Saturday, 22 April 2017

parkrun stories

22/4/17 Wetherby parkrun 93

Thy parkrun cometh and that right soon

07:30 Alarm
07:31 Check to see if legs have reattached after snapping them off with too hard training during week. Feel ok after loosener run last night and legs seem to be hanging from my bottom well enough
07:35 Put the coffee in the coffee pot and drink it all up
07:40 Don club vest. Last chance to beat 73% WAVA as cannot do another Wetherby parkrun this month.
07:41 Realise have forgotten tracksuit bottoms. Hope it's warm!
07:45 Given order from Sophia to pick up worming tablets from vets after parkrun. Unsure if worming tablets are for Bella the cat or me
08:00 Wiggle it, just a little bit, come on and wiggle it, just a little bit. Glutes: READY!
08:30 Skoda DJ selects "You're the voice" by John Farnham for motivation. Not bad, Skoda DJ, not bad
08:35 Hit *every* high note in song and definitely sound like international pop star rather than 60-year smoker with vocal polyps who is tone-deaf
08:45 Meet Martin​ from Horsforth Fellandale​ in car park and walk to sports assoc together. Leave Tom​ setting up pushchair for Thor
08:50 Detonate small nuclear device in toilets of sports association. Sorry, footballers, but you need to toughen up anyway. *Football?!* sheesh
09:00 PARKRUN!!
09:00:01 2 runners blister away from start
09:00:30 2 runners who blistered away
now appear to be running backwards. Settle in to 2nd behind Steve Boynton​ herein known as "The Nemesis" with a PB about 40 seconds better than mine
09:07 Hear The Nemesis catching me. Trying to hold on!
09:07:30 Offer marshals bribes of money, cakes or my body to trip up The Nemesis or send him wrong way. None go for it. Especially not the body offer
09:08 Passed by Nemesis, ah well, it was good whilst it lasted! Try to tuck in behind Nemesis, but soon starts pulling away from me
09:10 Watch Nemesis slowly extend lead. Now have to concentrate on keeping pace up
09:18summat. See finish, must sprint hard, prosecco is at stake!!
09:19summat. Probably a PB but no sub 19 and no significant WAVA improvement.
09:22ish Photographising
09:30 Debrief with fellow Fellandalers
09:40 BACON!
10:05 Text message: Scott, your time in position 2 at Wetherby parkrun was 19:18. Well done on a new PB. Hot damn! You are good. Would you please be our poster-boy for parkrun?!
11:30 Ensure prosecco is in fridge because it's parkrun law
11:35 Calves deliver very long, loud, ranty lecture to me detailing my abuse of them over many years. Ignore calves because........NEW PB!!!!
parkrun. All one word, all lower case #aowalc
I LOVE parkrun

I love that everyone is welcome. I love that at my first parkrun there was a 30+ stone man working *really* hard to improve his health. I love that Jonathan Brownlee​ holds the course record at York. I love that there are kids with their parents and dogs with their humans. I love that I can use it for rehab after an injury. I love that there is often cake. I love that I have an exclusive card that gives me access to hundreds of events the world over. I love that anyone who wants it can have that same access. I love that people happily volunteer to be VI guides. I love that I paced my friend to her first ever sub 30 time. I love having a profile with all my stats. I love that I can run a course of any kind: grass, tarmac, mud, hills and every combination of the above. I love that I can run them around lakes, coastlines, castles, stately homes, housing estates, sports fields, a ninja turtle shaped-park and other countries. I love the shirts that I am working to earn. I love staying with my camera until the final finisher to make sure everyone gets a photo. I love that there are people that only volunteer and don't run because they know how special it is. I love that there are so many people so dedicated to their parkruns and I love that there are people that only go tourist. I love that it's free. I love being able to race and get a time. I love that there are people as happy to break 50 minutes as 20 minutes. I love the diversity. I love that we all get to share it together. I love Saint Sinton-Hewitt for having set this all in motion and keeping it on the right path. I love that toddlers mix with teens that mix with the middle-aged that mix with the elderly, and I love that everyone of them is a parkrunner. I love that people walk and wheel and limp and sprint and smile at parkrun. I love that former olympic athletes take part. I love buying a bacon sarnie and mug of tea in the sports association after the run and chatting to everyone and I love that the money goes towards the sports association. I love the marshals that cheer me on. I love a PB. I love a milestone.
I love the parks
I love the running

I LOVE parkrun!

Wetherby parkrun 92 15/4/17

I parkrun, therefore I am

05:30 Woken by Sophia having conversation with the cat. Cat does not respond, but like to think she's saying, "Shut up, Scott is trying to get a good rest before parkrun"
07:30 Alarm, coffee
07:35 Disaster! Realise have forgotten long sleeved top to go under club vest. Going to be a chilly one...
07:45 Give all boys in yard a flavoured milk-based beverage and throw them out before starting hip wiggling exercises
07:50 Eye up choccy egg that will be reward for today's run
08:10 Skoda DJ trying to select motivating song, but being rubbish. Eventually settle on "Don't you forget about me" by Simple minds- 80s classic, if not very motivating lyrics
08:10 HEY HEY HEY! Ooooooooooh, wooooooh!
08:40 Lots more Fellandalers turn up to run! Yay clubmates!
08:45 Recognise several very fast runners from Woodhouse Moor parkrun which has been cancelled today
08:57 Freezing mammaries off in vest and shorts! Pleased by reduction in body-weight
09:00:10 Surprised to be passed by Fellandale vest being worn by second-claimer Patrick​! My fell race times are a little quicker than his,but he soon disappears in to the distance!
09:05 Need to beat 18:55 to get WAVA of 73% and take lead in Fellandale parkrun champs
09:10 Not feeling it! Trying not to die! Patrick continues to get smaller in distance
09:18summat Final push. Glance at watch. Sub 19 is out, but PB is on. Need good sprint!
09:19:** Complete sprint and collapse through line. Garmin is inconclusive. Need to wait for text!
09:25 Photies! Cute doggy shots galore!
09:40 BACON!
10:15 Text message: Scott, your time in position 10 today at Wetherby parkrun was 19:20. Well done on a new PB.  You are the most awesomest parkrunner that ever did awesome at a parkrun. A NEW ALL-TIME PB!!!!!! BY ONE WHOLE COMPLETE...........WAIT FOR IT..........1 SECOND!
11:00 Arrive back at house and place gigantic bottle of prosecco in fridge for celebration!
11:30-13:30 Reports, editing photographs, shower etc, etc, BLAH BLAH BLAH, who cares? I GOT A PB!!!!!!!!!!!!
23:23 Mega pleased with PB as fitness still to gain and fatness still to lose!

Wetherby parkrun 91 8/4/17

My parky-warky run

05:00 Woken up for umpteenth time by Sophia sniffling/coughing/sighing. Try to summon up nurse sympathy. Unable to. Roll over and go back to sleep
07:30-40 Alarm. Set coffee machine. Put on Fellandale vest
08:00 Consciously avoid writing anything about bathroom habits to stop feeding sick addictions of parkrun discussion group regulars
08:01 And "regular" wasn't a reference to anything before you all start
08:10 Spend some time wiggling hips in suggestive fashion to appease physio gods. Go outside to find all boys in yard asking for milkshake
08:30 Arrive in Wetherby with Skoda DJ having utterly failed to select motivating song. Slap self in face to manually add adrenaline.
08:35 Fellow parkrunner: "OH! You're barefoot, no wait, they're socks, or are they? they're running shoes are they? I think?!?"
Me: "They're vibram five fingers"
Fellow parkrunner: "."
08:40 DISASTER! Have forgotten GPS watch! And if it ain't on Strava.....
08:45 Test out bare feet. Bit too bumpy and dry- feet not yet up to it. Put on vivobarefoot trainers instead
08:50 Pleased to see other Fellandale team members have turned out for the club parkrun championship. Now have to try to get highest WAVA score!
09:05 Boynton boys disappear into distance, apart from Steve Boynton​, who is just in front (He always stays there too!)
09:05-09:19ish Feeling great. Able to run much smoother and faster than I have in a long while. Baffled as thought had done too much hard training too close to parkrun to run well!
09:15 Actually have enough energy on last lap to "give it some welly" Feel like have managed to run even splits for once rather than getting progressively slower. Curse self again for forgetting watch.
09:20 Completely forget that I need to give barcode to lovely scanner volunteer who is looking at me puzzled. Manage to fish card out of back of shorts and hold well away from poor volunteer
09:20:05 Ask timer what time I did. 19:30ish she says. Hmmmm, think the timers might be wrong this week?? Clang cowbell of cloud 9 just to be safe
09:25 Start taking photos
09:40 Women working very hard to finish her run is approached by her son who is shouting "Mum, mum, I beat my Dad and brother"
Mum gasps: "That's good" as she keeps putting in huge effort to finish
"Come on Mum!"
"I AM coming!"
"Oh Mum, you're so slow"
"I know"
09:50 BACON!
10:26 Text message. Scott, your time in position 7 at Wetherby parkrun was 19:28. You are tremendous. You run parkrun so bigly. You're making parkrun great again.
11:00 Arrive back at house. Sophia: "What's it like outside?"
Me: "Just like inside, only bigger"
12:00 Shock of smashing this years PB, my post break PB, being 56 seconds faster than last week and only being 7 seconds outside my all-time PB sinks in. Pick self up off floor.

