USA Adventure. 5 weeks, 7000 miles, 10 states, trains, planes and automobiles, a solar eclipse and one cheeky triathlon to round it all off.

I had been planning to visit the USA to witness the total eclipse of the sun on August 21st for some time, mulling over the route, the viewing location and which of my far-flung relatives I would visit. At the start of the year it was beginning to come together centred on an Eclipse tour to a climate favoured area of Oregon state. Then I read an article in Triathlete’s World about racing in the USA and discovered there was a featured race in Washington DC that fit with my schedule. I was settled, I would do it. The route of the bike and run passed all of the Iconic Washington sights, and the swim was in the Potomac River. It could be hot, and humid, I filed in my head the possibility of downgrading to a sprint if conditions demanded.More of an issue: how would I stay race fit through 5 weeks of traveling around?

First stop, Washington to unpack and build my bike before setting off. Then San Francisco; my in laws live right by Golden Gate Park and have two sporty sons, They had organised the loan of a bike and challenged me to some hilly Franciscan rides as well as a Sunday morning running club time trial. Off to Portland to join my Eclipse tour. Ten days on a coach looked challenging, but our first stop was on the coast where a six mile expanse of beach encouraged morning and evening runs. The tour began and ended in Portland, possibly the most cycle friendly city in the USA- but I was missing out on swims. Next stop Chicago where a magnificent hotel pool was available, and Cleveland where my Cousin’s gym boasted an Olympic sized facility. Best of all in Kentucky where another cousin treated me to a ride on his boat in the enormous Lake Cumberland, which was comfortably warm enough for swimsuit swimming.

So at dawn on the 10th September there I was with a thousand others lined up in the shadow of the Washington Monument, shivering in unseasonably chilly temperatures. After the singing of the National Anthem we filed onto the pontoon in order of expected time to jump in at 3 second intervals and begin swimming. No warm up! Best marked course ever- buoys every 100 metres, with distance marked on each. easy ladder exit and grassy run into transition. Closed road cycle which took us past the Lincoln Memorial and out across the river to the Pentagon and finally a one loop run around East Potomac Golf Course, passing even more iconic Washington sights. Mercifully it remained cool throughout- a great boon for the run. Result- Just a smidgen over 4 hours ( I have done much better) but second in age, and the honour of GB upheld.

Daybreak over the Washington Monument

Altogether a very well run event, with roomy transition, technical support,plenty of kayacs in the river, adequate water stations and generous goody bag and athlete expo village. The organisers are also the organisers of Escape from Alcatraz, and clearly know what they are doing. US athelets are friendly and welcoming. Next time a holiday In the US coincides with a race, do it.
Oh, and the Eclipse was pretty cool as well .


Familiar faces at the Samaritan’s Charity Sportive – 1st July 2017

We’ve been counting down the days to this one as it was organised by our own Alli Dempsey – the first, of hopefully many, Sportives to raise money for the local Samaritans branch. Great planning and organisation by a legion of volunteers and so happy to see they exceeded their expectations. A hoped for 300 riders turned into over 400 who came to face the challenge of the Chiltern hills. From the instant we left the marshalling area to go straight up the first hill it was a continuous up, down and up again finishing with Whiteleaf – just under a mile of 10% on average with a nice little kick at 20%. Thanks! Whether 25, 50 or 80miles we were helped all the way by amazing, smiling volunteers and fabulous flapjacks and brownies at the feed station – volunteers again, and then it was all topped off with beer, burger and massage at the end. Well done to all our Tri50 riders – Dee Philpott, Janet Harper, Maureen Pedri, Sandra and Stefan Barden, Ted Hamilton and Jo Lewis and a huge well done to the Samaritans (with the help of Hemel Cycling club) for organising a brilliant event. Here’s to the next one……

Great North SwimRun

On Saturday 10 June I did my first SwimRun. This was the inaugural Great North SwimRun which was part of a longer-standing festival of open water swimming that takes place in and around Lake Windemere and attracted approximately 8,000 swimmers this year.

SwimRun is relatively new and has a few differences with triathlon. Most obviously, there is no bike leg. There are multiple swims and runs (rather than just one of each) meaning that you have to swim while wearing your running shoes and run while wearing your wetsuit. You can use whatever swim aids you desire, the most common being pull buoys and paddles, with the proviso that you have to carry them while running. And you must take part as a team of two: at no point on the course can you be more than ten metres from your teammate such that in many events, but not this one, you must be tethered together.

