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  • 27 Jul 2018 18:48 | Deleted user

    By Alex Cole

    I will start with one of the questions I was asked most in the lead up to the event...had I done a half Ironman before? The answer is no and I don’t think I would have learned anything more than I had done from standard distance Triathlons so don’t let that put you off! The basics are the same, you just need to train with longer distances.

    One of the hardest parts is signing up, finding a realistic time frame and of course, a glamorous location!

    We travelled up to the slightly more glamorous Harrogate where my Aunty lives for 5 days of relaxing before heading across to a Bolton hotel.  I thoroughly recommend this bit as I turned up to the start line the most relaxed I have been at an event.

    The registration, bike racking and bag drops were seamless, a really well organised event and you realise that you are not the only “Ironman virgin”, in fact over half the pack were aiming to “become one”.

    On the Saturday after racking the bike we drove away from T1 and followed the bike route loop to discover the more glamorous parts of me! The roads led up to the moorlands surrounded by stone walls and scattered with sheep and cattle and I soon discovered that the elevation was more intimidating on the route map than in real life, nothing that really dwarfed any of our regular training spots on the forest.

    The next challenge was getting an early night and some sleep but I did ok with this, the alarms went off at 2:30am and the hotel were serving breakfast from 3am to cater for the many athletes staying there so I ate far more than I normally would on a race day before heading to Pennington Flash nice and early for the 6am start. Tip - get there early, use the toilet facilities before the queues start!

    The swim was a rolling start at 6am and you lined up based on your predicted times, again be ambitious with this as the last thing you need is to get caught up in traffic so i put myself in between the 1:10 and 1:20 posts. The water was clear and 23 degrees at 6am but still wetsuit compulsory and I kept myself relaxed and swam really well, a few whacks in the goggles and it got busy at the buoys and the Aussie-exit before jumping back in for the second 1900m loop.

    I came out of the water after 1 hr 21 mins before taking a bit of extra time to make sure my feet were dry and I had fuelled up on some flapjack before heading out on the bike.  I was buzzing by this point to be honest, the sun had come up, the crowds were lined up from the swim exit and for the first couple of miles on the bike already and I started to get the feeling that I was going to do this…  

    I felt good on the bike, I knew this was the longest discipline and probably my least strong so I went hard, I always seem to find a bit extra on race day and before I knew it I had taken on two of the big hills, shared high 5’s with some fancy-dressed crowds and was enjoying the inevitable descents. 

    The 30 mile marker was a bit of a burst to the bubble as it meant two-thirds of the shortened course remained but with my head down I carried on and was soon at the start of the second loop and by then there were no surprises, just slightly more tired legs!

    As the day went on the crowds got bigger and louder despite the course being so long, there must have been tens of thousands of people out supporting in the 25 degree heat.

    I didn’t really have any concept of times but I felt that I had given everything I could to the hills of Bolton as I pulled in to T2, racked my bike and ran in to change footwear, a quick refuel and out on to the hot streets for 26.2 miles over 4 laps. In my mind this was a good thing as it broke the run down in to smaller chunks but after coming to the first hill in the park, it dawned on me that it meant we had to do that 4 times. There was a long stretch up Chorley Road which was covered in crowds and feed stations and you could see athletes heading back looking more tired than you which is reassuring but also a little disconcerting as I was yet to reach that point! 

    I got chatting to fellow first timers as our runs became slower and the can do attitude got stronger, each lap you flirt with the 
    finish line and hear those epic words being spoken as many crossed it.  This was the first sign of a clock too so I could see that my first lap was reasonable, second slightly slower but I could work out that I could afford to slow down a bit more and still achieve a good time so I kept digging in, starting to walk to the feed stations to get more fuel in the peak heat.

    I got to stop and chat to my support crew too, the lovely Sarah who had supported me throughout my journey, putting up with the training hours, the early nights, the negative moods and turning them into positives and without her I would never have got to this point so I had to finish for me but I owed so much of it to her too.

    And here we go, the magic carpet was just around the corner, spectators could count my wrist bands and see I was on the last straight and their cheers were louder and that inner reserve tank seemed to top me up for the final 800m, every hair stood up on my body and 

    I heard the announcer say those words “Alex you are an Ironman”. An amazing personal achievement and I am so delighted but I honestly couldn’t have done it without the support of the club, my family and of course back to last surprise I had lined up was a proposal and I’m pleased to say she said yes! To getting in two years time married and to me doing another Ironman next year, result! 

    Who fancies it?

  • 4 Sep 2017 09:01 | Deleted user

    By Alan Pople

    Waking up in the New Forest is normally a very pleasant experience, but this morning its still dark (  its only  4.30 am ) and I’m feeling more than a bit nervous.  Today is the New Forest Half Ironman and we are in our campervan parked at a camp site a couple of miles down the road from Moyles School where its  due to start at 7.00 am. After boiling our kettle for the morning cuppa our van chooses this moment to run out of gas , so the promised cooked breakfast will have to wait ( lets hope this isn’t a bad omen ). The camp site seems extremely quiet as we drive slowly out over a cattle grid and head for the  venue. As we drive into the school car park there is a real buzz about the place.  Bikes are being unloaded ,competitors nervously rearrange their kit and apply numerous numbers to helmets bikes and bags. The Swim start is  a kilometre down the road at Ellingham lake which is normally used for water skiing. There are rumours of traffic chaos on the roads ( even at this time in the morning ) and the start may be delayed. Sue and I walk down to the lake anyway and try to get to grips with the plan of the day. Two laps of the lake ( 1.9k ), three laps of the bike course (90K ), and two laps of the run on compacted gravel paths ( 21K ). This does seem a lot further than my normal Sprint Tri / Park Runs, but there is no going back now..

