On Sunday 19th May 2019 I took on the 100 mile Vélo sportive ride from Birmingham City Centre. The route took over 17,000 cyclists from Birmingham through Warwickshire to Coventry before heading back to the city centre.
To say I was a little apprehensive about completing this ride would be an understatement. Having only been out on my bike twice since October last year and completing all my bike training in my cellar on the turbo, I wasn’t sure how I would fare or even whether I’d make the full distance.
To my surprise, I found the majority of the ride relatively easy going and it was a great opportunity to practise my drafting skills and to meet fellow cyclists. The only point at which I experienced real discomfort and pain was at the 86-mile mark. This was at a stage of the race when the main section of the climbing took place and my back and feet started to really hurt.
A brief stop at one of the feed stations to take some ibuprofen and take my shoes off for a few minutes eased the pain and I pushed through the final miles before hitting the home straight and proudly crossing the finish line. Throughout the ride there was a fantastic atmosphere and the support en route was tremendous with families cheering us on and locals handing out drinks, sweets and biscuits which I politely declined as I had packed enough endurance snacks to sink a ship. I was aware that the feed stations would be busy so I made sure I had my energy bars and jam bagel to keep me going. Not including stops I completed the ride in just over 6 hours which I was very pleased with all things considered.
During the days following the ride I experienced very little aching or muscle fatigue, however I found myself needing to be in bed by 8pm and sleeping for anything up to 11 hours in a night! The ride had clearly taken its toll on my body so I listened to it and only did light training before I felt my energy levels were back to normal.
About the author: Kate Miller is a Team GB Age Group triathlete and Sundried ambassador.
Southend Triathlon is returning for its third year on Sunday 16th June 2019. The route is reverting back to that of the 2017 race with an open road bike course around the quiet country lanes of Great Wakering and Barling.
For 2019, Southend Triathlon will be capped at 400 competitors and the race will be set off in waves of 50 competitors according to ability with the faster athletes starting first. Registration will be available the day before, Saturday 15th June, as well as on the day. The first swim wave will start the race at 10:30am and all competitors are expected to have finished by 2pm.
The swim is a 750m route in the open water of the Thames Estuary. Wetsuits may not be mandatory but they are very strongly advised as wearing one aids with buoyancy and could increase your speed! The swim starts at Uncle Tom's Cabin in Shoeburyness and is an out-and-back route parallel to the shoreline.
The bike is a 20km cycle out from Shoeburyness and into Great Wakering and Barling. All participants must adhere to the highway code. There will be marshals on route and anyone caught flouting these rules will be instantly disqualified.
There is a set of traffic lights on the bike course which will be marshaled throughout the race. If you are stuck at a red light, don't worry, you will be awarded a time bonus at the end of the race.
The run follows the same route as the 2018 race and is 3 laps of Gunner's Park on the Garrison. A beautiful, traffic-free run will take you to the finish line back by Uncle Tom's Cabin.
For more information and a full FAQ please visit www.southendtriathlon.com
It was just getting light when I woke up on Sunday morning. I woke up before my alarm which is always a nice surprise to me. It looked like it was going to be a sunny day which was great news for my duathlon!
I started the day with three slices of fruit toast and a big glass of water. Then I packed my bags and bike into the car and started the short journey to the Lee Valley Velo Park in Stratford, London.
I was excited to test out my new Sundried race suit for the first time. It felt super comfortable and I loved the way it fitted. I racked my bike, warmed up, and headed to the start line. The day wasn’t as warm as I had hoped and I was jumping around to keep warm, however the start noise went off soon enough and we were on our way.
This was a sprint duathlon. I started with a 2 mile run where I found myself the leading lady and within the first group of men. A good start! I kept the lead feeling comfortable and then hopped onto my bike.
Now I started the 10 mile bike course. The course at Lee Valley is fun. Constant hills, however where there was an uphill there was always a downhill! The men started to pull away from me at this point however I remained first lady. My bike is not as strong as my run but I powered through.
Finally, I reached the end of the bike, still ahead of all the other females. I racked my bike and dived into my running shoes as quick as I could. All I had to do was keep a good pace and I could win! The final run was only 1 mile so I gave it all I had. The final 100m to the finish line was the best bit! I gave a glance around and not another female runner in sight! There was lots of cheering and people saying I was ‘first lady!’.
My mum met me at the finish line and handed me a much needed bottle of water. Then I got some warm clothes on and did a nice cool down. Later in the awards ceremony I was happy to take first in age group and first overall female. Many thanks to Sundried for the fantastic race suit!
