Right, just thought I'd nail now a race report for the Alpe d'Huez long course triathlon (http://www.alpetriathlon.com/en) while it was still fresh even though I'm sitting on a half finished season update blog which I'm sure you are all waiting for with baited breathe.
This is my 3rd attempt at what is perhaps the event which played the biggest part in attracting me to triathlon. Many years ago, in a former life as an electronic engineering student, I completed my Masters degree in Grenoble. Alpe d'Huez and the mountains around here where my cycling playground so a triathlon with a bike leg which took in those mountains is pretty much my dream event.
I made my return to professional racing at the weekend, and I couldn’t be happier with the result. Levels of pre-race anxiety were some of the worst I've ever felt in the week before hand but on race morning I just realised that I was happy to be back on the start line and anything else was a bonus. I had no idea how I was going to fair against the pros after the last 12 months. The preparation hasn’t been ideal.
What back so soon? I hear you cry (or perhaps groan). Yes indeedy, it may be the sea air sparking my creativity or more likely the opportunity to point out (gloat?) I am in Spain and not enduring the 100 mph guests knocking riders off bikes in the UK.
I arrived a few days ago and have so far racked up 13 hours chammy time and that wasn't all spent sat in cafés! To be honest they are the first few normal days since my accident. It isn't to say I haven't had some great days in the past 8 months but I've always had the feeling that I'd be doing something different had I not broken my neck. Pedaling out of Denia in the January sunshine feels like a return to the norm and it has been like therapy.
We’re 4 days in and already 2015 is off to a frustrating start. Things were going swimmingly (no pun intended) until a day before I was due to set off driving to Spain when it became apparent that my van had some kind of serious issue involving the power steering. I was informed that I should not kid myself that things would be fine if it went wrong – I would not be able to steer the van if the power steering failed. Considering the near-fatal accidents I’ve already suffered in the last 12 months, I thought it prudent to deal with the issue now and come to terms with a 3 day delay to my journey rather than plummeting off the edge of a pass somewhere in France when my steering failed.
Holy smokes Batman, an actual race report! Hell yeh, I've actually been pinning a number on and getting an absolute kicking from my fellow athletes, what fun.
I decided to make a return to multi-sport racing at the 9Bar Whinlatter Duathlon. It is the first in the High Terrain Events winter duathlon series which always offer enjoyable relaxed racing in great locations. Short off-road duathlons aren't exactly my forte and without anything but base work done so far expectations where not high. Don't fall, don't crash, don't hurt your back and finish with a smile were my heady objectives.
Sunday morning brought cloudy and cool conditions but nothing unduly unpleasant. The Whinlatter duathlon even forgoes the de rigueur pointlessly early start of so many multi sport events getting underway at a very civilized 10 a.m. Someone had obviously been out flyering the fell running clubs and there were some rapid runners on the start line, thanks for that. I consoled myself with the knowledge that some of them would be in relay teams and I could ignore them and the others....well I could ignore them as well.
It was a throw up between my turbo warm-up and a pre-race PowerBreathe session as to what drew the most funny looks but both seemed to entertain the 3 year old on a balance bike who kept coming to peer at me behind the van.
After picking up a timing chip from the marshal on the start line as I'd forgotten to collect mine at sign on (hey, I've been out of the game a while, cut me some slack!) things got underway. I hated the uphill start last year and I hated it this year as well. I did my usual front to back in the first couple of hundred metres before starting to work up through the field. I came out of run one in the top ten but then lost 5 places in transition as I painted my toe nails or something. Seriously can anyone tell me what I was doing, did I have a coffee stop or a narcoleptic episode?
On to the bike leg which I felt well prepared for having been out on the MTB.....erm.....twice. This was a humbling experience as even with my shabby (read 'non existent) technical skills I normally make progress on climbs but oh no, not today! MTBing requires the kind of punchy high HR fitness that I just don't have any off at the moment and it was just a case of limiting my losses really. It was a bad day out for my fellow Team9bar/KeswickBikes team mate who punctured (yet again) and ended up having to trade bikes with someone on the course. This probably counts as outside assistance and I'd have reported him for it like a loyal team mate if he had passed me before the end!
I reached T2 sans crash so things were going well so far. Much better transition this time saw me start the final run with a group of three in sight. I ignored the obvious signs I was about to have a total melt down in an attempt to catch them and having made exactly no headway after a couple of km I duly deployed the parchute and threw out the anchor when things got steep.
