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Blink and the first half of the year is gone! - #RememberBen

timPby timPJun 27th 2016
Hey Ben,
We've been so quiet lately I bet you thought that we'd forgotten all about you?
No chance of that we've just been busy training, racing and planning our trip to Challenge Almere-Amsterdam in September so it's about time we brought you up to speed with our recent exploits. Last time we wrote we had just completed the two tunnels 10k race in Bath, since then we have managed to fit in another 9 races and a weeks fitness camp in Herefordshire.
Firstly I ran the Bath half marathon, this has become a bit of a traditional season opener for me and this was the tenth consecutive edition I had completed. It was also the first ever half marathon I ran and was responsible for kicking off this phase of my sporting career of running, cycling and triathlon. It is fair to say that I have a bit of a soft spot for this race, despite being a little on the pricey side to enter, it has a really nice feel and the residents of Bath come out in their thousands to support, no doubt the two lap nature of the course helping the concentration of spectators. Also the organisers have introduced a battle of the bands competition with 7 bands of varying genres playing around the course, this definitely brings a spring into the step as you get close to the music. It also happens to be the race where I have set all of my half marathon personal bests.
This years race was no exception and after a few years of trying to dip below 1hour 40 mins I finally managed it with a 1hour 37. The conditions were perfect for running, still and warm and this no doubt encouraged the spectators to come out and cheer the competitors on as it was the biggest crowd I have ever seen. The race itself went to plan, start hard and hang on for as long as possible. I managed to pass through 10k within 10 seconds of my best standalone time, obviously this pace wasn't going to be sustainable for the whole race and to be honest the second lap was a bit of a struggle but it was nice to pass the 11 mile mark knowing that I had a couple of minutes in hand to achieve my goal.

The following weekend, after completing the regular monthly 5 mile prom race on the Thursday, Debbie and I headed to the Forest of Dean to run the spring trails half marathon. We both did this race six years ago and really enjoyed it but for various reasons haven't managed to get back since. So it was with a great sense of anticipation that we lined up with 1700 other runners outside Speech House waiting for the start. The first couple of miles of this race are on tarmac before plunging into the woods for the remainder on forest trails. I had reminded Debbie to take it easy over the first few miles because once on the trails there is a sustained period of climbing and it is easy to burn yourself out. I think it is an indication of how far Debbie's running has come on in recent months that she managed to go through the 5 mile and 10k mark in personal best times before whopping a massive 23 minutes from her half marathon pb. A great race and a massive confidence boost early in the year.
Blink and the first half of the year is gone! - #RememberBen
Must be the first lap at Bath, I'm still wearing gloves
Blink and the first half of the year is gone! - #RememberBen
Deb rocking the Forest of Dean half
All in all March proved to be pretty positive and we were both showing some good improvements with our running. The plan for April was going to be a little bit different, obviously Debbie would still concentrate on her running but it was time for me to increase the bike miles and towards the end of the month I had booked in for my fourth attempt at the Whitehorse challenge sportive.

But first we had the pleasure of going on a training and fitness week in Herefordshire. As a group of friends who had met at a fitness camp in Italy in 2012 we had talked about doing something similar in the UK. About a year ago, Debbie Baber had found a wonderful looking Victorian country house so we all decided that we should book it up and create our own training camp. It turned out to be a fantastic week, a fabulous venue, great company, good training and just a little bit of drinking!
We enjoyed it so much that we are going for a repeat performance in 2017. Debbie and I also managed to sneak out to Weston to take part in the penultimate prom race of the season where Debbie had a storming run and knocked 9 minutes from her previous best.

A week or so later I rode the Whitehorse challenge with Marc, one of his friends Martin and personal trainer Shaun. This is also a great event which is why I keep going back. 145km at this time of the season is just about right and there are some pretty good climbs to get your teeth into. It turned out to be one of those days when I just felt 'frisky', the time spent in the gym is obviously paying off. The weather wasn't as kind as in previous years but luckily the wind didn't pick up until quite late in the day. Good signage and two well stocked aid stations make for a complete lack of stress and you can really concentrate on the riding. All four of us had an enjoyable day out and it certainly served as a very valuable bit of training.
Blink and the first half of the year is gone! - #RememberBen
Blink and the first half of the year is gone! - #RememberBen
Me and Shaun at the end, just before we went to get cake!
May was scheduled to be pretty busy with three big races planned together with the last prom race of the 2015/16 series. In the event unfortunately we had to pull out of the Liverpool marathon at the end of the month but that still left a busy first couple of weeks.

