It’s almost the end of October and I’ve been busy doing silly things. Both the Devil’s Aquathlon and the run around the Gower were fun, but this time of year is a time to cut the pressure of training and racing and to let both brain and body recover. One of the most important things for long term fitness development is wanting to do it, and after a really tough year of racing and training a period of not planning, not wanting, not training, and eating and doing whatever you feel like is crucial to regaining the love.
I’m not training. I ride to work (cycling is my main way of getting around throughout the year), I’m having a little jog every few days at whatever pace and distance I feel like, I’m swimming with the Swansea Masters because it’s a funs session and I’m having the odd splash in the pool. I took a week and a half off swimming around the time of the Gower run and it felt weird to get back in the pool, but I found that I can still swim. I’m not fussed about it. I’m avoiding making plans for next year, and I’ve got only the vaguest plans for training at the back of my brain.
I went for a run on Tuesday. It’s a run I’ve been thinking about for years, since it was mentioned to me by one of the strongest runners around. It’s a run I could only attempt at the end of a triathlon season because of the interruption in training and the risk of doing myself a mischief. Each year I’ve had a problem and have been unable to attempt it: calf tears, Achilles tendon issues, a fractured clavicle. This year I looked at the calendar and worked out a window when the tides would be right, I wouldn’t be racing, there would be enough daylight hours and what not. When that window approached the weather for Tuesday was perfect. Bizarre even, for October. A foggy start, little wind (and unusually from the east too), sun and light clouds all day. Oh bugger. It was unlikely that I’d get an opportunity like that again so I had to go for it.
What was the run? I live on the corner of the Gower peninsula, a Site of Special Scientific Interest with many National Trust bits, the new Wales Coastal Path and lots of prettiness. It’s world famous and parts of it are so well photographed that they figure in top 10 world lists. We spend a lot of time on it, running, cycling, swimming, walking, rock pooling, sand castling (that’s bound to be a verb), drinking coffee, body boarding, more coffee. We used to come here on holiday before we lived here to go rock climbing. The run is a run around the Gower. I guess you can start where you like (I started at my house) and you run around staying as wide as you can. Ish. Much of the running is on the coastal path, there are huge beaches to run along, and a lighthouse at Whitford Point to run around that you can only get to at low tide. And you have to get it right, because if you have to race the tide there you’ll lose. It’s too flat and too stony, so the tide moves fast and you move slow. Fun, eh? The route is a little variable but around 85km long. And hilly.
The 4th race in 4 weekends. I was getting a bit knackered as it’s the end of the season & my fitness has been slowly dropping, & my weight slowly increasing, but I’d been looking forward to this race. I hadn’t been able to do it for the last couple of years because of a calf injury and a clavicle injury, and it’s a home race back in Cheltenham. The lido is a lovely pool to swim in, and the race is held a week after the end of the lido season. They switch the heating off and let the pool cool down, and then let us get in with wetsuits on for a 2km swim followed by a cross country run up Leckhampton Hill to the Devil’s Chimney and back. Challenging, different and lots of fun. They give you a coin (actually a locker token) to carry all the way to the Chimney to pay off the Devil and keep him underground according to local legend. (We threw them to an upturned tub rather than actually having to climb the Chimney, although that would be an interesting addition).
More racing! Last weekend I ran over at Dale in Pembrokeshire in the Pembrokeshire Tri Club’s half marathon. I love to run this race if I can, as the club’s races are all good & well organised, and this is a race I can be competitive in and actually race rather than run for a time. It’s a hilly course with some amazing views and is a punisher. Good pacing is needed with good legs. They run a 10k too if you fancy something shorter, and you can usually get an entry on the line.
This year the weather was great with a bit of wind blowing off the sea from the east. I started at the front with a few other guys and just lost a little distance to the front group of 4 before the first hill. I had a good charge up and settled into my group at the top. The pace dipped so I set off alone to try to catch the front group before the turn back into the wind. I picked up one guy that dropped back and pushed past but that was it for the rest of the race.
We raced out at Grafham Water at the weekend in my last race of the triathlon season. The end of the season is always a special time, and it always was when I was bike racing too. Maybe it explains why I like the autumn so much. Today’s race was a European Triathlon Championships Qualifier for 2014, carrying through fitness from last week’s peak race after trying to recover as best I could. The lack of a nice bath and too much crap food probably didn’t help but I felt pretty good. This was a very relaxed race, with very little stress and much fun. Yes, it’s a qualifier, but it’s also the last race of the season and there’s something particular about crossing under the finish banner of the last race of the year.
The weather out east in Cambridgeshire was fantastic, so it was also the last family camping weekend of the year. We watched the sun going down over Grafham Water as I registered for the race, then set up camp and cooked tea in the early dusk. Chilling out, a warm night and a not crazy early start. Kids bundled into the car and the usual routine of setting up transition at the race site, warming up and missing the race briefing because I lost track of time. It’s always good to read all the race information and check out the routes just in case this happens.