Lessons learned

The 2018 Norfolk superhero challenge 

It was hot last year.  Hot, sweaty and faintly delirious.  Having failed to win the wooden spoon, at the height of the 2017 Norfolk superhero post-race endorphin rush, we made a pact to do it all again: properly.  Lessons would have to be learned.  

Would an even larger breakfast help?  Was wheezing in a wetsuit a wise idea? Could the superhobbit have some leg extensions so the kayak could be carried? Could the super-bad multitasker’s knee-creak be resolved on a different bike?  Would barefoot running enable actual running??

Are rain dances effective?

singin in the rain
singing in the rain

Would we actually do some training?………

Training

The superhobbit was committed (to training – not an institution….)  There was a progression plan.  February – half marathon, April – duathlon, May – Olympic triathlon, June – superhero.  In theory, we should have won!  In practice, she broke wonder woman on the half marathon, broke herself in the duathlon (ITB) got broken by the “Kent Himalayas” in the tonbridge tri and realised “beating yesterday” is really tricky when you’re older, fatter & slower than yesterday…

wonderwoman is broken
wonderwoman – broken but still smiling!
i like to ride my bicycle
i like to ride my bicycle
broken hobbit
broken hobbit with horse boy

The multitasker had multiple tasks, none of which included directly training for superhero. Luckily, she’s naturally fit and “bossed” her accelerated training plan with only minimal moaning about the creaky knee & how hard it was….

And suddenly it was June 15th.  The superhero car park was full of people furiously pumping up their bike tyres, registration was full of very kindly pink ladies who agreed a “large” t-shirt was wise “because they come up small”.  The superhobbit mused on how Saga Noren might have said “well, you would have fitted into the small t-shirt if you’d eaten less pie.”

just eat less pie
just eat less pie

 

Not for the last time, grateful to pink ladies.  Outside, people were kayak mangling.  There was jockeying for position and the usual dilemma about which end of the paddle might be which.  Backrests were being inexpertly fitted for no apparent reason other than to prove your zimmer credentials.

Humblebragging – the sanity salvage of the woefully unprepared – was in the air.  A slight and gorgeous brunette was being harangued by a gnarly iron veteran about not wearing her wetsuit.  This was clearly insane and only for the “nails” among us. Little did he know, she normally swims the serpentine all year round with no wetsuit being attacked by giant parasitic leg sucking snails. (Not exaggerating!)

swimmers itch

Eventually, the safety briefing was had, last rites read (ok, I’m exaggerating slightly….) the last supper was eaten and a poor night’s sleep had by all.

1 – breakfast

05.15 – tea

05.45 – other superheroes happily eating breakfast – but not hungry

06.00 – superhero HQ – tagged, tattooed, assembled.  Pink swim hats for “may need assistance” collected.

06.30 tea.  The multitasker feels sick & claims she hates exercise.

Still not hungry

06.45 boat ride (best bit of the day) – also – didn’t fall in, although we heard “the legend of the capsize”….

07.00 we haven’t had breakfast 😱.  Reframe this epic fail by reminding selves there is lots of evidence that fasted exercise is good for you (?)

breakfast fail

2 – swim – 37 minute mile

It was a tad chilly on gun hill.  However, we all felt warmer at the sight of the “budgie smuggler” – a man so iron he was out there clad only in the weeniest speedos.  (No photo here, out of respect).  No wetsuit for the superhobbit but serpentine-girl had succumbed to the nagging and looked toasty and happy in hers.

The water was warm!  The 4 breaststrokers pottered along nattering happily.  The multitasker was so comfortable this year she took time to swap out her safety consort for a younger beefier model.

What a glorious thing to be doing !  How smug we were with our early rising, open water swimming selves.

early bird gets worm
early bird gets worm, feels smug

How pride comes before a fall.  

There was no walking involved in the swim leg this year.  This meant, by halfway, the hobbit was a bit puffed from talking the multitasker down from potential panic and certain doom.  A little rest with the “mature” safety kayaker who had so far refrained from any words of advice, but couldn’t help agreeing that the hobbit might do a bit better if she stopped talking.

The multitasker suddenly turned into “Major Hardman”.  Faced with the potential demise of her littlest & most troublesome squaddie, she forgot all the sharks and sea monsters making a beeline for her flailing limbs and steered a course for home.  

It took a long time.  The water felt less warm.  Blood supply was shut off to expendable items – toes feel like they have a ring of steel around them.  Hands are numb.  Blue goggles hamper colour vision so that steering by coloured buoys is only approximate.