Wetherby parkrun No90 1/4/17

A 2nd anniversary parkrun day

07:30 Alarm set a little earlier to ensure campness of exercises is extra camp as per biomechanical guy's instructions
07:35 Coffee machine primed with TNT coffee
07:40 Put on club vest and regulation blue shorts as Wetherby is Fellandale's designated parkrun championship course for April,
08:20 Leave nice and early for parkrun with Sophia who has volunteered today for Wetherby's 2nd anniversary run
08:22 Skoda DJ obviously knows it's April the 1st and chooses "A Town called Malice" as I head to Wetherby. Jokes on you, Skoda DJ, it's an excellent song for raising spirits despite the lyrics!
08:30 As we walk from car park Sophia asks, "Where's the cakes?" Head back to car for lemon drizzle slices I baked to celebrate the anniversary
08:35 Arrive at parkrun and try to find area out of sight to mince through exercises
08:40 Test out barefoot running to see if can run on blister caused by hill sprints earlier in week. Test failed, put on vivobarefoot trainers
08:50 Laugh at crazy black lab pelting in and out of gathered runners
09:00 ED Dawe​ rants about the fact it's an anniversary run and she is the only one in fancy dress (as Lara croft; we were all praying the guns were fake)
09:03 PARKRUN!
09:04 Settle in to 4th place
09:05-09:22ish Try to do even splits instead of recent increasingly slower splits as run goes on
09:22 ish. Finish with "sprint. Celebrate 2017/PB PB by clanging Cowbell of cloud 9 then eat own lemon drizzle slice
09:23 Runner 1 place behind me tells me how he couldn't quite catch me but had been chasing me all the way around. Then says he got a big PB. I take full credit for this. Me, all me
09:25 Camera showing error code! Forgotten memory card! No photos today :(
09:45 Bacon sanger for me, sausage and fried egg for Sophia
09:50 Joseph the whippet sneaks up behind me and sticks nose into bacon sarnie, cheeky little monkey; and after all the doggy snacks I've given him!
10:15 Text message. Scott, your time in position 4 today at Wetherby parkrun was 20:24. All the other parkrunners agreed that you were today's sexiest runner
10:20 Celebrate a PBPB of 36 seconds and a Wetherby PBPB of 46 seconds.
10:30 Inform umpteenth person that *I* made the lemon drizzle slices *not* Sophia. #everydaysexism
11:30. Discover camera does in fact have memory card in it, error code was because lens was not correctly fitted. Whoooooops
12:00 Cuppa proper Yorkshire tea aaaaaaand relax

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Not another bl**dy Scott Leach report (Title ©Martin Gebbett​) Wetherby parkrun number 87

Not another bl**dy Scott Leach report (©Martin Gebbett​)

17:00 Realise have left fell trainers at home. Consider 1.5 hour round trip to get them. Naaah, it'll be reet
05:00-07:30 Cat doing cat things
07:45 Alarm. Really alarmed. Very alarmed
07:50 Choose Ron Hill tshirt that just says runandrunrunandrunrunandrunrunandrunrunandrunrunandrunrunandrun
08:00 Caffeine!
08:10 Drop off deposit at the porcelain bank
08:25 Let Skoda shuffle DJ select motivating track. All Fall Down by One Republic. Hmmmmm, try again
08:27 After 15th try Skoda DJ selects Glittering Prize by Simple Minds
08:35 Discover Wetherby weir has a "Salmon ladder" Mind boggles with images. Perhaps it's a euphamism?
08:40 Strip then run about a bit to see if laces are ok on inov8 roclite trainers. They're not. Lace, relace, run, repeat
08:55 ED Nykie Dawe​ goes on rant asking for people to volunteer as run director. People examine trainers closely. We are all suitably chastised. Some are slightly turned on. No one volunteers
08:56 Tourists revealed to be from city of culture 2017 Kingston Upon Hull, one is wearing Hull FC shirt. ED declines rendition of "Old Faithful" due to being a Saints supporter. Everyone who isn't a rugby league fan is baffled by exchange
09:00 PARKRUN!
09:00:30 Feel excellent, run fast and smooth
09:01 Feel knackered, have gone out too fast. Start to slow down.
09:02 7 time Wetherby first finisher Stephen Boynton decides to show off his ballet skills at the 3rd corner by doing the splits and a pirouette in front of me but miraculously keeps his feet
09:03 Roclite shoes are hopeless in mud, feel like Michael Jackson doing moonwalk
09:15 Lap runners from Hull and give them a burst of "Mark Sneyd's on fire, your defence is terrified!"
09:22:27 Cross line then struggle to pull barcode out of pocket at back of shorts. Consider how this looks to poor barcode scanner. Make sure hold out barcode to be scanned rather than hand to volunteer
09:25 Take photos
10:00 Go straight up to shower as Sophia complaining about the stink very loudly
10:45 Bacon and egg!
11:00 Settle down in front of computer to write reports and process photos with coffee

Which trainer should I choose?

Tweet me @scott_leach   

As you can see from the photo above that represents a tiny fraction of my collection, I am not a stranger to trainers.

SPOILER: Most modern trainers have numerous problems: A large toe spring, a small toe box, cushioning that wrecks proprioception and stiffness. I'm going to try to explain why all of these things are terrible for your feet.
SPOILER 2: If you have an injury and are about to try to solve it with expensive new trainers, leave this blog now and start googling sports physio in your area.
SPOILER 3: Running shoes all fit in to a scale. At one end you have good trainers that allow your feet to move naturally and don't adversely affect your running gait and at the other end you have trainers that entirely stop that natural movement. Most trainers fall towards the wrong end of that scale.

One of the most consistently repeated questions I see on internet forums is "What trainers should I choose?" Unfortunately, this is generally met with a barrage of advice that is "runners' conventional wisdom". Sadly, almost all of this "conventional runner's wisdom" is wrong with absolutely no evidence or scientific back up, unless you count anecdotal evidence, which you really, really shouldn't.

I'm a nurse, so I'm pretty used to reading medical research and studied anatomy and physiology at university. I also completed a degree in mechanical engineering with my thesis being in medical engineering that looked at stress and strain on tendons and ligaments (Institute of mechanical engineers gave me a medal for that study and I received the highest score on the mechanical degree that year and the second highest in the department) So hopefully this will give you some confidence in what I have to say.

The number one piece of conventional wisdom we as runners have been fed is "You must go to a specialist sports shop and get "gait analysed" and "properly" fitted for a shoe. I cannot emphasise enough how sports shops CANNOT carry out real gait analysis. If you want that you need a specialised physio or a biomechanical specialist, probably at a university. Even if you get that, it is unlikely they will recommend a shoe to you, although they may tell you to stop wearing a terrible control trainer.

Our feet contain lots of moving parts; bones, joints, ligaments, tendons and muscles. They evolved over many millennia to be wonderfully elegant structures. They contain everything you need to run well. The problem being, is that modern lives and modern shoes wreck our feet. The muscles and structures in our feet become weak at which point most people try to compensate for that by stuffing bits of foam in to them also known as "orthotics" and "motion control trainers" Unless you have an actually medical deformity, this is usually about the worst thing you can do.
Your foot has an arch in it, it has that arch because an arch is a very strong structure. The best way to weaken an arch is to push something up in to the middle of it- exactly what motion control shoes and orthotics do. This may give you some short term relief from pain, but ultimately it means that the muscles are doing even less of the work they should be doing and will only become even weaker. A much better way to deal with problems in your feet and ankles is to see a decent sports physio or biomechanical specialist and get them to identify where your muscles are weak or turned off and where they are over-active and to give you exercises to correct this.

The perfect trainer:

I've spent the last few years reading everything I can about the way we run in an attempt to correct my own injuries (Long story; don't ask!) And here's what I believe the perfect trainer would be:

Most modern road trainers are virtually solid. If you cannot "wring" your trainer out, i.e., you are not able to twist it round, it's too stiff. Your foot is meant to move and flex when you run, a trainer with a solid sole stops the natural movement.