The Great North SwimRun offers three distances: 10k; 23k; and 35k with about 15% of each being swims and the balance runs. We opted for the middle distance which comprised five swims of 1,300m, 350m, 500m, 650m, and 800m interspersed with four runs of 6.9k, 11k, 1.2k, and 1k. The swims were generally across bays or along the shoreline of the lake, except for the first swim which took us over the belly of Lake Windemere from one side to the other, and the runs were either gravel paths or trails with maybe a kilometre on the roads. There was about 500m of climbing.

The organisation of the event was stellar with a comprehensive briefing the night before, easy registration, a chance to get into the water before the start, and ten minutes of callisthenics to warm us up before the off. Equally importantly, the marshalling was upbeat and supportive despite it raining throughout the event (it was sunny down south but we had cold, winds and rain such that the second day’s events were all cancelled) and the numerous kayakers were attentive.

For those contemplating a SwimRun, there are some things to be aware of. Swimming in shoes isn’t difficult though I’d recommend elastic laces. My teammate did not have them and got cramp when his laces came undone in the middle of the fourth swim and he had to re-tie them while treading water. Unexpectedly, they also caused his feet to sink. In training they were fine. However, a better swimmer than me, he had to swim at a slower pace than usual and without his usually speed his shod feet sank. He plans to try neoprene calf guards to overcome this next time. I used a pull buoy so didn’t have that problem but noticed a marked drop in speed from not using my legs and had to stop swimming from time to time as the pull buoy slipped away from me.

A number of teams used tow ropes in the swim so that the stronger swimmers could pull their weaker partners. You could see those who had practiced – typically the ropes were short and the second swimmer still managed a front crawl those who hadn’t – long ropes that snagged other swimmers and teammates doing breast stroke.

Running in wet shoes didn’t give us blisters though we both wore thin socks too. Running in a wetsuit was fine. In hot weather I can imagine that wouldn’t be so great but in our cold event we didn’t even undo the zips let alone pull off the top half.

You need to think about what to do with your swimming kit when running. I didn’t notice the pull buoy strapped to my leg while running. However, I looped my goggles through my race belt as we set off on the first run and snagged them on a gate within the first 100m. They snapped in two. I had a spare pair and from then on they were tucked inside my wetsuit during each run.

Finally, we both struggled with the cold. The lake was a bit above 15C which wouldn’t be a problem in a one swim triathlon. However towards the end of the event when we were tired, the swims were more frequent and the runs shorter, our bodies couldn’t warm up sufficiently on the runs before getting back into the cold water. We’ve agreed that the next one we’ll do will be in the Mediterranean.

All in, I loved the event. There is an admirable ethos to SwimRun that is focused on nature and feels a long way from manicured triathlon course like Eton Dorney. Similarly, while there were a few racing hard, the vast majority of participants were competing against the course and saw each other as allies and not enemies. Everyone was friendly, gates were held open, and words of encouragement were plentiful.

I’d heartily recommend SwimRun as a discipline and the Great North SwimRun as an event.

Des Byrne
June 2017

Tri50’s own, Jo Lewis, takes 1st place in the European Aquathlon Championships in Bratislava!

Joanna Lewis GBR, racing in the 60-64 category, led home the British trio in the women’s race. Her opening swim gave her almost three minutes to play with. A closing run that was enough to win but not faster than one of her opponents, gave her the title once more. She has been World Aquathlon Champion before, back in 2006. She took the title in Pontevedra in 2011 in the Sprint and just to show it was not a fluke, won in 2012 in Eilat. The 2015 title was hers in 2015 in Köln and this weekend, the European title is once again in her hands. Silver went to Gina Coulson and bronze to Karen Hames.

It’s all over, for now anyway. Feurteventura 2017

So we’re all well and truly back in the UK – it’s cold and it’s wet which gives the game away – having completed another inspiring training camp in Fuerteventura. I felt, after reading the brilliant blogs by our athletes, that it was time to add a few thoughts from one of the Coaches ( Jo, Sandra, Christine, Stefan and Ted)

The 7 days were tough and for those who managed the whole 10 days, well…kudos. We were demanding taskmasters Jo and I, supporting and guiding our athletes through 3 sessions nearly every day. Coached pool swims, early morning sea swims, cycling ( I know they all ‘loved’ the hill reps to the top of the lighthouse..!!) running, technique across the board, transition practice, core strength, swiss ball, workshops, 2 mini triathlons, quiz……….and so on. The athletes certainly had their work cut out, and so did the Coaches, and it was so inspiring to see everyone sharing tips and experiences, with the ‘oldies’ helping the ‘newbies’ (meant in a Triathlon sense only of course !) and everyone smiling and laughing their way through everything. It was all about ‘I can do this…..’. and what a sense of camaraderie. I have to admit that saying it was actually work makes me feel very privileged.

