Monday, 1 August 2016

The Hathersage Hilly Triathlon!

I never imagined myself doing a triathlon, like ever.   I never thought I would have the time or dedication to achieve the skill or fitness levels required.  
But, after the brutal Macclesfield Forest Duathlon I managed to complete (#endure) in February, I decided to enter the Hathersage Hilly Triathlon, coerced once again by the hardcore (but lovely!) Amanda Skeldon! 

Ready for action!

On paper, the HH is a 420m pool swim in the Hathersage Lido, a 20 kilometre bike and a 7 kilometre run.  In reality it is indeed a 420m swim, but when the motto of the event is "It's not flat", you know its not going to be a straightforward road ride followed by a flat road run! Fortunately, as many of you will know by now, I much prefer hills to flat (#weirdo) so along with Amanda and our friend Jac, we entered and I thought, July - it's miles off, it will be FINE! 

The girls - Reb, me, Amanda and Jac
So my training schedule included lots of hills which also fitted in well with my fell series races.  In April, I started to swim once a week in preparation for the swim phase.  I am naturally quite a strong swimmer but having never had lessons since school, I was completely hopeless at front crawl - I could go fast, but I was absolutely knackered after 2 lengths!  I decided to stop worrying about crawl and to focus on my breaststroke to get my swim fitness going and I started to swim around 1000m once a week.  
Amanda smiling as always!

After a few weeks I felt my breaststroke was getting stronger and improving my core strength, I was finding that after swimming, my lower stomach muscles would ache - this, I decided, was a great thing - I resolved to continue swimming after the triathlon.  But, even though I was improving in pace and hopefully strength, I really wanted to be able to do crawl like the "proper" triathletes! This was when I managed to persuade my friend Suzie - an amazing swimmer - to teach me how to crawl properly!

Suzie loves swimming and is a natural teacher.  Having learned to swim using the Total Immersion technique last June at New Mills Leisure Centre, it became apparent that she was a complete natural at it!  She regularly swims over 2k and is now a keen open water swimmer with her sights set on competing at some point in the future.  I am totally in awe of her - she is inspiring and I really looked forward to my "Suzie's Swim School" sessions!
cool, calm and collected...

We decided to start from the beginning with crawl using specific TI drills.  Progress was steady but after a few sessions I was loving the challenge and by my fourth or fifth session I was finally allowed on my front to try and master "full stroke".  Full stroke was really hard to master at first, with breathing being the main problem, but just before the triathlon I felt I was finally getting to a point where I could just get in and practice it, without having to do half an hour of drills to focus my legs (which don't quite understand how to slow down!).  For the HH I decided to stick to breaststroke, as I hadn't started to add any pace to my TI stroke and I was confident that I could complete the 420m distance in around 9 minutes and 30 seconds which sounded respectable for a first attempt.  
Amanda intimidating the competition in her Ironman hoody!

With swimming sorted, I tried to include a hilly road bike ride into my weekly routine, but if the weather was wet I went on my MTB instead and tackled more technical routes offroad.  Of the three phases I think the bike felt my least prepared, I wasn't worried about it, but I just had no idea how long it would take me.  I estimated, having recce'd the route with Amanda and Jac (see this blog post) that I would complete the bike phase in around an hour but I was hoping for more like 50 minutes in order to be competitive. The week before the event, Caz and I did a training ride of a similar length to the HH route and I really focused on being aerodynamic and pedaling as hard as I could on all the flat and downhill sections, which gave me a good confidence boost.

With the running I tried to do either an interval or hill session with Caz, Estelle, Helen and Sarah and/or a fell race each week.  As I was in the full swing of the Goyt Valley Striders Summer Fell Series, I found the running was being covered with that so I didn't overdo it and I felt my form was pretty good for the distance required.

As a total statistics geek, I looked at (read - pored over) previous years results and used this handy Race Calculator (thanks Amanda) to get an idea of my overall time.  But having never done a tri before - it was a lot of guesswork!  Basically I was hoping for a top 20 lady result at best.

Race Day
Not quite the first ones there!

As race day loomed I felt really nervous every time I thought about it!  Amanda, sent Jac and I her race plan and tri checklist to adapt and alter for our individual needs.  These were really useful as I am a total list maker - I love lists and feel far more prepared if I can write everything down and visualise from there.  

The HH has two transition areas, the first is at the swimming pool and the second is down the road near the start of the run route.  This required some military planning!  Basically Ladybird (my bike), my helmet and shoes were left at T1 and my running shoes were left at T2 (there were other things too (like towel, drink, arm warmers etc.) but I wont bother you with boring details!).  It is easy to know where to put your stuff once you have registered.  We went along the day before to register so we could have a little more time in the morning to prep our transition areas etc.  
T1 the day before

When you register you get a race number.  This number corresponds with everything you do in the race.  Without your number you cannot get your bike for example, out of the transition area.  You have a wristband, a race belt number, stickers for your bike and before the swim you are given a chip timer which you wear a bit like a prisoners tag on your left ankle and a coloured swim cap which dictates the time and wave you swim in.  
Lucky 104 ooh and jellybabies!

I felt prepared for the event but still really excited and nervous.  I opted to wear a Pearl Izumi triathlon suit which I got from The Bike Factory (I ordered it in), it wasn't the colour I wanted (I wanted red/black or black/black but pink/black had to do!) but it ticked all the other boxes and I felt comfortable and confident in it (well as confident you can feel in a skin tight garment) I did wear a padded sports bra underneath just to ensure I wasn't worrying about it being see through when wet!  

The Swim
Still talking even whilst swimming!