    After a briefing ( the mike fails and the man in-charge resorts to shouting ), the 230 half Ironmaners don our yellow swim hats and head into the water. There is a lot of nervous chatter as we tread water waiting for the start gun. The gun goes and the usual melee starts , all trying to find some space and rhythm . There is one guy in a random blue hat that I keep pace with and start to feel relatively comfortable on the first lap. The swimmers spread out and despite a little pond weed all seems well. At a buoy about three quarters of the way round there is some shouting going on between the safety boat and a kayaker. Cant work out what that’s about but no one seems to be in trouble  so we carry on.  A group of fast white hatted Sprint Triathletes start to over take me  and I seem to be heading for the get out point ( not where I want to be ). I stop for a second to take stock and realise that I’m getting separated from my yellow hatted competitors who are starting lap two. I have to do a quick swim across the white hats to get back on course. I catch up with the yellow hats, and I’m back on track.  I finish lap two and head for the get out point feeling a little cramp in my right leg . As I get out Sue explains that about a third of the swimmers were led round the wrong buoy by the safety boat ( hence the shouting ) causing chaos with the faster swimmers  (but I did the full 1.9K.. phew ).


    There’s a quick “shoe transition” by the lake where we shed wetsuits and don shoes to run the 1 K back to the school to pick up the bike. Transition is fairly smooth and I start lap one of the bike route. We had cycled a lap of the bike course the day before so it seemed familiar. Now for some reason although the animals have hundreds of acres to roam around in on the Forest, a lot of them seem to want to stand around in the roads. This is not ideal when you are trying to compete in your first Half Iron man. Horses seem to be totally oblivious to cars whizzing past but seem to take exception to the humble cyclist. At one point as a cyclist starts to pass me, a horse grazing on the verge takes fright and leaps into the middle of the road ( no road sense ).   I shout whoa, the other cyclist shouts F…. and we both take avoiding action. The other cyclist veers right, I go left and luckily Neddy stays where he is, and all is well.

    Later on the lap we slow down for a group of cows who are taking their morning stroll down the road ! Lap one is nearly finished ( Jacob’s lap ). In my head I’ve decided to do a bike or run lap for each grandson and the last lap for Sue). Quicker than expected I see Sue back at the School , exchange a few words and head out on Sammy’s lap. On this lap I pass a guy dresses as Spiderman waving two cow bells as cyclists go by ( yes really ! ) I try to get into a bit of a rhythm and make as much use of by Aero bars as I can. I pass a sign, “ Wine. Dine and Relax “ outside a restaurant.. that sounds like a much better idea !  On a steep down hill stretch I over take two donkeys ! Checking my speedo each lap seems to be 20 miles ,which is a bit more than the promised mileage by my calculations !

    I start lap 3 ( Caleb’s lap ). Things start to get tough. For some reason the hills have got steeper , the number of fellow cyclists have got fewer and the padding on my shorts seems to have got thinner . Spiderman is still there doing his stuff ( Bless him). That cramp is starting to come back as well !  I get stuck behind a caravan , which is stuck behind a slow moving group of cows, and I feel that I too am starting to run out of gas. I hit a pot hole that I didn’t see and my bike gives an ominous groan.  If my chain broke would I been frustrated or relieved… not sure . Come on, cant give up on Caleb’s lap. At last I see Sue back at the school and she passes me some extra drink with a Tab for the cramp and I start the run ( Harry’s lap ).

    Both legs are cramping now and my hope of not having to walk soon fades I’m afraid as I encounter the first few hills. An unusual shape route means that I’m passing lots of other competitors on “out and back” routes . I’m pleased to see that I’m not the only one suffering and many others are having to resort to a walk / run policy. The cramp is bad now but a coach helps me by showing me some stretches which help. Sue’s there at a water station which helps enormously. On the last part of the Run there are only a few competitors left, and I know Im right at the back ( but I cant give up on Sue’s lap).  Those of us at the back give each other some encouragement with a thumbs up, or a “well done- keep going “ as we pass each other. Sue runs the last 2 and a half Km back from the water station with me to the finish line, and Ive made it! Out of 230 starters, 25 did not finish, and only 4 finished after me ….but I was a STARTER and a FINISHER even if my time of 8.05 hrs was a lot slower than I had hoped for.

    Am I pleased to have done it….YES. I felt I may not have shown much speed, but I stuck to it despite the painful legs… but how anyone can do a full Ironman I do not know ( respect to those of you who have ).

  • 4 Sep 2017 08:45 | Deleted user

    by Bex and Heather Stevens

    Another lovely morning for this local event, which had about 100 competitors, including seven from the club. The pool was hot but the roads were flat and fast, although the traffic on the A22 was a little daunting. The run (which was up to three laps) was entertaining - including two styles, a dozen cows and plenty more cow-pats!


