Tuesday, 29 April 2014

50. 20K Race Walk

Event: 20K Race Walk
Date: 28th April 2014
Location: Pier-to-Pier, Clacton-Walton (and back!)
Cost: £25 each for St Helena's Hospice
Rules:  Race Walking is a long-distance athletic event. It's a very technical discipline, and unlike running, one foot must be on the ground at all times; the athletes back toe can't leave the floor until the heel of the front foot hits the ground. The supporting leg must be straight from point of contact with the floor, and remain straightened until the body has passed over it. These two rules are judged by eye by on-course judges (rather than cameras), and if in violation, the athlete will receive two warnings. If they break one of the rules a third time, they will be disqualified and removed from the race. Use of the arms, pelvis and hips are essential to maximise speed, with short and quick strides. The 20K Race Walk takes place on public roads, and ends in the Olympic Stadium. World-class Race Walkers will average 4-5minute kilometres.

The Event: :


London 2012 Olympic Gold: 1.25.02 WR, Elena Lashmanova, Russia.  
Sarah: 3.12.25
Ellie: 3.44.17 

Sarah: The Race Walk! We had our first encounter with this event at an open day at Southend Athletics Club last summer. We had a very quick lesson on the technique before plunging into a 1 mile race around the track. It was a very brief introduction to the sport, but we've been practicing on and off since in an attempt to get to grips with the tricky technique. There are a lack of 20K races in the UK, let alone Essex, so we decided to take part in the St Helena Hospice Pier-to-Pier charity walk. It's not specifically a Race Walk event, but we checked with the organisers, and it was fine for us to enter, so we just tracked our 20K (12.4 miles) distance within the slightly longer 14 mile course. It was great to take part in an organised event as it gave us a structure for the distance, and the flat course definitely helped with our times (training didn't extend to working out how to Race Walk up/down hills with a straight supporting leg!). My target was to stay under 10 minutes per kilometre, and it was quite fun tracking it and trying to beat my previous km. I think the best I did was 8mins, and I averaged around 9mins per km. I managed to keep my pace for the whole distance, which is something I wasn't expecting, and I was pretty pleased with my finishing time. If we were taking part in a proper Race Walk event, I'm pretty sure I would have been disqualified for breaking the 'straight leg' rule more than twice, but nevermind! Surprisingly, it also turned out to be one of the most injury-ridden events so far. I managed to walk smack into a bench less than a mile from the start, and an instant huge lump and bruise appeared on my leg and jolted with every step. I also got a pretty impressive/disgusting blister, which is still causing me to hobble around!  

Sarah's view at 20K
When I first started the Race Walk training, I found the technique so awkward and just wanted to start running. As the weeks went by, I found I would settle into the rhythm after the first couple of miles, and it definitely started to feel more natural. I don't think this is an event I'll be returning to in the future, at least not whilst I can run, but I definitely enjoyed learning another new sport.  

Ellie: By 9.15am we were signed in, had our wristbands on and had had a look round the pier. We were ready, or as ready as we were ever going to be when I was starting with non-regulation sports kit and woeful technique!

1-3k: Well, this is okay. Look at the sea view, that's a nice wind farm. Ooh a bit of sea spray, how novel!
3-7k: RNLI lifeboats. Crabs legs on the path (weird). Shingle, sand, steps!? Golf course. Sea Spray. Sea Spray. Sea spray in my face. Cocking sea spray.
7-10k: Unexpected spurt of speed - look at me go. Where's Sarah? She should be on her return leg by now; there she is! High five!
10-13k: Ahh Walton Pier. Now I get some free water and a change of scenery. Small child on a bike... must resist the urge to push him off and ride off into the distance. Hmmm the change of scenery just means that the sea is on the right hand-side rather than the left. But here comes the sun!
13-17k: It's pretty warm now. Where's the sea spray when you need it? Ouch. Ouch. Ouch.
 17-20k: Is. It. Over. Yet?

Ellie's view at 20k.
And then it was over. I'd never been so pleased to see Clacton Pier. I got a medal, a nice women congratulated me on my motivation and Sarah's Mum bought us an ice cream (mint choc chip obvs). Then the hard part began. I'm writing this on Tuesday afternoon and I can barely walk. I'm not designed for walking. My muscle development and flexibility, let alone my stamina, make it really hard. I knew all this but sort of ignored it. I can certainly say that this event has been a learning experience - congenital defects aside, it's really important to know your body and your limits in sport and you can't be good or capable in all events. Now, I've just got to find somewhere prominent to display this medal!


Friday, 25 April 2014

49. 4 x 100m Medley Relay

Event: 4 x 100m Medley Relay
Date: 14th April 2014
Location: London Aquatics Centre, Stratford.  
Cost: £4.50 each
Rules:  Swimmers compete in teams of four, using all four swimming strokes in the sequence of: backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly and freestyle. Each team member takes turns to swim four lengths of the pool. The outgoing swimmer must not loose touch with the starting platform before the preceding team-mate touches the wall, or the team will be disqualified. Some part of the swimmer must touch the wall at the end of each length and at the finish.

The Event:

London 2012 Olympic Gold: 3.52.05 WR, USA.  
Team S&E: 12.36.02

Sarah (backstroke): 3.02
Zoe (breaststroke): 2.46
Ellie (butterfly): 4.04
Elaine (freestyle): 2.84

Sarah: Our first medley event! Though sadly, the last aquatic relay of the Challenge. The mix of strokes made this really fun. We all chose our preferred stroke and got stuck straight in. Ellie got lumped with the unpopular Butterfly- she definitely took one for the team there, but pulled it off impressively. As with lots of the other team events, it was really fun cheering each other on in our imaginary competition, and the best bit; as the only competitors, we always come first.

Ellie: Our first event with Butterfly in it and I'm really pleased with how it went. As we had four people in the pool it really did seem wise to complete this event even though we're new to butterfly - another popular win for logistics! Butterfly seems totally alien to the other swimming strokes but, with it's conception in the 1930's coming from the animals of the sea it could be argued as the most natural. I can certainly imagine that if you do it well it can be really rewarding. I definitely enjoyed it and with practice I hope my technique, stamina and time will improve.

48. 4 x 200m Freestyle Relay

Event: 4 x 200m Freestyle Relay
Date: 14th April 2014
Location: London Aquatics Centre, Stratford.  
Cost: £4.50 each
Rules:  Swimmers compete in teams of four, choosing the stroke of their preference; usually the crawl as this is the fastest stroke. Each team member takes turns to swim four lengths of the pool. Some part of the swimmer must touch the wall at the end of each length and at the finish. Most perform tumble turns, somersaulting in front of the wall and pushing off with their feet.

The Event:

London 2012 Olympic Gold: 7.42.92, USA.
Team S&E: 24.42.11

Elaine: 5.58
Zoe: 6.59
Ellie: 6.11
Sarah: 6.14
Sarah: Our first event in an actual Olympic venue! The London Aquatics Centre is pretty special. The building is huge, and the pool is the stuff of swimming-dreams. We went after work, in peak hours, but as the pool is so big we had plenty of lane space to do our relays without diving on top of the other swimmers. We'd roped in two friends to help us and after a bit of a warm-up we were off. The freestyle relay is pretty simple; dive in and swim as fast as possible. Our changeovers were smooth and as you can see, we weren't far off the Olympic pace (!!).

Ellie: It was such an amazing experience to swim in the London 2012 pool; it's really beautiful and in theory, I can walk there from my house in Mile End - what a privilege! 

Our front crawl relay swims are over with this one complete and actually I find that quite sad. It's nice to be part of a team in an event that can be so lonesome.