Outlaw full – Ryan MIllward

Sooo yesterdays race didn’t go quite to plan! The bike leg was cancelled due to flooding and unsafe road conditions, having seen the pictures it was absolutely the right call. So it ended up being one of those weird swim run events.

The swim course has changed since previous years, it’s now a two loop course with an Aussie exit, which while making it far more spectator friendly and less mentally hard (swimming a mile and a bit out then turning round and not being able to see the far end played funny tricks with you on the old course) it also means that you’re in a much tighter group so the infamous washing machine was pretty continual throughout. After a decent beating and some pretty good swimming I was out in 1:22:42 which is a pb so happy days!

On exiting the swim we were directed into groups around a Marshal to tell us the bike had been cancelled due to health and safety concerns but the run would be going ahead at 9am.
Personal worst T1 time (and experience) of 1:52:42

Having decided to just make the most of a bad situation we were let off on the run at 5 second intervals in roughly number order. The major down side to this is a sheer amount of people on the course at one time, the course consists of laps of the boating lake and out and back along the embankment with a couple of loops out there, the out and back bit is a very narrow tow path along the river that was in places ankle deep in mud/water so there was quite a lot of congestion points and plenty of having to dodge people coming back the other way! I’d decided just to treat the run as a long training run and just pace it nice and steady which seemed to pay off. Nutrition had gone the way of the Dodo during the extended T1 so felt pretty rough in that department other than that and some serious downpours it was a nice run out completed in a very steady 4.57:49.

All in all a bitterly disappointing day but all the right calls were made and everyone made the best of it, I’ll certainly be back to Outlaw again!

Wednesday monthly technical coached sessions.

As David Davidson is periodically away during the summer and autumn of this year the usual monthly technical sessions that are held on the first Wednesday of the month will change dates.
David will be holding his coached sessions on the following dates for anyone who wishes to have some one to one advice on there technique.
August 7th.
September 18th.
October 16th.
November 6th.
And finally December 4th.

Bill Oddy – Big welsh swim

Location: Llyn Padard (Llanberis)

Event: Big Welsh Swim (9K)

Time: 2:30:53 (ranked 6th overall)

Saturday morning started nice and early with a simple home-made breakfast, healthy muesli… and a fine selection of pancakes from the local Welpton Bakery! Having registered Friday evening (which was another story, see next paragraph) I had time to ease into the morning, and a short drive from Caernarfon to Llanberis.

Being fashionably late last night, the church be had just finished chiming 7 o’clock when I arrived as the registration point, with the Big Welsh team already packing up telling me I was "too late". I would have been on time, had the instructions been more accurate. But I parked at the wrong station (who’d have thought they would have had two different railways?) and then found the wrong venue (who’d have thought their would be a marathon race on the Sunday?). So I spent a lot of time wandering around trying not to look too lost and stupid.

Thankfully I wasn’t the only idiot, as a nice lady was asking some random tabarded gentleman where the registration was… Anyway the lady running the registration was a fearsome person and apparently one not so suffer late comers lightly. Thankfully her spineless young male assistant started finding t-shirts and hats for us both, that Mrs Register reluctantly took our details. But fair warning – if you want to do this little event, get there on time or early. At least it meant I could find the correct car park in the morning.

The Journey – part 1

There’s nothing that quite beats an early morning bit of bare flesh in a car park – unless it’s your own and your hopping around on one leg! And so the journey began. I’d been told before that the Big Welsh Swim is a "get changed in the car park" type event, but in the cold light of dawn it takes on significantly more meaning. Thankfully I think I got away with it – out of the prying eyes of the security cameras at least.

Once changed (well legs in and t-shirt/hoodie in place) the real pre-swim adventure starts.

Fair warning, it’s time for a bit of JRR Tolkienism (it’s my post so I don’t care)…

For my good adventurer, once (un)suitably garbed thou art to find the ill-signed exit from the car park. This be a small sign on an ill-used gate hidden behind a white transit van. This be the first simple test, oh traveller. Do not be fooled for the gate is their to protect the innocent as this gate, being Wales, leads you into a field populated with a large number of indigenous woolly white animals… fear not their ominous growling (bleat, bleat, bah, bah) for they are simple beasts. But be weary under foot of their little presents. For some wise person (Welsh druid?) once said that sheep shit and the flip-flop are not the most incompatible bed fellows. Tread carefully…

Through the field of wool, find you the "low bridge of trolls" and be careful young traveller, for the bridge was made for small (Welsh) folk. To go under this bridge – for there is no path over – requires those deemed to be giants (5′ 8" or above) to manfully squat and poke one’s neoprene bum in the air. It is the custom of these parts and the only way not to bang one’s head!

These are the most challenging parts of this journey, from now on it is a simple case of distance and time… do not dally, for the registration cut-off time is enforced. Now cross the stream by a simple foot bridge, find the pavement, turn left and walk for many minutes until you lay sight of the Mountain King’s castle (slate museum) for it is here that the other car park is that finally leads to the Bay of Finishers and the security briefing. Be wary crossing the car park, for it is open to the public who care not for the finely tuned athlete.

Travel well, but give yourself 15 minutes, for it is a long and troublesome journey.