    Everyone seemed to really enjoy the morning and we were impressed by the friendly organisers and Heather's highlight was the ice-cream van! We would certainly recommend the event for next year, particularly for those wanting a smaller scale event or if you want to set a PB on this speedy course.


    Novice Distance (200m / 12k / 3k)

     Claire Stafford  1:00:19


    Sprint Distance (400m / 23k / 6k)

     Roger Moore  1:11:43  2nd place / 1st fastest vet
     Sue Newman  1:35:33  1st fastest veteran
     Swati Patel  1:47:25  


    Standard Distance (800m / 40km / 9km)

     James Cox  2:08:30  3rd place
     Heather Stevens  2:26:43  2nd place

  • 24 Aug 2017 22:24 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    by Annie Sidgwick

    A beautiful summer morning. An early start at 7am. 6am registration, racking bikes, wet suits on and ready. Lovely swim in very flat calm waters of Bewl. Men set off first in one wave, followed by the women's wave a few minutes later.  A long run up a steep grassy bank to transition to take wet suits off, cycle shoes on, helmets on, number on, and off with the bike for the cycle round Kent - Wadhurst, Cousley Wood, Ticehurst and back.

    Into transition, bikes racked, helmets off, change shoes, number to the front, and off on run. Down to the dam and run along below the dam wall and back across the top. Twice! (And four times for poor Sally!!)

    Everyone did brilliantly. Some getting faster and faster, and better and better.  

    Well done everyone. 

    Claire Stafford also came to Bewl, although unable to compete, was the best supporter and photographer one could wish for.  

    Sprint Distance - Swim 750m (although some say it was nearer 900); Cycle 20k all around Wadhurst, Cousley Wood, Ticehurst; Run 5k over across and back across the dam. 

     Heather Stevens  1hr 29.01  3rd in age group
     Sue Newman  1hr 41.13  6th in age group
     Bex Stevens  1hr 41.48  3rd in age group
     Annie Sidgwick  1hr 51.47  1st in age group
     Sue Pople  1hr 57.31  3rd in age group
     Alan Pople  1hr 35.49  3rd in age group
     Graham Anderson  1hr 42.07  8th in age group

    Standard Distance - Swim 1500m; Cycle 40km; Run 10km 

     Sally McCleverty  3hrs 16.35  2nd in age group

  • 13 Aug 2017 12:54 | Deleted user
    by Rob Atkinson 

    1st July 2016

    …. as we made the final pedal strokes of our ascent of Alp d’Huez and crossed the finish line a mix of elation & relief washed over us. We had completed La Marmotte, a 175km grand fondo sporif in the French Alps with over 5000m of climbing and just within our target time of 09:30 meaning we had achieved a silver medal! It felt like quite an achievement and had certainly taken all of our effort to get to the finish…..

    [approx. 1 month later]…. another Whatsapp message from Charlie to our La Marmotte group. “what are we doing next year then?”.  Time having erased the hardship of the previous event, discussion soon flowed with suggestions, including a repeat of this year to support Ben who had failed to complete it.  It was during these discussions we discovered the existence of the Tour du Mont Blanc, run by the same organisation that staged La Marmotte and at 330km & 8000m was likened by many as the equivalent of doing 2 Marmotte’s back to back. It also carried the strapline of “world’s toughest one day bike race”.

    I’m not sure at what point common sense left the room and persuaded me to enter but enter we did – Darren, Charlie & I.  We had all been through officer training at RMAS Sandhurst, how hard could this be?!?

    Being a self-confessed data geek I quickly worked out my training plan targeting a Critical Training Load (Fitness) of 100.  This had the effect of scaring the living daylights out of me when I realised quite how much work I was going to have to do to achieve this, but having also in a fit of madness signed up for IronMan Copenhagen in August I found myself somewhat committed.  On the whole my training went well, I’d recently invested in a new Turbo Trainer & a power meter for my bike so the first step was to redo my Functional Treshold Power (FTP) test, an exercise not for the faint hearted, it involves 20mins of soul searching and utter exhaustion! This allowed me to reset my training zones for Heart Rate & Power so I could judge & manage the intensity of each workout I did.

    Over the winter I spent an inordinate amount of time watching Netflix, whilst torturing myself on the trainer, swimming in the pool, cycling to London – oh and a bit of running every now and then!

    6 weeks to go

    Looking at the training peaks profiles of my team mates it was apparent that I had done significantly more training than either of them. Charlie & I had a rather frank conversation, he clearly understood he had a lot to do to even get to the start line & promptly pulled his finger out to address this.  Darren’s approach was slightly more lasse faire & despite the occasional hint he didn’t significantly increase his training load, as a result our fitness levels compared as follows just prior to the event:

    Rob – 92              Charlie – 59        Darren - 37

    A few days before we were due to fly out I collected the flight box for my bike I had rented, before packing it away I made the conscious decision to change my inner chain ring to a compact (34) which would make life much easier on the long climbs. I had done this for the Marmotte the year before & thought nothing further of it.

    The mother of all bike boxes!

