Ironman UK 2010 Bike Recce - Owen W (13/14-Mar-10)
Waking up early is not my forte so when the alarm clock sounded at just after 5am on a Saturday I was, to say the least, grouchy and to be honest a little disappointed. However, as soon as my thoughts cleared I remembered why I was getting up at such a ridiculous time….the 2010 Ironman UK bike recce. Squinting through the curtains further improved my disposition when I saw that not only was the morning quite still, but the skies were clear, the day was starting to look better by the minute.
Our rendezvous was 6am at Bowburn services where 10 keen DTC members planned to meet before travelling down to Bolton in convoy. When I arrived Nigel was already there looking like a coiled spring, it’s obvious that he doesn’t suffer from “early-uppy-itous” as I do. He had a bleary eyed Owen M sitting in the passenger’s seat next to him who’d been up since 4:30am, I think he’d been just too excited to sleep. As I approached their car I realised that not only had they managed somehow to squeeze three bikes and several large bags into the back of the Vectra but Hels was in there too looking like an escapologist about to start her act. It was her plan to suss out her new Garmin during the journey down but that was obviously not going to happen as she could barely move due to pedals, wheels and forks pinning her to the seat. Next to arrive were the three Musketeers (Andy, Dave and Tutty), they had what looked like some huge mechanical beast strapped onto the boot their car, in the gloom it could have been anything from a UFO to a combine harvester moving in reverse. As they neared, it turned to be one of the worlds largest bike racks…fully loaded, I’m sure I could see the front wheels of the car lift off the ground each time they pulled away due to the extra weight on the back. After waiting for a few more minutes, Trevor arrived with his civvies on looking much less ridiculous than the rest of us who all donned tight lycra. Finally, in what could only be described as “fashionably late”, came Neil and Corrina, considering they only live about 27yrds from the services I was surprised that they were last, even more surprised when Neil disappeared again a minute later to fill the car up with fuel.
The convoy left and within an hour was stopped again for a coffee and toilet break, this was obviously to Trevor’s advantage as, unlike the rest of us, was not scaring the locals with his lycra clad body parts. Off we set again and ended up in the middle of Leigh, then drove on to Pennington Flash where the IMUK swim will take place, the temperature at this point had dropped, the breeze had picked up and the sky was cloudy – the lake did not look inviting, hopefully we will get better conditions in August.
After some major bike rebuilds (you’ll be pleased to know that Hels survived her torture in the car and after 15 minutes could almost walk upright again) we were ready to go, just time for a couple of pictures (see the gallery).
There was a lot of discussion at the start of the ride as to where the course actually went, we had printed (and laminated…v. fancy) instructions of the route and several GPS devices all differing in complexity but sadly we did not actually have a map. Leaving the lake area and feeling good we only got 20 yrds before Nigel realised that his front wheel was on backwards – we hoped that this was not a sign of things to come as we had around 60 Miles to cover. Setting off again, we managed to make a correct turning onto the A579 forming a neat line of 5 x 2 bikes ready for the challenge ahead. The next few miles were confusing as the instructions did not seem to fully match the area we were in but after a few discussions, a few wrong turns and a stop to tighten my seat bottle cage we were on track again. The course so far was not bad, quite flat and very urban but as the miles went by the countryside started to take over and the houses were left in the distance. At about 12 miles we joined the start of “the loop”, which on the day will be repeated 3 times, passing through Grimeford Village the mood was good and the first hill caused no problems, about 2 miles later were regrouped on Rivington Reservoir. The first real challenge was next, the infamous climb at Sheep House Lane, this ascended for about 2 miles though after reaching the top we all agreed that it could have been worse and we have far greater challenges in the Dales. Once over the summit, we flew down the other side to Belmont (not the Durham one) slightly worrying Dave as he’d lost one of his front brake-blocks somewhere near the start of the ride. The hill gave our legs a good chance to recover and on the day will certainly be something to look forward to. Six miles of undulating country side came next, quite scenic and without the cross wind would have been reasonably fast, along this road Owen M discovered that his front derailleur had snapped but this did not put him off and decided to complete the ride using his small ring, to be fair the other option was to bus back so the decision was not too hard to make. After turning onto Chorley road, Corrina thought that she might be slowing the ride down and decided that she would sacrifice herself and wait in the nearest pub (she still sticks to the story of “coffee and newspapers” but I’m not convinced) until Neil could come back and collect her. Back into the undulations for another 4 miles, through Wheelton and then we happened upon what must be one of the most un-scenic Ironman backdrops anywhere on the planet, Whittle-le-Woods Industrial Estate, we may have been disappointed if it had not been for the smooth new tarmac under the tyres. There were about 10 miles left of the loop, this section of the ride was still undulating but seemed to be more up than down. The route travels through a lot of smaller urban areas – hopefully there will be a lot of support on the streets on race day. Before we knew it we were back to the loop start and riding back to Pennington Flash. There was some talk about doing a second loop but the clouds were closing in and just as we reached the cars raindrops started to fall…excellent timing.
