Race Reports

Dart 10K 2014

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I should start by saying that the Outdoor Swimming Society doesn't market the Dart 10k as a race and I'm sure this fact really adds to the festival atmosphere of the event. That said; A measured course, Timing chips and 4 waves of differing ability (Leisurely, Medium, Fast and Elite) have all the elements necessary for good competition. Add to that the fast flowing tidal waters of the river make for a potentially fast time.

It is run from Totnes to Dittisham through the very picturesque rolling Devon countryside making it one of those must do events amongst distance swimmers. I entered back in February amid the scramble for places, 800 slots selling out in 45 minutes!

Having completed the swim in 2012, I had a good idea of what to expect, but 2 years is a long time to remember the geography required for good navigation. So the day before race day I dragged my family on to the Totness - Dartmouth ferry, packed with lots of other swimmers nervously clutching maps and route info, for a recce of the course. Taking the slow ferry down the river made me realise that both ignorance can be bliss and 10k is a long way. But it did help to locate where the feed stations should be, having missed one last time round I didn't want to make the same mistake twice, nor did I want to repeat my wasted effort of swimming up dead end creeks. With registration also available the day before all was set for a relaxed evening and smooth morning.

So to race morning, up early, big bowl of porridge with honey, check my bag for wetsuit, tri suit to go under for added  warmth (11 degrees C last time!), hat, goggles, gels, water, bananas, glide,  warm clothes for the other end and I was all set. I blagged a lift from the B&B with some fellow swimmers I'd reconnected with from last time so Jo and the kids could make their way to the finish in their own time.

Down at race HQ, all we had to do was collect timing chips and be ready for our wave briefing. I had chosen to go in the most popular Medium wave, but it really makes little difference as everyone follows the same path and crosses the timing mats immediately before entry into the river. Though my plan to be at the front of the wave to minimise overtaking was scuppered by chatting too much and I soon found myself at the very back. Good job the river is wide!

Water clarity at the start was never going to be good with the brackish run off from Dartmoor but at least it was a warmish 17 degrees C. No time for my usual warm up routine, straight into a steady stroke. The first stretch of the river is fairly straight with one important instruction to keep to the right so as to avoid oncoming traffic of the boat variety. I set a course to the centre of the river and set about over hauling those ahead. It didn't feel too long before I could see the first feed station. I swam up to the platform and braced myself against the flow. Fished out a gel from up my wet suit sleeve and took on some water (bottled). I took a sneaky look at my watch as I pushed off, I was 54 minutes in. This got my brain working as I tried to predict my finish time. First feed station was published as being at 4k.  It took me a while, but  calculated this to be 13.30 minutes per Kilometre, 135 minutes for 10k or 2hrs 15. Not possible. I soon realised the feed station was in the same place as last time and that was said to be at 3k and there was no way I was swimming that fast, flow assisted or otherwise. I promised myself no more time check till the finish.

The next two kilometres see the river flow through quite wide meanders, requiring good sighting and positioning to get the best route. This is also one of the most beautiful sections with steep wooded sides to the valley. After this the river opens out into the most exposed section where it is up to 1km wide. This presents a few new challenges, for the first time it becomes quite possible to swim up a creek if you're not careful, also some sections of the river are very shallow and the amount of silt churned up can create a total brown out. I touched the bottom a few times with my hands and had to modify my pull stroke to pass closer to my body. And lastly wind blowing against the flow created quite a big chop. Waves of 12 to 18 inches making for interesting experiences, on more than one occasion I found my upper body completely out of the water as I crashed through. This did test my bilateral breathing as you couldn't rely on getting a clear breath in. At about this point the first of the Fast and Elite wave swimmers started to pass me.

I found the second feed station and took the opportunity to take on my second gel and a few glugs of water. Not wanting to hang around too long I pushed the empty wrapper back up my sleeve and kicked on. It is amazing what a 30 second breather and a burst of sugar and caffeine will do. I was feeling in good shape. True to my promise, no clock watching but I knew I still had between 2 and 3 km's to go.

The route takes a final right hand turn, through 90 degrees with about 500 metres to the village of Dittisham. On seeing what I thought was the turn point ahead I decided to push hard for the finish and maximise my chances of a PB. You guessed it, it turned out to be another creek. I have to admit to a moment of panic, not knowing how much further it was and suffering self-inflicted oxygen debt. A little self-reasoning and I realised I couldn't be much more than 500 metres short. One stretch of the reservoir loop. No problem.

At the real turn you find yourself swimming past the moored pleasure boats and get a real sense of the 'run in', spectators line the shore for the first time and you can see the marquees and catering stalls on the Ham. I even spotted my daughter and gave her a big wave, must be something about my style as she had already picked me out.