Foot shaped.
Most modern trainers have a pointy end. Feet are not pointy! Your toes slope down to one side meaning your toes are pulled inwards by pointy trainers. Your big toe should point forward when you run and be allowed to move, many trainers don't allow this as the shape isn't right.

No toe spring.
Most modern trainers curl upwards at the front. The "logic" in this is that it helps you spring off the floor. In fact what it does is leaves some of the tendons in your foot under constant tension. Tendons are meant to be elastic, we pull them tight then let them go gaining momentum from the elastic recoil. That's what they're meant for, you won't damage them by doing that correctly and it takes far less energy to do that than using muscles entirely for you movement.

Zero drop
There should be no difference in the height between the heel and the toes. When shoes have a huge heel drop it helps to shorten your achilles tendon. Swapping from shoes that have a big drop (let's say 12mm) to a zero or low drop shoe will be difficult for you after years of modern shoes, but it's worth it in the end.

Very little cushioning.
I know a shoe with a great wedge of foam is comfy and feels great, but chips taste great too, but you wouldn't eat them for every meal. Your foot needs to feel the floor so it can feed back to your body about how you are running and adjust accordingly. It's the number one thing you need for your body to prevent injury by itself. That feed back is called proprioception and the more cushioning there is, the more your proprioception is dulled.

To my knowledge, there is no trainer currently on the market that does all these things excepting barefoot trainers. Most people's feet are a long way from being able to run barefoot because of years of abuse in modern shoes with high heels, cushioning, arch support and inflexible soles. Trying to swap immediately from a heavily cushioned, arch-supported modern running shoes to a minimalist or barefoot shoe is very likely to result in injury. I believe there is great benefit in moving towards neutral shoes, but it's difficult to do and shouldn't be undertaken lightly. If your feet are strong and your gait is good, you can get away with some cushioning. If you've exercised since being a child and never really had a break, you're likely to be fine, but if you returned to running/exercise after many years of inactivity you'll need to be cautious. That doesn't mean not changing, it just means changing in small increments

Many people are going to disagree with what I have said, they will quote things such as "I bought a new trainer and all my problems went away" Whilst it may be true that your new trainer might have masked your issues, it's unlikely (but not impossible) that your problems went away, it does of course depend on what was causing your problems. If you were wearing a trainer that was very bad for your feet a new trainer might actually solve it, but that's not the case most times. There are more likely; reasons such as you rested because you were injured or you did exercises that a physio gave you. Either way, relying on a new trainer to solve your injury issues is a very bad way top go about things and is a real gamble.

"But I have a high/low arch"

No, you don't. Wait- stick with me. There is no reliable tool invented that can accurately measure an arch and tell you if it is "low or high" when you are told this by someone, they are basically having a guess based on their anecdotal evidence.  Besides, there is absolutely no good evidence to say that a high or low arch has any bearing whatsoever on your running. Strong muscles in your feet are the key, regardless of the height of your arch

"But I over/under pronate"

No, you don't. Once again, there is no good evidence to say this has any bearing on your running or injury rate. Our feet are meant to pronate, it's part of out natural shock abosrption and there is no tool to measure this let alone tell you if it is too much or too little, once again it is personal bias based on anecdotal evidence. When you use orthotics or motion control trainers to change the pronation of your feet you are stopping the muscles working that are meant to stabilise and control the movement of your feet.

You'll notice that I have not actually recommended any trainers. That's partly because you won't be able to fulfil all the criteria but also because it's more important to just try on a lot of trainers and choose one that feels comfortable to you.

So all of that will have put the cat amongst the pigeons, but hopefully, at the very least I might have started you thinking differently about what you put on your feet, even if I haven't managed to convince you.

Some useful reading that challenge "Conventional runners' wisdom" that will hopefully get you thinking differently if you don't already:

Tweet me @Scott_Leach

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Parkrunning across the universe, only going forward 'cos we can't find reverse

Parkrunning across the universe, only going forward 'cos we can't find reverse.
Midweek: Find out there is a parkrun in Wolverhampton in a ninja turtle-shaped park! Stay amused for rest of week.
Friday: Pressure builds to write highly amusing parkrun report. Feck it, I'll just write my usual unfunny one instead
07:55 Girlfriend's alarm goes off 5 minutes before mine, presumably as a punishment for "volunteering" her for scanning duty after plea from ED for marshals.
07:57 Set coffee machine off with Sainsbury's own brand ground coffee as am now part of the middle class
08:00 Startled by MY alarm going off
08:01 Choose between Hull FC vest (2016 Challenge cup winners COYH) or "hilarious" "Education is important, but running is importanter" tshirt. Go for latter
08:02 Don more lycra than is respectable for a 42 year old man
08:05 CAFFEINE!!
08:15 Enter bathroom
08:15:30 Commit crime against humanity
08:25 Remember to perform all physio exercises and roll on mini basketball. Hum Barbara Streisand hits
08:27 Begin to cajole girlfriend to hurry up so we are not late. Girlfriend still in dressing gown
08:30 Give girlfriend 5 minute warning. Refrain from shouting "Awooga"
08:40 Leave for parkrun
08:41 Select Journey's classic "Don't stop believin'" on car stereo.
08:42 Sing all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order.
08:43 Girlfriend gives me "unimpressed look"
08:48 Arrive at car park and start speed walking to start
08:55 Strip and make fuss of lovely whippet
08:57 Quickly show girlfriend camera so she can get runners on first lap. Neglect to show her how to use pro lens that she hasn't used before. Whoops
09:00 PARKRUN!!
09:02 Left shoe lace unties completely
09:05 Rather surprised that young lad who sets off in the lead is wearing very large down jacket
09:10 Eventually tell young lad that he needs to go around the cones rather than cutting every single corner "But it's muddy" "Tough, it's muddy for everyone" (Cones are partly to prevent damage to pitches so important for not annoying the local footballers and sports association)
09:20 Hear what I think is young lad catching me. Am actually passed by grey haired lady who is moving at a lick! Results show she is a veteran 60-64 from York!!!! RESPECT!
09:21:31 Enter finish funnel and left shoe finally gives up holding on and I leave it behind. Marshal helpfully picks it up and starts to put it neatly away. Hop after her on one foot "Actually, I do rather need that back"
09:22 Wave barcode in front of girlfriend who is clearly miles away
09:23 Grab camera and start snapping
09:35 Cafe: Laugh at bulldog trying to get on cafe counter after he smells frying bacon/sausages
09:42 Post PPP (Post parkrun porn) picture of sausage sarnie to parkrun discussion group. I WILL make it catch on :)
09:45 Look through photos. Good lord, I'm fat!
10:10 Find parkrun card on ground on way out of sports assoc. ICE information reads: "Handle like eggs"
10:15 Text message: Scott, your time in position 6 at Wetherby parkrun was 21:31. Well done. Thanks also for volunteering. (22 seconds faster than last week, result!)
10:48 Card owner returns my call whilst I'm in Morrisons's buying ingredients for Shepherd's pie. Arrange to exchange card on Tuesday
11:30 Select music for drive home; Kaiser Chiefs classic. Change lyrics to "I predict a diet"
12:00 Start download and processing of pictures
12:57 Girlfriend claims she is "tired" from scanning duties....
13:03 Publish report as photos are taking forever. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaand relax

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Another parkrun day 14/1/17

Another parkrun day.....

That's not me, he's just a very happy bloke I happened to photograph

03:34 Woken by cat screaming whilst sitting in middle of bed
06:34 Wake up for the 14th billionth time and with a painful yet strangely numb arm.
08:00 Woken by alarm
08:02:53 Crawl to bathroom sobbing
08:10 Disaster! Discover boiler has gone off and cannot warm coffee pot before putting in machine meaning probably lukewarm coffee!!
08:15 Manage to reset boiler. Phew!!
08:20 Choose between 2013 Oslo marathon tshirt which has very little life left in it due to poor quality of printing or Trafford 10k tshirt. Plump for former
08:21 Caffeine hit!
08:29 Assault toilet
08:30 Reflect on the fact that I may have last night, somewhat unwisely, after a couple of glasses of wine, announced on facebook page that I plan to win today's parkrun by nobbling 10 other runners
08:35 Check through window to see if any police cars outside.
08:45 Leave for parkrun with relieving lack of flashing blue lights
08:47 Return to house for trainers
08:50 Select today's adrenaline inducing banging choon on car stereo- Hard to Beat by Hard-fi. Sing like loon
08:52 Arrive at Wetherby car park; now in serious hurry to get to start line on time
08:54 Whilst speed walking realise have forgotten to do physio exercises
08:55 Do some quick hip-hitches. Resist urge to sing "I'm coming out"
08:57 Strip and put on trainers etc- leave huge pile of clothing as have brought extra warm gear so can photograph runners later
09:00 Still lacing up trainers when ED announces we are about to start!
09:00:10 Realise have forgotten barcode card!
09:00:15 Get  back-up laminated barcode from sports bag and stuff in back pocket of shorts, because am genius
09:00:45 Put on other glove as sprinting away from start
09:01 Laugh as the 2 young lads that have blistered away from start line playfully shoulder charge each other as they disappear away from the rest of us mere mortals
09:02 Realise that have not tied up left trainer well enough
09:04 Realise that inov8 mudclaw fell trainers are not best choice on completely frozen mud
09:10 Settle in to tenth position
09:21:30 Realise runner behind is coming up fast as we approach finish line
09:21:35 Find killer instinct and sprint like a nutter for line to retain tenth position
09:23 Realise that cannot find back-up barcode in pocket because am def not genius
09:25 Grab camera and start snapping away at other runners
09:40 BACON!

