Victor and I are back on the road again…so keep your eyes peeled for my (hopeful) regular blogs posts.
I’m now only 5 days out from my biggest race of the year – Ironman Austria. Its been a busy few months getting here:
- I’ve cycled more kilometers in the beautiful Majorca than I can remember, and raced there too at the Porto Colom 111 (1k, 100k, 10k), coming 6th;
- I did finally get over my knee injury just in time to give the London Marathon a shot and came through in a not too shabby 3h30. That’s nothing of my amazing Dad though, who at 70 years old, not only ran Paris Marathon in 4h02 and two weeks later ran London Marathon in 4h04, but ran 160 miles between the two cities in those intervening weeks. Inspirational.
- I’ve enjoyed working with all fifteen of the UK’s most beautiful places – the National Parks, of course, and travelling to a few of them in the comfort of good ‘ol Victor, or my bicycle for the more local ones to me!
- I took a trip to the Isle of Skye to see my brother and to run the half marathon there – the hardest half I think I’ll ever do in gale force winds and on some very ‘undulating’ terrain. Hopefully the marathon on Sunday will feel nothing in comparison….? I can but dream…
- I’ve done a handful of sprint and olympic races close to home, the highlight of which is always the fabulous Crondall Triathlon where this year I managed to win for the hatric (2015/16/17) and grab the course record. A lengthy evening ensued in the local pub to celebrate, proving that triathlon and alcohol can mix beautifully.
Two others things that mix beautifully are cycling and cake. I could not write this blog without mentioning my pal Mark. Tragically, Mark died in May, unexpectedly. He was a fun-loving, energetic and can-do kinda guy. He always made a Saturday tri club ride a laugh and he will be sorely missed by anyone who knew him. His loss, and the loss of anyone close to you, really makes you think about priorities in life. Mark was a great fan of my ‘rolling home’ adventure, a supporter and an advocate for living life via a multitude of micro-adventures.
The brainchild of Mark, a small group of us had begun to develop idea for a new club, with a charitable aim. A club for like-minded folk who enjoy riding and tri but value the social aspects of it too – the friendships, the cake stops, the laughs. Eat Cake Tri Cycling was born, and though too late for Mark to see, his kit design has become a reality. Take a look at the site and let me know what you think. Its a work in progress but we will continue the plan that Mark had for this and I personally will be doing the thankless task of spearheading the cafe stop testing across Europe.
So, on to the big race…. after the knee injury earlier this year, I threw all training plans out of the window and have simply been training to what I feel like. This has proved successful with good performances at shorter races, so I’m holding out hope that I can extend the form to the Ironman. A 3.8k, 180k, 42k event requiring endurance, both mental and physical.
I left the UK late on Wednesday 21st, and after long delays at Folkstone on the Eurotunnel (where I met a lovely Liverpudlian couple travelling in their van) made it to just south of Leuven by 3.30am. I’d wanted to get past Brussels over-night to avoid any morning work traffic, and spotted (as has become my way) some lakes that seemed a possible camp spot for me and Vic.
A peaceful, if too short a nights sleep in Victor saw me waking up in Oud-Heverlee beside the Zoet Water. It was hot, well into the thirties and I was coming down with a chesty cough. Nothing more for it then than to get out on the bike for an hour’s ride round the Belgium countryside. I felt weak and feeble and very unlike being ten days out from an Ironman.
Returning to the van I witnessed, as I sat eating a spot of lunch, a steady stream of people turning up alongside the lake edge with water vessels and disappearing into the nearby woods. I went to investigate. What I found was a welcome sight. The Minnebron is a spring that has been active for as long as we’ve been on the planet. The water from the source is checked every six months, but contains, apparently, a healthy range of nitrates and minerals. In addition, according to legend, those who drink from the source will marry within one year. Hope for me yet then as I partook of some large gulps, filled every bottle I had and even dunked my head under it for a much needed cool off.
The afternoon flew by as I drove into Germany and then towards Koblenz, stopping off at the Laacher See to enjoy an ice cream and experience a little of the German Volcano Route, a 280 km tour of the region’s top volcanic sites, from the River Rhine to the Eifel mountains. The Eifel, a land of dormant volcanoes, is located between Bonn and Trier and is the most geologically active area in Germany.