We’re all rooting for the 6 GB Age-Group hopefuls who are trying to qualify this weekend at Dorney and Southport – Jo and I will be there to cheer you on, well at Dorney anyway, along with several more of the ‘team’. Good luck to everyone.

So what’s next? Well no rest for Jo and me, we’re already planning the Swim Camp in November, back in the sunshine (hurrah), and dates are booked for the Tri camp in 2018. We’re looking forward to welcoming ‘old’ faces and new (sorry with the old again but you know what I mean) so keep your eyes peeled for full info going onto the site.


And they’re off

‘Try a tri’ number 2

Who’s taking the photo?

Fuerteventura 2017 – Day 10: Have a Tri!! by the Brownlee Sisters

Our last day thinking it was going to be an easy one before we head home tomorrow, but instead Jo & Sandra had different ideas for us!. After a restless night and still feeling tired, we met on the beach for T1 and T2 Transition training with Jo & Ted, a very informative & helpful session. Helene & Will showed everyone how to smoothly scoot & then mount & dismount off their bikes like real professionals. Lindsey, Barney, Maureen, Janet & Terry successfully followed as I watched in admiration & thought to myself ‘I’m not doing that’ and all I could think of was Breakfast. I think some practise before the next Triathlon and all the triathletes will be showing everyone how it’s done.

Immediately afterwards, we joined Sandra for a Core Conditioning session on the beautiful green grass overlooking the seas – once again a great session and after a week everyone has developed a six pack to show off when they get home -am not sure what’s happened to mine though!
Thanks to Sandra we have realised how important it is to work on having a strong core which helps to improve across all the disciplines.

At breakfast Jo nearly managed to burn down the restaurant by placing too thick a wedge of bread in the toaster – am so glad she didn’t as we still have one more breakfast to enjoy before going home. We then had the remainder of the morning and most of the afternoon off before tackling our final

Have a Tri……..

Maureen puts everything on the bed as she has done all week & then I just copy her (don’t know what I would have done without her). Dressed with Tri suit and wet suit half on & helmet on our heads we take the bikes and head on out to meet the others. I feel a bit more anxious today because I know what to expect!
it takes Julie, Stefan and Sandra to zip me up in my wet suit, which still feels so tight I would have thought after this week of hard training it would be a little looser by now but No! Stefan tells me it’s all muscle that I’ve built up so I believe him, he knows best.
Everyone is keen to start, I have a head start as I only have to swim to and round the second buoy whilst everyone else swims a further 400m. I am the first to finish and get on my bike but soon, one by one, they all passed me. The wind was strong pushing my bike side to side but I made it on the red road & back to the finish line, all of 10 kms. Then for the run which was very difficult in the afternoon heat – Jo ran with me for the final 300m and encouraged me to push the pace to the finish line………..

And there it was, we finished a wonderful week of achieving the unimaginable.

Maureen & I would just like to say a big Thank you to our Coaches Jo, Sandra and Christine for all their help , advice & support they have given us during this week. Also thanks to Ted and Stefan for their invaluable support, really appreciated.

I never imagined three years ago that I would be Having a Try at a Triathlon, having started from a total unfit base, with not a clue about fitness.
I feel totally overwhelmed as I write this”.

Snita Sharma and Maureen Pedri
Brownlee Sisters

Fuerteventura 2017 – Day 9 by Nigel

The alarm awakens me from my slumbers at 6:30 am.
I tiptoe tentatively to the window hoping against hope that windy Fuerteventura would come to my rescue, making it impossibly dangerous for our early sea swim session.
No such luck, peering out into the morning’s dawn it’s calm & tranquil, and even at this unearthly hour, the sea looks surprisingly inviting!
My only hope left is to check the Group WhatsApp just in case the Coaches have decided a last minute change of plan.
Again, no such luck, the message box is forlornly empty!