The hitchhikers’ guide to the galaxy has this to say:

“Small animals like mice and hobbits (not illustrated) have a large surface area compared to their volume. They lose heat to their surroundings very quickly and must eat a lot of food to replace the energy lost.”

surface area to volume ratio

OMG!  No breakfast fail!  The superhobbit was getting hypothermic – but at least she now had scientific proof that two breakfasts are definitely in order.

Eventually, the end was in sight and FINALLY the much promised helpful current swept us in.  Paramedic blanket most welcome (thank you!) & Major Hardman was commandeering troops to carry the kayak (thank you!) on behalf of the hypothermic and vertically challenged hobbit.

3 – kayak – 13.6 minute mile average

The kayak leg is by far the best bit.  Being last, we got the added benefit of a tutorial from the safety kayaker (push as well as pull!)  The bonus of the high tide was appreciated by less mud sliding and only a quick up and over the marsh and then we were back in the melee as the lemmingry of male kayakers swooped past us from their extra dog leg.

Joyfully, we saw a seal.  It gave a weary “Seen it all, now” kind of a look and sank back to pursue some fish.

world weary seal

Major Hardman retired and the multitasker was back in the boat, this time for a quick game of speed dating on the water.  It took our minds off tired arms and abs. Some boys refused to play, far too singlemindedly pursuing Lord Nelson’s bust.  (titter ye not) 

spoilsports

We negotiated the wooden posts, press-ganged another victim into kayak carrying (& he didn’t even get rum! Thank you!) and we were done.

4 – bike – 4.6 minute mile average

There was a naked man in transition- or maybe hypothermia causes hallucinations……

The superhobbit was shivering so uncontrollably transition took longer than it should have.  Gotta love a sport that includes a “getting dressed” phase, with rules!  The first five miles on the bike were intolerably slow as the defrost kicked in.  Not as slow as those who already picked up punctures.  Always a tragedy to see fine bikes and men standing agonised by the wayside, waiting for a puncture repair kit……  

superheroes with a puncture

The first lot of pink ladies proffering bananas were a sight for sore eyes and the bike leg was cooler, faster and hugely more enjoyable with a better bike we borrowed (Thank you!) for the multitasker.

When themultitasker morphed into “Major Hardman”, the superhobbit simply obeyed the frequent orders to drink more water.  Consequences ensued.  It wasn’t as hot as last year.  Once thawed out, the hobbitly renal function proved outstanding.  We may not have won the Lady Hamilton cup but there was a Guinness world record pee stop (just after passing the queen’s estate ……. gotta respect Ma’am).  There was a curious man in a van nearby who only moved on afterwards so if my arse has ended up on YouTube please forward only to Norris McWhirter……

The cattle grids: 

We had a race plan in advance

1 – hobbit talk to multitasker on swim

2 – phone a friend on the kayak leg for porterage

3a take every banana & water opportunity offered by a pink lady (as an excuse to have a stop & a natter)

3b hope for an (minor) accident early in the bike leg so the multitasker can do first aid and have a good excuse for not finishing. Failing that, get off and walk over the cattle grids (if reached)  

4 – walk on the “run” anytime anyone’s wrist monitor heart rate exceeds 180

(I’m sure your race plan was similar….?? #hopeful face)

race plan

Well, we were doing fine!   Without the burden of 3 litres of urine on board the bike average mph rocketed.  We were approaching cattle grid number one.  There was a man down.  We got off and walked.  He already had assistance but I volunteered the multitasker as being a doctor anyway.  Forgot to mention the small matter of my own MBChB……luckily, he had a “doctor who looked like he knew what he was doing” with him, so I pottered off with a clear conscience.

After the obelisk, the multitasker hoped it was nearly over, and it nearly was!  Had a lovely lovely bike ride this year – have learned that taking in a “rolling buffet” may not make you go that much faster but you definitely enjoy it more.

5 – “run” – 16.6 minute mile average

A speedy transition this time and off on the “run”, smiling through gritted teeth at all those cool cucumbers with superhero medals already strung round their necks.

We managed some running and I ditched the shoes with the first pink ladies (thank you!) for a true hobbit quest.  This surprised all the hard-bitten speedy superheroes passing us in the other direction- what did they know that I’d forgotten from last year!?  Oh yes, the stony path….

Luckily serpentine-girl and her sidekick were there to help us along and I think the multitasker necked some rum (& after that had a curious loss of pace….)