It was fantastic to be greeted at the finish by my family, my 74 year old Dad even ran back to the car to pick a pair of flip flops for me to ease the stony walk up to the field. Hot tea in a commemorative mug, medal and event photos were waiting.  It was a great village fate like atmosphere with local produce stalls, Ukulele band, art exhibitions, Lamb roast, burgers, cheese and cakes of all shapes and sizes. Just what you need to refuel for the five hour drive home. As to my time,  I clocked a PB of 2 hours 34 minutes and 19 seconds. A big thanks to everyone who gave me a confidence boost when my training plan was knock off course on Lindfield High Street. You really can do quite a bit more than you think.

Tri-Edmonton 2014 - The rally in the valley

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Barry Davids, Paul Newsome and myself travelled to Edmonton, Canada to race in the World Triathlon Championships, Olympic Distance. The town was awash with flags, and everywhere was the official race slogan...it's going to be epic. Barry travelled via Icelandic Air, he wanted a close up view of some ash clouds. I took out a second mortgage and took advantage of the Team GB official travel package, Paul got his mum to drive most of the way.

We were all together by Saturday, in preparation for our race on Monday 1st September, Labor Day! And it was! The event was the Grand Final of the World Triathlon Series, and the Brownlees, Gomez, Mola, Jorgansen, Stimpson and all, had travelled to Edmonton. Barry met Jorgensen and Groff in our hotel lift...so he says, where's the selfie Barry?  If there is such a thing as a triathlon festival this was it, with races for almost a week. There were various Aquathon Worlds, Sprint Worlds, Junior Worlds, Para Worlds, Olympic Worlds, Relay Worlds, u23 Worlds and Corporate Triathlons.

Barry immersed himself in the whole event, watching most of the races and every time I saw him he had made another lot of friends. We were spoilt, with free transport, free access to pools and gyms and free maple syrup. The logistics were amazing, and sometimes mind bogglingly complex. There were ankle timing chips, bike timing chips, black body numbers, green wetsuit numbers, bag drop numbers, registrations, penalty boxes and briefings to attend to. With bikes having to be in place Sunday, and kept under guard. Paul took his hotel blanket to keep his bike warm. Edmonton had cleaned the swim lake, emptying it, lining it and then chlorinating it! I am not joking.  It was very strange swimming in a lake that smelt like a swimming pool, but it did make drafting easier.

Edmonton2014-legendsWatching the Elite Men on Sunday was awesome. It was like Niagara Falls at the start, with only the occasional arm or leg visible amongst all the froth. It was a brilliant race by Alistair, and amazing to get some close up views and pictures. I can honestly say that the Elites hurt just as much as you when racing. We were relieved when race day arrived, and eager to emulate the dive start off the blue carpet. At least we kept our goggles on Alistair!

The bike route was glorious, fast but with enough hills and fast bends to test our bike handling skills. I loved being in a wave just made up of my age group...just a bit of a shame I watched most of them disappear at the start! Barry's had an unbelievable swim, 25.05, extraordinary with one arm. Paul had a simply brilliant ride, the fastest time I have very seen by a club member in an Olympic, 1.00.09, wow ( he did have a nice warm bike). I had an unbelievable slow swim and run,  managing 49th in my wave of 90. The run was flat, fast but a very long 10km.

Official times were:

Paul, 25.55 swim, 2.42 T1, 1.00.09bike, 2.19 T2, 43.25 run, 2.14.17 total time, 43rd
Martin 27.08 swim, 3.04 T1, 1.02.43bike, 2.56 T2, 47.38 run, 2.23.30 total time, 49th
Barry 25.05swim, 3.07 T1, 1.06.12, bike, 2.52 T2, 46.32 run, 2.23.49 total time, 51st


We all received the coolest medal ever, on the reverse was embossed ...It was epic. It was.

Wealden Manic Tri 2014

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On the warm and sunny morning of Sunday Aug 3rd, four MSTC club members converged on the normally private estate of Newplace Park near Uckfield, to take part in the Wealden Manic Tri 'Club challenge', one of several races organised by HedgeHogTri that morning on the same circuit.

Jean Fish, Mark Jordan, Lucy Williams and Phil couch competed in a super-sprint relay race, each leg consisting of a 300m swim in a positively balmy lake with water temps above 20 Degree C and a 10 km blast on the bike around the lanes near Framfield which was undulating, but still pretty quick to ride. Then followed two laps of the stunning Newplace grounds, skirting the lake in which we had swam and through a cool section of woodland, before dropping into a gully and back up to the start/finish area for another circuit. Anxieties started to build as we  assessed the competition: Mark pointing out that we had a GB age grouper in one of the Steyning teams, Jean declaring that the champagne post charity swim the night before was a bad idea and finally Phil skulked off to the bushes to get 'in the zone'…

The support crew of Lucy's partner Keith and the cheeky face of 2 year old Poppy arrived just in time,  providing Mid Sussex crew with an extra few cheers for each lap completed.