Ride over and bikes packed up we headed off to the hotel in Bolton, still feeling that post exercise buzz. The night out was also worthy of a story but that’s for another time, a few of us ran the next morning sussing out some of the IM run route in Bolton. It was then time for a good fry-up, pack the cars, speed home and pretend to believe that mothers day is actually more important than triathlon. The recce had certainly been a success and had given us all an insight into what lies ahead…ROLL ON AUGUST the 1ST!!
Many thanks to Owen M for all of the arrangements and the rest of the group for making the trip a great success.
Sunday Club Run - 20-09-09
9 riders met at ‘The Lodge’ on what promised to be a fine day for cycling but with that early morning autumnal nip making its presence felt (where did I put those leg-warmers?).
The general consensus seemed to be to follow the route suggested on the website with individuals fitting it to their specific requirements. An easy spin along the Wear Valley through Willington, Crook and Wolsingham in perfect conditions brought us eventually to Stanhope where the group split for the first time: Richard and Barry turning round to head back for another engagement and Ian deciding to tackle Crawleyside bank on the recumbent! That was a feat I really wanted to see but we had some miles to squeeze in.
A headwind started to pick up as Liz, Bonnie, Owen, Nigel, Colin and I took the quiet minor road past Horsley Hall. Weather and road conditions were so good that Owen suggested we just do laps up and down this road for the rest of the day!
Emerging once more onto the main road at Daddry Shield we continued on up the valley. At this point we lost Liz who decided to turn back. This left five of us to continue through Cowshill and on over Burtree Fell with a fast descent on excellent roads into Allenheads. Here we stopped – picking our way through hundreds of bikers who had the same idea – at the Hemmel Cafe. The cafe is very cycling friendly being on the C2C route and boasts some excellent bike racking facilities (food’s s**t but nice bike racks).
Service could have been better, certainly from Bonnie’s point of view as she was forced to watch the blokes scoffing their grub as she waited (and waited) for her lemon meringue pie. Nigel did the decent thing and brought it to the staff’s attention and it was duly served.
It was out of the cafe and straight into the ‘alpine-like’ climb over to Rookhope (well, you can smell the pine trees and there’s one hairpin bend). With a tailwind it was pretty easy going for everyone except ‘cramp-boy’ Colin. Normally seen off the front of the group, he was to be plagued by muscle spasms for the rest of the ride.
After another long, fast descent towards Rookhope we parted company with Owen and Nigel who had elected to head straight back to Durham (I think I heard ‘the pub’ mentioned).
And then there were three: we turned left before Rookhope and up the short but steep climb to Rimey Law. Once on the tops and with a tailwind driving us along we sped through a moorland landscape at its idyllic best, heading in the general direction of the Derwent Reservoir gleaming in the distance as blue as that stuff you put in the toilet. On reaching a bustling Blanchland we turned right past the Lord Crewe Arms and on towards Edmundbyers. The short hill out of the village fired up Colin’s cramp again which forced us to stop. Here (oh, the shame) we were overtaken by another group of cyclists.