With the swim taking place in a pool, the whole process takes about 3 hours for all 300 odd competitors to complete the phase.  For this reason it is run like a well oiled machine.  My swim time was 8.26am and at 8.25am I was in the pool ready, I was in lane 4 which operated an anti-clockwise formation with around 4 swimmers at a time completing their lengths.  One thing which surprised me was that you have to count your own lengths! For this reason I literally chanted the length number in my head with every stroke "1, 1, 1, 1, turn 2, 2, 2" and so on!  I got a bit confused around length 8 (it doesn't take much) and had to think whether I was on an odd or even length which sorted me out!
Out of the pool and go go go!

One of my fears was getting held up in the pool, I did have a bit of a stressful start as I tried to overtake a man who was a similar pace to me and we ended up very close to each other for a few lengths.  If someone is slower than you, in theory you can tap their foot and they should wait and move over when they reach the end of the pool. I found that in practise this didn't really happen, so until the man got out I didn't enjoy the swim at all. Once I got rid of Mr splashy feet I was fine!
Looking very wet!

When the lengths were done I jumped out and ran to T1, during this short run I removed my swim cap and goggles and headed to find Ladybird.  I found my stuff quickly and thought I had done an average transition time although putting on my socks, shoes, watch, helmet etc. seemed to take a while!

The Bike 

Once on my bike I really went for it!  I found it really exhilarating flying down hills and passing other cyclists gave me a confidence boost.  Being in an early swim wave seemed to be a big advantage as there were hardly any cars on the roads.  Having recce'd the route I knew where I was going although it was really well signed and marshaled.  There is a section near Grindleford where you must stop and put your foot down before crossing onto a busier road.  This section was marshaled and anyone caught infringing this rule faced instant disqualification from the event. Fortunately I was well aware of this and duly unclipped my foot, placed it down then managed to cross quite easily.  
Jac heading out of T1 onto bike phase

Once I started climbing on the bike I overtook quite a few more cyclists.  I think I was running on pure adrenaline and by the time I had climbed Froggatt Edge I was well up on my estimated time. Unfortunately, after a particularly pot-holey section near Fox Houses, my watch had paused itself, and I only realised about five minutes later when I checked my time again! This meant I had no idea what time I had made!

The bit of the bike phase I wasn't really looking forward to was the moorland straight followed by the extremely windy descent into Hathersage.  I didn't need to worry as I was really brave and just went for it.  I got down on my drops and found myself in a group of motorbikes and literally stuck with them the whole way into the town (they weren't the speedy types!) in fact, I actually passed them at one point but once in the town we all had to stop for the pedestrian crossing - annoying!

After the town section I was nearly back and approached T2 carefully, making sure I could see the dismount line.

The Run
The slowest transition on record...

T2 was a disaster!  I couldn't find my bloody trainers!  I ran down the wrong row and (without my glasses) I couldn't see the numbers very clearly on the stickers marking each competitors place.  Eventually after wasting a minute or so, I found my stuff and changed shoes etc.  I remembered to turn my number round and off I went.
Jac heading out on the run phase

The run phase went by in a flash.   I was fine apart from forgetting to take off my cycling gloves which I managed to lob at my car on the way past!  I went off at quite a fast pace and kept it up until the hillier sections!  The hills were actually really steep and I employed my "fell walk", but some people were really struggling with the gradients! The rest of the run was uneventful (bar seeing an outdoor rave in the middle of the woods and noticing a lady finding my gloves next to my car on the way back past!) and I felt happy with my pace.  
The kids running in with me

By the time I got to the finish field I really went for it all the way to the line with my family cheering me on - which always helps!  It sounds cliched but I was so proud of myself, I felt like I had done my best in all three phases and, unlike the duathlon, it had felt comfortable and fun, the weather really helped too.  Judging by how I felt the race had gone and my performance on the day, I really hoped for a time of around 1 hour 45 minutes. 
Finishing line

I noticed a van next to the finish area and discovered you could key in your race number and receive an instant printout of your time and splits which was brilliant.  I was totally amazed I had managed to complete it in a time of 1 hour 38 minutes and 51 seconds! See my full results here.

Amanda wishing she hadn't 
sprinted so soon! Looong run in

After I had got my printout I cheered in Amanda, Jac, James and Reb - fellow Goyt Valley Striders, we had all enjoyed it and I'm sure we will all enter again next year. 
James speeding to the finish
My overall result was 15th lady out of 103 and I was really pleased to have the 19th fastest cycle time and 10th fastest run time out of the ladies too.  My T1 and T2 times were terribly slow and definitely something to improve on in the future.  

Reb coming in to the finish
Jac was really pleased to just complete the event (having had set backs in training) let alone do it in under 2 hours 15 minutes with an overall time of 2:04:14 and Amanda was quite pleased (her own biggest critic) with her 24th lady position and overall time of 1:42:54. I am so proud of us all! 

The organisation of the event was managed by Sheffield Triathlon Club, and what amazing organisation it was!  Everyone was friendly and helpful and for a first timer like me, it was the perfect event to start with.  I cant wait to do it all again next year!

Jac nearly home! Looking good!

Thank you to Amanda and Jac for the general support and camaraderie, Amanda for all the tri preparation advice, the lads at The Bike Factory for preparing my bike which performed perfectly, Caz and Tony of a&c workwear for the loan of the bike carrier and Super Suzie for the swimming lessons!

I hope this blog inspires others to have a go, there are many fun triathlons with shorter distances which offer a taster of the real thing - have a go, I loved it and will definitely be doing more next year.
Been there done that.

On my hit list of potentials (apart from the HH which I am definitely doing again!) are -
The Craggy Island Triathlon 
The Tameside XL Triathlon 

And I may possibly do the Crazy Legs events Macclesfield Forest Duathlon again if Brian Holland twists my arm..

Until then, happy swimming, running, biking!


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