    D-2 (Thur 13 July) The journey to France was pretty uneventful, Charlie had used his BA Air Miles so he & I were flying Business Class whilst his Ruth (his wife), having only recently elected to join us as support team, was on an Easyjet flight that had been overbooked by 8 places & was waiting to see if anyone would volunteer to be bumped to another flight. At Geneva the hire car company tried to palm us off with a Vauxhall Corsa, until we showed them the two huge flight boxes & our booking confirmation, following which they upgraded us to an estate.  Ruth joined us shortly after and we headed to the car park where we scratched our heads as we realised we had booked the car when only 2 of us were travelling and we now had to get the flight boxes in the boot with one of the back seats up! After a bit of juggling we managed to fit everything, including Ruth, in the back although she was somewhat buried under all the luggage.

    Buried in the boot

    We met up with Darren, who had driven, at the bottom of the mountain in St Gervais le Bain where we did a Hypermarket shop for supplies, knowing from experience that shopping in a ski resort would be expensive. It also allowed me to ride with Darren so we could extricate Ruth from the back of the car.  On arrival at le Saisies we spent some time deciphering the directions to the chalet, which were somewhat cryptic.  It was typical of a ski resort, clad in pine inside & out but clean & comfortable.  Having booked a smaller chalet for La Marmotte, we had decided to do this event in more comfort without the need for anyone to sleep in the lounge.

    Room with a View

    It was sunny so I elected to set up my bike on the balcony, with a beautiful view across the valley & the tinkling sound of cow bells in the distance.  All was going well until I started to refit my stem to the forks.  There must have been something wrong with my torque wrench because all of a sudden a loud bang emanated as the bolt sheared off & my heart sank, this was not good.  Luckily I managed to find a mountain bike (VTT) hire shop who was able to drill out the end of the bolt that was stuck inside the stem, however as were refitting the stem another load bang emitted. This time the front plate had snapped, I could feel the adrenaline coursing through my body, surely this was some kind of joke!?!  The shop managed to find a new plate that would fit & I breathed a sigh of relief, but when they started tightening the bolts one of them pulled the thread clean out of the stem.  This could not be happening!?! By now I was soaring at 1000ft as anxiety completely took over, but as chance would have it one of the VTT instructors had an old stem at home he could sell me.  It was 30mm too long and possible the ugliest thing I have ever seen, but it did fit & meant I could ride my bike.  It was also a relief that the failure of my stem had happened in the workshop & not on an alpine descent at 60+kph.

    We finished the day in a traditional Savoyard restaurant, eating our body weight in cheese and having to waddle back to the chalet somewhat regretting our gluttonous appitites.

    D-1  (Fri 14 Jul) I woke early and after breakfast decided to check the indexing on my gears, having not had the time to test ride the bike after fitting the compact chainring.  This is normally a simple 5min process & I was looking forward to taking the bike for a short ride to keep my legs running & test my lungs in the maintain air.  Something was wrong…. the chain kept dropping off whenever I put it on the small chainring!?! I felt the panic of the day before returning, surely this could not be happening.  Charlie came out to have a look, having built his own bike from scratch he clearly thought I was crying over spilt milk, but on closer inspection agreed that something was indeed amiss, the chainring I had fitted only day before was bent!  At the time I had thought of bringing the other chainring with me but had decided that was not necessary which was somewhat ironic.

    So, back at the VTT hire shop I had to explain my latest dilemma in pigeon French.  We tried unsuccessfully to straighten the chainring on a bench using a nylon hammer,  but quickly came to the conclusion that a replacement was required.  The nearest road bike shop was in Albertville, a 45min drive down the mountain but it was closed for lunch until 14:00, so I sat with the others and enjoyed a coffee in the sunshine & tried not to think about it too much.

    14:10 In Albertville, the shop was closed & I was cursing the French for their tardy timekeeping and obsession with protracted meals.  I decided to try the Decathlon round the corner while I waited, they had nothing suitable, but did helpfully point out that it was Bastille day & the majority of shops would be closed all day!?!

    Ok, breathe…. don’t panic, what are the options?

    In the end there was only one option - drive to Switzerland where the shops were open. I arrived in Geneva at about 16:30 & after trying a couple of shops found one which had a spare chainring, albeit a 36 cog (Semi-Compact), identical to the one I had removed a few days before.  They also had a wide selection of stems so I was able to replace the one I had previously purchased for something that didn’t make my bike look like something from the circus.

    After a long drive back I arrived in Les Saises at about 19:30, having missed the race briefing, which had apparently been akin to Churchill’s infamous addresses to the Nation during WWII “It will be long & hard, you will sometimes wonder if you will make it…. Etc”. Luckily Charlie & Darren had managed to register & pick up my race number.  They had also managed to hire a bike that I could have used if I had been unsuccessful in fixing my own. 

    I was exhausted, having spent most of the day on an adrenaline high & was fit for nothing but food, then bed – we had an early start in the morning…..

    D-Day (Sat 15 Jul) 05:00 – We were here a last, there was a perceptible atmosphere of nervous tension on the start line as we waited to the signal to go.  When it came & we set off some joker had decided to play ACDC “Highway to Hell” on the tannoy, which felt rather apt.

    The first decent to Megeve was apparently neutralised, although in the dark & surrounded by cyclists I’m not sure I would have wanted to go any faster, with our average speed exceeding 35kph!!  As it got lighter & the first climb kicked in the field thinned out a little & we settled down to the task in hand. 