Once Colin had sorted himself out we caught the group who had just passed us and tagged along with them turning left off the Edmundbyers road, along the northern edge of the Derwent reservoir and eventually up to the junction with the A68 at Kiln Pit Hill. Shortly after, we parted company to descend through the quieter lanes to Shotley Bridge. Here was the last climb of any significance and true to form Colin’s leg went. I remember thinking ‘I should say something’ but by the time I’d come up with it I was past and well beyond shouting range. Well the thought was there! However, it was no surprise to find on reaching the top that he wasn’t far behind – tough love!
With the harder bits over it was a relatively gentle return to Durham via Medomsley (Hat & Feather), Bradley Cottages (bit of a lump here), Greencroft, Maiden Law & Burnhope. Superfast descent of Langley and then a final sprint up the bank after Witton Gilbert and that was me pretty much home. My hardy companions however had somewhat further to go to Willington and Belmont but just think of all of that lovely extra mileage. 'Computer says 75 miles' when I roll onto the drive – should have really stayed out for another five I suppose!
Come with us next time!
Sunday Club Run - 13-09-09
Here are a couple of pics taken on the club run last Sunday which took in the Tour of Britain 'King of the Mountains' prime at Langley.
image courtesy of Tony McNeill
image courtesy of Owen Mullen
Club La Santa, Lanzarote...Holiday or Hell? (Dave King)
We’ve recently been on holiday to the sports resort Club La Santa in Lanzarote. We did think twice about going and probably many others have too. Well we went and here’s what we thought...
We have two boys aged 10 and 12 and our first priority was to make sure that they had a good holiday. As a new triathlete I was pretty sure there would be plenty for me to do but less sure about the wife and kids. Following on from that we’d read some reviews and wondered if it might be a bit noisy and the accommodation was described as clean but basic. Not forgetting that it’s windy there too. We still went though! And in reverse order what about our worries:
The wind: yep, it was breezy alright. There’s nothing but the atlantic between lanzarote and Orlando so there’s plenty of room to work up a gust or two. In the event we were glad of this moving air. It kept fresh air circulating in the apartment at night, stopped you cooking on the sunbeds and provided a welcome cooling effect while running and cycling. There is one downside to the wind – it only blows one way so you get pushed along by an invisible hand while cycling. Until you turn around that is. I had on one bike ride the curious feeling that it had been uphill in both directions.
Basic accommodation? True. I think the words in the brochure might be clean and basic. I would agree. There again, those are the things that matter. We didn’t feel like we were lacking in anything and survived quite happily without air conditioning thanks to the breeze.
A bit noisy. Everyone has their windows open. Some folks do sit on their patio until midnight attempting to match the breeze for the quantity of hot air they expel. And like most apartment blocks you do wonder from time to time whether some of your fellow guests are not so much closing the door as trying get it to part company with the wall. I’m not an especially tolerant person but I found it manageable. It certainly wouldn’t put me off going again. I did find myself trying to go to sleep one night with my fingers in my ears when the bloke downstairs started a conversation (outdoors) with: ‘get me my phone, I’ll read you some texts’.
So, to the main event: was there enough for the children to do? Indeed there was. One of the key features of Club La Santa is the equipment and facilities being included. We found this most excellent. They have a lot of bikes. Some are well used but all were functional. The adult bikes were Cannondales, I didn’t recognise the children’s mountain bike brand but I picked one up and it felt nice and light. At various times we took out mountain bikes for the whole family and road bikes for adults and eldest boy: there weren’t kids road bikes but he could just about manage the smallest adult size. I think it was a 48cm. The adult road bikes were CAAD9’s. Some days in the bike hut were busier than others – you can book a bike the day ahead but I went on spec several times and had no problems. When you go for your bike they say ‘ok, and what sort of pedals do you want?’ How cool is that? Not only do you get a perfectly decent Cannondale road bike but they will even fit your choice of pedals. Within reason I assume: it’s worth checking in advance before you pack your shoes. Especially if you have something exotic.
