Race Re-Cap: Spitfire Scramble 2017

Spitfire Scramble

The Spitfire Scramble has become an event that I keep returning to year after year. The first two events I visited as a spectator and for the past two years I’ve taken part as a runner. It’s grown from small-scale race to a much larger event, but still retains that friendly, personal atmosphere that it had in 2014. I train at Hornchurch Country Park regularly as it is only 10 minutes from my house. Runners now come from all over the country for the Spitfire Scramble, so it’s great to have this park right here on my doorstep.

For those not aware, the Spitfire Scramble is a 24 hour multi-terrain race which can be run solo or in teams of up to eight. It begins at midday on Saturday and continues until midday on Sunday with each team completing as many of the 9.1km laps as possible. In between laps, participants camp on site where you can rest, relax and support the other runners.

I was part of a eight-person team made up of ladies from my triathlon club. We called ourselves the ‘Havering Tri n Scramble Babes’ and the running order would be Lydia, Angela, Nicola, myself, Laura, Amy, Kay and Lisa. My triathlon club also entered another two teams of eight, plus three solo runners, so once again we had a great presence at the event. We were visited throughout the weekend by family, friends and other club members so our campsite was always buzzing.

The campsite was in a different location this year to provide more space for the increased numbers of participants. Although the run route was the same, the start and finish points were different. This actually worked much better as the toughest hill was towards the end, meaning the final kilometre was all downhill back to the campsite. My club organised a few reece runs of the course leading up to the Spitfire Scramble, so I was very familiar with the route.

Glen and I had invested in a much larger tent with a queen size air bed. It was much more comfortable and the envy of our clubmates!

Spitfire Scramble

The terrain varies from tarmac, grassy trails, gravel, tractor tracks and rough stony paths. There are also a few bridges and stiles to negotiate, so the course certainly keeps you guessing especially during the night. Being the former site of RAF Hornchurch, there are several original World War II pillboxes alongside the course. The Hornchurch Aerodrome Historical Society were on site giving out information including the origin of the name of the street which I live on. Many of the surrounding streets were named after notable pilots. I think many participants overlooked this aspect of the Spitfire Scramble, but I personally loved getting a history lesson alongside my running! I also really appreciate how the race organisers have kept the history alive from the design of the medal to the air-raid siren which started the race.

My laps were at 2.15pm, 9.35pm and then 5.35am. The cooler weather and lack of fancy dress (thankfully) meant that running felt easier. Unlike last year, I managed to not get lost which was a result! I started off feeling really strong and completed my first two laps much quicker than last year, but by my final lap the exhaustion caught up with me and I walked a lot more. I’m not really cut out for endurance, as I’ve been focused on sprint/olympic distance triathlon this year.

Spitfire Scramble

In the evening, I arranged pizza to be delivered to the campsite for the team. It was quite a struggle convincing the local branch of Dominoes to deliver to the park, but we managed it in the end. It was worth it to see the look on the faces of the other teams and we walked through the site carrying boxes of delicious pizza!

There was a gorgeous sunset over camp as I prepared for my second lap.

Spitfire Scramble

I find it really difficult to sleep at the Spitfire Scramble as I’m so conscious about missing my turn. I was unsure about when I was due to run, so I wandered over to the transition area at 3.30am to wait for the hand-over, but it turned out I was about 2 hours early! Heading back to my tent, I tried to get some sleep for a few hours. Embarrassingly, I did almost miss my turn as Nicola came in sooner than expected and was waiting to hand over the baton! I sprinted over to meet her and started my run feeling a bit flustered.

After my third and final lap, I could finally relax. I was so exhausted that I slept on our deflated air bed which wasn’t particularly comfortable!

Spitfire Scramble

We ran into the finish line as a team just before 12pm carrying our club flag. Rounding off our weekend with 25 laps in 24 hours, we placed 7th out of 13th in our category. Between everyone in Havering Tri, we completed 149 laps!

The Spitfire Scramble was once again a brilliant weekend. A chance to hang out with friends from the club and enjoy running off-road. It’s something a little different from triathlon, but still brings the club together. I’m proud of having such a great event in the local area. The marshalls were all amazing, sitting out on the course throughout the night.

Spitfire Scramble

Have you ever taken part in a 24 hour relay run?

Kit Review: Boardman Cycling Jersey and Shorts

Boardman

Cycling is without doubt an expensive sport. It can be easy to become sucked into spending on the latest kit or gadget which promises to improve your performance. However if you are just starting out or don’t have cash to splash, there are some more affordable options available.

Boardman Bikes were acquired by Halfords in 2014 and have since focused on producing entry-level kit and bikes which take inspiration from professional riders. Their capsule range for summer starts at just £30 for shorts and jerseys. The collection is designed to complement their bike colourways- if you are a fan of colour co-ordinating your kit with your bike, then Boardman cycling is well worth a look. I’ve been out riding in a jersey and shorts from the range this summer, here’s how I got on…

Boardman Women’s Short Sleeve Cycling Jersey- Geo

For kit at the lower end of the price spectrum, this jersey doesn’t skimp on any details. The rear pockets are a decent size with one zipped pocket for security. A full-length zip is a nice touch as are the reflective details. The jersey is constructed in Qwick-Dri fabric which draws away moisture, keeping you cool and comfortable on the bike. The hem is trimmed with silicone to keep it in position up as you pedal.