    There were several cut off points on the route which we needed to get to in time, or risk being ‘repatriated’.  As such I had some weeks before produced a route card for the event which broke the ride into ascents, descents & the average speed we needed to achieve for each segment (lap) in order to achieve this.  This predicted our finish time at 18hrs 32mins, I had conservatively assumed an average descent speed of 30kph, so at this point we were ahead.

    Route Card (Front & Back)

    We lost Darren on the Climb into Switzerland, one minute he was there, the next he wasn’t.  We weren’t altogether sure how far back he was, so we agreed to get to the top of the Col de la Forclaz, first of 5 ‘HC’ climbs of the day and take stock there.  Having waited at the top for about 5mins to refuel & admire the view with no sign we elected to press on, if Darren was struggling now we didn’t want to jeopardize our changes of finishing by waiting for him.

    Switzerland - Col de la Forclaz

    The descent to Martigny was exhilarating, we averaged 45kph & topped out at around 72kph.  As I looked over the edge, admiring the view my gaze wandered to the Armco barrier that was the only thing between me and a drop of several hundred meters.  There was no way that the barrier would provide any protection to a cyclist at speed, so having scared myself enough I decided to concentrate on the tarmac ahead & keeping up with Charlie, who was distinctly braver than me on the downhill sections!

    Martigny was our first feed station; typically French this largely consisted of bananas, bread & camembert, which suited me just fine. Still no sign of Darren, so we pressed on to our 2nd HC climb, the Col de la Champex.  Having read extensively about the event I learned that the route was based on two stages of the 1996 TdF.  In order to join the start/finish points of each stage the organisers had added this cheeky little climb.

    By this time Charlie was starting to struggle, but we were still ahead of time so there was nothing to be too concerned about although the next climb was the biggest on the route.  At an altitude of nearly 3000m the Col de Grand St Bernard is a formidable climb in its own right. So much so that someone saw fit to go to the expense of digging a tunnel through the mountain to get from Switzerland to Italy!  I decided it would be best to split the ascent into 3 pitches of 8km with a brief stop each time to feed & rest.  The plan was going well, until the road peeled off into the tunnel & we turned left following the ominous signs to ‘le Col’.  The road quickly pitched up and for the final 8km it stayed consistently between 11-13% (about the same as Kid’s Hill). This gradient, combined with the sun & the thinner air was punishing & I found myself having to dig deep to keep going.  Needless to say we stopped a few more times in the final 8km before we reach the top and rolled into Italy.

    Italy - Col de la Grand St Bernard

    It was a hot day, but at the top the temperature had dropped to about 6 degrees due to the altitude, so we donned our flimsy waterproofs as protection from the cold air as we descended. At the bottom in Aosta it was 36 degrees!

    We turned right up the valley & the wind, that had previously been at our backs, was now right in our faces. This was a long 30km stretch of relatively flat terrain, along which we should have made good progress, but with tired legs we found ourselves struggling to hold the pace I had set on the route card.  This was for me the toughest stretch of the event mentally, we still had over 130km to go!

    At the feed station, as we tucked into pasta in tomato sauce we heard from Ruth, who had driven out to Orsieries to pick up Darren.  He had made it over the Col de Champex, but was exhausted & had been vomiting so had decided to call it day after 130km in the saddle.  Ruth & Darren were now in the car following the route & having taken the tunnel were not far behind, tracking us using iOS ‘find my friends’ app.

    Looming ahead was the Col de Petit St Bernard and the border back into France.  Ruth & Darren leapfrogged us as we ascended, ringing a cow bell out of the window every time they passed & providing food & water on demand.  We rolled straight over the Col & began our descent without our waterproofs this time, which turned out to be a mistake.  By the time we reached Bourg St Maurice at the bottom I could not feel my fingers or feet and was shivering with cold.

    back into France - Col de Petit St Bernard

    Charlie was now feeling the effects of his lack of training & was a spent force up the Col de Roselend, making frequent stops, presumably to try & find the sense of humour he had mislaid somewhere along the way.  At this stage, Charlie was concerned that he was holding me up in case we missed the cut off. I had constantly had one eye on the route card all day & was confident of making it to the Col on time, however I did have a slight concern about finishing within 19hours as I had it in my head that this was the cut off for finishing.  I did not want to come all this way & go home without a finishers medal!  We both made it to the top 60mins ahead of the Broom Wagon, by this time it was dark & we donned our warm kit for the descent as the temperature had dropped significantly.

    For the first time Charlie was slower than me on the descent, with the 19hr finish in mind I elected to press on.  I had made sure Charlie had made it this far & he had Ruth & Darren to support him, now it was time for me to ride for myself. 

    The descent was fast, with the occasional bike light in the distance pointing out the bends in the road.  I was grateful I had carried my heavier 600 lumen front light, as it lit the road enough for me to see.  Most people were stopping at the bottom to take some of their warm kit off, but with the support car behind me I had no-one to give it to so pressed on to the final climb back to Les Saisies, a gruelling 15km at a fairly consistent 8% gradient.  I was flying now and overtaking groups of cyclists until I found myself on my own in the darkness. By this time I was focussed on one data screen on my Garmin ETA at destination, 19hrs was midnight I was currently showing 23:31.  There was not long to go now so I knew as long as I paced myself to the top I would finish, but the final few km was a real slog, until I started to come into the village where all the cars passing back down the hill were shouting encouragement & I knew I was near the end.