Eventually I made my way into Koblenz having first sought out the location for the freibad for my planned morning swim. By now my chesty cough had really taken hold so I’m not sure a swim should have been on my mind at all but it was. I stopped in as they were shutting to check the morning timetable and the friendly lifeguard, Jens, informed me that I could swim at 8am should I wish…. I said I’d see him then.
Another very stuffy night, parked on the banks of the Rhein, I slept poorly and my chest showed no signs of easing. In fact, I felt dreadful. What better way to sort it out then, but with a 40 minute run (or shuffle as it was) along the Rhein and back before breakfast, then a 1600m swim (not at 8am after all!) in the beautiful open air waters of Freibad Oberwerth.
I got chatting to Jens afterwards, who asked about where I’d stayed the night then apologised for not offering me to park up near his house rather than where I was! He mentioned a 17,000 strong 5km race that was taking place in the city that very evening and did I fancy it. I explained in my best German that if I wasn’t ill I’d definitely be up for doing it, but that as things stood, I needed to try and get better for the Ironman. Shame.
I drove onwards on my ever-southwards journey towards Austria, stopping in Sinsheim for a snooze and some dinner before heading to my overnight destination of Pleinfeld, nearby…you guessed it…a lake.
Still ill, I treated myself to a lie in before heading out for a windy ride round the Brombachsee and Altmuhlsee following which I sauntered along to the beach at the Brombachsee and spent a good few hours examining the insides of my eyelids in the sun trying to will the vitamin d to shift my cough.
After a chilled out dinner in the van, and a spot of classical music I headed on that night to the town of Freising near Munich and pulled up beside the Pullinger See for a good nights sleep.
Sunday started with an early swim in the aforementioned See where I met Franz, also doing similar. He was new to tri having just the weekend before, for his 50th, completed his first Olympic distance. The rain started just after I exited the water so after enjoying a hearty, cosy breakfast in Victor I decided it was a day for driving and headed to somewhere I’d been before…last August, for my second breakfast of the day at the Dinzler Coffee Roastery in Irschenburg. It did not disappoint.
A bit short of ideas of where to head next I retraced my steps from ten months before and headed into Austria via Salzburg, purchasing my vignette en route. At about 3pm I arrived in Mondsee on the banks of the same named See, to witness the tail end of a sportive finishing. The place was full of cyclists looking pretty knackered – having looked up the ride I can now see why. The Mondsee-radmarathon consists of either a 74k, 134k or 200k route with plenty of climbing on offer through the nearby mountains of northern Austria. One for next year perhaps?
I dined on gluten free pizza before heading off to one of my most memoral camp spots of 2016, in the river bed of the Ausserer-Weissenbach. It was a glorious evening and with not another camper in sight, a special place to see the day out.
More driving on Monday saw me arrive in the early afternoon in Klagenfurt, site of the Ironman race on Sunday. It was hot…too hot I feared for decent marathon running, but there is still time for it to cool off (and it is….as I write a thunder storm is raging outside).
I partook of a 80 minute bike and a 40 minute run off it, feeling good, despite the chest not playing ball and getting better yet.
The next day was similar – light training: a 40 minute ride on the TT bike and a swim in the very warm Worthersee. If it stays that warm for race day it could be non wetsuits, which I personally would quite enjoy, though most triathletes dread!
During said swim, a group of very brown, hippy-looking Austrian pensioners were watching from their sunloungers on the lakeside. I got out of the water after half an hour and was greeted with compliments that not only was I a good driver (I’d parallel parked Victor into a tight spot) but I was also clearly a good sports women. Nice things to hear when you’re feeling a little groggy and wondering if you’ll be healthy come race day. The afternoon and evening was spent working, cosy in Vic with tea and cake.
Today has been even more restful that yesterday. A very late start (all this sleep is needed on taper week, honest), a mighty breakfast, a short 30 minute run. Then I wanted to go to the Strandbad from where the race starts on Sunday but the weather gods put paid to that idea by turning blue skies into grey, leaden ones, soon followed by thunder and lighting. Instead I opted for ice cream at Villa Lido on the lake side, a bit more work and finally another gluten free pizza at Pizzarella Plus in Ebenthal. I extended my drive back to Klagenfurt so I could explore a little of the surrounding countryside, via Maria Rain, but also, importantly to ensure there is enough charge in the leisure battery to keep the fridge running and my beers cold 😉