthma and although it’s totally possible to run with asthma is does mean being mindful about breathing rate and not get overstressed which can quickly lead to a more serious situation.

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Zoe, AM and Jack running across the bridge

We were running again and apart from two other very short breaks Zoe was storming through her first 5km.  Dan was very lovely and hung back while we walked so we could all run together. On the bridge back over the river we caught up with AnneMarie and Jack – this was also a very special race for AM – her come back race after a year of surgery and chemo – and she was rocking it too 🙂  Jack who is usually super speedy had run with his Mum encouraging her all the way.

The finish line was in sight.  We could see Mum and Dad, Ian and Declan cheering for us.  Zoe found a spurt of energy and a speed which I don’t possess and sprinted to the finish line.  Hurrah!!

The others had already finished…Adi and Heidi benefiting from their recent 10k training. Antony also completed his first “bibbed” 5km on fine form and I didn’t see Joey for the whole race so I think he was well ahead, although I believe he might have a blister or two to show for it lol!  I figured Joey must have benefited from spending the last two weeks in France with Declan where he did loads of cycling including an epic climb of Col du Joux Plane, which I can tell you was a tough climb.

A very special run with my family and friends.  So proud of Zoe on her first 5km…I know from my own experience how much of a barrier that first 5km is, but once you break through, well, to quote Ironman….

ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE.

Event 34 – very special.

 

 

 

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!

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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 !!

Anyhoo…

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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….

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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.

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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 🙂

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Zoe

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.

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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!!!!!

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QOM!

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

 

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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.

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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.

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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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Cowbells on actual cows
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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!
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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

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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.

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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.

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Amazing eagles

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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!

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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!!!

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….and relax

 

 

 

 

 

Event 31 – Torbay Half Marathon

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Torbay seaside

So, two days after Event 30 I find myself on the start line of Event 31.  The Torbay Half Marathon, an event I have done twice before and also only an hour from home 🙂

Two years ago I did it with my friend Jo and last year I was did it on my own, with support from my friend Sarah.  This year Jo was back by my side and my sister Adi was the support crew….cow bells at the ready.   Adi was lured to the race by the promise of good weather by the seaside.  The good weather didn’t happen…but at least it didn’t rain.

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Adi picked Jo up on the way to my house and we set off just after 6.30am.  We were in Torbay just before 8am.  They have recently changed all the roads round Torbay/Torquay and my poor satnav which been my best friend this year got very confused and for a while seemed to think we were in a field lol!   We finally saw the seafront and although it wasn’t where I was expecting to be we managed to to follow the coast road to our parking place.

We were on the start line at 8.45 when I decided I needed a coffee!  I think I have a slight cold and my head felt a little foggy, I needed a quick caffeine fix.  Adi gave me some money and being at the seaside there was a little shack selling hot drinks right there.   With only eight minutes to the start I was glugging it down, they had put a little cold water in for me so it was’t too hot.  It did the trick and I was ready to run as the gun went off at 9am.

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Jo

It’s a fairly big race, around 1600 runners,  so it took a few minutes to cross the start line and then we ran the first 1.5km round the green on the seafront.  The green was covered in bouncy castles and fun things for kids, last year there were donkey’s but this year they were gone 😦 I vaguely remember something in the paper about the council putting up the cost of the rent, which was a shame as they were lovely and obviously well looked after.

This part of the race is very well supported and as well as the initial 1.5km you pass by once more after the first lap and then again at the end.  Good for supporters to see their runners.  We saw Adi cheering as we headed out for the first lap which takes you out to Torquay and back.

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Jo running easy

It’s not flat, but it’s still quite a fast course because the uphills and downhills are a nice gradient.  Fairly manageable to run up and not too much of killer on the knees running down which I was very grateful for.

Jo’s plan was to run it all with me.  I wasn’t sure how this would work out as she is a faster runner ….in fact two years ago she had left me for dust before we had even turned the first corner of the green!  But this year we stayed together and kept a steady pace.  I have improved which helped and Jo just wanted a training run for her upcoming Iron distance race in four weeks.  We even chatted!!! This is huge for me as when I first started running  the thought of running AND chatting seemed crazy.  I didn’t have the breath for both.

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Steve Way

The route follows the coastline and goes up and down three hills before a flat section of around 1km then a turn around point, back along the flat and then the hills again.  A small loop round half the green and then repeat.  The roads are closed, so no cars to worry about and you can see runners all the time in each direction. Caught a quick glimpse of elite runner Steve Way, who I hear on my Marathon Talk podcast.  It also means that you may get lapped….which we did, but only by the first three runners, and I was really pleased that the point we were lapped at was much further along than last year.

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Running with Jo

It was the best fun running with Jo.  We know each other so well that we didn’t feel the need to talk all the time, happy just to have company. Plus Jo knows how to encourage without making you feel like you did well just turning up.  She could see real improvement in my running and was very generous with her praise.  Her delight in my progress really spurred me on. Having done the course before I knew that I was attacking the hills much better this year.

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Chief Supporter Adi

We whizzed through the first lap without stopping and in fact it was only in the last 3km when the humidity and fatigue got to me that we had a couple of short walk breaks…really short, twenty seconds or so.  It’s all I need just to get my breathing back in check.  Jo stayed with me the whole time.  We also walked a few paces at the water stations, easier to drink without choking!  The water stations were all manned by small children who were so sweet and did a great job.

It such a nice race to do.  The closed roads are great and the support is good.  A coupe of sections have loud music and people wave from their houses.   Our special supporter Adi also surprised us by turning up about 2km further along the course than we expected.  Cowbells ringing she cheered us along.  She had also chosen to be at the bottom of the hill so that we would definitely be running at that point lol!  Probably wasn’t room at the top anyway as that was where the ambulances had set up, for some reason 🙂   In fact as well the ambulance there were two paramedics on push bikes sitting poised at the top of one hill….

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After completing the two laps you are back on the sea front at Torbay with signs counting you down from 800m.  More encouragement from Jo to keep going and I  even managed a little sprint at the end.  Over the line in 2.16.37 which is a really good time for me.  We collected out goody bags which and our medal and headed for an ice-cream.  We had been discussing the post race ice cream for the last 5km 🙂   Adi only had enough money for two ice creams WHAT!  She kindly let us have them – thanks Adi xx

 

31 events done!