About the author: Holly Dixon is a Team GB triathlete and Sundried ambassador.
Benjamin Franklin (most quoted man ever, I’d say) is purported to have claimed “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a (wo)man healthy, wealthy and wise”.
3:50am is certainly early to rise, as my journey, complete with wife and dogs, needed to get underway at 4:45 to reach Grafham Water by 7:00. The early start, coupled with an early bedtime the previous night (circa 9:30pm), should have ensured military precision in organising the toughest part of the day – leaving the house on time.
We left at 5:05. Fail.
An uneventful journey across quiet roads, negotiating an M6 closure (thanks for the warning Highways Agency…not) and a sleeping navigator – they always say they’ll stay awake to keep us company - got us to the venue by 7:15. And it was worth it.
Early mornings overlooking any calm waters are always special, with the gentle rippling of water on shore momentarily distracting us from the waves of pain that would inevitably follow. The flicker of a sunrise teasing warmth on a freezing morning reminding us that the elements would play their part during the race.
The early rising man, me, was due some wisdom after adhering to the old wives’ tale, and the complete antithesis of this forced an abrupt abandonment of my warm up. Yep, I was that guy announced on the PA system who had lost his wedding ring. I lost it after feeling very smug that there wasn’t a long queue for the portaloos, and before jogging to my wife to give her my jacket.
I briefly considered lying to her about my naked finger, ignoring the situation altogether and devilishly blaming her for not taking it from me sooner knowing that I wouldn’t race wearing it.
But as many a man will admit, weakness prevailed, and I came clean. Ring hunting ensued and after about 15 minutes it was fortunately found, and divorce avoided. Possibly more important than a proper warm up. Although 42% of couples would disagree.
Straight to the start line I jogged, arriving just in time to muscle my way along the narrow path to somewhere near the front of pack, and we were off!
My two initial observations of the run, as it was my first time at this event, became apparent. 1) It was not flat and 2) my new running shoes would look 10 years old by the end of the race leg. The run was 10km of a trail/stony hybrid not suited for road or trail shoes. Areas of slippery mud were interspersed with rocky trails, which were often unavoidable due to the ‘out-and-back’ course on a very narrow shared path. The moment that first volley of mud hit my pristine white shoes my heart sank. Not even losing my ring earlier made me feel that bad. Priorities, priorities…
The course was the same for everyone and required full concentration to avoid fellow competitors and members of the public, both on foot and mountain bike. A loud humming, which turned to buzzing, often permeated my headband and filled my head. Luckily it wasn’t a bike (yes, this is the collective noun!) of hornets but the local pylons making their presence known in the only way they could.
I’m certain the epic levels of condensation inside my sunglasses were about to cause a personal tsunami by the time I came into T1, as the temperature had increased by a few degrees. My copious levels of sweat proved that wearing a base layer and arm warmers was a pants decision. Early morning wisdom indeed…
The 40km bike leg was fairly uneventful, and fairly flat. The dark patches on the tarmac from the previous day’s rain were no match for my own sweat patches, and I considered this a win. Winning, however, on a non-closed road bike course, is not coming first. It is avoiding the masses of angry drivers (since when was cyclist hate so militant?) who persist in driving dangerously. One very clever driver nearly wiped out three of us at one point, before screaming profanities about cyclists not being on the road (top logic). All this next to a sign warning drivers about the race. Priceless.
But on a positive note, it is always a pleasure to hear the whirring of a disc wheel creeping up on you before shooting off into the distance. There were some beautiful bikes on show, which certainly offers some respite from the pain of the race, thinking about the potential pain on the wallet.
After a little cramping in T2, the final 5km run was simply a shortened version of the first leg. Prepared for an undulating run, and now with dirty shoes, my elevated heart rate post-cycle carried me for the first mile or so. By now, the temperature was in double figures and the local residents had come out en masse to enjoy this beautiful place. And where better to walk, cycle and unleash dogs than on the same path as an ITU World Championships Qualifier. But this was a blessing in disguise, as such traffic definitely slowed down those in pursuit of me meaning nobody overtook me on this run, possibly for the first time ever. I promise this wasn’t planned – as you will know by now, my planning is rubbish.
Finishing with a solid 8th AG place, and comfortably inside the champs qualifying time required, the day could be considered a great success…
…Although it was also evident that Benjamin Franklin chats rubbish. Following his advice on race day, I gained an Achilles issue (health?), used a full tank of diesel (wealth?), and wore 2 base layers in the sunshine (wisdom?)
Onto the next one, and I’m having a lie in.