09:50 Arrive home and find barcode stuck to inside of pocket with buttock sweat
10:29 Text message: Scott, thanks for volunteering today at Wetherby parkrun. Your efforts are greatly appreciated by us and all the runners. (They haven't seen the pictures yet!)
10:40 Head to shower to avoid "You stink" comments only to find girlfriend has put washing machine on.
11:00. Start processing pictures!
11:30 Delete worst blurry photos
11:40 Start download!
11:42 Aaaaaand, relax!
11:44 Text message: Scott, your time in position 10 today at Wetherby parkrun was 21:53. Well done. (33 seconds faster than last week. Result!)
18:00 Open magnum of prosecco

A parkrun day 7/1/17

A parkrun day...
Here's one someone took earlier. Think this was at Woodhouse moor parkrun about 3 years ago
07:50 Wake naturally 10 minutes before the alarm, result!
07:55 Put the coffee machine on
08:00 Startled by alarm going off
08:01 Choose between wearing "intimidating" ultra-marathon tshirt to "psyche" out the "opposition" or awesome cool Halloween Scarborough 10k tshirt. Plump for latter
08:10 Caffeine hit!
08:20 Violate the toilet
08:30 Check TUE certificate is still valid
08:31 Steroid inhaler
08:40 Leave for parkrun Wetherby
08:41 Select adrenaline-inducing tune "Reverend" by The Kings of Leon on car stereo and sing it at the top of my voice
08:50 Arrive at park and do incredibly camp hip exercises the physio has given me on steps in front of sports association- manage not to get arrested or put on any registers but earn some funny looks
08:55 Strip!
08:57 Pat cute doggies!
09:00 PARKRUN!
09:01 Wonder if I am going to finish behind man pushing large child in buggy
09:05 Pass buggy, phew!
09:26:30 Try to get brain to tell hands to hold out token and barcode. Pretty much fail
09:27 See life flash before eyes. DAMN! I eat a lot of cake!
09:28 Manage to gasp out a thank you to marshals
09:30 Laugh as large child emerges from buggy and pulls woolly hat out of eyes
09:35 Man behind cafe counter asks me "Is it raining outside?" Me: "Um no, I've just been running"
09:36 Try not to drip on cafe counter
09:40 BACON!

09:41 Post PPP bacon picture to parkrun discussion group
10:17 Text message: Scott, your time in position 13 today at Wetherby parkrun was 22:26. Well done.
10:18 Sit wondering if being 13th 2 weeks running is an odd omen especially whilst wearing 10k Halloween tshirt....
10:20 Throw trainers, tshirt and hat into courtyard after dagger looks from girlfriend
10:30 Aaaaaaaaaand relax
11:30 Eventually go for a shower because, apparently, I am "stinking out the house"

Sunday, 28 August 2016

The Challenge Cup Final. Hull v Warrington 27/8/16

Nope, this blog is not about running. My other life-long passion is rugby league and this is pretty much a diary-entry to remind me of an amazing day. Rugby league players are incredible athletes, they need to be very powerful with a huge amount of fitness.

On Wembley way
As Hull FC travelled further down their challenge cup path this year, it was as if someone had opened up the book of sod's law and decided to start applying random rules to me. Just before the semi-final against Wigan, I realised that I was down to work the weekend of the final. Did I tempt fate and try to change it, or wait to see if we beat Wigan? I decided to wait. Very soon after the win at the Keepmoat that put us in to the final, I started frantically trying to change my shifts. While I was worrying away about all this, I was diagnosed with a stress fracture just above my left ankle. So now I was in a boot (visible in the picture above) and on crutches. How the hell would I get up the steps to my seat? In the event, I was only on crutches for 2 weeks so I would only have the boot to contend with at Wembley, thankfully. At least I didn't need to get my shift changed now as I would be on sick at the time of the final.

Not since 1983 have Hull been the favourites going in to a CC final, in fact, they've been big underdogs. And being the underdogs, I approached each of the finals in the same way, with no expectations of a win, I just went to enjoy the day regardless of the result. But this year it was different. We were favourites. We sit deservedly top of super league having beaten 2nd team Warrington twice this season in tight games. We had beaten Saints, Cats and Wigan to reach the final, a very tough, all super league route against top 8 sides. This year, we really could do it and for the first time, I was actually nervous before a final. Friday evening before the match was very, very long and I whiled away my time watching old videos of challenge cup memories on line.

And now some background. I started going to Hull FC games in 1983 aged 8 and the very first game I ever saw them lose was the 1983 cup final at Wembley, beaten by Featherstone Rovers who were the biggest betting underdogs of all time at the time, until Sheffield Eagles played Wigan in 1998, who also overturned the massive odds.
Since then Hull have returned to the final in 1985, 2005, 2008 and 2013 winning only once in 2005 at the millennium stadium in Cardiff. All told, Hull FC had lost 8 times at Wembley without ever winning. Speaking of which......

Now imagine, if you will, that you are a small rugby league club managing to punch a little above your weight and that across the city is a much bigger club. The bigger have won more derby games, more leagues, more cups, more challenge cup finals and have a lot more fans. If you were a fan of that little club, you might clutch at any straw you could and the straw that Hull Kingston Rover's fans have been clutching at for the past 36 years is that they won their solitary challenge cup victory at Wembley against Hull. The Rover's fans even sing their own version of Hull's anthem "Old Faithful" changing the lyrics to "You'll never win at Wembley" Now I am yet to meet a Hull FC fan who gave a crap about where Hull FC's 3 challenge cup wins happened, the only reason it became important is because of those clutched straws in the sweaty palms of the desperate Rovers fans. But in the end, the city of Hull has to face it, both teams are massive under-achievers in the grand scheme of rugby league but as bad as Hull's record is, Rover's is much worse. And if, in 140 years, your team had only won the cup once, and that was 36 years ago, you'd think that you probably wouldn't want to bring attention to that fact, but that's Rovers fans for you.
This year, the "Wembley hoodoo" talk reached a crescendo. Not mentioned all that much in previous cup finals for Hull, this year the press picked up on it much more and it was constantly mentioned. Breaking with tradition Hull's coach, Lee Radford talked about it a lot in the lead up to the final. He really wanted to shut up those Rover's fans and was using it as motivation to the squad.

And so in 2016, it had come to pass, that the 2 top teams in super league would battle it out in the cup final, the most eagerly awaited final for many years by most neutrals, never mind the fans of the 2 clubs. It was mouth-watering. Super league's 1 v 2, Yorkshire v Lancashire. Too close for most pundits to call. Two big packs promising to deliver a battering, bruising match and they delivered in spades.

Sophia and I arrived in Stanmore after a 3 hour drive and managed to park about a 5 minute limp from the station. We caught the train to Wembley park and by the time we arrived, the boot was rubbing the crap out of my shin as I limped along, but the view down Wembley way has a way of making you forget all about such things. The Hull fans were turning it into a sea of Black and White.

The lead up to kick off is full of pomp with a red carpet line-up and a rendition of "Abide with me" before the national anthem with all 76000 fans on their feet.

The first half was a brutal affair with huge collisions from both sides. I doubt many people would have predicted that it would take until the 34th minute before the first points would be on the board. Neither team had looked like scoring with defences on top until a pass from a very tired looking Frank Pritchard was intercepted by Chris Sandow who went the best part of 90 metres. Amazingly he was hauled down by Jamie Shaul who had set off after him like an Exocet missile. It only delayed the inevitable as Warrington scored with the next play. 6-0 to the Wire at half time and it was probably a fair reflection of a close, hard-fought 1st half.