We had a short episode of “woman versus horse” on the beach, which we won, and then we were trotting back along the beach marvelling at our luck being out under the huge sky on a huge beach with 3/4 of a huge task behind us.

beach

And then we reached the marsh.  The mud is really nice on bare feet, but it was a bit slippy and slow and people overtook us. There were some more stones and an offer of a piggyback declined on account of not (this year) having lost all dignity….

Then the crevasses.  Who put those extra ones there!?  Did the multitasker tread on last year’s lost trainers?

But we could hear the drums beating and see the family waving.  A splosh across the creek, up the slippery slope over the timing mat and done!!!

A very kindly race organiser wisely held the superhobbit up for a bit having identified collapse-potential a mile off!  Then medals, photos and coconut water and best of all – husband bearing chocolate milk!!!

shiny medals

No wooden spoon for us!  We live to race another day!

You can still sponsor us, too 🙂

6 – recovery

Pint of beer, 2 hour drive and a wedding for the multitasker.  

Delayed 1st & 2nd breakfast and a nice nap for the hobbit.  Each unto his own.

“alt.” recovery for the frayed nerves of the spectators:

alternative superhero
alternative superhero

And we’ve agreed: next year we’re giving something back – please can we be pink ladies?

Thank you (again and again and again) one and all involved, we couldn’t have had a nicer time.

Lessons learned:

Breakfast is optional (heretic but true)

Hypothermia is better than wheezing, but slows you down 

There is no shame in playing on a height disadvantage 

Expensive bikes hurt less and go faster (sad but true)

Barefoot running only works on sand……

Your race reflects your training.  But allow for the unexpected gargantuan pee stop……

Until next year……

Superheroes!!

dazed and confused

 

Done!

We did it 😀😀😀.  Thank you for supporting us, sponsoring us, coming on the journey with us.  There have been ups and downs, a bit of sideways, laughter and tears, injuries, illness, recovery, a new bike, a resignation, a house renovation and an election.

It all started when the multi- tasker’s sister thought it would be fine for a couple of slow sprint triathletes to upgrade to double the swim length, more than triple the bike leg, nearly triple the run and add a bit of kayaking for good measure……  Safe to say, we had never been in a kayak before: although Meg was a rower at uni, she struggled with the concept of forward motion in the water!  We knew we had to do 6 months of training and we started off well.  We had a bit of injury and a horrible virus impeding progress, but we got back in the saddle (Meg literally did most of her training in the saddle – lesson number one, cross training is effective!)  

We were doing marvellously but then Meg had to move out of her house for it to be renovated and an election was called.  Other things were suddenly a priority.  The training schedule was abandoned early on – from the other side I can now report lesson number 2: you can still race without the training but it takes significantly longer.

The last supper

Yum!

We were both supposed to register and listen to the safety briefing on Friday 16th, but the hobbit was still saving lives in Beccles, so Meg had to freak herself out and have a panic attack on her own.  Luckily there was a carb-loading supper for her, unluckily, we found out there was a cut off for starting the run of 16.30.   Pressure!  The upside of lifesaving was a very civilised “last supper” with as many carbs as possible – two bread rolls!! – for the hobbit when she finally rolled up.

Good morning sunshine

burnham market

Saturday morning was beautiful.  A sleepy Norfolk village, a lovely hotel, beaches nearby.  And we were planning to swim a mile, kayak 3 miles, bike 45 miles and then run 8 miles.  Breakfast ensued!  What a dilemma.  Facebook came to the rescue –  More carbs and salt:

love


So far so civilised.  You can tell I was in denial, really.

The race

the competition: ironman and superman – gulp!

My bubble of calm evaporated when I got to the race site and saw ironmen and women setting up.  This is it.  The multitasker had her superhero t-shirt on, she’d picked us a kayak and some lifejackets and we had a spot on the bike rack.  

chaotic transition area – bad hobbit

The idea is you set out a coloured towel (to identify your spot) under your bike and lay out everything you need in an orderly fashion to swap between disciplines.  There was a lot of gear (and food – second breakfast!). The multitasker was flirting outrageously with a young lad with “thighs like pony’s” (and I quote).

We got our tatts done:


And our ankle tags.  Always a bit disconcerting to be tagged and enumerated….for ID purposes in case we were found drifting out to sea in the kayak…..?