    As I crossed the line in a time of 18:37 it was a feeling mostly of relief, followed by a concern for Charlie & how he was fairing. My first call was to Sienna, who had been following me on Find my Friends all day & all the emotion of the past few days flooded out.  The second was to Ruth to check on Charlie who was steadfastly plodding up the hill under ‘encouragement’ (he would call it bullying) from the support car.  I rode back the last 500m to meet up with him and rode with him to the finish.  He crossed the line in 19:20, I am pleased to say I was mistaken with respect to the 19hr limit & so he received his finishers medal too.

    We finished our day with a meal & a glass of wine at 1AM but Charlie & I were clearly too tired for anything resembling social interaction.

     D+1 – The next day I woke surprisingly early considering.  Ruth & Darren left at about midday to catch flights & ferries respectively, so Charlie & I took the opportunity to visit the Les Thermes in St Gervais to relax in the mineral rich waters of the Spa, well worth a visit if you are in the area.

    D+2 – Back on the plane, the suffering of the day before yesterday was clearly starting to fade from Charlie’s memory already as he leaned over & said “what about Majorca 312 next Easter….?”

    Reflections: Its all about the preparation......

    I had done more work on my fitness than the others & this showed in the numbers in our training plans.  The others faired in accordance with their scores, which proved to me that there is some sense in the science.

    On the other hand, I made a crucial mistake in making changes to my bike setup too late in the day & not test riding it after the changes to make sure everything was working. I will also take some more tools & spares with me next time.

    My nutrition plan had also worked well & I was able to do the whole event using only 2 gels and a cheeky can of coke.  Other than this all I ate was ‘real’ food including my own home made low carb energy bars.

    The Tour du Mont Blanc was a hugely challenging endeavour, which was immensely satisfying to complete, but not one I would necessarily want to repeat.

  • 8 Aug 2017 16:18 | Deleted user

    By Sally McCleverty

    After a trip last year to see the Tour de France and cycle a few famous Cols, my husband and I are hooked on climbing the most famous climbs of the Tour. So this year the main aim was to climb L’Alpe d’Heuz. So here is a short resume of our trip.

     Bourg- d’Oisan

    This is the perfect place to explore this region of the Alpes. We pitched our Caravan on a campsite 30m from the base of L’Alpe d’Heuz! But we managed other climbs as well.


    Croiz de la Croix de Fer. long, average gradient of 11%, climbed on a day of over 30degree temperatures.

    On the Way Up.....      

     Views from the top.......

    We really did make it!!

    On the way down.


    Alpe d’Huez

    13.2km long, average gradient 11%.  An amazing climb with 21 bends all with a plaque commemorating previous winners of the stage.


    We then continued over the top and towards Col de Glandon. We made our decent, v,v,v,v slowly in my case as it was very steep.

    Les Deux Alpes

    10km, 11% gradient, climbed on a Saturday where 100’s of mountain bikers were using the ski lifts to cycle down.

    We also climbed Col d’Ornan, 11.1km with a 9% average gradient.

    We then moved onto Chatel. This is a beautiful Alpine ski resort close to the Swiss border where I had my only opportunity to swim!!

    We did one small but very steep climb in freezing rain.

    Col de Bassacheux is not a Tour climb, but we had to do it for the views, but there weren’t any that day!!

    I did Col du Corbier on my own as my husband was ill. 6km  long with 11% gradient and amazingly Geoff Turner did it on the same day!!!

    On the way down the other side.


    I hope you like the pictures.

    We're hoping to go to the Pyrenees next summer......

  • 19 Jul 2017 10:31 | Deleted user
    By Sue Pople

    You know how it is…….one thing leads to another.

    Well a week ago a small group of us swam 4 km in Weirwood to raise money for the Hospice in the Weald, an event organised by Alex. Walking back to the car park, one friend suggested that we add a cycle ride onto an early morning swim. Obviously a good idea and another person said “ why don’t we add a park run “ so before we knew it, a plan was hatched to have our own Triathlon.!!

    So last Saturday morning, a small but crazy group of “Triathletes” met at Weirwood at 6.45am. This was Alex, Heather, Alan, Sue, Annie and Claire. We swam 1300m in the beautifully warm waters of Weirwood and headed back to the club house for transition. I am sure in Robs latest transition training session, there must have been a mention of showering because Heather decided that was an essential  part of the triathlon! Meanwhile Annie and Claire opted to drive to Haywards Heath to the Claire Hall park run.

    With Heather smelling fresh as a daisy, the remaining group of 4 started the ride to Haywards Heath. Alans navigational skills didn’t let us down and apart from going through a road closed section where we felt sure no one would be working, but there were men laying fresh tar, there were no problems. I will confess at this point that I have decided that my E bike is the  new love of my life, although Alex did say I have an evil snigger as I approach the hills and overtake him!

    Waiting at the start of the run, it was brought to our attention that Alex had been “uncomfortable” on the bike ride. No details required! It was then pointed out that he had his Tri suit on back to front therefore offering saddle comfort in all the wrong places. Fortunately there were nearby amenities for him to sort out his clothing !