I wasn't worried at all at half time, Hull have been a second half team all season coming from behind many times to win games. The most significant probably being the semi final v Wigan. In a lot of those matches, around 50 minutes in to the game, Hull had come alive, blasted out 3 or 4 quick tries and killed off the game. When we hit the 62 minute mark and it was 10-0 to Warrington, I definitely WAS worried.

Now, unfortunately a quick mention of the referee before we can get back to talking about the rugby. He was terrible. Truly awful. At my count he made 4 of the worst decisions ever seen in a cup final. "Letting the game flow" is all very well and something most fans would generally like to see in a cup final but failing to give blindingly obvious penalties is not ok. I have now watched the match again on TV to verify what I thought I had seen in the stadium, after all, I was a long way away in the stands and it is easy to see something different from so far away in the heat of the moment, but the TV footage was on my side. So here's his top "hits"

Failing to give a GIGANTIC knock on from a kick off against Wire. The player turned towards his own posts and pulled the ball towards himself. A blatant knock on, somehow, the ref seemed to think this was backwards. Even if it was backwards (it wasn't), these types of drops have been given as knock-ons for seasons now. Not that I think that that is right, but you can't suddenly change it now, in the middle of a cup final. 
No 2: Minichello gave out a pass with Hull on the attack, a Wire hand knocked it down and we regathered and set off up the field. Incredibly, the ref managed to miss this. He clearly hadn't seen what had happened but saw fit to give a non-existent knock on against Hull. The touch judge had to come on to put him right. It wouldn't have been so bad if the ref had realised he was un-sighted and requested the touch judge, but that isn't what happened. Even though the right decision was eventually made (No thanks to the ref) it had stopped Hull's momentum and gave Wire a chance to regather their defence that they didn't deserve.
Only a few seconds later, the ref made another horrendous gaff. A Wire player clearly took out a Hull player in an obvious obstruction and once again waved it off. This wasn't marginal, it wasn't a maybe, it was massive.
There were other terrible decisions he made (like giving another knock on against Minichello when he managed to regather the ball and knock it backwards without it hitting the ground or a Wire player) but those were his worst ones. 
A referee who makes such huge bad decisions in a final clearly isn't fit to officiate and needs to be kicked out of super league until he improves by a vast amount.

Now we have that over with, we can get back to the action that we SHOULD be talking about instead of crap, inconsistent refs. 
With 20 minutes to go, Hull looked down and out. Both teams were out on their feet and Hull's energy levels looked as low as they come. Then came the moment of magic, the pivotal point, the game changer that will be talked about by fans for years to come....

Marc Sneyd, Hull's scrum half caught the ball on the fifth tackle with the team still pinned back in their own half. Warrington players were bearing down on him, he had a split second to get rid of the ball before he would be crunched. He took only two steps and drilled an incredible, inch-perfect kick. It bounced once, then again on the touchline before dribbling in to touch coming to a halt only a few feet later. A 40-20 kick in the nick of time. Hull had a full set of 6 deep in Wire's half. A couple of tackles later Sneyd put up an excellent kick in to the corner and I tell you, Mahe Fonua soared higher and farther than any Hull fan in a grey place dares to dream (TM The Shawshank Redemption 1994) He landed just before the line and had the presence of mind to stretch out and plant the ball down. Hull were back in the game with 18 minutes to play and when Sneyd landed the difficult touch line kick he piled on the pressure to the beleaguered Wire.

Wire were out on their feet but Hull looked like they didn't have much left either. The barrage on both team's defences carried on. Players were hitting the floor all around and the blood was flowing from many of them, not least from Kurt Gidley, Wire's iconic Australian import who was forced from the field with his injuries which was quite some blow for Warrington.

It was coming down to who wanted it most, pure grit and determination. 7 Hull born and bred players took the field for Hull FC that day, and no one wanted the win more than them.

Around 72 minutes, Hull looked to have gone in front when a fantastic grubber into the corner again by Sneyd was stopping perfectly in the in goal area with Michaels flying in. Unfortunately the ball was pushed out by Ratchford a split second before Michaels would have touched down for Hull. The video confirmed how close it was. It was beginning to look like it was too late for Hull when.............
with 5 minutes to go Hull forced their way deep in to Wire's half. Sneyd put up a poor chip kick in to the corner. It was landing close to the touch line and on the 10 metre mark in the middle of a pack of players, but once again, Fonua took to the air above everyone else and tipped the ball back to Sneyd who gave an immediate pass to the screaming Jamie Shaul who was clear through. Shaul made sure he put the ball down under the posts to make the kick all but a foregone conclusion. There was to be no "poor lad" moment as Sneyd went through his usual lengthy kicking routine, coming from around a sharp corner to chip the ball over the posts. 6 minutes for Hull to hold on to a 2 point lead. In the stands, the tension was unbearable. My heart pounded like a 90's rave track.

Warrington were desperate now. Only 10 minutes previously they had had a 10 point lead and were cruising to a win. Most of the players on both sides were visibly shattered but Westerman still had energy and his jinking runs and side-stepping were causing FC bottoms to squeak. Hull were defending out the game, 4 or 5 drives then a hoof as far down the field as possible and it felt too early, it felt like there was enough time for Wire to win it. Time and again the players forced their way forward with herculean efforts, as tired as they were the Hull forwards took in battering drives. At times, with the ball in Warrington hands it became like a 7 aside match with Wire throwing the ball around, not moving forward and Hull holding their defensive line, happy to watch Wire going no where. Then, with 2 minutes to go Wire had forced their way on to Hull's line and suddenly Currie had the ball with a seemingly clear run to the line, certain to score.  Danny Houghton came in from nowhere with a miracle tackle, his 52nd of the match. Currie crashed to the turf inches short and the impact dragged the ball out of his grasp a split second before he slid over the try line. Watching it time and again, I cannot for the life of me see how he managed to drop it. The look on his face was pure anguish. 

Wire threw the ball around like the harlem globe trotters and made mini breaks and with less than a minute to go they were breaking down the right. A bullet pass came out and it looked like Wire had a big overlap. In yet another miracle tackle, Watts launched himself from the floor at the Warrington player, forcing him to drop his intended pass short and Minichello landed on the ball. The game was over. Hull had their Wembley win.

In the stands there was a barely a dry eye. Players littered the pitch like a battle field. The relief and release washed over us supporters. Finally.

The steps to the royal box were climbed, the cup lifted, the champagne sprayed, the pictures taken, Old faithful sung, tears cried and fireworks, erm, fired.

That's the Warrington terraces were looking at, hence them being a bit empty

I hopped down the stairs at Wembley feeling amazing but with my right foot (the one that ISN'T broken) hurting more and more as I limped on to. After 24 hours of nervous energy I was now exhausted and feeling quite breathless, something the heat in the train didn't help.

4 hours later we arrived home and had a quiet drink in the local to celebrate followed by prosecco, before heading home to watch the replay.

I collapsed in to bed gone 1am knowing that in the morning, I would have to remind myself that it had really happened. 

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Marshaling the Hardmoors 110/160

Tweet me @scott_leach

When the industrious proprietor of the Hardmoors series of races, Jon Steele, put out a plea for marshals for his 110/160 mile events on facebook, I realised the date clashed with the 3 peaks. Then very late in the day when I knew I had to drop out of the 3 peaks, I offered Jon my services. Unsurprisingly with such a late offer of support, I was given a graveyard shift of 4am-9am Sunday morning shift at the check point at Lord Stones, a point 131 miles in to the 160 and 83 miles in to the 110. My mind boggled at the sights I may see!

I don't have a picture from Lordstones, so here's me dancing with Usain Bolt

I got out of bed at around 2:15am Sunday morning. "I'm off to a car park in the middle of nowhere!" I said to Sophia, in what my have been one of the dodgiest sentences of all time. Luckily, she knows me well. I downed a large cup of fresh-ground coffee and an hour and a half later I realised my sat nav was NOT taking me to Lord stones. Crap. Cue frenzied googling and hoping that I would get enough signal for it to direct me. 
I arrived at the check point at about 04:02 when I realised I had been stupid enough to forget my head torch.

The checkpoint was a tiny road crossing where Peter had parked his campervan and Karsten had set up a chair and a table filled with jelly babies, pork pies (which proved VERY popular) sausage rolls, flat coke and of course, water. 

Around 40 people started the 160 and about 150 started the 110. All told around 80 people reached the Lord Stones check point and it was remarkable what good spirits the majority of them were in, though almost all looked completely exhausted. As the runners made their way up the next hill, the gaits of some of the competitors was interesting to say the least, especially considering they had nigh on 30 miles to go. Some looked like they couldn't take another step, never mind cover more than a marathon, but each one shuffled off up the pretty sizeable hill with grim determination abundant. 