Other stuff for children? We played badminton several times. It’s fair to warn you that you ought to book your court the day before to be sure. We were a little disorganised and so missed out once or twice. Sometimes that sports hall was being used for handball so you must check availability. The equipment also extends to leisure pool toys. Our two had a particular fondness for a huge foam sheet about the size of a single mattress. There was a similar floating thing with a big hole in the middle which various children made a game of diving through.
That was just the leisure pool though. There’s also a 50m, eight lane, swimming pool. The boys would often mess about for ages in the leisure pool, swim some lengths in the 50m pool and then go back to the leisure pool. In fact it was our less than excellent sightseeing sorties which were the lowlight of the holiday. The famous viewpoint surrounded by mist, the trip to volcano restaurant which had been clear the previous day but which was deluged with folk the day we decided to go. That sort of thing.
There’s an activity programme for smaller children – up to about age 7 or so. I a kind of crèche really. It was included so there were no extra charges. There was also an activity programme for teens. Again, and like the adult activities, at no extra charge.
There are also some things you can pay extra for. The boys had a morning of dive training in the leisure pool which they loved. It cost 29 euros each and seemed well worth it. There was just the two of them with one instructor.
So much for the kids, what about the adults? There are loads and loads of activities, checkout the weekly programme for ideas. There were spinning classes, pilates classes, those classes to music where someone shouts at you constantly, squash, tennis, swimming coaching the list goes on and on. And there are races. There’s the 5k and 10k road race, with chip timing. I confess to being beaten by a young Danish woman who stopped to tie her shoe lace in the 5k. Not only did she have time to tie her shoes and still beat me she was actually doing the 10k and promptly shot off on another lap. I also had a crack at the duathlon. Whence I was beaten by a young Danish woman who overtook me on the bike and the run. I spotted her a couple of days later finishing the half marathon with some aplomb. I was a bit careful and didn’t enter the mini triathlon but if I had I’m sure I would have been passed on the swim, the bike and the run by a young Danish woman. The events I took part in had a wide spread of abilities: from people like her to people like me pretty much. And the printed results are available from the office in the afternoon. And did I mention the chip timing? Tri heaven.
The 50m pool was a real treat. There were times when it was busy but not to the point of inconvenience. Often our family managed a lane to ourselves. I managed to swim every day though some days not all that far – that 5k was tough. I blame the heat. There’s also a running track which I used for a track session so slow it would make Allan Sehuelt blanch. It must have been hot then as well. I’d gone on the holiday not expecting to cycle at all without the family but I managed a road ride on my own, a short cycle accompanied by the ball and chain and a short ride with eldest child. It’s a nice place to cycle, the roads aren’t too busy and the bikes are quite nice.
Would we go again? And did the whole family like it? The consensus seems to be that we would like to go for two weeks next time. Dad would like to do more cycling, mum might have a crack at the pilates, we’d all like to play more badminton, try the tennis, and the squash. Maybe race in the aquathlon and the tri. Then there’s the guided 60km bike ride. And of course the pleasure pool. Or the windsurfing. Yup, there’s a lot to do. I thought it was great and happily so did the rest of the family. It’s not cheap in term time but if we can afford it we will go back.
Donna's "last of the summer whine" swim (Sat 12th Sept 09)
Unlike the rest of the summer, the 'swansong summer whine open water swim' on Saturday took place in 24 degree heat, and we enjoyed blue skies, and an amazingly calm, shimmering lake.
4 of us capered in the clear water - with the main feature on playing tag, with the faster swimmers being hampered by degrees - one arm with legs; one arm no legs; just kick! I would like to say I won, but that would be a lie - Roz's better tag strategy meant she avoided all comers. Then some butterfly/dying moth/ dragonfly and a bit of lovely free swimming around to explore the lake preceeded a splendid outdoor lunch in the sun at the cafe.
The main downside was that there was only one whine to be heard - I want to stay in all day!
Thanks for coming. Water polo next year?
Spot the difference......