Swimming – 1 mile

Next step was getting half in the wetsuit and being shipped out to a beach 1 mile up the creek from which we would swim back.  Being in the boat stopped the nerves as it was a gorgeous day and you could pretend you were going on a cruise. 😂😉😂🤔.  The other competitors had mostly done it before and were extremely helpful explaining how fast they could go😶.  We had a quick acclimatise in the (surprisingly pleasant) water, were corralled through a headcount and then off went the hooter and we splashed in.

Of course, everyone worries about the vicious tactics of the open water swim.  Certainly supergirl and ironwoman, our fellow Beccles superheroes, got kicked and pushed around.  The solution is to breastroke calmly at the back having a nice chat.  The multi-tasker needs calming and reassuring that there are no sharks or dead bodies coming to get her and the hobbit is incapable of doing freestyle.  It’s true that the RNLI kayakers and paddle boarders going alongside for safety got totally bored with us but on the brightside, the multitasker got to flirt with some more muscle-bound teenagers…….

Hilariously, there was a point at which we hit a sandbank and everyone stood up and walked, there were two jellyfish, one stung me a bit, but otherwise it was a glorious swim and by the end even the multitasker had stopped panicking and enjoyed it.

Kayaking – 3 miles

33 minutes after the hooter we were dashing up the quay to our kayak ripping off the wetsuit and wheezing only very slightly. (Big improvement on last year – shorty wetsuit recommended). The kayak was heavy and we had to go barefoot over gravel to get it back in the water.  Hope there’s no video 😱.  We had our very own safety kayaker beside us as we were last, but we motored down the course due to the engine powerhouse that is the multitasker.  

Hawaii 5-0 ?


And then there was an unexpected snag – the creek ran out and we had to push the kayak 100 yards across a mudbank before getting back in to finish the course.  Spoiler alert – this was not the only time I was nearly lost to the mud…..

By the time we finished (49 minutes) we were no longer last.  More kayak manhandling, with the help of an elderly lady (respect!) and we were back in transition, squirting on sunscreen and ready to bike.  We even saw supergirl and ironwoman dashing off just ahead of us, so we knew we were doing OK.  The multitasker has decided kayaking is her next sport – I have to concur, it was a fabulous addition to triathlon.🚣

The bike leg – 45 miles

muddy but elated

We started riding at 12.50, anticipated a time of 3.5 hours so it was going to be a close shave to get on the run before the 16.30 cut off.  This didn’t really make us go any faster but we absorbed gels and flapjacks and rehydration drinks for good measure.  The bike leg is extremely undulating.  Great road surfaces compared to all the potholes in Suffolk, but it was all up, down, up, down.  We never quite managed to draft each other very well as the hobbit could get up hills quickly and the multitasker could get down them quicker.  However, we stayed together and did more chatting.  There was a banana and water oasis at mile 20 by the Sandringham stud where we found other cyclists, saw various people with punctures and learned someone had already broken their collarbone falling off.  Undeterred we pedalled on.  At one point the multitasker got ahead and two nice “sweepers” picked me up and let me draft behind them to catch her up.  I swear we were doing 60mph! 🚴😁.  We made it to Holkham Hall where there is a little “out and back” round the obelisk.  This was the only time we could see who was behind or ahead of us and I was grateful to be able to say “we’re not last!” As I realised the person 200 yards behind us was supergirl.  This was extraordinary.  Supergirl is a top cyclist averaging 18 mph.  She had set out on the bike ride a minute or two before us.  What had happened?  Turns out, supergirl and ironwoman’s team name was the prescient “wrong direction”!   There were moments on the bike ride when the multitasker was flagging.  But like a true superhero she didn’t moan about her creaky knee or agonising sacroiliac joints, she just pedalled.  I hadn’t taken on quite enough hobbit nutrition so by mile 43 there was a loss of momentum (understatement for grinding halt) but a gel soon sorted it and then suddenly we were back in transition, more sunscreen and off on the run. (3h32mins on the bike – just made the cut off!)

The “run” – 7 miles sand dunes 1 mile mud

The first bit of the run goes past the finish line where loads of finished superheroes were basking in their glory – so we had to run past them really fast to look as though we were trying!  But then we got to a raised bank where the heat was radiating up off the ground and it felt like an oven and we just had to stop and walk.  At this point, the small voice of supergirl was heard and she came running up behind us, with ironwoman trailing behind.  They had got lost, had to stop at a bike shop and ask directions, then lost each other again after a pee stop.  Ironwoman did not look well, but she was absolutely determined to carry on, so we agreed to stick together and walk.  But then we reached the sand dunes and almost ground to a halt.  Even just walking across the sand was hard in that heat so we struggled on slower and slower.  There was a curious mirage in the sand of a tropical cocktail bar with grass skirts, Hawaiian Lei & pina colada.  The multitasker had one (pina colada) & perked up considerably!