With all the enthusiasm of a grumpy old man, I start to oil and grease my reluctant lower body into my wet suit and at least looking the part of a proper triathlete (which counts for a lot in my book, not actually being the part) I set out towards the beach to meet the rest of our group.
Coach Sandra puts us through our paces with various drills to get used to starts and swimming alongside our fellow competitors, and we are actually encouraged to use sharp elbows to fight for our space in the water – brave chap that I am, I only manage to get punched by a couple of the girls whom I swear must have had outboard motors on their backs as I am swimming at about the speed of a sea snail!
Never mind, I persist and then discover the art of turning round a buoy backwards and then sighting Coach Sandra in the far distance, standing on the beach, both of which drills to my utter astonishment I manage to complete with half-decent competence, to which I receive the “thumbs-up”. Praise indeed, even from a Sunderland supporter to a Geordie Lad!

The day progresses after our usual, hearty and healthy breakfast to a 30-40k bike ride along the very peaceful roads of Fuerteventura which, from my perspective is a joy compared with the manic and frightening traffic I encounter in NW London which is terribly off-putting for this particular senior vet and “newbie” cyclist.
Coach Jo in her usual attentive manner explains the route out and how to practice our drafting skills and, little by little, I gain confidence to the extent that I start to become much more comfortable on the “drops” and Helena and I take it in turns to work together.
Then, after 20 kms, it’s time for a coffee break and the cameraderie of our group kicks in and although we are of varying standards I’m beginning to feel for the first time, not just looking the part but actually being the part of a proper cyclist.
However, I’m brought back swiftly back to earth as we set out on the second half of our ride, by Stefan, who very quietly and tactfully takes me to one side and explains that I’m wearing my cycling gloves inside out and also gently points out to ignorant Yours Truly what the purpose of the loops on the gloves were for. Who knew?

As the ride proceeds towards its conclusion I am determined to use the remaining time on the road to practice my endurance and (relative) speed in preparation for the forthcoming ITU qualifier at Eton Dorney in three weeks’ time and I set off in earnest pursuit of Coach Sandra and super-biker Terry who are leading the group home.
I grit my teeth and am prepared to give it my all and, despite the gusty conditions which are challenging to say the least, I manage to keep with them to the “finishing line”.

Every day at Tri 50 training camp has been a joy, I have learnt such a lot from both the superbly professional and caring coaches, but also from my fellow triathletes who continually look out for me as the senior Vet in the group.
We are indeed as Shakespeare would put it: “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers!”
I feel very privileged and blessed to have spent this week training in Fuerteventura and who knows, I may one day soon turn into a proper triathlete!

Nigel Levey
Maturest Tri50 Triathlete (72 years young!)

Fuerteventura 2017 – Day 8 by Barney

After a late night of tapas, great company, wine and rum shots, our considerate Coaches, Jo and Sandra, gave everybody a well deserved rest and lie in! Although this wouldnt keep our Coaches down and, leading by example, they all took to the sea first thing. My spies tell me this was like an exhibition swimming event although some lessons on sighting maybe required, as a number of buoys were apparently missed!

So, back to the day. After another fine healthy breakfast we took to the pool for a coached swim session. Swimming isn’t my strongest discipline but I was crushed when after 1 years swimming I was told it would take me at least another 8 to actually learn to do it properly! That said, everyone swam really well and the coaching tips have already made a huge difference to all of us.
A quick T1 and everybody was on the bike – amazing effort by all. The crosswinds both up and downhill were slightly off putting but everyone pushed through and completed the ride.
Next the strangest thing happened, after a late start we were given 3 hours off – what should we do, decisions, decisions, for us it was an energetic afternoon consisting of lunch, sun-lounger and ice-cream. This was not for Terry though, and he pushed on through with an aqua-aerobics class – perhaps he has a future as the Tri 50 Mr Motivator, I wonder how he looks in leg warmers?

The day wrapped up with a gruelling run session in the afternoon heat, some stretching and Ted’s suggestion of African squats?

Bon voyage to the Triathlon Friday crew who are heading home, you will be missed – perhaps we will meet up next year, same time, same place ……………..

Barney Kelham

Fuerteventura 2017 – Day 7 by Janet

Today started at 7.15 am with the aptly named ‘Have a Tri”. In my case it was my first Triathlon. I was placed under the expert tutelage of Janet Harper who showed me how to set my towel up like a prayer mat with all the essentials placed on it in order to save seconds. That was enough to get the adrenalin going! The sea conditions were perfect, so the 300m swim went well, my chain came off during the 10k cycle which gave me a chance to catch my breath while Dee and a charming German man helped to fix it. The 1.6k run was tough, but I huffed and puffed my way round to the end. Meanwhile, another group of super duper fit types completed a 69K ride to Ajuy on the other side of the island in strong winds.