    The park run was well organised and included a climb which was called a hill in Sussex. Nothing compared to the hills we have in Crowborough !  Unfortunately Claire had a to pull out of the run due to painful hips.

    We felt obliged to follow up the run with coffee and cake in the local high street, giving us all time to stiffen up before the ride back to Weirwood.  We just made it back before a small shower of rain, just to freshen Heather up again.

    It was a great morning but a lesson learnt……. Choose your friends carefully!

    P.S  Rob, please don’t despair!!

  • 8 Jul 2017 07:00 | Deleted user
    By Alex Cole - Shop Development Manager - Hospice in the Weald

    With the original date postponed until later in the year, Kate Walker and I had trained too hard to step back from this challenge and it was fortunate enough that we were able to recruit a support team courtesy of Freedom Tri Club, Crowborough of which I have been a member for a couple of years now.


    We met early on a clear morning and reassured ourselves that it is only 4 laps, it was just the fact that each lap was 500m that was niggling at the back of our minds, but all of us too full of the team spirit to share those thoughts – positivity and support two key factors of effective teamwork and we had it in abundance.  After a few minutes of stretching both our bodies and our funny looking neoprene costumes we braved the few steps beyond  the waters edge only to discover that the sign optimistically boasting 23 degrees was not mistaken, the water was beautifully warm and suddenly its’ calmness surrounded our bodies and we set off.


    The water busied as the distance passed, it seems these early birds may have caught the worm but the regular and strong swimmers soon caught us! We remained calm and focussed on the mission in hand all the same - I remember counting down the laps and before I knew it I was a quarter of the way, then half way, then over half way and soon enough there was only one more lap to go  and that niggle of 500m laps had disappeared -  the end was in sight.


    A feeble attempt to swim faster on the home straight hardly made any difference but assured me I had used all the energy I had in my body and as my feet found the floor for the first time in 47 mins, I was greeted by Alan, the wearer of red hat that I had seen pass me early on but kept in close range knowing we were similar levels in the training pool.  A few minutes passed and Annie, our GBR age grouper popped up from the approaching pack of swim caps, then Kate, then Sue and Graham (not pictured as still swimming due to a halfway pit stop).


    The Stevens family (Heather, Bex and Aunty Stevens) had decided to get out of bed and join us for a photo opportunity, they then proceeded to swim the distance once we had left the water, or so they tell us! 

    I should mention that not long after we finished, our team coach Rob popped by, for many of us the first time we had seen him actually in the water, he confirmed why he is the coach,  he had swam a lap further than us despite starting later, maybe a benefit of an extra half an hour in bed, maybe the fact that he is a better swimmer!


    A great morning was had by all and some huge accomplishments realised, the farthest most of us had swum, not to mention raising some essential funds that go toward caring for patients and families at Hospice in the Weald.


    Thank you to everyone that supported and please let us know if you fancy an early morning open water adventure, we will certainly be going back for more!

  • 6 Jul 2017 13:30 | Deleted user

    By Rob Atkinson

    Due to a last minute cancellation I was lucky enough to be invited to join Guy, Alan & Dave on their Annual trip to France.  Given that Sienna was out of the country there was no requirement for any leave pass application & I naturally jumped at the chance.  It also offered the opportunity to get some decent miles in my legs prior to my next adventure (more to follow…..).

    We were headed to Thiepval, the site of the Memorial to the missing of the Somme, near the town of Albert.  A ride of approximately 140km each way.

    Dave & I met at the White Hart in Crowborough at 19:00 and headed off towards Halland to meet Guy.  Arriving a full 20mins early we were just discussing the merits of sneaking in a cheeky pint when rather disappointingly we spotted Guy (also early) on the other side of the roundabout.  The wind was strong & gusty on our way down to Newhaven, which was to set a precedent for the weekend.

    On arrival at Newhaven we met up with Alan and, having been told the ferry would be boarding in the next 10mins, eagerly joined the queue of cars & bikes.  10mins turned into 90mins as we stood in the car park, the wrong side of passport control, the terminal building in clear line of sight whilst Guy steadily turned into a Popsicle.

    We finally boarded at 11:00, found our cabin and promptly nipped to the bar for a beer before turning in….. 3.5hrs later the lights came on and the Tannoy announced our arrival in Dieppe so we wearily pulled ourselves of bed in an effort to get to the canteen before the breakfast queues got too big.

    It’s worth noting at this point that timing on the ferry is critical.  Get on early and you can beat the queues for the cabins, but on arrival your bike is buried under 100s of others & patience is required as everyone on top of you reclaims their steed (unless of course you are the shameless American who foolishly attempted to pull his bike out from the bottom of the pile, almost initiating a world record domino rally until he was set straight by your friendly Tri Club Coach).

    It was still dark when we set off but as the sun rose we found ourselves riding on quiet roads through rolling countryside, with the wind at our backs.  The weather was cloudy, but warm – perfect conditions for a long ride.  As such we made good progress despite Garmin Express routing us down some rather suspect cart tracks which proved somewhat challenging on road bikes, surprisingly there were no mechanicals and the consensus of the group was that diversions were preferable to any further off roading.