Eventually we got to the wooded area off Holkham beach and tried a bit of jogging but ironwoman suddenly felt faint and got goosebumps and looked really poorly.  Luckily there was a Marshall station so we took on water and poured water over her and just walked on – no more running.

Finally, we got to the last bit which involved crossing all the creeks to get back to the start over the muddy marsh.  Getting wet feet was initially lovely but soon we were meeting deep creeks which we had to jump down and crawl up trying not to lose our trainers in the mud.  I failed.  The multitasker hauled me out but the trainers were unable to come with me.  Actually it was better barefoot.  By this time I had lost the capacity to make any decisions and nearly got stuck on one side of a creek with sheer sides wondering if I would ever make it out of the mud.  The multitasker was clearly enjoying herself – times like that you need an army Major sorting out the troops:  luckily, the great thing about Norfolk Superhero is you have your superhero buddy to egg you on (or drag you through the mud!) whenever you are flagging.  I think we even ran a bit towards the finish and then stumble-waded through the final creek to cross the finish line – all 4 of us hand in hand. (2h 34 min)

……and we beat number 77 & 78 who got the wooden spoon!

7h38min27seconds all done.

What’s next?

Massive thanks to everyone who has put up with us, massive thanks to the organisers and the amazing marshalls who were SO supportive and a massive rest.  Before we started the multitasker said – “do it again next year?” the answer was NO!  But now it’s – “can we do it every year?”

If we keep going, we could win the zimmer cup (combined age of superhero team > 100) in 2024 – so we’ll keep you all posted!

 

New Year’s Resolution

 

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

happy new year fireworks

Are you ready to be a superhero?  You probably don’t feel like one, after last night…….. 

hangover

New Year’s Resolution

But this year, 2017, you’ve made a new year’s resolution to be healthier – get active, lose weight, ditch the bad habit/s.  You’ve been here before – empty promises when you didn’t really want it, missed opportunities because you weren’t ready for change, failed efforts because you fizzled out in February – well February is the sort of month that will do that to you.  We’ve been there too.

This year, it could be different and we’re here to help you, and in turn you’ll help us.  We’re East Anglian triathletes bidding to upgrade to superhero status and take on the Norfolk superheroes quadrathlon.  Disclaimer: we have absolutely no relevant qualifications**** to advise you, but we have been there and got a few t-shirts and medals on the way. 

beccles-medical-centre-triathletes-websize training-runtourdebroads2016

Quadrathlon training

We start a (gruelling – they’re always gruelling!) training schedule tomorrow for 6 months leading up to the quadrathlon.  You’re there to keep us on track – we promise to post our “sports on Sunday” weekly training report so you can follow our progress, have a good laugh at our expense and generally feel our pain.  We’re here to help you achieve your transformation to healthy hero, too.  Because this is not our starting point – in 2015 Jools was a fat, inactive glutton and Meg was a “skinny fat” whirlwind with unhealthy imbibing habits.  You can read about how we got from the couch of sloth and the wine vat of sin to successfully competing in 6 triathlons in 2016 in the other blogs we will post each week.  They will cover motivation (Monday), tech (Tuesday), theory (Thursday) and a bit of quiet reflection on a Friday.

Plan to be a healthy hero

Before you start, you need a plan.  “Being fit” “being healthy” “being thinner” are not destinations, they are just relative to now, so they will always be ahead of you no matter how fit, healthy or thin you get.  So first of all set out the end of the line.  Where are the buffers? How will you know when you’ve hit them?  Would you be fit if you could do a sprint triathlon in the summer? Would you be fit if you could walk 3 miles without stopping by the end of March?  Would you be healthy if you stopped smoking, drank within the recommended limits or stuck to a “less than 5% sugar” nutrition regime?  Would you be thin if you dropped 3 dress sizes?  We won’t tell you what to do, but we’ll provide you with the tools you need to do it.

Be Smart

Start by making your goal S.M.A.R.T 

smart-infographic

and get ready to work hard to achieve it – we’re right behind you and we’d love to hear about your progress in the comments.  Maybe you’ll be guest blogging your own journey to healthy hero here soon…….

 

**** (although Jools has cycling proficiency)