The collar is lined in a pop of coral with a geometric flash across the sleeve, back and chest. I like my cycling kit to be bright, so the navy colourway of this jersey is more subtle than I’d usually choose. The fit is described as relaxed and comfortable, however I found it more snug around the waist than my other cycling jerseys.

Boardman

Boardman Women’s Limited Edition Cycle Shorts- Black

These shorts perfectly complement the jersey with a band of matching geometric print at the hem. The waistband is lined in the same coral shade and the shorts have several reflective strips and logos.

The shorts are a good length, falling at mid-thigh. The high-density female specific chamois pad is stiffer than you would find in a higher-end pair of shorts. It’s comfortable enough on shorter rides, but I’m not sure how well it would fare on longer distance cycling. The fabric is opaque and doesn’t turn see-through when leaning forwards over the bike (so I’m told by my riding buddies)!

I usually prefer bibs as they give a smoother, more streamlined appearance. However, Boardman range only includes waist shorts for this season. I did find the waistband slightly restrictive and unflattering- I’m a little conscious of how I look in this combination of shorts and jersey.

Boardman

I also received a packable cycle jacket, but fortunately the weather has been too good to need any waterproofs. I’ll be keeping it on stand-by for when the weather begins to turn. I would like to have seen more accessories to complement the range, such as caps, gloves and socks with the geometric print.

Overall, these are good value pieces for leisure riding and training. Check out the full range of Halford cycling kit here

I received these products free of charge for review but all opinions are my own.

Have you tried any Boardman kit? Do you like to match your kit to your bike?

Race Re-Cap: Leeds Castle Triathlon

Leeds Castle Triathlon

Leeds Castle Triathlon rounded off my race streak throughout June. I completed a sprint distance triathlon on four out of five weekends, including the Southend Triathlon, Thorpe Park Triathlon and The Oysterman. It’s been a fun challenge, reminding me of why I love shorter distance racing and trying different venues and locations.

Glen raced at Leeds Castle last summer and I went along to spectate. I regretted not signing up myself, as it is a beautiful venue and a fantastic race. This year we both returned to take part in the event.

Swim- 750m- 16:03
As expected, the triathlon was declared a non-wetsuit race. The water temperature was measured at 25.8°c, so there was definitely no need for neoprene! The swim course is in the castle moat and follows a zig-zag shape passing underneath the arches of the building. It’s possible to stand up at any point as the water is very shallow.

We began with a beach start, which was new to me. The gun was fired as we stood on dry land and everyone rushed into the water to begin swimming. I noticed a few people set off too fast, then fade and fall back and I swam past them. It was fairly congested particularly when turning around the buoys.

The water was very murky with silt and mud churned up by the previous waves. I couldn’t see in places some as it was completely black. As I swam underneath the castle, a leaf landed on my face and blocked my goggles!

Leeds Castle Triathlon

T1- 1:56
It felt strange coming into transition and not needing to strip off my wetsuit. I noticed how dirty I was- the front of my trisuit was covered in mud. I wiped my nose and loads of muck came out! Weeds were tangled under my watch strap.

Bike- 27km- 59:15
The bike course at Leeds Castle is longer than a typical sprint distance at 27km. We rode out of the castle grounds and onto the A20 for a simple out-and-back course, between two large roundabouts. It was undulating with a fairly strong cross-wind, but nothing too challenging.

I felt strong on the bike and surprised myself with how many people I was overtaking. Despite the extra 7km, I aimed to push hard and finish in around an hour. The faster cyclists from the previous waves started to appear on their return leg, so I looked out for Glen. He was the 5th or 6th cyclist I spotted, so I knew he was in a good position and racing well.

We returned to the castle grounds through a different gate and passed by the golf course. I made sure to slow down in anticipation of the dismount line, as they had warned us about someone who had misjudged his speed and flown off his bike!

Leeds Castle Triathlon

T2- 1:49
A friend from my club came into transition only seconds after me- it was Lydia’s first ever triathlon and she was smashing it!

Run- 5km- 32:53
Glen had warned me that the run course was very tough, with plenty of challenging hills. He wasn’t wrong! The route is entirely on grass within the castle grounds and features hill after hill after hill! The course had distance markers every kilometre and several water stations which is quite unusual in a sprint distance triathlon.

I haven’t done a huge amount of hill training, so I planned to power-walk the steepest sections and then run the downhills. Less than a kilometre into the run, I misplaced my foot and fell over landing on my knees. I wasn’t hurt as I landed on soft grass, so I got straight up and carried on running. I was a bit embarrassed and hoped no one had seen!

I chatted to several runners who overtook me- everyone seemed to be struggling with the hills regardless of their ability. There was a photographer positioned on one of the steepest sections- the lady running beside me commented that we would not walk until we had passed him.