Ibiza. A glorious sun-kissed island, usually. But we timed this one a bit wrong. Heavy storms on the morning of the race caused a flooded bike course, burst sewers which started trickling into the sea, and a delayed start until 3pm. Lovely!
As we were running out of daylight for a half iron distance race (given that the fastest athletes take 4 hours and the slowest, 8.5) the format had to be changed due to darkness closing in on the bike leg, and was finally confirmed as a 45km bike instead of the usual 90. Usually good news for me, but in this case, I could have done with an extra buffer to Sarah, as you will see!
After a long old wait, made easy by joining my fellow GB elites in our manager’s hotel room for some laughs (what can you do but laugh?) the storms subsided and the race was finally on. Hurrah.
It was a tight affair. I was always within striking distance of the medals but the swim and bike saw me in around 5th place with a couple of minutes to make up on the run; which is the norm for me.
I was excited to see what I could do run-wise, but I wasn’t feeling ridiculously amazing (this phenomenon can happen maybe once or twice a year only). Solid enough, but no ‘magic’ today. Time of the month can have a huge influence on how good I feel, and the last day of Phase 4, whilst being nowhere near as bad as the first day of Phase 1 (close call!) is far from ideal timing (females would be looking to race in Phase 2 or on day 12-14 for peak performance). It’s great to have knowledge of all this stuff now as female athletes can suffer hugely with hormone fluctuations that are very performance-impacting. Some obviously have more issues than others.
And aside from science being able to explain things, there’s also the unknown of the human body - you can have a great day when you don’t expect it and a bad day when you do - so no matter what should happen, it’s important to race with an open mind: anything can happen and that’s what makes it interesting!
Back to the run. It was the least flat course I’ve ever seen described as flat! Described by many as an obstacle course, we had arbitrary bollards, twisty, slippy, cobbly, narrow roads, and a serious kicker of a climb every lap, with a treacherous, wet, cobbled descent then some steps to follow. It was challenging for each and every one. I was happy with my half marathon of 1.22 as I’m what I describe as a ‘rhythm-based’ runner: stick me in a straight line, wind me up (like a toy I mean, no shouting) and off I go.
Whilst not having the run of dreams, I was consistently fast enough for long enough to hold second place for 19km. Unfortunately for me, it’s 21.1km, and having been chased for the duration by one of the best runners in the sport, fellow Brit and good friend Sarah Lewis, she swept past at 1.19 pace (on that course, that’s seriously rapid) and I was suddenly struggling to hold it together for a medal. 4th and 5th were around 1-2 minutes back so there was a little time to spare, but I was starting to see stars and rock a bit; I’d really pushed the last few kilometres to make Sarah work for it and also be in a position to take advantage should the girl in the lead falter (no chance of that today; I’ve raced Alexandra for a few years and she’s taken a big step up now).
But having gambled a bit to go for gold/silver (because you have to, right?), I was paying the price. I was so close to the finish but as I’ve always said, it’s never over until that line is crossed. I’ve gone from second to fifth in the space of seconds in the closing stages before, so you absolutely cannot take anything for granted when you’re putting your body on the edge of its capability.
So, in hindsight, I think the best thing then happened. I stacked it on a turn with less than a mile to run. I got up straight away, my hip and elbow having taken quite the donk, but the adrenaline surge was exactly what I needed to hold myself together and squeeze out just another 3 minutes of effort to secure my third place.
It’s such a nice feeling to step on to a podium, especially at a championship with your country flag being raised, despite the FREEZINGNESS, and especially when a local gives you their pet parrot to join you on your shoulder! That really made my day; the parrot even tried to help me uncork my champagne with its beak. I’ve now added “buy a parrot” to my bucket list.
I’ll be looking to upgrade on my bronze in Romania next year, but if that’s the culmination of my past few years’ work, I’m cool with that.
My coach and support team believe there is some more ‘complete racing’ to come out (and so do I), so the decision has been made to stick at 70.3 for 2019, before moving on to a (possibly feeble) attempt at the British 100 mile run record from 2020 onwards, which is 14.43 and has been held since 1990 (exactly why it’s been held so long I’m sure I’ll be in for a treat finding out!) But I also just want to see how fast I can go, and wherever that places me on a list, who cares. From there, we’ll go full steam ahead for Badwater 135. But I’ll be a long time retired from pro triathlon, so whilst I can still improve, it’s time to embrace the bike for another year, get my head down in the pool and crack on with a solid winter’s work!
About the author: Alice Hector is a professional triathlete who has enjoyed some incredible wins over the course of her career. Sundried is proud to sponsor such an inspiring athlete.
Read more from Alice Hector