The most hilarious thing is that in true ultra runner style, often the runners showed concern for us, seeming to think that WE had a hard job! "So what time did you get here?" I answered 4am and the other 2, answered 2am. "Wow!" the runners said, "That's tough"
Everything is relative of course, but being a little bit cold as you stand around pouring out the odd drink and handing out the pork pie is not really hard work in anyone's book and especially not compared to people who had been in this race from 8am the previous morning in the case of the 110ers and 5pm 2 days previous for the 160ers!!!!!

Our shift was due to finish at 9am, but Jon Steele is nothing if not a vague bugger and we were still waiting for the tail runners at 10am.  We continued to chat about running between ourselves and Peter told me about many races but not least his Bob Graham round back in 1984. Karsten had done a few of the Hardmoors marathons and told me about his favourites. 

Eventually the last runner came in accompanied by the trail runners and the rain that had held off began to fall as we cleared away the detritus. 

It's impossible not to be inspired by these superheroes dressed in the guise of normal human beings, armed mostly with nothing more than pure determination to finish a truly herculean race. Yes, you think they are crazy, yes, you think they look total wrecks and yes, I wished I was them.

Driving home I was amazed to see the view that it had been too dark to see the night before. It was spectacular. The thought helped to keep me awake on the A1M motorway until I arrived back.
I still don't have a picture so here's a stormtrooper beating Usain Bolt

At home, I watched the Hardmoors facebook feed as the runners came home and a remarkable story unfolded. One guy, Frank Murphy, had arrived at a checkpoint with 15 minutes to spare before the cut off of the 160. He decided that rather than rushing himself to beat the cut off, he would have a sleep instead, knowing that it would disqualify him from the race. Not that he was dropping out, he was going to carry on, but with no check points open and no race support other than his own support team. He grimly carried on getting further and further behind the cut offs. The cut off for the entire race was 50 hours, he eventually came through in 71.5 hours! By that time he landed he had dozens of people cheering him on on facebook and a crowd had gathered to welcome him home (Think Simon Pegg in "Run fat boy run") including Jon and Shirley Steele, who, despite his official disqualification from the race, presented Frank with his finishers tshirt and medal. And that is the true Hardmoors spirit.  Do yourself a favour, and sign up for a hardmoors race today!

Monday, 20 June 2016

Losing my triathlon cherry: The 2016 ITU World triathlon Leeds

Tweet me at @scott_leach and also donate to Bloodwise 

I'm in there, somewhere in the middle

Never done a triathlon before, so why not sign up for a world series one?

If proof were ever need that I am an idiot, then it was in abundant evidence in the sequence of events that led to me entering Waterloo lake in Roundhay park, at 07:24am last Sunday morning. I was wearing a brand new wet-suit that I had never swum in and had only briefly tried on twice, about to swim nearly a mile in open water for the first time, having not been swimming for around 2 years, at the start of my first ever triathlon.

But I am getting ahead of myself. Going back a few months I had been pretty excited when I heard that the world series triathlon was coming to Leeds, so I began googling to find out where exactly it would be. There was no information on that, but to my surprise, it turned out I could enter it. Why watch it if you could do it, I reasoned, whilst downing my beer?
An Olympic triathlon is one of the short ones, right? Doesn't take too long, only a 10k at the end.
By the time I got around to entering it had sold out, so instead I got a charity spot for Bloodwise. I don't usually like to take charity places as I know how much they cost the charities, instead I usually sign up first, then contact the charity to tell them I have my own place. In this instance I had to pledge to raise £400. If I reached £200 Bloodwise would send me a triathlon belt and if I made £400, they would send me a trisuit. I nearly decided to turn down the suit as I didn't want to cost the charity any money, but then I realise they order these things in huge bulk (There were 400 Bloodwise athletes in Leeds alone) so would get them pretty cheap and also, running and cycling round emblazoned with Bloodwise was excellent advertising for the charity.
After an initial facebook appeal had only garnered £100, I began to panic. How would I manage to raise £400!? I didn't think a full-Monty show in my local working man's club when earn much but then I came upon a genius idea- race photos! I often take race photos, usually when I am injured and they receive huge amounts of attention on facebook. If I could get just a few people to donate on the back of them, I might have a chance to hit my target. So off I went out to Ilkley moor for Rombald's Stride in February to photograph around 400 runners in freezing conditions completing the gruelling 22 mile route. I wrote about it here. It was a tough day but well over £100 rolled in for the charity! I had found my way to make money. Over the next few months I went out to a few races, some gaining more money than others, but I eventually hit the target with ease, then went way past it. Consequently, my trisuit arrived from Bloodwise. Unfortunately, the suit was way too small. I am a medium in absolutely everything else, so I found this odd. Even the replacement large was still a little too small, but it was ok and I squeezed my moobs in to it.

The Wheely Bit

A triathlon was probably always a bad idea for me for numerous reasons. For starters, I hate cycling, I find it boring and I really don't feel especially safe on the roads although I know that stats don't support that fear. However, I have a turbo trainer (One of those things you attach a bike to to make it in to an exercise bike) and I decided that I could do most of my training whilst watching HIIT videos on the internet which always seem to feature a suspiciously large amount if fit women in small lycra outfits. In the event, I barely managed to do any cycle training at all as I discovered that cycling brought on the nerve pain through my left foot that I have been struggling with for nearly a year. I hoped that working with a physio would cure it in enough time that I could get some good cycling in, but it never happened, so the little cycling I did was pretty uncomfortable. Once I had managed to cover the required 40k distance on my mountain bike on roughish terrain, with a 5k run afterwards, I pretty much left it there.
The world series triathlon apparently came with some funding for the area to promote the sport, so in the weeks prior to the event there were various free sessions set up on different aspects of tri.
I signed up for transition training at Leeds Beckett. To my amazement, this free session was with a coach from the national triathlon centre! The info I received there proved invaluable during the race. I was taught how to mount and dismount the bike and the rules of transition along with all sorts of tips.
I left the session with a large graze on my elbow and some large bruises on both legs from my first attempt at a flying mount that went wrong as I manged to jump a little too far.
I mentioned to some experienced triathletes that I was planning on using my mountain bike. They all confirmed that this was a terrible idea, not because I was trying to win the thing or was worried about my time, but that it was a bad idea to add 30 minutes to an already tough event and the extra effort that would involve. Luckily, my good friend Mark offered to lend me his road bike and I gratefully accepted. I went out a couple of times on it and practised mounting and dismounting a few times. It was definitely much faster and easier to get about on the roads than on my old mountain bike.
Annoyingly, on my first attempt at a flying mount on it, I managed to kick the pump clean off it, breaking the mounting bracket. A quick trip to outdoors for a replacement ensued.

Photo by Debi Nicholson- amazingly she managed to spot me in the crowds!

The Wet Bit

I was a swimmer when I was at school but years of it eventually meant I very much fell out with it. As an adult I have never really liked swimming much and only really do it when injured and unable to run. I think it is the sensory deprivation that you experience in the pool that I don't like. Consequently I didn't really plan to do too much swim training, but I certainly planned to do some. In the end, the only bit I did was a half hour acclimatisation  in Waterloo lake a couple of weeks ago that involved very little actual swimming. 30 newbies flailing around in the small cordoned off area in front of the Lake house in borrowed wet-suits soon stirred up the 6 inches of  what-ever-the-hell-that-sludge-is-at-the-bottom and we were soon swimming in a green soup with floating bits. Not pleasant. It felt like that scene in trainspotting when he chases the drugs down the toilet.
And now I needed to buy acquire a wet-suit. I had been in a wet-suit maybe twice in my life and certainly didn't own one. I wasn't about to spend vast amounts on one either as I might never use it again. I bought a large size for £13 from Clas Ohlson, only to find out it was too small. I ordered another for £20 from t'interweb carefully studying the sizing guide before ordering. Again, no banana as it proved to be too small. I borrowed one from a friend, but couldn't even zip it up. I know wetsuits are meant to be tight, but this was ridiculous. And I mean, what is it with triathletes? Are they all total short-arses?! How could I, at just shy of 5 feet 11, be too tall for large wet-suits?! Third time lucky I got one from gooutdoors, this time I was able to try it on before purchase. But as I said, stupidly, the first time I would swim in it, would be on the day of the event.

The Feety Bit

Running wise I have now been carrying a very niggly injury since last August meaning on-and-off I have suffered tingly nerve pain (sometimes becoming sharp pain) through the middle toe of my left foot, so over the last few months, my usual 100+ miles a month running has dropped to 60-70.

All in all, training was not going well. Then, there was the organisation of the event.........
This confused look was pretty much my default look

I need to go where? When? How?