Leeds Castle Triathlon

The race ends directly in front of the castle making for a very grand finish line. My time was 1:51:57 which is around 20 minutes slower than my usual sprint distance time, but understandable given the longer bike course and tough run.

Leeds Castle Triathlon has some of the best post-race goodies- we received a lovely medal, technical T-shirt (available in ladies fit) and a bag of snacks. The only downside to the race is that there is a fee for spectators.

Leeds Castle Triathlon

Have you ever been to Leeds Castle? Have you ever fallen over during a race?

Race Re-Cap: The Oysterman Triathlon

The Oysterman Triathlon

Another weekend, another race! This time I was down in Whitstable for The Oysterman sprint triathlon- I saw this race on Victoria’s Instagram last summer and instantly added it to my list for 2017. Whitstable is a lovely little harbour town in Kent, famous for it’s oysters hence the name of the triathlon.

Glen and I made a weekend of it and rented a room in a caravan on a holiday park in nearby Seasalter. Our first experience of using Airbnb for accommodation and we were pleasantly surprised. Staying locally saved us an hour in bed on race morning, but it was still an early start at 5.30am.

Registration and transition were set up on the grass banks of Tankerton Slopes. There was a feeling of this being a small, friendly and inclusive race as we arrived to set up. We joined the queue and I realised I had left my wetsuit in the car, so made a quick dash back to collect it. The Race Director came around to personally apologise as they were running slightly late- it was no problem as it allowed us longer to get set up. We went about the usual pre-race routine… applying number stickers to bikes and helmets, laying out kit on a towel, applying suncream.

At the pre-race briefing, we were given a pep-talk by former Olympic triple jumper Michelle Griffith-Robinson, who assured as that despite being a professional athlete she couldn’t complete a 500m swim!

Swim- 500m- 14:18
At 7am, it was already set to be the hottest day of the year and I was longing to get into the sea. The water felt cool and refreshing as I waded out to take my position for the race start. Unlike Southend, the pebbles were smooth underfoot and the sea was clear and clean.

The Oysterman Triathlon

The swim course took us on an out-and-back following the shoreline. I actually didn’t see the first buoy as the sun was so strong. The turning point at the second buoy appeared very quickly. On the way out, we had the benefit of the current behind us, however on the return it was much tougher swimming against the flow of the water. At some points, I felt as though I was swimming on the spot without making any forward progress. I concentrated on making my stroke strong and kicking hard to get moving through these tough spots. It’s good training for my Solent swim in September as I’ll encounter strong currents then.

Transition 1- 4:03
Coming out of the sea, there was a steep slope up to the transition area. It was quite a challenge trying to run uphill after a swim! After getting ready for the bike course, I accidentally knocked over someone’s helmet and sunglasses. I stopped to put them back into place, as I’d like my kit treated with the same respect.

Bike- 20km- 42:36
The bike route goes along the promenade then out to the surrounding countryside, with small loop which is repeated to bring the distance up to 20km. It’s flat throughout apart from a small bridge over the A299. However, the road surfaces were quite rough with big potholes in the more residential areas.

I worked hard on the bike, concentrating on catching and overtaking the next person ahead of me. At some points, I couldn’t see anyone else on the course and panicked that I’d taken a wrong turn. When the next marshal or signpost came in to sight, I was relieved to know I was on track!

On the return to the beach front, I did actually take the wrong exit on a mini-roundabout, however I corrected myself after only a few metres. I got a PB for the bike distance, which was great to see my hard work is paying off.

Transition 2- 1:06
Second transition went fairly smoothly, however I did leave my sunglasses behind!

Run- 5km- 31:12
The temperature was had reached 23°c by the time I headed out onto the run, so I knew it would be a struggle. The course follows the grass banks before looping around a nature reserve and returning back along the beach path. It’s very flat throughout, but the section in the nature reserve is on uneven trails. I’m not particularly good at trail running, so I tried to focus on my footing to avoid tripping over.

The heat was really draining- I looked out at the glittering sea and wished I was back in the water! I tried to shelter in a slither of shade by the beach huts, but there wasn’t really any escaping the sun. My only criticism of The Oysterman is the water stations on the run course- they were at approximately 1.2km and 4.8km. It would have been better to place one at the half-way point where most runners were in need of a drink.

The final stretch is a tough uphill to the finish line on the cliff-top. I must admit I walked up the slope before breaking into a run again when the finish line was in sight. Junior parkrun was due to start at 9.30am, so I was determined to finish my run before the speedy kids came out on the course!

I finished in 1:33:17 and immediately sat down in the shade to recover! Can you spot the mistake on the finishers medal? They will be sending the correct versions out to us!

The Oysterman Triathlon

Unfortunately there was no photographers on course, so I have a lack of images to accompany this post, except for a few post-race photos of myself and Glen.

The Oysterman Triathlon

I loved The Oysterman, it’s been my favourite triathlon of the season so far. Whitstable is a beautiful location and everything was perfectly organised (despite the medal mishap). I can only see this race growing in popularity in the coming years.

Have you ever been to Whitstable? Do you struggle in the heat or do you prefer warm weather racing? Do you like oysters?