Some folk say you need the first total 'bonk' of the winter to move on with training and while I think that is total rubbish I chose to believe it on this occasion to add some meaning to my suffering. To my surprise only a couple of guys came past me before the high point of the run after which I could engage my 'freewheeling' running which lets me descend quickly with very little effort required, a skill I have long hankered after and only recently acquired. One of the guys who came passed kindly asked if I was ok so I assume I looked great.
An uneventful descent to the finish had me over the line in eleventh and meeting all my objectives which was a bit of a surprise. Faster time than last year, higher placing and lost less time to the winner (Andrew Douglas, same as 2013) non of which I really expected. Granted the conditions were much easier, no snow and ice, and I was riding a better bike but even so after the year I've had it was still pretty unbelievable.
Thanks to all those who have supported me up to this point and helped my return to racing so quickly. On the day particular thanks go to Keswick Bikes for my steed, a lovely Trek Superfly and to 9bar for the post ride munchies, everyone seemed to be enjoying them!
Until next time.
While I did tell you I'm not really up to this whole blogging thing actions speak louder than words and so here we are several months on since my last post.
I have made huge strides, quite a lot of pedal rotations and even a few strokes since we were both last here. Today is the end of my first 3 week block of structured training and while I feel totally smashed and things have not gone perfectly it is hard not to feel pretty happy with my progress.
Ok ladies and gents here it is; The Official Progress Report July 2014.
I'm not in to race reports, they are dull. If you want results it isn't like they are hard to find and if you were that bothered about what a race was like you would probably have watched it or done it yourself. Fortunately I'm saved from this awkward situation for now as I haven't been racing. We are all friends (or at least loyal followers) here so I'm pretty sure you know why. If not check my last 5 blogs updates along with about 90% of my twitter content. In summary; I crashed, it hurt and now I am trying to rise phoenix like from the ashes.
Get this; the Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS) relies 100% on charitable donations! I had no idea and was frankly stunned when I found out. From what I understand for those of you not in the GNAAS service area the same applies to your air ambulance. I think the Scottish Air Ambulance service receives national funding so kudos to the Scottish Parliament for that*.
Growing up in the heart of the Lake District I have seen the Air Ambulance Service helicopter many times, frequently passing directly over my house on route to Helvellyn. I never envisaged I would be making use of the service at any point and never really thought about its role.
Given the remote areas and narrow roads in much of the North there are few, if any, other alternatives if you have a serious accident. The helicopter reduces the response time - it took 18 minutes to get me from the A66 to Newcastle. Risk of further injury is also reduced, imagine being carried by stretcher off a fell with a spinal injury! It is a service which is genuinely saving lives. Daily.
It should be valued far more than it is, particularly to anyone involved in outdoor pursuits in the region. The people working there, both raising the funds required to run the service and operating the service in the form of paramedics and pilots, are fantastic. I personally owe them a huge debt of gratitude for their help on the day of my accident and for making sure the service is available at all.
While I hope to do some fundraising for them in the not too distant future (it would be rude to not at least cover the cost of my flight) I can't make firm plans until I know more about how my recovering is progressing. In the mean time they NEED your donations so they can be there when you NEED them! You can donate here.
I was lucky (in more than one way) to get to meet the folks from the GNAAS who helped me when I needed it. ITV Border News decided to come along and you can see the footage here.
*bit of an incentive for the North to go with Scotland if they vote for independence perhaps?
As anyone who has accidentally asked me a technical question relating to cycling or triathlon will know I am a bit of a geek about tech. I could (and frequently do) bore people to tears with my thoughts on the best lubricant for Speedplay cleats or the relative merits of file tread versus slick tread. Although I don't seem to be able to curtail my verbal diarrhea when talking in person I did vow to avoid getting too in depth on my blog. However in my current condition I feel I have earned a bit of self indulgence so I am doing my first tech review.
BRACE YOURSELF - long term test of Halo Brace
Having recently had the dubious pleasure of putting a Halo Brace through its paces for 10 weeks of full time use this is my take on it's long term performance.
The first thing you notice about the Halo Brace after you unpack it/wake up from the anesthesia to discover you're wearing one is the total lack of concession for user comfort and aesthetics. The light weight titanium package screws to your skull and they have done little to disguise this fact. It looks grim. That said as the user you can't see it anyway so it is only really going to put those around you off their food.
Check out my latest blog post for Lucy Bee for a bit of a season update by clicking here.
Hi, I'm Ali. I like riding bikes and coaching people to achieve their athletic goals. I've been coaching for more than 10 years now and have never failed to make an athlete faster (I can't quite believe this myself either). I used to race bikes, triathlon and in 2014 I broke 9 vertebrae and my skull. Follow my journey here and on Twitter.