Information about the event was very slow coming out but eventually it emerged that there would be split transitions. So I learned, in most tri's transition, the start, finish and the registration are all in the same general vicinity. Not so with this one. The swim was to be in Roundhay and the run and finish in the city centre. It was already beginning to seem complicated. As the event got closer the seasoned triathletes pulled apart the plans for the race and highlighted numerous errors in the information provided. For instance, the run was stated to be 4 laps of the city centre in earlier communications but 5 in later emails. Transition 2 was originally planned to close at 14:30 until everyone pointed out that would make it impossible for us plebs competing in the open race to see the elites without retrieving then locking up your bike in the city centre, and how would anyone get a lock there to make sure the bike was secure? 5000 bikes of varying expense , many worth thousands of pounds scattered around the city was not a good idea....

I was lucky that I left it very late to read the finer details of the event as I avoided relying on incorrect early info, the final email contained information that seemed to be correct, or at least correct if everything had gone to plan, which it spectacularly didn't.
Everyone that has done a tri before, assured me that this level of complication was not usual for a tri and that if I could get through this, any other one would be a piece of the proverbial. In all seriousness, it was beginning to look so damned complicated that if I had not already raised hundreds of pounds for Bloodwise, I would probably have sacked it off.

Registration and set-up

There were various ways you could go about the difficult logistics of this race, but as I had a start time of 07:24, it didn't seem practical to set up in the city centre in the morning then get to Roundhay for the start, so on Saturday (The day prior to the tri) I headed to the city to register. Problem being- I had to carry my borrowed bike in the back of my car as I couldn't drop it off at Roundhay first (You needed to register before you could get entry to T1 to rack your bike). I would need to leave it locked in the car, in Leeds city centre. Safe huh? I didn't want to take the risk of setting up the bike on Sunday morning as it would be too late to correct any mistakes and would require me getting up even earlier than the 05:30 I already planned.
Registration at the Rose Bowl (A univeristy building) was quick and easy and the volunteers were extremely helpful. Just to hammer home my "newbyness" I was surprised when I received a swim cap in my wave colour (Red) so I was glad I didn't buy one as I had been planning to. Apparently, being given a swim cap is totally usual in a triathlon. They gave me a black bag to take to the bike-run transition. This was a change to the initial plans where we were supposed to pick up all 3 bags we needed at registration. Now we would pick up the green kit bag on Sunday morning and the blue swim-to-bike bag when setting up the bike in Roundhay at T1.
I took the opportunity whilst in the city centre to make last minute purchases; some shot blocs and a bottle for the bike.
I felt sorry for those who didn't know Leeds as transition 2 was a good walk from registration and not simple. I know Leeds city centre well, and know the venue for T2 as I often park there, yet I still managed to walk the wrong way and end up back-tracking. There were no signs pointing the way at all.
As I was planning to cycle in my running shoes, all I dropped off at T2 was a tshirt- for in case I was cold and a cap in case it was very sunny. Then I headed back to my car, hoping all the glass was still in one piece (it was) and off to Roundhay to set up my bike.

In the race pack I picked up at registration was also a number of stickers with our race number on, which was confusing everyone, experienced or not. There was one large sticker, which everyone seemed to agree was to go around the seat post on your bike but then there was another large one and 3 small ones. Most people seemed to think that the other large one was to go across the front of your helmet, but no one was sure what to do with the small ones. Some thought it was maybe to go on the bags and others thought it was an alternative way to label your helmet. I went with the consensus and was left with the 3 small stickers unused as our numbers were written large on the bags in marker pen.

I found my wave (8) in the transition area (which was making a giant mess of the cricket pitch) and racked my bike. I really wasn't sure what I was doing so I looked around everyone else's set-up then I basically stuffed everything in to the kit bag and hung it off the handlebars as everyone else had done. I put my jacket at the bottom as I hoped I wouldn't need it then cursed that I had left my sunglasses at home so hoped that the small peak on my cycling cap would suffice if it turned out to be sunny. I seemed to be doing much less here than everyone else and I hoped I wasn't forgetting something important. I remembered to change the gear on the bike to ensure it was right when I set off up the large hill. Unfortunately I clicked the gears the wrong way and ended up starting in a high gear instead of low. D'oh!
After a quick walk down to the lake to spot the start with the large pontoon and the drop area for the green kit bags, I headed home to try to get some rest. Through nerves and whatever else, I didn't actually get to sleep until gone midnight.

Race Day

The alarm went at 05:30 and I grabbed a cup of ground coffee. 30 minutes later, we left the house. Sophia had decided she would drive me to Roundhay so she could watch me start, then drive to the city centre to see the finish. We would need to be there anyway as we had grandstand tickets to see the elites in the afternoon. The organisers had planned to transport all our left over gear from T1 to the city for us so we wouldn't need to return to Roundhay. This wasn't a good plan as a lot of people were leaving their cars at Roundhay so would only need to cary it back to Roundhay from whence it had come! (including their bike and a wet, heavy wet-suit). A simple choice of, "Drop bags left to have them remain in Roundhay and right for transport to the city centre" would have worked perfectly well and would have saved the organisers a lot of trouble transferring kit.

I squeezed in to my wet-suit then stuffed all my clothes, mobile phone, wallet etc in to the green kit bag which we were promised would take "up to 2 hours" to arrive in the city centre. Which seemed reasonable as the fastest amateur took over 2 hours to finish the Olympic tri, but of course, it didn't work out that way....

Under Starter's Orders

There's nothing quite as twattish as a triathlon twat

We weren't given an opportunity to acclimatise to the water, so in we went, freezing cold, seconds before we were due to set off. Most advice tells you to use body glide or baby oil around your wrists, neck and ankles to avoid chaffing in the wet-suit so I had duly applied some baby oil. I wondered what sort of state I would be in at the end of this thing as my cheap wet-suit got its first outing.
In reality, the water wasn't as cold as I feared and we were soon off.

30 seconds in to the swim my right google filled up with water; they weren't tight enough. It really had been stupid to not get some swim practise in where I could have sorted a problem like this.
I carried on for a while with my right eye tight shut. I am a strong swimmer and knew it would be my best discipline of the 3,  but I really had no idea how long it would take me to cover 1500m in open water so I thought I would try to empty the goggle and tie it tighter. I tried 3 times over the course, but each time the goggle filled quickly and I gave up and swam one-eyed.
Around a minute in to the swim, I managed to take a large mouthful of water. I had always thought that I would be able to spit it out with no issues, but I swallowed it before I knew what had happened. Great, now I was likely to get cholera, typhoid and bubonic plague. (The organisers had assured us that the water had been tested and was fit for human consumption. You can actually see straight to the bottom of the lake at the sides so the water IS clear, but it's that 6 inches of sludge that I was worried about)

Unfortunately, the worst part of the swim was that the nerve pain in my foot started up almost as soon as I set off. Whether this was down to the cold of the water or the fact that swimming leaves you in a very "stretched out position" I am not sure. The cold also left me feeling quite breathless in the usual way you get when you are extremely cold, even though I only felt moderately cold. All that said, I seemed to be moving reasonably quickly and I regularly over took people, including those in different caps from other waves.
For the most part, the route of the swim was obvious, but when we arrived at the near end of the lake it was less obvious where we needed to turn and a lot of people managed to miss going around the two red marker bouys and some were sent back before the marshals apparently gave up on that as so many swimmers made the same mistake. I did the correct route, more by luck than anything and the pontoon eventually appeared. Looking at my result afterwards, I was surprised to have completed it in only 26 minutes, far quicker than I thought I would. I do suspect that swim was shorter than 1500m.

T-1000. Just kidding, that's the terminator, it's T1

There was a 400m run from the lake to the back of the bike racks where my bike was stored. The path was carpeted until the cricket pitch where the grass was bare and that was already starting to get muddy. I felt sorry for the 5000th person that would pass over that field by the end of the day.....
As I ran I waited to discover where I had chaffed. I could see people with red sores around their necks, but I seemed ok and so I remained. First swim in a brand new wetsuit and no issues. Result!

Having a bright yellow bike, it turns out, is very helpful as it stands out like a beacon on the racks. I now needed to make a quick decision, did I need my cycling jacket? No one else seemed to be bothering, so I decided not to put it on. I decided to dry my feet and put on socks, reasoning that as I was going to be in the same trainers for the bike and the run it was worth taking that extra time, especially as I would save time not swapping out of cycle shoes at T2. Then I put on my cycle gloves. And I have no idea why. I'd overheard someone saying that they were going to make sure they didn't forget their gloves. Afterwards I noticed no one else was wearing them and it had been a total waste of time. There was no way my hands would have been cold.