A couple of hours later I found the energy to go for a gentle cycle to Grand Tarajal with Dee and was rewarded with an icecream. That felt like a short holiday before a busy afternoon.

We marked the Triathlon Trivia quizzes. Then there were talks on Nutrition and Heart Rate Monitors versus Rate of Perceived Exertion, all geared towards management of the mature endurance athlete. This was followed by a session on swiss ball and band exercises for mobilisers and stabilisers of abs, backs, and shoulders.  Dashed back to prepare for the group night out.

We had a wonderful evening eating tapas on the terrace of a restaurant in Las Playitas village. It started with a glass of fizz and a few words from Nigel, the maturest member of Tri50, at the tender age of 72 years, to toast the Coaches and Eva’s birthday ( his wife). It was a much later night than normal for this week, but it was good to let our hair down!

My week on Tri50’s Triathlon training week has come to an end. I came here to try to overcome my fear of open water swimming and improve my running for my 10k later in May. I had announced that I wasn’t going to get on a bike but somehow Jo persuaded me. I think she uses hypnotism!
Bit by bit I have had the corners knocked off me and can now apparently call myself a triathlete. I feel fitter and more energised than I did when I arrived. Thank you so much to all the Coaches and to everyone in the group for your kindness and support.

I still need to try cleats, but that will be for another time!

Janet Hopson

Fuerteventura 2017 – Day 6 by Helene

For me, Thursday was day 6 out of 10 – and one of the toughest days so far! 

We started by meeting at 7:55 down by the Beach Bar, ready to tackle a pretty choppy sea swim. Normally we have been swimming early as the sea is calmer then, but the wind had really got up today. 

We practised our sighting, although the buoys here are quite small which makes it difficult. Thank goodness they are usually large in races! Most of us managed two laps, which are around 400 metres each. A few of the less confident open water swimmers were coached around a slightly smaller loop which they managed really well.

After coming out of the water, we were encouraged to run along the beach and back, pulling downthe tops of our wetsuits. We had been shown how to make this easier by pulling the necks of our wetsuits open to let water in just before exiting. 

After fully removing our wetsuits, we donned trainers and ran the marked loop of 1.6k round the resort. I had forgotten to bring any shorts down with me so had to run in a swimsuit, feeling like one of those elites in a skimpy trisuit!

Our next session was just late enough to ensure breakfast had been at least partially digested. Because of the wind, only the stronger cyclists were able to go out on the scheduled ride. I was very pleased to have avoided this as staying upright in the side winds was apparently very hard work! However, a coffee stop made a welcome break in the proceedings (see photo).

Led by Sandra, the rest of us walked and then jogged up to the lighthouse road (see yesterday’s blog) which presented a suitable steady uphill gradient. Sandra then explained that we would be doing six hill reps at around 8-9 RPE for those of us aiming for sprints and 7 RPE for those of us doing longer events. We were then to jog back down and past the start point to the end of the road and sprint back to the start flat out. This seemed a bit daunting, even though the hill wasn’t that long. And we were all completely out of breath by the end, willing ourselves to reach that last telegraph pole! Oddly enough, the reps seemed to get easier as they went on and my last one was actually my fastest! Feeling triumphant, we walked back to catch some well-earned lunch.

With just enough time for our food to go down, we met up at 4 pm for a pool swim coached by Jo and Sandra. I wasn’t sure I would have enough energy for this, but actually felt better and more energetic as the session went on!

Interestingly, the first 30 mins were done in wetsuits – a new experience in a pool for me! The drills included everyone in each lane (around 9-10) setting off together to simulate a standing mass start. There was lots of splashing both from your own lane and the adjacent ones – but also a good opportunity to practise drafting.

We were then allowed to take our wetsuits off and practised some skills-related drills, such as a combination of sculling numbers 1, 2 and 3, which I have only done individually before. This was really helpful in getting a good catch and encouraging an EVF (early vertical forearm) – a term I learned for the first time on this camp but which is now ingrained in my head! 

After an hour and a half of swimming we were ready for showers and food. But first, Jo handed us our special t-shirts and team photos were taken. Don’t we all look professional? 

Helene Hill