The race format dictated that we competed in Female, Male, Female, Male order. Jean pluckily volunteered to go off first in the mass start, also deciding that she would complete her first ever Non-wetsuit open water swim: go girl!

The first leg was led out of the water by the age-grouper from Steyning AC, who completed the 300m swim in a blistering 4 mins and 8 secs, before hot footing it up to transition. Those of us not in the water looked at each other, realising that there was going to be a hotly contested race. Jean completed her swim and began the chase down, her bike going well barring a small detour due to confusing signage and completed a run that saw the field group up nicely for spectators and competitors alike. 'Oh F&*k' she cried as she ran past on her first lap; perhaps the first and last time we will hear Mrs Fish swear in a race!  At this point 'Steyning A' were well out in front, but a few minutes covered the remaining teams and everyone had their race face on! One of the most amusing parts of the day had to be the look of relief on Jean's face when she had realised that she didn't have to do the whole thing all over again.  None of us had realised that she was waiting in the wings to 'go again' and was worried about getting home in time for Rose's Hen Night!!

Mark was next off, scooting down to the lake in quick time, before taking the plunge and completing his lap, (including the run back up to transition) in fewer than 6 mins. He then completed one of the fastest relay bike times of the day and ran his socks off, catching at least one of our targets in the process. It was impressive stuff and for someone who trains solely for long distance events:  his times showed that he still had plenty of fast twitch fibres to employ!

Mark handed over to Lucy, who has been focussing on Duathlon recently and was concerned at not having swum for over 6 months. She completed her swim without fuss and then showed her strength on the bike, scooting around in 23 minutes. The Duathlon training focus was even more obvious on the run, Lucy completing the fastest female run split across all of the events staged at Newplace that day.  Whilst doing so, she also reeled in another team and made ground on Steyning A, who were still a few minutes ahead:  we began to think we could win the relay event for MSTC.

Phil was next out and after the effort already put in, was determined not to let the team down. The swim was slightly surreal as barring Paul hedger on the pontoon, a chap on a paddle board and a very concerned looking Mallard, the lake was empty. Once back through the handover area and hearing the shouts of encouragement from team MSTC, he tore off on the bike leg like a Jack Russell chasing a bunny, soon wishing that the 10km bike was even shorter as the adrenaline rush subsided. Once out on the run, things settled down and Mid Sussex consolidated their second place, the gap to Steyning A closing, but just too wide to bridge.

We were all delighted with our performance and really enjoyed the sense of 'team' that you rarely get in a multisport event; it had been a great mornings racing. After a thrilling race in a fantastic local setting, we all vowed to return next year to take the crown from Steyning and bring it home to MSTC: roll on season 2015!

Results:
http://www.hedgehogtri.co.uk/web/hedgehogtri/results.html

Ride London 10 August 2014

I used to think of myself as a fair weather cyclist.  Not any more, after having battled through the back end of tropical storm Bertha.

On 10 August 2014, "Team Fish-hook" (Jean Fish, Mike Hook and I), embarked on the Prudential Ride London 100 bike race.  Taking in the sights of London and the Surrey hills, it is the biggest cycling sportive in the UK.

It's fair to say we had been training over the preceding 2 months in the most glorious sunshine.  One barmy Sunday, I even had to stop to buy sun cream.  However, the weather had different plans for race day, forecasting torrential rain and high winds.  

When we registered at the Excel centre two days before the event there were countless people in a blind panic at the waterproof gear area.  An amused worker told me they'd cleared their entire stock of jackets the day before and had had to get an emergency delivery overnight.  Still, there was no rain to be seen outside and we were confident the forecast couldn't be as bad as predicted.  With some reluctance Team Fish-hook agreed we would pack our overshoes 'just in case'.  I don't think the reality of situation really sunk it until it was too late.

We arrived at the start line at 7 a.m. in Stratford and got into our allocated wave positions.  The role out of 24,000 riders from the Olympic Park was seamless and impressive to say the least.  There was no rain at that point and morale was high.  We were however, disappointed to learn that the organisers decided to cut out Leith Hill and Box Hill from the ride and reduce the distance from 100 to 86 miles.  Little did we know what a wise choice had been made.

The first 20 miles took in the sights of London, going through Stratford, the City, along the Embankment and out through Chiswick.  Riding through London with no traffic lights or cars is nothing short of a privilege.  It was exciting to see the Tower of London and The Eye as we sped past, and to ride under the Thames through the Blackwall Tunnel.