I sprinted off for the mount line holding the seat, not the handlebars, as I had been shown at transition training. Another 400m later and I exited the longest transition ever (so the triathlon experts informed me) I had trained to do a flying mount whilst still moving, but there seemed little point as it was such a steep hill straight out of transition. I jumped on and discovered that I was in a high gear. Quickly clicking down through the gears I eventually managed to set off.
T1 with the 1st few bikes in it

Once again I had no idea how long the cycle would take me, but I thought up to 90 minutes was possible. It took me a while to settle but soon I was zipping along over-taking lots of people and also being regularly over-taken, mainly by people on seriously top-end bikes.

As it turned out, the bike route in to the city was mostly downhill, which meant cycling back to Roundhay was quite hard work. However, by the time the third leg, back in to the city began, I knew the route and what I had to do, which was basically, hit it as hard as possible as I knew it was mainly downhill to the end. I began over-taking A LOT of people. I was swapping places with quite a few people, losing time on each uphill section then catching them on the flat parts and on the numerous downhills. I ended up having a battle with a woman in a triathlon trainers outfit and I set her as a target. We swapped places on quite a few occasions before I eventually pulled away from her.
At around ten miles in to the cycle my foot was beginning to be extremely painful. I tried stretching my leg out behind me on the downhills. Another cyclist pulled up along side me and laughing said, "I thought you were going to take off for a minute there"
I laughed too, "I wish I could, my bloody foot is killing me"
At one point I discovered that cycling with my toes took the pain away, but it didn't last long before it came back. I was just going to have to put up with it, and as I arrived back in the city centre I couldn't wait to get off the bike and start running.

T2- Revenge of the transition

Then came the hilarious part- I scared the crap out of a lot of people as I came up to T2......

I had been shown how to do a flying dismount and I fully planned to do this, especially as I was in my running trainers already. So here's what you do according to the national triathlon coaches: As you approach the dismount line (you need to get off BEFORE this line to avoid a penalty) you slow down to dismount speed. I then swing my right leg around the bike and bring it in between my left leg and the bike. You are then poised to with your left foot still on the peddle to jump off the bike whilst it is still moving and and hit the ground running.

The MOST important part here was: Slow Down To Dismount Speed!!!

I, however, came in at break-neck speed and as I had already swung my leg over the bike, I was in trouble. The way the brakes on my loan bike are configured, meant I couldn't really pull them as I would need to shift my hands on to the bottom of the drop-handle handlebars and I wasn't confident of doing that without falling off. I was too close to the dismount line to try to swing my leg back over the bike so I had no chance but to tough it out. I was going to have to just jump.
The dismount line approached and I went for it. I hit the ground at such speed that my knees buckled and I stumbled. The small crowd let out a big "Oooooo" but I recovered and took a a few more steps. Then I stumbled again and the crowd let out another large "Oooooooo!!" Both they, and myself were expecting a spectacular face-plant at any moment, but somehow I managed to recover yet again, however in the process the bike started to twist and fall. I managed to grab hold of the handlebars and straighten the bike, then I quickly switched my grip to the seat and I had made it. Amazingly, I was running along safely with the bike. The crowd had a moment of stunned silence unable to believe I had pulled it off,  before they gave out a cheer and I, of course, carried on running as if I had totally meant to do it, casually as you like, whilst inside I was thanking the Gods of triathlon for allowing me to survive.

I entered the rubble-strewn car park that is the site of the old international pool which was transition 2. The state of the ground didn't bother me as I was in my running trainers, but many people had issues as they were running barefoot through it with their cycle shoes still attached to their bikes.
I found my bike rack quickly and put the bike on seat first. Then I remembered the advice about putting it on handlebars first with the rack jammed in between the brake levers and the handlebars so I wasted precious seconds spinning the bike around. Then I struggled to stuff my helmet in to my bag hanging off the rack. I quickly decided I wouldn't need the tshirt or cap and off I went.

Run Fat Boy, Run

I took three steps away from the bike and on the third one a sharp pain shot through my foot that felt like I had been stabbed and I let out a yelp. At that point I actually wondered if I would be able to finish this thing or have to walk the 10k. The pain relented a little and I found I was able to run. To my surprise my legs didn't actually feel like to large blocks of wood like they had felt the few times I had run straight after cycling during training.
I had definitely been looking forward to the run, but wasn't excited about a 5 lap route. In the event though, it went a lot quicker than I was expecting, if only in my head, rather than on the watch. On my first lap I discovered there was small cheering section for Bloodwise situated on the Headrow and I would be passing them 5 times. I shouted to them that I want a Mexican wave. Eventually, on my 4th pass they did do a full Mexican wave!
The pain in my foot was pretty unpleasant as we looped around the short, undulating lap. 

For some reason, they had made the merge point the narrowest part of the lap, so each of the 5 times I past it, I was slowed down by congestion. 

The route took us through the grandstand they had set up in millennium square and unbeknown to me, Sophia was in the stand taking photos. She had done amazingly well to get photos of me coming out of the swim. I say amazing as there were obviously dozens of us in red swimming caps and pretty much nothing else to identify us.

The run was also congested and I needed to weave in and out of lots of much slower runners before I was able to go down the finish tunnel at the 5th pass. I gave it a bit of a sprint to make sure the runner next to me didn't ruin my finish photos (Seriously!)
The marshal with the medals tried to hand it to me and as always, I insisted that they did it properly and put it over my head for me. The marshals all found this pretty funny and with a smile, my medal was placed around my neck. 

The Aftermath

The timing chip attached to my ankle that had the event looking like a mass prison break recorded each section of the race and here's my results:

I came 521st out of 2200ish athletes in 2 hours 32. I have to say I am pretty pleased with that, all things considered. Not surprisingly, my best result was the swim where I finished 433rd. But the incredible thing was my T2 time- 10th overall! I say incredible considering that I messed around with racking the bike and struggled with getting the helmet in the bag. I am sure that my 10th place had lots to do with me already being in my running trainers and lots of the people who had used bike shoes struggling to run in the rubble. And of course, my ridiculous entrance to the transition area.

After the finish the worst problems were to come. The area directly after the finish was tiny and soon filled up with finishers as- unbelievably- we were unable to leave this area because we needed to cross the running track that was now full with hundreds of runners. A few finishers at a time were able to sprint between athletes trying to complete their runs.

After the finish area were were offered a lump of stale bread, half a brown banana and an orange quarter. Triathletes, apparently, are used to much better than this and probably have a right to expect better considering the cost of these events.
Erdinger provided pints of alcohol free lager which I have to admit was pretty tasty, then we ran in to the most major problem of the day...

I arrived at the baggage pick-up to a very large crowd and discovered that the first 1800 bags had arrived as expected, but that the next lot were delayed. At this point, over 3 hours had elapsed since I had dropped off my green bag in Roundhay, so the promised 2 hours had been greatly exceeded.
Most people were taking this bad news in pretty good spirits. It certainly wasn't the poor volunteers fault behind the counter and I really felt for them doing a tough job.

So now, I was stranded in the city centre, in nothing but a triathlon suit, with no phone, no money, no clothing and no way to contact Sophia to tell her where I was. I was unaware that she had seen me finish so I didn't know if she was worried about me or not.

I decided to make the most of it and I headed off to the Bloodwise cheering section and I spent some time chatting and cheering on the other Bloodwise runners.

Half an hour or so later I headed back to the bag drop to find it in just as much chaos. I was incredibly lucky to get my bag back at this point, many other people were not so lucky. So now I had a phone, I was able to contact Sophia and was able to put on some warmer clothing. The organisers were very lucky it was a warm day, otherwise they might have had a hypothermia epidemic on their hands. As it was, I had started to get chilly, so was glad to get a sweat shirt on.

My blue bag with my wet-suit etc in it still hadn't arrived so I would need to return to the bag drop once again, later on to get that too.

I enjoyed a gorgeous sausage sandwich in a bar before heading back to the grandstand and thoroughly enjoying the wonderful atmosphere as the elites showed us how it should be done. Jorgenson put in an amazing run to make up more than two minutes deficit from the bike to win the ladies and the Brownlee brothers dominated the men's race from the minute they donned their running shoes.

All in all it was a fantastic day, the open race that I took part in was on a great route and I would have enjoyed it very much if it hadn't been for the foot pain and I am now very much looking forward to entering another once I have had some physio.
The elite races went off without hitch and the crowds made it an incredible event.

The complaints and ramifications of all the poor parts of the organisation of this race will no doubt rumble on for a long time. Reading the complaints from experienced triathletes, it turns out that every time British Triathlon organise an event, it tends to turn out this way! So now I know whose events to avoid.
All that said, I still managed to enjoy the event and yes, I will do another triathlon.
A week later and I still have a numb toe on my left foot, but otherwise, no damage done, and now I can't stop looking at nice road bikes to buy.....