With the Cotswold 113 being one of my key races for the year I was pretty keen to enter a triathlon as a shake down to practice transitions and race preparation. The Cotswold super sprint run by Triferris promotions seemed to fit the bill very well with the swim in the wonderful lake 32, the same as the 113. Despite the race being a super-sprint it attracted a pretty big field with some quite big local names so it is a pretty good indication of fitness levels.
I was determined to use this as a training race and so did a 20 mile training run the day before (we hadn't pulled out of Liverpool at that point) and took my road bike rather than the TT bike. I was really surprised with how well the race went and despite the 20 mile run in my legs felt pretty fresh and consequently had a storming bike and run leg with times significantly faster than when I did the sprint version of the race a few years earlier.

The following weekend we took part in the Bristol 10k; this has recently become part of the Great Run series and we were looking forward to a good race experience. The race had four separate start waves and I started in the first wave and Debbie in the third some twenty minutes later. It was a great day for running and because of bridge repairs at the harbourside the route varied slightly from previous years. In my opinion the new route was better and I hope the organisers stick with it for future years. We both had very good races and I was only ten seconds slower than my pb whilst Debbie managed to shave a further two minutes from hers. I'm pretty sure we'll both be back next year for another attempt.
Blink and the first half of the year is gone! - #RememberBen
It's only a training race honest!
Blink and the first half of the year is gone! - #RememberBen
Obviously enjoying the run
Blink and the first half of the year is gone! - #RememberBen
Blink and the first half of the year is gone! - #RememberBen
Quick selfie at the end of the Bristol 10k
In the middle of June I made my second attempt at the Cotswold 113 middle distance triathlon, the first time was in 2014 only a month before your fatal plane crash. Just after completing the race the first time I had pretty much decided I wanted to go back and have another attempt and just after Christmas when some guys at work started talking about entering it was too good an opportunity to miss. In the end seven of us from work entered including one complete novice for who this would be his first ever triathlon.
This is a great race, the organisers 113 Events are determined to do everything they can to make it an enjoyable experience for the competitor. Combined with the slick timing and support of DB Max and on-site support from The Triathlon Shop Bristol it is a great combination. My only criticism of the 2014 race was a particularly narrow section of the bike course with 2 way race traffic but a look at the pre-race information showed that this had been addressed with the added advantage of bringing the bike distance closer to the standard 90km.
The race itself went really well, I had a good (for me) swim and exited the water 2 minutes faster than the last time. The less said about transition the better other than by this time the heavens had opened and it was chucking it down with rain. The bike leg went really well and despite the appalling conditions my average speed was just under 2km/h faster than last time. I was really happy as this race was the first opportunity of using the TT bike in anger after having a bike fit from Chris Newman at Newfit Systems, a very good investment. My overriding memory of the ride however was not being able to see anything through the visor on the helmet and the never ending stream of snot coming out of my nose! Once again my transition was awful but out onto the run I felt strong and despite some slippery conditions underfoot managed a time 9 minutes quicker than last time.
Overall despite the weather the race lived up to expectations, all the guys from work enjoyed it and some are already plotting how they can make improvements to their times.
Blink and the first half of the year is gone! - #RememberBen
Some of the guys from work, Alex, Deborah and Steve
Blink and the first half of the year is gone! - #RememberBen
Marc a few minutes away from his wave start
Blink and the first half of the year is gone! - #RememberBen
Blink and the first half of the year is gone! - #RememberBen
Blink and the first half of the year is gone! - #RememberBen
Blink and the first half of the year is gone! - #RememberBen
Still wiping snot away!! (Thanks to Holly from the Triathlon Shop for the photo)
Blink and the first half of the year is gone! - #RememberBen
Finally planning for our trip to Challenge Almere-Amsterdam is coming along nicely; hopefully we will do you proud. We are very lucky that we are being supported by some great friends and Marc, Jon and Dave are all racing the middle distance race whilst we do the full distance relay. Not only that but we will have our own cheer squad with Sarah, Hollie, Debbie, Rich and children Isla and Sebi. It has the makings of a great weekend and a real opportunity to keep your memory alive amongst a nation also so badly affected by the disaster.
Well Ben I think that is about it, quite a lot to catch up on so next time we won't leave it so long.

Lots of love

Uncle Tim & Auntie Debbie
 
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