It was only when we reached Richmond Park that the heavens opened.  The rain was so heavy we could barely see in front of us, water was streaming down our faces and into our eyes (glasses or no glasses), and the roads started flooding.  We were wet to our skin in minutes and our brakes were pretty ineffectual.  I was then truly grateful we would not have to tackle any large descents in these conditions.  The sudden downpour caused a jam.  We were made to stop and stand in the rain for 20 minutes along with the other 6,000 rides trapped in the park.  You just had to laugh at the madness of what we were doing, voluntarily, and how far we still had to go…

The next 66 miles become much more of a blur in mind.  Time bent to feel as though it were passing both slowly and yet extremely fast at the same time.  We became acutely aware of the danger of the other swerving riders around us and our failing brakes.  It was certainly novel to be cycling through puddles that were up to a foot deep and I have never avoided cycling on drain covers so intently.  The aim of the day turned from racing into completing the event accident free.  We devised a genius plan to locate each other in the crowd and try to stay together - by someone shouting 'Fish' and waiting for the other Team members to respond with 'Hook'.  As I said, it was genius.

We did have some rest-bite from the rain and enjoyed speeding along three a breast as fast as the crowds would allow along the flat of closed dual carriageways in Surrey, and having snack breaks of ISO gels, Jelly Babies and Builder's Bars.  I should say it wasn't entirely flat -the climb at Newlands Corner warmed us up nicely.  There were friendly crowds cheering us on as we came back into London through Kingston and Wimbledon, allowing us to pretend (however fleetingly) that we were part of the Tour de France.  

We managed to stay together to sprint up the Mall and claim victory as three of the 20,709 riders across the finish line.  We may not have cycled 100 miles but we took on Storm Bertha and won.  After careful thought, it was decided that none of us would attempt the double arm raise off the bike celebration (for fear of falling on our faces).  We'd had enough adventure and mild peril for one day…


The ballot for Ride London 2015 opens on Monday, 18 August 2014.

5-3-1 Charity swim 2014

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The 5-3-1 charity swim was a great success with several participants completing all the distances on offer to swim a whopping 9km! Early reports indicate the event has raised over £1000 for the Lauren's Silver Swimmers charity. Louise and Stuart Silverlock were most grateful and sent the following letter through to Mark Jordan. 

Dear Mark,

We wanted to write and thank you for organising the open water swim at Ardingly on 2nd August 2014 in aid of Lauren's Silver Swimmers. It was an extremely emotional day for us as it brings to the forefront again the loss we have to go through on a daily basis. Although the charity was something we wanted to achieve, it is still immensely hard to put into words how we struggle on a daily basis.

I would be grateful if you could forward this letter to everyone involved with the day along with our sincere thanks for the kindness shown to both myself and Stuart. It highlights in more detail the aim of the charity which I found somewhat difficult to convey yesterday.

LaurenAs you know, we lost our daughter Lauren in December 2012 aged just 9. Lauren was born at 24 weeks and spent the first 6 months of her life in many hospitals around the country. As a result of her extreme prematurity Lauren was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy. Lauren was a fighter from birth and seemed to take great pride in proving all the medics wrong. We were told of many things Lauren would be unlikely to achieve, although what they didn't realise was her great strength and personality that would prove everyone wrong. Lauren achieved everything in her short life and much much more.

When Lauren was a year old she was given Aquatic Hydrotherapy treatment which was to prove invaluable to her overall wellbeing and body strength. However this treatment was given to her for only 6 weeks, having one half hour session each week. It was then up to us, as her family, whether we were able to continue to provide Lauren with further treatment, of which there was no question. The treatment in the water has outstanding results, allowing children like Lauren to achieve their full potential. This treatment however is expensive, costing in excess of £45.00 for a half hour session. Of course we did our best as a family to ensure she received this treatment weekly as it was clear that the benefits were huge. Lauren enjoyed her sessions and it gave her an experience that most children take for granted, swimming.

The focus of the charity is to be able to subsidise the cost of Aquatic therapy for children that would benefit from regular and constant treatment. Our long term dream is to build 'Lauren's dream', an aquatic pool available for all.  

With the generous support of people like you and all of those involved with the swim, we will be able to help many of these children.  

The generosity of everyone yesterday, giving their time to take part in this event, is something we will never forget. I know the final figures haven't been calculated as yet but the amount that has been indicated to us is truly amazing and it is thanks to people like yourself, dedicating so much time and effort in organising the event, that will enable us to continue to work towards 'Lauren's Dream.  

Thank you to everyone that was involved in the day, the organisers, the people in the safety boat and canoes, the people on the side ensuring no-one skipped a circuit!!, and to all those that entered the water and swam for so long. I really am humbled at what I witnessed yesterday and feel thank you is not enough to show how much we appreciated you all giving your time for our charity.

Best Regards 

Louise and Stuart Silverlock

 

For more information on our charity and upcoming events please email me lasilverlock@yahoo.co.uk .