The Train

The main bit of the briefing was explaining the etiquette for the mid-lake breakfast bar – give way to the uphill swimmers, no barbarian hordes allowed here! And where to sit on the train: 3K’ers at the back; 9K’ers at the front, "fast" 9K’ers right at the front – and no sight see-ers, hawkers or groupies.

I’d been told the train was "just like Thomas". Well it isn’t. For those well versed in the hallowed book(s) of Rev. Awdry would know that this was not a "Thomas train" but a little engine and much more like Sir Handle, if I am not mistaken. A proper little narrow gauge "choop choop" steamer.

Entering the carriage I joined a lady waiting expectantly. We got on well (warning Mills and Boon alert) some small talk and our eyes met… clearly there was some chemistry as she looked at me and utter those unexpected words "would you mind unzipping me…?" Well I thought, a bit early in the morning and a bit public…

Nothing untoward happened I can assure you and we were shortly joined by a husband (9K) and wife (1.3K) couple. The man – way old enough to know better – was up and down, smiling, laughing with excitement… he was on a train… a little train!!!

He caused the other lady a panic when he suggested taking a photo, she announced than she and I did not know each other and were just sharing a carriage. No impropriety going on here. Though once the train arrived she was only too keen for me to help zip her back up again.

It took Sir Handle about 15 minutes to pootle up to the top of the lake, by then the carriage had an atmosphere you could describe as "gamey", 20 or so rubber bodies in close proximity…

The Journey – part 2

You’re saved – no more Tolkien. Off the train and you’re on a single file slate/shale track for a few minutes before arriving at a country road where it’s single file on the left up to the starting point. This part of the journey was very much like a primary school crocodile you see walking to the pool for swimming lessons. A feeling hightened by the 2 / 3 parent carers wearing bright yellow tabards shouting at us to stay on the left and watch the traffic…

The Start

The start was very strange. You are all individually timed, when you cross the starting mat, so no need to rush. However the general process seemed to be: hurry up the lane, dump your shoes and travel bag in the back of a random white van, hurry to the water and off you go…

All a bit rushed for me… As you know I like a more leisurely beginning. Especially as there was an rather good breakfast bar available. Two flavours of warm water; 2 / 3 types of hobnob; some gells; and the racer’s favourite – the bourbon biscuit. Oh and bananas, if you want. Well, get me a chair, I am here for the duration! If I were to be a touch critical, this is Wales… no Bara Brith – that was a bit disappointing. But that on top of the Welpton pancakes might have been too much to stomach.

Well fed and watered. Hat in place one last pull on the googles strap and I’m off… plenty of good luck and hand shakes going on. Then splash and go. Looking back at the time differences I set of 10 minutes after the first person. Like I said; individually timed – why rush?

The Race

The course was three lengths of Llyn Padarn and the buoys are laid out pretty much in a straight line. Well the buoys might have been, my swimming wasn’t – I blame the green coloured hat (see the Great North swim account on coloured hats). I got up close and personal to the edge of the lake a few times.

The way they schedule the swimmers (9K first, then 3K from the top; 6K from the bottom and 1.3K from the middle-ish) means that you don’t actually see or overtake that many swimmers. For someone whose sighting technique is "unique" and relies a lot on peripheral vision to track other swimmers, it makes a straight line quite hard to follow.

This was a big difference to Windermere, which was a loop means you constantly have bodies around you and also repeated scenery to know where you are up to. For a 3K straight line, you (well me) really don’t have much term of reference as to how fast you are swimming and when you’ll get to the other end. Also as I don’t wear a watch I really am swimming blind in terms of how long I’d been in the water.

Also unlike Windermere, here you have to get out and recross the timing mat at each end. This was a worry – because of my Daniel Craig moment at the end of the Great North Swim. But no need, my legs didn’t let me down… I think it was the lure of the bourbons.

What was really good about this entry/exit points was the fact that their matting extended a long way into the water. So much better than Windermere where it seemed like an after thought. This meant you could find your feet / balance whilst still thigh deep in water, and so emerge in manner more fitting to an "elite" athlete – rather than needing the care-in-the-community helper.

In terms of the actual swim, it was a course of two directions… the second length was very choppy and tidal for the first kilometre or so. This was reflected in most people’s times – most were consistently 5 minutes slower swimming up hill.

Coming to the end of the second length I missed the landing point. Swimming "strongly" to the shore I got distracted and diverted by a flotilla (correct collective noun?) of ducks and ducklings swimming in front of me. This caused me to swim to the left and try and land about 50 meters from the carpet! I thought I’d finished only to noticed someone waving me back to the proper exit point – which to get timed you had to cross.

The last length was okay, again no idea what the time was but the swimming felt pretty good, so you keep going. For the third time that day, I nailed the landing – no wobbles, no special carer this time and staggered straight into the bar for a quick power snack…. needed if I were to partake in the epic sequel "Return to the Car Journey".

The End

As with the Great North, this swim went really well. The choppy conditions on the second length meant a lot of additional water was taken on board, but that’s an occupational hazard.

I was pleased with my time, though secretly wanted to go under 2:30. I am not blaming the little duckies… but… it was close!

Actually I am more than happy with 2:30:52, for a first time on a new course and only my third open water race, 6th will do.

As a postscript the person who came first finished the course in 2:11!! And I can’t even take any solace in him being younger than me as he was in the 50 – 59 category as well. So looks like I need a bit more practice – or a motorboat for next year!

Byddaf yn ol (I’ll be back)