    We arrived at the memorial at about 13:00.  It was a peaceful spot on a prominent hill in the centre of what had been the British Sector of the Somme during WW1.  The sheer number of names on the memorial was humbling to say the least, to think of the lives lost in conflict over such a short period of time.  As an ex-serviceman myself I found it to be a poignant experience & an opportunity to remember friends & colleagues.

    Our hotel was in the nearby town of Albert, which was another 6km from the memorial.  After a late lunch we checked in and immediately showered before going to bed to catch up on the sleep missed the night before, with the exception of Dave who instead opted to sit in the bar and fuel himself with coffee whilst chatting to a Harley Davidson owner from Fairwarp (small world).

    Dinner was typically French, al fresco in the town square with live entertainment from a local group of Bagpipers!?!?! Wine was excellent, as you would expect in France.

    The following morning was damp and blustery, the windspeed had increased & the forecast was for gusts in the region of 45km/h, only this time we would be cycling straight into it! Gone were the smiling faces & casual two abreast cycling of the day before as we formed an echelon, taking turns at the front to push through the wind.  The effect was so huge I found myself freewheeling behind Guy occasionally touching the brakes to stay behind him whilst his legs were spinning constantly to maintain momentum.

    About 10km all was well until… ‘twang, clank, clank, clank’ something was definitely wrong with my bike & I braked sharply, the others narrowly avoiding piling into the back of me.  On inspection, I had broken a spoke in my rear wheel, probably as a result of our off road antics the day before, which was now resembling a banana – our hearts sank, we still had 130km to go!?!  Luckily by releasing the rear brake cable I could ride on it albeit slightly more cautiously than previously.  This lasted until 30km to go when my tyre punctured due to a slight rubbing on the frame wearing it through to the inner tube.  As any avid GCN watcher will know this can easily be fixed temporarily using a 20Euro note to line the tyre and I was able to limp home the final few miles to Dieppe in time to eat before the ferry (I have subsequently discovered the existence of a ‘tyre boot’ which is far more economical than 20euros).

    The crossing home was spent swapping cycling ‘war’ stories in the bar, whilst Alan kept a watchful eye on his mobile phone for any news of the now imminent 4th Grandchild.  Thanks must go to Graham for collecting us from Newhaven at short notice as Sue was otherwise indisposed at the hospital.

    Congrats to Alan & Sue on the arrival of Harry.

    Thanks to guy for organising the trip, I would definitely recommend next year’s soiree to anyone considering it.

  • 6 Jul 2017 10:54 | Deleted user

    By Bex & Heather Stevens

    In June 2017, the Stevens Sisters (with their brother and co) jumped on a plane or two and headed for the Arctic city of Tromsø, Norway to embark on our first ever sporting event abroad. We were initially inspired after hearing friends of friends had entered, and the fact that this was the world’s northernmost certified marathon!


    We flew from Heathrow with a short stopover in Oslo before arriving in Tromsø approximately five hours later. We had a lovely Airbnb booked in a village called Ersfjordbotn, which was approximately a 20 minute drive from the town centre. To be able to open our front door and see a backdrop of mountains, fjords and waterfalls was something very special. It was so scenic it could have been a Microsoft desktop background!

    We arrived the day before the run and after missing the official ‘Pasta Party’ we decided to have one of our own. Carb loading is always a highlight of pre-race preparation!!

    After a good sleep in broad daylight (which takes a little getting used to) we decided to hire a car after learning that buses from Ersfjordbotn were somewhat on the infrequent side. We drove into Tromsø to pick up our race packs and soaked up the atmosphere by supporting some of the children races in the afternoon. After some exploring, we decided to rest our legs in a nearby pub. The good news was that we didn’t drink alcohol. The bad news was we accidentally ordered this alternative pre-race nutrition…

    The marathon commenced at 8.30 pm and the half-marathon at 10.30 pm. It was a fairly small scale event with a couple of thousand participants. The conditions were perfect for running: it was not too cold, there was no wind and the sun even made an appearance. There was also a light misting of rain which meant we were fortunate enough to see a rainbow. It was impossible not to take a photo or two.

    The half marathon course followed the same route as the last 21km of the marathon. It went through the town centre and thankfully the snow-capped mountains remained at a safe distance! The course was described as ‘relatively flat’ and certainly compared to Crowborough it was! However it was tough and undulating in places which meant we both suffered from stiches at various points. We found that taking some deep breaths and doing side stretches seemed to resolve this.


    While there were not a huge number of spectators, the ones that were there were very supportive. We saw many waving international flags from balconies reflecting how far and wide people had travelled to take part. The crowds were shouting something sounding like ‘HEY-YA!’ as we passed which was extremely encouraging, despite not knowing what it meant.


    Overall, the race was very well organised, there were plenty of water stations (although it was important to master the art of drinking from plastic cups on the move – there is a secret technique!) and it was a fantastic novelty to be running in the glorious midnight sunlight.


    We were both happy to finish in 1.55 and our splits showed that our pacing was consistent throughout. Although no PBs were set, this was definitely an ‘experience’ race. It was too picturesque not to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy the views. Would we recommend it? It’s not every day you get to run at midnight and watch the sun set over a mountainous backdrop; it’s without a doubt worth the trip.


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